—By Kevin Fuller—
With the Tokyo Olympics recently completed, let us turn our attention to another set of rings. No, not an in-depth look at early Pro and mini labels, but Wham-O's adornment of nearly all discs from the end of the 1970s, through the Kransco years, until the company's sale to Mattel. Let's start at the beginning (a very good place to start).
On July 28, 1958, Wham-O Mfg. Co. filed an application to register Frisbee as a trademark. That registration was granted on May 26, 1959. Soon after, the ® started to appear after every use of Frisbee®. It was three years later that the Wham-O name itself was trademarked, with registration granted April 24, 1962. The Wham-O splash logo wasn't registered until June 29, 1976.
WPP4—Circle R Added Official Pro Model—3rd Style® tooling appears after Frisbee You can follow this progression through the styles of Pluto Platters, where the first three styles (WPP1, WPP2, WPP3) have no ® anywhere. The WPP4, from 1960, includes Frisbee®, but no registration mark on any of the Wham-O toolings. The same is true of the other 1960s Pluto Platters. The first Official Pro Model, introduced in 1964, did not have the ® tooled into the plastic; the label included Frisbee®, but a "naked" Wham-O. It wasn't until the third period that Pros had the ® added to Frisbee in the raised letters, and not until the fourth (1968) when the Wham-O text on the label was replaced by the Wham-O splash accompanied by the ®.
Frisbee® disc MemoMay 1979 With that background out of the way, let's fast forward a decade or so. About a year before the trademark band was the addition of "disc." This progression can be seen in some discs from the NAS series and the World Frisbee Championship (WFC). The 1978 NAS disc (Marini) references Frisbee, no disc. But by the time the Rose Bowl came around that year, Wham-O Legal added "disc." From then on, "Frisbee disc" was the norm, although there are a few rare cases where "disc" is missing. Hot stamps, packaging, even the International Frisbee disc Association (IFdA?) were updated. The policy is stated in the memo to the right, titled TRADEMARK USAGE - FRISBEE® disc - PACKAGING/ARTWORK. Undoubtedly not the first Wham-O memo on the subject since it is dated May 1979 and the "disc" practice was in place at least nine months earlier.
1977 WFC Disc—Frisbee®(standard 40 mold shown) 1978 NAS Disc—Frisbee®(rare disc / hot stamp colors shown) 1978 WFC Disc—Frisbee® disc(rare Fastback with silver coating shown) 1979 NAS Disc—Frisbee® disc(white 80 mold trophy disc shown)
Trademark Band Artwork AnnouncementAugust 1979
Original Trademark Band ArtBlock band 4 TMB
In August 1979, Wham-O distributed a memo, Change in Artwork Size for Special Imprinted Frisbee® discs - Addition of Trademark Identification. The announcement starts with the restriction in art size caused by the trademark band (TMB), limiting artwork to 4.5 inches in diameter. It then turns to explain the reasoning behind the TMB—that the Frisbee was a superior product and the identification would keep consumers from confusing "the cheap, low-performance knock-offs with our Frisbee disc." One might speculate that strengthening
Premium Disc TMB One-Page Brochure1979
the visual branding was also in response to an increase in high-quality discs that had started appearing. The change wasn't popular with players, or disc designers, but more on that in a bit.
Stapled to the memo was a copy of the original band, the Block band 4 TMB. Wham-O followed this with a marketing piece, focused on their profitable premium business (Fastbacks) to let customers know that the "trademark circle...readily identifies the disc as a genuine Frisbee® disc of real quality and value."
As far as we know, Wham-O never named the various styles of trademark band, so the Flying Disc Museum established a standard set of names, used throughout this article. The Block band 4, fairly obviously, gets its name from the thick band with reversed block letters, repeated four times. Here are a few examples of early discs with the Block band 4 TMB. Notice that the Midnight Flyer, despite being an 80 mold and having more printable space, adhered to the 4.5 inch artwork specification. Soon afterwards, different sized molds had their own specifications to take full advantage of their available surface.
