Saturday, September 30, 2023

C'mon Get Hoppy

Some interesting doings along the old, dusty trail today cowpokes, as we take a fresh look at the wrappers from the 1950 Topps Hopalong Cassidy set.  I've covered them before, briefly, but that was a dozen years ago (yikes!) and with some newly found scans, additional details have come forth.

Chris Benjamin's various editions of the Sport Americana Price Guide to the Non-Sports Cards mentions that the white one cent wrappers are easier to find that the green ones but I can't says that's supported by what's shown up over the last decade or so. Here's said wrappers in pack form, white front:

And back:

Now the otherwise identical green wrapper, once again as packed.  Obverse:

And reverse:

The "Save-Em--Trade-Em" motto was a marketing scheme conceived by Topps and it was used in advertising and on wrappers for eight different series of cards from 1950 to 1952, although it was dropped for the Giant Size cards as they had their own built in motto. These eight sets also had the distinction of being found in panel form, i.e. three or four 2 card lightly connected panels sold in each nickel pack. Here's a Hoppy five-center; I have read about green versions but only have seen yellow:

Topps got a premium offer into the mix as well!

Then there was the massive cross-promotion between Topps and Bond Bread that put Hoppy cards in bread loaves in most states east of the Mississippi. Bond also had Hoppy bread end labels that had nothing to do with Topps:

It seems like the bread campaign was a long-lasting one. Bond alone issued three 16 subject series of illustrated labels,  plus two additional ones, again with 16 subjects in each, using photographs. There were even albums to hold them:

Sunbeam Bread issued two 32 label sets of Hoppy photos on their end labels and other brands had various sets semi-sealing their loaves or adorning their packaging as he was really the first major postwar kids fad.

But I digress....

This Bond Bread penny pack is a well known one in the hobby but I'd never seen the indicia before:

As you may have suspected, with a Hoppy card inside, it was a Topps job:

That horseshoe Hoppy logo got another appearance in though. This is a hybrid wrapper that I once thought was used for packs inserted into the loaves.  It may have been used as such, perhaps in the mad rush to get the packs into the Bond loaves but if I had been paying attention twelve years ago, I would have noticed the one cent price:

Yes, it was a crossover ad - quite unusual for Topps - but this was their first character driven set, not to mention their first licensed set, so they clearly were feeling their way through the process. It's a pack scan, so no indicia but I'm sure it matches the above examples: 

The Topps fun didn't stop there though. There was candy, sold in this snazzy saddlebag:

I'm not positive but think they may have resembled Sugar Babies, based upon the shortening listed in the ingredients:

Topps still wasn't done as they sold Hoppy Wagon Wheel Pops as well:

Oddly, despite having a viable Candy Division and a dedicated plant in Chattanooga at the time, the lollys were made elsewhere for Topps:

(From Chris Benjamin's Sport Americana Price Guide to the Non Sports Cards Volume 2)

Hundreds of Hoppy products flooded the shelves of America for a good two or three years as William Boyd did what he did best-licensing! Yee-haw!

Saturday, September 23, 2023

America's Volume Dealer

As it often happens, I was searching the WWW for some obscure information about a certain Topps set and stumbled across some equally obscure information concerning an entirely different offering.  

In August of 2021, Robert Edward Auctions closed a lot of over 800 panels from the 1974 Topps Baseball Stamps set. Troves of these stamps have been found over the years, so this was no surprise but what caught my eye was the way these had been packaged, namely inside a vending box.  Here is the central image from the auction:

Those tight left end cuts are a hallmark of these panels, so that matches up perfectly with the zillions of known panels offered in the hobby press and online lo these past thirty years.  The panels, folded twice, matche how they were found in the test packs that also contained one of 24 team albums. That is also 100% on point.

The auction description mentioned the generic vending box was, in the opinion of REA, original to the panels. There is no mention of it being a Topps vending box and indeed, I haven't seen a similar one in many years of keeping track.  It does remind me a little of the circa 1949 vending boxes used by Topps to sell their tiny little cards like X-Ray Roundup but really since the early 1950's Topps had either used a semi-generic Trading Card Guild box - which came in two basic designs over about a dozen years, namely either black and red, or red, white & blue.  Topps switched to the much more familiar mostly-blue venders sometime in the 1960's. 

To refresh your collective memories, here is the generic 1949 vender:

Compare that to the graphics on this 1953 Trading Card Guild box, the first or second of a line that held cello packs of the larger Giant Size cards like Baseball and Wings. As readers here know, the Guild was just Topps rebranded when they sold early cello's without gum:

This is a slightly reconfigured version, apparently used for horizontally-oriented cards as it was said to contain 1955 All American Football cellos.

I'm not entirely sure how Topps sold their larger sized cards in a vending configuration.  They very well could have been in generic gray sleeves with no graphics evident, perhaps with just an end stamp indicating the product inside. But based upon later designs identifying the Trading Card Guild in the graphics, I would think Topps employed this color scheme in the early Fifties.  It's also possible any Guild boxes held loose Giant Size cards for vending, as Topps did this on occasion in the Seventies with their taller cards, but I cannot verify either point at this time.

UPDATE 9/25/23-Lonnie Cummins had sent me a scan of a gray box that likely held some configuration of 1955 Rails & Sails. It's stamped "TRAINS AND SHIPS":

A more familiar version of the vending box seems to have debuted around 1956, when Topps switched to the now standard size of 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" for the majority of their cards and even began indicating they were the company behind the Guild on some 500 count boxes. This one held Elvis Presley cards in a more traditional vending format.

