Marvel Trading Cards

The early 1990s were all about lenticular covers, bagged promos, and rampant speculation. But they were also about trading cards. Upper Deck reigned supreme and we finally said goodbye to buying cards with super hard chewing gum. Traditionally we had purchased sports cards, but Marvel Comics had given us another option by issuing a series of collectible cards featuring their spandex clad characters.

The early 1990s were all about lenticular covers, bagged promos, and rampant speculation. But they were also about trading cards. Upper Deck reigned supreme and we finally said goodbye to buying cards with super hard chewing gum. Traditionally we had purchased sports cards, but Marvel Comics had given us another option by issuing a series of collectible cards featuring their spandex clad characters.

The first series was released in 1990 and featured short biographies of heroes and villains along with battle statistics on the back of the cards. So now we all could know what Spider-Man’s win percentage was (a burning question for everyone involved). There were even hard to get hologram cards! The art was provided by some of Marvel’s top talent (including Walt Simonson and Art Adams) and no trip to the convince store was complete without grabbing a pack or two.

Wolverine Card

 

I never had the entire set, but grabbing packs here and there whetted my appetite for Series II. And, to borrow a phrase from the time, Series II was da bomb. The art and production was upped even more. The stats on the back of the cards was replaced with power levels so now we could compare the strength, intelligence, and energy output of each hero. There was a 7-11 right beside my local comic book shop, so I was able to grab my comics and have some change left over for Big Feet and some Marvel cards. Of course there were a lot of doubles, but trading at school helped me get closer to a completed set and a final purchase of a Namor card (for $1) at a comic convention completed the entire 167 card set. It remains one of my great accomplishments in life.

Namor

 

For Series III there was no fooling around. My brother and I saved up and bought an entire box. Unbeknownst to us there were a lot of sets in a box. Or there were almost a lot of sets. I think we got one full set each and split the holograms. It was a foolproof plan, but I did rob myself of the joy of actually collecting the cards.

Series III

 

What was great about the Marvel cards was that they taught me more about the Marvel Universe and inspired me to read more comics. I would have never known every character just by reading comics; there were far too many and I didn’t have enough cash to buy every comic book Marvel issued. But by collecting these cards my knowledge of the wonderful Marvel U grew and I became a lifelong fan. I think that today kids have the same collector’s encyclopaedia of awesomeness, but I see the Lego Marvel video game fulfilling a similar role. Anyone who plays that game gets to learn about the Abomination and MODOK in addition to Spider-Man and Wolverine.

Marvel Cards were fun, had great art, and were iconic examples of 1990s collecting excess. I wonder how much my Ghost Rider rookie card is worth?

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Anthony Falcone
Anthony Falcone is a freelance writer living in Toronto and he is the Ayatollah of Rocknrolla. You should definitely follow him on Twitter.
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12 Comments

  1. The Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe fulfilled the same desires for fans collecting in the 1980s: character information and a way to know the Marvel Universe as a whole.

    I just threw out all my Marvel and DC cards after keeping them around in binders for several decades: no resale value and I still prefer my Handbook trades…

  2. Totally agree about the Official Handbook. Scott! Threw them away? For shame. I still have some random cards stashed somewhere (like that GR rookie), but I sold my sets and holograms about 8 years ago on eBay. I actually got decent coin ($20-$30 per set).

  3. Great article. I remember picking up a few packs every trip to the comic shop as well.
    Anyone see the Comic Book Men episode where a guy came in to sell his series 1 & 2 sets? Instead of buying them the comic men went to the back and gave the guy all the spare cards they had just to get rid of them. Ah the 90’s.

  4. I love my Marvel cards. I still go through them every so often. Set 3 is the only set that’s incomplete of the three. I also bought a box of X-men cards and got three complete sets out of it. I was never a fan of the holograms, though – I thought they were ugly.

    Also, not being a huge DC fan at the time, I really appreciated the DC set even if they weren’t as pretty as the Marvel ones. I didn’t come close to completing the set. I’ve even looked on ebay to see how much a box is.

  5. When I was younger I had a trading card of Wolverine and would take it everywhere with me. I loved that card, I would read all the facts about him on the back…hmm I wonder if it is still around somewhere.

  6. I inherited my Marvel card collection from my brotherlaw who was purging his stuff. You are right, it was one of the more fun ways to learn about the Marvel heroes. Sure there is the encyclopedia, but the randomness of shuffling the cards and pulling a hero out of the deck was more fun than reading about them alphabetically.

    I gave my cards to my son, so it’s fun again having him ask me/tell me about the heroes he’s learning about.

  7. I remember these cards. I still have a box of Xmen Series 2 cards unopened. And there is a special Storm Card in my son’s rooom

  8. One of my first eBay purchases was a complete set of the 1992 set. Those 90’s marvel cars were the best… not always in terms of art, but always the most fun.
    Now, I’m gonna go search my garage for my Marvel pen & paper RPG books… “First pick… I pick Odin”.

  9. Leigh, I know EXACTLY how you feel. Set 3 had a Ghost Rider from Mark Texeira that is my all-time favorite. I had it with me throughout high school.

    There was a certain charm to these sets that I liked. I really appreciated the ‘famous battles’ cards. Pre-internet, this was the only way for me to learn about the Marvel Universe.

  10. Nelson, yes! I remember those too! I had one of Wolverine and him fighting some dinosaur, a pterodactyl maybe….wow, sorry I can’t remember exactly who it was, but I thought it was badass

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