PSA Set Registry
Collecting the 1930 World Wide Gum "Jungle Gum" (R78) Trading Card Set
Building a Vintage "Zoo"
by Kevin Glew
"Start a zoo - as you chew" is one of the best marketing slogans ever dreamed up for a trading card series.
This catchy phrase adorns the backs of 1930 Jungle Gum (R78) cards, which highlight wild animals from around the world. Unfortunately, the size of the "zoo" that collectors could build wasn't as large as advertised. Each card was touted as "one of a series of 192 Cards of Wild Animal Life"; however, after chewing a lot of extra gum, collectors discovered that only 48 cards existed.
Hobbyists also eventually learned that every card from #1 to #24 was produced, but cards #25 to #71 were skip-numbered. During that era, skip-numbering was a fairly common practice that many believe was designed to deliberately trick collectors into purchasing more packs to search for non-existent numbers. But some contend that World Wide Gum, this issue's Boston-based manufacturer, may have planned to continue the series but just never got around to manufacturing them.
Whatever the reason is for the skip-numbering, this had to be frustrating for collectors mesmerized by these educational and colorful cards. Measuring 2-3/8" by 2-7/8" each, the card fronts showcase the same animal artwork that was used in the 1910 Hassan Cigarettes "Animal Series." The images range from cute (Chimpanzee (#4) presents a baby chimpanzee clinging to its parent) to frightening (Lion (#31) offers an image of a lion roaring and baring its teeth).
"I think the [card] design is very good given the era they were made in," said Greg Libersher, who owns the No. 3 Current Finest, 1930 Jungle Gum set on the PSA Set Registry. "If you get a good example and you look at the colors, they're very nice, but those are hard to find."
Chris Tonniges, who has assembled the registry's No. 5 Current Finest, 1930 Jungle Gum set, shares a similar assessment. He adds that it must have been exciting for kids to view these cards.
"I'm 40 years old and I can't imagine being a 10- or 15-year-old back in the 1930s, collecting these cards and seeing animals that I had never seen before," he said. "I mean we grew up with the Internet and in the Encyclopedia Britannica world where we had pictures at our finger tips. For some of those kids, this would have been their only experience seeing and learning about animals from across the world."
The card fronts also offer the animal's name in the background of the image and the set name ("JUNGLE CHEWING GUM") in a pink, rectangular block across the bottom.
The horizontal backs present the card number at the top, followed by the animal name, their habitat and a description. The respective animal's name is highlighted in capital letters throughout the description. A review of the backs reveals that 34 of the 48 animals in the set can be found in Africa. The first North American animal is not featured until the Bald Eagle on card #37.
"I think that was probably a good move [to feature so many animals outside of North America]," said Libersher. "It was a good way to get the kids to explore animals worldwide."
The selection of animals is extensive and sometimes curious. For example, seven types of antelopes are highlighted but only one bear (Polar Bear #45). Where are the pandas, koalas or grizzlies? And other than the cobra, there are no reptiles in the set.
But with this said, many of the animals that they do shine the spotlight on are fascinating.
"One of the things that I like about the set is that the cards tell you little details about the animals," said Charles Norman, who possesses the No. 1 Current Finest, 1930 Jungle Gum set on the PSA Set Registry.
"It's entertaining to go back and look at how people thought of the animals at the time," he said. "The cards are educational, entertaining and a little funny at times, too."
A good example of this is the Magot card (#19). The back of this card says this monkey is "fond of pelting people with stones and cones." Another fun fact is shared on the walrus card (#35), which notes that a walrus can weigh more than a ton.
"At one time, the New York Zoo had a walrus, and it was necessary for seven men to work hard all day shelling clams to satisfy its large appetite," reads text on the walrus card.
In many cases, the card backs describe whether the animal represents a danger to humans. The back of the Tiger single (#6), for instance, reveals that the tiger is "Not naturally a maneater, but when it once tastes human flesh, it wants no other. One TIGER is known to have killed and eaten 80 human beings in one year." Yikes!
