Thursday, July 14, 2011

Trading Card Spotlight-
Topps 1976 Star Trek Set

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Item Name: Star Trek Trading Cards
Manufacturer: Topps

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The Rundown: Released 10 years after the show premiered, the Topps Star Trek trading card set proves just how popular the series became once it hit syndication. What other shows could manage to get a card set produced 7 years after they ended? None, that's how many! (No, I can't back that up with any factual evidence... it just sounded good.) And with only the bizarre 1967 Leaf set preceding it, the Topps 1976 cards really set the bar for all the following Trek card sets throughout the years. So how good is it? Let's check it out!

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The basic card set consists of 88 cards. They follow the familiar trading card form: Picture on the front, information on the back. While the pictures on the front may seem a little fuzzy by today's standards, you have to keep in mind that this set is 35 years old now. That's well before the days of digital mastering...

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A wide variety of photography is used for the fronts of the cards. From shots of the main cast like the Spock seen above...

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...to alien creatures that you may have only seen quick glimpses of in the series...

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...and even beauty shots of the enterprise shooting model. Topps did an amazing job choosing some of this imagery way back when. Judging by the shots used, I'd say somebody on the card design team had to be a Trekkie. Who else would include cool close-up pictures like this shot of a cordrazine-crazed McCoy-

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What a great card! Imagine taking that to a convention in the 70's and having De Kelley sign it for you. In hindsight, the whole set seems to have been tailor made for convention-goers seeking autographs- Very portable, with a wide variety of the cast featured.

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One of my favorite aspects of vintage Topps cards has always been the captions used on the card fronts. Topps had a talent for making even the most innocent of scenes exciting with their clever captioning. Take the shot above for example. We all know this scene from "The City On The Edge Of Forever": Kirk and Spock are stuck in the past and must steal a few clothes to blend into their surroundings. Well, Topps just upped the ante by taking our intrepid heroes on a "Visit To A Hostile City". Scary!

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Each cardback features a short snippet either explaining an element of the show, synopsizing an episode, or giving behind-the-scenes details. While only 41 episodes are covered here, the inclusion of production details more than makes up for the missing shows. The set is also one of the first official products to tease the release of a Star Trek motion picture... a full 3 years before it hit theatres!

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So that covers the basic cards... On to the stickers! Inserted at 1 per pack, the 22 sticker set probably drove fans a bit crazy. Nowadays, it's simple to complete a card subset thanks to ebay and online card shops. Back in the 70's though? The best chances you had were trading with buddies and a few hobby shops here and there. Completing a full set must have been a regular Kobayashi Maru...

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I'll bet it wouldn't have been so bad had the stickers not been so freaking awesome looking! The space back drop, the sweet character shots, and the colorful outlines add up to some seriously retro-cool adhesives. Oh...and a little tidbit for ya: The stickers really prove just how much Spock eclipsed Kirk in popularity, with Kirk appearing on a measly 3 stickers versus Spock's 7 spots!

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So there ya have it... Is it an awesome card set? Yeah, pretty much. The cards themselves are pretty solid overall, the stickers are nifty, and the product is a great reminder of Trek's popularity explosion in the 70's. The real question though is if you need it now. With most dealers wanting $100 or more for a full set with all 22 stickers included, this is one product that may only appeal to the hardcore 70's Trek or trading card collectors. That's a real shame, as the set is cool enough to warrant inclusion in everyone's collection. Makes me wish that Rittenhouse could do a spruced up reprint of it, maybe using cleaned up imagery but maintaining the 70's feel. They could even include some fresh gum, as vintage 1976 gum isn't as tasty as you might think...

4 comments:

  1. "That's well before the days of digital mastering..."

    Yes, if you used the phrase "digital mastering" back in the '70s, someone would have likely thought you were trying to get control over your fingers. *brrrrr-um-bum-tish*

    I was about two years too late to have gotten these new back in the day. My very first trading cards were the Topps Star Wars cards from '78-ish, which got me amped up to go whole hog on the STTMP Topps cards the year after.

    But I picked them up a few years ago in the wake of my conversion to original series fundamentalism, which happened around 2000, when I realized that's where my geeky heart really was. I divested myself of everything that wasn't orginal series related and started focusing my collecting there. Star Trek was really at a low point then, popularity-wise, and eBay was glutted with Trek collectibles on the cheap. I got so much stuff I had drooled over as a kid, looking through catalogues from New Eye Studio and Lincoln Enterprises and Star Tech and Star Land, for much less than I ever thought I would pay - including the 1976 Topps set, cards and stickers, for about 50 bones. Star Trek Maps, the Spaceflight Chronology, a complete set of Bantam fotonovels, an original mimeographed Star Trek Concordance, I felt like I really cleaned up.

    The thing that gets me about trading cards these days is the price. When I was a kid, I could get four packs of STTMP cards, with 10 cards, a sticker, and a stick of gum that would cut your gums, for a buck. I realize the paper and printing quality and everything today have made leaps and bounds but having to pay 3 and 4 bucks for a pack of 7 cards or whatever you get nowadays still gives me sticker shock (pardon the pun).

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  2. These cards were the first Trek cards I ever got, and I bought all of them a few packs at a time when they came out. It was the most exciting thing happening to me at the time (which is kid of sad when I put it that way), and I eagerly opened each pack every time I went to the store. A lof of good memories around that set! Also glad that they actually knew what they were doing when it came to episode synopses and captions. The old Leaf set would have had the McCoy cordrazine card say something like "Shocked By An Alien!" I am happy to have the empty card box for this, as well. Plus a BUNCH of duplicates.

    Thanks for posting this.

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  3. so what is the value of this set?

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