Saturday, April 21, 2018

Package Deal

Here's a look at some tougher Topps boxes, packs and the like I've seen this year on eBay.  Some really neat items here.

Here'a a great idea, why not mix real wood with bubble gum?  In 1963 you could:



Ever wonder how cello packs were sold until the mid 60's?  For the most part it was in boxes like these:


This particular box held the "1966" Monster Laffs:



No gum in these packs when sold under the rubric of Trading Card Guild. Good way to avoid splinters, LOL.

Another gumless wonder, these Letraset licensed Magic Rub Offs from 1970 are tough, tough, tough to find, let alone the wrapper:



Speaking of tough, how about a 1971 Nasty Valentine Notes pack:


Love the instructions:


See ya next week!


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Young America's Favorite Way To Fly

Bazooka was famous for its comics once Bazooka Joe got into the mix in 1954 and on those comics were almost always those crazy premium offers.  Some were cheesy, some were not but I have to say a recent eBay auction featuring the "Bazooka Airfleet" from 1974-75 may take the cake.

Check THIS out:


Eastern was still a major airline in the mid 1970's so I presume Topps got a good deal on the whole shebang. The cardboard airport was probably an item they sold in their terminal gift shops and knowing Topps they took advantage of an overstock situation. The planes are styrofoam and meant to glide when thrown. The terminal graphics look to me like they could be a fanciful rendering of their space at LaGuardia Airport but really could represent any of their airport homes.

That pamphlet has some good information on assembly and basic aeronautics for both 70's kids and modern collectors (and researchers):



Check out this miscut comic from the fabulous Bazooka Joe Comics Website:


I love miscuts as they reveal all sorts of information.  Here we see Topps was mixing in some larger premium offers along with their usual comics.  The sting of not having the normal comic was thought by Topps to be alleviated by doubling the value of the insert vs a regular comic I guess.  I've seen others that are only worth one comic so your experience may vary.

The mail in address (Woodbury, NY) is the only time I have seen that particular town, which is located only a couple of miles from Westbury, where a large number of premiums (and me!) came from in the 1970's.  In addition, there is no number number assigned to the premium.  It's all a bit mysterious but the larger "comic" would have been useful showing how big the airfleet was.

This is even neater than the infamous Exploding Battleship premium!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Solid Gold

One of the fun parts of writing this blog is that I'm often rewarded when I keep my eyes peeled for new or unusual items related to the history of Topps.  This can be a previously known card set, some kind of mockup or in-house test or even just a fact or two I never knew about.  Recently, I acquired an item that really made me look at the early Topps sets in a different light.

If you ever pulled a prize out of a cereal box or mailed away for a premium or two, then you have brushed up against greatness. Those little items you treasured as a kid (and some of you to this day) have their origins with a company called American Advertising & Research Corporation and a man called Sam Gold.

Gold founded his firm in Chicago in the early 1920's after a stint at Whitman publishing, where he developed children's books and hit upon a novel idea, namely that the biggest influencers among adult consumers were children. Sam's company was a "vertical and horizontal" marketing juggernaut.  Cereal box inserts and premium offers were his bread and butter and one of his projects that would be well know to readers of this blog would be the buttons included inside boxes of Kellogg's Pep cereal in the mid to late 40's.

It appears that from this world of cereal promotions, Topps first card issue, properly known as Hocus Focus but referred to in the hobby as Magic Photo to avoid mixing it up with a very similar set issued in 1955, sprung.

Faithful readers of this blog know that Topps issued their first novelty set, Tatoo, in 1948 but it was merely vegetable dye printed on a wrapper interior. Hot on its heels was Magic Photo, which was out by the summer of 1948 and saw success well into 1949.  Where Tatoo was simple, Magic Photo was complex.

The concept for Magic Photo featured, of all things, a card with a blank front. This was because a quiz on the back of the card had instructions directing the young un's to refer to the wrapper, which in turn directed them to dip the card in water and rub the front of the card against the underside of the very same wrapper, which had a developing agent baked in, to make the "magic photo" appear.

Well, given its importance as the ur Topps card set, when I saw a very interesting lot in a recent catalog auction, I pounced. There are several components to it but this draft of a promotional banner really caught my eye:


Looks familiar right?  That Lou Gehrig image is different that the one used in the issued set but it's a real link between the concept in the poster and final product.

Remember back in the day, almost everything was done by hand.  Backs first:


Note the different categories, just like Magic Photo but a bit more erudite! Shakespeare anyone?! See the "F" numbering pencilled in?   The "cards" in the lot were six in number, although I suspect that a 7th existed and was possibly the Gehrig, long ago removed and sold. The poster displays an "F8" so what indded was no. 7?  I certainly don't have it!  Fronts now:


Like I said, erudite.  Interestingly, Natural Bridge made an appearance in both the 1949 and 1950 Topps License Plates sets.

See that glue residue atop each mockup?  It came from these:


One more shy but oh well!  The "cards" and "flappers" measure 1 7/8" x 2 1/2" which is quite a bit larger than the issued set at  7/8" x 1 7/16".  You can compare and contrast:




I'm not sure how Topps and Sam Gold got together but my guess is at one of the huge marketing conventions that were often held in Chicago in the 40's.  A particularly raucous one occurred in 1947 and maybe the Shorins saw the very banner from this lot and converted a cereal premium to an insert.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Doubling Up

Welcome to our third in a series of posts covering the first eleven issues of "The Card Collector", Woody Gelman's sorta-catalog-sorta-not newsletter of the late 50's and early 60's. Things were really picking up in the hobby in mid-1960 and TCC was all over it.

Right off the bat, the Card Collectors Co. Checklist Book is discussed.  It was hinted at in previous issues but was by now a reality. 


The Topps album being described was this bad boy, which was state of the art for the times:


Here now, is a very, very interesting Card Chatter. It says that seven copies each of the three famous 1960 "proof" errors made it into circulation.  You might need a salt shaker but given how rare these cards are, I guess it's possible.  It's funny what contemporary accounts can provide. There's also an article on the large cards issued by Post Cereal in 1960 and a blurb on the 1960 Fleer All Time Greats cards.



Bazooka gets a blast as well and also the first series of 1960 Leaf Baseball.  I'm not sure how many adult collectors would have known about such things if not for these puff pieces:


Lionel Carter, represent:


This was the last of the four page issues; it would be eight pages (amid a plea from the editor) going forward:


Gotta hand it to Woody, he would reference competitor's to Topps:


Things get a little reflective with a discussion of the 1960 Metallic Football Emblems inserts but then matter get downright funky with White Sox tickets!



Non-sports and Canadian cards are mentioned. Surprisingly, Parkhurst gets props while Topps partner O-Pee-Chee is frozen out:


Early on Woody promised articles on Exhibits.  He made good:


Programs, get your programs....



If rare regionals or checklists were your thing, TCC was the place for you:

 And now, a bit of a showstopper.  I had no idea Card Collctors Company sold uncut sheets of cards, or in this case panels.  Makes you wonder where those rare variations came from that were discussed in issue 7......


OK, I have to stop now, I'm giving myself the vapors!



Saturday, March 24, 2018

Woody Tells A Whopper Or Two

Picking up from our last post, the fourth issue of The Card Collector was a more varied affair then the previous number. A prominently featured reader's letter pointed out that issue #3's 1959 Baseball checklist had two errors.  The checklist had #482 as Art Houtteman, a hard luck player who had last pitched in the majors with Cleveland in 1957 and was washed up by age 27.  To be fair, he debuted with the Tigers at the age of 17 in 1945 but in 1959 was pitching in the PCL. The actual card issued at #482, as pointed out, was of Russ Meyer (sic).

And #489 John Powers, who while nondescript, would be appearing in the middle of a personal three Topps card run. But he wasn't Jake Striker, who was listed by Woody. Striker appeared in a single, late September game with the Indians in 1959 (a win!) before his more extensive two game outing with  the White Sox in 1960 and his only Topps card would come when he was with the Pale Hose.  At 10.1 career innings pitched, he must be at or near the top of the heap for a MLB win with fewest innings pitched.  Two pitchers have managed to appear in 80 games without a win, but Striker did the opposite the easy way.


Here is Mr. Striker, who it must be admitted, had an awesome name for a flamethrower:


The observations on Basketball are, frankly, hysterical given the resounding failure of the sole Topps issue at the time for that sport (in 1957-58).  Nice to see Jack Davis get some props though, even though they came from Woody Gelman's teen protege -- and Topps employee at the time -- Len (Lenny) Brown:


Obscurity seems to be the theme in issue #5.  Interesting comment about the bulk of Bowman's 1949 PCL cards being destroyed.  Topps would have had access to Bowman's records, so it's possible, although as we shall soon see, TCC was not always truthful in explaining why some cards or sets were scarce:


OK, nobody "forgot" about pictures for four semi-high's in 1958.  Instead, they pulled them to make room for the overprinted Stan Musial and Mickey Mantle All Star cards that year, after signing Stan the Man following a period of Rawlings exclusivity.  My guess is that one half sheet of 132 on the semi high press sheet had the triple printed AS cards while the other had the four "missing" numbers.

