Collectible cards date to the 1930s radio show
On January 30, 1933, now 86 years ago, America heard for the first time the thundering hoofs and a "Hi-Yo Silver Away." (Editor’s note: There is a little discrepancy as to whether the phrase is “Hi-Yo Silver” or “Hi-Ho Silver.” An internet search has listings for both phrases.) The Lone Ranger had arrived. With his faithful Indian companion, Tonto, he would spend the next 25 years chasing the bad guys.
Conceived by George Trendle and Fran Striker, the same team who would later bring -forth "The Green Hornet" and "Sergeant Preston of the Yukon," "The Lone Ranger" was an attempt to pull their radio station WXYZ out of bankruptcy. In the earliest days of radio there were no giant networks and each station had to stand on its own.
The immense popularity achieved by “'The Lone Ranger" eventually led to the formation of the Mutual Broadcasting System," and in a short while it was being heard coast to coast.
The first Lone Ranger of importance was Earle Grasser followed by Brace Beemer in 1941. Soon there were movies, including a 16-part Saturday morning serial by Republic Pictures. It remained on the radio, later for the Blue Network, until 1955 as a three-times-a-week hit (more than 3,000 episodes).
Television came along in 1949, the most famous player here being Clayton Moore. He also starred in two Lone Ranger movies.
In 1981 an attempt to revive interest in "The Lone Ranger" failed when a movie about the masked man and his pal bombed at the box office. Another movie a few years ago was also a flop.
Of all the memorabilia, ephemera, and collectibles generated by "The Lone Ranger" radio and television shows and movies over the last 85 years, the least expensive and easiest to find are the various types of collector cards. In all, four types of cards can be found with scenes from the various Lone Ranger productions. These are Exhibit Supply Co.'s penny arcade vending machine cards, insert premiums, gum cards and postcards.
Probably the first collectible card was put out by Silvercup Bread as an insert premium in its loaves. This was in the mid-to late-1930s. Portrayed was Earle Grasser, the first important actor to play the role on radio. It is captioned "Good Luck Always, The Lone Ranger.” Silvercup was the show's first sponsor, from 1933 to 1939, and used these and other cards to promote the program. On the backside is a list of radio stations with days and times of broadcast.
In 1940 or 1941 the earliest of many blank-back arcade cards to be printed by Exhibit Supply Co. were sold. One pictured Brace Beemer, the second important radio masked man, atop his faithful steed, Silver. Another is of Silver alone. Credit line identified "M.B.S." the Mutual Broadcasting System which broadcast it over stations coast to coast.
Of unknown date, but probably late 1930s or early 1940s, is an Exhibit Supply Co. arcade card entitled "The Four Lone Rangers." Back in the 1960s and 1970s this was often seen in dealer's boxes. At about the same time a Connecticut speculator did a reprint of this as a postcard. Needless to say the reprint postcard is worth far less than the original arcade card.
The 1938 Saturday morning 16-part serial movie, "The Lone Ranger" inspired Exhibit Supply Co. to release a 16-card series. One showed the thriller's star, Lee Powell, and the four: imitation Lone Rangers. Publication date was probably 1938 or 1939. Other cards were movie scenes involving Lee Powell and Chief Thunder Cloud. Blue tinted and with blank backs-- these were popular cards in the penny arcade machines of America and every young boy tried to get a complete set.
In its 1950 catalog, Exhibit Supply Co. listed, for the first time, a special series with a Wild West theme. Titled "All-Star Cowboys" by the firm, it has generally come to be known by collectors as the "4-on-1 Cowboy Set." In it were three cards, each having one photograph of The Lone Ranger along with three other movie or television cowboys. In 1951 the Lone Ranger segments were changed to drawings of the newest Lone Ranger. The older photo style cards are quite rare. This brown tinted set remained available until 1979, the year the company went out of business.
In the early 1950s, arcade cards by Exhibit of Clayton Moore, the TV show's hero, began appearing. These were found in amusement park machines well into the 1970s.
Trading cards of The Lone Ranger were issued sometime in the 1950s. Various actions scenes from the movies were used. These were printed by Ed-U-Cards, Inc., in strips of three for a total of four sets of 30 cards each.
Postcards of The Lone Ranger and Tonto do not seem to have been published until more modern times. In the mid-1980s, Ludlow Sales marketed at least two different. These pictured The Lone Ranger and Tonto (Number FC-134-50) and The Lone Ranger riding Silver (Number FC-192-50). Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels, the most famous of modern day actors, are seen.
And so "Hi- Yo Silver, Away!" Thanks for all the great cards.
The Lone Ranger!