Friday, March 18, 2016

Collector's Item: The Shadow's Ring

One of the most popular premiums among adolescents was the ring. The Sky King program offered a Magni-Glo Writing Ring. Jack Armstrong had a Dragon’s Eye Ring. Captain Midnight offered an Initial Printing Ring. For The Shadow, there was more than one ring. On the broadcast of February 22, 1941, station WMT in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, offered a special premium for the listeners of their Dialines radio program — a Shadow ring that glowed in the dark. (Dialines was a local WMT program that helped promote and market radio programs heard over the same station.)  

“Think how excited your son or daughter will be to have a ring like that to show his friends,” the announcer coaxed. Any radio listeners who sent in 10 cents and one Powerhouse Candy Bar wrapper to The Shadow in care of WMT would receive the ring by return mail. 

The offer was repeated two weeks later on the broadcast of March 8, 1941. The offer only extended until April when The Shadow went off WMT. Had the response been large, the station managers might have been convinced to continue the radio program behind April. To date, this is the earliest documented case of a free Shadow ring. (Blue Coal made the same offer for radio listeners until December 31). Premiums offered on children's radio programs were generally designed to gauge the size of the listening audience, often convincing sponsors to continue paying for the time slot.

A brief mention of the Shadow ring promotion appeared on the March 18, 1941 broadcast of Ned Jordan, Secret Agent. In the episode “Signals on the Sea,” Judy Medwick remarks that Ned is wearing his Shadow glow-in-the-dark ring. The product placement was the result of the Johnson Candy Company (Powerhouse Candy Bar), which was also sponsoring Ned Jordan on selected stations in the Midwest, in addition to the Iowa Network.

In what might have been considered a trial run, The Shadow ring premium was offered along the East Coast in the Blue Coal territory on the broadcast of November 23, 1941, titled “The Ring of Light.” Both rings were a one-size-fits-all (although it could be stretched by soaking it in hot water for five minutes). It was made of white plastic and glowed a bright green in the dark. The difference between the Blue Coal ring and the Powerhouse Candy Bar ring was a small lump of anthracite coal on top, the crowning pride for any Shadow fan. The “Mystic Shadow Ring” that glowed in the dark was offered for a dime to any listener who wanted to write to a specific address at Madison Square Garden at the conclusion of the March 8, 1942, broadcast. The reason for this one-time mention may have been to judge the size of the listenership near the end of the broadcast season. Another theory is that D.L.&W. had a large number of rings left over from the offer of a year ago and wanted to liquidate the rings from storage. 

Unlike other heroes of the airwaves, The Shadow did not have a ring that could be used to save him from deadly peril. Instead, the story concerned a small, valuable ring that was supposedly an everlasting charm against danger, but meant sudden death for its owner. Taking a script titled “The Circle of Light” and revising it to “The Ring of Light,” the scriptwriter was able to offer a show written around a finger-adornment which served to make The Shadow recognized by the initiated into the mysteries of the ring’s origin. The ring was one that glowed in the dark, and the Shadow cast some light on its “supposed” powers. A third glow-in-the-dark ring was issued by Carey Salt in 1945 and again in late 1947. Much plainer than the Blue Coal ring, it was created from the same mold as the Buck Rogers Ring of Saturn and the Jack Armstrong Dragon Eye Ring, but The Shadow version had a black stone in the center. This ring was promoted during the commercial breaks through both the 1945-46 and 1946-47 winter seasons.
Of course, The Shadow possessed a ring in the pulp magazines, as evidenced by the cover art and numerous novels. In The Romanoff Jewels (December 1, 1932), The Shadow reveals the ring contained a valuable and rare fine opal that was part of the Romanoff collection worn only by the Czars themselves and given to The Shadow as a gift by the last of them. Death Triangle (October 15, 1933) restated this point. Fans of the radio program who sought dramatic appeal by envisioning the character depicted on the pulp covers, rather than a non-costumed invisible figure, might have assumed he was wearing the mystic ring throughout his radio adventures.

Today, these collector rings are sold at auctions, mostly on the internet. Sadly, a number of replicas float about and are often mistaken as the real thing. Be aware of what is real and what is not!

Episode #172 “THE RING OF LIGHT”
Broadcast November 23, 1941
Copyright Registered in U.S. Copyright Office, #DU78410, November 25, 1941.
Renewal Copyright Registration #R449987, December 3, 1968.
Script written by Sidney Slon and/or Peter Barry. 
Plot: Centuries ago, according to the legend, the Genga family was blessed with the Circle of Light, a small ring with an everlasting charm against danger and sudden death for its owner. The strength of the ring passes on to each new owner, leaving only bitterness and defeat thereafter to the former possessor. After Mr. Genga of Genga and Cham, importers of precious gems, is found murdered, a mysterious woman named Kara Ling is the lead suspect. Ali Genga, son and heir to the family fortune, is found stabbed to death. Tracking down the whereabouts of Kara Ling, Lamont, Margot and Commissioner Weston are almost boiled alive in a death trap cleverly constructed in her residence. The Shadow applies practical reasoning to save their lives, but questioning Hassan, Mr. Grenga’s servant, Lamont discovers that Kara Ling and Ali Genga were in love. Mr. Genga was against the relationship and intended to give the ring to his business partner, Mr. Cham. Hassan plotted with Ali to kill his master so Kara Ling could get the ring for her fiancĂ©, unaware that Cham killed Ali’s father and beat them to the ring. Betrayed for committing a murder that he realized was unjust, Hassan struggles with Kara Ling and the two criminals fall to their death from the top of a tower. Confessing his murderous deed to Commissioner Weston, Lamont and Margot, Cham keels over dead after drinking a cup of tea laced with strychnine. Driving back to the station, Commissioner Weston decides to throw the ring out the window until he is mysteriously saved from what almost became a deadly car accident. He decides to keep the ring for good measure.

Trivia, etc. The script cover of the first draft states the title as “The Circle of Light,” the same title registered for copyright at the U.S. Copyright Office. The announcer, however, describes the title of this broadcast cast “The Ring of Light.”

The information above is an excerpt that originates from The Shadow: The History and Mystery of the Radio Program, 1930-1954 by Martin Grams. The author will offer a history of the radio program in the form of a slide show at the next Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, held at Hunt Valley, Maryland, September 22 to 24, 2011. 


Anonymous said...

Now I know what to keep an eye out for at the flea market. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Nice writeup of the history of the Shadow Ring. My question is on your closing paragraph, how do you know if the ring is real or a replica?

Cathyquilter said...

I have an original Blue Coal ring that my 89 year old mother sent away for in 1941. Any idea of a current value?

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