Saturday, December 9, 2017

Funny You Should Mention That

Topps was really cranking out great illustrated sets in the mid to late 60's, many featuring underground comix artists and a fair number of MAD Magazine contributors to boot. The effort and detail that went into these issues, especially the larger sized ones, is truly amazing.  One of the best is their 24 count Funny Travel Posters set from 1967.

The set, of course, was printed on poster stock, with each subject measuring 9 3/4" x 18 1/2". The stock is the type used by Topps in their standalone poster issues and not the cheap, recycled stock they used for their inserts.

The wrapper can be readily found these days:

You can even find a box with a little hunting:

The box bottom has the ubiquitous commodity code, which started showing up in earnest by late 1966 on most Topps products:

The posters, designed of course to be hung on walls, are harder to find than the wrappers but they are out there.  A full set was recently offered on eBay and I thought it would be nice to show a visual checklist as so many of the larger-sized Topps sets are hard to scan or otherwise reproduce.

That artwork is insanely well done for a set that retailed for $1.20 a box!

There is a great display of the Sing-Sing artwork (by Wally Wood) over at the Artwork Archive,  go check the site out as it's loaded with goodies, but in the meantime:

There is some commonality of themes with the 1965 Silly Stickers, which had 55 subjects, a good number of which also had a travel related gag, but Chris Benjamin's take that the posters borrowed artwork from the stickers is incorrect:

You can see though that the gimmick on the stickers was the use of a tiny word to change the meaning of the gag.

Ya gotta hand it to Topps, they really would go all out for their posters and similarly sized sets.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Can't Salute Ya, Can't Find The Flag

Six years ago I posted about some test issue envelope "wrappers" containing the 1968 Topps Basketball or 1970 Topps Flags Of The World Cards.  Parts of my observations were informed by some messages from Friend o'the Archive Lonnie Cummins, who has now sent along some key additional information on the latter package:

"I was the person who "discovered" the Flags of the World test material. I was living in Queens, NY at the time and would frequent Mike Carbonaro's comic shop in Forest Hills, NY, as well as purchase from him at NY card shows. Mike's shop, like most back then, sold not just comic books, but also trading cards and other pop culture material; I always looked for the trading cards. One day while browsing, I saw a stack of the "Flags of the World" 1956 cards, along with several envelopes and samples of the "Money of the World" inserts. This would have been around 1990, but I do not remember absolutely. I had no extra money to spend at the time, so I asked Mike to bring the material to the next comic show, which was happening in a couple of weeks. I purchased everything he had, and to the best of my knowledge, nothing had sold since I first saw the items.

          I do not have access to my notes from the time, or the material anymore, but I believe there was a total of about 70 to 80 some-odd cards, 12 or 13 money inserts, and 5 or 6 envelopes. I kept one of every unique card, money insert and the best envelope for my collection, and sold the dupes at the Parsippany Non-sports show to dealers like Bob Marks (a friend of mine) and Mark Macaluso. "

So this is a small source for a tough test issue. Lonnie believes the collection just "walked in" to the shop at some point.  He continues:

"Anyway, the info I want to pass along will completely change your view of this envelope and test issue. Firstly, the hand-written number on the white (not tan) envelope was not a test commodity number. Of the 5 or 6 envelopes, I believe all had hand-written numbers on them of the card numbers they held, written by the lucky boy or girl who originally purchased (or received) them back in '69 or '70 and used to "store" the cards. The numbers were in sequence; 1-15, 16-30, 31-45 (Color photo from Hakes' auction -, 46-60, 61-75 (scan from The Wrapper) and finally, 76-80." 

There are only 77 flag subjects in the 1970 set, plus five separately numbered Dictionary subjects, which were on the same stock and had a similar appearance, so the numbering scheme from 1956 makes sense. It does not appear the Dictionary cards made the test set, which also makes sense. Here is the scan from Hake's (I missed this item somehow, I get all their catalogs but whiffed I guess on their July 2017 offerings)-it's clearly a white envelope which has toned a bit over the years:

Their lot  description read: "... is a test issue, 3.5x4.5". This is a paper envelope w/glossy sticker applied to the center. Same basic art as the standard 5¢ wrapper but with additional image/text for "Extra Inside! Money Of The World" but this concept never made it into production for this set. Moderate wear, inked numbers on top margin. VG." 

Back to Lonnie:

"The card numbers were for the original 1956 Flags of the World set, which were the cards contained in the envelopes. My memory is not that good, but I think I had close to 2/3rds of the complete set. They were Indistinguishable from the original '56 cards, so no good way to tell they were test cards other than I knew they came from the envelopes. My theory is Topps was actually testing the "money" insert idea, not the cards themselves, and probably used either left over proof sheets (would have only taken 2 or 3 sheets to fill a couple of boxes) they had in archive, or did a small print run from the '56 films. I guess the '70 Flags of the World cards themselves either were not in development yet or not ready for testing. Using the '56 cards, which were over-sized compared to the modern standard, is why I believe they used an envelope instead of a plain wax wrapper; their wrapping machines could not handle the larger cards.... My theory is that Topps only used the envelopes for over-sized or odd-shaped items that could not be wrapped on their machines."

