Friday, August 29, 2014

Chance encounter with World on Wheels cards changed my life

If you read my blog on Aug. 13 you know that I have now added the creation of non-sports cards to my efforts in the custom card field.

And if you saw the blog on Aug. 23, you know that my next non-sports customs are going to be in the format of the 1954-55 Topps World on Wheels.

Today, I'll tell you why I've been working on WoW cards; tomorrow I'll show you the results.

World on Wheels cards are the reason I got back into card collecting in the late-1970s after having taken the usual teenage hiatus a decade earlier.

I had been an avid collector of bubblegum cards -- baseball, football and non-sports -- from 1954 through 1962. My earliest childhood card memory is opening a nickel pack of 1954 Topps baseball that my grandfather bought for me when we were out gallivanting in his 1950 DeSoto.

My last specific childhood card memory is of trading Civil War News cards in the boy's bathroom in fifth grade. Our dealings in those cards had to be carried out in the can because the nuns couldn't appreciate the historical educational values of the cards, choosing instead to focus on the impalements, sharks and flying, mangled bodies.

For a few years thereafter I'd usually buy one pack of each year's new baseball and football cards just to see what they looked like, but my card collecting days were behind me.

That all changed one day in a used book store on Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Milwaukee.

About once a year beginning in the mid- to late-Sixties, my oldest brother Jim (five years my senior) would find a reason to make the one-hour drive from our home in Fond du Lac to Milwaukee. Sometimes it was to go to the State Fair, sometimes to pick up a car part, etc. I always tried to get an invite to ride along.

Besides whatever the principal reason for the trip was, two stops were traditional; one for lunch at Leon's drive-in and the other to browse one or both of the Schroeder's used book stores downtown. (Googling Schroeder's today, I see they are still in business in the Milwaukee area.)

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The day after Christmas 1972, I moved out of the family home and started my journalism career in a small Central Wisconsin town an hour away. That pretty much ended my trips to Milwaukee with Jim, but for some reason we were able to get together for one last jaunt circa 1977-78.

With a belly full of frozen custard and an armload of used book bargains I was waiting to check out at Schroeder's when I spotted a stack of cards sitting on the ledge of the cash register. 

I immediately recognized them as World on Wheels cards, as I had numbered a few of them among my collection as a kid. I asked the clerk if the cards were for sale and at what price.
They were 20 cents each and I peeled off four or five dollars and bought the whole stack.

With that purchase I was back in the world of card collecting. A friend in the coin collecting hobby introduced me to Sports Collectors Digest in 1978 and by late 1980 I had convinced Krause Publications to introduce the national newsstand magazine Baseball Cards. The course of my life was thus set for the next 30 years.

Through the pages of SCD and visits to card shows to promote the new magazine, I eventually completed a set of World on Wheels cards. Along the way I discovered that there had been a scarce high-number (#161-180) series of WoW cards and that they came in both red and blue backs. I still have that set (in nice Ex-Mt. condition) and it has proved invaluable in my efforts to supplement the original Topps issue with some latter-day additions.

Come back tomorrow to have a look at the first of what I expect will be several World on Wheels custom cards.

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