Not for Sale Sets. Off the beaten path...


by Kurt Kuersteiner ©1994 Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards

With the variety of new sets being released by manufactures, it may seem unnecessary to pursue cards not intended for public sale. Yet many of them are nicer sets. Some of these cards had very limited release, which makes finding them more difficult but also more rewarding. Unknown sets may become popular and valuable, but only after collectors have seen or heard about them. Until then, someone of the most unusual and interesting sets are still available free or at little cost. That is, until you figure the phone bill and travel expenses accumulated while tracking them down...

Listed here are a few such sets. Information on these cards is often more difficult to obtain than the cards themselves. Some of this material is based on recollections instead of records, but each source is sited and can be judged accordingly.

Perhaps the best known of these little publicized sets is the Pizza Hut Universal Monster series. This is a set of three holograms measuring 2 1/2" by 3 1/2". Though they don't reproduce well in photos, the pictures look very three dimensional on the cards themselves. They feature 3D photos of Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman. These are not the actual Hollywood stars, but modern models made up in the same style. The backs contain a sketch of the monster, a joke or riddle, and a small biography of the ghoul. Each card was issued with meals during Halloween 1992 at participating Pizza Huts. The promotion received little publicity, and the amount of cards given away seems small in comparison to other fast food trading card giveaways.

The cards were handed out in cello packs which also contained a card with "trick or treat tips". Though the same card was included in every back, fewer seem to have been saved, probably because they were dull in comparison to the actual holograms. Whatever the reason, the few dealers that offer this set rarely include the fourth card. According to Gene Blackman, the manager who provided me samples, Pizza Hut does similar promotions often, but rarely advertises them in advance. They have more recently given away dinosaur pamphlets with place mattes and "re-usable stickers".

A much scarcer and more unusual set was produced for the French Paper Company in 1985 or 1986. This set was entitled "Tips and pointers of the Commercial Artists." In measures 2 1/8" x 3 1/8" and is printed on thick recycled card stock. The set consists of 12 cards showing good commercial artist techniques. According to Charles Anderson, the designer, it was issued on a very limited basis. The backs are all identical and printing on the front is slightly raised. They are nicely done, even though the subject matter is rather esoteric.

A more mainstream set was designed by Mr. Anderson in 1989, again for the French Paper Company. This time the set consisted of 42, and the subject featured was monsters. Measuring 1 13/16" x 2 5/8", this set was also printed on thick recycled card stock, but with visible fibers called "French Rayon". Anderson used the same black and white photos featured in the Nu-card Horror Monster series, but with new (and funnier) gag lines. The backs have identical text promoting French Rayon.

These cards were printed in perforated panels and broken apart, then shipped in small color "monster candy" boxes. Each box contained four vertical boxes of candy, with pictures of either the Wolfman, Dracula, Frankenstein or The Creature on the label. The inside candy is, according to Anderson, "A chalk-like candy with a monster face printed on each one. Kinda like those cheap valentine mints."

Because of the candy boxes, only seven cards could fit in a box. This meant that customers (printers) rarely ever received full sets. A small sticker panel featuring six monster faces was included, as was a title card with a graphic of a boy drawing Frankenstein. Cards #16, 35, and 39 were withdrawn because they made references to famous people (like Cher and Tami Fay Baker). A few of these may have survived, but only the handfuls swiped by daring employees. In general, these cards are very difficult to find, because all French Paper Company cards were manufactured as printing samples. Printers are not usually card collectors and most of them threw away what samples they had within a year of receiving them. I am unaware of any dealer who offers these for sale.

It should also be mentioned that Mr. Anderson wasn't to put out another promotion through French Paper Company. This time, he plans to do tattoos. There will be five different packs with five different tattoos each. The subject matter is, well, different. He tentatively plans to feature furniture, appliances, insects, head ailments, and either meats or toys.

An even stranger but no less interesting set is the 1992 series put out by WFMU radio at Upsala College in East Orange NJ. This set was issued in a limited area, but is not as difficult to complete as others since it was sold as a full 356 card set. It's entitled "Crackpots and Visionaries", and as the name suggests, it profiles some of the strangest and most controversial characters in history. William Burroughs, John the Baptist, Forrest J. Ackerman, and Lenny Bruce are just some of the people featured. This is a very colorful set, with oversized cards measuring 2 3/4" x 3 3/4". A large number of underground artists contributed art to this project, and there is a wide diversity of styles and techniques. A biography of each "crackpot/ visionary" is included on the backs, many of which are very informative. This series was a premium for college listeners, so not surprisingly, the editorial is very "hip" and politically correct. Only 2,000 sets were originally produced, but according to their Promotions Director, WFMU may reprint the series. Hopefully, they'll do an original sequel instead.

Of course, these are only a sample of some of the lesser known promotional sets out there. They may not be as easy to locate as other sets, but they make fun hunting for the more jaded collector looking for something off the beaten path. If you're such a collector, time and patience are a necessity. But the rewards are worth it.

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