That is very, very weird.  I have a theory myself after reading Lonnie's comments, namely that when Topps swept out their scattered Brooklyn warehouses around 1966 they found some of the 1956 cards, which were too large to use in Fun Packs. Since Topps never got rid of anything before trying to sell it a half dozen times, they used the Giant Size FOTW cards for the currency test. Curiouser and curiouser. But the artwork on the wrapper is a match for the one from 1956!

"There was (if memory serves) six unique pieces of money, with the rest dupes. The test money is very, very different from what ended up in the '70 retail set. It was almost exactly like the "real" money it was based on, and the final version was obviously "phony" money and could not be confused as the real thing. I guess the test was successful since they went on to release the '70 set with the money inserts."

What Lonnie says matches what I have heard, namely that the test version of the Money of the World was too realistic and had to be changed. They also dropped the Money Of The World name for the regular issue.  However, when researching the retail wrappers for this post, something interesting showed up:

Here is the US/Canadian hybrid style wrapper, used by Topps for many issues in the 60's and 70's:

It's tucked under but the production code is: 0-400-87-01-0.

The Flags cards (they are also stickers of the "self-application" kind but the stock is like that of a card) that came within looked like this:

Clearly made in the US of A.

However there is a Canadian only version of the packaging as well, with pricing:

I have to assume this back (fronts are identical) came in the above wrappings:

I am wondering if the regular set was reissued in Canada, although Lonnie thinks not.  And to make things even more Topps-like, there are five Dictionary cards.  I have two, both are US only but the Non-Sports Bible clearly shows a Dictionary card that has the multi-lingual reverse.  Here's my US style Dictionary card:

They are rare so finding a English/French back may take a little bit of effort.  Now, speaking of rare, I can't find a good scan of either the test or regular issue foreign currency insert, although Todd Riley has some of the latter over at his website. I understand the former but considering the 1970 Flags set itself is pretty mainstream and available, the lack of available inserts is puzzling.  Here is a proof from Topps Vault, you can see the face says- NON-NEGOTIABLE, so that is clearly not the test issue:

There's clearly more to be uncovered about this set, components and test counterparts. A tip of the hat to Lonnie for his insights.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

This 'N That

It's been a while since i posted a miscellaneous thread with absolutely no focus or connecting material but I have to admit I'm hard pressed to find a topic this week given my post Thanksgiving torpor, so I'm just plumbing the depths of my hard drive. Sorry to be so lame but that's how it goes sometimes! Here's some stuff celebrating things not necessarily sold in a typical Topps retail pack:

Take a gander at a greeting card with a Hopalong Cassidy pack in it, pardner:

Freaking awesome, right?!

Here's some inserts that came in a typical Hoppy pack, or probably anything from Topps in 1950 (hey, I guess I did link something together):

Notice the little red spyglass that came with the "Wild West" cards?  Those were leftover X-Ray Roundup cards and you needed it to properly read the backs! Somewhere around here I have one of these I somehow acquired as a kid but it's not with the main collection and, truth be told, is semi-lost.

Here's a 1968 Ray Shafer card I just picked up-it's actually got a slight diamond cut, typical for Topps at the time unfortunately:  

More on that story here. Topps must have gotten a boost from him when they moved their plant to Duryea, PA from Brooklyn in early 1966 and helped out his campaign; it's certainly one of the more unusual items they ever produced.

Finally, here's a group of early 1960's Bazooka pennants:

At some point in the future I am going to try and disentangle all the various Bazooka baseball premiums but it's a major job. See ya next time!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Slew Of Samples

I was inspired today by the recent news that well over 100 1966 Topps Baseball Salesman Sample strips are being offered up on eBay. Intact Salesman Samples, normally found in strips of three with a few variations on the theme, have always been difficult to find so for a hoard of this size to be liquidated the seller must need to be dumping them in a hurry. But I don't have those '66 strips in my sights today but rather thought a look at some strips and remnants outside of baseball would be interesting.

Here's a piece of the King recently offered on eBay:

Amusingly, and I realize it's hand cut, centering was an issue even on the samples! There's no way that left border measures out:

Here is what the complete 3 card sample strip looks like:

I realize 50,000,000 Elvis fans can't be wrong, but neither was $50,000:

After Elvis, the next fad was TV Westerns and Monsters. I can't find my scan of a 1959 You'll Die Laughing sample so it's the former and these two fit together like a puzzle.  The third card must have been excised more cleanly.

The back of this one has a bit of design; Topps was starting to move past basic text on these once the Bowman purchase was out of the way, or so it seems

I can't find an intact 3 card TV Westerns sample, so you have to imagine the last card! I always thought it odd the set had 71 cards but the above titles match the issued set.  Either a series they planned to include didn't work out as the count should probably be either 77 or 88 cards or they had trouble obtaining individual rights to a certain actor or two that screwed up the normal "divisible by 11" set count of the era. Maverick is a notable gap in their offering so maybe it was an inability to get a release from James Garner or even John Kelly that caused the truncation.

