Saturday, August 29, 2015

Weaver? I Hardly Even Know Her!

It's time to visit the Swingin' 60's today kids as we continue our look at Friend o'the Archive Keith Olbermann's extensive collection of Topps concept art and mockup designs. We are into a group now where Mr. O thinks some of these may have been taken from negatives or proof sheets which, for some reason, are fixated on one Jim Weaver, a pitcher who appeared in 27 games over the 1967 & 1968 seasons with the Angels, where he went 3-1 with a 2.55 ERA. He was depicted on two real cards by Topps: #328 in the 1968 set and #134 in 1969.

Nicknamed "Fluff" it's not clear why a fringe player such as Weaver was semi-immortalized by Topps but it may have been an inside joke whereby the most insignificant player possible was selected as the name for these.

In order from top to bottom, Bubba Phillips, Carl Warwick and Grover Powell all stand in for old Jim.

The bottom area looks pink but I'd wager given the patriotic theme that it would look better in red, unless Topps felt that the red in the neatlines would suffice. The Bubba Phillips image is from his 1964 card, where he was depicted as a Tiger. 

Carl Warwick was a Colt on his 1964 Topps card, from whence this image came. As to the team logo, I have no idea what is going on there.

If you guessed that was the picture from Grover Powell's 1964 card, you would be correct. That is clearly a design that was working toward what the 1970 set developed into. The Roberto Clemente mockup in this old post (bottom left) shares the home plate vision.

Just so Jim doesn't feel left out, here is his 1969 card:

Backs received the same treatment.  It can't be read but there is a penciled notation on this one indicating the cartoon could be replaced by a black and white picture, something we saw, of course, in 1971. Osborne's last year in the bigs was 1963 so there was some long range planning going on in Brooklyn for sure. That back is a little reminisent of a '63, come to think of it.

Now we have something that may be an early stab at the 1970 Story Booklets.

It's hard to make out but the penciling says "Pete Rose Story".  What's a little baffling though is it looks like the player shown is wearing a Brewers Helmet and they didn't start playing as the Brewers until 1970 (and it was a last minute move at that), so maybe this is something else. It doesn't seem to be a Milwaukee Braves helmet either.

The "Willie McCovey" below may also be an ur- Story Booklet.

You think all this is strange?  Wait until next time!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Mocking Day

We're about to hit the stretch run across six divisions of Major League Baseball, a period when teams with no chance of making the playoffs start looking toward next year.  It's an appropriate time, I think, for a look at some intriguing and amazing mock ups and concept art that Topps used to design sets for the coming year.  Thanks to a trove of scans provided by Friend o'the Archive Keith Olbermann, the stretch run this year will coincide with a series of posts covering these very strange-but-important artifacts that allowed Topps to refine their graphics and artwork in what is increasingly looking like a complex and well thought out process.

First up are what appear to be the oldest versions of these mockups, covering the 50's and early 60's. Compared to later mockups, these early examples display a little more freestyle artwork. This was clearly close to a final design concept for the 1958 baseball cards:

A few points here. Most mockups have a mashup of images and names that rarely reflect the actual subject depicted. The player above is Pete Whisenant (more on him in a minute) and the team logo is probably taken from a 1955 card (or paper proof), although its a Braves logo, not an Indians logo or even the Redlegs logo (which was Pete's team at the time) nor is that Herb Score.  Amusingly, Whisenant had played previously for the Braves and in 1960 would become an Indian.  I'm not sure why the team name is incomplete at bottom right either as I can't tell if those are press on or drawn letters. For reference, here is the actual 1958 card of Score:

Next up is a design concept for 1962 Baseball:

Once again a 1957 card was used to create the mockup.  However, Roy Smalley played his last MLB game in 1958 as a member of the Phillies so it's possible this was created a few years prior to the beginning of true design work on the 1962 cards.  Perhaps it was saved for a later day.

