Saturday, November 21, 2015

Turning Over An Old Leaf

Well it was bound to happen, a piece of American Leaf Tobacco Company history has finally landed in my lap. Now it's not one of my holy grail items, which would be a matchbook (an obvious choice for a tobacco importer and cigar packer) or stationery from the Brooklyn based HQ of ALTC but it's pretty sweet just the same. The item in question is a 1909 ALTC stock certificate issued for their Quincy, Florida operation.

I found my first reference for the owner of these particular shares, one Mr. Julian Mitchell, in the December 21, 1912 issue of Forest & Stream magazine which details the sale of his yacht to the U.S. Life Saving Service in Galveston. He is described as being from New York and little more sleuthing revealed he was a Broadway Producer and Director. His firm was eventually named Hamlin, Mitchell & Fields. Fields was Lew Fields, a very famous actor and comedian at the time who went into producing.  So Mr, Mitchell definitely had the means to purchase 50 shares of ALTC stock at $100 a throw!

The stock subscription was intended to raise $420,000 in capital, a huge sum of money at the time. That works out, of course, to 4,200 shares outstanding.  I'm still working on identifying the secretary and president of the Quincy concern as the signatures are a bit difficult to make out although the Secretary's surname looks like Shaw. I am still connecting the dots to Morris Chigorinsky (later Shorin) but prior research I have done links the Florida operation to Morris's Brooklyn HQ. I imagine since the stock was issued in accordance with the State of Florida's laws, the officers had to be Florida residents.

A look at the embossed seal gives us an ALTC incorporation date of 1908, which matches that of the New York Branch of the firm.

1908 being,  of course, the founding date of the company, as per this February 29, 1968 piece from the United States Tobacco Journal:

The back is a model of brevity. I think the transaction date is February 12, 1909 but it's a little hard to make out the month:

ALTC items are essentially non-existent so I am happy to have found this.  Hopefully more pieces from the firm will pop up but for now this will have to do.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Purchase History

I stumbled across a very interesting scan while tooling around the ol' WWW recently, namely a Topps Purchase Order from 1975 issued to Zabel Brothers that I found over at There is a lot of good information on this single document:

Quite clearly these are for the Rotsa Root checklist/puzzle cards that came with series 14 Wacky Packages. The commodity number (a.k.a. Production Code) matches that for these puzzle cards and shows just how important that was in the production and tracking of the different components of each issue from Topps. You get to see the rough number of cards that would be produced on the standard 264 card full sheets (15 Million), the number of full sheets required to meet this goal (57,000) and the specifications for the inks and varnish.  There would some orphaned pieces as each puzzle took nine cards to complete.

The films (artwork) were provided by Topps and, surprisingly to me at least, the stock came from them as well. FOB Shipping point means that the sale was consummated when the sheets left the Zabel Brothers shipping dock. Topps would assume the risk while in transit should any damage occur during the short trip from Philly to Duryea. Topps was still processing all of their finances in Brooklyn though. And there was a three week turnaround!

So of course I had to dig further and lo and behold, this Purchase Order, for the Wonder Bread Wacky Package insert stickers popped up from the great Lost Wackys site:

It's a slightly earlier order and the form is a little different. No commodity number was used because the order was destined for a Continental Baking packaging facility.  The layout is way different to boot, a "160 up" sticker sheet was used.  This array was 16 x 10, which we know thanks (again) to Lost Wackys. That site also states this was a unique sheet size and that the sticker stock was already on hand.  The stickers were cut into panels of two so the usual Topps 11 x 12 Topps array would have been problematic.  The packaging instructions were also very specific.

This order was to be completed in six weeks. Perhaps the annual Baseball card production would slow things down at this juncture, who knows? I also get 760,000 (160 x 9,500 / 2) as the panel count so I'm not sure why there is a discrepancy.  And at $1.76 a throw (per thousand) for cutting and packing (normally done by Topps) Zabel Brothers charged $1,100. I only wish the actual pricing for the sticker printing was shown.

These are just pieces of a larger puzzle.  There could be additional orders as sales were tabulated, for one, but the Rotsa Root card order gives a rough idea as to how many cards or stickers a typical Topps run would comprise.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Wrapping Is A Many Splendored Thing

A short time ago I posted about the 1973 Topps Baseball wrappers, namely the likely subjects of the four different varieties produced by Topps that year. I thought I did pretty well but while my batting average of .500 would be outstanding in the major leagues, it's decidedly pedestrian on this here blog.

As it turns out, Friend o'the Archive Keith Olbermann has some of the original materials used to create the wrappers in his collection.  It's a lot more involved than I would have thought.

First though, the secret identities. I was right about the pitcher (Steve Carlton) and the manager (Dick Williams).  I thought for sure the catcher was Thurman Munson but alas, it's Andy Etchebarren. As for the batter, well it's not Rod Carew as I had suspected (although I did hedge my bet) but as of right now, it's anybody's guess. What do you all think:


The materials though, are the reason for this post.  Let's look at the manager's artwork. Here is the finished product:

Now I am not going to try and ID the ump. It might be possible but I ain't doing it. And here is how it came to be:

You can see a tracing was made of the left side ump and Williams. It looks like an early attempt at framing the shot was made.  I would say the layers have shifted a little after all this time.

Here is a clearer look with one layer of film flipped up.

I have a bit of artwork from the 1970 Candy Lids Set that exhibits similar traits:

Mr. Etchebarren is like so:

We have only one look at the process for Andy and it's a bit of a messy one, although I like the layout instructions.  Woody Gelman was probably gone from Topps at this point; his distinct, slashing, all capitals handwriting used to relay the instructions to the art department or printer and while one of the handwritten notes is indeed in caps, it's not by his hand:

Now Steve Carlton was easy to decipher:

A bit of an underlay here, some conceptual art work perhaps:

The various type of stippling and pebbling on the finished products were the result of different, textured artists boards or papers being used. The Williams wrapper actually looks like two types were used.  Crazy, man!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

All American Boys

Well the flow of cool and unusual Topps items just keeps on rolling....

Friend o'the Archive Justin Davenport has sent along scans of his Topps Award watch and I am definitely blown away.  Check this bad boy out:

Here is a close up of the dial; you can see the a small representation of the ubiquitous Topps Rookie Trophy in between the words "Topps Award":

We know they gave out jewelry at the Rookie Awards Banquets back in the day but this is a little bit of a different beast.  The back reveals why:

That says Topps First Team All America 1969.  So it appears the watch was given to the collegiate All Americans by Topps that year.  For the record, they were:

P Larry Gura
P Burt Hooton
C Bob Williams
1B Mike Walseth
2B Dick Gold
3B Les Rogers
SS Bill Stein
OF Bob Long
OF Paul Powell
OF Larry Pyle

Most folks think of football when they hear All Americans but the awards are still being given out for baseball and many other sports each year.

That is one of the neatest things I have seen in a long time!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Flaky Goodness

It's hard enough keeping track of all the things Topps issued on their own so when you add third party promotions to the mix, especially in the Seventies, you start running into some odd little pockets of hobby history.

As is my wont, I was noodling around the ol' internet a while back and found some posts over at the PSA forum concerning a very strange pack of basketball cards, namely a "36" card cello pack of 1972-73 Topps Basketball.

Thanks to Friend o'the Archive John Moran, we have some swell pictures of it to share. It's worth noting the pack has been described as containing 50 cards over on the Collectors Universe forums; we'll get to that momentarily. The front of the pack:

I have to say I never noticed the little Houston graphic across the Rockets logo when I collected these cards in 1972. The set used team names and not cities, so it's curious why their 1971 move from San Diego was highlighted. Topps added a Houston or Denver city designation to differentiate between NBA and ABA flavors. (Thanks to John Batrman for pointing that out as I spaced on that one).

The back is pretty neat as it has Wilt Chamberlain showing:

John has provided the all important side view, which reveals just how fat this pack is:

That is one big pack!

The box itself remains elusive, no surprise give the amount of time that has elapsed and the ephemeral nature of such things.  However, there is one more surprise, namely this uncut first series sheet that was also part of the offer:

This is a very interesting idea for a Topps tie-in, although I'm not sure of the timing of it.  Did they have extra sheets lying around or was this a promotion done at the same time the first series cards were issued in the fall of 1972?  While I ate a lot of Wheaties back in the day, I do not recall such an offer on any Wheaties box back that I dutifully studied while slurping down a bowl of the Breakfast of Champions. Thankfully Friend o' the Archive Matt Neely was able to track one down.

Matt, who runs the quite staggering Wheaties King site, was able to provide scans of the box with the offer. It's an adapted 1972 box:

Here's a closer look at the offer; the pictures do not appear to have been provided by Topps but in fact were as they are taken from cards the year prior with backgrounds turned to gold:

The back is a bit, well, odd.....

Here is the offer for the uncut sheet:

The cello pack is offered as a 36 count, so that's the official number but reports of collectors opening these seem to indicate 50 is the actual count.

The proof-of-purchase and mail in panel looked thus:

You just never know what kind of thing you'll find Topps wrapped up in...

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Northern Exposure

Put on your mittens lads, it's up to the semi-frozen north today!

