Saturday, August 19, 2017

1970 Rollin' In Sight

1969 rolling into 1970 is the first holiday season I can really recall as my 8 year old self became a bit more aware of what was going on around me.  1969 brought the moon landing of course, which I saw through sleepy eyes in glorious black-and-white on a whopping 19 inch screen in our living room on Long Island.  I saw the final out of that year's World Series on the same screen and a brief glimpse of Rowan & Martin (forbidden fruit to me at the time) two days before New Year's Eve waving goodbye to the 60's on "Laugh-In".  From such things spring this post.

There's been an uptick in offerings related to mid-to-late 60's and early 70's Topps packaging lately and I'm assuming a longtime collector is selling out through multiple channels. Box proofs and actual retail boxes from this period are not all that common but during this recently concluded July a bunch have been auctioned off. In addition these show a nice progression from proofing the colors and artwork until the final press run was struck.

I'll start in 1968, although a groovy year it was not:


The above box and 33 sticker set would be issued in 1968 and they display the typical Topps humor of the time, i.e. totally awesome!  That's not a final proof but rather one used to make corrections to the artwork.  There's no commodity number yet either, I don't think those were checked for anything but accuracy prior to being added, usually below the rest of the bottom indicia.

1969 was decidedly a more far out time:



As before, this was a proof used to check before the press run began. If you blow up the image you can see that they wanted to show more of Peggy Lipton's can!  Dig that five cent price point, due to fade out with the 60's for the most part. But guess what-they never used that box!  The retail box actually looked like this:



Next up, a less confusing issue:



A final proof for this 1970 box I say. That little Martian looks quite happy!

And now, a rare box for a rare set (two actually):


Until now, I had never quite confirmed the Kiss Bobby set came with the Plaks but it sure did. I have a little more here on these, both are quite difficult sets or even types for that matter.

Here's the bottom:


That's a 1970 commodity number by the way, although I do think the set came out in '71 as that's the year his show "Getting Together" premiered on ABC. Commodity numbers (aka Production Codes) refer to the origin year of a set, i.e. when it was green-lighted for production so sometimes a set was issued a year after the code's last digit might indicate.

So that's some groovy, groovy stuff for you all, 50 years after the Summer of Love!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Better And Better

Well campers, there was some big time stuff on display at this year's National but by my estimation one item sat atop the heap. Many of you have undoubtedly seen the article on Sports Collectors Daily about a large stash of vintage unopened packs from Topps and Bowman unearthed by Mile High Card Co. Among this array of goodies was an unopened 1968 Basketball pack, a heretofore unseen objet d'hobby!


(Courtesy Sports Collectors Daily)

The pack, which is being auctioned in September and will undoubtedly go for major bucks, was the one thing I truly made a point to check out in Chicago as I was curious about the never-before-seen insert described on the wrapper (opened packs, which are really envelopes, have been seen previously) and to see if it fit my theory of it being a 1963 Hood Dairy booklet. After gawking like a little kid at the candy counter, I asked one of the guys at Mile High about the pack contents, to which he replied "we also have one that was opened, would you like to see it?". Yes, please!

I then was led to this sight:


And just like that, two mysteries were solved.  If you haven't clicked through above to some of the Hood Dairy booklet scans I will end the suspense and confirm that above "How To Shoot" instructional is one of them and it was indeed folded to fit within.  The interior is set up like a small comic book by the way, very typical of the early 1960's. As for the rest of the pack, three cards (all HOF'ers in this case) were what you got.

Those B&W cards are similar to other produced by Topps in the mid 60's but the envelope style pack is a rarity, with only a couple of other sets having been associated with them over the years.  The card style was an easy one for Topps to produce but I suspect they were created for multiple purposes. The envelope is a little trickier but I think it ties in and will describe how momentarily.

First, here's Friend o'the Archive Keith Olbermann on some specifics about this pack (and find), after inquiring further with Mile High:

"These packs came from a family that operated a confectionary company that distributed non-sports trading cards. Apparently, the companies exchanged information with one another and the packs were likely acquired directly from a Topps executive in order to get feedback, since they were not a competitor in the sports card market. On much of the unopened material that they acquired, they made notations showing the date of acquisition. The unopened pack has the notation “3/6/68,” which would support you claim that they were produced and distributed to select people during the 1967-68 season."

My previous thoughts on the envelopes and B&W cards is that they were used in a lab test setting, i.e.a controlled environment.  Topps routinely had at least a three phase process when testing cards in the 60's:

1) Lab Test (observing kids in a research facility play with the cards).
2) Field Test (executives handed out cards at local schools near the Topps plant in Sunset Park, Brooklyn)
3) Retail Test (a select few stores in select few regions or areas--again mostly in Brooklyn--would get a box or two) 

We now have a fourth option, namely an industry oriented informal review.  Mile High thought the cards were made up to show NBA executives how such a product would work, which is also a possible avenue of limited distribution.  So really, except for the retail test, which more closely resembled the standard retail counter display model, the envelopes and B&W cards could have been used for any or all of the other four options.

The Mile High comments also reiterate Olbermann's position that the set was issued during the 1967-68 season.  All-in-all this little bit of the larger find has filled in and confirmed some key points.

Next question: what will the unopened pack go for?!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

180 Degrees of Separation

Further to my two previous posts, the always resourceful Jon Helfenstein (of the Fleer Sticker Project Helfensteins) sent along a number of scans that nicely complement my comments about the 1961 and 1962 Topps Baseball Stamps.  I have to admit I've not seen the sell sheets before and they are just super nice.

Here is the 1961 sheet:


I have to wonder if a brown version of this sheet exists to complement the two color schemes of the stamps proper.  Probably not but wouldn't that be cool?! Nice to see my guesstimate of 12 albums per box was spot on but it appears Topps was 28 stamps over the 180 stamp capacity of the albums.

The 1962 sell sheet is much nicer and appreciably more colorful as well


I'm not sure why Topps didn't mention the albums on the regular sell sheet-seems like a missed opportunity.  But wait, there's more, namely the name checked 3 Pak:


Nice job with the cello sleeve raks (never knew Topps called them 3 Paks but they also called them Rak Paks!) but again, no mention of the album. Speaking of albums, here's the '62:


That is one frightening looking kid!

Thanks Jon, for sending over all these goodies!

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!