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Growing Up Geek: Remembering Marvel Trading Cards of the 90’s

In our first installment of our nostalgia articles CL Varner takes a look at Marvel’s Masterpieces and Spider-Man trading cards of the 1990’s. Head on in for more Chromium and hologram action than you can believe.

Now on to what I consider the birthplace of my geekdom. Spider-Man Where to even start. Okay, the first comic I EVER considered something as other than a throwaway reading material with decent art was Spider-Man #8 by Todd McFarlane released in March of 1991. I jumped into comics BIG. There was just something about the story, the art, everything just kind of clicked for me. I was instantly a Spidey fan. More on that in another article though. Needless to say, from that day on, anything Spider-Man, I had to have it.

Argue with this awesomeness. I dare you.

Marvel started releasing Spider-Man cards as early as 89 with a 45 card McFarlane set, but didn’t get crazy until the 90s. In 1991 they released another McFarlane series, followed up again in 1992 with yet ANOTHER McFarlane series simply called “The McFarlane Era” and a 30th Anniversary set. These last series were the first to include 6 “Prism” chase cards. Then 1994 hit, the year of Mark Bagley! The 150 card 1994 Amazing Spider-Man set was entirely drawn by Mark Bagley and features some of the best Spidey art ever. What really set this series apart for me was that 9 cards on a page connected into one big montage. All of the cards were separated into pages dealing with a different aspect of the Spider-Man story. Page one (right) was of course Spider-Man and his powers, page 2 was devoted to Venom who was big bad #1 at the time and all throughout the 90s. From card 28 up until card 72 was nothing but Spidey’s foes! Each one of those sets of 9 had another Spider-Man card as he was besieged on all sides. Also featured were important times, battles and team ups in Spider-Man’s history.
This is where Marvel went out of control with the chase cards. Four chase sets in all, a set of 12 “Suspended Animation” cards with characters printed on transparent plastic, four hologram cards featuring 2 Spider-Man cards, Venom and Carnage. As well as 2 separate “Gold Web” sets of 6 cards each, one of which was only distributed by Wal-Mart. Seriously guys, a little bit out of control here.
Answer needed a card? Really Marvel?

I don’t think I had ANY of the hologram cards, I’m pretty sure I had a couple of the Suspended Animation cards though. This series is just awesome to me and I hope to find them again someday. Future me will be thanking some poor eBay seller I’m sure.

Final entry in this epic tale of marketing, the 1995 Fleer Ultra series this series completely jumped the shark on trading card sets. According to Spiderfan.org this set featured AN ENTIRE duplicate set with foil artists signatures, 9 Golden Web, 9 Golden Masterpieces, 10 Clearchrome (kind of a mix between the Suspended Animation and Chrome cards), and 6 Holoblast cards! Holy crap!! With only 10 cards per pack your chances of getting those rare chase cards was pretty slim.
This set went away from the Bagley series doing the 9 card montage and mostly featuring a single character or event on each card. There are a couple of “subsets” in this series featuring Venom, Carnage and Team-Ups. By far the best is the Carnage USA set which has Carnage at different national landmarks tearing stuff up, the backs of which are written as postcards to different characters.
Also completely awesome in this series are the “Arachnophobias” which was a set of 5 cards merging 2 of Spidey’s foes together. Like if Kingpin somehow had the Carnage symbiote he would become King Carnage. They are all that silly and sounds like something me and my friends would do while sitting around being complete 14 year old geeks.

Now, what you’ve been waiting for. The ridiculous chase cards. First up are the Golden Web cards. These are just regular cards except with a chromium coating. They’re pretty cool actually and what you would expect from rare cards during this time period. The Venom card is awesome and I was beyond excited when I got one. These scans really don’t do them justice. I really hope I can find these in my meemaw’s basement.

Okay so that’s the Golden Web set, then there are the Masterpieces chase set. This set is just like the Golden Web except it only features the 3 main characters of the series at the time. If you guessed Venom and Carnage you would be right. It seems like in the mid 90’s anything featuring a symbiote was instant gold for Marvel. What, were you expecting Scarlet Spider? I’ll admit that I’m a huge Venom fan, always have been. (More on that in another article.) I think I actually somehow managed to have all of these cards. Which is pretty sad and I can’t imagine the amount of money that was spent on these cards to secure them.

Now, the cream of the crop, ONE THING you could not escape in the early to mid 1990s. Holograms! Who doesn’t love holograms? Seriously? I remember there was a store on the boardwalk when I lived in Myrtle Beach that sold NOTHING but holograms. It was ridiculous. Anyways, not even his spider sense could help him dodge this bullet and so, without further a do. I give you, The Amazing Spider-Man Fleer Ultra Holoblast chase set.

You jealous?

These actually stand out from the other sets because they feature battles from the comics and one of the characters is done traditionally and the other rendered in face meltingly awesome 3D HOLOGRAM!! How do you not want ALL OF THESE RIGHT NOW!? I have the Scarlet Spider vs Venom, and the Spidey vs Scorpion and Carnage cards.

I’m afraid I can’t top that today. So I hope you have enjoyed this walk down memory lane with me, as I shared some of my favorite things while being a teenager. This was all before the Magic: The Gathering bug hit me and started a whole new different card collecting mania. I kind of look forward to going and digging through my grandma’s basement to find the box that contains these cards, hopefully they’re still there. Maybe next time on Growing up Geek we’ll take a look at some more holograms. That’s called foreshadowing. Until next time true believers, go hop on eBay and get yourself some of this sweet action.

Special thanks to Spiderfan.org and Comic Covers for the Spider-Man and Masterpiece scans.

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