Sometimes I struggle to find topics worthy of posting, but occasionally something strikes that itch and I can’t let go of it until I’ve researched everything about the topic. This is one of those posts. I saw this tweet by Vintage Baseball, and I instantly love everything about it. The fielder’s gloves placed near the back, the child mannequin, the Dodgers and Yankees pennants – presumedly the Giants are on the far left just curled out of view – everything speaks to that specific time and place. 1952 in the Bronx, not far from Topps’ headquarters.
Math 1: A New Frontier.
What we wouldn’t give to have a DeLorean to travel back in time and purchase all of these packs(or you can check this single pack opening). Since we can’t though, let’s do a little math and see if would even be worth our time. I count 11 rows across the front of the display, and at least three rows deep, stacked four or so boxes high. So:
11 boxes across * 3 boxes deep * 4 boxes high = 132 boxes.
132 boxes * 24 packs = 3,168 packs(~15,840 cards!).
3,168 packs * .05 cents = 158.40$.
If you were to save that 158.40$ in a piggy bank, having never spent it, never deposited it(no interest, not a wise idea mind you…), AND without inflation you could make a 70% offer for this SINGLE wrapper currently on ebay. Doubt they accept that. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the same 158.40$ in 1952, would have the same buying power today as 1,485.61. Quite a pretty penny back in the day! Moreso, if you were to have bought all of those packs, and resisted the urge to find the likes of Johnny Pesky, Phil Rizzuto, Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Sain, and of course Andy Pafko… if this auction is any indication, you would probably be a millionaire tens of times over. Here’s a few closeup pictures of what individual packs would’ve looked like in color that were originally posted here.
F. W. Woolworth Co.
At the bottom of that image above, it mentions that this display is at a F.W. Woolworth’s store, specifically the Fordham Rd. store. If that caption is to be believed, then I also believe this is that same store circa 1950(Elect Joseph P. Durkin, primary April, 2, 1950 if my eyes don’t deceive me…). The unique building facade at the top gives away it’s current location on Fordham Rd. Viewable on Google Maps here. The much longer designed “lined” columns(there’s one on either the left or right of the Durkin” sign) can even help you center the building to it’s current day location. Some things never change, even with time.
However, my curiosity wasn’t dimmed with just that. No, no, I had to figure out who were featured on the ad samples. Thankfully I have a 1985 copy of “Topps: The Complete Picture Collection” handy. With introductions by Willie Mays and Sy Berger, the book features pictures of every card issued from 1951’s red and blue backs through 1985’s base set conclusion #720 Rick Sutcliffe. There’s a small write-up of each year’s events, highlighted prior to that year’s set pictures. As well there’s also statistical info of every player pictured in the back of the book. Definitely one of my favorite second hand pickups, at a fraction(~15$) of the original cost(79.99)! Without further ado though, I’ll refer to each ad piece as follows – top left, top right, and bottom.
Panel 1 – Top Left, 4×4:
- Top – Jim Russell, Dodgers(51); Don Mueller, Giants(52); Chris Van Cuyk, Dodgers(53); and Leo Kiely, Red Sox(54).
- Top Middle – Tookie Gilbert, Giants(61); Chuck Stobbs, White Sox(62); Howie Pollet, Pirates(63); Roy Sievers, Browns(64).
- Bottom Middle – Tom Upton, Senators(71); Karl Olson, Red Sox(72); William Werle, Pirates(73); Andy Hansen, Phillies(74).
- Bottom – Gus Zernial, Athletics(31); Eddie Robinson, White Sox(32); Warren Spahn, Braves(33); Elmer Valo, Athletics(34).
The Warren Spahn was the first one identified as spotted by Nick. Gus Zernial followed. I hadn’t clued in yet that they were in numerical order until I started identifying the others on this sheet. Of particular help were Andy Hansen’s post-pitching pose, the horizontal Roy Sievers, and Leo Kiely’s side facing portrait. Again the Topps photo book helped line up the others once one of them had been figured out – all the card front images on the same page helps a ton when researching these ad pieces!
