Saturday, January 24, 2015

Placement Service

BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd passed along an old ad featuring an item from my favorite confectioner a short time ago. Sometime in the 1940's the Bakelite Corporation (really Union Carbide) took out a trade ad featuring an old Topps Gum display.  I think it looks pretty cool as the colors of the Topps display and gum really stand out:

Bakelite was essentially an early form of plastic, a bit more brittle than the stuff we are used to today. Shep says it's the first time he's seen one of these displays other than in darker colors.

Here's a better look at the Topps display:

Here is one of the aforementioned darker displays:

That display was auctioned along with the other type of counter display used by Topps, the round canister:

All these displays date from around 1946-47 I would say as the canister has a 1946 copyright.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Tricky Tacks

Well oddball items just keep popping up from the 1960's Rookie Banquets Topps used to throw every year.  Take a gander at the baubles below: a tie tack and cuff links purportedly given to J.C. Martin, a 1961 Rookie All Star award winner (even though he had a card in 1960 he only had cups of coffee in 1959 and '60) who must have led the AL catching field in a weak year.  In 1961 Martin played in 110 games while batting .230 and knocking in a whopping 32 runs in what may have been his best offensive season.

Here is JC's 1962 card, showing his major prize:

Here is the full set:

I was hoping the back views would show manufacturing details but it only looks like patent pending stamps were impressed:

As you can see, the motif is taken from the actual trophy:

Here is a closeup of the tack, it's got some slight damage but I like it just the same:

While he may not have been a slugger, he was a whiz with the glove and got himself some additional hardware with the 1969 Mets, who directly benefited from a lucky play of Martin's in Game 4 of the World Series.  With the immortal Rod Gaspar on second base in a 1-1 game, Martin pinch hit for Tom Seaver in the bottom of the 10th.  He bunted and the pitcher fielded the ball and threw it to first, hitting Martin, running to the inside of the baseline, in the arm. The Orioles cried interference but the ump said JC had not intentionally done so and the run counted.  The tally put the Mets up 3 games to 1 and they never looked back.  This play allegedly led to the creation of the running lane to the outside of the baseline, commencing 45 feet away from the bag, for the 1970 season.

Topps immortalized the play, although not with the end result but rather the beginning, on a World Series card in the 1970 set:

Now I was (and am) a huge Mets fan and remember quite well the final out of the World Series that year, having just come home from school in time to witness it in glorious black and white, but I've always preferred his regular 1970 card; I just think it looks sharp:

JC was gone by then though, traded to the Cubs in the offseason.  Did you know the Mets carried three catchers on their postseason roster in '69?  Yep:  the starter Jerry Grote, Duffy Dyer and ol' JC.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Love, Woody

A pretty neat bit of correspondence was auctioned off a couple of years ago by Nate D. Sanders Auctions to which I was alerted by BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd.  It's a two-parter, with Robert Crumb, a former Topps artist (in 1965) writing to his former boss, Woody Gelman, in the spring of 1968.  Check out the content of this letter:

Crumb is discussing, of course, the quite infamous first issue of Zap Comics! Woody, being Woody, was likely ordering 25 copies of one of the most famous underground comix ever published to distribute to his friends and colleagues. Currently that's something on the order of a half million dollars worth of pulp that Woody got for a mere $3.75!  There is some good information in this letter concerning the print run of the first issue's first run, which would be in excess of 3,500 copies a figure toward the upper end of estimates for this historical artifact. It would appear 4,000 to 5,000 first edition copies would have been run I think. It also appears Woody had received copies previously.

You also get wind of Crumb's firstborn, Jesse; the search for a New York distributor; and a query as to whether Bhob Stewart (the longtime reviewer at Publishers Weekly and generally a comics historian) had seen the first issue.

The fact that Woody's response is also extant is quite remarkable, although I suspect it was a carbon. Woody also had a file going on Crumb in his archives:

I love the Nostalgia Press letterhead! I also get the distinct impression Crumb and his (first) wife had visited Woody recently at his home in Malverne, Long Island, NY. Woody's handwriting is atrocious, worse than mine even, and I can't make everything out (there is some sort of "familiar" abbreviation to boot ) but Woody definitely showed Zap #1 to a very young Art Spiegelman, which is kind of mind blowing! Let's not overlook that $20 gift to young Jesse Crumb either-these guys were clearly friends.

Woody was a prime mover in subversive comic art and the extent of his involvement and appreciation in the movement seems to grow every time another bit of information is uncovered. And this all needs to be put into historical perspective as Woody was writing back to Crumb two weeks after Martin Luther King was murdered. It was a chaotic time in America.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Best Berger

I have a few more Sy Berger press photos to share today, all from the 1960's.

Here is Sy receiving an award from George Trautman at the 1961 Minor League Convention in Florida. Trautman was a minor league executive who became President of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (NAPBL) in 1947.  Berger was a fixture at such events starting in 1959, when Topps began giving out their rookie awards .

Same folks, same award, different locale.  Here is the 1962 award presentation held in Rochester, NY in December of 1962.  Trautman would die the following year while still in office.

Here Sy presents an award to Earl Keller, the longtime sportswriter for the San Diego Tribune, in December 1963.  I suspect this one was shot in San Diego and that it may actually have been the presentation of a ceremonial gavel.

Now we jump ahead to 1969 an the presentation of a 10 year Anniversary award to Sy from the NAPBL:

Sy must have received dozens of awards on the rubber chicken circuit over the years.

