Good Things Come In Wacky Packages

The original run of Topps Wacky Packages was from 1973 to 1976, which is pretty much my sweet spot as far as being a kid goes. Like many of my friends and school mates, I spent a lot of my allowance on Wacky Packs. Unfortunately for “21st Century Me”, what “1970s Me” did was to do what all kids do with stickers: I stuck them, mostly to my loose leaf binder (and I still have the cover).

My baseball cards were well taken care of when I was a kid, so Wacky Packages are my “If I had only…” regret from childhood.

When I was at a show in January, there was a dealer who had Wacky Packs, but unfortunately I didn’t find them until late in the show when I was nearly out of time and money.  I picked up four Wackies, one of which turned out to be a double (and already featured on this blog a few years ago).

“Commie” was one I had stuck to my binder.

“Sootball”, which is based on the 1974 Topps Football wrapper, was a new one to me.

“Ajerx” is a long-time favorite… The jerk on the label reminds me of someone I know, which just adds to my amusement.

When I got these stickers home I decided that it was time to at least start a checklist, even if I wasn’t necessarily going to make a project out of these.  In the process of getting the information from TradingCardDB, I was surprised by how many Wackies there were.  In those four years there were 16 series, each roughly 30 stickers, for a total (by my count) of 494 stickers.  Damn, that’s a lot. If I decided that I was going to chase them all, I would be 1.5% of the way towards my goal.  At this point, I’m thinking that I might just try to find all of the ones I had back then, and leave it at that.

 

Progress On The Wrong Goals: 1966 Topps Batman “Black Bat”

Unlike most other years, I’ve actually established goals for 2020… although I didn’t get much into specifics in this blog.  Naturally, the one show I went to in January had very little related to my goals for the year, but I made some progress on the goals which had been back-burnered.  Among those back-burnered goals is the 1966 Topps Batman “Black Bat” series.

I finished the “Batman vs. The Joker” subset back at the end of 2015 and I’d meant to attack another subset someday, but never quite got around to it.  Maybe this will kick the search back into gear.  I might start with the “vs. The Riddler” subset since I’ve got 3 of the 11 cards, or maybe I’ll just let the cards fall where they may.

Since I don’t have a lot to say about the individual cards, I figured I’d take advantage of my prodigious typing skills (I took a full semester typing course in high school, dontcha know) and transcribe the text from the back of each card.

#16 – The Penguin’s Trap – # 3 of 11 Batman vs. The Penguin Cards

The Batman sets out for the address found upon the crook, and arrives at an abandoned house near the edge of town.
Robin stays in the Batmobile, as Batman carefully explores inside. Suddenly a trap door opens in the floor and Batman falls ten feet to the floor of a pit.  A voice is heard from a hidden speaker: “Welcome, Batman!” It is the voice of The Penguin. “At last you have stepped into my trap!”

#28 – “Let’s Go” – #4 of 11 Batman vs. The Catwoman Cards

Batman rereads a letter that had arrived for him at police headquarters: “….Only you and Robin can help me. Please come tonight!”
“It sounds important, Batman,” says Robin. “Let’s Go!
That night, the sleek Batmobile roars up to the designated spot. “Stay here while I check,” says Batman. But when he returns, Robin is gone.

#35 – Cat Woman Defeated – #11 of 11 Batman vs. The Catwoman Cards

“You’ll never escape with that formula, Cat Woman!” shouts Batman as he throws a gas pellet onto the floor, in front of the huge cat she had released.
As the furry beast sinks to the floor of the cavern, Batman leaps over it, in time to throw his Batline around the fleeing Cat Woman. “Looks like you’re right, Batman,” she says. “But don’t worry… There will always be others!”

#40 – Following The Clue – #5 of 11 Batman vs. The Riddler cards

“It’s come!” says Commisioner Gordon to Batman and Robin. “We’ve received the first of The Riddler’s new riddles. But it’s one even I knew as a child: ‘Why does a fireman wear red suspenders?’ The answer is ‘To hold up his pants’!”
“The Hispantsia penthouse!” exclaims Robin. “It’s almost too easy!”
Prepared for a trap, the two swing into the night, toward the Gotham Tower.

