Book Review: 'Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series - Volume One'

The dust jacket resembles the Series One packaging, right down to the faux wax paper wrapper! (C) 2015 Abrams ComicArts and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)
A long time ago in an apartment building far, far away, I started collecting Topps Star Wars trading cards.

It was the autumn of 1977 and George Lucas's space-fantasy film was still in its long, record-setting first run in theaters. Kenner Toys was frantically attempting to make the first batch of action figures and other toys in time for that year's Christmas shopping season - but wouldn't quite make it. Marvel Comics' six-issue series was still only in Issue # 3, and there was no Internet or social media like there is today for fans across the globe to exchange opinions or discuss plot points of the year's most popular movie. 

And because the home video revolution was still a few years away, fans could only "bring the movie home" in a bare handful of ways:
  • The novelization by George Lucas (actually written by Alan Dean Foster)
  • The aforementioned Marvel Comics adaptation
  • Topps' Star Wars trading cards
Topps is, of course, a New York City-based candy and gum manufacturer founded in 1934. It is perhaps best-known for its sports-themed trading cards, but the company also makes cards based on pop culture, including hit film and TV franchises. Savvy trading card fans will also tell you that Topps is where Wacky Packages and the Garbage Pail Kids originated.

Anyway, 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 grocery store. 

Topps, like most of the licensees authorized by "the Star Wars Corporation" (which was later swallowed up by its parent company, Lucasfilm) to create merchandise based on Star Wars, was caught off-guard by the film's success, so by the time I started collecting its cards, stores still had Series One in stock. Lucky break for me, because I am able to honestly say I got started at the beginning and didn't miss getting the "blue series" cards.

Back 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.  

I would eventually buy 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 organized or savvy about the proper way to collect cards, action figures, and other collectibles, I don't think I have many of the Topps cards left. 
This is the least expensive and most efficient way to get the entire Star Wars trading card series. (C) 2015 Abrams ComicArts and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Luckily, in 2015, Abrams ComicArts, an imprint of Abrams, published Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series - Volume One. 

This 548-page hardcover is (as the title states) 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.)

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. - from the dust jacket blurb

My Take

2017 marked the 40th Anniversary of the release of the original Star Wars movie, so between that and major changes in my life, I've been feeling a bit nostalgic about 1977 lately

Of all the Star Wars items I collected back then, the trading cards and stickers would probably be nearly impossible to replace on a one-for-one basis. Complete sets of all five series (with gum or without) are difficult and expensive to get. Plus, where would I store them? The  330 cards and 55 stickers would need to be stashed somewhere safe and convenient; I have only so much shelf and closet space, and I also have other collectibles that compete for that space. 

This book, which was edited by Gary Gerani (who wrote the introduction and the commentary in the various chapters devoted to the card series) is a collector's way to have my cake and eat it, too. The book is compact enough to sit in any book shelf or on top of a desk or coffee table, yet contains every Star Wars card and sticker Topps published between 1977 and 1979.

Heck, Abrams ComicArts even throws in the rare Wonder Bread cards, which I never saw and are reproduced in this book for the first time. Pretty cool, huh?

Now, the 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 cards are presented smaller than actual size.

Still, if you want to own the entire collection 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 format, and the book even replicates the card-buying experience. The book cover looks almost exactly like a Series One pack, and the publisher even uses a faux-wax paper dust jacket that mimics the ones Topps made for its cards, sticker, and gum packs.

So, go ahead. Visit your nearest bookstore or go to Amazon's product page here. If you are a Star Wars fan of a certain age like me, or want a look at some of the stuff that was trendy in Star Wars collecting circles 40 years ago, get this book.

You'll be glad you did.  

(C) 1977 Topps Chewing Gum Co. and 20th Century Fox Film Corporation