The back of the cobra card (#13) is similarly frightening. "Its bite is almost invariably fatal and it is responsible for thousands of deaths yearly in India," reads the text.
But it's clear that the author(s) of this series believes that the lion (#31) represents the biggest threat to human safety. The card back describes the lion as a "vicious flesh-eater and destroyer of man and living animals." It then goes on to state, "The LION has been known to make an unprovoked attack on man in the broad daylight."
The bottom of the card back offers an advertisement for the series and also exhibits copyright information.
The 1930 Jungle Gum cards were distributed green, red, white and black wrappers that have drawings of several animals on them. These have been listed as five-cent wrappers in online auctions, but the wrappers do not specify a price on them. Also, because the cards do not have a date on them, the exact year of their release has been an ongoing debate. Collectors seem to agree, however, that they were unveiled sometime in the early 1930s.
As with many vintage sets, the first and last cards are key singles. They faced additional wear and tear being at the top and bottom of collector piles. The first card, Giraffe (#1), has been submitted to PSA 22 times and there's just one PSA NM-MT 8 (with nothing grading higher). The last card (#71), which spotlights the Ring-Tailed Lemur, is even more elusive in top grade. Of the 20 evaluated, there's only one PSA NM+ 7.5 and one PSA NM 7 as the highest grades.
Norman cites the Rhinoceros card (#17), which features a superb image of the majestic beast drinking from a river, as one of his favorites. With 27 submissions, it's also one of the most submitted cards from this series. The two PSA 8s represent the highest graded examples.
Tonniges savors the Toucan card (#41), which pictures the tropical bird, with its trademark multicolored beak, perched on a branch.
"The toucan [card] is a really vibrant image," he said. "From an image standpoint, that's probably my favorite card due to the colors and the detail."
It, too, is one of the most popular cards in the series. Of the 26 evaluated, there have been two PSA 8s.
Like the Rhinoceros card, the Screech Owl single (#59) also has 27 examples graded by PSA and is one of the most submitted cards in this set. The four PSA 7s represent the highest graded copies. On the flip side, just 13 Polar Bear cards (#45) have been evaluated and there's one PSA 8 and one PSA 7.5.
According to the PSA Population Report, the most elusive cards in PSA 7 or better are the Leopard (#10) and Kangaroo (#57) singles. Each has only one PSA 7 and no examples grading higher.
But the 1930 Jungle Gum cards, in general, are tough to uncover in top condition. There has yet to be a PSA 10 of any card and there are two PSA 9s, two PSA NM-MT+ 8.5 and 55 PSA 8s. Toning on the white borders is a common issue.
Libersher also notes that on some cards, the image from the front has bled through to the back.
"I've had probably four or five examples of every card and over half of the cards in my set have that bleed-through [issue]," he said.
The dearth of high-grade examples has made it difficult for collectors to build their "zoos" of 1930 Jungle Gum cards, but the thrill of the hunt, as well as the captivating images and fascinating text on these cards, continue to make this set appealing.
"The images are timeless," said Norman. "If they get a good look at the cards, I think more people will collect them."
Tonniges agrees, but he warns that if collectors want to assemble a high-grade set, they should be prepared to invest a lot of time to complete one.
"It takes years if you want to do it right. I mean, you can fill a set up with a bunch of [PSA GOOD] 2s to do it, but it's not a really easy set to complete in high grade," he said. "One of the reasons I started collecting this set was because it's one of those sets that I think people know about, but they haven't seen all of the images. They may have seen one or two here and there, but I think once they see the card images, more people will gravitate towards it. Especially if they have an affinity for non-sports cards."
For more information on the 1930 Jungle Gum (R78) non-sports set, please visit http://www.psacard.com/Cardfacts/Set/28590/1930-world-wide-gum-jungle-r78-non-sports-cards.
Please feel free to contact Kevin Glew at [email protected] if you have any additional information or comments. Please note that the Population Report figures quoted and Set Registry rankings reported are those as of March 2016.
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