A couple of years ago, I discovered a cool little set of cards put out by Topps way back in 1952 called Look 'N See. The 135 cards in the set feature famous authors, poets, inventors, explorers, scientists, and more. Some were contemporary at the time. Many others were from history.
Quickly I found one of my favorite authors, Jules Verne, and snatched up his card for a bargain.
A year and a half later, I grabbed a card featuring Samuel Morse, as it brought back a great childhood memory involving my grandfather.
Recently I looked through the checklist again and found three more cards I thought I'd like to add to my collection. Even better, after a search on eBay, I found all three being offered by the same seller—and for just a few dollars each.
Now, these three cards don't quite qualify for Favorites Box entry like the first two, but I did purchase them for various reasons of admiration that I'll describe here.
First up is American author Washington Irving. Fond memories of reading his stories go all the way back to my childhood. Many folks are familiar with his works like "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle". I'd also highly recommend a collection of short stories called Tales of the Alhambra.
Another reason I like this guy is that he's a native New Yorker like me, and that I currently live on the Hudson River, not too far from the actual village of Sleepy Hollow (yep, it's an actual place) and another town called Irvington, named after the author himself.
Notice the question on the back: What character who slept for 20 years was created by Washington Irving?
Here's the decoded message, done by placing a digital version of red cellophane paper on top of the card back.
Next up is the incredible Isaac Newton. I admire this man for the sheer width and breadth of his knowledge and brilliance. Science, mathematics, optics, gravitation, laws of motion, you name it. He was also quite a philosopher and even delved deeply into the Bible, citing, for example, how the stars and planets—as precisely as they moved about the solar system under the law of universal gravitation—could not have been placed in their orbits without the help of some intelligent creator.
The question on the back of his card: What led Newton to discover the laws of gravity?
And here's the decoded message.
And finally, we've got Wilbur Wright. More nostalgia factor here, specifically involving the field of aviation. I grew up on Long Island, very close to the famous airstrip that was used not only by Amelia Earhart, but also by Charles Lindbergh when he began his remarkable trans-Atlantic flight in The Spirit of St. Louis. (Lindbergh has a card in this set as well, but it can be a bit pricey.)
The little town in which I grew up even has a few streets named after pioneers of the field like Curtiss, Lansdowne, Lindbergh, and Wright. In addition, a couple of towns away there are some wartime-era airplane hangars that have since been converted into The Cradle of Aviation Museum. Lots of cool exhibits there, especially if you're an airplane/spaceflight buff.
The question here: How long did the first flight of an airplane last?
And here's the decoded message.
Brother Orville didn't receive a card in the set, but maybe that's him running exuberantly after the plane.
I've really enjoyed adding these Look 'N See cards to my collection. Not only are they some of the oldest I own, but they've been more than affordable so far. On top of that, they feature some great luminaries from history. And on top of that, I get to do some cool secret agent–style decoding work for each card. That's a win-win-win-win.
Thanks for reading, as always.