Saturday, February 25, 2017

Foreign Intrigue

Yonks ago, BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd sent along a couple of gum wrapper scans that were clearly intended for marketing in Israel.  In true Topps Archives fashion I promptly saved the scans, filed the e-mail and did nothing for a year!  Well, fear not I've managed to resurrect things.

Topps Gum was the flagship brand from the founding of the company in 1938 until Bazooka overtook it in the late 40's. These little penny gum tabs made the company essentially.  You will recall this was their typical look:


Sometime after the creation of Israel in 1948, the company started marketing gum in an expansion of their International operations.  Shep sent along this wrapper scan, which is mostly in Hebrew:


It's clearly a licensed Topps issue.  The wrapper design is taken from the 1946 US version and includes the asterisk that indicated the wrapper copyright was pending. I assume that was only for this design as the US versions eventually shed the asterisk. Topps stopped making their flagship gum tabs sometime in the early 1950's in the US but still had a market for military food rations into the mid-50's. The Israeli tabs must have been made overseas so dating is difficult but I have to think early 1949-50 on the above wrapper given the asterisk and the fact Israel only came into being in 1948.

Now let's take a look at what is probably a knockoff product:


Compare to a typical Bazooka wrapper of the era,which I show from a premium catalog:



Not a direct match and there is also no licensing information.  It's almost a ripoff of Topps and Fleer all at once given the "Dubble Ballon" wording!

There are a lot of other examples out there in Hebrew, including numerous trading card issues. Topps had a clear eye on overseas sales early on and would take time and spend money to grow market share. They could sell products they had discontinued or scaled back on in the States to boot.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Canadian Football Logic

Things are a bit wonky around here right now, so I thought I'd go with something light today, namely a look at some Topps CFL boxes and wrappers, just because they are cool and unusual.  Plus, they can teach us a little about Canadian manufacturing and distribution information.

I turned to one of main men for OPC and Canadian information, Bobby Burrell (a Friend o'the Archive if there ever was one) as 1960 Football Tattoo indicia, not to mention that of Magic Funny Fortunes of the same era (likely 1961), was showing both US and Canadian information. Meanwhile the 1960 Baseball Tattoo packs have separate US and Canadian versions, the latter of which says "Made in Canada - Printed in Canada".  So clearly something changed in 1960 between baseball and football season but as we will see below, there were two football seasons!

Take a look at this array of Topps CFL boxes:


From top left to bottom right these are: 1961, 1962, 1959.  Topps would often repeat graphic elements over a few years for sports issues in Canada, whether it be wrappers, boxes or features lifted from other card sets.

When you turn the boxes over, you get to the deets:


1962 is on top, 1961 on the bottom left and 1959 on the right.  As you can see, the 1959 box is blank on the bottom, while 1961 and 1962 have added both a Printed in Canada line and a full set of manufacturing indicia, showing O-Pee-Chee's licensing deal with Topps. I'm not sure if the 1960 box is like the one from 1959 but I would really like to see it.  These are not easy to find by the way.

There's a lot more to this story as US Football sets were also sold up North; their CFL season precedes that of the NFL so Topps had two seasons to sell product. More on all of this some other time, I really just wanted to show these boxes today and that is going to take more effort than I can expend right now.

I've been impressed in composing Canadian-centric posts over they years, with how much effort Topps put into their marketing north of the lower 48.  They pretty much got right into Canada after World War 2 ended and likely had a presence before the war as well (I can't find much on their pre-war Canadian operations). Canada had roughly ten to twelve percent of the population of the US in the post war era but Topps continually stuck with a trading card strategy centered around their Hockey issues and a host of non-sports sets before they really let loose with O-Pee-Chee in 1965 on Baseball. They had established a beachhead for Topps Gum and later Bazooka on the confectionery side even prior to this. My take is that as a percentage of population Canadians bought more cards than kids in the US.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Chattanooga Woo Hoo

Topps is inextricably associated with Brooklyn, there is no doubt. But if they ever had a "second city" it would be Chattanooga, Tennessee.  The wonders of the Scenic City would have been known to Philip Shorin, who was posted at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia after he was drafted during the Great War (WW1), as his army base was about nine miles south of Chattanooga and the city would have been a natural stomping ground for a doughboy on leave.

In March of 1943 Topps acquired the Bennett-Hubbard Candy Company (founded 1919) and established a southern outpost along the Tennessee River. Some wartime treats were produced there for a time:


Benn-Hubb as the locals called it also made such things as Peanut Butter and Table Syrup; presumably Topps sold those brands off.