I have a handful of other Sy Berger press photos that I am trying to find details on.  I'll post them here soon.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Beckett List

Your webmaster has been slowly reading through old issues of The Trader Speaks, one of the more famous hobby publications in what I think of as the "pre-explosion" days.  TTS was published from late 1968 until the Fall of 1983 by Dan Dischley (a co-founder of SABR) and then, following a sale, sputtered along for another six months or so before Krause Publications bought the mailing list and the magazine was shut down.  Krause, publishers of Sports Collectors Digest, attempted a 1989-90 resurrection as an SCD insert but pulled the plug, once and for all, after twelve issues.

It's been an interesting thing, reading them in chronological order and you can spot early trends this way.  There was huge interest in the Kellogg's 3-D cards in the early 1970's, a clear surge in hobby interest in the media and among collectors in 1973, the sprouting of collector conventions around 1974-75 followed by an influx of large dealers around 1976.

The focus of course, was on baseball. It was around the Bicentennial that a number of Price Guides sprang up as well, each seemingly larger and more comprehensive than the last.  Now, when you think of early guides you think of Beckett but he was a latecomer as a half dozen or so had been published before he had Dischley run a centerfold pricing survey in the January 1977 issue.

A few months later, the results were published in the April and May issues and you can see some clear indications of rare cards and sets in the data.  The first set of results covers Topps issues, among others (in good old IBM Selectric fonts):

As noted by Dr. Beckett, the pricing was for VG-EX cards.  The 1951 Blue Back pricing is consistent with current trends when compared to the Red Back set and the $8.00 assessment for 1952 high numbers is essentially sixteen times higher then a common. It's about nine times as much for a high number these days, which reflects the reality the highs are not all that difficult. Beckett also may have inadvertently started the notion that the 1952 semi-highs started at #253 as there were plenty of ads in early TTS issues that showed they began at #251.

The other 1951 Baseball Candy issues also show their scarcity.  The $38 for a Current AS (Major League All Star) is tied for the highest amount for any set surveyed by Beckett; those are not even double the Connie Mack All Star prices, while these days it's more like 2.5 times.  The Team cards that weren't shortprinted sell for less these days in comparison to the Connie Macks, less than half in most instances.  You could buy the Team cards fairly readily from TTS advertisers in the early to mid 70's and the occasional complete Connie Mack example but I have yet to find an ad offering a complete Major League All Star card for sale in the first 100 issues or so and there were numerous buy ads for them.The 1968 3-D cards were also impressively priced.

The comments on the 1970-73 high numbers are interesting and while the 1971 and 1973 nosebleeds are not all that tough these days, 1970 and in particular 1972 highs are thought of as relatively difficult now, considering the volume of low numbers produced in those years. Bowman PCL cards also remain near-impossible to find almost forty years later.

In terms of Topps issues, the second survey results only really had some of the Bazooka cards but they were capped at 1964 for some reason.  More fascinating reading generally though:

You can see that except for the 1954 Dan Dee Al Smith, which is a super short print, the Major League All Stars compare with the 1928 Fro Joy, Lummis Peanut Butter and 1955 Kahn's sets as the most expensive out there.  This is no longer true as the Fro Joys have dropped significantly while the Kahn's (which feature a half dozen Reds players in street clothes) have kept pace, or even slightly surpassed the Topps offering.  The SCD "big book" states the Kahn's cards were only given away for one day at a amusement park in Cincinnati, indirectly illustrating how scarce the MLAS's really are.

A year later, the April 1978 TTS issue (which also noted the death of Woody Gelman) had the next year's results:

Prices were coming more into focus the second time around and the PCL issue from Bowman in 1949 was now the king of commons. As an aside, a complete PCL set had been auctioned the year prior and instead of accepting a cash bid the seller, a Chicago sports store, took 900,000 baseball cards in exchange for the set!

As it turns out, Dischley was issuing the second edition of his Modern Baseball Card Checklist Book in the summer of '77 and it would include Beckett's first stab at pricing. I have the 1979 edition and while it includes pricing, I don't think it was Beckett's any more since his first Sport Americana Baseball Card Price Guide (in conjunction with Denny Eckes) came out in February of that year.

I have further runs of magazines to go through as I continue my research and expect I will find similarly blog-worthy old school items along the way.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

So This Is Christmas...

...Topps style!

Santa came to the Main Topps Archives a bit early this year, after I purchased a nice lot of Topps items in October.  I've shown B&W scans before but here is the living color version.

The box is too big for my scanner but you get the drift.  Here is the indicia, which is always of import, left side first:

The item dates to 1951 based upon the sell sheet, which I won't show again as I have done so previously. We know this because the sell sheet shows the box with a 1952 "checklist" on the reverse to record good behavior for Santa's next visit.  This box however, waxes poetic:

I did not end up with a Rudolph Pops box unfortunately, an item that probably dates to 1950. Not to worry though, Sy Berger is on the case:

These cards are tiny and clearly meant to accompany a gift of some sort and each came with a similarly small envelope.  My guess is a bottle of booze was the gift of choice.  I have to say, for a bunch of Jewish guys from Brooklyn, Topps sure did put on a good show at Christmas!

See you after the presents are opened-Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you out there!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Farewell To A Hobby Legend

Sy Berger passed away in his sleep yesterday at the age of 91.  He began working at Topps in 1947 and by 1951 had become such a key man he was entrusted to create the 1952 Baseball set along with Woody Gelman. I've said a lot about him here and in print previously so will just offer up best wishes to his family.  RIP Sy, you were one of the best things to happen to us baby boomers.

Here is his "rookie" card, from the 1964 Topps Rookie Banquet set: