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Wings Trading Cards

These 1950s, cold war era aviation trading cards feature amazing artwork, as well as some fascinating details on the military aircraft of the day. So far, I have the majority of the first 100 cards in the series. There are a few gaps.

The following is from "The Modern Hobby Guide to Topps Chewing Gum: 1938 to 1956" by David Hornish. 

“Wings” was the second Giant Size set issued by Topps, right in the midst of the 1952 Baseball cards retail blitz. Hugely popular, the set's 200 cards feature a sweeping array of aircraft, mostly planes, displayed in colorful, if slightly muted tones. The fronts feature the aircraft's name in a large font together with some military affiliation information in a black text box below. Reverses feature a large card number, a block of text, some statistics about the craft presented in a fashion similar to the stats on the 1952 baseball cards and a feature called “Friend or Foe”, which displayed silhouettes of planes and played on the fact the nation was still at war. The backs also have the usual T.C.G. copyright, a 1952 date and a “Courtesy Herald Tribune, Inc.” credit line, presumably for the text.

Dating of the set has been the subject of much debate in the hobby over the years but the boxes bear a 1952 copyright. However, a period photo exists showing a single box of “Wings” cards bearing a sticker stating “New Series” being sold alongside 3rd series packs of 1953 Topps baseball cards, which dates around the spring of 1953; indeed the 1953 American Card Catalog, published in February of that year, lists the set at 200 cards. It seems clear then that all 200 cards of Wings came out in 1952. The last 100 cards were seemingly sold in groups of 50, with some first series cards seeded into the nickel and dime packs.

Topps though, was playing games at this time with some of their multi-series sets and skip numbered a couple of cards in series two. These gaps would, in theory, keep the kids buying the cards looking for numbers in series 2 that did not yet exist. This “skip number” marketing was first identified in an article by Pete D’Luhosch at his PJD Enterprises site which details how the quiz on the first series backs always refer to the next card numerically in the set.

Furthermore, the article describes how the first 100 cards have the quiz sequentially referring to the next card in all 100 instances (#100 refers to #1), with the cards from #101-150 have answers scattered over the fifty possible numbers in series two, with the exception of two cards: #118 refers to an answer on #180, while #149 lists #173 as having the answer. In addition, the author has observed that #128 refers to #151 for its quiz answer. Then, within the run from #151-200: #151 lists #110 as its answer while #152 refers to an answer on #125. No corresponding third card in series three referring back to an answer in series two exists so one of the duplicate answers must have taken its place.

D’Luhosch later writes in an article in The Wrapper, that examination of partial uncut sheets shows the 3rd series runs from #101-152, with nos. 118 and 149 held out and replaced by nos. 151 and 152. The 4th series then runs from #153-200 with nos. 118 and 149 added. Furthermore, the switching of #149 and #151 is confirmed by these partial sheets and it is assumed the switching of #118 and #152 matches up as well as they do not show on the partials.

The Cards