Block Band 4 TMBMidnight Flyer 80 mold with small, 4.5 inch artwork inside the TMB Block Band 4 TMBDisc Wares Rainbow 81 mold with full-sized artwork; disc designer could choose TMB color from any used in design Block Band 4 TMB1979 K-9 Catch & Fetch Fastback artwork Block Band 4 TMBGlassboro Ultimate 80 mold with full-sized single-color art
The Block band 4 had a short but active life. Before being phased out, Wham-O produced discs with at least three variations. If repeating the trademark four times is good, five must be better, right? How about seven? The 1979 WFC Fastback is the only known disc with the Block band 5 variation. Similarly, the U.S. Olympic Block Band Pro TMBGPA 1980 Pro introduced "Brand Flying Disc" to the Block band TMBs Block Band 7 TMBU.S. Olympic Committee 100D mold has dropped the Wham-O splash to make room for Frisbee® seven times Block Band 5 TMB1979 WFC Fastback, the only known use of the Block band 5; other '79 WFC discs sport the standard Block band 4 Committee disc repeats "Frisbee® disc" seven times, but drops the Wham-O splash to fit it in.
Going the other way, Wham-O also developed a simpler version, the Block band Pro TMB, so named because it is almost exclusively used on Pro Model Frisbees. Slightly newer than the other Block band TMBs, it features the "Frisbee® Brand Flying Disc" text (no doubt another wording change from the legal department) that we'll see in other TMB styles a little later. It doesn't repeat the identity but has Frisbee just once at the top and the Wham-O splash just once at the bottom.
Penfold Block Band 4 TMBPenfold/Faulkner Fastback with their own adaptation of the Block band 4 Block Band Square TMB1981 Canadian Open on Irwin Toy's version of the 80C mold fitting a square peg into a round hole TMB Parody—Shit RingDiscraft Sky-Styler—Naskas (Paris) Supports the DAMFUCKUPS (London)—DAMFUcKUPS allegedly stands for David And Maureen Faulkner United Kingdom Untossable Plastic Society The Block band TMB wasn't limited to Wham-O U.S. production. Licensees got in on the action as well. In England, Penfold, a division of Faulkner, adapted the TMB, replacing the Wham-O splash with their own name to create the Penfold Block band 4 TMB.
Irwin Toy, the Canadian licensee, came up with an interesting variation on the Block band Pro for some of its (not Pro Model) discs. Irwin did something infrequently done in disc design—they ignored the round shape of the disc. Thus, we have the Block band Square TMB. This design approach and TMB shows up on a few Canadian tournament discs.
As mentioned earlier, saying the ever-present TMB wasn't popular with disc designers or players is an understatement. So much so, that many players from that time don't know what a trademark band was but were more than familiar with the "shit ring." The dislike was global and immortalized in the parody Naskas disc from Europe (Naskas was a skateboarding and disc group in Paris).
Thin Band TMB81E mold—Valley of the Sun, Disc of the Year—disc and TMB designed by Craig Cheply But one designer decided to do something more productive. If Wham-O was going to include branding on all custom discs, perhaps they'd be open to branding that didn't suck. So, disc designer extraordinaire Craig Cheply decided to come up with some alternative designs that would give the designer back more of the print area and would compete less with the design visually. When Craig headed to a tournament in Southern California, he arranged to meet with Dan "Stork" Roddick and members of the Wham-O art department. The group was very open to Craig's ideas and adopted the one they liked best. This Thin band TMB was used on Craig's Valley of the Sun disc, which won 1980 Disc of the Year.
Premium Disc TMB Two-Page BrochureBack side Premium Disc TMB Two-Page Brochure1980 In addition to Craig's design, the folks at Wham-O produced some other alternatives, and the Block band 4 was history (any discs with it that can be accurately dated are all from 1979). In 1980, Wham-O launched four new trademark band designs, including Craig's. These were highlighted in a new marketing piece, again targeted at the Fastback premium model market.
