By Marc Gravelle
Star Wars Is Topps
As a first generation Star Wars fan, the fondest memories I associate with the greatest space fantasy film of all consist of three key elements beyond the silver screen. Firstly, there’s the Kenner action figures, vehicles and playsets. They helped me to recreate my favorite movie scenes and, additionally, engineer my own adventures with Luke Skywalker and company. Then, there’s the Marvel comics that I purchased on a monthly basis. These imaginatively crafted books chronicled Star Wars adventures beyond the film, and they introduced me to new characters like Jaxxon, a green anthropomorphic space bunny. It didn’t really matter that the stories weren’t canon (not that I knew the definition of canon back then); they were enjoyable nonetheless. Finally, there were the most wonderful Star Wars trading cards released by Topps.
Topps’ Star Wars cards certainly had a of a lot going for them. For a bit of pocket change, purchasing a single wax pack would instantly make me the proud owner of seven movie photo cards, a single cool Star Wars sticker and a stick of chalky bubble gum. Nothing could compare to the sweet aroma of gum combined with factory fresh cardboard, concealed within the enchantingly whimsical illustrated wax paper packaging. The gum, of course, couldn’t be compared fairly to the likes of Bubble Yum or Bubbilicious, but I chewed it happily nonetheless. Trying to complete my card collection, I ended up with countless doubles and triples of some cards. That was alright, though. These particular cards could be used to trade with friends for the cards or stickers that I needed. Some particular cards, which seemed to show up far more often than most others did, found a home between the spokes of my bicycle tires. Held on by clothespins, the sound they made on my bike in motion rivalled the coolest of motorcycles.
Star Wars cards allowed me to relive my favorite movie moments over and over again by providing a wide array of images from the film. Below these images, captions tried their best to capture excitement with lines such as Roar of the Wookiee! or Escaping from stormtroopers! Some captions were more effective than others, but I enjoyed reading them all. As the series progressed, the images expanded from showcasing movie scenes to including rare behind the scenes photos. Flipping the cards over, I enjoyed the backs even more than the fronts. The card backs provided puzzle pieces, movie facts and more. Before the internet existed, such information wasn’t nearly as accessible to fans and it was greatly appreciated.
Between 1977 and 1978, a total of 330 Star Wars cards and 55 stickers were released, divided into five distinct sets of 66 cards and 11 stickers. Topps’ introductory set featured a blue border with stars, and included cards numbered 1 to 66, plus stickers 1 to 11. The backs of these original cards included 11 story summaries, puzzle pieces and insightful movie facts. The red cards that followed made up the second set, including cards numbered 67 to 132 and stickers numbered 12 to 22. The card backs on this set introduced a new feature to showcase actor profiles alongside more movie facts and puzzle pieces. The yellow bordered third set of cards was presented to collectors with card numbers ranging from 133 to 198. This set also delivered stickers 23 to 33 in the series, and the card backs added yet another new feature- official descriptions, providing encyclopedia style entries on Star Wars characters, vehicles and more. Set four’s border was green in color, and it contained cards numbered 199 to 264 and stickers 34 to 44. The backs included yet more puzzle pieces and an additional 22 movie facts. Rounding out the set were cards 265 to 330 stickers 45 to 55. The final set in the series sported orange card borders, an additional 22 movie facts and more puzzle pieces.
Topps and Star Wars would strike back to fans hungry for more cards in 1980, and they would return yet again in 1983. In fact, Topps and Star Wars still have a strong partnership to this day. There’s a wonderful book showcasing the entire line of ’77-’78 Star Wars cards available. Whether you collected the cards back in the day or are discovering them for the first time, it’s a beautiful, comprehensive book to have in your collection, and it’s highly recommended!