X-mas Card Round-up!

By Kurt KuersteinerMonsterwax Monster Trading Cards) for The Wrapper Magazine

Sending Christmas cards this year? For trading card fans, that can mean all kinds of things. There's usually a flood of cards released during the Yule Tide season. Fortunately, the title wave of new products seems to be abating. And while the quantity seems to be lowering, the quality is still high.

Here's a few of the more interesting sets released recently. None of them have anything to do with Christmas except that they make good gifts. We'll take a look at Titanic, Star Trek: Voyager Profiles, Marvel Silver Age, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So sit back and relax. This is one time you can browse without fighting the crowds or getting "hit up" by the man with the cauldron and ringing bell.

Why not start with the entertaining topic of The Titanic? I'm not quite sure why the drowning deaths of over 1,500 people sold so many newspapers (or movie tickets and videos) but I prefer to think it's because everyone appreciates their own lives more when they see how easy it is to lose it.

Two new series of cards have recently profiled this historic tragedy. Both of them are called Titanic. Inkwork's version is a 25 card factory set sold in a miniature steamer trunk and "limited" to 10,000 numbered sets. It's comprised of photos from the blockbuster film staring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. I haven't seen this set because, like most people, I can't afford to pay over $2.50 per card. (The retail is a staggering $79.95 per set!) But Leonardo is apparently the "hot hunk" of the year and the movie was the highest grossing motion picture in history, so who knows what to expect?

Dart Flipcard's version of Titanic certainly provides more cards for less money. The 72 card basic set includes photos, paintings, maps and illustrations all about the historical ship. This series has nothing to do with the motion picture, but tells the true story of the ship and people that met their doom that icy night on April 15, 1912. Just as interesting are the stories of those who survived, often by very strange quirks of fate. There is even a randomly inserted autograph card by Millvina Dean, the youngest Titanic survivor. She doesn't brag about her age, but based on the date of the wreck, the youngest she could possibly be is 86 years old! There is also a randomly inserted autograph of Ralph White, the cameraman who holds the record for the most dives to the wreck. Autograph card odds are 1:246 packs.

Other specialty cards include a six card die cut series (1:18 packs) devoted to the "Olympic Class" ships of the White Star Line and three famous VIPs who "missed the boat". There is also a 5 x 7 lenticular card and a 23-karat gold sculptured Titanic card, both of which are sold through the mail. A binder and bronze Titanic medallion are also available via mail.

It's kinda creepy reading the backs to this series. You cannot help but be in awe of the elegance and luxury of these historic ships. At the same time, the Titanic does for travelers what Jaws does for swimmers (it scares the bejesus out of most of them). Yet for the most part, trans-Atlantic travel was very reliable and an event unto itself. There was a brief time in the late 60s and early 70s when it was actually cheaper to take one of the classic luxury liners than it was to fly the same route! I remember being dragged on one such trip as a kid and feeling bummed out because they didn't have TVs (typical boomer). Ironically, our ship (the Queen Elizabeth) belonged to the Cunard White Star Line and later sunk under mysterious circumstances. (My psychiatrist insists I'm not to blame, but my mom warned it would happen if I kept pushing the steward button.)

Moving on to space ships, Fleer Skybox has issued Star Trek: Voyager Profiles. I've tried to avoid collecting anything Star Trek because I noticed people who collect it seem completely obsessed with it. (Same goes for Star Wars.) So I thought I could save a lot of money if I spent my allowance on something cheaper and less addictive, like say, cocaine (just kidding, officer). Eventually, I could no longer say "no" to the temptation and peer pressure. So now I'm hooked on both Star Trek AND Star Wars.

This Voyager Profiles series is a typical example of seductive marketing to fans. It's a nifty set and well thought out. For starters, there's a 90 card basic set. It's not in episodic format, but rather, character profiles and personal reflections. The rationale is that the series is character driven, so having the card set reflect this makes a certain amount of sense. (Or if you're cynical, you might say it has more to do with the fact they've already done several episodic sets). 7 of 9 (Jeri Ryan) is featured a lot in this set. She's the Borg Babe who got the make-over and wears skin tight uniforms to keep the males drooling every week. She even gets her own sub set of nine embossed cards called 7 of 9 Expose (1:8 packs). The 7th card isn't really embossed, but more of a foil process. There's also nine different Alien Technology cards (1:6) which profile alien ship designs. There's nine different Make-up cards (1:4) showing behind the scenes make-up stuff. Plus four different "Captain's cards" which profile Captain Kirk, Picard, Sisko and Janeway. Only Janeway's card is available in this series, and it's quite scarce: 1 every 720 packs.

