Sunday, June 28, 2020

1982 Burger King Atlanta Braves Collector Lids


Burger King as a concept began in 1953 in Jacksonville, Florida. Keith Kramer and his wife's uncle Matthew Burns began the company as "Insta-Burger King," and soon after began franchising the concept. The key equipment for Kramer and Burns was the use of the Insta-Broiler, which became a part of the required package for franchisees. 

One of their franchisee groups was owned by James McLamore and David Edgerton. The two were alumni of Cornell University's renown School of Hotel Administration, and they were looking for a business to open. They'd visited the original McDonald's hamburger stand -- before the MacDonalds were bought out by Ray Kroc -- and thought that it was an idea they could replicate. They obtained a franchise from Kramer and Burns and opened up shop at 3090 NW 36th Street in Miami -- a spot which is now the home of a used car and title pawn lot. 

McLamore and Edgerton were wildly successful and opened multiple locations by the end of the 1950s in and around Miami. But, they ran into problems with the Insta-Broiler -- the beef patty drippings caused the heating elements underneath to rust and degrade, thereby requiring replacement. So, they came up with a solution that moved the patties over the flame on a metal conveyor belt in what they called the "flame broiler." 

Meanwhile, Kramer and Burns had expanded quickly but did not have their own corporate finances in place. By the end of the 1950s, their concept was in trouble. This led them to sell their company and the rights to issue franchises across the country to McLamore and Edgerton. The two renamed the company "Burger King of Miami," which eventually became the Burger King Corporation. The headquarters for Burger King is still in Miami -- located on the other side of Florida Highway 836 from Miami International Airport. 

The company grew to 274 restaurants nationwide by 1967. The problems that the company faced at the time are problems typical to franchises generally: lack of consistency across locations, an inability to maintain brand standards, an inability to be involved in sales of franchises to the next person (potentially leading to undercapitalized franchisees), and franchisees who were not contractually prevented from "going rogue" and adding menu items however they saw fit. Sensing an opportunity, the Pillsbury Company purchased the franchise system from McLamore and Edgerton for an estimated $18 million.

Pillsbury's ownership was wildly successful though bumpy. Pillsbury grasped control over the franchise relationship and imposed multiple new restrictions over new franchisees. Menus were locked down. New items were added -- including my favorite, the Original Chicken Sandwich, which tastes so good because it is comprised of chicken, breading, and salt (it has 1170 mg of salt -- just 78% of your recommended daily allowance of sodium!). Burger King even took on the 800-pound gorilla in the room by making direct attacks on McDonald's and its way of cooking burgers. All of this was under the leadership of Donald N. Smith (a former McDonald's executive) and Norman E. Brinker. 

Once Smith and Brinker left, however, Pillsbury started giving leeway back to the restaurant owners to operate more independently again. Profits stalled. In response to BK's declining valuation, British beverages giant Grand Metropolitan PLC (which later merged with Guinness to form Diageo in 1997) first tried to take over the company in a hostile takeover and, then, acquired it through an agreed sale in 1988 for $5.7 billion. Grand Metropolitan expanded worldwide and tapped into new markets like airports, on-campus university locations, and sports arenas. 

Once Diageo formed, however, BK seemingly got ignored by its corporate owners. Recognizing that alcohol was a more lucrative business for the company and was its core business, Diageo spun BK off and sold it to TPG Capital for $1.5 billion in 2002.  TPG modernized operations, changed up the trade dress to update it to a more modern look, and required remodeling or replacement of nearly all of BK's locations in North America to meet "brand standards." Beer was added to the menu in some US locations as well for the first time. TPG floated BK on the New York Stock Exchange as well. 

By 2010, TPG was looking for an exit strategy. In September 2010, TPG sold its 31% stake in the company to 3G Capital for $3.26 billion -- a massive return on TPG's investment over and above the money it made when BK went public. 3G pushed to expand BK locations in Brazil, Russia, India, and China, planning for more than 2500 new locations. Another addition to the BK offerings came in August 2014, when 3G purchased Canadian giant Tim Hortons. 



