Garbage Pail Kids – The History of Trading Cards

May 23, 2020

Garbage Pail Kids Trading Cards

The majority of people fall in love with all things beautiful but then there are the select few who are mesmerised by the gross and gory things in life. For those that enjoy the latter, there aren’t many collectables. Which is probably why the Garbage Pail Kids have become so iconic over the years!

These cards have been around for over 4 decades and instead of covering the cute and fluffy, they feature prints of all things ugly. The Garbage Pail Kids’ popularity reached an ultimate high in the ’80s and now they’ve made their comeback with people willing to pay exuberant amounts to complete their collections.

Origin Story

Garbage Pail Kids Fran FranIn 1984 Topps Chewing Gum, Inc. filed for the registration of the trademark “Garbage Pail Kids”. The Original Series 1 was only released in June 1985.

The series was brought to life by Art Directors Mark Newgarden and Art Spiegelman in collaboration with artists John Pound and Tom Bunk. Pound designed the card fronts and Bunk the card backs.

When the stickers first hit the store shelves the public went nuts and stores struggled to keep stock on the shelves. Like any popular new craze, it took over so much so that schools banned them from the classrooms. Movies and morning cartoons were also developed based on the stickers series.

In the first two years, there were nine different series released and a large range of GPK merchandise. The merchandise included everything from trash cans to Halloween costumes, keychains and even sunglasses. Anything you can possibly think of featured the popular Garbage Pail Kids branding.

All around the globe people were going nuts for the brand but as with all good things, there was bound to be an end.

Controversy and lawsuits

A year later, in May 1986 after the release of Original Series 3, Original Appalachian Artworks sued Topps for copyright infringement, trademark infringement and unfair competition. OAA was the manufacturer and marketer of soft-sculptured dolls created by Xavier Roberts called “Cabbage Patch Kids”.

The lawsuit was based on a number of issues with the product line including many similarities in the logo designs, product naming and doll-likeness. In the lawsuit, OAA stated that the artist John Pound “purposefully copied substantial amounts of Cabbage Patch Kid features for the defendant’s stickers. “

Topps made the argument that Garbage Pail Kids was a parody or satire of Cabbage Patch Kids and therefore protected by the “fair use” defence for copyright infringement. The court found that this was not the case and in August 1986, Judge G. Ernest Tidwell ordered Topps Chewing Gum Inc. to stop producing their famous stickers. Tidwell stated in his ruling that there was a fine line between parody and piracy and that these stickers were merely a money-making attempt.

Light at the end of the tunnel…

Garbage Pail Kids Nasty Nick

Topps didn’t take the beating lying down and negotiated an agreement with OAA to allow them to continue producing GPK stickers with a few significant changes. These changes included significant design changes of which the biggest where a re-design of the banner/logo. Another change was the body modifications made to the Garbage Pail Kids designs.

The kids were given different eyes, cracks on the body, joints, four fingers, hair, etc. All these changes resulted in the kids looking more plastic. GPK model sheets were created by Tom Bunk to be used as an example of how to draw the new kids.

Unfortunately, the changes to the style were not as popular and sales began to decline. As with all fads, the GPK craze began to fade after which Topps made the decision to put an end to the Garbage Pail Kids line.

The Original Series 15 release in December 1988 was the last of the Original series releases.

Fun Fact: Topps was in the middle of the Original Series 16 production when they decided to quit the line. There were already rough images developed for stickers, card backs, boxes and wrappers but these never made it to production.

In 1989 someone found an uncut sheet of Original Series 16 ‘a’ cards in a dumpster behind the Topps building. Giving collectors a sneak peek of what almost was. In 2002 some correction sheets and box proofs were auctioned off by the Topps Vault.

The comeback

With the century turning and people becoming obsessed with the ‘80s, the Garbage Pail Kids also saw a comeback. Topps decided to feed into the nostalgia and bring back the iconic cards releasing the first of what was to be many editions.

The first in the collection was the All New Series which was released in August 2003. The series was a massive hit leading to an entire All New Series line. And in 2005, John Pound created an All New Model Sheet for future artists to use to ensure the look would be kept consistent.

To this day there have been over 30 series releases with the latest being the Late To School Base Set released January 2020.