The new brochure shows the Thin band TMB (white, and the large featured design on the back), Thin band Laurel TMB (blue), Split band TMB (yellow), and Split band Stacked TMB (red). The names are fairly obvious: Thin band has "Frisbee brand" with "flying disc" below it at the top, the Wham-O splash at the bottom, all inside the thin circle; Thin band Laurel adds laurel leaves extending from the splash logo; Split band has "Frisbee brand flying disc" on one line at the top, inside a thick band and Wham-O at the bottom, with the band split down both sides making them less overpowering but still much more present than the Thin line; Split band Stacked is the same except with the text stacked like the Thin band and "flying disc" inside the band.
These four TMBs can be found on thousands of discs made over the next decade. Based on the discs currently in the Flying Disc Museum, the Split band is by far the most frequently used, accounting for over 70% of the discs with one of these four options. The Thin band is next at about 20%, leaving the Split band Stacked and Thin band Laurel as minor players. Here are some examples, on Fastbacks and other models.
Split Band TMBFastback—1982 AFDO, Fastback Distance Throw
Split Band Stacked TMBFastback—Oly
Thin Band TMBFastback—Glad
Thin Band Laurel TMBFastback—1981 All Japan Championship
Split Band TMB100AD mold—1981 Toronto Islands Disc Golf Tournament Split Band Stacked TMB23A mold—International Frisbee disc Association DDC Thin Band TMB82E mold—1984 Mid-Atlantic UPA Regionals Thin Band Laurel TMB15 mold—10th Anniversary Guts Worlds
Over time, more variations on the Thin band came along. The Thin band Bottom TMB has "Frisbee brand flying disc" all on one line at the bottom of the design rather than the top. The Wham-O splash appears either to the right or left. In a few discs, the splash stands alone—the Thin line Wham-O Bottom TMB has no Frisbee branding, just the corporate splash.
Thin Band Bottom TMB—Splash Right90 mold—National Frisbee Festival—Note the rare lack of the word "disc" after Frisbee Thin Band Bottom TMB—Splash LeftFastback—Ashley Whippet Invitational Thin Band Wham-O Bottom TMB42BF mold—1980 Smithsonian (based on the proper orientation of the Air and Space Museum logo, the splash is skewed left)
Another thin line variation is the Thin band Inline TMB, which also has "Frisbee brand flying disc" on one line, and at the top like the Thin line TMB. But, instead of being inside the circle it's along the same line, so the line breaks around the identifications. While it's not certain when
Thin Band Inline TMB82E mold—Boston Ultimate
Thin Band Inline Bottom TMBFastback—Ashley Whippet Invitational this version appeared, the earliest definitive example currently in the FDM is from '87. And, similar to above, there is a Thin band Inline Bottom TMB.
Inline bands were also heavily used on minis. Earlier minis had the Thick band TMB, which was also an inline design. Later in the '80s minis commonly had the Thin band Inline TMB. A third mini trademark band exists that is a mini version of the Split band. The Mini Split band TMB has just "Frisbee" at the top (no "brand") and "flying disc" flanks the Wham-O splash at the bottom. This version was only used on Towa minis (Japan's licensee). Towa also used a standard Split band TMB on some minis.
At this point we're down to a few odds and ends of TMB styles. The Full Laurel TMB is derived from the Thin band Laurel. Instead of laurel leaves across the bottom, they extend all the way up the sides, nearly to the Frisbee branding. These also always have a second thin circle so the branding and laurel leaves are contained. This TMB was mostly used on Wham-O stock discs, some World Class years and the American Outdoor Series, but it was also used on a few custom discs.
Full Laurel TMB71C* mold—Canadian Disc Golf Association (Irwin) Split Block band TMB81C mold—1980 NAS Austin Block Band Stacked TMB15 mold—International Frisbee disc Association Before dying completely, a couple other styles of Block bands found their way onto plastic, although on a very limited number of disc designs. The first is a transition between the original Block band 4 and the Split band—the Split Block band TMB has the same text treatment as the Block band, but only twice, top and bottom, with the sides split. The Block band Stacked TMB has the same thick ring with inset type, but it is arranged more like other stacked TMBs with "flying disc" inside the band. A band this thick likely led to a higher level of hot stamp dropouts or other flaws.