Panel 2 – Top Right, 4×4:
- Top – Ray Boone, Indians(55); Tommy Glaviano, Cardinals(56); Ed Lopat, Yankees(57); Bob Mahoney, Browns(58).
- Top Middle – Enos Slaughter, Cardinals(65); Preacher Roe, Dodgers(66); Allie Reynolds, Yankees(67); Cliff Chambers, Cardinals(68).
- Bottom Middle – Wes Westrum, Giants(75); Eddie Stanky, Cardinals(76); Bob Kennedy, Indians(77); Ellis Kinder, Red Sox(78).
- Bottom – Hank Sauer, Cubs(35); Gil Hodges, Dodgers(36); Duke Snider, Dodgers(37); Wally Westlake, Cardinals(38).
This one was partially obscured by the Yankees pennant, but the card most obscured actually helped identify that line’s cards. The bat in almost the direct top right corner of the card gave away Hank Sauer. Enos Slaughter’s bat on shoulder pose was equally helpful in identifying his card. By this point I had figured out what the Topps advertising group had done with the sheets by sequentially numbering them. This made searching for images horizontal or vertical easier looking four cards in a row, or some division thereof much easier. With Hank Sauer’s card I noticed they actually continued the numbering from the first sheet. Where #31-34 was on the bottom row of the top left sheet, the top right sheet’s bottom row continued #35-38. Thus, the two top ad pieces are #51-58, below them #61-68, the third row #71-78, with #31-38 on the bottom.
Panel 3 – Bottom, 4×2:
- Top – Chris Van Cuyk, Dodgers(53), and Leo Kiely, Red Sox(54), Ray Boone, Indians(55), Tommy Glaviano, Cardinals(56).
- Bottom – Howie Pollet, Pirates(63), Roy Sievers, Browns(64), Enos Slaughter, Cardinals(65), Preacher Roe, Dodgers(66).
Interestingly, I noticed while typing Enos Slaughter’s name again, they cut these two rows down the middle of two of the above ad sheets. I wonder if a smaller, similar half sheet exists with #51-52, #61-64; and #57-58, #67-68.
Math 2: The Math Strikes Back.
All of these of course belong to 1952 Topps’ first series of “picture card” – card numbered #1-80. I’m going to assume that the boxes as such were at the least first series subjects. PSA’s price guide lists PSA 5 commons for this range as 40$, mid-range 7s being listed at 255$, and 9s at 1,450$! Using the math above, a single PSA 7 of those ~15,840 cards pictured would more than recoup your initial 158 dollars and 40 cents!
I wasn’t too surprised that several were marketed towards the New York location with all the World Series appearances the Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants wracked up in those days. The Bronx’ Yankees were in the midst of their fourth consecutive(five overall!) championship at the beginning of the 1952 season. The Dodgers breaking the color barrier with Jackie Robinson just six years prior and the Yankees nemesis in the 1952 World Series. As well Manhattan’s New York Giants with Willie Mays, Bobby Thompson’s sudden fame having represented Brooklyn in the 1951 Series. Discounting the duplicate bottom row, here’s the team breakdown of those pictured:
Philadelphia Athletics: 2
Boston Braves: 1
St. Louis Browns: 2
St. Louis Cardinals: 5
Chicago Cubs: 1
Brooklyn Dodgers: 5
New York Giants: 3
Cleveland Indians: 2
Philadelphia Phillies: 1
Pittsburgh Pirates: 2
Boston Red Sox: 3
Washington Senators: 2
New York Yankees: 2.
I’m not sure what the Tigers or Reds did to be left off, however they’re the only two of sixteen missing. However, the “cold war” attitudes regarding the “red scare” and McCarthyism may explain the Reds missing ad representation.
So there’s our historical trip through a Woolworth’s in presumably the early 1952 season. My curiosity sated adequately with almost all avenues explored with what little info is presented in the black and white image above, now I need to find something to follow this post up with…