Garbage Pail Kids Movies & TV Series

In 1987 The Garbage Pail Kids movie was released and it is considered one of the worst films ever made. The movie has a 0% rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website. The concept for the film was to create a horror story with the characters as serial killers.

An editorial piece on Rotten Tomatoes about the film states that it’s an “abomination” and “a big ball of sugar in a wretched fart stew”. Ouch.

“It’s gross, it’s inane, it’s poorly crafted, and it wholly deserves its zero on rotten tomatoes.”

– Nathan Rabin for Rotten Tomatoes, 2018

In 2012 news hit of a new film soon to be released. To this day there has been no new film yet but no cancellation on the film either.

There was also a GPK cartoon created but shortly before its air date, it was pulled due to parent complaints. A documentary on the history of The Garbage Pail Kids is being made after crowdfunding was put in place.

Garbage Pail Kids Rare Cards and Value today

Garbage Pail Kids Nerdy Norm

The Garbage Pail Kids are not just regular characters drawn on cards, stickers or merchandise. They have become a part of life for so many adults and kids alike. For some, it’s a way to feed the nostalgia and remember the ‘80s, and for others, they are simply cool collector’s items.

If you have any rare or old GPK cards you’re not attached to, you could be selling them for a pretty penny. Some crazed fans are willing to pay $7,000 or more for individual Garbage Pail Kids cards depending on how rare they are!

The rarest GPK cards on the market include:

  1. 1985 #1a Nasty Nick – Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $7,500
  2. 1985 #6a Adam Bomb – Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $4,000
  3. 1985 #1b Evil Eddie – Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $2,200
  4. 1985 #49b Schizo Fran – Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $1,000
  5. 1985 #22a Junky Jeff – Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $1,000
  6. 1985 #5b Jay Decay – Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $900
  7. 1985 #24b Nerdy Norm – Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $900
  8. 1985 #8b Blasted Billy – Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $850
  9. 1985 #55b Brutal Brad – Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $750
  10. 1985 #26a Slobby Robbie – Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $750

Any of these Garbage Pail Kids cards in mint condition could award you a decent payout from avid collectors and GPK fans.

Going digital

The Garbage Pail Kids have been around since the 80s and with the love these characters get, they aren’t going anywhere.

While there are actual cards you can collect of these popular characters there will soon be digital collectable Garbage Pail Kids brought to Blockchain. Topps made the announcement in April 2020 that they will be bringing digital collectable cards to the Blockchain in celebration of its 35th anniversary.

Topps will be using WAX Blockchain to bring collectors a new range of Garbage Pail Kids collectables in digital format. Currently, there is no information on pricing, release dates or which cards they plan on releasing.

The only information available is that the blockchain technology will allow collectors to buy, sell and trade instantly with anyone around the world for free.

Blockchain technology will allow you to trade with ease from your smartphone or computer. All trades done can be certified authentic, unique with no alterations possible. Each collectables full ownership records and trading history will be viewable.

Blockchain Trading Cards

8 Interesting Facts about Garbage Pail Kids

  • GPK were known as The Snotlings in Italy, The Filthies in France and The Totally Broken Kids in Germany.
  • Each card had two versions (A and B). The different versions featured the same artwork but different names for the character.
  • The Garbage Pail Kids stickers came with bubblegum.
  • There were more than 600 GPK stickers produced between 1985 and 1988.
  • Nasty Nick was Garbage Pail Kid 1a, a vampire boy biting into a Barbie’s neck.
  • The main artist of the series was John Pound, known for creating cartoons using his own computer code.
  • There was a GPK design based on E.T. named Alien Ed #555a / Phone Homer #555b.
  • There was a GPK based on US president Ronald Reagan called Rappin’ Ron #46a / Ray Gun #46b.

The Garbage Pail Kids series has been a hit since the ‘80s and there is no slowing it down. With over 34 series released and Topps celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, there are plenty of gross and ugly collectables to enjoy.

The new blockchain collectables to be released this year will bring the Garbage Pail Kids into the modern age allowing both young and old to get their hands on authentic, digital versions of the trading cards.

Learn all about the evolution of trading cards and how it has created a real-world economy.