Peanuts at Antiques Roadshow

I have learned in the past few years how popular the PBS television series Antiques Roadshow is through the episode with Arnold Shapiro’s Peanuts collection appraisal. It has rerun many times since its original airdate in 2006, and each time I receive several emails telling me about this treasure trove of Peanuts art. Watch a clip of the episode

Photo Credit: PBS / Antiques Roadshow

Mr. Shapiro, a former artist with Hallmark, and Sparky had a long relationship beginning when Mr. Shapiro reached out to Sparky to ask about designing a line of Hallmark cards.

In the 1970s, Sparky told me the story of how a true Peanuts fan contacted him and then designed prototype cards which were put into Hallmark’s test market stores. According to the story I heard, Mr. Shapiro bought all the cards himself, and—voilà—a Peanuts division was born.

Hallmark greeting card prototype, circa 1959.

The relationship with Hallmark has continued for over 50 years. It is a relationship that the Schulz family and the Peanuts family values highly. It has also been a very personal relationship, because Hallmark is still run by the family of Joyce C. Hall, who began his company with a horse and buggy (do look up the fascinating history).

Sparky said many times that the commercial aspect of Peanuts was based on friendships. This is one we are certainly grateful for.

I thank you, Mr. Shapiro, and legions of Peanuts fans do also.

Last year, Mr. Shapiro donated some of his Peanuts collection to the Museum. In addition to two Peanuts strips, the gift included two It’s Only a Game strips and three unpublished pages from Snoopy’s Daily Dozen: 12 Physical Fitness Exercises, an instruction booklet by Hallmark from the late 1960s.

Peanuts strip, originally published February 14, 1961. Inscribed at the top “For Arnie with every best wish – your friend, Sparky”

Peanuts strip, originally published March 8, 1959.

It’s Only a Game strip, published June 22, 1958. On November 3, 1957, It’s Only a Game debuted in 30 newspapers. The syndicate for Peanuts signed a 5-year contract with Schulz for distribution of It’s Only a Game, which focused on recreational pastimes like golf, hockey, chess, and card-playing. With the rise of Peanuts, his time was increasingly limited for side projects. Schulz hired artist Jim Sasseville to assist with the production of It’s Only a Game. The strip lasted just over one year before Schulz negotiated with his syndicate for early termination of their 5-year contract.

It’s Only a Game strip, published September 14, 1958.

The cover of Snoopy’s Daily Dozen: 12 Physical Fitness Exercises, Hallmark, late 1960s.

Frieda attempts to motivate Snoopy to exercise in this unpublished title page for Snoopy’s Daily Dozen.

Unpublished page from Snoopy’s Daily Dozen featuring Violet and Patty doing the “Pull Stretcher”.

Charlie Brown demonstrates a “Leg Extension” in this unpublished page from Snoopy’s Daily Dozen.

These are important pieces in our collection. All of Sparky’s creations beyond the comic strip shows how fertile his mind was and that he was always striving to expand the scope of his work.

I’ll share more of Mr. Shapiro’s story in an upcoming post—so stay tuned!

 

—Jean Schulz

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