Armour coins get a nice write up by hobby legend Buck Barker, as Woody started featuring more guest columnists.  1959 Bazooka Football also gets its due, as does the regular issue set as the promotional tie-ins with Topps continue unabated. Nice detail on the Canadian only status of 1960 Hockey cards as well and some competitor's products also get a nod:



All in all, the best issue yet.

Issue #5 led off with a pitch for The American Card Catalog and notice about an office move for Card Collectors Company. This presumably was when Woody moved all the old inventory from his late father in law's office in Manhattan to his storage or warehouse facility in Franklin Square, which I suspect was a couple of rooms in a friend or relative's house or space in a garage (Woody lived one town over in Malverne):


1952 Topps high number scarcity has been covered ad nauseum over the years, here and elsewhere, but it's worth pointing out that by 1959 Card Collectors Co. had run out of them but would restock at some point in 1960, right around the time of the alleged dumping at sea of two truckload's worth.  Hmmmmm....


I'll skip page three, which is all '52 Topps checklist and get right to the good stuff on page four, namely the 14 cards in the second series of Bazooka Baseball, seemingly issued after the Football Bazooka's!

Lionel Carter joined the newsletter for 1960 as Woody's somewhat erratic publishing schedule  indicates he must have been very busy at Topps (production of all sets at Topps probably peaked in 1959-60) but kudos for going back to pre-war issues:


Regional issues look like they are hitting the radar:


A full page of letters from early hobbyists covered a lot of different sets:


While page four gave yet another checklist, albeit one mentioned on the main letters page:


It appears this issue also came with an insert offering the 1960 Baseball cards and a bonus.


1960 would bring a few changes to The Card Collector, which we will get into next time.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Woody's Writings


Happy St. Patrick's day everybody! Topps never issued a St. Paddy's day set but maybe when I get into my latest acquisition, it will make some of you green with envy!

Woody Gelman, with competition springing up in the card resale market, began putting out a regular newsletter in April of 1959.  He dubbed it "The Card Collector" and if he didn't write the early issues himself, I'm sure he had some editorial assistant do it after Woody dictated articles to the Steno pool at Topps.  TCC would eventually see 38 issues published through August of 1964 and I've  managed to pick up a run of the first 11 issues recently, with a scattershot of later issues soon to arrive. Today I'm happy to share some highlights and amusing tidbits from the first four issues.

Fashioned at first from a single sheet of paper, folded in half (and then folded again for mailing), and featuring awesome Jack Davis artwork throughout, four small pages kicked things off:
Pretty mundane stuff really, although Woody knew his hobby history, being a part of the American Card Catalog editorial team. Things got esoteric early on, although you would not see any kind of depth in these descriptions of the 1951 Topps Baseball Candy releases:


Despite the admonition above concerning the impossibility of completion, the below checklist makes no mention of the three impossible Major League All Star cards:


The Exhibit Card overview is interesting and probably designed to insert some content that was not Topps related.  I would imagine Woody was big on collecting Exhibits based upon his promise to delve into the myriad issued from ESCO. Perhaps he scored them at Coney Island when he was a kid.
I'm not certain if a Card Collectors Catalog came along with these.  It's highly likely to my mind but none were mixed in with the publications I bought.  There was a single paged sell sheet for 1960 Topps Baseball that came with one of the later issues in the run but that's all I saw other than Card Collectors Company advertisements, which commenced in issue two.

Woody was certainly enthusiastic about publication and it only took two months for the second issue to appear:


The album discussion above is strange as Topps had already come out with a Hobby Card album premium that featured slitted pages.

Woody is being modest below as he was a masthead editor of the ACC:


Here's Honus.....and Fleer!


The back page is the most interesting of the issue.  Those are the first nine players in the 1959  Bazooka set. 14 more would be issued (plus an Aaron variation) shortly thereafter, likely along with the original nine. CCC offered this first set of nine for a buck!  I wonder if they got flats from Topps and just cut them down?


The third issue was essentially one long checklist showcasing the 1959 Topps Baseball cards. As you can see, the checklists were a teaser for what would become the Card Collectors Company Checklist Book a short time later.


No point in showing the rest of the issue, its contents are available in any price guide.  Instead, here is the CCC Checklist Book:


More TCC goodness next time out kids!