Now, the most interesting thing to me about these mockups is the use of 1957 paper proofs to create them.  We've seen the Whisenant paper proof before:

Purkey is also a 1957 paper proof subject, although a scan of his particular proof is unknown at present.  He is a subject (#368) however, listed in a Card Collectors Company ad from 1979 which I have previously written about.

The paper proofs were, I have been told, printed just before the cardboard proofs and were a final check before loading in the cardboard.  Whether that's true or not I can't really say but it certainly appears the creative and art departments at Topps had access to these proofs as they were used as part of the building up of the two mockups shown above.

On a related note, Mr. O advises there exists, outside of his collection, a 1971 mockup featuring a 1967 Jack Hamilton card.  Hamilton is a paper proof from that year and in fact one example resides in my collection:

The proofing process could have yielded a bunch of paper versions, so many that the mind boggles! Given how survived though, most were probably cut up by Topps or just destroyed.

We'll take a look at some more mockups next time out.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

No Jive Five

Time for another look at the British Invasion's Dave Clark Five, last covered here earlier this year. A small batch of these has been turned up by an anonymous Friend o'the Archive and allows a better look at what is a very obscure (and rare) 1965 Topps set that was drawn up for a pitch to Epic Records brass.

Serendipitously, I have scans of five additional cards to share. The top one is my favorite, an "in action" shot if you will:

The below card looks like a shot from the same venue we saw in the card posted above.  These were probably taken during a soundcheck:

Hotel room blues:

Based upon the next two shots, I presume the pictures used for the set were taken in New York City on one of their 1964 or 1965 tours.  I believe they are in Central Park in the two shots below, as it looks like the view of Central Park East from the area of the New York Metropolitan Museum dominates the background:

A different angle.  Looking at their tour schedule for 1964 and 1965, I would say those pictures were taken on Hallowe'en 1964 as that's the only fall or winter date they played in NYC on their first couple of tours. If you click the tour link, you will see a gig they played in 1966 at Endicott, New York in Ty Cobb Stadium.  Spoiler alert: it's not the Ty Cobb the stadium is named after.

Despite the hand cuts, the owner of these tells me they are standard sized and have gloss similar to that found on the quickie black and white Beatles sets of the same era, which is to say it's minimal.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Slide Right

An awesome product box from 1949 was recently hammered down on eBay.  This Magic Photo slide and shell went for a nice sum; deservedly so give its scarcity:

The full box (left) slid out of the green sleeve (right). This is interesting to me as it may mark the end of the little canisters Topps previously used to sell their one cent gum tabs. The product box is clearly scored to allow for that Howdy Doody looking kid's mug to be flipped up so there was no need for a canister.  I have a Tatoo canister but that issue predates Magic Photo (and indeed, is the first Topps novelty). That mascot looks a lot like Bazooka, the Atom Bubble Boy but I don't think it's an exact match.

This was clearly meant to house the  second series (along with the first-Topps ofetn reissued their first series of a set when the second came out.).  I have to say I'm a bit surprised the associated album is not mentioned on the box.

Speaking of the album:
It's not well known but there are two variants of the album. The cover is the same for each, but the second series version has a notation atop the (different) checklist on the inside and is harder to find. Here is the skinny on both:

Topps must have sold a ton of Magic Photo as the cards are pretty easy to find today. The albums? Not so much.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Type Cast

The odd and unique stuff that comes my way takes many forms.  In addition to my collecting goal of having one example from every set sport and non-sport set Topps put out from 1948-80 (and sometimes one of each subset), I also pursue pieces related to the company proper. A little while back I acquired two "sorts" used by Topps for printing their stationery.  One was clearly heavily used to produce letterhead for the company, the other turned out to be a red herring.  Here is the letterhead sort (a "sort" being the entire unit used to typeset something):

This sort was heavily used, as you can see and appears have a copper plate affixed to a lead slug which in turn is affixed to a wooden block.  Here is a mirrored look at it:

I'm reasonably certain this was used to produce letterhead after World War 2 as the italic "incorporated " was not used prior to the war (the font used back then was more like the main font for "Topps Chewing Gum").  I've got a prior look at some stationery here.