I was lazily scrolling through eBay the other day, a pastime I regularly engage in and stumbled across a wondrous offering from BMW Sportscards, namely a full box of 1960 Baseball Tattoos, in O-Pee-Chee livery.  Yup, 240 penny packs of the first Topps supplemental baseball issue just lying there for 55 years.  Look at this:

Pretty cool, huh?  The blurry box flap indicia tells the story, namely that this was an issue licensed from Topps and printed in Canada:

Dig the top man!

The front panel has more of the great UPA inspired ballplayer, albeit a mere mirror image of the box top and wrapper:

The back has the ubiquitous ad for Bazooka:

Now, taking a look at all of this, I am thinking about how the closely related 1960 Football Tattoo was issued in Canada.  The football set is very, very hard to find so it's a bit difficult to suss out.  As I noted in a post some time back on the Baseball Tattoos, that set has indicia on the wrappers that detail distinct US and Canadian releases. You can clearly see the US and Canadian versions have different "made in" and "printed in" information.  Here is the US wrapper:

And the Canadian:

The football set indicates it was made in the USA and Canadian versions were made and distributed under license with Topps.  I believe that means that there is only one wrapper design and not two like with the baseball set.  You can clearly see that on the full football wrapper:

Friend o'the Archive (and provider of that Football Tattoo scan) Mike Blaisdell and I have discussed this a couple of times and he believes there is only the one version. I am convinced that if I had paid a little more attention last time out, I would have come to this correct conclusion earlier.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Room At The Top

More 1957 Baseball Paper Proof news today campers!  Before we were jolted into the realization that Topps sometimes used these proofs to create mockups of proposed future sets, we made an effort here at the Main Topps Archives Research Center to checklist known proofs from the 1957 high numbers.  We were stuck at 32 proofs but recently Friend o'the Archive Keith Olbermann sent along a couple more names and it's time to update things. There is, of course, a twist as well.

Here is where things stand today.  The entire high number run of 55 cards is shown and for each one with a known proof, either from the original Card Collectors Company ad offering many for sale or Olbermann's collection, that is noted as well.

353 Cal Neeman Proof
354 Rip Coleman Proof
355 Frank Malzone
356 Faye Throneberry Proof
357 Earl Torgeson
358 Jerry Lynch Proof
359 Tom Cheney Proof
360 Johnny Groth Proof
361 Curt Barclay Proof
362 Roman Mejias
363 Eddie Kasko Proof
364 Cal McLish
365 Ozzie Virgil
366 Ken Lehman Proof
367 Ed Fitz Gerald Proof
368 Bob Purkey Proof
369 Milt Graff
370 Warren Hacker Proof
371 Bob Lennon Proof
372 Norm Zauchin Proof
373 Pete Whisenant Proof
374 Don Cardwell Proof
375 Jim Landis
376 Don Elston Proof
377 Andre Rodgers
378 Elmer Singleton Proof
379 Don Lee
380 Walker Cooper Proof
381 Dean Stone
382 Jim Brideweser
383 Juan Pizarro Proof
384 Bobby Gene Smith Proof
385 Art Houtteman
386 Lyle Luttrell Proof
387 Jack Sanford Proof
388 Pete Daley
389 Dave Jolly Proof
390 Reno Bertoia
391 Ralph Terry
392 Chuck Tanner Proof
393 Raul Sanchez Proof
394 Luis Arroyo Proof
395 Bubba Phillips
396 Casey Wise Proof
397 Roy Smalley Proof
398 Al Cicotte Proof
399 Billy Consolo Proof
400 Dodgers' Sluggers Proof
401 Earl Battey Proof
402 Jim Pisoni
403 Dick Hyde
404 Harry Anderson Proof
405 Duke Maas
406 Bob Hale
407 Yankees Power Hitters

New additions bring the count to 34: #384 Bobby Gene Smith and #400 Dodgers Sluggers.  Here is #400, which is my favorite card in the set:

Bobby Gene Smith, another newbie to the list, is the bearer of our first twist, a ginormous top border:

The proofs must have included all the borders and gutters.  What's not clear is whether or not there were full, 264 card proof sheets run off in paper.  

One more twist, here is Ken Lehman, another "topper" and his scrawl:

I am reasonably certain that is Woody Gelman's handwriting there. I can make out "BB" and then "GENE" so he may have been next to Bobby Gene Smith atop the press sheet.

There are two other big top border cards are, one of which is also marked up:

#359 Cheney (both)
#378 Singleton (top border)

It would be pretty cool if we could confirm all 55 high numbers in paper.  The Yankees Power Hitters card that concludes the set has Mickey Mantle on it so finding that one would be sweet (and even sweeter for the owner).