Here's one that held 1957 Baseball, and we can tell from the stamped code using the Cummins Method that it was packed on May 9, 1957 by the third shift in Brooklyn:

At the same time, these started popping up, used when Topps was selling cello packs:

So as things got more colorful, a divergence occurred where Topps took responsibility for unwrapped vending boxes while the Trading Card Guild was shown as manufacturer of anything in cello form:

The red, white & blue boxes were used through at least 1966 as Monster Laffs packs from that year have been seen in them and I suspect the mostly blue boxes that replaced this version came came a bit after Topps moved production from Brooklyn to Duryea in 1966. Both styles probably overlapped as Topps transitioned their packaging when they killed off the Guild.

Somewhat of a case in point is this 1966 Baseball cello box:  

Note the new (at the time) curved Topps logo and a distinct lack of any displayable Trading Card Guild graphics, although the box bottom tells a different tale:

(Courtesy Dan McKee)

By 1968 the blues were certainly in use as this high number vending box shows:

There is a Brooklyn address on the bottom but note it says "trading cards' which is still a Guild carryover.  At some point in 1975-76 this switched to "picture cards" as the 1975 Baseball vending was found in the older style while the 1976's came in this 500 count bad boy:

So anyway, I was talking about the 1974 Baseball Stamps, right? Well here is a parting tidbit from the August 20, 1974 issue of Sports Collectors Digest, some detail on where the set was tested:

Belmont is just a couple of miles west of Boston, a tried-and-true metro area for Topps testing purposes, along with Brooklyn and Duryea PA (plus a couple of other locales). I'm trying to ID a second test store in Brooklyn (one at is already known) near 76th St and 20th Ave in Bensonhurst that was possibly called Pecker's and identified by Gary Gerani in his new and highly entertaining book The Card King Chronicles.

The one that is known is this one, which is long gone:

Another rumored one was on or just off Cortelyou Rd in Brooklyn (Flatbush to be exact) but I haven't been able to zero in any further.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Curiosity Shop

Oddities and curiosities today kids!

1965 (or close to it) saw the creation and possible test release by Topps of two old movie staples: King Kong and Flash Gordon.  These black-and-white sets were either tested or just printed up for internal use and are fairly legendary rarities today. A seller on eBay purports to have proof boxes for both but I think, at best, they are mockups and I'm not 100% convinced they were created by Topps at the time the sets were being considered for release, although the odds greatly favor it I think.

Here's King Kong, with folded-over indicia:

Whatever happened to Fay Wray? She was up there with him I thought.

No info on the bottom here:

The blank end flap on one side seems like a mockup beacon, no proof would look like that:

This end flap is better but the look of Kong plastered there is kind of rough:

Clear magic-markering signs on the inner flaps (and all over the place, really):

Meanwhile, well across the sci-fi universe:

Again, I'm not sure the indicia should fold over like that.  These may have been slapped together for internal use very quickly and then the test bubble burst before anything further could be made up.

The box bottom, if this actually is from 1965, has the old Postal Zone code for Topps, two years after ZIP codes came out to play.

There is one barren end panel:

The other panel is better but this looks pretty wonky even for a Topps mock up piece:

You can see the magic marker work quite easily on the inner flaps:

I will say the look of both is eerily similar and it is thought the sets may have been developed at the same time.  

Neat stuff, with some questions still to be answered....

Saturday, September 9, 2023

A Perfect Album

Over the years Topps has inserted various contest ad and premium cards and ephemera into their retail packs. Contest cards from the late 50's and premium offers (think Lucky Penny) from around 1957-60 are examples of these and for the most part are readily found.  However a handful of these were issued on paper (I suspect to ride along with penny packs, although they could have been in any configuration used by Topps) and can be a bit harder to find. One such example is the circa 1960 premium offer hawking a Baseball Card Album:

You can even see the little production rip at the top, which was an artifact of the packing and wrapping process, using what was probably the first piece of machinery ever bought by Topps, dating to 1938. These are the same size as the cards they came with.

Before plastic sheets you either used photo corners or paper with slits in it, which the back of this little sucker shows quite clearly:

These albums were also offered on the "wings" of wax packs from the era.

That pack ad makes me wonder of the paper inserts date to 1959 and the ad just continued the sales push.

They were really generic albums:

I've shown the album previously. A Trading Card Guild version may exist as well (although I am having trouble finding a scan) and I believe these albums were also offered in Canada. 

The potential Trading Card Guild version stems from some 1956 cello pack "wing" ads like on this Elvis Presley cello pack:


Those would seem to be a sibling of the bespoke Jets album from 1956: 

All of these share an ancestor with the 1949 Pixie (X-Ray Roundup) and Hocus Focus (Magic Photo) albums:

Both sides always on show, eh?  Yup!

Magic Photo did not have the album cutouts, just slits to receive the corners of each card:

There are other albums out there as well, some big, some small but I've never seen any for the 1949 Flags,  License Plates or Varsity issues. All of those were smaller issues of 100 subjects, which may or may not indicate they were not thought necessary. These albums are a scenic byway in the Topps landscape and generally, compared to the cards they were designed to hold, many magnitudes of order harder to find.