Thursday, November 6, 2014

Custom pirate ship added to Rails & Sails

In my Oct. 29 presentation, I explained that in nearly 60 years of collecting bubblegum cards as a kid and as an adult I had never owned a single card from the popular 1955 Topps Rails and Sails issue.

The Chicago and North Western diesel locomotive card I created in that format was a first for my custom card efforts.

Here's my second "addition" to that series.

As wide-ranging as the ships were in the "Sails" allocation of that 200-card set, Topps couldn't cover everything, and thus left me some room to work nearly 60 years later. Surprisingly, for a card set that was designed to appeal to re-teen boys, there was no pirate ship in the original Rails and Sails series.

In my studies of the original R+S I learned a great deal about the set that helped me in my custom card making.

I learned how truly scarce the high numbers -- 151-200 -- among the ship cards really are. 
At any given time there are some 800-900 singles and lots of R+S cards up for sale on eBay. My best guess after scouring those listings for a couple of weeks is that fewer than 10% of them comprise high-numbers.

I was delighted to discover that about half of the 70 original Sails cards featured on back a line art drawing of an American lighthouse.

This allowed me to bring a hometown element to my first ship card. 

The Fond du Lac lighthouse was built in 1933 on the south end of Lake Winnebago, at a promontory at the city's Lakeside Park. The octagonal Cape Cod style structure is 40 feet tall.

Probably since its early days, the lighthouse has been a beacon not only to craft on the lake, but also to local kids seeking a nearby safe place to park at night and "watch the submarine races." The popularity of the place as a lover's lane is attested to by the quantity of New Jersey white fish to be found there on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

The lighthouse is the most iconic symbol of the city. It's found on the city seal, police patches, informational signs, etc.

There was no dearth of good photos of the lighthouse available and I really enjoyed the time spent converting one of them to line art for the back of my card.

As you can see, the subject I chose for my first custom Sails card is the most famous pirate ship of the Golden Age (late-17th and early-18th centuries) of piracy in North America: Blackbeard's flagship, Queen Anne's Revenge.

The capsule history on my card back provides the bare bones, and you can easily find much more about her with a google-search.

Queen Anne's Revenge has reemerged in popular culture as a component in one of the Disney Pirates of the Caribbean action-fantasy movies, On Stranger Tides, released in 2011. 

Blackbeard and his ship also co-star in the video game Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, a 2013 release.

There is even a Lego kit of the Queen Anne's Revenge based on the Disney movie and also released in 2011. The Lego set is about 1,100 pieces and had a retail list price of $379.95. 

Too, the discovery of the wreck of the Queen Anne's Revenge in the coastal waters off North Carolina in 1996, and subsequent salvage operations have brought new attention to the actual ship Queen Anne's Revenge.

Finding artwork for my card was easy, there are a number of modern paintings of the QAR to be found. Curiously, many of them share the dramatic theme of the ship cutting through the dark on a moonlit night.

While finding such art was easy, making it work in the context of a Rails and Sails formatted card took a good deal of effort. I stubbornly clung to the idea that I wanted the ship's pirate flag to be readily visible. This caused me to go through a number of permutations to fit the typographic elements to that end.

I actually completed seven different variations with ships sailing this way and that, and with black and white type arranged in all conformations. I studied them for a couple of days, gradually eliminating them until I came to the conclusion that the pictured card most exactly fits my vision.

There will be at least two-three more Sails cards forthcoming on different topics, though I don't have a timetable. I want to get out some more World on Wheels and TV Western customs in the near future, as well.

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