Original unissued artwork intended for use in Gum, Inc.'s 1940 Lone Ranger card series. The illustration captures the Lone Ranger mounted upon his trusty steed, Silver, as he navigates through a raging wildfire with help from Tonto, who is pictured in the background with other settlers attempting to quell the flames. A blanket has been draped around Silver's eyes to help protect them from the flames, and also to inhibit any fears he might have about leaping over the raging blaze in front of him. The artwork is numbered "52" in pencil in the corner of the lower left margin and in black crayon on the reverse, indicating that this artwork was intended for use as card number fifty-two. Also appearing on the reverse is a stamped proprietary notice ("All reproduction of this artwork is restricted by the original terms of sale from H. Steinbacher") and a stamp reading "The Lone Ranger, Inc.," below which is the blue-ink signature of Fran Striker, who was the cocreator of the Lone Ranger. Striker's approval was needed on each artwork before publication, and his signature here indicates to the publisher that he had officially "signed off" on this piece. Charles H. Steinbacher 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, including this one. Because the offered artwork was never published, Gum, Inc., returned it to Steinbacher and it remained in his private safe until discovered by his family many years after his death (along with original artworks to several other classic Gum, Inc., card sets, including 1938 Horrors of War and 1941 War Gum, all of which have long been dispersed to the four corners of the collecting world). This artwork has been consigned directly from the purchaser of the Steinbacher family's archive of original Gum, Inc., artwork, and is one of the few key examples he chose to keep for his personal collection.
Gum, Inc.'s 1940 Lone Ranger card issue only numbers forty-eight cards, but, as evidenced by this artwork, production of another series was well underway by the company. That's not surprising, as the Lone Ranger card set was an extremely popular issue at the time. What is surprising is that the company never continued the series. The reason for that has to do with the publication and great success of another 1940 Gum, Inc., card issue: Superman. Superman debuted in Action Comics #1 in 1938 and he soon became the most popular comic-book character in America. Gum, Inc., was quick to capitalize on the Superman craze and in 1940 published the famous Superman card set, which was one of the most popular nonsport sets ever issued. The Superman set was so well received by kids that Gum, Inc., put a halt on the production of the Lone Ranger set (and the planned third series of twenty-four cards), to focus entirely on the publication and promotion of its Superman cards. For that reason, this illustration never saw the light of day on a Gum, Inc., trading card in 1940. In 1997, the Steinbacher family worked with Dart Flipcards Inc. to publish the never-released Lone Ranger series represented by the twelve surviving unpublished artworks (including this artwork). An example of the issued card featuring this artwork accompanies. Original artworks from any prewar card issue are extremely rare, especially those from such popular issues as the Lone Ranger. It should also be noted that even though a number of original Lone Ranger artworks were saved by Steinbacher, many were not, and this piece is one of just twelve surviving examples from the unissued series. The artwork is outstanding both in its execution and subject matter. The watercolor-on-board painting (7 x 6 inches) remains in Near Mint condition; adhesive residue and minor surface paper loss on the reverse relates to the standard production processes of the time. This is an extraordinary artwork and one that would make a worthy addition to any advanced nonsports collection. Reserve $500. Estimate $1,000+. SOLD FOR $1,293
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