Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cheap Cardboard Trading Cards Mar The First Batman Returns Trading Card Set!

The Good: Some interesting images
The Bad: Damaged cards in packs, No real chase, Poor overall quality
The Basics: Batman Returns Movie Photo Cards are the lesser of the two trading card sets from Batman Returns, despite a chase set that presages the better set!

It is a rare thing that a single movie will inspire multiple trading card releases, especially nowadays. With films that have a single week - or two, if they are lucky - to dominate the box office, merchandising for any number of franchises has become a lot more scarce. Gone are the days when a movie like Star Wars (A New Hope) would dominate the screens across the country to such an extent that it would foster not only one or two but four whole trading card sets! Today, it would be unheard of. In the 1990s, it was a bit more common. And back in those days, there were movies like Batman Returns which were able to successfully pull two trading card releases.

The first trading card release from Batman Returns was a series called Batman Returns Movie Photo Cards and the set was produced by Topps. Topps would later produce a second set, a vastly superior "Super Premium Stadium Club" set and it is almost a shock that they bothered with the first set. Topps' Batman Returns Movie Photo Cards hail back to an earlier age of trading card collecting; the common set is cheap, the bonus set is easy to assemble and there were no real perks. No wonder the boxes of these cards are virtually worthless now.

Basics/Set Composition

The Batman Returns Movie Photo Card trading cards were originally released in boxes with thirty-six packs, packs containing nine cards - eight Movie Photo Cards and one bonus card within a plastic wrapper. The set consisted of ninety-eight trading cards and that was all. This set predates the obsession trading card collectors had with bonus cards and harkens to the times when it was fun to collect common card sets. Still, the boxes of these cards have plummeted in value and can be found collecting dust on stores that do not care about such things as space. As well, this set did make an effort at least to have bonus cards, even if they were unremarkable. The set is most commonly found these days in complete sets or unopened boxes as opposed to random unopened packs. Unopened packs are usually disproportionately more expensive than the sets.

Batman Returns Movie Photo cards are a standard trading card size and they look and feel like other trading cards. They utilize pretty primitive photo transfer technology and the thicker cardboard stock makes one think of the trading cards of the 70s and 80s. In the 1990s, right around the time the Batman Returns Movie Photo Cards were being released, trading card companies were pioneering better cardboard and UV-resistant coatings, none of which were employed by the common cards in this set, though ironically, they were used by the bonus cards.

Common Cards

The Batman Returns Movie Photo trading cards were a ridiculously simple set. There were ninety-eight trading cards in the set, broken down into an eighty-eight card common set and a single ten card bonus set. The common set is made of thicker, more obvious cardboard stock and in addition to the crappy card stock, they were all oriented different ways. Some of the cards are portrait oriented, some are landscape oriented and when one puts the set in a binder, that sort of irregularity is just annoying. At least the backs of all of the cards are portrait oriented. What unifies the set is a baffling and ugly orange border which bears no resemblance to anything in the film.

This set of trading cards is one of the better assembled sets. While the front of each card starts with some nice character portraits, the backs talk about the film, the characters and then finally the plot. This is the set for those who want an in-depth, minute-by-minute accounting of Batman Returns. The set is written with a precision that clearly details all of the characters and every action in the movie on the backs of the cards.

The pictures on the front are hampered by the ugly border which takes up about a quarter inch on each side. The fronts feature images that are pretty much the most common ones from the film, including every press release shot. The color contrasts are fair and given that this film was very dark, a lot of the images lose detail on these trading cards because the blacks do not contrast well on this cardboard. The backs, in addition to all having the same orientation, feature a shadowy image of the Gotham City skyline and the writing in black over a red portion. The cards are easy to read and are generally well-written.

It is worth noting that this set of cards suffered from a pretty serious manufacturing defect. Usually, one card per pack (at least in the boxes I opened) was damaged. The damage takes the form of scraping on the front where the colored, printed portion is more or less torn from the back. This defect is in the same position on every card, suggesting that it was a machining defect. To lose one card per pack from this is troubling and lowers the overall value of a box. Moreover, because the collation is so regular, it often robs the collector of a complete set. It was not uncommon for me to open a box and be unable to assemble a master set.

Chase Cards

There were only ten bonus cards in this set and in a single box, it was entirely possible to get three complete sets of the bonus cards! The bonus cards were simply preview cards for the Batman Returns Stadium Club Card set. The ten cards were identical to cards that would pop up in that later set, save that they were numbered with letters (A - J) as opposed to numbers. This prepared collectors for a vastly superior set and the full bleed, UV-resistant cards put this set to shame.

Non-Pack/Box Cards

There were no cards for this set not found in these packs or boxes.


A box of these trading cards, unopened, is often obtainable for $10 - $20. Complete sets of all 98 cards - common and chase - tend to run anywhere from $15 - $25. Investors will find this set is a generally poor investment, especially given the quality issues from the manufacturing defect. If one needs a Batman Returns trading card set, this is not the one to pick up.

This set culls from source material found in: Batman Returns reviewed here!

This is a set of trading cards I sell in my online store! For current inventory of these, click here!

For other trading card sets, please check out m reviews of:
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier Cinema Collection set
Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards
Twilight trading cards


For other trading card reviews, please visit my index page here!

© 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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