History Repeats Itself

Today's lesson: Learn From History Or Be Doomed To Repeat It

by Don Norton (© 2004 from the Feb. Issue of Non Sport Update)

"Iraq is said to be the cradle of civilization. Unfortunately, not much has progressed over time except it's weapons technology. The country was ruled with an iron fist for decades by Saddam Hussein; a master of sadistic torture techniques. In mid 2000, Iraq approved amputation of the tongue 'for slander or abusive remarks about the president.' Iraqi TV broadcast pictures of the punishment as a warning. Iraq was only recently liberated from this maniac by American troops. The U.N. and millions of people around the world protested, but America led the way. Protesters took for granted the free speech Iraqis never knew..."

The information above is not part of a news report on the excesses of the Hussein regime; it was taken from the back of card number one in a new set entitled, Don't Let It Happen Here .

If that title sounds familiar, it should. In 1938 International Chewing Gum Co. released Don't Let It Happen Over Here. This set of 24 cards was based on the numerous wars raging across the planet in the late 1930s, much like the better-known set, Horrors of War. Like H.O.W., gory pictures adorned the fronts of the cards, with lurid descriptions on the backs. With titles like Whipped Until Dead or Death Rides In the Skies, the text told a shocking tale of man's inhumanity to man, and each card ended with the tag line: "DON'T LET IT HAPPEN OVER HERE. Do your bit-collect all the cards and show them to everyone." It must have made for some lively dinner conversation-("Hey Dad, look at this picture of guys shooting their prisoners in the back of the head!")

Appealing But Revealing

Of course, stuff like this really appealed to young boys, just as their sons would be drawn to Mars Attacks and Civil War News. The artwork was done in predominately reds, yellows and grays, with a very stylized 1930s look. The subjects were very up to date, many of the events covered occurred in the spring of 1938, with some as late as June of that year. The bombing of Barcelona, Spain; the Japanese capture of Nanking, China; and the German seizure of Austria are all covered, as well as events in Russia, Mexico and Palestine. Of interest is a card titled Horror Camps in Naziland, one of the earliest references to Hitler's concentration camps.

Another card worth mentioning is no. 23, Uncle Sam's Flying Fortress, describing the famous B-17 bomber. A line in the text states: "We have 8 of these monster bombers, more being built. Our sky pilots are ready!" (The end of World War II would produce 12,731 B-17's). On card 24, depicting a French soldier standing guard over American World War I graves, the text ends with: "We are prepared! But we don't want war." In 1938 nobody was prepared for what the next seven years would bring, and even if nobody wanted war, by this time it was too late to prevent the actions that would lead to World War II in September 1939. This set is a time machine to a moment just before the world was changed forever.

Don't Let it Happen Over Here is a hard to find classic set. Single cards can go for $50, and a complete set of 24 can bring $1200. In 1991, Card Collectors Co. issued a reprint set and these can still be found for under $10.

Cards like these, with often-violent painted images, remain very popular with collectors, and include some of the most famous non-sport sets. While original artwork still appears on cards, it is not very common, causing some collectors to lament "They don't make 'em like they used to!"

What's Old Is New Again

One person, Kurt Kuersteiner, has heard this comment over and over from card collectors and he is producing a set that is made "just like they used to!" Kuersteiner is the owner of Monsterwax, an independent card company specializing in horror and sci-fi card sets since 1992. Last fall he released a 36-card set called The Night Slasher, photographed in the haunted house he runs each year around the Halloween season. Besides his own sets, he sells vintage and new cards, and other monster-related collectibles. Kuersteiner also has a great interest in history and current affairs, and had a sense of the historical significance of Don't Let It Happen Over Here. He felt that while a great set, the artwork could really be improved upon. He began to study the possibility of producing a new set based on current events.

Almost by accident, he discovered an artist. While searching for examples of Spanish Mars Attacks cards, he made contact with a collector named Ricardo Garijo, from Argentina. While negotiating for the cards, Garijo mentioned he was an artist and would send some samples of his work. When Kuersteiner saw the artwork, he knew he had his artist. Garijo, who has a keen interest in history and military subjects, was asked to create the artwork for this set.

Together, the two men have produced the limited series, Don't Let It Happen Here; homage to the 1938 set, featuring modern subject material and superior art. Kuersteiner stated, "Collectors always say they want sets like the old ones, well, now we'll see if they really do."

The 1938 and 2003 sets have some features in common. The timely subject matter of course, and each of the new cards end with the tag line "Don't Let It Happen Here. Do your bit, get all the cards and show them to everyone." Don't Let It Happen Here has no inserts, just like the 1930s set, although there will be cards signed by the artist. The cards are uncoated and the backs are white cardboard, completing the vintage look and feel. There are differences as well. The new set has 50 cards, twice as many as the 1938 set, and while the older set was aimed at kids, the new set is more for adult collectors.

Gory Without Glory

Kuersteiner has painstakingly researched the text on the backs and has discovered many examples of shocking violations of human rights around the world. Some of these events are not well documented in this country, and it is Kuersteiner 's aim to educate Americans to these evils. Also, he hopes that we can realize how good we have it in this country, and that we should appreciate the freedoms we possess.

Most of the events on the cards portray third world nations in Africa, the Mid-East and South America. This is just the way it is; most of the worst incidents occur in these countries. There are also some modern countries that appear on the cards, such as Germany, Italy and South Africa; often considered to be one of the most advanced nations on the African continent. Some of the events portrayed in these images are committed by ruling powers, such as the Iraqi government on card #1. Others are committed by lawless individuals, like the Ugandan priest responsible for the death of up to 1,000 of his parishioners.

Yes, the images are gory, and some will find these cards disturbing. Others will agree that it is important to know about these atrocities, and that people are still enduring them today. However, if Americans know nothing about these events, there is little we can do to prevent them in the future. Kuersteiner says, "To downplay the suffering in other parts of the world would be unfair to the victims."

This set will be a strictly limited edition and never reprinted. Only 450 test boxes will be produced. Each numbered box will hold 36 packs of six cards and sell for $59.95. The checklists will be individually numbered to 1,944 and a Garijo autographed card will be found in each box. Hand collated sets will be available for sale as well. Three promo cards will be offered, one features the artwork from card number 1, and the other two promos have unique art not shown elsewhere in the set.

For more details about purchasing these cards, and to see more samples, visit the Monster Wax website at: http://www.monsterwax.com/HappenHere.html.

An explosive subject matter, stunning artwork, very limited issue-what are you waiting for? These cards are available now. Do your bit and collect all the cards and show them to everyone-and Don't Let It Happen Here!


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