Two weeks ago we spent the morning going to local rummage sales and I scored two boxes of Garbage Pail Kids — for $2.
I was too old for the cards back in 1985 when the cards were originally released, but for $2 I figured I’d have some fun with them. Seems I am more cheaply entertained and less mature as a 40-something than I was as a 20-something.
The first box had cards grouped together, held by rubber bands, all of which seem to be, as the boxes state, from the 3rd series of Garbage Pail Kids. From the check list (one of the 7 cards is marked), it seems the original owner was able to get all the cards in the series too. I looked at one stack and then moved to the next box.
This box had cards in the wrappers. Being a jaded collector, I figured the cards were just stored in wrappers neatly refolded around them — but the package didn’t flip open so easily… I picked up a few more packs, and they looked sealed too. But still, I figured heat from storage, or even just the warmth of the sun at the sale, had effectively resealed the wax packs.
I gently, but firmly, opened a package and inside with the cards, a piece of the retro bubblegum, broken in two pieces. I quickly felt the other packages and felt the presence of gum — far more delightful the the old gum I’ve discovered under tables and other pieces of furniture, because not only is this gum un-chewed, but perhaps an indication that the packages keep their virgin integrity.
This made me question the likelihood of the age of the cards. While the cards and packaging state a copyright date of 1986, I’m not sure these aren’t reproductions or older cards bearing the original date the art was created. Turning to the collector’s number one research tool, Google, I look-up Garbage Pail Kids.
The 3rd series does hail from 1986 (making the cards 22 years old), and all signs indicate these are original cards.
Also, they appear to be the first printing of the 3rd series. In the 3rd series, copyrights changed from print to print, making these cards a bit more difficult to identify & therefore collect.
There were three printings of the 3rd GPK cards. Here’s how Wayne’s Garbage Pail Kids References explains their identification:
The packs with 25¢ on the front of the wrapper and “MADE & PRINTED IN USA” near the bar code or have that the wrapper code 0-490-21-01-6 can contain cards with or without (only one or the other for the entire box (not both)) the copyright information on the puzzle pieces.
The packs without 25¢ on the front of the wrapper or that have the wrapper code 0-490-21-02-6 contain cards with the copyright information on the puzzle pieces.
The packs with 25¢ on the front of the wrapper and “GUM MADE IN CANADA” near the bar code or that have the wrapper code 0-490-21-03-6 contain cards without the copyright information on the puzzle pieces.
It should also be noted that the wrapper code is not the bar code. For example, the bar code on my wrappers (for both the t-shirt and sweatshirt wrappers) is 4111600490, but the wrapper code is 0-490-21-01-6. The wrapper code is only visible when the wrapper is opened (found in the bottom right corner, beneath the shirt size chart), and therefore the collector has a decision to make.
Of course, if you want to see the cards, you’ll have to open them anyway; but if you’re looking to save cards in the original packaging, you’ll never really know what you’ve got for certain. Even though I’ve an opened pack from the first printing, I cannot verify for certain that all of the 28 remaining wrappers contain cards from the first printing. Or, in fact, that these wrappers were never opened and resealed.
Wayne also makes the following recommendation to collectors:
It probably is best to buy a 3rd Series set without the copyrights and then buy another set with copyrights because most dealers do not sell (or even know about) the copyright variations as part of their sets.
The 3rd (and the 4th) series of the backs of US Garbage Pail Kids cards have near exact copies of a 1960′s poster set by Topps called “Wanted Posters”, which may bring additional delight to collectors.
Topps began making Garbage Pail Kids as a parody of Cabbage Patch Kid dolls in 1985. They began as a way for little brothers to annoy their little doll-toting sisters, and they eventually moved past just the dolls to a general gross mockery of many things — except for President Lincoln, as noted at Barron Aaron’s Garbage Pail Kids World:
This John Pound Unpublished GPK was completed late in 1985 and was intended for the 3rd series. Topps decided the piece was too gruesome and ended up rejecting the artwork for this release. The piece was originally intended for the 3rd series set with only one bullet through the hat and the character holding a “PlayBill” which was changed to “SlayBill” for the 5th series card with Abe’s hat with two bullets and one bullet through his forhead, but the piece was removed late in production.
Even more than a century later, it’s too soon for a gruesome Lincoln joke. (Additional proof that everyone loves Lincoln — more on that another time; remind me to tell you about that…)
Topps created a cash cow with GPK; even little girls fancied the gross cards & Topps began making more, betting that the more names the icky kids had, the greater the chance they could seduce kids to the dark side of dolls if they found cards had their name on them. But in 1988 Coleco, maker of the Cabbage Patch Kids, sued Topps for trademark infringement. They settled out-of-court, with Topps agreeing to modify, beginning with the 10th series, the appearance of the Garbage Pail Kids so they wouldn’t so closely resemble the Cabbage Patch Kids, but even with card production continuing, the fad was on the outs.
In 2003, Topps, fueled by the possibility of a nostalgic cash cow (real money for them; warm fuzzy memories for you), resurrected GPK, complete with virtual Garbage Pail Kids “alive” online.
As for me, I’ll share the cards with the kids, maybe sell a few… I’m really more apt to get the warm-n-fuzzy laughter over Wacky Packages. I know they are out there; just haven’t found boxes of them for $2. Yet.