Saturday, July 29, 2017

62 Glue

1962 saw a much improved Topps Baseball Stamp insert.  Better colors and a better looking album snazzed up an insert set that was far more hip than the regular issue cards in year no. 2 of major league expansion.

Bright yellow (NL) or red (AL) backgrounds for the players made the stamps almost glow in 1962. Some panels had both colors at once even (players in different combination could appear on 2 or 3 different panels):


The album reiterated those colors:


I can't find a scan of a retail box of the albums unfortunately.  If one turns up I'll amend this post.

The album interior team pages have a capsule summary of what might come and some stats.  I actually like the team pages better in '61 but these aren't bad:


Team logos were added, as you can see and the stamp images in each slot make these a different kind of collectible for team or player enthusiasts:


Those stats came right from the backs of the cards, like so:


Stamps were cut down into vertical panels from a larger sheet. A couple of colors were added to the palette by Topps, to great effect, on the logos:


 Yellow process proof anyone?


As with the 61's, I need to do a deep dive into the printing of the stamps.  There are multitudes of extra and short printed panels in '62 but that's for another time.

The wax wrapper hawked the stamps of course:


While. thanks to a site called the Lifetime Topps Project, we can see how the wax pack retail box scans hawked the albums:



There were more teams but less subjects in 1962: 200 vs 208 the year prior.  No matter, the '62 stamps were a great little insert in a decade filled with such things.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Stamping Around

1961 Topps Baseball Stamps are ubiquitous in the hobby.  Inserted in little two card panels in five wax and cello Baseball packs the 208 stamps were the first baseball inserts produced by Topps. I'll post a whole treatise on the stamps someday but today want to look at a bit of a tougher item, namely the album Topps sold separately to house the stamps.

Green and brown in color, the insert stamp panels have been seen countless times by collectors:




But back to the albums. They are rather cheap affairs, but a little hard to find in nice shape, often due to handwriting, tears, sloppily affixed stamps and general abuse. Unused ones are tougher still although they can be found with a little diligence. What is definitely a tough item though is the retail box the albums came in. Thanks to a recent Mile High auction, that particular items has made a recent appearance.

I'm not sure I've seen the box before-here is a nice top view:



I've never liked the generic player on the album cover. I get Joe Shlabotnick vibes whenever I see him!  I'm not certain but suspect it held 12 albums:


The idea of selling a secondary item to house an insert is intriguing and Topps did it again in 1962 but I'm not sure how many candy stores and retailers would have bothered with the albums.

Topps did a horrible job promoting the stamps on the wax box but managed to tie in Shlabotnick, so there's that:


The wax wrapper did a much better job advertising the Stamps and album:


As you can see, you could even order the album directly from Topps:


I guess Topps ate the postage!

The "separate pages" for each team are orderly and informative and i like the all-time leaders stats:




Good to see Lu Blue get some respect!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Shazammed!

The early days of Bazooka and its comics were a mish-mash of suppliers, artists and licensed strips. However, I recently ran across an interesting premium issued by the Brock Company of Chattanooga that ties in a bit with the early Bazooka comics. Intrepid readers of this blog know that Bazooka originated as a candy created by Brock and that sometime between 1937 and 1947 Topps acquired the trademark, most likely after the end of the war, and applied it to their new bubble gum.

Close readers also know that Bazooka first used a comic strip called Bubbles when it launched in 1947 (Bazooka was manufactured by a Topps nom-de plume called Bubbles Inc.) . The strip was not especially well done nor was it all that funny:


Bubbles quickly gave way to some strips licensed from Fawcett Publications:


The 1947 copyright for Fawcett Publications puts it within the first year of Bazooka, which was a five cent product as Topps Gum filled the one cent niche at the time (Topps originally marketed separate products for each price point after the war, although this practice ended by 1949). I suspect Bubbles was only inserted in the initial wave of Bazooka issued in New York City that commenced April 23rd but I'm not 100% sure of that.  The Fawcett strips possibly came a couple months later when they started national distribution on July 21st; the above is what I believe is the third version of the Bazooka wrapper, which would feature small changes almost annually if not more frequently, but it may date from early 1948 while holding the 1947 Doc Sorebones.  Those comics were separate inserts and not printed on the backs of the wrappers by the way.

