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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday Fun-Day Fun-Facts

In 1949 there were many post war shortages in England, including the rationing of sweets. In London four young men, all recently demobilized from their military service, Simon Anysz, Rudy Braun, and brothers Douglas and Tony Coakley decided to form a company with the aim of producing and selling chewing gum. The partners decided on the name A&BC Chewing Gum Ltd. Contrary.

In the early days, there were many difficulties, including fighting establishment who thought chewing gum was disgusting and not worth considering during these times of shortages. Since there was no sugar available without a license, one of the first ever-sugarless chewing gums were produced using an artificial sweetener so that the product did not require sweet rationing coupons.

A&BC remembered the popularity of the children's craze for cards from before the War and thought that cards would improve the sales of their gum. Their first bubble gum was produced and included cards of Film & TV Stars wrapped with a fake dollar bill, hence the name "Dollar Bubble Gum".

In 1952, Topps came to England and visited A&BC Chewing Gum. According to the recollection of the Coakley brothers he advised A&BC that they were getting nowhere and advised them to partner up with Topps. A&BC ignored this advice and declined the Topps offer. In 1959, Topps approached A&BC again and this time, the terms of the deal suited A&BC. The two companies negotiated a license for A&BC to produce Bazooka Bubble Gum and to reproduce some of Topps' card gum series, starting with Elvis Presley.

Over the next 15 years A&BC continued to produce their own series of cards, increasingly focusing on the popular football (soccer) cards, though they also produced the Topps U.S. series range of cards. Regardless of the source, all A&BC cards were printed in England.

A&BC Gum began with an 'All Sports' series in 1954, a set of 120 cards which included 36 footballers. They followed this in 1958 with a set of 92 footballer cards, and thus began a run of 16 unbroken years of football card production. During this 16 year period A&BC produced both English and Scottish sets.

In 1962/63 Douglas Coakley approached Brian Epstein, manager of the Beatles, and obtained the rights to produce cards of the Beatles. A set of 60 cards were first produced and issued. In the U.S., A&BC gave Topps the photographs and helped to negotiate the rights for Topps to produce these sets in America.

At the time the company folded it had 350 employees and they left behind six card/gum machines which could produce 200 packs per minute and wrap pieces of Bazooka per minute.

Topps Chewing Gum took over for A&BC in 1974. They produced their first set of football cards under the Topps Bazooka Limited name in 1975. They continued each year until 1981, after which they became occasional producers of football cards.

The A&BC cards were 8 cms long by 5.5 cms wide and really set the benchmark that all football cards would subsequently be judged against.

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