Carl checked out the superb Star Trek Topps Trading Card book and rediscovered a treasure trove of forgotten awesomeness from the final frontier…
Topps is world-famous for its trading cards. As a young child, I vividly remember going to the nearest candy store and buying the sets in bulk. This was back in the day where Topps released trading cards based on properties such as ‘Planet Of The Apes‘, ‘Star Wars‘, ‘Superman‘, ‘Mars Attacks!’ and ‘The Black Hole‘ to name a few. They, of course, also did sets of baseball, football and other sports-related cards that American children snapped up in their droves. There was something so cool about collecting the cards, showing them to your friends and swapping cards in the schoolyard. Every pack came with five cards, a sticker and a piece of Bazooka gum. It was a fantastic time, upsetting your friends by owning a rare card that they all wanted or by swapping a double for something you needed or just simply swapping with your friends. It was an integral part of my childhood. Topps also produced a ‘Star Trek‘ range of cards. They missed the boat when the series first premiered on network television, passing up the chance to produce a set of cards to go along with the show. It was only when the series became big in syndication and boosted by the popularity of another show, ‘Space 1999‘ that Topps entered into a contract with Paramount to produce cards based on forty-one of the shows seventy-nine episodes.
Many of the sets of cards that Topps created have sadly gone out of existence. They still produce cards to this day though. Somewhere in my attic, there are sets of cards based on ‘Jurassic Park‘ that my brother collected and cards are available based on the new ‘Star Wars‘ trilogy. Of course, the prices have gone up since I first encountered them. In America, they retailed for 10c a pack. In the UK, the sold for between 5p to 10p a pack. Now, I’ve seen them up for sale in stores for $2 a pack. They are still collectable but nothing can replicate the sets I remember from my youth. Thankfully, those days are still available. Abrams Comicarts has published several outstanding books, faithfully re-printing and chronicling selected sets from years gone by. I have had the chance to collect them all. The books chronicle the Cabbage Patch Kids sets, The Planet Of The Apes sets, The Mars Attacks! sets, several for the Star Wars sets and the Star Trek set. Now, I have the cards back in their entirety. The books are the perfect way of looking back at childhood and an obsession many kids had. Included with each copy of the books is a bonus set of cards, still sealed in their packaging and nestled in the back folds of the books.
Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Cards Series | By Paula Block, Terry Erdmann, The Topps Company
The Star Trek book is what I will concentrate on here. The front cover wonderfully represents the classic packaging the cards and gum came in. Wonderful drawings of Kirk, Spock and The Enterprise greet us before we even open the cover. Inside, we will find the fronts and backs of all eighty-eight cards and the twenty-two rare and hard to find stickers that came one per pack. The book is the compilation of the entire 1976 trading card run and to those of us of a certain age, thrills the reader from the off. We are awarded a rundown of how the cards came to be, the history of Star Trek trading cards before Topps decided to enter the market with them and a photograph of a box of the cards in their shelf-ready packaging ready to grace a candy store counter just waiting for the kids (and adults) to pick up and buy. No detail is missed out about the cards history and their design, their packaging and everything we would like to know and remember.
As we turn the pages, we are amazed at what we find. Our first card is of the U.S.S Enterprise from the ‘Mirror, Mirror’ episode. We look at the card in wonder. With every card, we are given a piece of information regarding it. With this first card, we are told that Topps decided to have white borders surrounding the main image, why the card number is on the back instead of on the front, why an animated Enterprise adorns the front of the card instead of the Federation logo and so forth. We are also rewarded with the back of the card too, each containing a ‘Captain’s Log’ text, describing the history of the image and Federation history. Card 2 is of Captain James T. Kirk himself, sitting in his command chair on the bridge of the Enterprise from the episode ‘The Enemy Within’.
Again, we are given the back of the card and we see an error in the text. Kirk during the show says the Enterprise carries a crew complement of 430. Strangely, the card gives the crew complement as 311. This is due to an editor who had ‘Sci-fi tv shows on the brain’ who mistakenly quoted the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha from ‘Space 1999‘ instead of the crew of the Enterprise. This was because Topps put into production a range of ‘Space 1999‘ cards just before their run of ‘Star Trek‘ ones. Card 3 portrays the late DeForest Kelley as Dr McCoy. This is unusual as McCoy, in the card run, came before Mr Spock, who was second-billed on the show. The card shows McCoy from the episode ‘The Immunity Syndrome’ and once again, we are given the card back with the text written to accompany it. Card 4 is where we encounter our favourite Vulcan as Spock makes his debut. Leonard Nimoy appears in his role from ‘This Side Of Paradise‘ along with the card back information. Every card has the same blurb at the bottom, proclaiming to ‘Be sure to watch for the new Star Trek full motion picture’. Now, considering the card was published in 1976 and the film didn’t appear on screens until 1979, perhaps Paramount was trying to give the card collectors some inside information!
It also seems strange that every one of the main crew gets their own card with the exception of Sulu. George Takei‘s lovable helmsman was ignored in the single crew cards. This is rectified however with the bonus cards pack that is given to us at the back of the book as Sulu finally gets his own card and makes his debut.
Many of our favourite episodes feature on the cards including ‘The Mantrap‘, ‘The Doomsday Machine’, ‘The Menagerie’, ‘Devil In The Dark’ and others. Each is represented wonderfully in its original glory. They look grainy but that’s how they should be. The reader has to remember that these cards were produced back in the 1970s and at the time, there was no CGI or photoshop or any way to clean up the images presented to us. The pictures were taken from the original negatives of the show but this adds to the charm and the nostalgia of the contents of the book. The stickers form the end part of the book along with the original instructions on how to easily peel them from the backing paper. Yes, back in the day, they actually CARED that the kids got the best quality from the product they had bought and gave them helpful instructions on how to peel the stickers carefully to preserve them at their best. I personally never peeled the stickers off, I had to keep them pristine, not that it did any good in the long run as both the cards and the stickers went in the trash somewhere in the 1980s as the child turned into a man. More’s the pity.
Abrams Comicarts in association with Topps has created volumes that are completely wonderful. As a throwback to my childhood, they create the right amount of nostalgia that one needs to make you smile. Memories come flooding back as the reader looks and reads everything about the cards and stickers. Long forgotten times with parents at the local candy store, desperately asking them to buy me a pack or two came flooding back when I started reading the book and seeing the cards once more. Alongside the other volumes released, this is an extremely rewarding experience and one that I look forward to repeating again and again.
Now, if only they could find their way into making the volumes dedicated to the ‘Superman The Movie‘ and ‘The Black Hole‘ sets, that would be great!
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Carl Roberts is a Senior Staff Writer and Books and Literature Correspondent for Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter @CarlRoberts2 where he uses the force frequently!