Book Review: ‘Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series – Volume One’

Cover Design by Pamela Notarantonio. (C) 2015 Abrams ComicArts, The Topps Company, and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

If you are old enough to remember when Star Wars hit the pop culture scene in May of 1977, you probably recall that in those last years before videocassette recorders became affordable enough for the average American consumer, there really weren’t many means for fans to “take the movie home” until 20th Century Fox saw fit to re-release it in theaters or allowed it to run on pay-per-view or premium cable channels such as HBO.

The options available to us fans 43 years ago were:

Star Wars novelization, in its original hardcover edition. Cover art by John Berkey. Note that the logo is slightly different (the “W” in “Wars” is from an earlier design, which was refined for the film by Joe Johnston.) (C) 1977 Del Rey Books and 20th Century Fox Film Corp.
  • Buy the Ballantine/Del Rey Books novelization
  • Buy the official Marvel Comics six-issue adaptation (in its various formats)
  • Buy the Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture 2-LP album (or its eight-track or audio cassette editions)
  • Buy the Super 8 or 35mm clips of film that 20th Century Fox released for promotional use (if you had a home movie projector, anyway)
  • Buy the Topps Star Wars Trading Cards
This Kenner Toys collector’s case could hold 24 Star Wars “mini-action figures in two compartmentalized bins, which doubled as display stands. I still have mine from 1978. Photo Credit: http://www.mycomicshop.com. (C) 1978 Kenner Toys (now Hasbro) and 20th Century Fox Film Corp.

After Kenner Toys’ production line finally caught up with the demand for its “mini-action figures” and related Star Wars vehicles and playsets in early 1978, fans (mostly kids, but also quite a few teens and even adults) could get Star Wars toys to recreate their favorite scenes or just show off in static displays.

Until I moved with my family to our then-new townhouse in Fontainebleau Park’s East Wind Lake Village condominium in February of 1978, I only had a paperback edition of the novelization and a plastic container full of Topps Star Wars trading cards to relive George Lucas’s space-fantasy film set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

As I recall, I first started collecting Star Wars trading cards a few months before we moved to our brand-new house. Sometime around November 1977 I began crossing a busy thoroughfare in Sweetwater, Florida known as Andrews Boulevard (aka SW 109th Avenue) to buy Star Wars trading cards at a nearby Safeway store.

 
The Topps Chewing Gum Company (now The Topps Company), like most of the licensees authorized by “the Star Wars Corporation” (and later, Lucasfilm) to create merchandise based on Star Wars, was caught off-guard by the film’s success, so by the time I began collecting its cards, stores still had Series One in stock. Lucky break for me, because I can honestly say, 43 years after the fact, that I got started at the beginning and didn’t miss getting the “blue series” cards.

In 1977, each pack cost 15 cents. The wrapper was waxy cellophane and bore the Star Wars logo and a “pop-artsy” drawing of a character or ship from the movie. Each pack contained six random cards and a sticker; for the first series, the major heroes and villains, and one “space dogfight” scene (taken from a publicity shot) were featured. 

A Series One pack of Topps’ Star Wars trading cards from 1977. Photo Credit: beckett.com. (C) 1977 Topps Chewing Gum Company and 20th Century Fox Film Corp.

I eventually bought enough packs to own all of the Series One cards and stickers, and most, but not all, of the subsequent card-and-sticker sets that Topps released from 1977 to 1979. And because I wasn’t educated about the proper way to collect cards, action figures, and other collectibles, I don’t think I have many of the Topps cards left. 

The Book

(C) 2015 Abrams Comic Art, The Topps Company, and Lucasfilm Ltd.

Star Wars—the original trading card series from Topps first published in 1977 and 1978—is reprinted here in its entirety for the first time, featuring all five sets of collectible cards and stickers. This deluxe compilation includes the fronts and backs of all 330 cards and 55 stickers (originally sold one per pack), including movie facts, story summaries, actor profiles, and puzzle cards featuring all your favorite characters and scenes from the very first Star Wars movie. Also features four bonus trading cards, as well as an introduction and commentary by Gary Gerani, the original editor of the Star Wars Topps series. A special afterword by Robert V. Conte spotlights the rare Star Wars Wonder Bread trading cards, also reprinted for the first time.– Publisher’s dust jacket blurb

On November 15, 2015 – during the prerelease runup to Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Abrams ComicArts, an imprint of New York-based Harry N. Abrams Books, joined forces with Topps and Lucasfilm to publish Star Wars: The Original Trading Cards – Volume One.

This 548-page hardcover is the first of three volumes devoted to the Topps Company’s various trading card series based on the classic Star Wars trilogy. (Volume Two covers the cards and stickers from The Empire Strikes Back, while Volume Three delves into those from Return of the Jedi.)

The book follows the same format as Abrams ComicArts’ 2008 and 2010 hardcovers devoted to Topps’ Wacky Packages trading stickers. The hardcover volume is compact-sized (6 x 1.8 x 7.5 inches) and smaller than coffee table-sized books in the Arts genre.

Card #10 of Star Wars Series One. Photo Credit: Wikipedia via cardboardconnection.com. (C) 1977 Topps Chewing Gum Company and 20th Century Film Corp.

And following in the footsteps of Neil Egan, Abrams’ designer of the two Wacky Packages volumes, series editor Nicole Scamla and designer Patricia Notarantonio give Star Wars: The Original Trading Cards – Volume One the “Topps treatment” by evoking the look and feel of those 1977-1978 card packs. The dust jacket recreates the artwork of a Series One pack wrapper, and it is printed in the same wax paper Topps used to pack the cards, stickers, and stick of gum in. And speaking of Topps gum, the book’s front cover (under the dust jacket) features a facsimile of a stick of gum, which many customers usually discarded. Even the text of the blurbs in the inside cover flaps is printed in the same font used in the wrappers back in the 1970s.

My Take

I bought this book on Amazon in early 2018, around the time that I purchased the two Abrams ComicArts Wacky Packages books. I was feeling nostalgic for my former home in Miami and, by extension, my more carefree days as a 15-year-old just beginning to collect Star Wars memorabilia. I also ordered two other volumes of the series devoted to trading cards from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

Of the many different collectibles I originally bought between seventh grade at Riviera Junior High in 1977 and the start of my freshman year at Miami-Dade Community College in 1985, my trading card collection fared the worst. I kept most of the Series One set in a plastic Tupperware container that my older half-sister Vicky gave to store them in, but I kept most of the other sets in a duffel bag, loose and not properly organized or protected.

As a result, not many of my Topps Star Wars trading cards have survived. Most got thrown away over the years because they were in poor shape. The few that I have left are the ones in the plastic container that Vicky gave me so long ago. And that item is in a bin in my study’s closet.

Star Wars: The Original Trading Cards – Volume One, which was edited by Gary Gerani (who wrote the introduction and the commentary in the various chapters devoted to the card series) is a way to have my cake and eat it, too. The book is compact enough to sit in any bookshelf or on top of a desk or coffee table, yet contains every Star Wars card and sticker Topps published between 1977 and 1978.

This book is not perfect; some readers might find that there’s too much white space and not enough text (Gerani’s commentary is succinct and printed in small fonts), and the Star Wars trading cards are presented smaller than actual size.

Still, if you want to own all of Topps’ Star Wars trading cards without worrying about losing a card or how to store five different series of cards and stickers, this book is the least expensive and most efficient route to take. The entire collection can be found – and enjoyed – in one convenient hardcover volume.

Truly, the Force is strong with Star Wars: The Original Trading Cards – Volume One.

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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