Saturday, February 25, 2023

The Edge Of Nineteen

Another month, another batch of 1960 Topps Venezuelan Baseball Tattoos!

Eight new subjects have come to light and, as a bonus, we now have a scan of Early Wynn. Here's the skinny:

Tony Gonzalez (Topps made an s out of the z) was Cuban and had played two seasons for Havana in the minors (quite ironically a farm club of the Reds at the time) and was a 23 year old rookie with Cincinnati in 1960.  He is a Venezuelan only subject and quite a curious one at that.

Dick was firmly established as a major leaguer by 1960 and would win the MVP that season.  He was also in the U.S. issue.

Frank Lary was a heckuva pitcher for the Tigers until he hurt his arm in 1962.  Known as the "Yankee Killer," he was also in the U.S. issue.

Juan Pizarro (with one z and two r's) was Puerto Rican and is a Venezuelan only subject. He bounced up and down between the majors and the minors for the Braves for three seasons before sticking for good in 1960.  He did play for Caguas in the Puerto Rican Winter League in 1957-58 and 1958-59 and pitched very well for them.

Two more recently came over my transom and are quite shot, UV light was needed to bring out the images:

That's Gene Woodling if you can't tell.  There's others of known subjects that are even worse than that but some are just little abstract works of art at this point.  Here's a bigger name though:

Stan the diffuse man! We do have one more to show of course:

Early shows up late!  There's two more are out there though.

Pedro Ramos has shown up in an SGC pop report, although there's no scan available.  It's yet another subject that's only in the Venezuelan set and he is also another Cuban player.  SGC being SGC, I would like to see a scan someday to confirm. (UPDATE Noon 2/25/23: Just in, Mr. Ramos):

He's in nice shape too! The big news however, is the nineteenth subject:


Trashed, but it's a Clemente!  Venezuelan only, Puerto Rican national.

Bob Allison
Ruben Amaro (Venezuelan only)
Luis Arroyo (Venezuelan only)
Bob Clemente (Venezuelan only)
Rocky Colavito
Don Drysdale
Nellie Fox
Tony Gonzales (Venezuelan only)
Dick Groat
Harmon Killebrew
Frank Lary
Juan Marichal  (Venezuelan only)
Ed Mathews
Stan Musial
Juan Pizzaro (Venezuelan only)
Vic Power (Venezuelan only)
Pedro Ramos (Venezuelan only)
Gene Woodling
Early Wynn

In terms of Venezuelan-only, Venezuelan-born subjects (none have appeared so far, although it was a slim field back then) I can't believe Luis Aparicio isn't in the set (he is not in the U.S. issue).  At a guess, I would think at least 20 or 24 subjects were produced and Aparicio really should be in the set given his nationality and stellar play but until any more bubble up that's just speculation.  It sure seems like there should be some more star power as well.

As to the year of issue, the 1961-62 winter season sure seems like the best bet at this point. The Caribbean-centric non-US players are very intriguing and may hold some clues as to how these were marketed but I'm hearing the pipeline of these has closed, who knows when (or if) more information will come out.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Additional Guidance

Well, my lament last month about missing out on the full set of 1971 Bazooka box back set prosaically titled A Children's Guide To TV Football has been partly assuaged by the fact Friend o'the Archive Lonnie Cummins snagged a scan of these last year, which now allows a full checklisting of the set.

This is the macro view:

You can see that there's three subjects with full illustrations, one with a referee's hand and flag on the left opposite a brutish football player on the right and another eight with a football coach and player on the left and a spotter with binoculars on the right. I managed to show each variety in the previous post about this set due to dumb luck last time out. As I mentioned last time out, Topps did not put a lot of effort into this set, which would become a bit of a trend with Bazooka in the 1970's.

The full checklist is like so (top left description is listed after the subset designation):

1 Football Lingo - Automatic
2 Football Lingo - Broken Field Runner
3 Football Lingo - Audible Coverage
4 Football Lingo - Game Plan
5 Football Lingo - Interception
6 Football Lingo - Killing The Clock
7 Football Lingo - Belly Series
8 Football Lingo - Prevent Defense
9 Officials' Duties -Referee
10 Officials' Signals - Running...Into The Kicker
11 Officials' Signals - Touchdown
12 Officials' Signals - Crawling

There's a few more early Bazooka sets I want to corral, it's  a slow but ongoing project and results will be posted here as things are uncovered.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

South American Soiree

Maybe it's the Caribbean World Series just concluding, or just some random luck but there's more to report on some Venezuelan issues, circa 1960-61, this time on the non-sports side.

The recently discovered batch of 1960 Baseball Tattoos out of Venezuela were not the only tattoo issues licensed by Topps (and possibly another entity) down there. Thanks to Friend o'the Archive Josh Alpert, we now know that Woody Woodpecker and Superman were also subjects of local interest and marketing, although there is a bit of a twist with ol' Supe.  Check out the three wrappers shown here:

These are in addition to a Popeye Tattoo that's I've known about for quite some time, thanks to Lonnie Cummins:

We've seen the Baseball Tattoo wrappers a few times recently but today I want to focus on the application instructions and indicia these various issues sported. The "floating image" version on the Baseball and Woody Woodpecker tattoos, although obviously in English, first popped up on the 1949 Topps Tatoo wrappers and was used into the 1970's, when this style of packaging was finally eliminated. This would be the preferred style going forward in the U.S., although the 1955 Davy Crockett Tatoo wrapper had no instructions, presumably as Topps was trying to pull a fast one with the release, which capitalized on the Disney TV series and movies without actually using any copyrighted or trademarked material. And this after issuing two licensed Crockett card sets! 