Here is a pre-war letterhead from late 1940, signed by Abram Shorin no less; you can see the fonts are similar atop the piece:

A year later Topps had unincorporated and took a DIY approach, this time for a Philip Shorin missive:

I'm not 100% certain but believe they unincorporated so they would not subject to as much scrutiny once the war started and sugar and other staples and goods needed for their business became regulated. Eventually they cleaned things up a bit once the old supply was exhausted:

After the war the italic "incorporated" appears once Topps changed their ownership structure around 1947.  I would wager my sort was used to produce this stationery.  Other elements would be added as needed; the reference in the form letter below to pre-testing of Tatoo dates this specimen to 1948-49:  

That's an interesting lead paragraph as it may explain why Tatoo has a different style wrapper in 1949 from when it was first released in mid 1948. Tatoo of course was the first Topps novelty item. I wonder if the text instructions were changed to semi-graphic after the testing (scale is off, the wrapper on the left is from the original issue and is the same width but a little shorter than the one on the right):


The famous Topps testing procedures were firmly in place from the beginning!

Just for fun, here is another form letter for the 1949 World Coins issue, better known as Play Coins of the World:

Sy Berger also got into the act:

Sometimes the color element was omitted, as this 1952 letter shows:

The "Topps Chewing Gum" was still using the same typeface for the company name in 1959 but "incorporated" changed somewhere along the way, which means my little slug had been retired:

I don't think they changed to company name typeface until they moved to Duryea in 1966 and went with the much better curved logo.  Here is a stylized version from 1980:

I mentioned the other piece I obtained had a twist.  Here it is, it is a heavy steel item, quite suitable for a paperweight, which is what I am using it as:

The kids, the "profits from pennies" all make it seem like it belongs to "our" Topps but after a little research I first thought it was for the old department store of the same name.  More research however, shows that a trademark was granted to a Topps brand of motor oil under a filing by Plymouth Wholesale Corporation in 1962. That trademark included the phrase "profits from pennies" so I guess this piece is unrelated.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


I thought I would take another look at the 1961 Magic Rub Offs Set today. Inserted in one or two of the middle series cards in '61, this humorous set keys in on nicknames, with a player from each of the then 18 MLB teams represented along with a fanciful team logo that stuck with the theme.

Since it's not a well documented set, as well as one where the images are reversed on the original inserts, I thought a visual checklist would be in order, with each subject mirrored to make life easier for all of us.  And now, without further ado...

The Orioles logo shows the good and bad of the set.  The artwork is pretty good to great, with a lot of subjects illustrated (I'm sure) by Jack Davis. Unfortunately roller marks from wax pack sealing mar the images on many of these and browning, curling, miscuts and misalignment of colors all conspire against these fragile pieces of paper.

I never knew "Bingo" was one of Ernie Banks' nicknames until I researched it while preparing this post. According to this old Ebony article, it gave way to the much more well known "Mr. Cub". "Bingo" may actually be a corruption of "Bango", which makes more sense given the pop in his bat and what was once a double play call for the Cubbies by their announcer Bert Wilson: "Bingo to Bango to Bilko" (Gene Baker and Steve Bilko filling out the trio), although the only season all three were together was 1954.  I guess Double Play combo nicknames were always a thing on the North Side. Fun Fact, Phil Silvers' character Sgt. Bilko was named after "Stout Steve". 

No comment necessary about ol' Yogi. The bed of nails is a nice touch!

Man, he smoked that one!

Jackie Brandt's nickname was actually "Flakey" and he was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska which is about 500 miles from the Ozarks. I have no idea why Topps dubbed him "Ozark".

The erudite Jim Brosnan was certainly well-monikered. He wrote two well known books about the game, which were well received by the public but not his fellow players.  He was a Cubbie in 1954 so would have seem Bingo-Bango-Bilko up close and personal.

Is it me or does that look more like a wombat?

They were still the Go-Go Sox in 1961, as shown here. To me this is the most "Jack Davis" of all the artwork in the set.

