Saturday, May 5, 2018

1986-1988 Jiffy Pop MSA Discs

INTRODUCTION TO THE SET
What's more American than popcorn? The answer is, "not very much." Popcorn and its close relative sweet corn/maize were staples in the Americas at least 3500 years before Julius Caesar roamed around Europe. Coming up with easier ways to make it and inventive ways to sell it filled American minds in the last half of the 19th Century. Then, its combination with peanuts and molasses became enshrined in baseball's most famous song -- "Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack."

Unpopped popcorn for home consumption begins to be sold in the mid-1910s. Its cheapness during the Depression -- where a 10-cent tin of popcorn made enough to feed a family -- helped its popularity. Sugar rationing during World War II accentuated popcorn's rise, with consumption tripling between 1941 to 1945. In the decade after World War II, though, popcorn lost its luster for a while until promotions tying its making and eating to watching TV helped sales again.

By the late 1950s, two competing companies both came to market with their solutions to help families make popcorn more easily through disposable devices. The first to reach market was E-Z Pop Popcorn, owned by Taylor-Reed Corporation, and it was soon followed by our heroes at Jiffy Pop, owned by American Home Products Corporation. Both companies had a product that was to be placed over a heated stove or fire and contained unpopped corn and a frying fat in a package that would expand to contain the pressure and volume change of the popped corn.

So, of course, the next development was the Taylor-Reed Corporation calling its lawyers to sue for patent infringement. Taylor-Reed won on the trial level, convincing the judge that these two products were sufficiently close such that Taylor-Reed's patent -- which was first in time -- was infringed and AHPC's patent was invalid.

However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit disagreed with this assessment. Why? Because AHPC's patent included foil packaged in a spiral foil pouch rather than Taylor-Reed's compressed "button" arrangement -- "the concave form of the bowl cover to conform to the configuration of the vessel so that it would expand from its depressed form into a convex shape" -- was an improvement on the design. In short, the product itself could not be patented, and the packaging was different enough such that the two patents could coexist without infringing on the other. By the mid-1970s, Taylor-Reed has ceased to exist (after its name partners retired) and Jiffy Pop seemingly had won the home popcorn-making race.

Yet, Jiffy Pop soon lost that race. By 1983, food companies started taking advantage of advances in technology in how America cooked its food. With the rise of the microwave oven in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it was only a matter of time before microwave popcorn replaced Jiffy Pop and purchasing unpopped jars of popcorn kernels as America's favorite popcorn-making method.

For its part, AHPC spun off its foods division into the ambitiously named International Home Foods in 1996, and moved Jiffy Pop into that company. Four years later, ConAgra purchased IHF and, with it, Jiffy Pop. You can still buy Jiffy Pop in its tinfoil pan at Walmart today, if you miss burning your hands on that wire handle.

EXEMPLARS
1986 MSA Promo Discs


1986 Discs

1987

1988
DETAILS
Over three years, MSA and Jiffy Pop issued a total of four sets -- two nearly identical sets in 1986 and one set each in 1987 and 1988. In 1986, MSA used the Jiffy Pop disc fronts as a promotional card, so the sets include the same players on the front of the cards but with their promotional literature on the back. As the 2011 Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards fills us in, the promo set was printed as a 20-card set for MSA's use at a restaurant and food trade show to hand out to attendees.

To be fair, these promos must have been reasonably successful in light of the fact that, in 1986 alone, disc sets were issued for potato chip makers Cain's (Detroit Tigers), Jays (Brewers, White Sox, Cubs), KAS (St. Louis Cardinals), and Kitty Clover (Kansas City Royals) and for non-disc sets from Dorman's Cheese, Keller's Butter (Philadelphia Phillies), Meadow Gold Milk (for both a photo and sketch set), and Burger King. A little marketing goes a long way, apparently.

As for the discs that accompanied the popcorn, they were packaged one per Jiffy Pop package underneath the cardboard top and on top of the aluminum foil package. In other words, if you made the popcorn, you could not miss the disc. Mark Hoyle was kind enough to give the inspiration for this post through providing me this photo of the packaging from 1988 that had Red Sox star Roger Clemens on it:


As that package notes, the complete 20-disc set was available simply by sending three UPC proofs of purchase with $1.50 through a mail-in offer. The Standard Catalog provides a bit more detail. The set available through the mail-in offer came in the form of an uncut sheet measuring 16-1/4"x14" (1987) or 16"x14-1/2" (1988). This photo is from an eBay auction and shows you the front of the sheet from 1988:


The Standard Catalog also states that the 1986 version of the Jiffy Pop discs is "one of the scarcer 1986 regionals" and makes no mention of a mail-in offer. This is probably why it is scarcer. Both the 1987 and 1988 sets were available as sheets. Some people have cut these sheets up and are selling them on eBay as "unpunched Square Proofs," for what that is worth.

HALL OF FAMERS

1986 (Promos & Base): Jim Rice, Wade Boggs, George Brett, Robin Yount, Dave Winfield, Reggie Jackson, Cal Ripken Jr., Eddie Murray, Ryne Sandberg, Nolan Ryan, Mike Schmidt, Gary Carter.

1987: Sandberg, Jack Morris, Brett, Ozzie Smith, Ripken, Rickey Henderson, Schmidt, Rice, Boggs

1988: Boggs, Carter, Andre Dawson, Paul Molitor, Murray, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, Winfield, Yount

ERRORS/VARIATIONS
Other than the Promo parallel set from 1986, the Trading Card Database does not have any variations listed for any of the players in any of these sets.

MY TAKE
Jiffy Pop drove its competition out of business in the late 1960s and early 1970s and was the make-at-home prepackaged popcorn for the 1970s. That said, when I was a kid, we did not buy a lot of Jiffy Pop popcorn in my house. We grew our own popcorn and had enough from one harvest to last us for years and years. I mean, I think we were making popcorn in 1988 that had been grown at least 5 to 8 years earlier and it was still good and popped without a problem.

That said, I can recall perhaps one or two times in my entire life that we bought a Jiffy Pop pan and made the popcorn. If I recall correctly, well, it was popcorn. Nothing special. Part of me wants to buy a pan today and make it to see if it tastes any differently or better than microwave popcorn, but that is a very small part of me.

I'm a sucker for these disc sets for some reason, even though they are difficult to display/store easily thanks to being round and slightly wider than a standard-sized baseball card. They are great for the player collector as a neat oddball to add to a collection, even if they do not have logos on the hats.

I still think Panini should go down this path to maximize its MLBPA license rather than trying to make sets to compete with Topps and issue regular cards in boxes. It would increase Panini's hipster-coolness level to 11 in the collector industry. Then again, it wouldn't foreclose competing with Topps if that's what Panini wants. But, Panini doesn't think that way, apparently.

If you go on eBay to buy these, you will find a lot of individual discs available for sale. Don't fall for the "individual square proof versions" -- even the perforated ones -- that are overpriced at $24.99 plus $2.99 shipping. These discs are not so rare that you can't find them priced reasonably, even as individual player discs. The sets are harder to find, and the promo discs are not easy to find at all -- even if Jiffy Pop is still relatively available at any Kroger or Walmart grocery store.

Friday, April 6, 2018

1986 Jays Potato Chip Discs

INTRODUCTION TO THE SET

The company known as Jays Foods, Inc. started life basically as a food truck. In 1927, Leonard Japp, Sr. started selling pretzels around the City of Chicago. As the Made In Chicago Museum website notes, Japp's company began to satisfy the hungry drunkards coming out of the speakeasies in Prohibition-era Chicago. As Leonard recounted in 1985 to the Chicago Tribune, he and friend George Gavora saw an opportunity to make money by buying an old truck to drive around and sell smokes, pretzels, nuts, and sandwich ingredients to folks leaving the bars. But, as Leonard said, "[p]retty soon, they started asking for potato chips. I didn't know anything about potato chips."

Purportedly, none other than Al Capone came back from a trip to the birthplace of potato chips in Saratoga Springs, New York, and personally asked Japp to start selling potato chips. Japp and Gavora made thousands of dollars by catering to this crowd -- expanding their business to fifteen trucks. Japp called the chips "Mrs. Japp's Chips" to give his wife the credit, apparently. But, as was the case for many around that time, when the banks failed during the Great Depression, the company's money went with them.

It took a bit of time, but Japp reemerged from the abyss in 1938, teaming with a Kraft Foods salesman named George Johnson to create a new company called Special Foods Company. Special Foods sold a number of items -- even dog food -- but again the company turned to potato chips for success. The secret formula for Japp was to deep fry his potato chips in corn oil rather than lard, which at the time was revolutionary.


Thus, Mrs. Japp's Chips came back for at least a little while -- until December 7, 1941, when having chips called "Mrs. Japp's Chips" became a liability in the United States. As he told the Tribune, "We wanted 'Jax', but it was taken by a brewing company. 'Jays' was available. It took a couple of weeks, but we started putting tags on plain bags with the Jays name on it." Jays was very successful.

In 1945, Japp bought out Johnson. Production moved to a large plant on 99th and Cottage Grove in Chicago, right across the street from Chicago State University and right next to I-94 on the south side of Chicago. Japp ran the day-to-day operations from that point on. He was the epitome of a benevolent dictator but with a kind heart -- knowing everyone's name who worked in the plant for any reasonable length of time (a year or more according to one employee). The company provided free lunch to all of its employees and served up lunches to the multitudes of school tours coming through the plant.

Japp ran the company and owned Midwestern potato-chip palates through the 1980s. His wife Eugenia passed away in 1983, and that made Leonard decide to sell off his company. In 1986, Borden Inc. bought the company from Japp and ran it in a meandering fashion for the next eight years until the Japps bought it back in 1994.

Things seemed to be running in a storybook fashion, but within 6 years the company was in turmoil. In October of 1999, Leonard Japp Jr. -- the founder's son -- suffered an aneurysm and died at the age of 67. His son, Leonard III, passed away from a heart attack at the age of only 40 years old in the spring of 2000. Poor old Leonard Sr. had to be devastated, and he died at the age of 96 in August of 2000.

By 2004, the Japp family sold off the company, and by 2007, the company had been bankrupted. Snyder's of Hanover purchased the intellectual property rights to the Jays brand name and its other brands (such as O-Ke-Doke Cheese Popcorn and Krunchers! Kettle and corn chips), thus keeping a midwestern institution on store shelves to the present day.

EXEMPLARS




DETAILS

In 1986 under Borden's watch, Jays teamed up with Michael Schecter Associates to issue a set of discs featuring players from three teams in the heart of Jays territory -- the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, and the Milwaukee Brewers. Twenty discs were issued, all licensed by the MLB Players Association but not by MLB.

If I am recalling correctly from 32 years ago, the cards/discs came one to a box from Jays. Yes, box:


The discs measure 2-7/8" in diameter. According to the 2011 Standard Catalog, MSA did a number of disc sets for inclusion with potato chips around the country. But, this set apparently was the scarcest of the type, which included Kitty Clove issuing Kansas City Royals discs and KAS issuing St. Louis Cardinals discs.

This set included 20 total discs, comprised of seven Cubs (Jody Davis, Bob Dernier, Shawon Dunston, Keith Moreland, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, and Rick Sutcliffe), seven White Sox (Harold Baines, Rich Dotson, Carlton Fisk, Ozzie Guillen, Ron Kittle, Tom Seaver, and Greg Walker), and six Milwaukee Brewers (Cecil Cooper, Jim Gantner, Ted Higuera, Paul Molitor, Ernest Riles, and Robin Yount).

HALL OF FAMERS

Out of the 20 discs, five feature Hall of Famers -- Ryne Sandberg, Carlton Fisk, Tom Seaver, Robin Yount, and Paul Molitor.

Personally, I think Lee Smith should be in the Hall, both because he deserves it and so as to even out this set and have two Hall of Famers from each of the three teams.

ERRORS/VARIATIONS

Not a single one, according to the Trading Card Database.

MY TAKE

This set resides in a warm place in my heart. It never seemed that difficult to find for me since I lived in the Milwaukee area and those Jays Potato Chips were ubiquitous. Man, were they good too. They put Lay's and all the other potato chips to shame back in the 1980s.

These discs as a set were among the first things I found on eBay just after I got back into collecting in 2014. As much as any of these disc sets, I really loved this set as a kid. The biggest problem I had with them is their width -- too wide to slide into a normal 9-pocket sheet, they just don't fit well in any of the standard-sized sheets available.

I got this set off eBay in 2014 for about $5 shipped. Surprisingly to me, the set is not available currently there. All I can find are singles, mostly from COMC, and a bunch of Jays potato chips tins (improperly listed as "advertising tins"....hey guys, the chips actually came inside those tins!). So, if you find this set reasonably priced, you might want to snap it up and resell it.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

1952, 1953, 1983, and 1984 Mother's Cookies

INTRODUCTION

When I finished the post last weekend on Mother's Cookies cards, it felt undone. I had not truly done justice to the dozens of sets that Mother's Cookies issued. So, I thought I would dig in deeper and highlight each of the Mother's Cookies sets. Since I covered all the sets from 1952 to 1998, I am going to do the same here as best I can.

In talking about these sets and in particular the first two sets, a bit of background for those unfamiliar with the PCL is in order.

Pretty much from the beginning of U.S. History, population in America has been shifting westward. By 1940, both Los Angeles and San Francisco had over 500,000 people (per the U.S. Census), putting them on par with the big cities back east.

Despite this, it took until 1958 for major league baseball to come to the West Coast -- with the St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Browns in 1952 being the furthest westward teams through 1953, when the Browns moved to Baltimore. The PCL even voted itself as the third major league in 1945, though the AL and NL did not think that the PCL's declaring itself a major league was enough. But, in 1952, the PCL was categorized as being an "Open" league -- a step up from Triple-A even.

Had two events or factors not taken place, the PCL very well might have become a third major league by the end of the 1950s. The first is obvious: when the Dodgers and Giants decided to usurp on the PCL's territory and pull up stakes from New York to take over in Los Angeles and San Francisco. This forced three major PCL teams -- the Los Angeles Angels, the Hollywood Stars, and the San Francisco Seals -- to leave their territory in the large cities and relocate to smaller markets (the Oakland Oaks had moved to Canada in 1956 already).

The second less obvious factor is that attendance in ballparks across the country was down due to the ability to watch games on television. While TV caused a decline for everyone, it especially hit the PCL since Californians displaced from other parts of the country could now stay home (or go to a bar) and watch their hometown team instead of supporting their local nine.

Who knows what might have happened had the PCL been able to stay together as an open, third major league. Many SABR publications concern the PCL, so if you have interest in knowing more, you should join SABR too. Remember kids: SABR is not just for stat geeks. It's a history organization first and foremost.

EXEMPLARS

1952 Pacific Coast League

1953 Pacific Coast League



1983 San Francisco Giants

1984 Oakland Athletics

1984 Houston Astros


1984 San Francisco Giants

1984 Seattle Mariners

1984 San Diego Padres

DETAILS

Let's talk a little bit more about each of these sets. Much of the information in this post comes from the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, 2011 edition (the last one that I own in paper form). Other information comes from Nick Vossbrink's SABR blog post, Nick's personal blog post on his first complete project relating to the Mother's Cookies set, and general recollections from Twitter from Nick, Steve Cornell, Tim Jenkins, and Bru. Finally, I also got some information from The Oddball Card Collector blog.

The 1952 and 1953 sets tell us both on the backs that they were distributed solely through the purchase of any Mother's Cookie product that cost over 5 cents. Turning to the Standard Catalog, we learn that these two sets are amongst the most popular regional minor league sets ever produced. The cards are slightly larger (2-13/16" x 3-1/2") than today's standard size (2.5" x 3.5"). The 1952 set has 64 cards in it, and the 1953 set has 63.

Even though the 1952 set has two members of the Hall of Fame in it in Joe Gordon and Mel Ott and despite the fact that five cards were scarce, the most popular card in the set is none other than one of the cards pictured above -- The Rifleman himself, Kevin Joseph Aloysius "Chuck" Connors, who also played in the NBA (he was 6'5" tall) for the Rochester Royals and Boston Celtics before playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers (1 game in 1949) and the Chicago Cubs (66 games in 1951). The 1953 set is far more mundane and has very few cards which carry any premium at all -- the most valuable in the set is probably that Lefty O'Doul card.

Fast forward to 1982. Mother's teams up with the Astros, the Dodgers, the Mariners, the A's, and the Giants for the first time. The Oddball Card Collector has some great promo sheets for retailers showing how Mother's was teaming up with each of these teams to give away team posters at games where fans could get into the game for half-price. These posters were all over the place. The Astros poster looks like someone dropped acid watching one of the "The More You Know" PSAs, showing a psychedelic Astro star rainbow with a random sliding Astro under it being called safe before reaching the bag. The Mariners had a poster showing a player posing with some huge pink mascot thing. The Dodgers poster is one Night Owl would love -- it's the celebration photo of Steve Howe jumping into Steve Yeager's arms after the final out of the 1981 World Series. Check out this video for the incredibly understated call of the final out by Keith Jackson. Finally, Giants and A's fans had to content themselves with getting team photos.

So, then comes 1983. Mother's dipped its corporate toe into the baseball card water by distributing a twenty-card set of San Francisco Giants. As the Standard Catalog notes, these cards were standard sized (2.5"x3.5") with rounded corners -- the format followed for the rest of the time the sets existed. The cards were given out at the Sunday, August 7, 1983 game between the Giants and the Astros (a game the Giants lost 2-1 to the Nolan Ryan-led Houston Astros in a brisk 2:04 game). Mother's hired on hobbyist and photographer Barry Colla to provide the photos. Notice that the cards do not appear to be licensed at all on the back -- I'm not even sure if they had any agreements with either MLB or the MLBPA for these cards, though I'm guessing the Giants signed off. As was the practice for the first years of the promotion, Mother's wanted kids to buy cookies. So, they gave out packs of 15 cards with a coupon good for five more cards that may or may not be the one that were needed.

This 1983 promotion must have been successful, because it lead to the expansion of the card sets both in size (expanding to 28 cards) and in the teams covered (adding the A's, the Astros, the Mariners, and the Padres). For each of the new teams, Mother's issued the current rosters for each team along with a card for the manager, the coaches, and a logo or stadium card and checklist. But, since the Giants were the hosts for the 1984 All-Star Game, Mother's issued a special 28-card set that featured drawings of former Giants all-stars. Fans were treated to cards of Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, and Orlando Cepeda alongside other less notable names like Chris Speier and Gary Lavelle.

For each of these sets in 1984, the teams held a stadium giveaway where attendees of all ages received twenty of the twenty-eight cards in the set along with a coupon to receive eight more cards by mail. As I mentioned in my initial post, Baseball Cards Magazine put the number of sets given out at the SGAs at 30,000 for San Francisco and Oakland, 25,000 in San Diego, and the first 20,000 in Seattle (without mentioning numbers for Houston).

Barry Colla took the photos for the Astros, Padres, and A's sets, while Mariners team photographer Corky Trewin was responsible for photographs in that set. Finally, the Director of Graphics and Photography for the Giants, Dennis Desprois, put together the Giants set by color-tinting black and white photos of the Giants players. A nice touch on these cards noted by Nick Vossbrink is that the team names are printed in the fonts used by the teams (except for the Giants, of course).

My next post will have less text and more photos, as much of the information regarding how the sets were distributed does not change for a few years.