|Gen Con X Souvenir Program, 1977. Source: Gen Con Guru|
The Holmes Basic Set debuted in the summer of 1977, with TSR selling it at Origins in July, and then at Gen Con X in August. In this year Gen Con was held at the Playboy Resort in Lake Geneva for the first and only time, a site that is now the Grand Geneva Resort where Gary Con has now been held for a number of years.
I'd seen the covers of the 1977 Souvenir Program before, for example at the Gen Con Guru, but Demos Sachlas (editor of the B1 and B4 fan sourcebooks) just sent me a few photos of the interior that he took of a display copy at Gary Con last March. Page 19 is an ad for the Basic Set, which is now the earliest ad for it that I've seen:
Basic Set advertisement from the Gen Con X Souvenir Program. Source: Demos Sachlas
This advertisement is similar to the first one that ran in Dragon magazine, the next month in issue #9. Of note, these ads use a black and white excerpt of the original artwork rather than a picture of the actual box set cover.
Differences between these two ads include:
-the earlier ad is two-tone black/red, like the rest of the program, later ad is just black
-the later ad adds the subtitle "Swords & Sorcery..."
-the later ad revises "dungeon geomorphs" to "full set of dungeon geomorphs"; "polyhedra dice" to "set of five polyhedra dice"; "revised D&D booklet" to "revised D&D rules book".
-the later ad adds "*T.M. Reg. App. For", although the earlier ad includes the asterisk to which this refers, so perhaps it was removed during the program book layout
-the later ad adds the price, $9.95 plus $1.00 postage and handling
-the later ad replaces the "Other Recent Releases from TSR" and Booth information with a mail-order form
The program also includes a hand-drawn maps of the "Lake Geneva Area", which Demos suggests are by David Sutherland:
|Maps of the Lake Geneva Area by David Sutherland. Source: Demos Sachlas|
Of particular note is the drawing of the lake monster confronting a galley in Geneva Lake (confusingly, the town is Lake Geneva, but the lake is properly Geneva Lake):
Compare this with his lake monster from the cover the World of Greyhawk Folio (1980):
|Detail from the cover of the World of Greyhawk Folio (1980). Source: TSR Archive|
Perhaps surprisingly, the advertisement for Holmes Basic is on page 19, and not on the back cover of the program, page 32, which instead advertises another new TSR game, Warlocks & Warriors, designed by Gardner Fox:
|Warlocks & Warriors ad, back cover of Gen Con X Souvenir Program (1977). Source: Gen Con Guru|
The illustration here is also by David Sutherland, and also appears in the Warlocks & Warriors game instructions. The wizard wears a conical "stars & moons" hat, much like the one on the cover of Basic, and the warrior has a helm with an especially realistic-looking dragon: