Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fleecing The Ignorant Market; The Hunger Games Trading Cards From NECA Prove NECA Is Out For The Dollars.

The Good: Decent collation, Vibrant colors, Good cardstock
The Bad: Boxes/Packs are IMMENSELY overpriced for their contents, Lack of chase cards, Lack of consistent orientation.
The Basics: Illustrating that NECA represents a dark force infiltrating the trading card industry, they produce and overcharge dramatically for their cards for The Hunger Games!

There is a lot of irony to me about fans of the various books-turned-movie franchises try to identify with one another while rejecting those who are fans of the other franchises. When the Harry Potter film franchise evolved into a worldwide smash and began production on the later films, Hollywood executives started looking for the next thing to try to replace it (in their coffers). They developed the Twilight Saga as a film franchise. The latest such cinematic endeavor is The Hunger Games and there has been a lot of resistance among fans of The Hunger Games for any comparisons with the Twilight Saga (especially). I find this deeply ironic as NECA holds the merchandising rights for a great deal of the swag for both the Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games. NECA, traditionally a toy manufacturer, is marketing the same types of items for both the Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games. One of the potentially huge moneymakers for NECA from The Hunger Games is the trading card line.

This is where the irony continues for me in the reaction of the vehement fan bases. Any fans of The Hunger Games who ignore the rest of the content of this review and are thrilled by the idea and execution of the NECA The Hunger Games trading cards owe it to Twilight. When the cinematic Twilight was released, Inkworks released Twilight trading cards (reviewed here!). Never before had a company marketed a card series for a potentially popular movie geared primarily toward teenage girls. Inkworks (as the company collapsed) did and the boxes that initially sold for $50 now sell for approximately $1000, if you can even find an unopened box. It was truly a phenomenon that had not been seen in trading card collecting in an exceptionally long time.

When Inkworks collapsed, NECA bought the license and has been producing trading cards based upon the Twilight sequels. Because, however, Inkworks started collectors of the Twilight Saga merchandise out with enough of a variety of quality cards, NECA was locked in to continuing the trend, lest it have a commercial failure on its hands that mortgaged the new card collectors Inkworks had created for them. NECA seems to be counting on the rivalry between fans of the Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games with the release of The Hunger Games trading cards. Allow me to explain:

The Hunger Games trading cards are crap.

Say what you will about the film, but the cards are a seriously troubling collectible. Because The Hunger Games did not have much merchandise in advance of the film’s release, NECA is banking on consumer ignorance and hype to sell its trading cards. A six card pack of The Hunger Games trading cards has a retail price of $3.99. $3.99 a pack is not a terrible price for cards, though it was not that long ago that one would get a pack of trading cards that had at least twice as many cards for half the price. Where the real robbery comes is that the price of a pack represents an inflated expectation of the value of the common cards.

There are no bonus cards.

$3.99 for a pack of six cards is a fair price when there is a chance you will randomly pull a costume card, autograph card or even a minor chase like a foil or other bonus card. But NECA is creating a card set with no bonus card where the retail price of a common card set – ideally – would be $48.00 (72 cards per set, six cards per pack means with ideal collation it would take twelve packs of cards to complete the set). But that chance does not exist with The Hunger Games cards. NECA produced a set to milk fans of their cash in the hopes that most fans of The Hunger Games are not as demanding as fans of the Twilight Saga (and every other card collector in the world!) and are ignorant of what drives the actual expense of trading card collecting (i.e. bonus cards). In this way, NECA is desperately hoping that fans of The Hunger Games will shell out at least five times the value of something that usually costs $10.


These cards are, most certainly, not worth the investment.

Basics/Set Composition

In the days before the release of the 2012 film The Hunger Games, NECA released a trading card set based upon the film. It has been selling modestly so far. While the film had the predictable spike in grosses over the weekend, the merchandise has not been as in-demand as some might have predicted. I blame that on NECA’s mediocre quality at inflated prices, at least for the merchandise from The Hunger Games that I have come across so far. The The Hunger Games card set was produced in standard trading card size as opposed to the elongated "widescreen" movie card size used in the industry for many major film licenses.

