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Take a walk by the checkout lanes at your local Target or Walmart, and you’re likely to see several different recent Topps WWE products, along with a plethora of other sports and non-sports cards.
But not all wrestling cards are sold in packs or boxes. Over the years, wrestling trading cards have been included as bonus items with DVDs, VHS tapes, action figures, Stridex pads, backpacks and even packages of underwear. Some cards are exclusive to a specific region, such as the UK.
There were plenty of oddball wrestling trading cards released in the 1990s. Here’s a look at five popular (and sometimes notorious) sets.
- 1991 Imagine Inc. Wrestling Legends. Sports cards got all nostalgic in the 1990s, and this amazing set from Imagine Inc. was among the first. The 60-card base set included all-time greats like Bruno Sammartino, “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers, “Superstar” Billy Graham and Ml Mascaras, not to mention legendary tag teams like Rip Hawk and Swede Hansen and Antonino Rocca and Miguel Perez. But the most appealing thing about the Wrestling Legends set is the eight-card autograph set, which was made up of Sammartino, Rogers, Lou Thesz, Graham, Koloff, Killer Kowalski, Lou Albano and Dominic DeNucci. This product was sold through ads in the wrestling magazines; a 60-card base set was $9.95, and a base set plus the eight autographs was amazingly just $39.95. These are the only certified on-card signatures of Rogers, Thesz, Albano and DeNucci.
- 1991 and 1992 Merlin WWF Gold Series. These two products were available only in Europe, and featured just about everyone who set foot in a WWF ring in the early 90s, from Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and Bret Hart to Nailz, Skinner and Big Bully Busick. The 1991 set consisted of 150 cards with English, German and French versions, and included what may be the first trading cards of the Undertaker. The 1992 set is made up two series of 96 cards each, with the earliest known trading cards of “the Rocket” Owen Hart.
- 1997 and 1998 Cardinal WWF. These cards were originally found in the Cardinal WWF Wrestling Trivia board games that were sold in 1997 and 1998. Each set consists of 33 cards. The 1997 set perfectly captures the wackiness of pre-Attitude Era WWF, with Glen Jacobs as Diesel and a card of Papa Shango, who hadn’t been seen on WWF television since 1993 but was about to reemerge as Nation of Domination member Kama Mustafa. Other rarities in this set include Doug Furnas, Phil LaFon, Brakus and the Goon. The 1997 Cardinal set also includes the first wrestling trading card of the Rock, who previously appeared on a 1994 Bumble Bee University of Miami football card.
- 1992 Topps WCW. Six years before Topps’ landmark 1998 WCW set, the company produced a 66-card set of WCW cards available only in the UK and Europe. This product has a design that screams early 90s, with colorful backgrounds, multicolored WCW logos and a big yellow lightning bolt across the tops of the cards. The set includes all of the top WCW stars of the time, such as Sting, Lex Luger, Brian Pillman and others, along with the likes of PN News, El Gigante and Big Josh. The set is notable for including early cards of the Diamond Studd and Dustin Rhodes. Three error cards also use pictures of the wrong wrestlers: Diamond Studd is twice identified as Jimmy Garvin, and Sid Vicious is identified as Barry Windham.
- 1997 Stridex WWF. These cards are about half the size of traditional trading cards, and feature a color action shot superimposed over a black and white headshot of each wrestler. One card was inserted into select Stridex products. It’s an easy set to chase, because there are only six cards and one header card: Ahmed Johnson, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, Sycho Sid and the Undertaker.
What’s your favorite 1990s oddball wrestling trading card set? Join the conversation on Twitter by tagging @MMooreWriter.
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PWTorch Collectibles Specialist Michael Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MMoorewriter.