In 1982, no team in America was hotter than the Atlanta Braves. Managed by future HOF manager and former Brave Joe Torre, the team started off the year with a record-setting 13-game winning streak behind the pitching of Rick Mahler, Larry McWilliams, Gene Garber, and Rick Camp and the hitting of eventual 1982 MVP Dale Murphy. 

To commemorate the streak, Burger King teamed with the MLBPA for what appears to be a fully licensed set of 27 lids to accompany sodas -- or, as they would have been called in the local Atlanta-area Burger Kings, cokes (which is a generic term for any fizzy drink in Georgia, basically). As Beckett notes, these lids were intended for use with large cokes and specifically for a special collector's cup listing out the scores for the 13-game season-opening win streak. 

It appears that the lids simply used the photos that the Braves had on hand for each player for publicity shots. All the photos feature the players' heads poking out of their V-neck polyester Braves uniform. Next to the photo are basic stats from the strike-shortened 1981 season and the players' heights and weights. 

Apparently, the lids were distributed to local Burger King stores as complete sets. At least that is what this auction seems to imply by saying by selling the lids in the auction as a complete set "still wrapped in originals [sic] cellophane, torn on top." Does this mean that you got the complete set of lids just by purchasing a single large drink? That would seem to be unlikely and that, instead, the lids were provided to franchisees in sets and whatever lid happened to be on top is what you got.

As you can imagine, finding these lids in top shape is a challenge. This is, after all, a drink lid that was intended to be penetrated by a straw in a pre-perforated hole. Add in the fact that the lid is made of wax-covered paper inside a plastic ring, and you have a recipe for an item that would be very difficult to find intact.


Just one in Phil Niekro

Of the remaining players, Dale Murphy gets a lot of love from Braves fans in particular and fans of 1980s baseball generally. He never got above 23.2% or below 8.5% of the vote from the BBWAA during his 15 years on the HOF ballot despite the fact that his numbers match up relatively well on all of Bill James's HOF standards other than the "HOF Standards" board. Murphy's problem is one of a career without the "hanging on" stats. His WAR for his 7-year peak is 41.2 -- not far off the average CF's 7-year peak of 44.7. But, outside of his peak, Murphy's career war is just 46.5. Basically, Murphy's career was all peak and no filling. 

Perhaps if Murphy got to play the entire 1981 season to allow him to get over the 400-homer mark for his career (finished at 398), it might have made the difference. Or, if he didn't come up for election in the midst of the fully steroid inflated late 1990s, his numbers would have seemed more acceptable to voters. 

Still, if Murphy were inducted tomorrow, he'd be a better HOF member on his resume than a number of guys in now, including his contemporary Harold Baines, whose main recommendation over Murphy appears to be longevity (in the midst of the steroid era) over peak. 




My father-in-law has worked for and/or owned Burger King franchises for his entire working life -- since he was 14 years old, in fact. My greatest disappointment in him is the fact that he did not keep any of these lids or any other baseball-themed items from Burger King. 

Since I lived in Wisconsin at the time, I never heard of these lids until much later in my life. If I had lived in Atlanta at the time, well, I almost certainly would have been a Braves fan who really wanted these lids. 

As a Brewers fan in 1982, though, I was 100% rooting for the Braves to make it to the World Series. Many Milwaukeeans were. We wanted the "rematch" for the city of Milwaukee. Keep in mind, too, that the 1982 season was the 25th anniversary of the one and only World Series championship that the Milwaukee Braves had earned. The symmetry of Brewers versus Braves in the World Series for the 25th anniversary would have been excellent.

I was surprised to note that there were fairly significant parallels between the 1982 Braves and the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers. Both were very streaky teams that started out the season with 13-game winning streaks only to suffer double-digit losing streaks later in the year. 

The Brewers started out the 1987 season with a 20-3 record through May 2. Then, on May 3, the team started a twelve-game losing streak to go from 20-3 to 20-15 -- thereby becoming the first team in major league history to have winning and losing streaks exceeding twelve games each. 

