Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Cards

Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series was published by Abrams ComicArts and celebrated the series of bubblegum cards originally released by Topps in 1976.

The back cover.

For almost 80 years Topps have dominated the bubblegum/trading cards market, releasing collections that heavily feature sports personalties. But apart from baseball and football cards they also published the iconic Bazooka Joe and his Gang series, as well as the controversial Mars Attacks! collection from 1962. And in the mid-Seventies they released a collection that featured one of television’s most enduring shows, Star Trek.

The book’s Introduction recounts the creative process that lead to the original card series, as well as featuring reproductions of the display box.

Although Star Trek had departed TV screens in 1969 after only three seasons, the show went on to enjoy huge success when repeated in syndication. By the mid-Seventies the show’s popularity had risen to such heights that fan conventions (a relatively new phenomenon) were becoming commonplace, especially in large cities. And following the announcement that a new big budget movie was in the works (Star Trek The Motion Picture, released in 1979) Star Trek it seemed was ripe for the Topps trading card treatment.

The book featured short annotations about the show, and Topps’ production process.

Topps released Star Trek in 1976, a set of 88 full-colour cards and 22 stickers that featured images from the show along with short descriptive captions on the back of each card. The cards shipped in blind packs of five that also included one sticker and a stick of bubblegum, and sold for 10¢ a pack. Sadly, despite Star Trek enjoying a resurgence in popularity the trading cards themselves flopped, and having failed in their regional test areas Topps chose not to distribute the set nationally.

Pages 118 and 199.

To celebrate that series Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series was published by Abrams ComicArts in 2013, and featured reproductions of the entire collection in a handsome full-colour 214 page hardback book measuring 6 x 7½ inches, priced at £11.99 ($19.95). The book’s slipcover was printed on wax paper that emulated the packs original packaging (a nice touch) and overall production values are high, with both the cards and stickers reproduced faithfully.

Space Nazis! From pages 186 and 187.

The front and back of each card are reproduced along with production details of the episodes (title and original airdate) as well as a short informative caption that included titbits from the show. The book featured an introduction that recounts the creative process behind the collection, as well as the production problems Topps encountered while trying to collect enough photos to feature on the cards. (Star Trek‘s owners Paramount had destroyed most of its promotional material from the show forcing Topps to appeal directly to fans for enough images to fill out the set).

Two of the stickers, from pages 196 and 197.

Also included in the book were four new collectible cards. Although their inclusion is clearly meant as a marketing gimmick they do allow for a regrettable error to be corrected. For some reason the Enterprise’s helmsman Sulu (played by George Takei) did not feature in the original Topps collection, so to redress the balance he featured on two of the ‘new’ cards.

The four ‘new’ cards that are included with the book.

Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series is an entertaining book that celebrates a noble failure. This volume may not have the nostalgia of Abrams’ Bazooka Joe book, or the notoriety of their Mars Attacks! collection but it’s a good read nonetheless. Due to the failure of the original collection, which resulted in them not being distributed nationally, potential collectors of these cards will find them hard to find, and expensive when they do (complete sets are changing hands on ebay for over £250). Personally, as entertaining as the cards are I’d rather read about them in this book (and pay just over a tenner for the privilege) than shell out a small fortune for the originals. I like Star Trek, but I don’t like it that much.

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