1938 R83A Gum, Inc. Lone Ranger Original Artwork For Premium #1 "Tonto Saves the Lone Ranger"

Sold For: $6,000

Auction Year: 2017 spring

Lot: 2490

Item Year: 1940

Category: Non-Sports Cards/Sheets/Card Artwork

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Offered here is the original gouache on board artwork used in the production of the 1938 R83A Gum, Inc., Lone Ranger premium titled Tonto Saves The Lone Ranger. Original artwork for the Lone Ranger premium set, which consisted of five colorful 8 x 10-inch cards, is exceedingly rare. This is the first we have ever offered and we can only recall having seen two others at auction in the past seventeen years. What sets the Lone Ranger premium artworks apart from all of the other card-related artworks from that era is their enormous size. Unlike the artworks for bubble-gum cards, which are normally only slightly larger than the issued cards themselves, the offered artwork measures an amazing 19.5 x 15.5 inches (image area) and is one of the most impressive card-related production pieces imaginable. Obviously, the larger 8 x 10-inch size of the Lone Ranger premiums themselves necessitated a larger canvas, but the scale of the original artworks is simply breathtaking to behold. This piece has much more in common with a magazine-cover artwork than a card artwork, and would be right at home in an art-gallery setting.

As most collectors are aware, the Lone Ranger premiums actually predate the 1940 Lone Ranger card set by two years. In 1938, Gum Inc. purchased the rights to produce a Lone Ranger brand of gum. For one cent, a child received an oversized stick of gum housed in a colorful wrapper picturing the Lone Ranger and his faithful steed, Silver. Although no card or prize was contained in the package, patrons could save the wrappers and redeem them by mail for one of five large premium cards that featured a different scene from the current Lone Ranger serial playing in theaters. (The premiums are cataloged as R83A in the American Card Catalog.) The Lone Ranger premiums, because of their size and exceptional graphics, have always been regarded by collectors as one of the finest such issues ever produced.

The offered artwork was used in the production of the first premium card in the set, designated on the back of the card as "Series A Number 1" and titled Tonto Saves The Lone Ranger. The painting brings to life the origin of the Lone Ranger as noted by the text on the issued card: "After Jeffries' outlaws have attacked a band of Texas Ranges and left all their members for dead, Tonto creeps within the ghostly camp by the light of the moon and finds one man still breathing. Here we see the Indian carrying the unconscious survivor away to the safety of his cave, where he will nurse the wounded man back to health and a brilliant career as the Lone Ranger."

All of the original Lone Ranger card artworks in the hobby today originate from the estate of Charles H. Steinbacher, who was the art director for the George Moll Advertising Agency, which handled the Gum, Inc., account. Steinbacher is one of the legendary figures in the field of nonsports cards and is best known today for producing the famous Horrors of War set for Gum, Inc., which was first issued in 1938. He is also very well known by collectors for being the source of virtually all original Gum, Inc., artworks. However, the three known Lone Ranger premium artworks did not originate from Steinbacher's estate and it is unknown from whom they were obtained or when they first entered the hobby. (The other two premium artworks known to have survived are those used in the production of card #2 - The Lone Ranger Licks Kester and card #4 Tonto Fights Off the Troopers.) The painting has been executed on board (25 x 22 inches) with the notation "Series A #1" written in pencil along the bottom border. A few additional editorial notations and/or attachments are evident along the perimeters of the board. In Near Mint condition. Reserve $5,000. Estimate (open).


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