The reason that the record had to be "exceeding twelve games each" is that the 1982 Braves weren't far off that. The Braves won 13 games to start the season -- culminating in a walkoff win against Cincinnati and Bob Shirley on April 21. Unlike the Brewers, though, the Braves waited until August to go on their epic losing streak. From August 3 through August 13, the Braves lost 11 straight games, including four games lost in walk-off fashion in extra innings (including 3 straight to the Dodgers on August 5-7). The Braves went from being 7 games ahead of the pack on August 2 to being 2.5 games out of first by August 13.

In terms of getting these lids, there seem to be a few lids floating around on eBay, with three complete sets ranging in price from $63 to $100. Those prices seem a bit exorbitant, but, as I said, these have to be pretty tough to find in good shape.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

1981-1982 Topps Squirt


Squirt brand soda came about in an effort to skimp on ingredient costs during the Great Depression. In the official "biography" for the soda taken from the Dr. Pepper legacy site before its merger with Keurig, the story is told about how, in 1938, a man named Herb Bishop started experimenting with a now-gone (as best I can tell) brand called "Citrus Club." 

Citrus Club was apparently popular in Phoenix. But, it being 1938 -- which saw a recession return in the midst of the recovery from the depths of the Depression -- people were trying to figure out ways to save money in manufacturing products. Bishop decided to reduce the amount of fruit juice and sugar in the product and increase the amount of soda water. This lead to a lighter, less sweet drink flavored with grapefruit. Bishop chose the name "Squirt" for this new drink.

In the 1940s, Bishop and business partner Ed Mehren created successful marketing campaigns around a cartoon character called "Little Squirt." By the 1950s and 1960s, Squirt became a popular drink mixer in bars. It also attracted imitators like Fresca, which debuted in 1966.

Imitation meant competition, and, to ensure that Squirt remained a viable product, competition led to consolidation in the 1970s. In 1977, regional bottler Brooks Products of Holland, Michigan, purchased the brand. Brooks later became known as Beverage America. Brooks started in 1936 in Michigan and started out with selling 7-UP bottled in beer bottles. Brooks's addition of Squirt was a major change -- putting Brooks in direct competition with Pepsi and Coke.

Under Brooks's ownership, Diet Squirt was created in the early 1980s as the first soft drink brand to use NutraSweet after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the use of the cheaper Cyclamate due to cancer concerns. 

This innovation led also to exploring different ways to get kids to buy their products -- like using baseball cards from Topps in the same way that its competitors Pepsi and Coca Cola had done in the 1970s with both licensed and unlicensed discs and cards.

In the 1990s, consolidation was again the name of the game. Select Beverages -- which was another independent soft drink bottler and distributor from the Chicago suburb of Darien -- and Beverage America were swallowed up in 1998 by Cadbury Schweppes PLC out of the UK. The transaction was funded by noted private investment company The Carlyle Group, which retained 60% ownership to Cadbury's 40% ownership. Then, in 2000, Cadbury Schweppes purchased RC Cola, Snapple, Mistic, and Stewart's from Triarc Companies. Finally, in 2006 and 2007, Cadbury snapped up its distribution chain by purchasing Dr Pepper/Seven Up Bottling Group.

That led to a spin off from Cadbury Schweppes as Dr Pepper Snapple Group. That company traded publicly on the New York Stock Exchange as DPS, while the rest of Cadbury remained a chocolate confectioner. 

Finally, on July 9, 2018, Keurig Green Mountain purchased Dr Pepper Snapple Group and merged the parts together. That new company -- which still owns Squirt -- is Keurig Dr Pepper and is based in Plano, Texas -- a Dallas suburb.

1981 Detached

Complete Panels

1982 Detached
1982 Single Card Panel

1982 Double Card Panel

Single Card Panel with Scratch-Off Game


Topps and Squirt teamed up on cards both in 1981 and 1982. In 1981, the set was comprised of 33 cards, while in 1982 it was scaled back to 22. 

I'm sure that making a set of 33 cards initially made sense to the folks at Topps. At the time, their card sets were printed on sheets of 132, so that would mean four sets per printed sheet, right? 

