Saturday, July 20, 2024

Are You Ready For Your Mystery Date?

Today let's take a look at another entry in a long line of Topps penny pack vegetable-dye based issues, the 1960 (or '61) Magic Tatoo set. These spit 'n' slap sets were literally based upon the ur-Topps novelty set, 1948's Tatoo. In this case a special concealing layer revealed the answer to a brief riddle-like feature, often, and oddly, in in the form of a declaration that sat atop each subject, like so:


At a guess, there's a horse or a beat up fedora under that layer of wavy lines but I have not been able to decipher it for real.  The outer wrapper was nautically-themed, no surprise give the three-set run of Popeye tattoos Topps was just finishing off:


Popeye's third issue from Topps also featured a mystery component that was more opaque:

The year of issue for Magic Tatoo (and the Popeye tattoo sets) is a bit malleable as they all seem to have had a roughly 18-24 month sales cycle.

The real question is how many different subjects came in the Magic Tatoo set?  About 60+ subjects are known and as Topps usually printed tatoos of the era in iterations of 16, then 72 or 96 subjects seems like a possibility.  We do know 120 packs came in the retail box:


I would not be surprised, given the images on sailor boy's torso, if most of the images were recycled from their earlier tatoo sets.  There is also the mystery of the retail box's outer sleeve, which really just repeats things; maybe there was an offer on the bottom or it served to stave off moisture?


Answers are not easy to come by with these and they remain, after the nigh-impossible 1955 Davy Crockett Tatoo issue, the hardest of the one cent Topps tatoos to track down. 

Saturday, July 13, 2024

Let's Do The Twist

 A bit of an unexpected update today campers!  You may recall some earlier posts on the 1968 Topps Wild Animal Surprise Box which is a bit of a mysterious product.  The retail pack (which is a box) has been seen previously and here's an example with a helpful ruler measurement of one side (roughly three inches in length):


So that looks like the width could be around five inches. The retail box had what looks like a checklist on the top flap:


However, as we're about to see, that may not be a full or correct checklist.  This recent eBay auction looks like it contained an interloper, not to mention it's the first time I've seen what is purported to be the contents of the box:

Yup, it's a polar bear! As you may note, said creature is not detailed on the box flap checklist so that's a bit off-putting.  Here is a closeup:


Oddly enough, that Banana twist gum looks like it's packed in the cello with the polar bear, which this side confirms:


At the moment, I'm not clear if those two grape twists came inside the box originally, although I suspect they did. It's quite nice to see a wild animal surprise though!

Friend o'the Archive Lonnie Cummins sent along some scans of opened twist wrappers.  They turned out to be Flavor Mates too:


The 1968 commodity code matches that of the Surprise Box, which is nice to see. Lonnie also sent along an Orange Flavor Mate scan, which has no visible code:


As has been the pattern lately here at the main Topps Archives Research Complex, finding a long sought after item or two has inevitably led to other questions! More to come once I can figure out some answers...

Saturday, July 6, 2024

The Big And The Bad

Topps released all sorts of button sets over the years, starting with 1956's Baseball Buttons. They then began issuing humorous pin sets, most of them metallic, on a semi-regular basis in 1960 with Funny Buttons although there were points they became sporadic.  1975 saw a test set called Big Bad Buttons and it's safe to say they are difficult to find today. 

The year prior had seen a full retail release of Batty Buttons, which for my ten cents is the best of the non-sports bunch. So the fact the Big Bad Buttons test was a clear failure in '75 must have been a surprise to Topps.  This is how they arrived at the test stores (thanks to Friend o'the Archive Rob Lifson for these two images):

Topps handily provided a checklist on the back of the test envelope:


I was lucky enough to snag a BBB recently and have to say while it's a sharp looking set, it seems to lack the snappy verbiage offered by Batty Buttons

Big Bad Buttons measure 2 7/32" in diameter and are a little larger than the 1974 Batty Buttons, so I guess this was truth in advertising. Here is my type example:


The artwork is well-executed and the reverse features a fairly thick protective layer of cardboard within which the pin resides:


I don't think there's anything under there but I didn't want to remove the cardboard (which is quite smoothly finished) as it seems like it would crease if I did so.

Here' a scan of another button, courtesy of Marc Simon:



Again, not at all that pithy of a comment. These really are hard to find and I had seen only a handful of images prior to my recent acquisition. Some Topps test issues are scarcer than others and the Seventies offer a good share of difficult ones.