Lost In (card) Space!
By Kurt Kuersteiner © 1999 Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards
from issue #161 The Wrapper Magazine
Lost In Space! Few people can think of the series without chuckling to themselves. It was fun, silly, and stupid- all at the same time. Like many kids, I lapped it up each and every week. Like many adults, I still enjoy watching re-runs. It's every bit as campy as Batman, but with one advantage: Most of the humor in Lost In Space is unintentional. Irwin Allen usually receives the Lion's share of the credit (or blame) for this. He was notorious for getting carried away with ideas, while at the same time, being too cheap to make his "grand visions" very believable. The result was ridiculous aliens (often dressed in little more than glitter paint), recycled costumes (not to mention plots) and weekly "cliff hanger" endings that were reminiscent of Saturday serials.
To this day, Star Trek fans still sneer at Lost In Space. They feel it was to Science Fiction what Get Smart was to Bond films: A cheesy parody. But they miss the inside joke. Irwin Allen really felt he was creating serious science fiction! According to Joel Eisner (author of Lost In Space Forever), Allen was furious when CBS Executives laughed at his pilot tape. Fortunately, a quick thinking associate knew how to appeal to Allen's ego. He kicked the angry Irwin from beneath the conference table and whispered in his ear, "Who cares if they don't understand your genius, the point is, they'll buy it!". Irwin (never one to turn down a buck) bit his tongue. And so a comedy classic was born.
Who would have ever thought that 30 years later, movie big-wigs would take his concept and do exactly what Allen dreamed about: Turn it into a respectable full-blown production. They did a great job of it too. It's one of those few movies you can actually enjoy seeing more than once. But I digress...
Collecting the cards from both the movie and TV series is becoming increasingly challenging. There used to be only a couple sets on the series, but now there are many, many more. I'll attempt to itemize the ones I'm aware of.
First and foremost, there's the black and white Topps set from 1966. It's very popular and discussed in previous issues of The Wrapper (#52 & #96). There's also the Lost In Space Archives set by Inkworks from 1997 (reviewed in Wrapper #152). And of course, the Lost In Space Movie set by Inkworks from 1998 (reviewed in Wrapper #155).
But did you know about the 1967 set of 8 cards by Gordon Currie? They're black and white line caricatures of the main characters. These 1 1/2 x 3 1/4 inch cards were made in the U.K.. Also from England, a recent series of Lost In Space Movie lenticular cards distributed in boxes of Kellogg's Frosties cereal. There are 16 different, 8 of which are lenticulars, and the other 8 are regular cards. The lenticulars are each numbered and measure 2 1/8 x 3 3/16". The regular cards are slightly larger and are not numbered at all. There are also rumors of stickers and pop-up cards, though the exact number is uncertain. Or perhaps it's confusion over items from other sets? Like the four card pop-up set from Wimpy's (a British hamburger chain). These little buggers measure just 2 1/8 x 3 inches and feature Major West, Doctor Smith, Penny and Will.
Meanwhile, from Down Under in Australia, several unusual sets: A black and white series of 40 cards put out by the Australian Lost In Space fan club. These are printed on rather flimsy card stock, the images are a little grainy, and the overall appearance is rather low budget (like the TV show they celebrate). They rate pretty high on the "fun-o-meter" though. They were released as complete sets to club members. More difficult to piece together are the cards from the TV show video tape release. There are 30 full color cards in the set (copyright 1996 by 20th Century Fox). These images are also a little grainy, more a result of the video grab than anything else. This set is also pretty fun, albeit cheesy.
Perhaps the most unusual of the Aussi items are the three different video "pop up" displays. These are not really cards, but are die-cut characters from the show hidden within 5 x 3 inch boxes. You pull the middle base outward and the character "pops up". Each card is serial numbered. I was told by one dealer the maximum made was 1,000. But all it states on the display is "strictly limited edition" (along with the serial number). The characters are The Robot, Will Robinson, and Dr. Smith. They stand 5" high once popped into place.
Back in the USA, Suncoast video stores had two different uncut promos for Lost In Space. One promotes the movie (and Inkworks card series). It's a four card panel with one big image of the mission robot on the back (numbered ML1). The other Suncoast item is a three card strip promoting the Inkworks TV Archives card set. They're numbered P3, P4, and the other has no number (but a big Suncoast logo on the reverse). The P3 card is identical to the promo many collectors found elsewhere, featuring Smith on the front with a melting man and frog alien. I've also seen a promo with a black and white picture of the cast (one unnumbered and the other numbered P2).
Starlog magazine also printed a promo for the movie featuring Will's robot (the one made up from spare parts). It's numbered "0" and has the Starlog logo on the top left corner of the front of the card. (It was a "mail away" item.) Non-sport Update included MP1 with their magazine. It has Major West (from the movie) standing in front of the Mission Robot. There's also a MP2 with a full body shot of the Robot, but I don't know where it was distributed. And Finally, a MP00 card produced by Cards Inc., England. The front has the Mission Robot on the front.
Remember those tiny boxes of cold cereal sold in 8 packs? It doesn't require a calculator to figure out that you pay more money for less cereal when you buy breakfast this way. The marketers probably rely on the effectiveness of screaming kids to persuade their parents to spend their money on these high ticket items. But recently, General Mills came up another idea to turn up the pressure even more. They tossed in a foil chase card from the movie card set by Inkworks. These cards are identical to the foil robot cards from the regular movie set except that they are numbered GM1 - GM4. The package is specially marked, but there's no way to tell which card is inside until you open it.
Inkworks repeated the gimmick again when they included two of the robot foil cards with the video movie release. Buy the movie from Walmart and get an uncut strip of the Mission Robot and B-9 robot. These strips are identical to regular robot foil cards, but they are uncut and numbered WM1.
As if that were not enough, Inkworks also reprinted the Space Family Robinson Double Feature foils and included them with the K-Mart video tapes of the movie. These are identical to the chase set from the movie series, only they are numbered KM1 - KM9. They were distributed as a complete set in cellophane packs along with the video.
Now on a personal aside (the kind that usually gets me in trouble) I have to say this: I like getting cards in food packages and other products. It introduces the hobby to new audiences and it's fun, too. But I bet I'm not the only collector that wishes Inkworks would at least use a different image from the regular set to help justify the added expense of obtaining these cards. If they start doing this with all their cards in the future, they're going to really frustrate a lot of their regular customers. It's expensive enough to buy multiple boxes of cards to complete our sets. Expecting us to run out and buy boxes of cereal and two copies of the same video just to get the same cards with different numbers kinda stinks.
On a happier note, Inkworks plans to release another Lost In Space set soon, profiling episodes from the TV series. There are probably other Lost In Space items out there just waiting to be spotlighted. If you know of any, please write or e-mail me. And if you need photo copies of the previous Lost In Space articles, I'll be glad to send them. (I'd appreciate a SASE and a couple quarters to pay the photocopy shop.)
A special thanks to Todd Jordan, Frank Ranells, Mike Leviton, and Todd Riley for information included in this article. Until next time Lost In Space fans, do as Super android IDAK Alpha 12 does: "CRUSH! KILL! DESTROY!"
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