Eight #8’s For My 8th

Today is the 8th Anniversary of The Shlabotnik Report and I want to take this opportunity to thank ALL OF YOU for reading and commenting and making this blog fun to keep up on… Because if it weren’t fun, I wouldn’t have made it to the first anniversary.

I don’t generally do anniversary posts, partly because I almost never remember in time to write something, and also because I don’t want to do a post that amounts to nothing more than “Yay, me!”

So pretty early on (i.e. this past Tuesday) I hit on this idea, and interestingly enough when I was done picking out cards I realized I had a nice little cross-section of my collecting interests.

And so, we start with…

1968 Topps “Game” Insert #8 – Willie Mays
I completed the Game set a couple of years ago, and it was one of the most satisfying set builds I’ve done in recent years. Fun and affordable, I recommend it to anyone who likes these cards, or who just wants to chase a vintage set without fear of missing a car payment.

1964 Topps “Giants” #8 – Roy McMillan
This card single-handedly let me know I was on the right track with the idea for this post; one of my favorite oddball sets, and card #8 is from my Mets. It’s kismet, I tell ya!

Here’s the back, which apparently shows Nellie Fox rather than Roy McMillan.

1966 Topps Batman “Black Bat” #8 – Into The Batmobile
A couple of years ago I chased down the “Batman vs. The Joker” subset from the Black Bat set, and lately I’ve been feeling the urge to get back to it.  Hmmm, maybe I should check out the “Batman vs. The Penguin” cards…

1979 Kellogg’s #8 – Pat Zachry
It’s funny to look back at it now, but when I was a kid in the 1970’s, I dismissed Kellogg’s cards as mere tchotchkes and Hostess cards as Topps wannabes.  Now I am making up for those missed opportunities.

2015 Upper Deck Dinosaurs #8 – Allosaurus
This is such a great-looking card that I wanted to include it when I searched my database for cards numbered 8.

I only have a few cards from this set, but if it had come out when I was a kid, I probably would be writing a card-by-card blog about it today.

1979 TCMA Japanese Baseball #8 – Koji Yamamoto
This was my first set featuring Japanese baseball players. This set contributed to my lifelong interest in baseball across the Pacific, and these cards indirectly lead me to read books like “You Gotta Have Wa” by Robert Whiting.

Koji Yamamoto is a Japanese HOFer, helped the Hiroshima Carp win 3 championships, hit 40 homers in five straight seasons, is among the career HR leaders in NPB, and I came to find out that he wore #8 for the Carp.

1980 Topps “Super” (5×7) #8 – Lee Mazzilli
This set was my first exposure to oversized cards, my favorite type of oddball. This Lee Mazzilli card has been featured in this blog a number of times.

1999 Fleer Tradition #8 – Cal Ripken
It seems appropriate to wrap things up with card #8 for Number 8 himself, Cal Ripken, especially when it’s a nice card like this. I miss Fleer, and if this card and this design came out tomorrow as a sample from 2020 Stadium Club, don’t tell me you wouldn’t all be gushing over it.

ADDENDUM

These cards were “runners-up” in this post, but I wanted to feature them anyway.

I have a number of hobby regrets, but one purchase that always falls into my “Boy, am I glad I got that!” category is the 1974-75 O-Pee-Chee WHA set. This is one of my favorite hockey sets – I really need to write a post or three about it – but card #8 turned out to be one of the less-interesting cards. Oh, well.

1974 Topps #8 – George Theodore
This was the first set I collected, and George “The Stork” Theodore was one of those players that 9-year-old me latched on to… little did I know that his Major League career was nearly over.

FWIW, in taking this card out to scan I realized it badly needs upgrading.

1976 Topps #8 – Tito Fuentes
Tito always seemed to have appealing cards when I was a kid. The headband didn’t hurt. I’m thinking I might have to chase after the two Tito cards I don’t already have…

…And so, in a post which is supposed to be about the number eight, I overreached and ended up with eleven. That’s pretty much par for the course.


