Saturday, December 30, 2023

English Language Barrier

I used to frequently travel to London on business and would often marvel at the differences in phrases and words used to describe things when compared to comparable US jargon. In England, you don't have a backyard, you have a garden.  The Underground (aka the tube) is a subway in the U.S. and a subway there is a passage here. Crisps are chips and chips are fries, etc.  So it's no surprise that the English licensee and trade partner of Topps, A&BC Chewing Gum, sometimes used different nomenclature than their U.S. counterpart for similar products.

Take, for example, this 1965-ish A&BC Picture Card Album scanned by Friend o'the Archive Lonnie Cummins, which housed a youngster's Man from U.N.C.L.E.  card collection:

Props to the kid, as he properly put the periods after each letter!  A&BC (or, speaking of periods: A.& B.C.) was on board as well! Note how the album doesn't  have a glossy cover, just a cheap pulp one like the rest of the kit. That album-mounting lad is a somewhat, albeit not exactly, familiar image, seen here around 1956 in the U.S.:

And again a half-decade later, slightly livened up:

A&BC did issue an album that matches the US one above, slick cover and all (every A&BC album scan is from Lonnie going forward):

So what was a "Picture Card" album in the U.K. was a "Hobby Card" in the U.S. of A.  

The inside front cover was pretty informative.  Footballers and Cricketers would be pretty much foreign phrases to most American kids in 1965! Heck, even soccer was not all that well known at the time.

Here is a Cricketer example from 1959; A&BC issued another set in 1961 as well but for sheer poetry on a card, 1959 is the most Larkin-esque for sure:

The counterpart to cricketer in the US is "baseball player" which seems easy enough but take a look at the back of this card as it's illustrative of just how different things can be across the pond:

OK...England & Middlesex means he played for the National English team plus his "regular" club. And "over" is the delivery of six consecutive balls by the bowler.  "Bowler" is kind of like a Pitcher, except everything they deliver would be a balk on a baseball diamond, sort of . A "maiden" is a positive measurement but can mean a couple of different things and "Baseball Annie" is NOT equivalent! A "Wicket"...oh forget it, just take a look here, not that it will help much! 

Did I mention the 1961 issue was to commemorate a "test series" and that they can run up to five days? Well, it's nice enough anyway:

A&BC also offered "bespoke" albums for some sets, including one of their very earliest in 1954:

Flags Of The World also saw one, I believe from 1959, when the set debuted in the United Kingdom, although I note it was reissued, with smaller dimensions, in 1963 so either year is possible:

I suppose I shouldn't post this one but when you can get 7 cards for 6d (that's six pence, which we would call a penny in the states) it seems like a steal!

Plus there was a cool looking album!

Well all this typing has made me hungry.  I'm off to rustle up some biscuits, err.....cookies!

Saturday, December 23, 2023

A Yaz By Any Other Name

Some nice prices were recently realized in a recent auction or two over at Heritage for a couple of prototypes that were created as the 1968 Topps 3-D Baseball set  was being developed and, while I don't typically focus on values here (and also discussed some of these about three months ago), it seems instructive to do so here.

This example of the Brooks Robinson prototype, which has a tear at the bottom, is now in a PSA Authentic slab and went for a cool 60 Grand:

I believe that is a record for this card, where a mere handful exist, with a definite upward trendline on pricing. Also of note, was $21 K for this nom-de plumed Yaz in the same auction:

It too now resides in an Authentic slab, SGC in flavor. That is likely the first recorded sale for this one. 

Meanwhile, the Roberto Clemente prototype I discussed here only last month, went for a paltry $3,145.20:

Granted, it was on illustration board and a mock-up vs. a  mostly finished prototype, I think it went w-a-a-a-y cheap, especially considering Clemente's staying power in the hobby marketplace.

The 1968 3-D's clearly remain popular, whether they are are proofs, prototypes or actual issued cards. Whether or not the more esoteric mockups and the like from other sets will catch up remains to be seen but as prices move up for the 3-D's production materials, I suspect that will raise the price of other such items as well, at least for Hall-of-Famers.

Happy Festivus!

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Whoa, These Chains Of Love

I ran across a neat proof sheet the other day of sixty percent of the 1964 Topps Beatles Plaks set. You may or may not know about these as they were an obscure issue from day one. 

It looks like the cards would get a true wavy edge cut, like a handful of other Topps issues of this ilk had (including a smallish-sized set or two made of actual wood) but there was something even more detrimental involved.

Easily the toughest of all the Fab Four sets disgorged by Topps in 1964 and 1965, these somewhat sturdy cards had an interesting feature that allowed them to be connected one-to-another in order to form a chain of sorts. You can get the gist of things pretty quickly; check out the scored areas top and bottom:

So right away you can see wear to the little score lines at the bottom.  Well, it actually gets worse-check out the instructions:

Yes, Topps wanted you to destroy the top portion of the card, so there's at least three things working against these condition-wise: size (a normal 2 1/2" on the short end but 4 11/16" on the long), scoring, and tearing! They also appear to have been limited release, so you've really got a fantabulous nexus of things going on here.