Topps got another wonderful thing out of the city as well, the trademark to Bazooka, which was originally the property of the Brock Candy Company:


I've never been able to fully connect the dots but believe Brock sold the Bazooka trademark at some point, possibly to Bennett-Hubbard. Topps did not create the name, they acquired it. Back in the day Brock was a bigger concern than Topps or Benn-Hubb from what I can determine. They certainly were bigger by the 80's as they were the first US Company to produce Gummy Bears. Amusingly they were eventually bought by Brach's Candy!


The Bennett-Hubbard plant, located on 11th Street, was shuttered by Topps around 1951 (I think) as they were consolidating their Candy Division back into the mothership. Topps may have reopened it for a time to produce confectionery items but I am definitely not sure about that. Topps had at least two other plants outside Brooklyn by the mid-sixties, I'm just not certain if this was one of them.



Saturday, February 4, 2017

That's My Bush

Soldiering on from last week kids, with a look at the various Topps offices and plants that were scattered around Brooklyn from 1938-94.

After World War 2 drew to a close, the industrial base of the United States began to return to its previous infrastructure.  Bush Terminal, a sprawling industrial complex located in Sunset Park, just south of the Brooklyn Army Terminal, had been taken over by the government during the war and was being returned to civilian use.  Topps moved in to Building No. 1 in the complex, also known as Industry City, located at 237 37th St on June 1, 1946 as this trade magazine blurb shows:


The eagle eyed among you will note Topps was upgrading the Chattanooga plant as well. We'll visit that operation next time out.

For the next 18 years Topps would manufacture most of their confectionery products at Bush Terminal and as things really started humming in the late 1950's and early 1960's they eventually expanded into space across the back alley at 254 36th St, although I have yet to pinpoint exactly when.  The buildings' back entrances were catty-corner to each other, although I don't think Topps had more than couple of floors in each one, and railroad tracks ran down the alley in between them.  A block to the east those tracks could bring you to the piers on Gowanus Bay or heading south they would connect with the larger freight rail network in Brooklyn. Topps was able to receive raw materials and shipments by rail, truck, barge or ship and send finished merchandise out the same way with very little effort.

Here's an architectural drawing of the Bush Terminal Complex with South facing up (so you can read it properly); I've highlighted the two Topps buildings in yellow just below the middle of the drawing on the left:



The space at 237 37th St was eventually given up, probably when they moved production and packaging to Duryea in 1966. As mentioned last week, they had retained production and warehousing space in the various facilities they had been in starting in 1938 up until the move. 

After production moved to Pennsylvania, they kept executive offices at 254 36th St until 1994 when they moved them to downtown Manhattan, where they remain today.

 A 2013 real estate listing for 254 36th St showed an interior shot of one of the floors:


Much of the area is now being converted into condos and mixed use, it's a hot spot in Brooklyn! Here's an overhead shot of the area today, courtesy of Google Maps; The old Topps buildings are the top two long ones in the middle left, just under Costco in this view (click to expand):


I'll take a peek at some non-Brooklyn facilities next time or maybe the one after.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Office Party

Before Topps settled in at Bush Terminal in Brooklyn, they had a succession of office and plant spaces that they leased in Brooklyn.  I've briefly covered some of them here in the past but it turns out I posted an incorrect picture of their second address so I figured since all the buildings are still there, why not look anew. Today we'll examine their pre-Bush Terminal buildings and next time out the mothership at BT.

Topps started out in the residence of Philip Shorin at 582 Montgomery Street in Brooklyn as they were setting up the company in 1938:


The ended up leasing a production floor in the Gretsch Building at 60 Broadway in Williamsburg by the end of 1938, filling it with ancient machinery that would still be in use almost thirty years later:


Morris Shorin bought a house at 1460 President Street in Crown Heights from the Gretsch family in 1920 to boot, I assume they were family friends. 

By late 1944 they also had some space at 134 Broadway, a stone's throw away from no. 60:


Some premiums may have been stored and shipped from this address.

Also in 1944 came the purchase of the Shapiro Candy Company and assumption of its attendant lease at 383 3rd Avenue in Gowanus, although Shapiro had a mail drop at 60 Broadway during the transition:


Topps primarily made candy here.  Help wanted ads during the war offered free gum!

What's amazing is that all three buildings were still in use by Topps until they moved production and warehousing to Duryea, Pennsylvania in 1966!

Next time out, the mysteries of Bush Terminal.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Fortune Favors The Old...

