“Okay, that book we did last year for Mars Attacks was really neat, and sold pretty well, and there are lots of other cool trading card sets from back in the day that are great candidates for similar books. What do you think?”
“Sounds interesting. What card set did you want to do, first?”
“I was thinking of the 70s Star Trek cards.”
“Will anybody buy a book like that?”
“That guy Ward will. He may even buy two.”
“Let’s get started.”
I have it on absolutely unshakeable authority that a conversation very much like that one took place, though I must confess that it occurred entirely within my own head. The only thing that’s missing is a big ribbon emblazoned with the caption, “DAYTON WILL BUY THIS!” for display on some bookstore’s end cap.
So, what’s the deal? Much like their book celebrating the 50th anniversary of the classic Mars Attacks trading card series from 1962, Abrams Books now gives us a similar tome showcasing one of those long-lost collectibles from my childhood, the 1976 Star Trek trading card series produced by Topps.
(FULL DISCLOSURE: The book’s authors, Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann, are friends of mine. I love pretty much every Star Trek book they’ve ever done. So, yeah, I was biased going in. They do good Trek, people.)
Like the Mars Attacks book, this volume presents the entire set of 88 cards and 22 companion stickers in a sort of “scrapbook” format. Each card is displayed on its own page at about 150% of its original size, and the facing page features a picture of that card’s back side, allowing you to check out every card’s picture and its accompanying text.
Also included for each card is a short anecdote, either by Paula and Terry or former Topps writer Gary Cerani, who wrote the text for the cards, along with the occasional comment by hardcore fans and card collectors. These bits offer insight into the card set’s creation, why a particular image was chosen, or why something in a card’s text is off, or why someone chose to enhance or change the color on part of an image, along with other trivia which often is as amusing as it is enlightening. The book’s foreword also includes comments and reminiscences from Len Brown, who at the time was the creative director at Topps and who more than a decade earlier gave us all those snazzy Mars Attacks cards.
The reproductions of the cards, stickers, wrappers and other promotional materials is really very sharp. The only real problem is the images on many of the cards are not of the greatest quality to begin with, owing to how they were taken from 35mm film and blown up for the card using the technology of the day. To be honest, this actually adds to the charm for an old-school fan like me, because the book presents the cards as they actually looked when I was buying them as a kid.
Three cool touches top off the whole package: First, and as with the Mars Attacks book, an image of a stick of that horrendous bubble gum is emblazoned on the book’s covers. On the front is an intact piece, while the back cover shows it shattered into fragments as was often the case in the actual card packs. Second, the dust jacket replicates the cards’ wrapper art, and is made from the same wax paper material. Finally, four all-new cards are included in the back of the book, two of which serve to correct an odd oversight during the set’s creation: The conspicuous absence of Lieutenant Sulu on any of the original cards or stickers. Weird, huh?
For an old school fan like me, who never actually managed to cobble together a complete set of these cards and stickers, this book is the next best thing, and that’s before you add in all the behind-the-scenes info. Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series carries a retail price of $19.99, but Amazon currently (as I write this) has it set at a pre-order price of $11.74, making this a bargain and a mighty fine way to get a jump on your holiday gift shopping.
So, you know…you should probably get on that.
Thanks again to Paula and Terry for making me have to scramble to find yet another spot on my bookcase for a cool Star Trek book. It’ll be rough, but I think I’ll be able to manage. Meanwhile, I’m hoping they let you do a similar book for the card set Topps produced for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Then, we need to get on them about Planet of the Apes……..