It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the Dune Chronicles. I own almost everything in first print, have all the versions of the movies, blah, blah blah. Follow the link if you want more of me bragging about my collection. What I didn’t have in my collection until this weekend was trading cards for the Lynch version from 1984 published and distributed by second banana trading card company, and Topps imitator Fleer. If you were a fan of science fiction movies, or pop culture in general from the mid to late 70s all the way to the early 90s, there was a very good chance that your poison of choice had a trading card set to go along with the promotion of the movie or television show. This type of promotion was not just exclusive to Sci-fi, I distinctly remember trading cards for BJ McKay & His Best Friend Bear when I was a very young child. Trading cards were ubiquitous for a good decade and a half.
When I went to the Steel City Con this weekend, I was floored by the massive amount of cards that are still in circulation, boxed in their wax packs decades after their initial release. One set that caught my eye were trading cards from 1980 for the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The packs were so nicely packed, so crisp and clean, they could have been mistaken for a modern set. I didn’t buy, Rocky Horror doesn’t interest me anymore, but Dune still does.
When I saw the box for the Dune cards, I had to buy. They were being sold for one dollar a pack. Since it was an incomplete box with 29 out of 36 remaining I talked the vendor down to 20 dollars for the rest of the box. These are something that you don’t see anymore: Wax Packs. For those of you to young to know what that is, it’s a pack of cards packed with a wax paper wrapping; for those of you that are old enough, these bring back memories and just holding them feels good in a nostalgic way.
So what did I get for 20 dollars?
Each wax pack contained 10 cards each, along with a sticker and a stick of gum, another thing which is missing from the modern trading card expirence.
Unboxing and Unwrapping
So I unpacked the cards today. I felt that I had very good odds of getting a complete set of cards. There are 132 cards in the set, not counting the 44 stickers. I was getting 290 cards, I knew for sure that I’d have a lot of doubles, but guess what? There’s an executive sitting at a desk, in 1984, laughing at me. I didn’t get a full set after getting nearly an entire box. My hopes had been dashed.
The stickers that come with each pack are a strange bird. There is a yellow background with a still of a character. The choices are questionable at their best, and downright hilarious at their worst. The stickers I got featured more than a few Feyd Rautha, who was played by pop star Sting. I completely understand this, the stickers were there to draw in the kids to get the cards along with the gum, and Sting was in his post-Police solo artist heyday. Kids could get excited about that, kids could also get excited about the sandworm stickers, fremen stickers, sardukar stickers, and the Kyle MacLachlan Paul Attreides stickers, after all he was the hero of the movie. What I don’t see kids buying these cards getting excited are culled from the supporting cast. Do you really want a sticker of Shadout Mapes played by kid choice Linda Hunt. The stickers are a mixed bag, but on the back, there are hand drawn pictures of the characters that look like they’re from preproduction, so they’re not a complete waste of paper and glue.
Trading cards stopped coming with free gum sometime in the late 80s or early 90s. It went away probably around the same time as the wax pack. I have 26 pieces of this gum in my possession. Only four of them survived their journey to 2009 in one piece. The years have made the gum brittle and dessicated and I had to try it. This is what happens when you put 25 year old gum in your mouth: it disappears, breaking down into ever smaller parts until it becomes a saliva sucking powder that makes you want to reach for a glass of water. (Or green tea in my case, I love Arizona Diet Green Tea, it’s so good) my two nephews came to visit while I was opening up the packs and grabbed before I could stop them. My oldest nephew asked me what kind of candy it was after eating it, so I told him it was vintage candy almost as old as their father and worth a lot of money to gum snobs. I still can’t believe that he believed me. My brother is still laughing about it.
The one thing that I think Fleer missed the boat on for the gum was that it was standard gum. Spice Melange is always described as a cinnamon flavor, but you get the standard flavor bubble gum with the packs. Such a hugely missed opportunity.
The cards themselves
Have you seen the extended cut of the Lynch version of Dune? If so, you’ve seen these cards for the most part. There are four different types of cards: character cards, scene cards, two checklist cards, and terms and definitions cards.
The character cards feature a picture of one of the characters of the movie on it’s face, and the reverse has a short description on back. What’s weird about the character cards is that there are cards for characters that did not make the cut to the theatrical version of the movie. I’d like to think that there were kids buying these cards after seeing the movie 25 years ago, scratching his head and wondering just what the heck is a water priest.
The scene cards feature a picture from almost every scene from the movie. Really not much to see if you have seen the movie, they have a picture along with the dialog from that particular scene or a short description if there is no corresponding lines to print.
Terms and definitions cards are there too. These span the course of two cards, and are filled front and back with essential terms to understand the movie. These are the same ones that were part of the legendary flier handed to movie goers during the initial run of the film.
Checklist cards are worth mentioning because they only list the cards and not the 44 additional stickers. This makes me wonder if there was not a separate checklist to go with the stickers, which I got many, many doubles of.
A few more things
The card stock seems to be much nicer than sports cards from the same era. My uncle collected football cards and I remember his cards coming on much cheaper paper. The cards were semi-glossy on the face with a dull back. The cut of the cards were not clean though. Upon taking the cards out of the wax paper I could see where the press had cut the cards and there was still some small amounts of paper left from the blade, but this is only noticeable upon very close inspection.
The distribution of the cards is really odd. I bought almost an entire box. It originally held 360 cards and 36 stickers. Since I got 29 packs, I should have gotten at least one full set, since the odds should be good that a box of such a small series of trading card should have between one and two full sets of cards. I had no illusions about the stickers though. I got more doubles than anything and my stack of cards, while not towering over the near complete set, is noticeably higher. I also got a bunch of doubles in the sticker department as well.
Along with the massive amount of doubles, I noticed that each pack had seemed to have the cards grouped together by number. If you would open a pack, you would notice that what you would get would be heavily based on the numbers.
Example: Opening a pack, you will notice that most of the card you just got are in the teens, another would mostly be in the 120s and so on. It’s an odd distribution system to say the least.
I do like the cards and while I do feel a bit cheated for not getting at least one complete set I can’t argue too much about it. I got these cards fairly cheaply, and these cards were meant to be traded with other kids to get the complete set, so there is the element of disappointment, but I do understand why it’s set up that way. They’re slightly above average cards for their era and an artifact from a different era of movie promotion.
So, if I post a list of my missing cards, would anyone be willing to make a trade?
[tags]Dune, Trading Cards, Fleer[/tags]