The 1959 U.S. release of the Woody Woodpecker Tattoos (a tough set BTW), used the floating images,  so it was redesigned here for some reason, which is kinda weird. Woody and Popeye both reference the licensor and indicate Topps in the indicia, making it clear they were produced in Venezuela.

The really interesting one to me though is the Superman Tattoo wrapper. It clearly uses the U.S> release's graphics but unlike the other two wrappers, there is no Topps copyright.  Instead, it indicates manufacture in Venezuela by La Corona Y Sport, a local confectionery company who either produced or advertised on the album intended to house the 1968 Topps Venezuelan Baseball cards and may have produced some of the prior albums (which have no attribution on them). Topps clearly had a relationship with them and the vagaries of marketing Superman in a foreign country must have led to this odd partnership.

Here's the U.S. Superman Tattoo wrapper:

It's a little hard to read but National Periodical Publications, which issued the Superman Comics, shared a copyright with Topps.  I'm sure there's a long, convoluted story there.  Here's some tattoos from the set:

I wonder what kids made of that dress shop image with what must be Supergirl in the lower right?!

Let's not forget Woody, here's a batch of his from Venezuela to boot:

I'm not sure what there's an anchor in this set but there is! Perhaps it was a mistake carried over from Popeye.

I am very much wondering what other tattoo sets were licensed by Topps for issue in Venezuela and suspect some more will surface.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Wintry Mix

There's a bit of an update to last year's NYE post regarding the 1960 Venezuelan Baseball Tattoo issue, thanks to Josh Alpert, who is the foremost collector and chronicler of the 1959-68 efforts Topps made in that country.  He's offered his take on the set, as it's comprised so far at least, and his comments are illuminating. He's also provided scans of the other eight known  players, which I will show below his comments.

As to the roster of US players, Josh says: "I would imagine they originally produced all the stars - Mantle, Mays, Koufax, but my guess is they are all long gone.

The timing of the issue is probably 1960, with this as part of his reasoning: "Colavito was traded to Detroit April 17, 1960. If they were a 1961 issue, I would think he’d have been drawn in Detroit colors, not Cleveland’s."

Josh also had a very interesting observation as to the scarcity and packaging: "In the US, the tattoos were sold as a stand alone product with a piece of gum. The Venezuelans almost certainly didn't have the machinery to mechanically package the tattoo around a piece of gum. I think this explains the smaller size of the tattoo, it corresponded with the size of a piece of gum, and they were packaged with a piece of gum (as they advertise), probably wrapped in cello and sold individually. This seems more plausible to me and helps explain the extreme scarcity. Almost no one would have kept them if they came with a piece of gum. Someone buying a single piece of gum would have likely opened the gum on the spot and either thrown away the wrapper and tattoo, applied the tattoo, or used the tattoo for the spent gum. They don't have nearly the collectability as the cards, it's likely no one even gave it a thought to collect them- except at least one person, clearly, who collected them intentionally and saved a small handful that we know of."

And now, the new/old scans:

Bob Allison won the 1959 American League Rookie of the Year voting as a member of the old Washington Senators.  He's not thought of as a big star today but he certainly was during the first half of his career. Note there is no production rip in the tattoo, unlike the American versions.

Amaro presents a bit of a conundrum.  The Tatoo set was produced in Venezuela but he was Mexican and played in that county during his winter ball days.  Mexico wasn't even a participant in the CWS until 1970 but as it turns out, from 1961 to 1969 there was no Caribbean World Series after Castro dissolved all the professional Cuban leagues in 1961.  Amaro is one of the three known players to only appear in the Venezuelan Tatoo set. His inclusion is curious if the set was only marketed in Venezuela but there's no evidence of any other country being involved in the distribution.

Another big name at the time, Colavito's Cleveland colors prevailed, per Mr, Alpert, despite his trade to Detroit at the start of the 1960 MLB season. Topps being Topps, even if the set was issued after the 1960 Major League season ended, the colors may have been left alone. But going with the year of U.S. issue seems apt as well.

Drysdale made his first MLB All star team in 1959, so was a solid choice. The staining and unique paper loss along the bottom right edge match up almost exactly to the Allison example above.

Fox was  another well known player who had a fabulous 1959 season that led to the AL MVP award. Total no brainer.

Killebrew finally put things together in 1959, so the set ended up with two Senators players!

His nickname was the "Dominican Dandy" so it's pretty clear where Juan Marichal pitched in winter ball. As pointed out in the original post, Luis Arroyo, the third non-U.S. checklisted player in the set, pitched for Puerto Rico.  I would expect some Venezuelan League subjects were included in the set but so far none have surfaced.

Another no brainer for inclusion to my mind, Mathews was destroying MLB pitching season-after-season by the time 1960 rolled around.

Hopefully an Early Wynn scan will pop up soon.  Josh Alpert has just advised a Vic Power has now shown up, so he's a second Puerto Rican born player that was not in the U.S. set and some other subjects have just been identified as well, too late for this post (watch this space). 

Here is the latest checklist then, 11 in number and I have been advised they generally measure 1 3/16" x 2 1/4", which is smaller than the U.S. version's dimensions of 1 9/16" x 3 1/2", with some variance in the size possible:

Bob Allison
Ruben Amaro (Venezuelan only)
Luis Arroyo (Venezuelan only)
Rocky Colavito
Don Drysdale
Nellie Fox
Harmon Killebrew
Juan Marichal  (Venezuelan only)
Ed Mathews
Vic Power (Venezuelan only)
Early Wynn (photo seen, not the tatoo)

You can take this link with a heaping amount of salt as it's from Wikipedia, but it details MLB players who have appeared in the Caribbean World Series, although far more played in the various Winter Leagues. There's a lot more to be uncovered regarding the Venezuelan Tattoo sets but it's just part of a larger history that's still revealing itself.

I'll keep updating as more information comes in.