...Old Topps novelties that is!

I am trying to solve a mystery here today, namely one involving an issue of indeterminate dating called Magic Funny Fortunes.  MFF is one of those issues where you place a piece of red cellophane over an image to see a hidden picture underneath that is usually the answer to a pun. It looks like the classic penny tattoo tabs issued by Topps in the 50's and 60's but there is no transfer feature.  I'll show the interior first, which features Jack Davis artwork.


You will note the little production rip you would see along the top is missing.  As I've seen this same image a few times and actually have another as well, I assume it's a salesman's sample (as are many similar products sans rip).  The answer is "As Window Washer" in case you were wondering.

Now here is the exterior of the wrapper:


Here is the all important indicia


That looks Canadian to me, which is reinforced by the Made In USA info that appears above the ingredient list:


No copyright year, which is little surprise. I have two sources for the date, one says 1961 and the other 1968. However, if we look to another set from what may be roughly the same time frame if the earlier date is correct, 1960's Football Tattoo, we may get a clue:


It's the same indicia, which may help with dating, but the Football Tattoos feature only NFL teams and US Colleges so presumably it was issued in the US as well as, and quite mysteriously, Canada. See here for a more detailed discussion of that particular point. 

The earlier Baseball Tattoo issue of 1960 made a clear distinction between US (Brooklyn is detailed on the indicia) and Canadian issues (the latter clearly says "Made in Canada" on an OPC issue) but perhaps the laws in Canada changed mid year.

Looking at Topps Hockey and CFL Wrappers of the era, which are all Canadian only (in theory), the 1960 issues have "Made & Printed in USA" on the wrapper indicia followed by "In Canada Made & distributed by O-Pee-Chee Ltd" while the 1961 issues just say "Made & Distributed in Canada". So it looks like Topps had a kind of Jekyll/Hyde thing going on 

Anyhoo...Chris Benjamin described this issue without attributing a date or country of distribution in his 4th Sport Americana Non-Sports Guide and Tucker & Simon's NSA Wrapper Guide also shows the same wrapper that I have above.  Todd Riley's www.non-sport.com site has a listing for both US and Canadian issues but the wrapper shown for each listing is the same as the one above as well. Finally, Chris Watson's Non-Sports Bible also shows the same wrapper as everyone else but has Canadian and US listings for the set (attributed to 1960).

I am going to assume, unless some other evidence turns up, that the Magic Funny Fortunes are a 1961 issue that was distributed in both the US and Canada using the same packaging. If there's more information out there, please let me know.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Game On

It's a lazy Boxing Day around the Main Topps Archives Research Complex kids (I write in advance usually) and I decided to do some maintenance on the blog. This mainly consists of fixing incorrect tags and little typos as I find them.  In the midst of this very low-level work I realized I had never devoted a full post to one of my favorite Topps insert sets of all time - the 1968 Baseball Game cards, which should really be referred to as Batter Up cards. I've touched on this set in a couple of "overview" posts, namely one on rewraps and another on the link between Topps and Ed-U-Cards but never on its own.

The set is widely known and collected of course, with Mantle and Clemente being the key cards in a set of 33 that features well composed color portraits of each player. One card was inserted into mid-series wax and cello packs:


Is it just me or does that look like Yogi Berra?  The game is pretty self explanatory but just in case...


You were on your own with the rules if you got your cards in the cello packs:



I'm sure many cello packs have the card inserted face out but that seems to be the prevalent side from what I can tell.

Great look to these:


I chose Davis as my example for a reason, which we will get to momentarily. You can see how the game worked just by looking at the card. You can also see the typical Topps funky cut at what is almost the apex of the card.  Centering issues plagued Topps for decades and their insert sets were even worse in this regard than the regular issues.  You can see the Davis is well off center, the reverse tells the tale too, although it's quite interesting in any event:


I love the little Topps baseballs.  The design resembles but does not mimic the 1951 Blue Backs. 