Someone forgot to figure out, however, that these cards would be issued two per panel draped on soda bottles in 6-packs. The math is not as neat when one tries to distribute an odd number of cards in sets of two. This led to a mishmash of double prints -- the first 11 cards in the set (including card three, Ben Oglivie, shown above) were all double printed. As a result, to obtain a true complete set of panels, one must purchase a total of twenty-two panels to get all thirty-three cards.

Oddly, according to Trading Card Database, four cards are short printed -- card 15 Eddie Murray, #26 Ron LeFlore, #27 Steve Kemp, and #28 Rickey Henderson. According to the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards (2011 edition), both Murray and LeFlore shared panels with Steve Garvey (who is still listed as double printed), while Kemp shared a panel with Reggie Jackson and Henderson shared with Bill Buckner. I'm not sure how these short prints really work in this set.

Design-wise for 1981, the photos of the players are small and inside a baseball on the ball's sweet spot. The front design echoes the team name font used on 1978 Topps (which also used the "position in a baseball" design feature used in both sets). The backs, of course, use exactly the same color scheme and text of the 1981 base set.

Where 1981's distribution weirdness came from issuing 33 cards in sets of two, 1982's three different ways of obtaining the cards stems from the contest that Squirt ran in conjunction with the cards. According to the 2011 Standard Catalog, "[c]ard panels come in four variations, with free grocery contest and scratch-off game cards taking one or two of the positions on the three-card panels." So, cards can be found either fully detached, on a single-card panel with a free grocery contest panel (which includes the perforations for the card to be jammed over the bottleneck) and a scratch-off game panel, or with two cards and either the contest panel or the scratch-off panel, I suppose. I don't have this set in complete form, so I'm not fully clear about how it works. 

The backs on the 1982 cards are the same design as the 1982 Topps base set. However, the set is printed on white card stock, leading to a yellow, black, and white card back that quite frankly is much easier to read and more attractive than the set on which the back is based.

Finally, Topps cribbed at least a few photos from other Topps sets for its Squirt set. For example, the Cecil Cooper photo on card #1 in 1982 is the same photo that Topps used on his 1980 Topps base set card. There are a few others that look close, but that one jumped out at me thanks to my knowing Cooper's cards so well.


Despite this ostensibly being an All-Star type set, less than half of the 1981 set are HOFers.

1981: George Brett, Reggie Jackson, Jim Rice, Mike Schmidt, Rod Carew, Eddie Murray, Don Sutton, Dave Winfield, Johnny Bench, Rickey Henderson

1982 improved on 1981 -- exactly half are HOFers.

1982: Brett, Alan Trammell, Jackson, Winfield, Carlton Fisk, Rollie Fingers, Schmidt, Andre Dawson, Gary Carter, Tom Seaver, Bruce Sutter


There are no errors listed for either set on Trading Card Database for this set. The Variations are essentially self-made as described above -- is the card perforated? Is it on a panel? Is it a 1981 with different panel mates for the first 11 cards? Is it a 1982 with the three/four types of panels available?


I don't ever recall seeing these in my local grocery stores in Wisconsin. I probably would have snatched them up, tried the soda, hated it, and tried to figure out a way to get the cards without having to drink the soda. One of the few things in life that I do not like to eat are grapefruits. 

For being regional sets issued 37 and 38 years ago, these cards appear to be fairly available on eBay. I got a complete set of the 1981 panels and all of its variations for under $10 about two years ago. There are multiple lots available for purchase for the 1981 set, and there are even more individual sets and lots available for 1982. In fact, I just bought a 1982 set of the individual panels for $5 thanks to an eBay coupon that saved me $4 (basically paid for shipping). 

If you don't have these sets already, do some scanning through the eBay auctions to find good deals. Be patient -- you shouldn't have to pay a bunch to pick up either of these sets in perfect condition.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

1986-1988 Jiffy Pop MSA Discs

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.

1986 MSA Promo Discs

1986 Discs


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.


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

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.

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


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.



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).


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.

Edit: Yup, Lee Smith made the Hall of Fame. But, the numbers still aren't even because Harold Baines also made the Hall. So, it's now 35% of this set that are Hall of Famers.


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


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


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.


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


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.