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New "Old" Sets: Two Cheers, and One Jeers!

By Kurt Kuersteiner (© 2000 Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards) for The Wrapper Magazine

 

One of the recent developments in consumer marketing is the "Retro Craze". This is the phenomenon where "Boomers" (30-40 year olds raised on pop culture) throw large sums of money at anything that reminds them of their childhood. This could mean blowing $3,000 on a pair of cufflinks worn by the late (some say great) JFK. Or it could mean spending millions to make TV shows from the 1960s into modern mega-motion pictures. Or it might mean spending $2 on a pack of cards profiling the same TV show or movie.

Since I'm a cheapskate, I'll go with the pack of cards...

All three of the following sets are based on Icons from the 1960s: James Bond, Lost in Space, and TV's golden age of situation comedies. All three sets were produced by Inkworks. But there the similarities stop. Tomorrow Never Dies and the Lost In Space premium cards are modern spin offs of the classic Spy movies or campy TV show , whereas TVs Coolest Classics is devoted to the original comedies without updating anything.

Since Boomers are notorious for short attention spans, (and I should know since I'm a prime example) I'll cut right to the chase: The Tomorrow Never Dies and Lost and Space sets look great and TV's Coolest Classics does not.

There are several reasons for this, and since examining the bad helps appreciate the good, lets start with TV's Coolest Classics.

This series attempts to include all the funniest series from TV's comedies of the 1960s. The concept sounds good, but in reality presents all sorts of problems. First off, all these shows have already had card sets devoted to them. Not just classic sets that are thirty years old either, but current nostalgia sets that devoted fans of the show already have. Beverely Hillbillies had a set put out in 1993 (by Eclipse) and Andy Griffith has three sets produced by Pacific. Get Smart, Hogan's Heroes, and Brady Bunch were probably spared this fate until now because they don't seem to have enough surviving photos. In fact, they don't even appear to have enough to make up a decent sub set!

Of this 90 card series, twenty of the cards are dark, low contrast, or grainy. I'm not talking subtle problems either- but pictures that look like they were taken right off the television set. Yes, that bad.

Not all the pictures are stinky. Most of them are a lot of fun. And it's easy to get swept up in the nostalgia of these shows and enjoy remembering the laughs they gave us. The backs are smartly written and the graphics are light hearted and hip. The foil stamping looks good, too.

And of course, there's several levels of chase cards. There's nine different "Memorable Moments" embossed cards inserted 1:11 packs. (I found three in my box.) There's also six different "Dream Girls" holo-foil cards inserted 1:24 packs. (I found two.) There's three different "Smell-O-Rama" scratch & sniff cards inserted 1:30 packs. (I found one.)

There are also seven different autograph cards. Your odds are 1:180 according to the box, but 1:72 according to the company. (I found one in my box.) Another important change is that there is no #7 autograph (A7). None of the autographs are from main stars but important co-stars like Barbara Feldon, Donna Douglas, Susan Olsen, Betty Lou, Robert Clary, Barry Williams and Elinor Donahue... You'll know them when you see them.

Finally, there's an exclusive Beverely Hillbillies card that you'll never find no matter how many packs you open. Why? It only comes with the factory binder... What if you don't collect binders? Tough. (I'm sure I'm not the only collector who finds this kind of gimmick irritating.)

Remember the Inkworks guarantee? One complete set (1-90) in every box? Alas, that didn't happen either. The 30s were in short supply and I was missing #36 from my first non-set and #34-40 in my second non-set. I hear these numbers are routinely scarce for whatever reason. But the folks at Inkworks are very customer friendly and I'm sure they would exchange cards with anyone who mailed them a few dupes. But woe be to the collectors who wait and open their boxes after supplies run out. (The comedy would literally be at buyer's expense.)

In summery, this set is fun but seriously flawed. It just doesn't seem to have any reason for being except cashing in on the names of the shows it profiles. In my humble albeit jaded opinion, it's all been done much better before, and there's too much low grade "filler" tossed in, not to mention gimmicky chase cards. I laughed a lot when I opened the packs, but sometimes it was at the cards instead of with them. If that isn't bad enough, there's a second series in the works. I'm sure its involves different classic series, but they're likely to run into the exact same problems. Inkworks! Don't do it! Save the trees for better sets!

