Sci-fi & Horror Movie Poster Cards!
By Kurt Kuersteiner © 2007 Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards
Originally printed in The Wrapper Magazine #225 (complete with photos).
For most boomers growing up in the 1950s & 60s, one of the most exciting things about a scary movie was the poster. The artwork was always in garish colors, even though the movie itself was usually black and white. The monster was often prominently displayed, along with the cleavage of a young actress as she screamed in silent terror from her one dimensional poster prison. Lurid keywords like THRILLS! CHILLS! ACTION & ROMANCE were commonly stamped in giant CAPITAL letters somewhere in the ad. We were getting reeled in like suckers, and enjoying every minute of anxious anticipation.
Not surprisingly, the large display posters that survived the film circuit and were saved over the years became prized collectibles. Some of the especially famous titles have sold for tens of thousands of dollars. They bring back a flood of memories and nostalgia for those of us who remember seeing them encased in glass at front of the now closed (and usually torn down) movie theatre of yesteryear. Oh sure, they are still making new movie posters today. But those just aren't the same. The newer ones usually use photos, and like most of our favorite card sets from the past, it's the exciting artwork we miss the most.
Several card companies have brought these golden memories from the silver screen back to us via the magic of trading cards. Topps began the trend way back in 1980 when they included seven monster movie poster images in the 22 stickers for their Creature Feature (aka You'll Die Laughing) set. Then there was the Vintage Movie Posters card series produced by WTE in 1991. That 21-card factory set only featured two spooky films. The other 19 poster cards were good too, but how can The Wizard of Oz, The Maltese Falcon, or any John Wayne western measure up to the supernatural and super-science thrills of Dracula and Frankenstein ?
Forrest J. Ackerman wrote the backs for a four part series that was released throughout 1991-1992. It was called The Ackermonster's Cardicards (although series three is labeled Mr. Sci-Fi's Scientifiction Cards). All four factory-set series are 45 cards in length, and also include a generous helping of lobby card images. The finished total came to 180 different science fiction and horror movie ads, but as the long time editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland, Ackerman certainly had the collection to supply the necessary materials!
In 1996, Due Emme Publishing produced the Supercinema series of 144 cards. Over two dozen of the movie poster images were science fiction or horror films. This series was different from earlier efforts in that it was oversized (3.125 x 4 inches) and the backs were all written in Italian! It was also offered as a factory set with a binder and a full color booklet.
Finally, in 1997, Movie Poster Cards produced a factory set with the same name totaling 36 cards. All of them were sci-fi and horror films from the 1940s through the 60s.
That was pretty much it for any movie poster cards during the last two and a half decades*. You could argue that there were a few other series that had poster images as well, like the various Hammer Horror series which included some of Hammer's classic poster ads, or the Universal Monsters of the Silver Screen stickers, but they were occasional images and not the main focus of the set (anymore than they were in the Creature Feature series, which I only mentioned because it was the first to include them at all.)
Each of the truly dedicated movie poster sets mentioned earlier were in full color, and all of them were fun to collect. Since they were all available as factory sets, they were pretty cheap to complete as well. But that has changed this winter with the release of an all-new series from Breygent Marketing called Classic Sci-Fi & Horror Posters cards.
This is the largest of the movie poster sets yet, not in number, but in dimension. The cards measure 3.5 x 5 inches in size. In fact, the company had planned on releasing an 8 x 10 inch factory set, but that project has been scrapped for now. This regular series seems large enough and it's created a big buzz among collectors of monster and sci-fi cards. I was told by a Breygent represent-ative that just 4,800 boxes were made.
There are 49 cards in the base set, and they are attractive cards with stunning colors. Many of the titles, like The Incredible Shrinking Man, Tarantula, and Creature of the Black Lagoon, have also appeared multiple times in the earlier sets. (Ackerman used almost all the rest in his 180 card opus, the Cardicards.) But it's still nice to have them all under one roof in one series, even if there is a strong sense of Déjà vu. And there is no denying the production quality is higher with this more modern effort.
The base set is very affordable, often popping up on eBay for $5 or so. What makes the series more expensive than its earlier counterparts are the various chase cards. There are a ton of them. For starters, there is a six card "glitter" series for The Creature of the Black Lagoon. Packed 1 in 8 packs, the glitter effect is somewhat cheesy, but the strong artwork still shines through despite the distraction of the specks.
There are also three pairs of puzzle pieces that complete larger images of 2001: A Space Odyssey (P1), The Day The Earth Stood Still (P2), and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (P3). Those are packed 1 in 24 packs. Since the box only has 24 packs, you can see how the cost can add up.
Then there are the ten different autographs, including the likes of Ricou Browning and Ben Chapmen (both who played The Creature of the Black Lagoon), Ray Harryhausen (the stop motion special effects genius), and Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter (who both starred in Invasion of the Body Snatchers). These last two actors also sign an eleventh card together, in addition to their own separate cards. The autographs are packed 1 in 48 packs, or basically one in every other box.
The real wallet buster would be the sketch cards, from 25 different artists. If you are one of those collectors who like to check off everything on the checklist, you're in BIG trouble because every one of the artists are listed there. The good news is that they are packed one per box, so if you're really lucky and beat all the statistical odds of averages, you might get by only buying 25 boxes! Otherwise, you either need to trade a lot or prowl the secondary market in your copious spare time. A definite plus is that all these sketches are in full color. A definite minus is that the artists were directed to only draw images from the actual posters, which really cuts into the diversity of images after a while. If you want a sketch of all the different posters, you'll need to buy at very least 49 different boxes, and probably a whole lot more. (It could wind up costing as much as an actual movie budget!)
But wait, there's more: There's a box bottom card ( The Mummy), which is rather cool. There's also a case topper card ( The Thing), which is fine if you have the cash for entire cases. And there's a binder that comes with the exclusive binder promo ( 2001: A Space Odyssey) and the Herschell Gordon Lewis (Bloodfeast) autograph card. Oh, and if you have really deep pockets, you can buy six cases and get the Dealer Incentive Card (Ben Chapman autograph on an 8 x 10 inch card).
Last but not least, there are three other promos, Day the Earth Stood Still (Promo 1), Invasion of the Saucermen (Promo 2), and unnumbered Philly show promo (Attack of the 50 Foot Woman) and an oversized (8 x 10") Tarantula promo (P1).
So in summary, what's my personal opinion about this latest movie poster series? I like it! (It's only the price of completing it that I don't care for.) If you're independently wealthy and money is no object, this series gets high marks in almost every respect. For the rest of us, we'll have to settle for a beautiful base set, a cool color sketch card, one or two puzzle cards, and a 50/50 chance of finding an autograph card inside the box. And that ain't bad.
I feel it's safe to say I won't ever get the dealer incentive card from buying six cases--of this or any other series. But I'm glad we live in a country that is rich enough that others can. In the meantime, I'll take solace in the fact I was able to finish all the older movie poster sets for less than a single case of the newest series. Ironically, it makes me think the same nostalgic thought I have when flipping through this beautiful Breygent set: "Ah, those were the days!"
* There was also a nice set of Disney Movie Poster Cards sold in 2001 by Disney, but the 41 card set had no sci-fi or horror whatsoever.
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