OH!  At the last minute I remembered that I wanted to include a Sesame Street “Eight” video. I was shooting for “Eight! Eight! Eight! Eight! Let’s sing a song of eight!”, but couldn’t find it.

However, Paul Benedict’s “Mad Painter” is not at all a bad substitute. FYI, these shorts were made before Benedict gained some fame as Mr. Bentley on “The Jeffersons”.

English Cards Acquired For Pop Culture Reasons

in my last “go ’round” on COMC I went a little crazy with looking for and buying various cards from England… Most of these cards were cards of Footballers (i.e. soccer players), but I also got three cards for reasons which are all tied to TV shows I’ve enjoyed at various times.

Back when I was a kid, I always loved watching The Huckleberry Hound Show… although I watched it a few years after the show’s heyday.  While a Huckleberry Hound short was the centerpiece of the show, there were also other characters in their own shorts, including Pixie and Dixie and Mr. Jinks.

I recently found out that there was a set put out in 1961 by Barratt & Co, and the set featured the various Huckleberry Hound Show characters in different situations, and I was drawn to this odd one featuring Mister Jinks on a soccer pitch talking to Pixie – At least I’m pretty sure it’s Pixie and not Dixie – while giving up an easy goal

The back says that the Huckleberry Hound Football Club is “having a very bad season” because Jinks spends too much time gossiping rather than keeping the ball out of the goal. Okey-dokey….

Next up is a 1934 Player’s Cigarettes card of cricketer Leslie Ames, who Wikipedia describes as “one of the greatest wicket-keeper-batsmen of all time”. But that’s not why I got this card.  No, not me. I’ve spent too much of my life watching British TV to get a card like this for an obvious reason.

While I *was* looking to get some Cricketer cards, I saw Leslie Ames and wondered where I knew the name from… and then I remembered that it was used as a reference in a sketch on Monty Python’s Flying Circus. In the “Killer Sheep” sketch, Graham Chapman is a rat catcher who initially introduces himself as “Leslie Ames, chairman of the Test Selection Committee” and informed the occupants that their flat had been selected as the venue for the Third Test against the West Indies. It wasn’t until I saw this card that I realized that Leslie Ames was a real person.

Here’s the back.  I’m not one to pick up cards just because they’re old, but it is pretty cool to own a card that’s 85 years old.

One last card, also a Monty Python reference. If you’re not a Monty Python fan, you may as well move along because you’re not going to understand the appeal of this next card…

…because it’s all about How To Recognize Different Types Of Trees From Quite A Long Way Away.

Number one… The Larch.

The Larch.

THE LARCH.

This card comes from the 1966 Brooke Bond Tea “Trees In Britain” set.  To most, the idea of a card set featuring 50 types of trees wouldn’t spark much interest, but I immediately had to look to see if they had the larch… because it amused me, and because I also have a similar card featuring Lupins (“What, d’ye mean the FLOWER ‘Lupin’?”)

If you don’t know what I’m on about, it really wouldn’t be worthwhile explaining it.  Trust me on this one.

Here’s the back of the card.

…And now…

Number One…

The Larch.

The Larch. THE LARCH.

Football And Fortnite: Retail Blood Pressure Therapy

So there was this political conversation going on at work that I couldn’t help but overhear. I generally don’t get into politics at work (or here, for that matter), but the conversation was along the lines of “WE are unfailingly right about everything and THEY are unquestionably wrong about everything”. I consider myself to be somewhere in between “us” and “them”, but I’ve known the main person in the conversation for years and he would probably categorize anybody who’s not fully “us” as being “them”.  I don’t like to be painted with that broad of a brush… I don’t like ANY groups of people to be painted with that broad of a brush.

Anyway, I could feel my blood pressure going up, but it was fortunately close enough to lunchtime that I was able to flee the discussion and my office.  I went to a big box retailer hoping to find some Heritage High Numbers, but I was out of luck. Since I was looking for a significant distraction, I decided to treat the card aisle as a buffet and sampled a pack each of several sets which were new to me.

First I grabbed a pack of 2019 Donruss Football.  i’d expected the design to be basically the same as 2019 Donruss Baseball, only Football is fully licensed and can go wild with things like team colors and logos.  Oooooooh.

2019 Donruss Football, as is often the case, does look better than 2019 Donruss Baseball. FWIW, the name and position are in silver foil.

I’ve noticed on football cards from the past few years that the players tend to get lost in the crowd background.  I wonder if there’s some differing techniques that the photographer and/or Panini are using (or are not using) that makes the difference, or if crowds just dress more colorfully than they used to.

I also pulled a card of Joe Willie Namath.  As they say in the land of my upbringing, that and $2.75 will getcha on the subway.

Nothing much else to say about Donruss Football, so I’ll move on to the second pack, 2019 Score Football.  The Panini-era Score football cards that I’ve seen have been largely-forgettable 21st century designs, which is why I was surprised that these cards were a 30th anniversary homage to 1989 Score Football.

Like with Donruss “Retro”, these cards are more homage than an attempt to duplicate the originals.  For starters, the originals had a colored border which matched the box at the bottom of the card… Well, here, check out my 1989 Score Flutie:

1989 Score is not a great design to start with, so I’m not going to fault Panini for making changes.  It falls into the category of “It’s fine” and we all move on.

Because it’s slightly more interesting than your typical Panini card back, here’s the 2019 Score back:

These are closer to the originals than the front, with the main difference being that the originals featured a *different* photo on the back… but for $1.99 a pack I guess I won’t kick about that.

The rookies in Score are more along the lines of what I’d expect from 21st Century Score… and there’s no mention of which NFL team owns the rights to said rookies.

Trayveon Williams is with the Cincinnati Bengals, in case you were wondering. I understand that this is probably done so they can get the cards to market sooner, but it’s a pain for team collectors who can’t easily tell which rookie is *their* rookie.

Wrapping up the Score pack with the one keeper for this Steelers fan:

An “All-Hands Team” insert of Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva… The card is shiny and not bad looking, but to me “All-Hands” conjures up images of… um… something else.

I also dropped another $0.99 on a pack of Panini Football stickers.  Nothing much to say about the stickers, the stickers are stickers.

…But there was a surprise: along with all of the stickers, there was a card!

It’s on thin cardstock and just your run of the mill throwaway Panini design, but it just caught me off guard because I’d never seen anything other than stickers in a Panini sticker pack.

I should mention that the card is standard-sized, and the stickers are your typical sticker size.

One more impulse buy was involved, and despite it being something I would normally have zero interest in, it ended up being my favorite (relatively speaking) pack of the bunch.

I’m talking about a pack of Panini Fortnite Series 1 cards. Full disclosure: I’m not a gamer and have not so much as seen Fortnite being played.  Some of the preview images I’d seen spoke to me on some level, so I figured I’d spring for a pack. It’s not that different than my buying NBA Hoops cards at the dollar store; I have about as much interest in basketball as I do in video games (not much), I’m just curious about them as cards.

Even though the characters mean nothing to me, I have to say I kinda like these cards…  Well, some of the cards.  I can do without the cards that – I imagine – show gameplay “action”.

Here’s a more interesting card, front and back:

I dunno, there’s something appealing about these cards. Colorful, simple, appealing.. Although I’ll admit that I don’t know how much of the colorful, simple, appealing design is Panini and how much of that is Fortnite.

…and look at the size of that card number! No squinting at these babies!

Here’s another one I kinda liked.

The highlight – kind of – of the pack was this foil parallel of… a lamp.

The back of the card lists it under the category of “Harvesting Tool”, so it clearly has some significance within the game… but this card amuses the heck out of me because a shiny parallel of a floor lamp is something which just out-Ginters Ginter. Take that, Egg!

So, to wrap up all of this… I don’t see myself buying a second pack of any of these, but if I ran across a dime box which had Fortnite cards, I’d poke through them to see what they had.

Does anybody else have any experience with these cards?  I’m curious to hear your take!

The Ministry Of Silly Numbering

As I’d mentioned in my prior post about the 1995 Cornerstone Communications Inc. Monty Python’s Flying Circus card set, there are several instances of card numbering that will give some people fits (and likely intentionally so).

For starters, there is NO card #6 (as is made clear on card #7)

Which is a reference to the “Bruces” sketch:

There are also two cards numbered 43.  The checklist shows card #27 as being “sketch: lumberjack”, and there is a card that fits that description…

…but it’s got #43 on the back, not #27.  There’s another card (which I didn’t scan, nor did I scan the backs of either or the checklists… bloody amateur, right?) that is also #43.  One must be careful when collecting this set from scratch.

Finally, there’s the matter of card #5… or perhaps one would say card fives…  or cards five?

Anyway, there are three different cards which each have this front:

but each has a different back.

The three different cards with the same front echoes the “How to recognize different types of trees from quite a long way away” sketch, part of which is here.

As for the backs, I’ll go through them in an order of my chosing; one card is definitely the third, but the other two could be first or second, it really doesn’t matter.

One back for card #5:

Conrad Poohs and his Dancing Teeth is the first one I’ll mention.

This really doesn’t work as a card unless you already know Conrad Poohs… and at any rate that “you have to know the source material” concept is true of most of this set.

For those who aren’t familiar and are reading this anyway (and God bless you for that), here’s a version of that Terry Gilliam animation;  this clip has a German voiceover because this particular clip is from one of two episodes Python did for German Television…

Another back for card #5:
This back is part of a “link” between sketches:

Here’s the text (corrected for accuracy) should you be reading this on a  phone or other small screen:

“Well, I object to all this sex on the television…  I mean, I keep falling off!”

This joke was Britain’s entry for this year’s Rubber Mac of Zurich award.

It lost.

This joke worked a lot better (relatively speaking) back at the time, as television sets were usually housed in large wooden cabinets and were essentially pieces of furniture.

Interestingly enough, the card *actually* says “I object to all this sex on television” instead of the correct “on the television”… this pretty much ruins the joke, but I don’t know how funny you’d think it was if you only knew it from the card, anyway.  It’s also interesting that the original concluded with “It came last”, while the card says “It lost”.

Oh, and as long as I’m being overly analytical, I’ll just mention that a “mac” – short for mackintosh – is a raincoat.  Some well-known songs which use the word mac in this sense:
“And the banker never wears a mac in the pouring rain – very strange” – Penny Lane, The Beatles

“The man in the mac said you’ve gotta go back, you know they didn’t even give us a chance” – The Ballad Of John And Yoko, The Beatles

“Saw Johnny Scarecrow make his rounds in his jet-black mac, which he won’t give back… stole it from a snowman” – Mother Goose, Jethro Tull

Well, that’s enough of that.  On to…

The most decidedly final back for card #5:

As is often the case on Python when things get silly, Graham Chapman’s Colonel will come out to set things right.

I couldn’t find a suitable video clip of this, but I’ve transcribed for your ease of reading:

Right. Now, nobody likes a good laugh more than I do… except perhaps my wife… and some of her friends… Oh, yes, and Captain Johnson.  Come to think of it, most people like a good laugh more than I do, but that’s beside the point. If there is one more card number 5, I shall come down on this set like a ton of bricks!  Carry on.


That covers the numbering quirks of this set in overly-much depth. It’s funny in retrospect; leaving out numbers and duplicating numbers was intentional anarchy at the time, but since this set came out we’ve had card numbers left out because Topps “retired” #7 within a few sets as a “tribute” (feh!) to Mickey Mantle… and are duplicated numbers really all that different than the short-printed variations we’re all chasing?

As is all too often the case, what was satirical in the past becomes ordinary life in the present.

And with that I’ll end this particular chapter of my 1995 CCI Monty Python’s Flying Circus overview… but I do have more thoughts on card numbering which I’ll address in a future post (hopefully the next post if I can get it finished).

NNNNNOBODY EXPECTS MONTY PYTHON TRADING CARDS!

It was in the 1970’s that I, an impressionable middle school student, was first exposed to Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Before that, my only real exposure to British humor was the Beatles movie “Help!” (which was, and remains, a favorite of mine). Right from the start, I was completely taken in by Monty Python’s subversive and utterly silly humor, even though I couldn’t always understand the accents, references and Britishisms.

I’ve known a lot of Monty Python fans over the years, and I have, of course, known a lot of card collectors, but even when those two groups cross over I’ve found that there aren’t many people who realize that there were Monty Python cards in the 1990’s.

Back in 1994, when Monty Python’s Flying Circus was celebrating their 25th anniversary – the show first aired on the BBC in 1969 – a company called Cornerstone Communications, Inc. planned on putting out a series of sets of Monty Python’s Flying Circus trading cards.  The initial series was devoted to the TV series and referred to as either “Act I” or “Series 1”, which implies that they had at least hoped for a second series.  There were also promo cards for sets devoted to “Monty Python And The Holy Grail” and “Monty Python’s Life Of Brian”.  There was a Grail set a year or two later – I wrote about some of the cards here – but there wasn’t, as far as I know, a Life Of Brian set.

ANYWAY…

MPFC Series 1 was planned for a 1994 release – there were promo cards which touted November, 1994 as a release date – but the set did not come out until 1995.

Here’s a promotional image I found out on the webs:

There’s a 82-card base set (numbered to #81) plus some insert sets. The numbering of the base set is intentionally (and possibly unintentionally) off in a few spots – card #27 is misnumbered as #43 (so there’s no #27 and two of #43), there are three different #5’s (same front, three different backs), and there’s no card #6, which is made clear on the back of card #7.

In other words, the set was designed to drive even mildly compulsive collectors up the wall.

What follows is a very broad overview of the set;  I’m currently planning to do some follow-up posts on the inserts and some of the quirks of the set, so unless this post is greeted with crickets, then you’ll be seeing more about this set.

Material for the set came from promotional photos, screen captures from the video, and also from the two books Python put out in the early 1970’s.

Some of the cards don’t need a lot of explanation if you’re a Python fan; indeed, this set pretty much assumes that you will know what’s on each card, because there’s very little exposition involved.


Some of the cards come with script excerpts on the back (I know this probably isn’t easy to read on a phone or tablet):

There are cards devoted to particular characters…

…And cards devoted to recurring jokes, such as the “It’s” guy.

There are some notable sketches and characters missing from these, but I am going to assume that they held some back for a potential second series. I personally would’ve loved to have had a series of “Election Night Special” cards featuring the candidates from the Silly Party, Sensible Party and even the Very Silly Party. Who wouldn’t love a card of Tarquin Fin Tin Lin Bin Wim Bim Lim Bim Bus Stop F’tang F’tang Ole Biscuitbarrell?

As for the inserts, regular readers of this blog will be familiar with the “Dead Parrot” card from the foil insert set.

There are Biography inserts which feature each of the 6 cast members plus Carol Cleveland who became something of an Honorary Python (or perhaps “the 7th Python”) after her many appearances on the show and in the movies.

On top of the Foil and Biography inserts, there are also “Trivia” inserts (with text on the back which isn’t always “trivia” in the true sense), “Scratch And Listen” inserts which would provide a phone number under a scratch-off area, and the aptly-named “Official Monty Python’s Flying Circus Be-a-World-Famous-Animator-in-the-Privacy-of-Your-Own-Home Kit” insert.

And so, to wrap up…

I feel like I should make it clear that this isn’t the greatest bit of Python merchandise around, there are more than a couple of cards which don’t work.  The Argument Clinic sketch, for example, doesn’t make for great cardboard…

(Oh, yes it does.  Oh, no it doesn’t.  It does!  It doesn’t!  Does! Doesn’t!  Oh, look, this isn’t an argument!)

And an entire subset is given to what I think is easily the worst episode of Python, the first episode of Season 4, “The Golden Age Of Ballooning”.

But the people at CCI did do a nice job of ending the set with a series of card backs devoted to The Spanish Inquisition.  Now everybody join with Carol Cleveland in saying…


Oh!  I wasn’t expecting the Spanish Inquisition!

THE END