The The Hunger Games card set is focused primarily on the characters and plot of the movie and the common cards were packed with character images, making it ideal for fans of the film who know how the movie ends. Like almost all of NECA' products, the cards come with a UV protective coating to protect the trading cards from fading over time and to give them a nice sheen. This does appear to work as I've not had any cards from NECA fade, though they are still a new enough company as far as trading card manufacturing goes that one should not see any wear or fading so far. In another irksome trend, the cards from The Hunger Games do not follow a universal format, so the character cards that make up the first common cards are oriented in "portrait" format while most of the rest of the cards have a landscape orientation.

The The Hunger Games trading card set properly consists of 72 cards. Boxes contain only twenty-four packs of six cards each. NECA does not make any guarantees as to the contents of a box. As a result, one could easily spend $50 (or more) on a box of cards and find themselves unable to complete even a single set of cards.

Common Cards

The The Hunger Games common set is a 72 card set focusing entirely on The Hunger Games movie. The set is comprised of a title card with the symbol for The Hunger Games (the pin on fire), seventeen significant characters, forty-four plot cards detailing some of the film's plot, and nine puzzle cards that come together to form the artwork for the final movie poster for The Hunger Games. There is a final card which is the checklist for the set.

The character cards are a dream collection for fans looking to get something different autographed at the The Hunger Games events and one can only imagine with the press tour that actors from the movie, like Jennifer Lawrence, were on lately that there are fans who wish these had been released earlier in order to get them signed in person. The seventeen cards feature great promotional images of every major character – and several of the quickly-dispatched Tributes - from The Hunger Games. These include (obviously) Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark through Effie Trinket and Caesar Flickerman. There are cards of everyone from President Snow and Haymitch Abernathy through Thresh and Glimmer, who had far less overall impact. The back of each card tells about the characters within the universe of The Hunger Games.

The plot cards tell the story of The Hunger Games and this is the meat of the set. The cards feature a title and minimal border which shows a clear image – in chronological order – from the film. The backs feature writing which are surprisingly thorough for the plot of the film version of The Hunger Games. Unlike some movie card sets, the The Hunger Games cards seem comfortable with including cards that feature images and information beyond what is simply shown in the film’s trailers.

Chase Cards

There are no bonus cards. The Hunger Games set is noticeably devoid of any cards that might actually be valuable.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

Just as with bonus cards, NECA leaves consumers chasing nothing outside the box for The Hunger Games. There are no boxtoppers, casetoppers or other promotional cards for The Hunger Games that fans need to look for!


NECA made a decent common set of trading cards and were this 1990, the trading cards from The Hunger Games might have sailed off the shelves as an essential collectible. But trading card collectors have become increasingly savvy in recent years and they expect more from trading cards than a simple common card set. This is a cheap attempt to exploit the ignorance of the audience base of The Hunger Games (young teens who probably have not had much experience with non-sport trading cards) by charging them a premium price for an inferior product.

This set culls images exclusively from the 2012 film The Hunger Games, click here for my review!

For other trading cards based upon popular movie franchises, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
Twilight P-3 Ashley Greene Alice Cullen Pieceworks card
Star Trek (2009) trading cards
Batman Returns Premium Stadium Club Movie Cards


For other trading card reviews, please visit my Trading Card Review Index Page!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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  1. The really ironic thing is that exclusive trading cards were produced for Walmart and distributed the night of the DVD release. 1 out of every 50 packs had an autographed card. I don't understand why NECA didn't make these packs available to everyone? People who purchased the DVD only received 1 pack meaning they would have incomplete sets no matter what. They could have made so much money selling these packs to everyone, even if it was for a limited time. By the way, 9 bonus trading cards were sold with the Hunger Games deluxe edition soundtrack. Still, I agree NECA has done a pretty mediocre job. The Catching Fire cards are even more sad, with only 40 based cards and 1 Hot Topic exclusive card. They didn't even bother making any cards for when they go into the arena.

  2. Interesting; the DVD release exclusives and Deluxe Soundtrack cards must have come out following the primary release. NECA's trading cards have, so far, been pretty underwhelming.

    Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment!