Stars Come Out In Universal Universe!
By Kurt Kuersteiner © 1998 Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards From The Wrapper Magazine Issue #152
Halloween provided a big harvest for Universal Monster collectors. There was a bumper crop of the famous frighteners for stamp collectors, toy collectors, and card collectors too! Most of these items are still available for a limited time at their original price. So get out your check list AND your check book. But one word of warning: If you're a completist, this could make your balance run red.
Make your first check payable to The United States Post Office. You've probably noticed more than a few zombies behind the counters there lately. Five new monster stamps went on sale October 1st. They featured The Phantom, The Wolfman, Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Mummy. These paintings are fantastic and cost only 32 cents each. If you haven't noticed any stuck on your mail yet, you're either blind or devoid of friends. But even if you've seen these great stamps, the chances are you haven't REALLY seen them yet. That's because it takes a special decoder lens placed over the stamp to see the lightening, wolf eyes or bats in the background. The images are subtle but fun nonetheless. The device costs $4.95 and is available through the Philatelic Fulfillment Service Center. The Toll free number is 1-800-STAMP-24. But before you call, read on. There's a lot more to this series than meets the evil eye.
The Service Center also offers non-sports cards that go along with the stamps. Only they're not called non-sports cards. They're called "stamper cards". They're the same size as regular trading cards, but they have a spot on them to stick the stamp. Information on these cards is somewhat confusing since it seems to change every time I call the Center, but supposedly there are eleven in the set and they come with stamps for $5. The way they were described, they feature half the monster face on one side, and half the actor's face on the other, plus an empty place for the stamp. If you line up the duplicates in pairs (facing opposite directions), they form a Jekle & Hyde sort of panel. The eleventh card is a header card. Keep in mind that this item is currently back ordered, so I'm only repeating what I could gather by flirting with the phone clerks (all of whom sounded a little over weight).
There are also postcard sets for sale. They feature full color reproductions of the monster stamps and come in a 20 card pack for $5 (.25 cents each). They are pre-stamped and ready to mail to your favorite mother-in-law. Of course, since there are only five original stamp images, four of each postcard are duplicates.
Even more colorful are the First Day Souvenir kits. They include a canceled pane of stamps (post marked Oct. 1st) and information about the ceremony given when the stamps were unveiled. Included in the package are folder sized portraits of each stamp. These are quite nifty. But considering that the pane of canceled stamps can't be used, this kit seems a little steep at $14.95. Yet if you try to buy everything this series has to offer, that price will seem like a drop in the blood bucket.
You'll need to cough up another $14.95 if you want the Monster game board. It includes a cut out mask of a skull and wolf, a cheesy vampire poster, and a "spooky" story involving all the characters from the stamps. Also included are several mint monster stamps from various countries (England, Ireland, Canada and the US.). The game board is on flimsy fold-out cardboard, but looks pretty neat. It's actually part of the folder that holds a binder within.
Some Post Offices offered yet MORE monster merchandise not available at the Philatelic Fulfillment Service Center. Neat stuff like five different enamel lapel pins ($1.99 each), 5 different Magnets ($2.99 each) and 5 different collectible pencils ($1.99 a pack). They all feature images of one of the five stamps.
There are also 2 different computer mouse pads. One features the Wolfman stamp image, the other, Frankenstein. Both cost $5.99 each. T-shirt collectors will also want the Frankenstein T-shirt. The shirt is packaged in a "ready for mailing" box for $14.99 (or $12.99 for small). And if you bought the pencils, you might want the matching pens and erasers- another $3.99 a pop (and keep in mind there are five different sets).
Feeling a little faint? That's because if you bought everything, you've been bled $128.22 (not including tax or shipping). And that's assuming your satisfied with just five extra stamps instead of a full pane. The good news is, if you find yourself starving, you can always trade your stamps for money at the Congressional Post Office. (You might even get free room and board for your efforts, like former congressman Rostinkowski.) Most of these items were sold at selected post offices from September 30th to November 15th. The left-overs were supposedly shipped to the Philatelic Service Center to be sold via phone orders. I called November 28th and they had no idea what I was talking about, so it might take a while for the catalog to be updated.
If you have more of a monster appetite, then Burger King has just the prize for you. All during October, Burger Kings distributed one of four different Universal toys with their Kids Club meals. Just about everything about this promotion was cool: The posters, the toys and especially (for card collectors) the glow-in-the-dark stickers.
There were several posters, but the best featured paintings of Frankenstein and The Wolfman with a full moon in the background. These were not made of paper, but a type of plastic that stuck to the glass without adhesive and peeled off without tearing. (Expect to see a few of these on sliding glass doors next Halloween.) There was also a plastic Frankenstein poster with an adhesive back. It looks great too, but unfortunately, it's hard to remove and doesn't store well. The other posters were paper and featured photos of the toys. There are at least three different paper posters ranging in size from large to very small. There is also a comic that folds out into a place mat and uses the monsters in games and such.
The four characters made into toys were Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman and The Creature. Most stores gave away Frankenstein the first week, Dracula the second week, etc. etc. These toys are not caricatures, but rather precise depiction's of each Universal Monster. Frankenstein actually looks like Karloff, complete with the sunken chin effect he achieved by removing his dentures. (Good thing he never played The Eunuch!) These little action figures (4 inches) are jointed and movable. Each one has a gimmick: Frankenstein features a lab table with a special lever. Pull the lever and his head lights up. Dracula has a lever the pops him out of his coffin. Wolfman has a similar device that makes him spring from the cellar (along with a full moon background). The Creature is submersible in water and squirts when you press his stomach. All the "land dwelling" monsters can be interchanged to fit in the coffin or cellar or whatever (they have holes in their feet that fit the same piece). Kids love 'em (along with a few maladjusted adults).
Each toy came with a glow-in-the dark sticker of a monster. There are four unnumbered stickers total (one for each monster). They measure 2 1/8 by 3 5/8 inches in size. The monsters are die-cut and peel away from the rest of the sticker. Equally collectable are the instruction booklets that came with each toy. They feature a 3 1/4 x 4 1/2 inch full color painting of each monster on the front. The artwork is striking and not at all cartoonish (unlike the silly design on the back of each booklet). These look good in a four pocket plastic sleeve, while the stickers fit in a standard nine pocket sleeve.
The only down side to this set is that many of the stickers and booklets arrive slightly creased, especially The Creature (and to a lessor degree, Frankenstein). The other figures had a flat coffin or cellar lid to help prevent the paper from getting badly bent, but not so for Frank or Gill. This is a common problem for Burger King toys in general. Remember the "Dino Data" cards from the "Land Before Time" toys? Most collectors just accept these flaws as par for the course. The fact that everything gets shipped 200 per case doesn't help matters either. But count your blessings: At least they have plastic wrap to protect them from the heart choking grease of French Fries.
That's a lot of money spent on monsters. But who knows what the new year will bring? If things keep up at this pace, it could get really scary.
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