Saturday, February 27, 2010

The 1968 Coke Caps / Dexter Press promotion and Coke's connection to Free Agency

Coca-Cola ran a promotion in 1968 which once again featured baseball photos printed by Dexter Press that could be won by collecting player bottle caps as they had done in 1967, but on a smaller scale, both in terms of the number of teams involved as well as the photo size itself.

The 1968 photos are smaller than the 1967 photos, and are closer to post card size (3 1/2" x 5 1/2"):

The backs once again feature a player biography:

Here is a comparison between the 1967 card on the left and the 1968 card on the right to give an idea of the difference in size:

Whereas the 1967 promotion included all but 2 teams, the 1968 promotion was focused primarily on 6 teams which had 12 photos each:

The Astros:

Finally we see a Coke ad!

Its interesting to me that the Astros are included in this set given that at this time Topps was not allowed to use the Astros logo or name on its 1968 cards, and Fleer also had to leave the Astros out of their 1968 Team Emblem set. So why was Dexter Press able to print Astros cards for Coke?

The Braves:

The Giants:

The Orioles:

The Red Sox:

and the Twins:

In addition to these main teams, there were also a few other teams represented:

The Pirates had 2 cards (Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski)

The Angels had 1 card (Jim Fregosi)

The Phillies had 1 card (Dick Allen), and the Tigers had 1 card (Bill Freehan).

I have not been able to find any cap saver sheets for the 1968 set, so its not clear how the promotion was handled, especially in terms of the teams that only have 1 or 2 players represented. Perhaps they were part of a set that was available in markets that did not have specific team promotions.

The 1968 Coke caps are very similar to the 1967 Coke caps with the one difference being that the 1967 caps list the players position:

while the 1968 caps do not:

How the Coke caps are tied into Free Agency:

The other interesting thing about the promotion was that the player bottle caps do not feature logos for any team except the Dodgers:

yet the pictures that could be won by collecting caps did feature logos.

According to this post by Coke cap collecting expert Troy Kirk, on in discussing why the Cardinals are not in the 1967 Coke set:

"As to the Cardinals caps, I think Busch was the reason as others have stated. The caps were licensed by the players association only and not by the teams, that's why the team logos are not on the hats. This promotion helped fund the players association when it was getting started. Marvin Miller talks about the promotion in his book. The owners tried to torpedo the Coke promotion before it ever got started by not allowing logos on the caps, but Coke reluctantly agreed to do the caps without logos. Bowie Kuhn was the owners' lawyer who tried to torpedo the promotion.

Since the teams were not involved and it was only through the players, it seems like Busch wouldn't have a say in whether the Cardinal players were in the set. But I think the Cardinal players probably had something in their player contracts that they were not allowed to endorse other drink companies."

According to Roger Abrams in Legal Bases: Baseball and the Law, the Players Association only had $5,400 in 1966 when Marvin Miller took over as director. In order to raise funds for the union, Miller secured $66,000 by signing an agreement with Coca-Cola to put players’ pictures under their bottle caps.

So Coke's baseball cap promotion helped fund the players union when it was getting started! As the Players Association grew in power from this point, they ultimately were able to put an end of the reserve clause and launch the era of free agency, thanks in part to the deal that Marvin Miller worked out with Coca-Cola to get the union on its feet financially.

UPDATE: 2/2011

Cardboard Junkie has done a great post on the Sertoma Stars set which took the 1968 Dexter Press photos and turned them into business cards!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

1967 Dexter Press Photos and the 1967 Coke Caps Promotion

I was reading Uni Watch this past Sunday and was enjoying the feature "From The Taxman Collection" about the 1967 Dexter Press photos when I saw the following request: "Maybe our friends at the Fleer Sticker project would have a clue?"

With that request, the research team at The Fleer Sticker Project went into action. In case you are wondering what the 1967 Dexter Press photos are, here is an example from the Taxman's collection:

You can see the Taxman's collection of 1967 Dexter Press photos on Flickr.

In the Uni Watch post, The Taxman said "These were issued around 1967, and I am pretty certain I received the set as a promotional prize. My best recollection would be that we collected Coca-Cola bottle caps with player pictures in the liners — unless it was sending in cereal box tops or maybe even Kool-Aid packages. The back side of each photo referenced Dexter Press. Maybe our friends at the Fleer Sticker project would have a clue?"

I'm glad to report that The Fleer Sticker Project can provide the complete rundown, and confirm that the Taxman is correct that these photos were part of a Coca-Cola promotion, and that they are indeed from 1967.

In 1967 Coke ran a promotion with player photos on the underside of their bottle caps. There were actually 2 different promotions - 1 featured a set of All Star bottle caps as seen on this Brooks Robinson cap where he is identified as an All Star (and is cap # 3)

and another promotion that was team specific in each local market, as seen in this Brooks cap where he is identified as playing for the Orioles (and is cap # O10):

(this is actually the 1968 cap as the 1967 caps list the position to the right of the player)


Lets take a look at the All Star promotion first. Here is an ad for the All Star caps (click the picture to see a larger image):

If you collected the 35 All Star caps, you could receive prizes such as 6 photos, a baseball, or a cap. Here is a closer look at the prizes:

Since this indicates that one complete collection of 35 caps would get you a set of 6 autographed pictures, it must have taken 70 caps to get both sets for the total of 12 that comprise the full set of All Star pictures. The set that Taxman has posted is the All Star set.

