I know what you're asking. Where the hell do you find this stuff? Truth is, I don't find it, Lamar at Sports Card Alley finds it. I've been buying stuff from Lamar for years and he always manages to scrounge up something interesting. Last weekend, I was paying for my Marcus Giles Sweet Spot auto when I spied a box full of 1989 Bazooka gum with a free baseball card inside. Somehow he managed to dig up a case of the things and was selling them for 50 cents each. Fifty cents for 20 year old gum (now with 14% MORE old gum!) and a card I could probably find in his nickel box? I'm in! Plus it's got Canseco on the front and I know a certain collector who might be interested. I grabbed a couple and it's time to open one of them. First though, attention must be paid to the back of the box.
The back has three advertising panels in bright primary colors. The middle one is the most important and is in bright eye catching yellow. Hey Kids! We know you just bought a big freakin' box of gum, but if your teeth don't all fall out, buy some more in individually wrapped pieces of a soft Bazooka pack for all you sissy kids who can't handle the chicle! Individual pieces come in all sorts of flavors including cherry, grape, apple-berry (because in 1988 the sour flavor craze hadn't yet become mainstream, so Topps had to soften the impact with a safe and comforting berry), strawberry, raspberry and delicious sugarless original! Specifically noting that the sugarless gum was delicious is complete futility, as kids would never buy sugarless gum even if it was wrapped in 100 dollar bills. The only reason it's on the box is so your mom can point to it when to your horror she buys a tub of the stuff and says "but look, it's delicious!". If you want soft gum, you get original, cherry or grape. No delicious for you! Speaking of Bazooka flavors, has anyone ever actually seen a piece of raspberry bazooka? I've come across cherry and maybe grape, but the rest of the flavors are all news to me. Apple-berry is kind of the Ivy Andrews of gum flavors, so short printed that it's more of a faint rumor than a real flavor, but raspberry flavor was the bomb back in the day. It might have even been dyed blue for all I know. Blue Bazooka tongues would be awesome. Still, I've never seen a single piece.
The side panels are just for ancillary products, not the real chewable money maker. The red panel on the right is basically a large version of the ad on the Bazooka Joe comics (more on them later) and this one offers a giant beach towel. For only $6.95 and 90 (!!!) bazooka comics you can get a 30" by 60" towel. That's a big towel. Every time I see one of these old offers, I kick myself for never sending away for any of them. When I get my time machine, I'm going back to the 80's with a thousand dollars and a roll of stamps and sending away for EVERYTHING. I'll be a real hoopy frood with my Bazooka towel. On the left, in unreadable black on blue is the baseball card ad in the form of a letter from Bazooka Joe himself.
Welcome to card collecting! Because this box of gum is obviously the first time a kid in the overproduced 80's has ever come in contact with a baseball card. The letter starts off with a barrage of legends: "Willie Mays! Mickey Mantle! Ted Williams! And the one and only Babe Ruth!" WOW! I'd really like to get one of those cards! The cards you can actually get though are Jose Canseco, Wade Boggs, Darryl Strawberry and Mark Grace. Does 'infamous' count as legendary? There are 22 cards in this series to collect for your very own complete set. At about a buck a pop for a box of gum, combined with lousy collation and the laws of probability, it would probably cost about 347 dollars to get a complete set. It will also take 14% longer to chew all that gum, so there's probably some poor sap still chewing his way though a complete set.
I opened up my box and you can read all about it over on A Pack A Day. I will share the gum with you however. Isn't it purdy?
Individually sealed in a red white and blue wax wrapper lovingly protected by a comic. The perfect gum. Let's open one up and check it out, shall we?
Here's the wrapper. Opening it up was like ripping a tiny little pack where the cards all got glued together. It's got the classic curvy t Topps logo, the ever expanding lethal blast bazooka logo and a list of ingredients so you know that BHT is in there to maintain freshness. Let's see how good a job it did:
OHMYDEARLORDNO! Aaaaaah! It's alive! Run for the hills! This is how that movie The Blob started off. Not the crappy 80's version, the good Steve McQueen version. Somebody chewed a piece of this and it chewed him back. Ecch, This is nasty. I had to wash my hands about 8 times after touching it. The good news is there's 28 more pieces in there all in the same state of decay. I want the Bazooka Joe comics though, so I donned a biohazard suit and started ripping. Here's a sample comic:
Ha! Ha! Our failing educational system is funny! The kid can't read or spell, but He's a whiz at math. He'd make a great programmer. My fortune is fantastic: "You will never turn into a giant shoelace." Huh?? "In bed." Aaaahh... that's very deep. Actually "In bed" is for fortune cookies, not fortune gum. Fortune gum needs "...and for the love of all that is decent and holy, don't chew this mutant gum lest you end up turning into a Toxic Avenger" (<-- the viddy is a tad dicey, be careful when you click) The advertisement on this comic is appropriate, for $16.25 and 180 comics you can get a factory set of this year's Topps set. Seeing how you can get one for 10 bucks online, not a great deal in retrospect. But wait! The offer says (CURRENT YEAR ONLY), the current year is 2008! Woohoo! a factory set for under 20 bucks! Wait though... I also have to have 180 comics. Since each comic is worth 2 points, I'd have to open 90 pieces of moldy gum. Nope, not worth it. I'll keep the comics instead and enjoy their sublime humor.
Thanks to some sloppy cutting at the factory we have an interesting insight on how the comics and wrappers were printed:
Did you know that the comics and the wrappers were printed on the same sheet? Did you care? Why am I taking the time to write about such insignificant trivials about ephemera? I paid fifty cents for this thing and I'm gonna get my money's worth! If you thought that was useless, what till you get a load of this:
That's right folks, a piece of gum in the shape of the great state of Oregon. There's even a little mildew spot where the state capital, Salem, would be. GoldenPalace.com is gonna pay me a fortune for this! Thank you Oregon!