No Band TMBMini—Team Banzai No Band TMB81C mold—Skyhawks Withur No Band TMB42AG mold—1987 Shelly Sharpe Memorial Open The commonality of all the TMBs is some sort of band. But in the years A.C. (after Cheply), there are some discs with the Frisbee/Wham-O branding without a band component to their trademark info. These No band TMBs tend to have text similar to the Split band or Thin band Inline, but not always. It's usually anchored to the design in some way.
The No band TMBs are really a transition to (or even a type of) the Custom TMB, often one-of-a-kind creations. In the early TMB days, disc designers sent artwork sized to fit inside the TMB area. Wham-O, or Discovering the World, had TMB artwork and would paste up the designs inside the band to make the plates. Early Custom TMBs came about because designers could integrate with the band as part of their artwork. While the branding itself wasn't altered, the TMB became part of the design, not an extra added later, and sometimes designers modified the band portion of the TMB.
By 1984, the rules were sufficiently relaxed so that designers could place the branding elements anywhere in the design. This flexibility on Wham-O's part was the result of the sale to Kransco in September 1982—after a couple years the strict levels of control had softened. This progression can be seen in some of the examples below. The 1984 Seven Years of Foolishness disc moves the branding from the outside edge to near the center of Don Balk's artwork, while three years later Karl Cook moved further away from a band concept by placing the branding inside two of the four ovals in the design. The 1989 Nationals disc places the branding on the disc that's part of the image.
Custom TMB—Integrated Design80E mold—Plastic Surgeons disc text integrated with the branding and band
Custom TMB—Placement80E mold—1984 April Fools Fest with TMB elements integrated near center of design
Custom TMB—Placement82E mold—1989 UPA Nationals with TMB elements as part of design
Custom TMB—Zinger31A mold—Wham-O establishing a sub-brand for this line of paper labeled Pocket Pros
Custom TMB—Integrated Design80E mold—New Year Fest with a standard Thin band TMB tightly integrated with the disc design Custom TMB—Placement80E mold—1987 April Fools Fest with design elements in each of the four corners Custom TMB—Stylized82E mold—1989 US Open, designed by Michael Heralda from the Wham-O art department with branding text stylized to match disc text Custom TMB—Hacky Sack80E mold—a version of the No band TMB that integrated Hacky Sack footbag branding
Wham-O themselves created some Custom TMBs. The art department's design for the 1989 U.S. Open disc abandoned standard branding typography altogether and used text that matched the rest of the design. (It also omitted the ® after Wham-O.) Wham-O also created Custom TMBs to establish a sub-brand (e.g. Zinger) or to integrate another product (e.g. Hacky Sack).
Within the realm of custom designs there are a variety of options, whether it's stacked or inline branding elements, relative position, top or bottom or interior location, etc. When the FDM discovers multiple discs (even just two separate designs) with the exact same TMB design, it gets classified and named, and the Wham-O Trademark Band reference guide gets updated. It provides a more concise and visual reference.
Trademark bands came to an end with Mattel's acquisition of Wham-O from Kransco in 1994. While the Frisbee name, and its registered trademark status remained, Mattel didn't continue Wham-O branding, nor any concept of TMBs. The progression from Wham-O to Kransco to Mattel can be seen in this set of discs from the World Jr. Frisbee disc Championships.
Split Band TMB1981—Wham-O—Wham-O's most common trademark band Custom TMB1984—Kransco—"Frisbee brand flying disc" branding is gone, but Wham-O splash remains No TMB1993—Kransco—Frisbee branding only exists within text, but Wham-O splash remains No TMB1995—Mattel—Frisbee® disc remains, Wham-O splash replaced by Mattel Sports logo
Whether you consider the TMB a strategic and impressive branding exercise that strengthened Wham-O's position as a provider of quality discs, or you consider them rings of fiery feces that burned, burned, burned thousands of great designs, hopefully you enjoyed this look into the TMB's evolution and variety.
About the Author:
Kevin Fuller is one of the founders of the Flying Disc Museum and a mediocre disc player. Once upon a time he was decent, played ultimate at UNH in the '70s and then with Boston Aerodisc in the '80s. He competed in and helped organize local overall tournaments and was TD for the 1978 and 1979 NH States and the 1978 MA States.