Topps may be best known for their baseball cards, but back in 1976 the company unveiled a set of Star Trek Trading Cards, cards devoted to The Original Series. Each pack included several cards, a sticker and, of course, a stick of gum. Assembling every card and sticker took time and patience, not to mention devotion. And now, 37 years later, most of those cards have been tossed out by mom or are in the attic, rubber-banded together, shoved into boxes and weathered by time. Now, though, veteran Star Trek historians and authors Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann are giving those cards their due with Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, a 216-page hardcover book that includes vibrant images of all the cards and stickers (as they looked in mint condition), along with informative text and commentary by Block and Erdmann.
StarTrek.com spoke with Block and Erdmann, who offered additional details about the book.
Did either of you collect cards growing up? Had you actually collected the Trek cards back in the day?
Terry: As a kid, I bought what I thought of as packages of bubblegum, which I loved. When I found sports cards inside, I gave them to my brother and kept the gum. That went on for years. Of course, this was long before Star Trek itself even existed. I think my brother traded the cards I gave him with our neighbors for comic books. Sadly, I'd stopped chewing bubblegum by the time the Topps Star Trek cards came on the market.
Paula: When I was really young I collected these pretty trading cards that were all pictures of flowers and baby animals. Girl-oriented, obviously. I have no idea where they came from--just remember keeping them in a box. Later on, I collected the Beatles trading card sets, and still later the Star Wars cards that Topps put out. But somehow I never saw the Topps Star Trek cards, even though I was attending lots of Trek conventions in the '70s. I discovered them years later in my friends' collections of memorabilia.
Give us a sense of the book. What can the person who buys this book in September expect to see and read when he or she cracks it open?
Paula and Terry: Readers who've seen the books that Abrams and Topps previously published on the card sets for Mars Attacks! and Garbage Pail Kids, will have a pretty good idea of what's in this book. There's a spread devoted to each card, showing the front and back, and a bit of anecdotal information about it, and about Star Trek itself. Oh...and the cover bears a striking resemblance to the waxy wrappers the cards originally came in!
What did the two of you learn about the making of the cards, the release of the cards, the legacy of the cards while putting together this book?
Paula and Terry: In our introduction, we discussed the history of the cards, based on interviews we conducted with the very guys who created them, Len Brown and Gary Gerani. We were pretty excited to find them and plumb their memories. Although neither of them could remember just why there was no Sulu card included in that original set (NOTE: Sulu fans will be excited with some items that Topps and Abrams have created as a bonus!). Details about the actual manufacture and release of the Star Trek set are, of course, part of what the book is about.
As for the legacy, we can only state that our friends who were around in 1976 became very excited when we told them what we were working on. They all seem to have a soft spot in their hearts for this set. We interviewed two of them who've gone on to establish careers in the collectibles biz. We suspect the cards loom large in their personal legends.
Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series will be published in September by Abrams. Click HERE to pre-order.