Trading cards are one of the most enduring hobbies, gaining popularity in recent times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even in an age where physical media isn’t as big as it used to be, licensed trading cards remain one of the most popular forms of official merchandising.
That being said, not all of these licensed cards are the kinds that fans expect. Some of these official cards were based on odd properties, and others were based on the kinds of hot topics that no one expected to be licensed at all.
10 Pac-Man Cards Had A Unique If Fleeting Gimmick
Trading cards based on video games are as nostalgic as the medium itself, but Pac-Man‘s cards from the ’80s took things to a whole new level. Instead of ordinary trading cards featuring the classic arcade game’s characters, Fleer sold scratch cards that let buyers reenact a Pac-Man level by scratching their way around the maze.
Every Pac-Man booster pack had three gaming scratch cards, three stickers, and a stick of chewing gum. While this may seem weird by today’s standards – especially when contrasted to other video games’ trading card sets – this was actually an ingenious way to translate an arcade game bereft of actual distinguishable characters onto a printed format.
9 XFL Tried And Failed To Branch Out Into Trading Cards
In 2001, WWE owner Vince McMahon tried to expand his brand of sports entertainment to football. This was the genesis of the Extreme Football League, which was McMahon’s response to the NFL. Thinking the XFL would one day eclipse the NFL, the company made tons of merchandise, including Topps trading cards.
The XFL’s cards were no different from other football cards. The cards featured the league’s players, but with slightly edgier graphic design. The XFL filed for bankruptcy as soon as it began, leaving its cards as relics of a sports trend that never came to pass. When the XFL tried and failed to return in 2018, it also released another set of Topps cards.
Shaq Fu is the kind of oddity that’s rarely seen these days. The fighting game was so quintessentially ’90s that not only was it released on long phased-out consoles like the Sega Genesis and Super NES, but it starred Shaquille O’Neal as a kung fu master. Rounding up this very ’90s experience are the official Shaq Fu trading cards from 4-Sport.
The Shaq Fu set came with 25 cards, most of which featured illustrations of the game’s characters and screenshots of certain locations. The one exception was the Shaq card, which was the same image of the NBA superstar that was used for the game’s poster. Shaq Fu fell off the radar as soon as it was released, and so did its promo cards.
7 Twin Peaks’ Original Run And Revival Released Self-Aware Cards
David Lynch’s Twin Peaks may be one of the best surrealist stories ever told, but it’s not exactly made for general audiences. The same goes for its critically-acclaimed sequel The Return, which finished Dale Cooper’s tale nearly 30 years later. Despite this, Twin Peaks got straightforward trading cards made for mainstream buyers.
Sun Pics made an official Twin Peaks set in 1991, and Rittenhouse gave The Return its own set in 2018. To be fair, the cards seemed to be in on the absurdity of it all. Cases in point, Sun Pics made cards dedicated to mundane staples like cherry pie (plus its recipe), while Rittenhouse leaned on the revival’s nostalgia with old-school scratch-n-sniff cards.
6 Gone With The Wind Received “Talking Cards” In The ’90s
Gone With The Wind is such a beloved movie that, even decades after its release and in the face of countless unflattering retrospectives, it’s still widely regarded as one of the greatest movies ever made. That being said, Scarlett and Rhett’s undying legacy still doesn’t seem like the kind of subject that should have received a trading card set in 1996.
The quotable Gone With The Wind was released in 1939, and DuoCards made 90 “talking cards” (or cards with quotes and trivia printed on them) almost three decades after its relevance faded. This isn’t too surprising since DuoCards was known for making belated decks for decades-old classics, like It’s A Wonderful Life or The Wizard Of Oz.
5 Here’s Bo! Was One Of Weirdest Celebrity Card Sets Ever Made
Since celebrity-themed trading cards used to be a big trend, it’s not too surprising to know that Bo Derek got her own deck during her prime in the late ’70s. Fleer’s Here’s Bo! set had 72 cards with trivia about the actress and never-before-seen snapshots of her. However, these cards’ creation raised uncomfortable questions.
The featured pictures were taken by Bo’s husband, filmmaker John Derek, who was almost 30 years older than her. Many of the images came from his private collection, including some of Bo when she was still a teenager. John and Bo married when they were 50 and 19 years old, respectively, which gives Here’s Bo! a creepy subtext.
4 Faces Of Death Was One Of Mother Productions’ Most Controversial Sets
In brief, Faces Of Death and its sequels are some of the most controversial movies ever made. Each movie is an anthology about people dying, and these disturbing deaths were either reenacted or taken from actual archives. Despite (or because of) the series’ reputation, Mother Productions printed a Faces Of Death set in 1994.
The Faces Of Death set featured 40 cards with monochrome stills taken from the movies printed on them. As tasteless as this may sound, this deck is actually not Mother Productions’ worst offering. The publisher is infamous for making deliberately taboo decks, some of which showcased pornography, notorious killers, and war criminals.
3 The Gulf War And War On Terror Got Official Topps Trading Cards
In the ’90s, the trading card industry expanded beyond its usual products, like sports cards or superhero-themed cards. This train of thought obviously led to Topps’ 250-card set Desert Storm, which was based on the Gulf War. These cards featured everything from the war’s key political figures to the deployed military hardware.
Topps returned with the similarly themed Enduring Freedom set in October 2001, which was made after the September 11 attacks and during the lead-up to the War on Terror. Though popular in their times, these cards attracted harsh retroactive criticism due to the extreme nationalism on display and the cynical monetization of real-world tragedies.
2 The War On Terror Has Government-Approved Playing Cards
During the Iraq War, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) made a list of high profile targets in Saddam Hussein’s government. To disseminate this information to soldiers, the DIA approved the creation of cards featuring the most-wanted individuals. Though these were otherwise normal playing cards, they were made in the style of trading cards.
Printed by Liberty Playing Card Co., these cards had the image of certain individuals and relevant details printed on them. The cards quickly sold out abroad and domestically, both for nationalistic and collectors’ reasons. Given the War on Terror’s infamy and mortifying legacy, it’s safe to say that owning these cards isn’t as prideful as it once was.
1 Bible Battles Let Players Recreate Biblical Conflicts
Given its religious importance and significance around the world, the Bible being a massive pop culture force might be odd to some. The Bible inspired everything from movies to edutainment, and trading cards are no exception. In Bible Battles trading card game, players role-played Biblical commanders and waged holy war.
The set features more than 500 named cards for six ancient nations, including Babylon and Rome. Meanwhile, people like King David can be used during play. Bible Battles wasn’t too dissimilar from other competitive card games like Magic: The Gathering, but its Biblical figures, events, and strategies give it a distinctly religious edge.
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