A year later though, at least one Fawcett character was featured on a premium issued by.....Brock Candy!


If you look at the 18 available subjects, they were not all Fawcett characters but rather from a variety of publishers dominated by Marvel/Timely. :


Some of the other booklets in the series have copyrights from 1949 and 1950 so the offer either occurred over a few years or began a couple years after 1948. In addition multiple firms utilized these mini comics to advertise but some others I've seen do not have the ordering details like Brock did or were entirely blank backed.

It's meaningless in the grand scheme of things but I like how a company connected to the history of Topps issued something also connected to Topps, albeit by the slimmest of threads.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Absolutely Fabulous

In their attempts to branch out from the five-and-dime and variety store shelves, Topps started creating some very innovative sets as the Sixties wore on.  Certainly one of the oddest of these was a set of 16 flexi discs called Fabulous Rock Records. The title of the set is very accurate in one sense but no so much in another.  Fabulous?  You bet!  It's one of the nicest sets ever issued by Topps but it's not even close to having any rock n' roll hits-it's 100% Motown artists!

I won't list the individual song titles but there are eight different artists represented:

Diana Ross & The Supremes (5 records)
Four Tops (2 records)
Martha & The Vandellas (2 records)
Stevie Wonder (2 records)
The Temptations (2 records)
The Marvelletes (1 record)
Marvin Gaye (1 record)
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (1 record)

For artists with multiple records a different picture was used on each. Clearly the label was promoting Diana Ross & The Supremes-wow!  And clearly, Topps took advantage of a push toward the mainstream to get advantageous terms for licensing purposes.  A classic win/win!

The year of issue per Chris Benjamin was 1968 but the packaging bears a 1967 commodity number. However, While researching this post I discovered something very interesting and believe it was probably issued twice.  I've had this Marvin Gaye example for a while now (Tamla was the original "Motown" label, although it became a subsidiary of the latter pretty quickly):



The back is full on groovy:



The record is 6 7/8" in diameter by the way, while the sleeve that held it measures the proper 7 inches each way (excluding the "cut out"):



That sleeve just screams psychedelic and acid rock! The back was very similar to the front:



Howvwer, I have found sleeves with the center hole cutout to reveal a portion of the artwork but all of the artist's name and the song title:





The commodity numbers are the same but clearly the packaging is different.  I assume either the non-cut out version was a test issue (they seem a lot harder to find), or the configuration was changed to (presumably) make it either more or less obvious which record was within. The sleeves look like they were taped shut so I have to guess more visibility and a reduction in mangled sleeves left in the retail box was the goal.

A box proof just surfaced on eBay and is similarly fabulous:

 

Even "knit-picking", it's stupendous!  Here's' a better look at the graphics:


I'm thinking the go-go girl was Nancy Sinatra inspired. She was seemingly finished by Norm Saunders but this set is not on his website's list of work he did for Topps, so maybe not.


There you have it, one of the great Topps sets ever!





Saturday, July 1, 2017

Crazy Cut

Today we take a look at an extremely obscure issue from 1979, which is pretty late in the vintage era but if there's one thing we know after almost nine (!) years of exploration and deep dives, it's that Topps excelled at obscure.

In the midst of what was a sugarless gum reformulation explosion following the FDA's banning of the common artificial sweetener Sodium Cyclamate in 1972 , Bazooka Sugar-Free was itself reformulated as the pack below illustrates:


Yes, I was not after the gum (which was still pink and smelled like, well, Bazooka after all these years) but rather the prize inside.  After gently prying apart an end, I slid the sticker out, only to find perhaps the worst "electric-eye" cut of all time!


The cut should be just under the black bar at top, bisecting the red, arrow-like graphic in the middle (which would be the left and right borders of the sticker is executed properly), but clearly my example want to opposite-land instead.  I guess you could call them Topps stickers, despite being inserted into Bazooka. The back is plain:


These measure 1 1/8" x 3 3/8" and I have to say they are tough to find. There are 48 to the set, with 2 smaller subjects and 1 larger one per sticker (if cut correctly).  I would have to check more examples but suspect Topps recycled artwork, especially for the small subjects, from other "goofy" stickers sets from their past, such as 1970's Stacks Of Stickers, which had 704 of the little suckers in all.

I would be impressed if anyone has a full set of these, for sure.