I'm going to go on record and say I have never liked the mustachioed-baseball logo for the Reds (or Red Legs in the post McCarthy era). This version does nothing to change my mind.

What once was a socially acceptable caricature most definitely no longer is.

This might be my favorite team logo in the set. Too bad this insert is so off register.

Dotterer was a backup catcher in the late 50's and early 60's and once caught a baseball dropped from a helicopter hovering feet 585 above Crosley Field and he once hit a grand slam off Sandy Koufax. Fun Fact, his son Mike played for the Oakland Raiders and won a Super Bowl with them in 1984. "Dutch" was once a common nickname for players of German descent, being a corruption of "Deutsch".

Definitely my favorite human image from the set. He's the only manager depicted. 

His resemblance to Harry "The Cat" Brecheen gave Harvey Haddix his nickname. Frankly, that is a frightening human/feline body meld...

Pancho Villa re-imagined as a mediocre infielder.

I'm not sure if this was actually a nickname for Howard but it was likely a shortening of "Tower of Power" if it was. He was also called "Hondo", then picked up "The Washington Monument" and, my personal favorite, "The Capital Punisher", when he played for the Senators.

Two men nicknamed "Sad Sam" Jones have pitched in the majors. The first and more well-known Sad Sam debuted prior to World War 1 and won 229 games over 22 seasons for half a dozen teams. The one pictured above pitched a dozen years for 6 teams and won 102 games.  There is no record of which "Sad Sam" was the saddest.

If I'm not mistaken, that's a pink elephant and he is drunk.

Expansion team gets Topps logo, reminds blogger of Quisp.

The Brooklyn Bum, reborn. I doubt the kids in Brooklyn who got this insert in 1961 were too pleased about seeing this image.

His Wikipedia entry says "Turk" was so nicknamed due to a fondness for turkey.  I ain't buying it, given his Turkish descent.

As far as I'm is concerned, the nickname "Duke" should only be assigned to one Mr. Snider.

I know he played briefly for them, but imagining Billy Martin as a member of the Braves is just impossible for me. Seriously, there's no way this ever happened.

It appears Mr. Maxwell lived (and lives) in Paw Paw Michigan and has done so for quite some time, hence the nickname. He was honored with a monument by the town in 2010.

This logo is just as racist as the one for Cleveland.

The poor color registration makes it seem like there are twin Twins! A pretty neat logo if you ask me. The Twins name was new to the AL, although they had been the Washington Senators until 1961. Washington got an expansion team to replace them, which I'm sure pleased nobody except Calvin Griffith.

Ray Moore, a swingman pitcher for a few teams throughout the 50's and early 60's, actually grew up on a farm. Fun fact, his parents met at an insane asylum.

Like Ray Moore, Moryn debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers and had a fairly unspectacular career, although he showed some pop in the late 50's when he played for the Cubs. His nickname reflected his burly appearance, according to a couple of websites I checked. At 6' 2" and 205 lbs, I can't argue with that.

That resembles a mortician more than a Yankee methinks, but the top-hatted team logo is referenced here on what looks like a Jack Davis drawing.

I'll admit it; I'm scared...yikes!!

Is it me or does that pirate look like the offspring of Alfred E. Neuman and a space alien?

Nicknamed "Honey" by an uncle (no comment) John Romano was a catcher with some pop who was about to embark on his best season in the majors.

Pete Runnels had the given names of James Edward so he was double nicknamed here; oddly enough I can't find any attribution of "Pistol Pete" for him so it was just a convenience for Topps. He sandwiched two AL batting titles around the 1961 season, when he would go on to hit .317 and finish well off the pace in an expansion year.  He was a heckuva fielder too. 

Nice dress.

Probably my second least favorite logo from the set.  I dunno, it's just kind of boring.

I don't know how you feel about it, but this would be more appropriate if he was chasing a dollar sign.

With only two, the Magic Rub Off set has the lowest number of Hall of Famers of any Topps insert set from the classic era.