I'll close with a really sweet batch of 1963 Football. These are three but perhaps that count is low? Take a look:

The backs look like so:

Either that's a "four" or an alternate back exists.  Sometimes wholesaler's (jobbers) samples left space for an address.  Love the use of the green on the reverse but it should extend to the right a bit more on the third card, along with the text.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Order Up!

Ahoy campers-I have some really groovy stuff for you today!  Tom Goodwin wrote a long, heavily illustrated article in The Wrapper #308 about the production of the 1975 Topps Comic Book Heroes Stickers that really grabbed my attention. The highlight, at least from my perspective, was his inclusion of pictures of the Zabel Brothers production folder for the set. It was clear from his text that there was a bit more to this folder than was described or shown in the article so I reached out and Tom was kind enough to send a full set of scans.

I'll have to repeat Tom's main cover scan from the article but I don't plan to repeat his words. This cover has oodles of information about the printing and shipping of the set:

Actually, it's two sets (sort of)! We'll get to that momentarily. The 43" x 57" sheet size is important as it confirms the 264 card master sheet comprised a full uncut sheet.  24,000 of these suckers were ordered on pressure sensitive Ludlow stock, which was a type of stock Wacky Packages collectors will be familiar with. Looks like they came up 500 sheets short but it was made up by printing something else as part of the order, namely 500 additonal sheets of insert stickers for the Good Times set. We know this because of the bill of lading included in the folder:

I have to say it appears Good Times shipped 5,028 sheets so the additional 500 to make up the original order must have been added to a previous job of 4,528 sheets that was awaiting shipment.  CC stands for Commodity Code, otherwise known as the Production Code or Commodity number. This system allowed Topps to identify what type of packaging was to receive the cards shipped from Philadelphia by Zabel Brothers to their --wait for it--Brooklyn warehouse.

Brooklyn?!  Hold on Baba Looey, they were doing everything out of Duryea, PA at the time, or so I thought!  It would appear Brooklyn was still in the mix, which I'm quite surprised by.  Bristol Wholesale looks like the shippers, although it could be Bristol Wheels.

And now, math:

23,500 x 264 = 6,204,000 cards, or 112,800 of each impression of Comic Book Heroes on the sheet. It was a 44 sticker set, so six impressions of each would appear on the master sheet.

Good Times stickers?  1,327,392 of them, or 60,336 of each as there were 22 of them in the set.

I wonder if the Comic Book Heroes checklist/puzzle cards and Good Times cards were also printed and shipped together? It would sure make sense if they were.

Are these full production numbers or just one run?  Hard to say.  The folder has some other clues but nothing that will answer that question.

You can see there were a number of shipping batches.  This is a typical count and four such cards are in the folder:

It appears roughly 2,450 uncut sheets were packed per skid (pallet) and you can see which press was used to print the stickers. Card Processing is listed as the Bindery but that is Topps Brooklyn HQ, as we know from the bill of lading.

Here's some old school computer printouts showing a variety of production information (obviously these were two larger sheets):

It appears a proof sheet also made it into the folder:

That date stamp is for September 17, 1975-that must be the approved final artwork proof. It's worth noting I was in my third week of high school at the time-hoo boy!

I find this kind of stuff exciting but then again I'm pretty weird!  Many thanks to Tom Goodwin for peeling back a huge piece of the "cardboard curtain" that surrounds so much of the history of Topps.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Blister Blaster

Friend o'the Archive Rex Morgart has sent along a couple of scans of some packaging that relates, in a major way, to the 1980 Topps Baseball set.

If you wanted to quickly complete your 1980 set, this baby would get you well along in your task:

The price sticker is from Zayre's, a department store/discount chain that was pretty well known in the Northeast US and later expanded further south along the Eastern seaboard. It's heyday was probably right around 1980 and the parent company proved to be a trailblazer in home shopping and other areas of retail operations-it lives on today as TJX Corp, which owns TJ Maxx among others. Present market cap is around $45 Billion!

Anyhoo......Topps had a major distribution channel to thousands of retail stores in the US and I am thinking they would tailor packaging such as the above to the specific needs of various chains if they were big enough customers. We'll get to the Collecting Box momentarily but first feast your eyes upon the back of the blister pack:

Checklist!  A very smart idea if you ask me, hanging tab punch hole excepted.

The Collecting Box we have seen before, namely for the same year's The Empire Strikes Back set. Here's two flattened out views of said box:

That commodity code of T-126-27 indicates a test issue.  It's pretty sweet and has a killer shot of "The Penguin" as well. The thing is though, the Empire Strikes Back box has a non-test code:

1-885-58-01-0 means it was part of some regular issue packaging methinks.  I wonder if this means the Baseball box test was successful?

Luke, I am your cover.....

I have to wonder if there are more Collector Boxes out there from other sets in 1980.  You would need a big enough set to put a bunch of cards in blister packs, although Topps was infamous for throwing duplicates into their packaging.