The Thrilling Adventures of Superman listener Steve J. Rogers passed along scans of a set of Superman bubblegum cards that he picked up at a baseball card convention. The set is an authorized reprint of a set originally released in 1940 or 1941 by Gum, Inc.
Here’s what Steve had to say about both the original and the reprint sets:
From the Aug/Sept 2011 issue of Non-Sport Update’s Price Guide supplement, the original 1940/1941 cards, made by a company called Gum Inc. goes for about $3,750 Doesn’t indicate “Mint, Near-Mint, Very Good” or any other grade. Card # 1 of the set goes for about $40, Card # 72 for $150, Cards 2-48 for $25 a piece and Cards #49-71 for $100 a piece.
Only guess is that 1-48 comprised a series, and 49-72 comprised a short printed second set. Actually my guess is correct according to this website.
Also I found this nifty shot of an original wrapper from a high end auction site.
Thankfully, the reproduction set I’ve scanned was produced in 1984, though it doesn’t show up in the price guide, the $10 bucks a paid for it I’m sure is right around what it really should be worth! Doesn’t have any current (well, as of 1984) trademarks on it, but my guess would be that the brand Topps produced it as they had the Superman character rights at the time, and produced the movie sets. As well, Gum Inc would change their name to Bowman, and they’d be bought out by Topps in the late 1950s. Here is a link to the Gum/Bowman Wikipedia entry.
Right now I’m efforting to see whom the artist was and who wrote the text for the card backs.
My guess is the artwork was done by artists in the Joe Shuster studio. I sense hints of Joe Shuster, Paul Cassidy, Wayne Boring and more throughout the various cards. I am not sure who wrote the text on the back, though it is unlikely it was Jerry Siegel. It could possibly have been Bob Maxwell, Allen Ducovny or someone in their employ, such as George Lowther (who would be my top guess, if pressed). Whitney Ellsworth or someone in the DC offices are other obvious candidates.
If anyone has any further information about these cards or the people behind the art and text, please email email@example.com.
With the original set being released in 1940 or 1941, those card were among the earliest Superman memorabilia produced. Perhaps what is most notable about them, from a historical perspective, is that the first card in the set is the earliest occurrence of Superman’s Kryptonian name being spelled “Kal-el.” When the original set was released, Superman’s Kryptonian name had only been revealed once — in the second newspaper daily strip published January 17, 1939 — and was there spelled “Kal-L.” “Kal-El” would soon become the most-used spelling (along with Jor-El, rather than Jor-L as it was originally).
So, without further adieu, I am happy to be able to present a look at the front and back of all 72 vintage cards:
Thanks again to Steve for passing along this great bit of Superman history!