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What is CWN? History About this Site Len Brown Interview

What is Civil War News anyway?
Civil War News is a 1965 collector card series from Topps containing 88 cards and 17 reproduction Confederate bills.
Each card has a color printing of a battle or historical event, which is captioned in a white box set inside the picture area. The backs are gray with a red-brown border; the card number is located in this border at the bottom corner on the right side. The text is arranged in newspaper fashion. A piece of facsimile Confederate currency was folded into every pack. (17 different). There was a one cent and a five cent pack.

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A short history...
The United States Civil War Centennial Celebration was still going strong in 1962 when Topps produced a set of cards titled THE CIVIL WAR. The cards were the idea of Len Brown and Woody Gelman. Gelman recalled an earlier series of cards from the 1930's called HORRORS OF WAR that had made a large impact because of the graphic violence that was shown. They felt that boys would react strongly if they did a combination Civil War Chronicle with the feel of the old Horrors of War cards. Because of the title of the "newspaper-like journal" on the back the set has become known as the CIVIL WAR NEWS. The cards were graphic, bloody and extremely successful. This was the first of the the three "bloody" sets (including Battle and Mars Attacks) by famous 'pulp' artist Norm Saunders. CWN made a bundle and got Topps to invest some time and effort on the other two series. Later Norm Saunders also did the art work for Wacky Packs and Batman cards for Topps. Norm passed away in 1989, his daughter Zina has followed in his footsteps as an artist and has even done some excellent new MARS ATTACKS! work.
In 1962 the MARS ATTACKS bubble-gum card set was produced by "Bubbles, Inc." (an alternate company name for Topps). Due to Brown and Gelman's earlier success with their historical card set called "Civil War News" that the kids loved, they knew they had the formula for a smashing success. They would combine the sci-fi Martian scenario with the graphic gore of a kind of interplanetary civil war. Instead of North vs. South, it would be the Martians vs. the Earthlings. The cards, which sold for 5 cents a pack in 1962, were quickly denounced by parents who were shocked by the bloody, gory, graphic pictures, and were pulled off the market after a very short time. Three years later, in 1965, Topps produced a set entitled BATTLE. The World War II card series didn't sell particularly well and that ended the Topps/Brown/Gelman trilogy of great painted card sets.
However, Topps tried once more with the DINOSAURS ATTACK! cards that came out in 1988. At that time there was a lot of interest in Dinosaurs and Brown and Gelman thought a blood and guts series like the old ones would be unusual enough to be sucessful again. But it never broke through as a card series in a big way. Just hard core collectors seemed to love them. The series was certainly inspired by Mars Attacks. When Tim Burton had Warner Bros. acquire the rights for the Mars Attacks film, they also bought the rights to Dinosaurs Attack.

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About this web site
Like many children, as I was growing up I collected trading cards. My brother and I actually had an nearly complete set of Mars Attacks cards! (which has disappeared over the years.) I wish I still had them! I've had to make do with a reproduction set.
Another set that I collected was the 1962 Civil War News series. Most of those survived to today. In 1996 (when the Internet was still young and the Web was just beginning) I used the newsgroups to contact other card owners and was able to complete my set. The last few cards I needed were purchased from a fellow in Hong Kong! Many of my personal cards exhibit the wear and tear of having been collected and intently studied over and over by a ten-year-old. I cherish every rounded corner, crease, and nick. I also enjoy the fact that a few cards in my collection have been around the world - to Hong Kong and back! I collect the cards because I love them and for the memories - not for their condition and value.
When the Dinosaurs Attack series came out I purchased them with the intention of gathering the complete set simply because they reminded me of my Mars Attacks and Civil War News cards. I wanted to do a trading card site to experiment with the display process of showing the fronts and backs. My first thoughts were to do Mars Attacks or Civil War News but there are already a few really good sites out there. (I may may do those sometime in the future because I like my method of presentation). That's how the Dinosaurs site came about.
I became interested in the 1965 Battle series by Topps because of it's relation to the Civil War series. While I can afford to simply purchase a complete set today, I've decided to try a different tactic. One that's reminiscent of my childhood collecting. I log on to ebay and other auction sites and look for individual cards for sale where the owners have scanned the images. I've been collecting the complete set (fronts and backs - 132 images) in scans from the Web. That is why some of the cards are displayed in such low quality. To date I'm only missing 11 of the 24 extremely rare cloth patches!
For me it's not owning the cards but rather the thrill of the hunt.

-Bob Heffner

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