Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Slew Of Samples

I was inspired today by the recent news that well over 100 1966 Topps Baseball Salesman Sample strips are being offered up on eBay. Intact Salesman Samples, normally found in strips of three with a few variations on the theme, have always been difficult to find so for a hoard of this size to be liquidated the seller must need to be dumping them in a hurry. But I don't have those '66 strips in my sights today but rather thought a look at some strips and remnants outside of baseball would be interesting.

Here's a piece of the King recently offered on eBay:

Amusingly, and I realize it's hand cut, centering was an issue even on the samples! There's no way that left border measures out:

Here is what the complete 3 card sample strip looks like:

I realize 50,000,000 Elvis fans can't be wrong, but neither was $50,000:

After Elvis, the next fad was TV Westerns and Monsters. I can't find my scan of a 1959 You'll Die Laughing sample so it's the former and these two fit together like a puzzle.  The third card must have been excised more cleanly.

The back of this one has a bit of design; Topps was starting to move past basic text on these once the Bowman purchase was out of the way, or so it seems

I can't find an intact 3 card TV Westerns sample, so you have to imagine the last card! I always thought it odd the set had 71 cards but the above titles match the issued set.  Either a series they planned to include didn't work out as the count should probably be either 77 or 88 cards or they had trouble obtaining individual rights to a certain actor or two that screwed up the normal "divisible by 11" set count of the era. Maverick is a notable gap in their offering so maybe it was an inability to get a release from James Garner or even John Kelly that caused the truncation.

I'll close with a really sweet batch of 1963 Football. These are three but perhaps that count is low? Take a look:

The backs look like so:

Either that's a "four" or an alternate back exists.  Sometimes wholesaler's (jobbers) samples left space for an address.  Love the use of the green on the reverse but it should extend to the right a bit more on the third card, along with the text.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Order Up!

Ahoy campers-I have some really groovy stuff for you today!  Tom Goodwin wrote a long, heavily illustrated article in The Wrapper #308 about the production of the 1975 Topps Comic Book Heroes Stickers that really grabbed my attention. The highlight, at least from my perspective, was his inclusion of pictures of the Zabel Brothers production folder for the set. It was clear from his text that there was a bit more to this folder than was described or shown in the article so I reached out and Tom was kind enough to send a full set of scans.

I'll have to repeat Tom's main cover scan from the article but I don't plan to repeat his words. This cover has oodles of information about the printing and shipping of the set:

Actually, it's two sets (sort of)! We'll get to that momentarily. The 43" x 57" sheet size is important as it confirms the 264 card master sheet comprised a full uncut sheet.  24,000 of these suckers were ordered on pressure sensitive Ludlow stock, which was a type of stock Wacky Packages collectors will be familiar with. Looks like they came up 500 sheets short but it was made up by printing something else as part of the order, namely 500 additonal sheets of insert stickers for the Good Times set. We know this because of the bill of lading included in the folder:

I have to say it appears Good Times shipped 5,028 sheets so the additional 500 to make up the original order must have been added to a previous job of 4,528 sheets that was awaiting shipment.  CC stands for Commodity Code, otherwise known as the Production Code or Commodity number. This system allowed Topps to identify what type of packaging was to receive the cards shipped from Philadelphia by Zabel Brothers to their --wait for it--Brooklyn warehouse.

Brooklyn?!  Hold on Baba Looey, they were doing everything out of Duryea, PA at the time, or so I thought!  It would appear Brooklyn was still in the mix, which I'm quite surprised by.  Bristol Wholesale looks like the shippers, although it could be Bristol Wheels.

And now, math:

23,500 x 264 = 6,204,000 cards, or 112,800 of each impression of Comic Book Heroes on the sheet. It was a 44 sticker set, so six impressions of each would appear on the master sheet.

Good Times stickers?  1,327,392 of them, or 60,336 of each as there were 22 of them in the set.

I wonder if the Comic Book Heroes checklist/puzzle cards and Good Times cards were also printed and shipped together? It would sure make sense if they were.

Are these full production numbers or just one run?  Hard to say.  The folder has some other clues but nothing that will answer that question.

You can see there were a number of shipping batches.  This is a typical count and four such cards are in the folder:

It appears roughly 2,450 uncut sheets were packed per skid (pallet) and you can see which press was used to print the stickers. Card Processing is listed as the Bindery but that is Topps Brooklyn HQ, as we know from the bill of lading.

Here's some old school computer printouts showing a variety of production information (obviously these were two larger sheets):

It appears a proof sheet also made it into the folder:

That date stamp is for September 17, 1975-that must be the approved final artwork proof. It's worth noting I was in my third week of high school at the time-hoo boy!

