Oddball Monstercard Millennium
©2001 Kurt Kuersteiner (Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards)
Greetings guys and (voodoo) dolls. It's starting to cool down and get dark earlier each night. Halloween is just around the corner. Witches will fly, ghosts will stir and monsters will march. That means it's time once more for another Oddball Monster card installment. So put on your monster masks or vampire blood (to get in the right mood) and let's see what the fang ferry left us this year.
First on the list is Monsters & Mysteries of Planet Earth. This 30 card set was released in 1993 by Contact Press. The production quality is rather low. The pictures are grainy and the text on the backs is pretty sparse. There aren't very many monsters either. It's more Believe it or Not type stuff: Crop circles, Big Foot, unknown sea carcasses, the Shroud of Turin, etc. What makes the set interesting is that the images are actual photographs, so viewers have a chance to see what all the controversy is about for themselves instead of getting "enhancements" added by artists renderings. All the photos are black and white.
There are some interesting unexplained phenomena offered. My fave has to be the one about the Brazilian psychic surgeon who removes cataracts with a rusty knife and no anesthetic. Now that's gotta hurt. Perhaps the greatest unexplained mystery is why we don't send Brazil all our ambulance chasing lawyers-- they can actually use 'em!
The 30th card is the checklist. This set may be small in number, but it isn't small in quantity of sets. There seems to be an abundant supply and the prices usually range around $5
A similar type set-- but much tougher to find-- is Myth or Real? (1994, American Realist Company.) This series was also released as sets, but in two separate white cellophane wrappers. One contained the first 40 cards, the second the other 40 (80 cards total). To keep things mysterious, the checklist is actually the 40th card, placing it in the center of the series. (That's certainly a different way to do it.)
Some claim only 1,000 sets of this series were made. However, there is no serial number or proof of that offered with the cards. Yet it is difficult to find, so the scarcity suggests not too many were made. The production quality is pretty decent. No color is provided but gold trim surrounds the clear black and white pictures. Some of the images are photos, others are illustrations. A few are eyewitness sketches. The backs contain informative text. They cover UFOs, giant squids, Yeti, Lock Ness monsters-- that kind of stuff. This set doesn't differentiate between myths or facts, so you may want to accept its information with a grain of salt.
Another low mintage series (but with much lower production standards) is the infamous Hot Schlock series. These sets are amateur quality all the way. Not only is the card stock flimsy, but the back text appears to have been typed with an old Smith Corona! The front images are newspaper ads from various B movies. Heck, everything about this series is low budget. But the exploitation theme and clever writing make the text enjoyable.
I'm aware of five in the series being released, and most of them stand out because the backs are printed on bright fluorescent colors (the kind that glow under a black light). All five sets are copyright Dreamtrip Enterprises 1991 or 1992. All are serial numbered by hand as one of 1,000 or 1,200 sets. They usually cost around $10 each. Here are the themes:
Schlock Horror, 1991. This one features 40 horror movies with bright orange backs. 1,000 were made. Titles include Night of the Cobra Woman, Bog, Astro Zombies, She Demons, Island of the Damned, Cannibal Girls, The Corpse Grinders, etc.
Women In Crime, 1991. This set of 40 has bad girls in prison as its theme. The 1,000 numbered sets were issued with hot pink backs. Titles include Big Doll House, Black Mama White Mama, Love Camp 7, Jail Bait, Women for Sale, The Hot Box, Faster Pussycat Kill Kill! etc.
Science Fiction, 1991. Lime green backs covered this 40 card set limited to 1,200. I can personally attest that many of the movies featured in this set were grade Z films. I saw most of them for $1 at the local cinema, paying at least .99 cents more than the majority of them were worth (unless you add in the camp factor). Titles include The Green Slime, Empire of the Ants, Food of the Gods, Death Race 2000, Galaxina, Queen of Outer Space, Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster, etc.
Schlock Bikers, 1992. These hot red reverse cards were issued in numbered sets up to 1,200. You'll learn about more Biker movies than you ever thought possible (or sensible). The 40 cards feature films like The Wild Angels, Sleazy Rider, Chrome and Hot Leather, The Loners, Satan's Sadists, Naked Angels, Werewolves on Wheels, etc. Best title award goes to The Losers. (At least someone was aware of what they were making.)
Just like the movies they wrote about, Hot Schlock started to repeat itself before dying an unceremonial death. The Platinum Schlock Horror set (1992) had 44 cards with silver backs. Most of them are identical to the original Schlock Horror series, but a few are different. It was a disappointing ending to an otherwise innovative series. They must have seen the end coming though, because they went back to issuing just 1,000 in the set. I've heard a couple folks suggest there were other topics covered in the series, like Outer Space of Scream Queens, but I haven't seen them. If you do, let me know.
We've been following the Sideshow Toys monster action figures for the last couple years in this column, too. These aren't cards but are the best 3-D monster renderings seen in decades. This year, they've released series 5, which has three figures of Lon Chaney as the Red Death (from the original Phantom of the Opera), Bela Lugosi as Dracula and also as Ygor. Alas, all three of these 8" models are already sold out at the factory, but you might find them "hanging around" retail toy stores. They were limited edition items of 10,000 or so and the speculators seemed to have snagged most them. They normally retail for $15 each.
F.Y.I: Sideshow Toys also made a dozen or so different 12" dolls of various Universal monsters, but those little critters retail at $30 each and can really rack up a tab in short order. Still, they are the best I've seen and very detail oriented.
Now back to the cards--er, sort of. How about some super oddball monster type items? Drive-in Movie schedule cards. These 5 1/4" x 7 1/2" cards (some are bigger, others smaller) list the next week's attractions from various Drive-in theaters. They were passed out to patrons in the late 50s and 60s as advertisements. Many are blank backed, others have snack bar prices listed. All of them feature newspaper type ad images of upcoming movies. Most of mine are from Florida and advertise weekend monster movies like The H Man, The Woman Eater, The Spider, Monster on Campus, She Devil, The Mysterians, Angry Red Planet and the like. (Good thing most teenagers had girl friends to keep them distracted. The very idea of trying to entertain a young mob by showing Monster on Campus while sitting in hot, humid, mosquito infested Florida air is scary indeed.)
Unfortunately, collecting Drive-in Movie schedules is one card hobby no one can finish. Not only are they not numbered, but the number of theaters that put them out is probably as limitless as the stars overhead. But they do make fun mementos and are generally found for around $1 each.
Oops! The theme music is playing and folks are turning on their headlights and revving up their engines. That must mean it's time to run. But don't forget to include trading cards in your trick-or-treat tray for Halloween. What better way to introduce the little monsters in your neighborhood to the joys of card collecting? Untill next time, take scare!
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