Saturday, August 27, 2011

Part I- 1938 Horrors of War

This is part one of a three-part story

In 1938 Gum, Inc., a Philadelphia based candy company owned by Warren Bowman (yes that Bowman) looking to create some buzz created the “Horrors of War Bubble Gum” set, each penny-gum came with a single card depicting the horrors of war. The set, designated R69 1938 Horrors of War, included an illustration on the front and a description on the back.

The initial 240-card set, included illustrations showing the atrocities of the ongoing Chinese-Japanese War, the Ethiopian War (Italian invasion of Ethiopia) and the Spanish Civil War. The set sold so well that Bowman decided to release an additional 48 cards showing the horrors that were happening in Europe that eventually lead up to World War II (Germany’s annexation of the Sudetenland). These final 48 cards did not sell as well as the original 240 cards but are now among the most coveted cards in the entire 288-card set due to their scarcity with the 3 cards containing Adolph Hitler demanding a premium (Cards # 277, 283 & 286). Bowman even brought in additional staff including artists, illustrators and distributors just to keep up with demand.

#277- Hitlers Border Tour Raises War Scare

Warren Bowman later went on to say that the reason he created the set was because he wanted to try and teach peace by exposing the horrors of war. Obviously there was a controversy with some saying the set was created solely to make money based on shock value while others, rumored to include President Franklin D. Roosevelt, supported the set as a way to show the violence that was happening around an isolated United States. Some would claim the set was created as war propaganda and some would claim that the cards were to be used as an educational tool.

Original Artwork

 Since the initial release in 1938 we have seen Bowman release similar sets, one of the more notable sets being the 1951 Bowman Red Menace set, we have seen reprints and we now see serious collectors hunting down the original artwork used in the set along with proofs. With well over 10,000 Horror of War singles having been graded only 16 proofs have been graded and are demanding $5,000 or more with original artwork selling near $10,000 for authenticated pieces. There are many ungraded base cards that can be picked up for less than $10 and is a great way to collect one of the most significant non-sports sets ever. Violent nature aside, this set is easily one of the most beautifully illustrated card sets of the first half of the 20th Century.
Can you believe that you could have picked up the complete first-series 240 base cards for only $1 in 1938 or you could have taken your chances and bought each card one at a time for 1 penny each ($2.40 if you never pulled a double). Partial sets now are selling for well over $1,000 depending on how many cards are in the lot.

1938 Horrors of War Display Box

Additional cards showing the variety of illustrations, some quite gruesome, that are included in this set:

#3- U.S. Marine Shot While Aiding Americans

#21- The Siege of Toledo

#67- Women Fighters In Spain

#71- The Emperor Leaves Ethiopia
#72- Profile of Attack on American Legation at Addis Ababa
#88- Human Hands Warn Newspaper Publishers

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