I find this kind of stuff exciting but then again I'm pretty weird!  Many thanks to Tom Goodwin for peeling back a huge piece of the "cardboard curtain" that surrounds so much of the history of Topps.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Blister Blaster

Friend o'the Archive Rex Morgart has sent along a couple of scans of some packaging that relates, in a major way, to the 1980 Topps Baseball set.

If you wanted to quickly complete your 1980 set, this baby would get you well along in your task:

The price sticker is from Zayre's, a department store/discount chain that was pretty well known in the Northeast US and later expanded further south along the Eastern seaboard. It's heyday was probably right around 1980 and the parent company proved to be a trailblazer in home shopping and other areas of retail operations-it lives on today as TJX Corp, which owns TJ Maxx among others. Present market cap is around $45 Billion!

Anyhoo......Topps had a major distribution channel to thousands of retail stores in the US and I am thinking they would tailor packaging such as the above to the specific needs of various chains if they were big enough customers. We'll get to the Collecting Box momentarily but first feast your eyes upon the back of the blister pack:

Checklist!  A very smart idea if you ask me, hanging tab punch hole excepted.

The Collecting Box we have seen before, namely for the same year's The Empire Strikes Back set. Here's two flattened out views of said box:

That commodity code of T-126-27 indicates a test issue.  It's pretty sweet and has a killer shot of "The Penguin" as well. The thing is though, the Empire Strikes Back box has a non-test code:

1-885-58-01-0 means it was part of some regular issue packaging methinks.  I wonder if this means the Baseball box test was successful?

Luke, I am your cover.....

I have to wonder if there are more Collector Boxes out there from other sets in 1980.  You would need a big enough set to put a bunch of cards in blister packs, although Topps was infamous for throwing duplicates into their packaging.

Saturday, October 28, 2017


Well kids, I didn't think I would be able to pull off a Hallowe'en themed post this year but a fortuitous eBay listing (and win!) has come to the rescue. And it features something I never really knew existed.

Topps began Hallowe'en themed sales programs very early in the classic Bazooka era (1947 until 1982, when Bazooka Joe and the Gang got a makeover) and as we have seen, issued a product called Trick or Treat Gum around 1950.  I've seen only a few of their Hallowe'en brochures over the years but a couple feature somewhat klunky "loot bags" that I always assumed were just appropriately themed bags of bubblegum tabs that could be dumped into an existing retail display.  It never occurred to me that these bags, generally filled with 100 or so pieces of Bazooka, were meant to be purchased whole with the contents being handed out by mom while junior grabbed the bag while trick or treating.

This is a prime example of such an offering:

Looks like a paper mask came along for the ride!  The bag itself is the size of a large lunch bag, so I doubt the average kid back in the day would want to deal with something so small. The dating is a little tricky but not too daunting. 

This is a better look at the bag detail:

Prior to the middle of 1958 that upper left corner of the wrapper said "The Atom" before it was changed to "Topps". So it's from 1958 or later.  How much later is a little hard to say without a brochure from the right year but if you look at the graphics there is no little symbol showing Bazooka as a registered trademark after the "a" on the front but it's there on the bottom-whether it means anything having it and not having it on the same item I can't quite say right now and they may have just mixed and matched for years. They were also using full color graphics on the loot bags by 1965, so it's no later than 1964.

The bottom of the bag also has a couple of clues:

"Young America's Favorite" was in use still in 1963 (and possibly '64 but I can't find wrapper scans from that year), tho' I can't quite figure when they stopped using the Parents Magazine seal.  So no help really from the bottom, at least without further research. 

So right now I have a possible range from 1958-64. I'll have to keep digging.

There was no help from the inside by the way:

Oh yeah, I found this next one in some weird Pinterest eBay aggregation.  I think it's from 1949 as Al Capp was doing work for them at the time, or so I believe.  Plus, the Twin Chews (penny tabs) had only debuted that year and the Circus-like lettering at the top fits that year as well:

That is one outstanding piece of Topps history, I'd love to find one of the point of sale posters someday!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Test Pack-o-rama

Some crazy, crazy stuff went down in the recent Mile High auction buccos, which was a veritable field day for Topps test pack enthusiasts!

Hailing from the Tennessee Beer Box Find that gave us the world's only unopened pack of 1968 Topps Basketball, a number of goodies were offered and it's as good a time as any to take a closer look, don't you think?!

leading the way, in a unique type of packaging, is that fab super-model Twiggy:

No gum but a very helpful dating was added. The baggie like pack is the only one of it's type I can ever recall seeing.  These larger than normal cards had no gum included, so letting purchases almost see the pictures within was almost a good idea!

The back could have shown another front I guess, but alas (although the baggie must have been opened to date the insert):

Next up, same date, different set. And I mean different! Angry Signs was sold after the test as Angry Stickers, in a wrapper with similar artwork to this test version:

The backs are a bit revealing:

There's a lot going on there but someone else is researching the set and I'll not step on their findings.

1968 was also represented:

The show was kinda hokey but also fascinating.  The cards are like that as well and feature a comic strip feature on the first 44 cards (out of 55).  Land Of The Giants does not seem to have survived testing though and the cards are hard to find today.

Mod Squad, on the other hand, tested well and made it to retail:

Yup, they are a little ragged.  This back of the pack has seen better days:

Have you noticed what's missing from the three white wrapper test packs?  The ingredients sticker that was stuck on the back and helped seal the pack is long gone in each case.  No surprise there, they don't always survive.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Gee Whiz Kids

My rule of thumb putting together my collection of Topps type cards has always been that anything I have on my wantlist appeared in a retail pack or store setting at some point. I exclude standalone candy and gum products for the most part unless they are pretty early (nothing really after the mid 50's) and my interest in Bazooka comics peters out by the mid 60's. I collect some proof items (examples of Bewitched, Bonanza for instance) but they are not part of the core mission.  Those two are in the price guides generally--and are thought of by many as being part of the "Topps experience"-- but there is a lot of stuff that doesn't make the grade or just wasn't known about when the formative guides were published in the 80's and early 90's.  This puts some things into WTF territory!

Take a look at this grouping below:

The little piece of cardboard in the upper left measures 1" x 1 3/4", so you can get a feel for the other items in that scan, which I will address individually.

The cardboard piece is the biggest head-scratcher in this group. I got it from Bob Marcy's amazing non-sports notebooks at the 2015 National, although Bob was not in attendance at the time. He had it with the 1949 X-Ray Roundup cards in a binder and given his depth of knowledge on all things non-sports, that's how I have categorized it.  However, it's slightly bigger than the cards proper and the jagged short edge is interesting.  I am thinking it's related somehow to the vending boxes for this set but I'm really not too sure.

This bad boy seems related to X-Ray Roundup as well. It's 1 1/16" tall and as you can maybe see, is folded in a bit.  I am loathe to unfurl it given its fragility and it seems a little too wide for the set but right now that's the attribution.

This one's easier and belongs to the classic 1952 Look 'N' See set.

Last up, 1957 Isolation Booth as near as I can tell although there's a few later candidates:

Unopened packs likely yielded all the red cello viewers but it's pretty amazing these have survived. Topps would issue sets needing viewers into the 60's; I think they are pretty groovy!.

Saturday, October 7, 2017


Every once in a while a Topps item comes up at auction that absolutely floors me.  Presently, this year's winning entry belongs to the good folks and Friends o'the Archive at BST Auctions.

Topps released a scarce set of Baseball cards on the backs of certain Bazooka boxes during the summer of 1959.  Twenty three in number, the set features gorgeous color photography (possibly the best ever done by Topps) and has a number of ridiculously short short prints and two variations of the Hank Aaron card.  471 have been graded as I type this and two boxes are also noted in the PSA pop report.

However, if you really want a scarce Bazooka set from 1959, you need to purse the equally spectacular Football cards. With 18 subjects and two variations of the Chuck Conerly card it's about twice as hard to find an example based upon PSA's grading. No boxes are shown by PSA but BST has one in their upcoming auction of goodies, many of which hail from the formidable collection of yet another Freind o'the Archive: Mike Blaisdell.

Feast your eyes on this:

Wow, right?!  A couple of points:
1) How the cello survived almost 60 years is beyond me.
2) That's the original Bazooka Joe blowing a ginormous bubble around said cello
3) There's no splash on the front saying a football card lurks on the back, which is kinda weird.

The card:

Like the Baseball box, it was the 20 pack that had the goods:

There wouldn't be another Bazooka Football set until 1971, when they issued not one but two sets, one in the US and another, stupendously rare one in Canada with CFL players.  Baseball of course was represented every year through 1971 so it's safe to assume the inaugural issue of Football was a bust, especially since the roylties paid by Topps to the NFL in the late 50's were negligible.

This is the only box like this I have ever seen; I can't find any scans of the two Baseball boxes that PSA has graded so for now this is the only eye candy available.