Trading cards became all the rage in the late 80’s and through the mid 1990’s. Collections of old sports cards began exploding in value as baby boomers began to recapture their youths by buying the baseball and hockey cards they destroyed in the 50’s and 60’s. Suddenly everyone was purchasing newly minted cards as an “investment” because they just knew that they were going to be worth something someday.
Capitalizing on the trading cards craze, companies like Topps began releasing sets for properties besides the usual sports leagues. Now movies, TV shows, and even video games were getting the trading card treatment. A whole new genre of non-sports cards emerged and by the end of the 1980’s you could count on a big budget movie release getting a trading card set produced.
Ghostbusters was one of the hottest franchises since the Star Wars phenomenon. The first film was released in 1984 and became an immediate success that continued to snowball with the popularity of the cartoon series. By the end of the decade fans were eager for a sequel and as the release of Ghostbusters II drew near, stores were stocking up on merchandise to shill to a Ghostbusters craved public.
Topps came through with a set of Ghostbusters II trading cards in time for the 1989 release of the film to sell to card collectors and Ghostbusters fans alike. The set consisted of 88 numbered cards and 11 stickers. The backs of the stickers also doubled as puzzle pieces. If that wasn’t great enough, every single pack of cards included a piece of the patented Topps bubble gum! If you’re too young to remember gum in trading card packs or if you’ve forgotten what it’s like, I’ll do my best to describe it to you. Take a piece of rigid cardboard and try to chew it. Now imagine that this rigid cardboard begins to dissolve in your mouth and that over the course of about a minute it simply vanishes. I remember trying to chew this stuff. It started solid as a rock but would shatter into multiple flavorless pieces when biting down on it. That’s when it began dissolving in your mouth. The “gum” was terrible and it had a tendency to leave a stain on the card it was pressed against to boot.
The cards still came in the old fashioned wax packs. Only a few years later wax packs would be gone forever, replaced with the flashier foil packaging. Each pack advertised exactly what you would get inside: 8 cards, 1 sticker, and 1 piece of shitty gum. Emblazoned with the new Ghostbusters logo that was unveiled during the marketing frenzy, the wrapper also proclaimed that the cards were from a “smash movie”. Although Ghostbusters II did do well in theaters, it has been mostly forgotten by all but the hardcore fans of the franchise. Even among fans the second movie is somewhat galvanizing. Personally I have fond memories of it, but I believe I’m in the minority.
The cards themselves mostly follow the plot of the movie. After introducing the cast on the first several cards the set shows action shots from the film along with a subtitle. Each of these cards are from different plot points in the film. Card collectors are well aware of what to expect from a trading card. On the front you get a photo of the sports star, and on the back you get a brief bio with a lot of statistics and maybe some trivia. But what do you put on the back of a non-sports card? Not many people would be interested in Dan Aykroyd’s ballooning weight. So instead of stats, the backs of the cards explain the scenes pictured on the front and stress that the story is “continued on the next exciting card”! I guess if you couldn’t convince your mom to take you to the movie you could just piece it together by collecting this set. But then you wouldn’t get to hear Bill Murray say that there’s “always room for Jello”.
After 82 cards the story is wrapped up, so Topps included a few behind the scenes and SFX cards to flesh out the rest of the set. These are the most interesting cards in the set and I wish there were more of them. Unfortunately only about 5 of these cards were included and the set ends with a photo of the cast and a caption that reads “until next time” leading us to believe that another sequel was in the works. Fans of the films have been waiting for that sequel for over 25 years now but unless Harold Ramis guest stars as a ghost in the new film or is added via CGI, I think the chances of that are remote. Of course the all female Ghostbusters movie is currently in the works but I’m going to consider that a spin off and never mention it again.
In addition to the 88 cards, there was also a subset of 11 stickers to collect. More than half of the stickers featured the weird hairy looking Slimer. I’ve always felt there was something off about the way Slimer looked in Ghostbusters II. I mean, what’s with all the hair anyway? I don’t remember him looking that way in the first movie or in the cartoon. Do you grow hair in the afterlife? If so, that really sucks because I detest shaving. Maybe we should be burying people with a can of Barbasol and a Gillette if that’s the case. The backs of the stickers are puzzle pieces. I use the term puzzle loosely because none of these are interlocking and you’d have to be a moron not to figure out how to align 10 pieces, but just in case you can’t figure it out sticker 11 shows you the completed picture.
Overall this was a pretty decent set of cards. You can only expect so much material for trading cards from a 2 hour movie that lacks a large cast and any meaningful statistics. Imagine what a card set from the movie “Castaway” would look like. I’d like to see what Topps would have done besides the cards featuring Tom Hanks and the volleyball Wilson. At least Ghostbusters II had some action scenes and cool ghosts to include. Since these were mass produced during the height of the trading card boom you can put together a set today cheaper than you would have back in 1989. Unopened boxes still sell for about $10 or you can just buy a complete set for about $5. For the money they do deliver a nice journey into yesteryear.