Cards You Do "Not See" Often
By Kurt Kuersteiner (© Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards) for The Wrapper Magazine
Film schools teach that there have been more movies made about Sherlock Holmes than any other character. (Over 100 of them.) But they are mistaken. One character has accounted for hundreds if not thousands of Hollywood movies and TV shows. His name is Adolph Hitler.
Exactly why Hollywood is obsessed with Hitler would probably make a good thesis paper. Extra credit would be due if the writer could theorize why Hollywood doesn't even seem to notice they produce so many movies about him. Maybe they are just too embarrassed to admit it. Certainly they don't like Hitler. All our movies either make fun of Hitler or lambaste him. But the fact that Nazi movies are just as common now as they were 50 years ago is nothing short of amazing. Chaplin started the trend with The Little Dictator. It was based on an observation made by Orson Welles that Charlie resembled the Fuehrer. There have been several popular Nazi movies made every year since then. (The latest being U-571). So maybe that's the answer: Hollywood keeps producing Nazi flicks because America keeps going to them.
Perhaps that would also explain why so many card sets feature Nazis. Most of them are well sought after by collectors. Here are some of the more famous (and infamous) sets with Hitler or his Nazis in them.
Many of the war sets from the late 1930s and early 1940s are teeming with Nazis (and have price tags to prove it). I'll let those with deeper pockets and older collections cover them another time. War Gum, War News Pictures, Second World War... They really deserve an entire article to themselves. But suffice it to say, some of the most popular cards in Don't Let It Happen Over Here and True Spy Stories feature Nazi soldiers. And even people who don't collect Horrors of War know that the most expensive cards in the series are the Hitler cards. There are three with images of him and they fetch hundreds of dollars, even in low grade.
Bowman's Wild Man (1950) includes a haunting image of the Concentration Camps. Topp's Scoops (1954) has several Nazi cards, including a Victory in Europe card and Top Nazis To Hang. These cards are not key cards, but both sets routinely cost over $1,000 in EX condition.
Even cards with vague Nazi references can fetch top dollar. The 1956 set Adventure is not very popular except for one card: The Max Schmeling boxer card. The only Nazi aspect of this card is a Swastika in the background. Yet that seems to be enough to drive up the price hundreds of dollars. (Other sports figures in the set don't come anywhere close in value.)
Many TV shows have featured Nazis as the bad guys. At least a few made it to cardboard. Rat Patrol (Topps, 1966) portrayed the battle of Africa and costs around $100 in Near Mint. Combat followed the exploits of an Army platoon fighting in Europe. Donruss produced two black and white sets of 66 cards in 1964. The first runs about $150 and the second $200. Garrison's Gorillas was a similar show and got a similar card set at a similar price. Leaf produced the 72 card black and white series in 1967. Figure $200 for a Near Mint set.
Hogan's Heroes (1966) was a comedy that took place inside a concentration camp. (If Jerry Lewis was nutty enough to film a comedy in a slave labor camp, who's to stop Bing Crosby from exploiting the P.O.W. camps?) In a rare display of good taste, Hollywood withheld Jerry's The Clown that Cried, but that didn't stop Bing: Hogan's Heroes went on to become a hit and spawned a 66 card set by Fleer. This set has seen rapid price hikes in recent years, topping $1,300 in auction. (I know NOTH-ING!)
In the oddball department are various Nazi cards within sets of Star Trek. The original series had an episode where Kirk and company visit a "Nazi Planet". Spock looks pretty funny in a SS uniform.
War Bulletin from Philly Gum has some of the best WW2 photos of any set. This 88 card series was released in 1965 and has backs that resemble newspaper articles, complete with headlines. This is one of the better bargains at $250. Battle from Topps is also from 1965, but it features great artwork by Norm Saunders. This 66 card series is surprisingly scarce. (I see it much less than Mars Attacks.) Yet the price is nearly half its Martian counterpart (about $750). Don't expect to get the cloth emblems thrown in at that price. They're even tougher to find than the cards.
The 70s and 80s were pretty quiet on the Nazi card front with one notable exception. Some fellow named Les Davis produced a card series called A Man At War in 1981. Only 100 were made of this 36 card set and sold in uncut sheets of six. The cartoonish black and white artwork was drawn by Ulrich Vodin, who was the same Nazi spy hunter the set chronicled. This set isn't listed in any price guide and the value is speculative.
All the following WWII sets are inexpensive (under $15) since they are relatively recent and available in boxed sets. Kitchen Sink's War Cry (1992) is basically an oversized set of 36 featuring propaganda posters from WWII. They're nice but many of the same images appear in the Tuff Stuff WWII Propaganda "Diamond Edition" set of 15 (1991). The Tuff Stuff sets are regular sized and were supposed to be "limited" to less than 55,000 (which is about 50,000 more than necessary). They're easy to identify with gold borders. The 125 "regular issue" cards of this series never did get published.
The 110 card World War II set by Pacific had better luck. It was published in 1992. Many of the cards cover combat in both Europe and Asia. There is a Hitler card and several propaganda posters as well. This doesn't seem a very popular set though. Perhaps it's too broad a topic and tries to have something for everyone, satisfying no one in the process. The quality of several images are pretty dark also.
The mother of poor quality sets has to be Mother Productions series 1 & 2 of Exploitation of Women (1993). Both of these oversized 40 card sets look pretty grainy. But they're color and the men's magazine covers they depict are certainly eye grabbing. Not all the men torturing women are Nazis, but the most titillating ones are. What a shame they didn't spend just a few more marks... In 1994, Mother tried again with two regular sized sets called 1950s & 1960s Men's Magazine Covers. The image quality was superior, but the set is watered down with many photograph covers of models. Series 1 (39 cards) has several of Nazi pulp covers but series 2 (32 cards) only has three.
Mother Productions also produced a boxed set of 40 oversized cards called The Nazi Collection in 1993. Over half are in color, but the photo quality is (once again) grainy. Maybe Mother's "little old lady" mascot also proofs their color separations? 18 of the cards are German propaganda posters or postcards. There are also shots of party officials and a few atrocities tossed in for good measure. The funny thing about Mother Productions is that they preach the most against the evils of Nazism, going so far as to dedicate their sets to the American Armed Forces, the Allied forces, and "the Jewish". Yet they cranked out more Nazi sets than anyone else and their other card series have titles like "Assassins", "Killer Cards", "Human Freaks", "Women & Snakes" and the ever popular "Bizarre Boobs". Somehow, I'm not quite convinced their motives were lofty.
The most illusive of boxed sets is definitely the Satan's Soldiers series by Evil Ink (1992). They are not listed in any price guide. In fact, I've only seen one of these sets ever (the value is anyone's guess). The images are black and white photos surrounded by dark gothic borders of naked women with skull heads. (Sexy, huh?) This slightly oversized 50 card set certainly wins the "gruesome/ graphic content" award hands down. Although most of the photos are of famous units or generals, there are several executions and concentration camp pix included for hard-core faces of death fans. (Talk about a grim cross-over market.)
There are many foreign sets as well, including modern British and war time German sets. (The first actual color photograph cards were war era German cigarette cards.)
This isn't a complete catalog of what's out there, but it's a decent start. And if Hollywood is any guide, we'll be seeing more of these type sets as the years progress.
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