The retail box gives you an idea of the "post-mohel" scenario: 

Wrappers are tough to come by, even given the relatively tough cards:

I find the cards to be the nicest of the five Beatles issues put out by Topps.  They also licensed, but ultimately did not produce a set, for Yellow Submarine.  Given the array of underground artists illustrating for them when the movie came out in 1968, that could have been a mod psychedelic wonder!

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Tickled Pink

Friend o'the Archive John Moran recently pushed some 1959 Topps Baseball partial proof sheet scans through to Net54 Baseball, where a clutch of dedicated sleuths are piecing together Topps press sheet arrays (i.e. the A &B slits) for the years covering 1956 to 1969 (and maybe a little bit on either side of that). I'm not here to steal their thunder but one of the scans posted there had some really interesting details that are not often seen on the partial proofs that have entered the hobby over the years:

You can plainly see this was a Lord Baltimore Press production. Also quite prominent are the color keys and some alignment crosses at left, center and right (The crosses are also visible at the bottom).

I'll blow up the entire left side waste area above the cards and below the key to make the discussion easier:

I often talk about blocks of cards on a press sheet being arrayed in an ABA/BAB pattern across the two slits when an 88 card series was being printed. Each letter represent the same 44 card block on the slits, but the Board "A" reference is merely coincidental here (I think) as Topps also would prepare and proof their art work in batches of 44 (or 55, 22 or even 33), depending upon the configuration of the series being printed. I assume this is because each slit had at least one batch on it and they could move around the films shot  by the printer or each accordingly. You can see the proof date, or at least the month (March) and what I assume is a batch order number (6-803) or some other such reference. It's not clear to me if that's a Topps notation or one from LBP but I suspect the latter.

The cards on the A Board run from nos. 201 to 285, entirely consistent with a 110 card first series, followed by two series of 88 cards each.  It's a little weird that Carl Erskine's name does not appear on the proof. I know he voluntarily retired on June 15, 1959 so the printing predated that but occurred during spring training.  Perhaps he was contemplating retirement before the start of the season and caused Topps some pause? Or it's just a goof-up.  Here's the finished card:

Board B would have had the other 44 cards from the series, including Fence Busters (with Ed Mathews and Hank Aaron), Early Wynn, a couple of team cards, a second year Maris and some not-so-hot rookie cards.  Kind of a meh series overall, talent-wise, isn't it?  In fact the whole set only has a couple of big name cards but it's a release that I've always liked the looks of thanks to the big blocks of color and well-designed backs.

So a neat little bit of Topps printing history there-too bad there's no complete record but of course, what else would those of us who dig this stuff do if there was?

Saturday, December 2, 2023

In Like Flynn

I've briefly mentioned Art Flynn Associates a couple of times here, as they were one of the firms used to procure baseball player contracts for Bowman, possibly the only one. In particular I have written about Joan Crosby, who covered Philadelphia and New York for the agency.  Being a woman, she did not have locker room access, which was only something that came to pass in the 1970's but it didn't seem to hold her back in terms of signing up players. But baseball was far from Art Flynn's only area of endeavors as the firm represented a wide range of sports figures, covering an impressive array of athletic pursuits.

Love of the Game Auctions recently offered a promotional flyer from the firm, which is a wonder of  casual sexism and hero-worship well worth a gander.  Here's one side:

The number of athletes who endorses cigarettes was probably still peaking toward an all-time high in 1947 when this flyer was prepared. Check out the upside-down group seen above:

Starting in the upper left we have Bobby Riggs, seen here in one of the funniest moments in the hilarious history of the Odd Couple:

Riggs is followed, in a counterclockwise fashion by Sid Luckman, golfer Lloyd Mangrum (winner of the 1946 U.S. Open), Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Nat Holman (a famous basketball player then coach who would later be tainted, perhaps unfairly, by scandal), and swimmer Adolph Kiefer (who won a gold medal in the 100 meter backstroke at the 1936 Olympics). Kiefer's presence may have had more to do with his prominence as a businessman than athlete at this point, although he was possibly just as well  known at the time as the man who taught Navy cadets how to swim properly during World War 2.

Here's the ad as it appeared around the country:

The list of sports in the flyer was quite varied and in addition to the ones represented in the Chesterfield ad, there were folks from: speed skating, polo (!), badminton, table tennis, figure skating, bowling, billiards and boxing.  They even threw in some theatrical types such as Bojangles Bill Robinson and Hoagy Carmichael. 

Television had not yet supplanted radio, that was still a couple of years off, but it did get an oblique mention:

"High-Hooper" refers to perhaps the preeminent service (Hooper) that was measuring radio ratings at the time, along with Crossley and Nielsen. The 1947-48 radio season would prove to be the highpoint in terms of advertising dollars spent on the medium before television use exploded.

Did I mention casual sexism and hero worship?

The Lifebuoy, Gillette and Chesterfield ads are so prominent, I suspect Art Flynn was able to leverage their co-op advertising into a greatly reduced printing bill.

I'd be remiss if I didn't include one of the Gillette cartoons before I go:

Frank Williams, if you're wondering, was the editorial and sports cartoonist for the Detroit Free Press from 1943 to 1978. Ya gotta look sharp!