Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fresh 1985 Cardboard...Hulkster Style!

I think it's un-American for a child to grow up without owning at least a few trading cards.  Baseball cards immediately come to mind (especially to this Pittsburgher who finally has a team to root for again) but wrestling cards will suffice just as well.  There are plenty of examples from the last three decades to choose from, produced by various companies for several promotions and featuring virtually every major (and not so major) wrestling star.

I've discussed before the fact that any card produced before the "glossy" era took over automatically ranks high in my book.  Not only do they have higher aesthetic appeal with that classic "cardboardy" look, but they're also a Helluva lot easier to get autographed!  No worries of bubbling or much smudging.  While there are occasionally new entries in the realm of cards with matte finish such as Topps Heritage, the oldies are still the best.

But how about some "new" oldies?  How about breathing that glorious mid-'80s air just once more?  How about procuring some 1985 Topps WWF cards that weren't stuffed away in some basement for years?  It has been achieved.

The 1985 Topps WWF Pro Wrestling Stars set isn't particularly rare.  Although occasionally a card or sticker will sell for a couple bucks to a collector who needs one or two to complete a set, the #1 card (Hulk Hogan) is the only one that will grab $10-$15.  A whole set, albeit of varying condition, will usually get $35 or so.  It was a set released during a huge boom period with millions of kids as the consumer so there are obviously plenty out there.  As with all aspects of collecting, fun and enjoyment should always prevail over "rare."

Though unopened packs are fairly common to come by, the cellophane-packaged "rack packs" are a bit tougher to find.  I can remember buying baseball rack packs in my youth since the packaging allowed you to know, in advance, a few of the cards that you were getting.  Here in 2012 I had several different WWF rack packs to choose from, but I decided to "go with the gold" and pick one with the Hulkster showing up twice in plain view.  Thumbing my nose at profit, I opened the 27-year-old relic with full knowledge that a rack pack with a Hulkster card "showing" recent sold for over $30.

I carefully cut open the first of three sections and pulled out the "fresh" cards.  1985 scents?  You bet.  MTV.  New Coke.  Blair Warner.  It was all captured in that cardboard-filled plastic package.  Did I sniff?  Of course.

13 fresh cards that, depending on Topps manufacturing practices at the time, had never before been touched.  No gum stains, either, thanks to it being a gum-devoid rack pack.  Some of my favorite cards of the 1985 set which simply featured a large individual photo of the star and their name poured out, as did some of the action shot cards.  Jesse "The Body" Ventura!  Chief Jay Strongbow!  The Iron Sheik!  A card which I had not previously owned, a shot of Captain Lou Albano dressed as Santa Claus (used in 1983 as a WWF Program cover), was my personal favorite.

The middle section of each rack pack contains three sticker cards.  As with many sticker subsets of the day, the cardboard backer of each sticker contained a piece to a puzzle that formed a larger photo.  While the Albano and Brutus Beefcake sticker backers were each a piece, the back of the Hulkster sticker actually shows what the puzzle looks like completed.  While they were not in this pack, my own favorite stickers from this set are an action shot of "The Flying Frenchman" Rene Goulet and one of Wendi Richter from Cyndi Lauper's "She Bop" video.

As an aside, Topps 1985 Cyndi Lauper card series is actually a relatively unknown entry in the world of wrestling memorabilia.  Thanks to her contributions to the Rock 'n Wrestling Connection, several cards in the set feature wrestlers and wrestling shots.  My favorite from that set is a card showing Richter, Lauper, and manager David Wolff in the ring at Madison Square Garden.

Back to the opening of the rack pack, it was finally time to get a third "shot" of '80s air and more classic cards.  Another variety of portrait cards and action shots was overshadowed by what any fan, past or present, would want to find in a pack like this: a fresh and pristine example of Hulk Hogan #1.  While T206 Honus Wagner it ain't, a fresh and new version of an iconic card such as this is welcome in any collection.  After all it isn't his rookie card, but it is his WWF licensed rookie card and an image that many fans will always remember.  Another card found in this pocket, Wendi Richter's bikini shot, is another image that fans have never forgotten.

Topps WWF 1985 Pro Wrestling Stars may not hold the value of other cards, but other factors make it a must for any collection.  From various cards of some of the all-time greats to action shots like Hogan vs Antonio Inoki in Japan and Snuka leaping from Andre the Giant's shoulders to comedic "The Superstars Speak" cards, there's a lot to collect and enjoy. 

Collectors should note that there was an identical set produced in Canada by O-Pee-Chee who also released a second series.  Series 2 features shots from WrestleMania 2 as well as the only cards of one of my favorite wrestlers, Leilani Kai.  The Hogan #1 card was produced with both a beige and aqua green background however both are of equal value.

With the popularity of Topps Heritage sets in all sports, it saddens me that their WWE Heritage line halted at series IV aside from a few subsets in recent years.  With the relatively tired look of the company's recent WWE product, it would be refreshing to see a new Heritage set with past and present stars.  How about mimicking the look of '85?  "Topps Pro Entertainment Stars 2013." 

Make it happen!

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