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The consistent theme in these last months before the release of Episode III is "retro". Revenge of the Sith will bring us full circle in the saga and land us mentally back in 1977 when we first met Darth Vader. To support that nostalgic feeling Hasbro introduced the Original Trilogy Collection this summer featuring vintage card backs and vintage-style figures. Then the original trilogy was finally made available on DVD so that we can relive every moment in slow-motion. And now Topps has furthered our ability to reminisce with their new trading cards series: Star Wars Heritage.

Topps is the only company besides Hasbro to have held the Star Wars license since the beginning and collecting Star Wars cards is almost as much of a passion as collecting action figures. Heritage marks the 35th series of collectible cards and is a homage to the vintage cards of the olden days. To fully understand the popularity of this set, let us look back, a long time ago...

Vintage Star Wars Cards 1977 - 1983

Complete checklists from the Jedi Archives:
Star Wars Series 1 (Blue)
Star Wars Series 2 (Red)
Star Wars Series 3 (Yellow)
Star Wars Series 4 (Green)
Star Wars Series 5 (Orange)
Star Wars Sugar-Free Bubble Gum
The Empire Strikes Back Series 1 (Red)
The Empire Strikes Back Series 2 (Blue)
The Empire Strikes Back Series 3 (Yellow)
The Empire Strikes Back Photo Cards
Return of the Jedi Series 1 (Red)
Return of the Jedi Series 2 (Blue)

Vintage Star Wars are all similar in that several cards and one sticker are wrapped with a stick of hard gum in a wax wrapper. These original cards are printed on grey card stock with a photo on the front and either a photo that was part of a larger puzzle or descriptive text on the back. The images on these cards can be blurry or the printing offset. They are also typically coated with remnants of the wax wrapping or stained by pink bubble gum. What's special about them? They were the first.

Star Wars Sugar-Free Gum 1978
After the first five Star Wars sets, at the request of George Lucas, Topps made sugar-free gum. These are single pieces of hard gum wrapped in foil and then with a paper wrapper containing a photo. The wrappers are rare and collectible.

The Empire Strikes Back 1980
A favorite component to these sets is the stickers that came in the form of alphabet letters filled with scenes from the movie. The sticker card backs sport photos that can be placed together to form a larger puzzle.

Classic Trading Cards 1993 - 1997

Complete checklists from the Jedi Archives:
Star Wars Galaxy Series 1
Star Wars Galaxy Series 2
Star Wars Galaxy Series 3
Star Wars Caps
Star Wars Widevision
The Empire Strikes Back Widevision
Return of the Jedi Widevision
Star Wars Trilogy Widevision
Shadows of the Empire
Star Wars 3D Widevision
Star Wars Finest
Star Wars Vehicles
Star Wars Chrome Archives
Star Wars Special Edition Widevision

The dark years for trading cards was between 1983 and 1993 when there were no new sets produced. Starting in 1993 Topps began to create card concepts that would become the mainstay of modern card collecting.

Star Wars Galaxy 1993 - 1995
In 1993, Topps created the first Star Wars sets in ten years with three new series' called Galaxy. These are entirely art cards featuring images produced by the best comic book artists, novel illustrators, and others. With these sets Topps also introduced promotional cards and chase cards for the Star Wars line.

Promotional cards are typically in the same format as the card line and inserted in other publications such as Dark Horse comic books, or given away at conventions, to advertise and promote the upcoming cards. Promotional cards have been used for every series since.

Chase cards, chasers, or special insert cards, were introduced as a way of getting more sales. Collectors chase after special cards that are inserted one in every 6 packs, as an example. Chase cards are usually extra special in that they include a foil stamp, be entirely foil, or other material. Since Galaxy, chase card collecting has become the main directive for serious card collectors. They have become more elaborate and unique over the years, many highly prized and valuable. Chase cards used over the years have been: chrome, 3D, clear, cut-away, foil, etched, hologram, laser cut, matrix, mini-poster, fold-out, prism, and stickers.

Modern Trading Cards 1999 - 2004

Complete checklists from the Jedi Archives:
Episode I Widevision Series 1 (Red)
Episode I Widevision Series 2 (Blue)
Episode I 3D Widevision
Attack of the Clones
Attack of the Clones Widevision
Clone Wars Animated Series
Star Wars Heritage

The modern era of trading card collecting started with the release of The Phantom Menace in 1999. At this time Topps began to distribute two different kinds of card boxes. One to mass-market retailers and one to hobby retailers. This has long been the tradition in sports cards and allows different types of consumers to enjoy the cards.

The retail market typically consists of younger fans and the chase cards included in retail boxes cater to this type of buyer, an example is stickers. Hobby boxes are directed toward more sophisticated collectors who expect to be able to chase special cards such as those that have been previously mentioned.

The characteristic that makes this set special is the chasers. Topps contracted 25 stars from the Star Wars saga to autograph special cards with their characters' picture. Although autograph chasers had been available before, this is the first time top star autographs were included on an officially licensed product and advertised as indisputably authentic.

Clone Wars
In 2004, Topps topped even the popularity of the autograph cards with a chaser called the artist sketch card. The Clone Wars set was inspired by the Cartoon Network micro-series of the same name. Thirteen artists known in the Star Wars community, including Genndy Tartakovsky and Paul Rudish, the creators of the cartoon, were chosen to do small sketches on these cards to be included at a maximum of one in 36 packs, or one per box. Each card is completely unique and signed by the artist making these cards not only prized by card collectors, but those who collect original art as well. At least one box of cards must be opened to acquire one of the 7-8,000 different sketch cards.

The Heritage set is unique in that it brings the love of the vintage cards and the modern appeal of popular chasers like the artist sketch cards together.

The hobby edition features a second round of Artist Sketch Cards from over 25 artists from the Star Wars universe. One of the 16,000 available sketch cards for the U.S. and Europe are found approximately one per box. Other chase cards for the hobby edition include 6 etched foil cards which fit together to make a larger 2 X 3 card collage, they also happen to fit with the Simonson etched foil cards from the Galaxy series'.

What goes around comes around. The sticker chasers available with the retail edition are similar to the alphabet stickers from the original The Empire Strikes Back set complete with an image from a larger puzzle on the back. The cards are printed on "vintage" grey card stock in a "wax" package. And the most amazing feature of the set caters to our most memory-preserving sense: it smells like bubble gum. Each pack contains one piece of sugar-free bubble gum and that alone topps them all!

The Future

As one of the longest running license holders for Star Wars, Topps cards are sure to be treasured into the future. Revenge of the Sith has two sets in the works, while there may be encores for Clone Wars, Evolution, and Galaxy. Also look for new, different, and exciting inserts to fuel the chase.

Portrait of a Card Collector

Heritage Card Giveaway

During the next 12 days Rebelscum will be giving away three sets of Heritage cards including the empty hobby box, 5 empty green packs, 5 empty black packs, complete set of etched foil cards, and just so you can have the olfactory experience: 10 pieces of gum. This drawing ends on October 20th so be sure to enter often!

You must register once in order to participate, login, and then you may enter once per day. If you registered for a giveaway in the past, you don't need to register again. If you have registered and have forgotten your password, you may retrieve it.