I am a geek. I know this will shock you, but I had to break the news sooner or later. I love comics and most things related to comics. I also like to buy things. Especially online, because I like receiving parcels. It is not unusual for me to scour ebay looking for comics I'd like in my collection, and occasionally, these ebay searches fall down rabbit holes.
A semi-regular search term I use on ebay is "trading cards sealed box." This generally results in a lot of very expensive unopened boxes of trading card packets which i will look through and then remind myself that I collect enough geeky things as it is.
Sometimes though, I see a set of cards that piques my curiosity, and before I know it, I've clicked "Buy It Now." And with that in mind, I present to you...
...Famous Comic Book Creators! First Series! Come on, be excited! Now, I know what you're thinking - you reckon I bought this set purely for the Todd McFarlane card. But you're wrong. I bought this set for what the Todd McFarlane card promises. There are 12 cards per pack, and this box has 36 packs. That's... a lot of cards. If a topless Todd McFarlane holding a sword is on the front, imagine what other early nineties wonders lie within!
So I decided to document the opening of these cards for a laugh, and I'm going to share my journey with you, dear Wheeler, mainly because I haven't written an article this week.
The first thing that hits me about this box of 26 year old trading cards, is that they stink. They emit the pungent odour of an old man's attic, and it is firmly embedded within every single item within the box. For some reason though, this does not put me off, and I forge ahead, excited to rip open all 36 packets and give my inner twelve year old (and outer thirty-seven year old) a cheap thrill.
My starting goal was to open everything in the box and compile a set if possible. It's good to have goals isn't it? But I was going to take my time with this and document as much as possible. So let's have a look inside the first pack...
The first thing you'll notice is there is no Todd McFarlane card in the first packet. The second thing you'll notice is how awesome every one of these cards is. I cannot pick a favourite. The new game I am playing in my head as I open these packs is now "serial killer/sex offender/gameshow contestant." I will let you play if you like.
So now I'm charging ahead, prising open these stinking packets gleefully making piles to organise the numbers in the hope of completing a set of Famous Comic Book Creators cards (first series), and suddenly I realise that I don't want to open every packet. The collector part of my brain starts shouting at me that it would quite like to keep at least a few of these packets sealed. For some reason.
Now I have a new game - how many packets will I have to open to complete a set?
As I open each packet, fingers starting to reek of charity shops and death, I sort cards into piles of 1-9, 10-19, 20-29 etc. Pleasingly, I find a packet which contains card number 110, and it is a checklist card. I can confirm there are 110 cards, and I can use this to help my sorting.
(You have probably realised that this isn't really fun any more, but my diseased brain is now on a mission - you are on this mission with me too now friends, you are complicit).
Along the way, I find cards of genuine legends of the comic industry;
I come to the conclusion that I will never be as cool as Neil Gaiman wearing sunglasses;
After opening a dozen or so packets, I start to see a pattern. It's confirmed when I open a pack and find cards 55, 44, 33, 22 and 11 inside - these card are packed in multiples of 11. How this information will help me is not clear at the moment I discover it, but I still find it interesting. This is how I spend my evenings when i'm on my own.
It's at this point that I start to compile cards to see how close I am to completing the set. 100 to 110 - check. 90 to 99 - check. I am doing well. I am proud of myself and I think you probably are too.
So it hits me hard when I get to the 20s. And the 10s. And the, uh, zeros?
The picture above tells you why I am sad. In several ways. I am now only missing card numbers 27, 16 and 5. There are only about 12 packets left. What if the box doesn't contain an entire set? There is no guarantee anywhere on the box. I checked that.
But my pattern recognition tells me that 27, 16 and 5 should all appear in the same packet. So all I need is one good packet and I've won. Tentatively, I reach into the box...
...And the first card in the next packet is number 27. You know that moment in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when Charlie peels back just the corner of his Wonka bar and reveals the hint of gold as a little flute musical sting plays? Well I just experienced that firsthand!
Behind number 27 (John Romita I believe) are 16, 5 and then some other bullshit I don't care about any more. I am a winner. A winner is me.
My quest is over. I am the proud owner of a full set of Famous Comic Book Creators Official First Series Trading Cards. It took 26 packets to complete my set, and it was worth every second.
I have a lot of swaps. If you want to tweet me @spreadthewhimsy and tell me who your favourite comic book creator was in 1992, I will have a look through my swaps and send a card about them to you. This is a genuine offer.
I also have another complete set which I may offer up as a prize in future. I don't need two sets of trading cards that stink of old men.
Written by Martyn