I’ve playfully chided our friends at the Topps Co. over the years about being so preoccupied with the creation of each year’s mountain of new sports cards that they have little time left to pay attention to all the historic cardboard ancestors from the 1950s and 1960s.
It was never a genuine criticism anyway, because it quite correctly was their job to pursue the sales of new cards, as opposed to immersing themselves in the glory of the old ones. That was our job, or at least part of it.
But when when the company created the unique Topps Vault seven years ago, even that tongue-in-cheek charge lost its currency. If you’ve never visited the “Vault,” (www.thetoppsvalut.com) you’re really missing something. It offers the kind of archival material that was featured in the famous 1989 Guernsey’s Topps Auction (more details in my column in the May 30 issue of SCD as part of the first installment of the Topps Proof series written by Keith Olbermann).
One suspects that if Topps officials had known in 1989 that something called the Internet was around the corner, they might not have held the historic auction at all, preferring instead to sell their archival items on their own website, which is what they do now with the Topps Vault.
In conjunction with the Olbermann Topps Proof series, Topps has donated three items from the “Vault” that will be included as some of the top prizes awarded randomly later this summer to readers who take part in the Survey (see our home page). The top prize is probably a 1993 Topps baseball card contract signed by Nolan Ryan, a three-year extension at a cool $75 per. The other two are the original black-and-white production photo used to create Pete Retzlaff's 1957 Topps rookie card, and a circa 1970 baseball card point-of-purchase poster touting Topps Baseball Bubble Gum Cards as “A Great Gift Idea for Kids,” with the company logo surrounded by a Christmas wreath. Despite the sort of icky pea-green and purple colors, it’s a wonderful piece of memorabilia, including the odd drawing of a baseball card, with no logo on the cap and the name on the bottom turned into hieroglyphics so that no additional royalty payments would be needed for its commercial use. And still you can tell it’s Bill Mazeroski.
The items come with three COA’s from the Topps Vault, though it’s hard to see how such redundant authentication would be necessary. If you haven’t sent in your survey form, I urge you to do so. It’s easy and fun, and gives you a crack at these prizes and several others, most notably a Topps Proof plaque created by the incomparable Ernie Montella.
And whomever wins the point-of-purchase poster should give me a call after he/she receives the prize. I’ve already come up with a cool idea about how to display it with about a dozen 1970 or 1971 Topps cards. The survey appears in this week’s issue of Sports Collectors Digest (June 20) with the second installment in the Olbermann Topps Proof series.
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This last item I included primarily because I just loved the image so much, along with my affection for all things billiards related. My colleague, Chris Nerat, turned this up, presumably an auction item from eBay, but I was fascinated by the charm of the photograph, most notably the inclusion of the hot babe dutifully watching the guy as he executes a masse shot. It reminded of the comically posed “action” shots painstakingly constructed by the Topps photographers in the 1950s and 1960s. If anybody else stood so close to a billiards table while somebody was in the middle of a shot, difficult or otherwise, he would have gotten his thumbs broken, but this winsome young lady – looking far more wholesome than any woman I’ve ever seen in a pool hall – presumably would get a pass on such an ostensibly inappropriate departure from normal billiards etiquette.