Clarence Mutscher's .22 box collection

Anyone who has been collecting .22 boxes for much time would surely know of Clarence Mutscher from Billings, MT… I didn’t find any mention of him in the forum and figured I would post this link to a 2007 article from the Billings Gazette that I just stumbled across. John Kuntz is mentioned as a friend & collector collaborator in the article, and Clarence’s layout of displayed boxes looked impressive.

clarence

Clarence passed away in 2009 unfortunately, and according to the article his box collection was to be parsed out to collectors and sold off for the most part. His obituary from 2009 is here: https://billingsgazette.com/lifestyles/announcements/obituaries/clarence-e-mutscher/article_a7245977-081a-5439-9a64-47e68c4aa997.html

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Amazing!
First time I see this given as a reason why I am prohibited from viewing a website!!!

We recognize you are attempting to access this website from a country belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA) including the EU which enforces the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and therefore access cannot be granted at this time. For any issues, contact citynews@billingsgazette.com or call (800) 762-6397.

WHAT? That makes no sense at all!!! :-(

Brian

That is odd, for a small website such as that to bother with a restriction like that. Well, we wont let bureaucratic nonsense get in the way of things… Here is the article (with extra photos at the bottom):

"Collector amasses roomful of historical cartridge boxes"

  • BRETT FRENCH Of The Gazette Staff
  • Oct 10, 2007

Although he owns thousands of rounds of .22 caliber ammunition, Clarence Mutscher doesn’t possess a single gun to fire them.

Even if he did own a gun, Mutscher wouldn’t dare break open some of the cartridge boxes he owns - the rarest of which is valued at $2,500.

Tall and soft-spoken, Mutscher, 76, of Billings is a collector of .22 ammunition boxes, posters and display racks and other shooting memorabilia. By his estimate, he has 5,500 to 6,000 different items in his collection.

“A lot of the boxes look alike, but there’s a variation of some kind,” he said.

Mutscher, a retired North Dakota electrical lineman, started collecting .22 memorabilia when he was 18. That’s when his grandfather, who homesteaded in northeastern North Dakota, gave him his first .22 cartridge box, which Mutscher still has today.

The Union Metallic Cartridge Co. box is still wrapped in its original paper seal. Mutscher has dated it to pre-1911.

“It’s as close to a mint box as you’ll find,” he said.

Fellow .22 collector John Kuntz, 66, of Miles City calls his friend’s collection "extremely unique in view of the organization.

“Almost every box that’s there has a page in a book,” Kuntz said. “He’s much more organized than I am.”

A knack for organization is evident when a visitor steps into Mutscher’s basement. One room is lined with stained pinewood racks he made for his .22 cartridge box collection. Boxes ornate and plain crowd the shelves. Images of birds, cats and frogs are printed on some of the boxes.

“The graphics on the new stuff is getting better,” he said. Of one of the manufacturers he noted, “Peters always had a lot of color in it.”

The boxes come from Australia, New Zealand, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Russia, Argentina and South Africa.

“Almost every country makes a .22,” he said.

And at one time, there was a greater variety of .22 caliber rounds. Mutscher shows a board with more than 12 different .22 rounds adhered to it, everything from short “splatter” loads for shooting at carnivals to long magnums for power. Now, there are maybe half as many rounds manufactured.

“Rimfire got started in Europe and multiplied,” he said.

In rimfire rounds, the gun’s firing pin strikes the rim of the cartridge. Modern hunting rifles use centerfire rounds. But Mutscher has some of the precursors to centerfire, including a pin-fired cartridge where the pin was struck by the gun’s hammer.

“A lot of the history is really hard to find because of the poor records that were kept,” he said. “And every time a company bought another, they threw the old records away.”

So he and fellow collectors dig, and dig, and dig to find “little bitty” pieces of information that eventually add up to make sense.

“I think the history is the thing that keeps things going,” Mutscher said. “Trying to find out why they did things a certain way.”

Kuntz said the attraction of collecting .22 boxes is that they’re colorful and don’t take up much space. He also enjoys the extensive history.

“The .22 short has been in constant production since 1858 without change in dimension,” Kuntz said. “It’s made by every civilized nation and a few uncivilized ones, too.”

Mutscher said meeting fellow collectors like Kuntz makes the hobby fun. An annual show in St. Louis attracts collectors from around the world, providing a place to make trades or purchases. Mutscher writes letters- the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper - to purchase items from overseas. On difficult cases, he turns to Kuntz and his computer expertise for help.

Kuntz has traveled 29 times to Europe and Asia to trade and add to his collection of about 4,500 pieces.

“Once you get into this, you start to find out all kinds of things,” he said. “It’s almost as if your collection gets a mind of its own after awhile.”

Like Mutscher, Kuntz got started collecting when a relative gave him a gift.

An uncle had a filling station on the outskirts of Minneapolis that was a gathering place for locals to show off new guns and talk about hunting. Kuntz’s uncle appropriated a .22 shell from every hunter that came through. Over 31 years, he amassed quite the selection of shells. When he gave some of it to Kuntz when he was 12, the boy thought he’d died and gone to heaven.

“I don’t collect anything after 1963,” Kuntz said. “My collection is quite a bit older than most.”

Mutscher can tell you what he’s spent on each item, but he’s never tallied the total cost. And he doesn’t know how much the collection is worth.

“I have no idea because the prices today have gone absolutely insane,” he said.

But the worth of the objects is of little concern to Mutscher.

“I just enjoy doing it,” he said. “Since my wife passed away, if I didn’t have this I would have gone nuts.”

Other collections Mutscher has - including oil cans, cartridges and cap gun caps (he even owns a cartridge from a Gatling Gun that dates to the Civil War era) - don’t match his .22 cartridge box collection for size and depth. But he still enjoys showing them, especially the obscure items.

Mutscher has no one person to pass the collection on to intact. Instead, when he dies it will be parceled out to other collectors and portions of it will go to different family members.

“It’s terribly hard to part with them,” Kuntz said. “It’s not in my vocabulary.”

Yet Mutscher is philosophical about the eventual split of the collections.

“Some of it at least will find a home,” he said.

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Also, regarding the restrictions of website viewing based on country location - I had mentioned in another thread recently that using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) has become so commonplace all over the world, especially China, that it makes these restrictive attempts essentially pointless. Nord VPN is a popular one for example.

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Matt and Brian, thanks a lot!

It seems that totalitarian behaviour is spreading fast in our digital time…

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Matt, thanks for sharing. I have the original b/w article with the same information and images published in the Billings Gazette, October 11, 2007. Great to have color pictures!

Regards,

Fede

Alex,
Maybe you just live in East Germany.

Vlad, looking at our protagonist (former Stasi spy) and governmental oppression and surveillance I am pretty sure that the GDR took over West Germany and not the other way round!

So unfortunately you are right!

Geographically I am a “westerner” though…