Book Review: ‘Star Wars: Return of the Jedi: The Original Topps Trading Card Series -Volume Three’

(C) 2016 Abrams ComicsArt (Henry N. Abrams Books) and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

On August 16, 2016, Abrams ComicsArts, an imprint of New York-based publisher Henry N. Abrams that specializes in books about comics and trading cards, published Star Wars: Return of the Jedi: The Original Topps Trading Card Series – Volume Three, the third volume in a series of books about the Topps Company’s card-and-sticker sets celebrating the first three films of the Star Wars Skywalker Saga.

Gary Gerani. Photo Credit: Amazon

Written and edited by Gary Gerani, the Topps executive who was responsible for all of the company’s original trading card series for Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, this compact ( 6 x 1.75 x 7.5 inches) hardcover features the two series of Return of the Jedi cards and stickers, carefully reproduced from the personal collection of Richard V. Conte.

From the Publisher:

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi – the original trading card series from Topps first published in 1983 – is reprinted here in its entirety for the first time, featuring both sets of collectible cards and stickers. This deluxe compilation contains the fronts and backs of all 220 cards and 55 stickers (originally sold one per pack), including character profiles, trivia questions, and puzzle cards featuring all your favorite characters and scenes from the third Star Wars movie. Also includes FOUR BONUS TRADING CARDS, as well as an introduction and commentary by Gary Gerani, the original editor of the Star Wars Topps series.

The Content

As in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, the cards scanned for this book belong to the Robert V. Conte Collection, perhaps one of the world’s most complete archives of Topps’ Star Wars trading cards. 

Now, if you think that Topps’ Return of the Jedi trading card series consists of less cards than the company’s collections from the previous two films of the Star Wars saga, you’re absolutely right. Return of the Jedi was, after all, the concluding chapter of George Lucas’s space-fantasy trilogy, and in 1983, at least, there was a sense of uncertainty as to whether it was the last Star Wars film ever or if Lucas would make the implied Prequel Trilogy that would reveal the origins story of Lord Darth Vader.

The title card for the Return of the Jedi set of trading cards. The art replicates Drew Struzan’s first solo poster effort for the Star Wars film franchise. (C) 1983 Topps Chewing Gum, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd.

As Gerani explains in his introduction, when Topps decided to make Series 2 only 132-cards strong, “there was a general feeling that interest in Star Wars would peak with the release of Return of the Jedi, then taper off as the realization that it was “all over” settled in. For the most part, this was sound reasoning and a sharp business judgment. I’m not sure if other Star Wars licensees predicted and prepared for a post-Jedi dip, but it said a lot about the curious sense of relief we all felt. Star Wars had dominated and in some ways defined our lives for seven years. It was an amazing and fortifying ride, but we were a little tired…just like filmmaker George Lucas. We all needed a vacation from Star Wars, especially after the breathless, impossible-to-ignore, and inevitable conclusion known as Return of the Jedi.

When Topps introduced Star Wars trading cards in 1977, I didn’t have much of a Star Wars collection. That fateful year, my mom decided to sell our house in Miami-Dade County’s Westchester neighborhood and bought a townhouse in one of the many condominium developments that made up Fountainbleau Park. The house in Westchester sold in September, but the townhouse that the developers had promised would be ready by October was not complete yet, so I couldn’t have bought anything larger than trading cards and Del Rey’s mass paperback edition of the Star Wars novelization even if Kenner Toys had had anything to offer before Christmas of 1977.  

And for a while, anyway, I went on a Star Wars trading card binge in an attempt to collect them all. I succeeded, more or less, with the 1977-1979 Topps card series, but once we were settled in our townhouse (which was ready by the end of February 1978), I also began to collect Kenner’s 3.75-inch action figures, their vehicles, and other accessories. And because my allowance money could only be stretched so far, I had to choose between being a card collector or an action figures completist. I chose the latter. 

That, unfortunately, spelled certain doom for my Topps trading card collection. I still went to my nearby source of cards – a mom-and-pop store called Camelot, which closed sometime in the mid-1980s – and bought an occasional pack of the trading cards from The Empire Strikes Back and, later, Return of the Jedi. But most of my $5-a-week ($15.79 in 2020 dollars, adjusted for inflation) allowance was reserved now for my Kenner action figures, vehicles, and playsets. As a result, I don’t have many of the 1983-1984 trading cards, and the ones that are still in my possession are hardly in mint condition.

That’s why I bought Star Wars: Return of the Jedi: The Original Topps Trading Card Series – Volume Three and the first two books in the series back in early 2017. I could – at last – see all of the 1977-1984 Star Wars cards published by Topps without having to buy expensive sets of the real ones on eBay or other online emporiums.

As a Star Wars fan and book lover, I have to give props to Abrams ComicArts for the cleverness of the publisher’s Topps Star Wars trading cards series. All three of the volumes I own, including this one, are a loving tribute to the cards, the stickers, the package design, and the movies they are derived from.

The book’s design is ingenious, an adjective that I use sparingly. The dust jacket art is derived from the wrapper design for one of the Series One packages; Abrams ComicArts even uses the same text layout and wax paper (or a facsimile of wax paper) used in Topps’ trading cards packages. (If you remove the dust jacket, you’ll see a pink stick of “gum” printed on the book cover.)  

Like the other two books about the Topps Star Wars trading card series, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi: The Original Topps Trading Card Series – Volume Three is compact enough to fit even on small bookshelves, and in addition to Gerani’s introduction, there is plenty of commentary about the cards, stickers, and their various features within its 548 pages.

If you are a Star Wars fan from the 1977 Generation and bought these cards only to lose them somewhere in your journey to adulthood, or a newcomer to the franchise set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” Star Wars: Return of the Jedi: The Original Topps Trading Card Series – Volume Three is  highly enjoyable book for collectors and readers alike. I heartily give it four and a half stars.

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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