The really interesting thing about this contest is that you didn't have to actually have the could draw the players onto the saver sheet and that would count!

To make things even easier, according to item # 3 you could get the full set of illustrations from your Coca-Cola Bottler!

The saver sheet contains drawings depicting players in action with spaces for their caps with numbers which correspond to the number on the cap. As we saw with the Brooks All-Star cap, he was #3, which matches up with the saver sheet:

Here is another example of one of the All Star photos featuring Roberto Clemente:

The backs of the All Star cards provide a short bio:

One thing that is interesting to note that is even though these were done as a Coca-Cola promotion, the cards do not have any type of Coke logo or advertising.

Team Sets:

Eighteen of the 20 teams in the league participated in the promotion. The only 2 teams that did not have a promotion were the Cardinals and the Angels.

The team saver sheets are almost identical to the All-Star ad, with the main difference being the players names listed on the saver sheet, and the prizes including a set of 12 photos instead of 6, and additional prizes such as game tickets.

Lets take a look at the Senators saver sheet from this ad:

The saver sheet has replaced the All Star players with Senators such as Ed Brinkman and Pete Richert:

The Senators prizes include a 12 card set of photos or a free ticket to a Senators game for a child 16 and under.

If you were to send in your full set of caps for the autographed pictures, this is what you would have received:

As with the All Star promotion, you needed to collect 35 caps. As the saver sheet shows, the first 18 caps are Senators caps, with the remaining 17 caps being American League All Stars.

Because each team saver sheet had 18 caps from the local team, the final 17 caps would be either American League or National League All Stars to make up the full set of 35 caps. This led to a 3rd cap variation for the All Star players who were included on the team saver sheets:

Here is Brooks Robinson again as cap # A21 which corresponds to # 21 on the saver sheet pictured above. The "A" presumably means American League.

So for some All Stars like Brooks, there are 3 cap variations - the All Star cap from the All Star saver sheet, the team saver sheet cap where they are identified as being on that particular team, and finally the AL or NL All Star cap that was also part of the team saver sheet promotion.

There are 2 exceptions to the 18 team caps / 17 All Star cap saver sheets - The Dodgers and Angels were combined for a 35 cap set and the Yankees and Mets also combined for a 35 cap set.

Speaking of the Angels, even though they had caps, as mentioned, they did not participate in the prize promotion and did not have any photos - except for 1. Photos were made up for Angel Paul Schall, supposedly as a favor to the player, but not distributed as part of the promotion.

In addition to ads like the ones I've shown, saver sheets were also available in stores such as this sheet for the Twins:

If you had completed this sheet, you would have been able to win this set of Twins photos:

Here is the Giants saver sheet:

along with the complete set of Giants photos:

Here is a look at a few more saver sheet ads I was able to find:




And here are 2 smaller ads which aren't saver sheets, but advertise the promotion for the Pirates:

and the Tigers:

The Dexter Press photos made a return in 1983 when sticker sets (featuring 16 players) were produced using the pictures from the set:

These are called Starliner stickers as that is the name that is on the backing of the stickers:

The stickers are much smaller than the originals (which were 5 1/2" x 7") and do not include the white border around the photo.

The stickers are sometimes misidentified as being Dexter Press photos.

To wrap up this look at the Dexter Press photos, I would first like to thank Paul Lukas from Uni Watch for being a big supporter of this blog as well as Phil from Uni Watch and The Taxman for thinking of the Fleer Sticker Project as a resource for a research question like this. It was a lot of fun researching this promotion as I was aware of the Dexter photos, but not with the connection to Coca Cola.

I'd like to finish up with this article on a collector who amassed 243 full collector sheets back in 1967!

For more information, including the story of how this promotion ties in to helping bring about the end of the reserve clause and the start of free agency, check out part 2 of this review in the look at the 1968 Coke / Dexter Press promotion.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Cito Gaston is morphing from a Brave into a Pirate right before our eyes!

I came across this negative that is currently up for auction on ebay from The Topps Vault and did a double take wondering what in the world was going on in this picture:

This is the negative that was used to create the 1979 Clarence (Cito) Gaston card:

The negative shows how the Topps artist airbrushed the picture to turn Cito from a Brave into a Pirate for his 1979 card.

What I really like about the negative is that they didn't airbrush the whole picture - they just did enough so that it could be cropped at the shoulders to make it look like Cito was wearing a Pirates uniform, leaving a very interesting and unique looking Pirates/Braves jersey combination on the original negative.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

2010 Topps Baseball Hat Logo Cards

I really like the Topps Baseball Hat Logo Cards that are inserts from 2010 Topps Baseball . I mean, whats not to like about this card:

We've got Reggie as an Oriole (which is a very rare sight) and a logo patch with the classic smiling cartoon bird against an orange background to replicate the cap that Reggie is wearing in the picture, which is the alternate cap the O's wore back in 1976 (and which I really wanted when I was a kid, and was never able to find).

After coming across this card, I was interested in seeing what other cards Topps had included in the set, and I must say they've done a fantastic job from the standpoint of releasing a wide variety of classic cap logo patches.

This evening I searched ebay to see what patches were available for each team, and here is what I found:




Blue Jays:




















Red Sox:






White Sox:


As you can see from the pictures, each card is limited to 99 serial numbered cards. For many of these patches, two or more players have the same patch, so the cards pictured here are just a sample of the players available.

Its nice to see that some thought and effort went into these cards. The fact that little details like having the patch match the cap in the picture is a nice thing to see.