I don't mean to sound down on Inkworks. They generally do top notch work and I applaud them loudly when they do. But it helps to have good photos that are not over used in other sets to justify a new product. Enter Bond. James Bond. A secret agent with as many lives and re-incarnations as Dr. Who.

If you missed Tomorrow Never Dies, you missed a fun flick. It wasn't "deep" or thought provoking- Bond films never are. But it was fast paced with lots of action, secret weapons, and sex appeal. It's great eye candy and good material for an exciting card set.

Of course there are plenty of Bond sets already in existence, but none of them feature these photos or this movie. Both fronts and backs do an excellent job of relating the best moments from a movie with few slow scenes. If you've seen any of the Jacky Chan marshal arts movies, this film has a lot of that sort of stuff in it plus explosions out the wahzoo.

The set follows the usual Inkworks Movie formula: 72 cards profiling the movie, 9 cards devoted to behind the scenes, and 8 cards profiling the main characters. There are also 9 foil embossed puzzle cards of Teri Hatcher inserted 1:11 packs. (My box had three.) There's four spectra-etched foil "women of Bond" cards inserted 1:24. (My box had one.) Plus two different "Bond Dressed to Kill" cards inserted 1:108. (My box yielded one). I also assembled two complete sets from my box, which was impressive, since one of each 8 card pack is used up on a "Second Chance Drawing" card to win an Aston Martin DB5 car. You're odds of finding the "Instant Winner" card are 1 in 3,600 packs, but they'll be giving way 50 more to folks who send in the entries. How can they afford to give away 51 Aston Martins? Easy: They're miniature die cast replicas. But who wants a real Aston Martin anyway? They're impossible to get parts for and the steering wheel is on the wrong side. (Not to mention if you hit the wrong button you could get ejected.)

The pictures look good and the movie summery is solid. There is no foil stamping on the regular cards but so what? They still look good... Although some collectors complain that the regular cards cost just as much as the foil stamped issues from Inkworks. At $2 or more a pack retail, this gripe does have merit. Nonetheless, it's a sharp looking set and a welcome addition to any Bond collection. There is also a binder available.

The latest is the greatest. The Lost In Space movie cards from Inkworks are a must for die-hard LIS fans. The movie premier pushed Titanic from the #1 movie spot for the first time in 30 or so weeks. Dr. Smith (played by Gary Oldman) has retained all his villainous charm and Professor John Robinson (played by William Hurt) is fun to watch too. So is the blond Judy Robinson (but not for her acting, if you know what I mean). There's also a great variety of awesome props and sophisticated special effects.

All this is well represented in the new card set. None of the stars refused to be included and most of the story line remains intact. In short, if you like the movie, you should enjoy this set.

Naturally, there's several layers of chase cards. First, there are 9 different "double feature" cards. These are holo-foil cards that feature the original cast member in the foreground and the movie actor in the background. The odds are 1:11 packs and I found 3 in my box. There are also four different Robot cards. These are foil embossed cards that feature two of the original robots, and two of the movie robots. The odds are 1:24 and I found one in my box. There is also a Jupiter 2 Card. It's a spectra-etched card of the movie spacecraft. Odds of discovery are 1:108 and I found one in my box. Finally, there is a rather bland "Autograph Redemption" card that can be mailed in to swap for one of three more attractive autograph cards. The autographs are pre-determined on the redemption card, and swap out for signature cards of the movie actors playing Will, Penny or Maureen Robinson. Odds of finding one are 1:144 packs. The only problem I have with the redemption concept is that unopened box collectors will be left in a lurch if they wait to open their boxes until after this offer expires. And yes, there's also a binder for sale.

So that's it boomers. You can take a trip down memory lane by laughing along with the canned laughter of TVs Coolest Classics, or fighting commies with James Bond & Tomorrow Never Dies, or putting up with Doctor Smith's shenanigans via Lost in Space. None of this will make you any younger, but it should remind you of what it felt like when you were. It was a time when the world seemed funny, fast fisted, and far out...

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