Chet Krause was pioneer in classic car publishing

Krause Chet Perschbacher Gearlad at Iola 2013

The late Chet Krause, right, at the 2013 Iola Old Car Show and Swap Meet in Iola, Wis., with long-time Old Cars Weekly contributor Gerald Perschbacher.

By John Gunnell

Automotive publisher Chet Krause, 92, died June 25 of complications of congestive heart failure, in Iola. Wis.

He was best known as the founder of Krause Publications Iola, and its publications such as Old Cars Weekly, Standard Catalog of American Cars, Numismatic News and numerous other hobby magazines and books.

He was also a founder of the Iola Old Car Show and Swap Meet.

Chet was a lifetime resident of Iola, Wis. As a young man, he helped his father tear down Model T Fords to get parts to sell. Chet had a good knowledge of Model Ts.

In October 1952, Chet published the first issue of Numismatic News, a publication for coin collectors. For the next five years, the publication grew in advertising volume and circulation. When the coin-collecting hobby suffered a serious downturn in the mid 1960s, it nearly ended Krause Publications. prompted Chet to diversify into other hobbies. In 1971, he founded Old Cars Weekly and developed a parallel line of periodicals for antique auto enthusiasts.

His other car publications included Car Classics, Old Cars Price Guide, Car Exchange and Car Corral, and dozens of books, including the well-known “Standard Catalog” series.

Chet’s involvement with the car- collecting fraternity led to one of the most significant contributions he would make to his hometown. In 1972, in conjunction with a pig roast and auction fundraiser sponsored by the Iola Lions Club, Chet invited two dozen area vintage-car owners to display their vehicles at the cookout.

That was the first Iola Old Car Show, an annual event that now draws tens of thousands of spectators to the village. The event has raised millions of dollars, with profits benefiting dozens of area civic organizations that provide volunteer staffing for the largest collector car show in the Midwest.
Krause collected a wide assortment of cars and at one point had nearly 100 vehicles, ranging from classic Packards to iconic 1950s models. He also owned one of the largest collections of World War II military vehicles in the country.

Chet earned many honors for his car hobby contributions, including a Cugnot Award for the Standard Catalog of American Cars 1905-1942. He was also the first winner of the Meguiar’s Award recognizing the outstanding person in the collector-car field.

Krause guided the growth of his publishing company through the 1980s, expanding into more than a dozen collectible hobbies, including sports cards and memorabilia, postcards, comic books, records, stamps, firearms, knives, toys, and general antiques, producing dozens of periodicals and more than 150 book titles, with revenues exceeding $50 million annually.

A funeral service was held in Iola on July 1. Memorials may be given in memory of Chet to Childrens’ Hospital of Wisconsin, 9000 W. Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee, WI. 53226, or to the Rawhide Boys Ranch, E7475 Rawhide Rd, New London, WI. 54961.

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Todd Haefer’s Quicksilver editor note: I am sorry to say that while I worked for Krause Publications for a number of years, including for Old Cars Weekly, Chet was already retired and had sold his stock from the company, so I never had a chance to know him well.

From my few personal interactions with Chet, I got the impression that he could generalize your personality within a few seconds, a heady advantage when negotiating with sellers of cars or coins.

However, I did meet him several times and my favorite Chet story is when I was sitting at my desk one day after recently being hired, and suddenly there was a rumbling sound and the walls of the Krause Publications building literally started vibrating.

I looked outside and there were no storm clouds. Also, Wisconsin is not an area known for earthquakes.

I then looked towards the main parking lot and there was Chet driving one of his World War II tanks through the parking lot. My first thought was, “How cool is it to be working at a place like this!”

I also sort of got him lost while driving him to a restaurant during a coin show in Kansas City, but the less said about that, the better. I was just glad I did not become known as the person who drove Chet to a homeboy showdown in the inner city.

To be a world expert on classic cars is an amazing achievement in itself; to also be an expert in numismatics is double amazing. There will never be another Chet.