I linked above to the Batter Up game that Topps sold as a standalone set but will show the box proof here again as it's a beaut:


Yes, two different price points on the same sheet! Either is difficult, I think the 10 cent variety is the tougher of the two but it's quite hard to find either. I don't have the box myself but Friend o'the Archive Bob Fisk sent me a scan of one yonks ago, 15 cent variety:


The box back indicates it was printed no later than 1969, given the Brooklyn address and we can narrow it even further as you will see below:


My guess is the game just collected unused inserts and was test marketed in late in the 1968 season, which ties in to one of two reasons why I chose Tommy Davis as a representative example.  He was traded by the Mets to the White Sox on December 15, 1967 for Tommie Agee and Al Weis in a move that would ultimately cement the 1969 Mets championship, so technically speaking, Davis was a member of the White Sox when the set was issued, although he's clearly in Mets duds on the card. If you look at the team checklist below, you will see the Mets are the only team without a player in the set. (Correction 1/14/17: The ever vigilant Keith Olbermann advises Davis is in Dodger duds)You could make an argument for Rusty Staub as an Expo and even Davis as a Pilot if the set was boxed for resale in 1969 since both were capless, but there were really no players shown who could have been Royals or Padres so I say the Batter Up set is definitely from 1968.

It's a great little set, easy to collect as it's remarkably plentiful and the rounded corners a thick gloss help protect these babies.

Here are alphabetical and team checklists for your viewing pleasure:

1 ALOU MATTY PITTSBURGH PIRATES
2 MANTLE MICKEY NEW YORK YANKEES
3 YASTRZEMSKI CARL BOSTON RED SOX
4 AARON HANK ATLANTA BRAVES
5 KILLEBREW HARMON MINNESOTA TWINS
6 CLEMENTE ROBERTO PITTSBURGH PIRATES
7 ROBINSON FRANK BALTIMORE ORIOLES
8 MAYS WILLIE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
9 ROBINSON BROOKS BALTIMORE ORIOLES
10 DAVIS TOMMY CHICAGO WHITE SOX
11 FREEHAN BILL DETROIT TIGERS
12 OSTEEN CLAUDE LOS ANGELES DODGERS
13 PETERS GARY CHICAGO WHITE SOX
14 LONBORG JIM BOSTON RED SOX
15 HARGAN STEVE CLEVELAND INDIANS
16 CHANCE DEAN MINNESOTA TWINS
17 McCORMICK MIKE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
18 McCARVER TIM ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
19 SANTO RON CHICAGO CUBS
20 GONZALEZ TONY PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
21 HOWARD FRANK WASHINGTON SENATORS
22 SCOTT GEORGE BOSTON RED SOX
23 ALLEN RICHIE PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
24 WYNN JIM HOUSTON ASTROS
25 ALLEY GENE PITTSBURGH PIRATES
26 MONDAY RICK OAKLAND ATHLETICS
27 KALINE AL DETROIT TIGERS
28 STAUB RUSTY HOUSTON ASTROS
29 CAREW ROD MINNESOTA TWINS
30 ROSE PETE CINCINNATI REDS
31 TORRE JOE ATLANTA BRAVES
32 CEPEDA ORLANDO ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
33 FREGOSI JIM CALIFORNIA ANGELS

Alphabetical:

4 AARON HANK ATLANTA BRAVES
31 TORRE JOE ATLANTA BRAVES
9 ROBINSON BROOKS BALTIMORE ORIOLES
7 ROBINSON FRANK BALTIMORE ORIOLES
3 YASTRZEMSKI CARL BOSTON RED SOX
22 SCOTT GEORGE BOSTON RED SOX
14 LONBORG JIM BOSTON RED SOX
33 FREGOSI JIM CALIFORNIA ANGELS
19 SANTO RON CHICAGO CUBS
13 PETERS GARY CHICAGO WHITE SOX
10 DAVIS TOMMY CHICAGO WHITE SOX
30 ROSE PETE CINCINNATI REDS
15 HARGAN STEVE CLEVELAND INDIANS
27 KALINE AL DETROIT TIGERS
11 FREEHAN BILL DETROIT TIGERS
24 WYNN JIM HOUSTON ASTROS
28 STAUB RUSTY HOUSTON ASTROS
12 OSTEEN CLAUDE LOS ANGELES DODGERS
16 CHANCE DEAN MINNESOTA TWINS
5 KILLEBREW HARMON MINNESOTA TWINS
29 CAREW ROD MINNESOTA TWINS
2 MANTLE MICKEY NEW YORK YANKEES
26 MONDAY RICK OAKLAND ATHLETICS
23 ALLEN RICHIE PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
20 GONZALEZ TONY PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
25 ALLEY GENE PITTSBURGH PIRATES
1 ALOU MATTY PITTSBURGH PIRATES
6 CLEMENTE ROBERTO PITTSBURGH PIRATES
17 McCORMICK MIKE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
8 MAYS WILLIE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
32 CEPEDA ORLANDO ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
18 McCARVER TIM ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
21 HOWARD FRANK WASHINGTON SENATORS