Something about the way my brain is wired causes me to delight in collecting things. I think I might be a serial hobbyist. That sounds better than being called a hoarder at least. The Collector is a series of blog entries I’m going to write about different things that I collect, the story behind them and my most prized possessions in the set.
[dropcapI[/dropcap] was four years old when I first started collecting trading cards. It was the Panini Thundercats sticker collection from 1986. I never completed that whole set but I had fun trying. Like any good series, they had rare stickers, ones with fancy gold trim, stickers that could be placed together to form a poster and all sorts of things.
Trading cards were a big deal when I was growing up. When I moved between Brunei and New Zealand as a kid there wasn’t a whole lot that the two countries had in common but I remember the prevalence of trading cards being a constant. I imagine they are all but irrelevant to kids today but they were a fixture of the play ground for decades. I’m reminded of just how incredible their longevity was when I read Peanuts comic strips from the Sixties where Charlie Brown is desperately trying to get his hands on a trading card of his favourite minor league baseball player Joe Shlabotnik.
As a kid, trading cards were more commonly known as bubble gum cards. In New Zealand, they were fifty cents a pop and that netted you seven cards and a stick of gum that had the texture of a rubber tyre. Card collections were actually a pretty common staple of marketing to children back then. I remember the Tim Burton Batman movie and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated show as being two pop culture institutions of the late Eighties that were a fixture of playground card-trading transactions.
The two card collections that stick out in my mind as a kid were The Garbage Pail Kids and the New South Wales Rugby League trading cards from the 1991 season. To this day I love the aesthetic of the Garbage Pail Kids which took the cherub, rosy cheeked appearance of the Cabbage Patch Kids and coated them in boogers, dirt and grease. It appealed enormously to my eight year old sensibilities and because the cards were banned from some schools, they had an edgy counter-culture appeal to them.
The NSWRL 91 series cards were also a big hit with me because the team I supported, the Penrith Panthers, actually won the grand final that season and so the cards for their squad were of particular importance. It was also one of the few sets that I can remember successfully completing.
As you’d expect, I wasn’t successful in holding onto any of my trading cards from my youth. Like every other kid, Mum eventually threw them out. And yet, all of the pictures on this blog are of cards that are currently in my possession. Over the years, I’ve accumulated card collections from my youth, one by one, set by set. Usually, I’ll see them at either second hand bookstores or at comic book fares. For whatever reason, in Australia, Sydney is the place to go for card collections. It’s like no ones mum in Sydney threw anything out.
I like the Iraq War Desert Storm 1991 cards which I found in Parramatta five years ago. Not only because it means I own a Dick Cheney trading card (complete with trademark snarl) but because it shows just how vast and prevalent trading cards once were. I remember seeing those Desert Storm cards in news agents when I was a kid. They were targeted at kids and sat on the same shelf as the Panini football cards and everything.
The most recent set of cards I came across were the signed Brisbane Roar ones from the 2012 championship season. I’m particularly pleased to have those because the nature of professional football is such that half that squad has already moved on to other teams so its nice to have some memorabilia of that near-perfect season.
Trading cards are a fun little reminder of childhood in the Eighties and Nineties for me. They’re a curious relic of the recent past used to promote movies, cartoons, sports and even military conflict. Nowadays, they’re all but irrelevant. I have fond memories of trading with friends to try and complete a collection of rugby players, anthropomorphic cat people and ninja turtles. One day, I wouldn’t mind trying to get my hands on those original Thundercats Panini sticker cards but I imagine that would almost impossible now. As it stands, trading cards are one of my collections that is now largely dormant.