And of course, there's the autograph challenge game that proved so successful with Star Trek TOS. These are common cards that feature a letter and collectors attempt to spell out "Star Trek Voyager" with them. The scarce letter is "Y". I haven't seen it yet, but I bet it features a picture of Jeri Ryan on it. Winners receive a complete set of autograph cards. But don't hold your breath: The odds are 1 in 14,000 (that's over 388 boxes). You'ed fare better finding the autographs on your own. There's 20 different autograph cards and one guaranteed in each box.

The characters who signed are Janeway, 7 of 9, Chakotay, Kes, Torres, Paris, Harry Kim, The Dr., Tuvok, Neelix, Q, Lt. Barclay, The Clown, Dejaren, Kolopak, Alfpha Hirogen Hunter, Capt. Sulu, Lt. Carey, Leonardo Da Vinci and Vorik.

On a related note, Star Trek: Insurrection cards will be out when you read this but the Babylon 5 Season Five series has been postponed until January 20th.

Fleer has also recently released Marvel: The Silver Age. It features many of the Super Heroes we grew up with from 1961 to 1973 (the so-called "Silver Age" of comics). It's comprised of a 99 card basic set with images from the original comics. There are also 9 different "Alex Ross Salute to the Silver Age" cards (1:6 packs) with vivid modern portraits of many of these same characters. There is a six card "tribute to Jack Kirby" (1:6) who was with Marvel from the start but is now deceased. There is also a nine card set of heroes by Joe Sinnott (1:20) on polished mirror board. Be aware that the mirror board cards tend to curl. (I had to put mine in hard plastic card protectors). Moving to a less humid state would also help.

But the big gimmick to this set is one autograph card and one sketchgraph card per box. There are eleven different autographs, each one featuring a photo of the artist and their signiture. The original sketchgraph cards are a different story. Each one is an original sketch (also signed), but there are a total of 14 different artists drawing as many as 42 different characters! To completely complete this series would require super collecting powers... not to mention deep pockets. There are 10,000 sketchagraphs total.

Here's the final list of who did how many different characters and their sketch totals (* denotes artists who also provided seperate autograph cards): Stan Lee* 100 of Spider-man, John Buscema* 1000 of Silver Surfer, John Romita* 800 of 7 different characters, Tom Palmer* 200 of 3, Sal Buscema* 1000 of 8, Dan Schaefer 400 of 11, John Czop 1400 of 16, George Tuska* 700 of 15, Mike Dutkiewicz 400 of 5, Emir Ribiero 400 of 11, Dick Ayers* 1700 of 18, Gene Colan* 900 of 8, Joe Sinnott* 200 of 9, and Marie Severin* 800 of 42 different characters. Roy Thomas didn't do any sketchagraphs, but he did sign autograph cards.

If you would like to see the detailed list of which characters each artist drew sketchagraphs of, click here.

One of today's more unusual live action heroines is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Talk about politically correct, this gal is a feminists poster child: She's got youth, beauty and super human powers. She beats up bad guys and saves mankind (I mean humanity) every week. The TV show is a hit and the card set is popular also. It sold out within a week of its release.

The season one series by Inkworks is made up of a 72 card basic set, plus a nine card foil set that forms a puzzle of Michelle Gellar (Buffy). Odds of finding these foils are 1:11 packs. There is also a six card foil set of slayer weapons (1:27 packs), and one coffin shaped die cut card (1:108 packs). In addition, there are four different autograph cards from Willow, Angel, The Master, and Joss Wheldon -the creator of the show (1:150 packs). Sorry, no Buffy autographs. (She was having a bad hair day.)

The basic card set has a really neat back ground design. Each photo uses colorful, busy, blurry backgrounds that give the images a dream-like quality. The chase cards look conventional in comparison, but the basic set is anything but basic. It's a nice effect. The 2nd season series is planned for release in February.

Ho-ho-ho! We're out of time and space again! So here's hoping you have a Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year. And Santa, if you're reading this, no more candy bars in my stocking. I don't wanna become fat (no offense, big guy). But I'd sure enjoy a few more packs of trading cards...


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