One of the first things I did upon rediscovering my love for trading cards is search out just what sets are available for people like me who love all things 80’s. I quickly discovered…just about anything that was comitted to film or television had some form of trading card. The question then becomes “Where do I start?” From there, I turn myself over to the whims of eBay. One of the better deals I found was for two wax boxes….I should stop and explain…a wax box is a traditional term for a box of packs of cards like you would see on the shelves at a hobby shop or retail store. I found two wax boxes in one auction. One was for Gremlins and the other for Gremlins 2: The New Batch. I actually collected Gremlins 2 cards as a kid and I’m not sure if I know where said cards are today or what condition they are in. SO, I bid, I won, and the game has begun. While it may seem an odd choice to restart a collecting addiction with this franchise, I like to think it restarted with Star Wars and Gremlins just happened to be next in line. That said, Star Wars cards as all things Star Wars set the bar quite high for other non-sports cards and I’m not sure that this set quite lives up to that standard. Having done no real research into the matter I can only offer a theory based on what I know of movies, television, and other hobbies. My theory is that Star Wars trading cards impacted the non-sports trading card industry the same way it impacted the toy industry. The first Star Wars movie spawned 5 different series based on that movie alone. Not to mention Wonder Bread cards, sugar free gum wrappers, and all kinds of other picture collectibles. The Empire Strikes Back and Return of The Jedi had three and two different series of their trading card sets respectively. It stands to reason, with that kind of success, that card companies would begin to to snag franchises on which to base trading card sets. Even Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend got a trading card set. So it’s really no surprise that Gremlins would be given the trading card treatment.
If you’ve never seen Gremlins, stop what you’re doing right now, click the link at the end of this post, pick up Gremlins (and Gremlins 2) from Amazon and thank me later. Gremlins almost started a different kind of revolution. The movie was kind of a horror film, kind of a comedy, kind of a disaster film, and all morality tale. It featured one of the cutest heroes ever in the person of Gizmo, a Mogwai. The Mogwai is a mystery as a species. I would be interested to see exactly where these creatures come from, how many of them there are, and how they live within the rules that must be adhered to so as to avoid the catastrophe seen in this movie.
The movie not only led to a sequel a few years later, but also saw other movies kind of rip it off (or maybe pay homage – I’m not here to judge). So it was no small time film. Though it never quite garnered the number one spot at the box office, the movie only cost 11 million dollars to make and made over 150 million dollars worldwide. That’s not too shabby, and considering this was 1984, that’s a smash hit.
As previously stated, the movie is a fun mixture of comedy, horror, and cute little fuzzy people. It’s scary without being scary, and the gross out moments in the movie are more “cool” than gore. (As an example, please watch the gremlin’s head explode in the microwave.) The movie is so much fun and the marketability of Gizmo alone would lead one to believe that this card set is going to be chock full of photographic goodness. Unfortunately, it would seem that either Topps rushed this set to completion or they just didn’t care about the quality of card they were putting out for this movie.
The first thing that sticks out to me about this set is the picture quality or the lack thereof. Most of the pictures look like they were taken directly from frames of the actual film itself. Which is fine, except they tend to be dark, fuzzy, and for the most part uninteresting. I should reiterate here that I was SPOILED by the various Star Wars trading card lines. The work that seemed to go into making those sets feel special is just not seen in the Gremlins set.
Along with the picture quality comes the choice of pictures for the cards. Many shots are just kind of boring. I’m not sure if Topps thought by putting a lot of gremlins or Gizmo pictures in the set that the magic of the movie would be lost or if there just weren’t many pictures. What I do know is that there are far too many pictures of our human players, and often they are doing nothing but talking or reacting to something off camera.
The shots we do get of Gremlins or Mogwai are usually not the best shots of them from the film. A few pictures are either paintings of Gizmo or Stripe or shots of the puppets themselves on a blue background – like they’re posing for a school picture or something.
The sticker set isn’t much better. With our characters outlined in a thick yellow line (which was the rule of thumb for mosts of Topps stickers of that era) and placed against a white background with the title treatment of the movie in blue letters, the stickers just look a little overly cheap. The quality of photograph is apparent in the sticker set as well. The pictures are mostly a bit blurry and only the painting of Gizmo actually has him looking happy.
That last statement is a problem that plagues this entire set. We never really see Gizmo enjoying his time with Billy in these cards. If you watch the movie, you see that the pair really bond and Billy does a lot to try to help Gizmo enjoy himself. He watches TV, reads comics, and is just absolutely loveable until the time comes to fight back against Stripe the other Gremlins. We don’t really see that in these cards.
Maybe I’m being too harsh. After all, it was only 1984. However, considering Star Wars cards were realeased in 1978, 1980, and 1983 with much better quality to them (with the exception of maybe the first series of Star Wars cards) it only seems fair to expect a similar quality from the card set for this movie.
Overall, however, I’m really glad to have this set in my collection. I love Gremlins. The movie is a staple of 80’s pop culture, and a staple of my childhood. If you’re a trading card, 80’s pop culture, or Gremlins collector, this really is a must have for your collection. It’s a good example of “this could be better” as well as a sequel’s trading card set actually being much better. We’ll talk about that when we look at the Gremlins 2 line of cards though. For now, if you haven’t seen Gremlins, you should really purchase the movie using the links below and give it a spin. Gremlins 2 is worth your time as well. Next time…we take a look at a card set that won a friendly competition for me – Back To The Future 2.