Saturday, July 1, 2023

Peeling Out

I can't believe I haven't covered these previously but the 1963 Baseball Peel-Offs are, in my opinion, one of the better inserts ever created by Topps.  These small (1 1/4" x 2 3/4"), colorful stickers were included in select wax and cello packs, probably commencing with the second series (Topps didn't always include inserts in series one).  As this pack rip shows, they were definitely found in 4th Series packs. At a mere 46 subjects, it was the sole pack insert in a  year where Topps was taking on Fleer for a share of the big league trading card market. 46 is a strange number for a Topps run of justabout anything, and I suspect there's a reason the set count landed there, which I'll get into momentarily.

First though, behold the colorful Peel-Offs:

That bright line running horizontally across the face of each player is an unfortunate production artifact, wherein the adhesive didn't see application at the cut line that splits the paper on the reverse.  Speaking of reverses, three types can be found: instruction back facing left, instruction back facing right and blank. The instruction backs are mirror images (and measure the same, ignore the aspects of the two below, they are identical in size):

Blank, well, is blank:

You often see gum or glue residue on them, no surprise given the layout of the pack in the video I linked in the first paragraph above:

So why only 46 subjects? Well, it's a strange number as the divisor is 23-are there any other inserts or short Topps sets other than those divisible by 11, where the divisor is a prime number?  On this note, Friend o'the Archive Al Richter has advised his research indicates Fleer experienced poor sales for their 1963 Baseball series, while I have also read that legal action shut the Philadelphia based firm's set down. Either way, I think what happened was related to Fleer's exploits and Topps pulled the plug on the inserts. It occurred in 1956 with Baseball Buttons, which was reduced to 60 subjects from an announced 90, following the acquisition of Bowman, so it makes sense to me history repeated.  It's possible a few planned subjects were in contractual limbo as well, which may have been an issue in 1963 for Topps.

The Bazooka Baseball boxes that year were sold with an extra feature within, the 41 subject All Time Greats set. That particular set was designed on a 45 card press sheet array, with four subjects double-printed.  Did Topps pull four subjects once the Fleer suit was out of the marketplace or did they just run out of time procuring the rights of four more old-timers? It's just strange that two insert sets from the same year are somewhat anomalous in length at a time when Topps was making a big spend on legal fees. Fleer also went after them in a Federal Trade Commission suit, which was ongoing in 1963.

The set checklist is interesting as the ratio of common players to superstars appears a little lower than in most other short Topps insert and supplemental sets.  I think this is further proof the set was truncated.

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