Editor's note: Since Oct. 6, 2012 (the 50th anniversary of the release of the Beatles' debut album Love Me Do), we've been on a half-century celebration cycle in which we are scheduled to relive every Beatles innovation, every release of the Beatles' landmark career in real time, right until the inevitable 50th anniversary of their breakup in 2020. But what other long-forgotten anniversaries are being overshadowed by the Fab Four? To answer that question, we present another installment in this series entitled The 50th Anniversary of Something Else.
What? It's bad enough that lazy writers tag The Fab Four "the first boy band" as if the Beatles ever boogaloo'd in unison. But to suggest they were bubblegum is blasphemy on a par with saying One Direction is more popular than (insert unassailable deity of your choice). Relax, Fab protectors, the closest John, Paul, George and Ringo ever came to bubble gum (at least until the acid bubble pop of "Hello Goodbye") was when the Beatles trading cards debuted in May of 1964. Prior to Topps launching the first of five Beatles card series, non-sports cards were a rarity and rock star cards were non-existent. Naturally, with Beatlemania at fever pitch, bubble gum representation was needed. And fast. By the time their movie A Hard Day's Night debuted in late summer, the Beatles were already on their fourth card series.
Conferring with an admittedly old 1992 edition of the Sport Americana Non-Sports Cards Price Guide, the tome valued a complete set of the first series at $175, which seems to be the asking price on eBay these days. Given that, I wondered which other artists followed the Beatles into bubblegum card infamy. Need they suffer the relative anonymity felt by the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth man who trod upon the moon? The answer is no, and in some cases, even these picture card also-rans can command a high selling price on eBay. Here -- by 1992 value standards when a lot of the people who would be interested in such cards were still alive -- are the Beatles' ten rock stars bubble gum card successors.
1.) Freddie & the Dreamers (1965)
Lennon's accusation that whatever the Beatles did the Rolling Stones did six months later didn't hold true in one respect -- Mick and the boys never followed the Fabs onto bubble gum cards. The first British invaders to do that were Freddie and the Dreamers. Whereas the Beatles were clever, handsome heartthrobs, Freddie and the Dreamers were ugly, balding thugs who looked as if they were peeled off of a Dick Tracy comic strip with Silly Putty. Freddie's press agent had his work cut out for him trying to make the Dreamers not sound like every little girl's nightmare. The sleeve notes for the band's first U.S. album described bassist Pete Birrell as a "young Eddie Mayehoff, with big eyes and a jutting chin" while failing to mention guitarist Roy Crewsdon's Nixonian hairdo and what appears to be an artificial right eye. Short-lived Freddiemania peaked in 1965, when the Donruss Trading Card Company issued its Freddie and the Dreamers collector's series. When all 66 cards were turned over and placed together, they formed a giant autographed picture of the group in black and white striped shirts. It's almost as boring as the 66 cards themselves, many of which feature the group in -- you guessed it -- those same black and white striped shirts.
Complete Set Mint Value: $45
2.) The Monkees (1966)
Once the Beatles sprouted facial hair and got psychedelicized, the teenybopper segment of their audience that got left behind quickly adopted the Monkees, who were created in the Fab Four's early Hard Day's Night/Help likeness. The Pre-Fab Four's successful run in Donruss trading cards in 1967 matched the Beatles' own bubble gum blitz three years before. But the Monkees had a secret weapon -- yummy banana flavored bubble gum that didn't taste as if you wadded up a card and ate it by mistake.
Three series of cards were issued by Topps in The Partidges' peak year of 1971. Having learned his lesson with the made-for-TV Monkees, music supervisor Don Kirshner made sure that the kid actors hired for the Partridge Family didn't revolt to become a real group or even look like they could hold their instruments properly. Oddly enough, Kirshner's interim TV-band between the Partridges and the Monkess was The Archies, who were not only not a real group or even people. The Riverdale high gang never got a trading card series of their own, but Topps did issue a series of Archie rub-on tattoos in 1969, which practically guaranteed a beating after school.
Mint Set of Series 1 thru 2: $40.00
Mint Set of Series 3: $80.00
4.) The Brady Bunch (1971)
You might contest the inclusion of the Brady Six to this list because they were also never a real group. And one could point to the two albums the Brady Bunch recorded for Paramount Records as the evidence.
Mint Set of Series 1: $425.00
Do you remember Bobby Sherman's short-lived TV series spun off from The Partridge Family, called Getting Together? No? Well, that explains why these cards were only test-marketed and why they are so rare now. Only 66 full sets were pressed, but their mint value is speculative. Translation: good luck finding someone who will pay $1,100 for anything with Bobby Sherman's name on it.
Mint Value: $1,100
6.) The Osmonds (1973)
Donruss made this set of 66 cards. Anyone calling the Beatles the first boy band does the Osmonds a disservice. Because there is a mountain of video evidence of their TV appearances that prove the Utah clan could dance as well as they sang and that they played their own instruments in concert. As the liner notes for their first MGM album of the '70s noted of the oldest sibling: "Alan plays lead guitar for the group. He has attained perfection on this instrument and can play many instruments with an expert touch." And watch what you say afterwards because those same notes warn "After meeting Alan and the Osmonds you must think twice before doing anything wrong." No truth to the rumor that this series broke the record for Most Teeth in a Trading Card. Haw!
Mint Set: $60
7.) Bay City Rollers Picture Cards (1975)
These were also only test-marketed here with the bulk of the cards going to England where the sight of men in high-waters and tartan didn't embarrass folks so much. Hyped to be the next Beatles, this card series followed their arrival into New York, where they were often photographed unmolested by young fans and waving to a lot of empty police barricades. Just so you know, no one except maybe a few overzealous Topps bubble gum card caption writers ever called the Rollers "The Fab Five."
Proving that KISS were just as big a pain in the ass at the peak of their popularity as they are now, the band replaced 21 cards in their Donruss first and second series to remove any trace of Peter Criss once he left the group. You might not remember that before KISS changed direction and became just another hair-extensioned metal band Criss' replacement Eric Carr briefly donned the ceremonial makeup as The Fox. Which is what you'll tell your friends when they asked you "When did Wile E. Coyote join KISS?"
Mint Set of Series 1 thru 2: $30.00
Mint "Corrected" Set 3: $65.00
9.) Elvis Collectors' Series (1978)
The King had to wait until he shuffled off this mortal coil before Donruss made trading cards series for him. That he was the first-ever dead rock star commemorated on a trading card left room for plenty o' macabre facts. The closest they got to admitting the sheer ghoulishness of Elvis now stiffer than the bubble gum his collector cards came supplied with this enterprise. Here is a sample Elvis Fact on the back of card No. 48: "The death of Elvis Presley spawned a billion dollar industry of Elvis products. It included everything from real money with Elvis' likeness to t-shirts and of course, Bubble gum cards." Fans hoping to find out the quantity of pharmaceuticals in Elvis' system at the time of death or ascertain what his weight would be on various planets in our solar system were forced to look elsewhere. As for the bubble gum -- the fact that it wasn't flavored peanut butter and banana sandwich flavored stinks of another missed opportunity.
Mint Set: Valued at $12
10.) Rock Stars (1979)
By now, the sight of rock stars on trading card was old hat but Donruss had the bright idea of featuring grouping four different groups in one series that would cover the wide spectrum of rock circa 1979. There was "theatrical rock" (the aforementioned KISS), "disco-rock (The Village People), "hard rock" (The Babys...huh???whaaat?) and "jazz rock" (Queen, who just released an album called Jazz that sounded more like the Laverne & Shirley theme than be-bop.)
Mint set: $20.00.
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