1996 Sports Time The Beatles Cards

As promised, here’s the second portion of my Etsy purchase from Wonderland Toys. In actuality, these were the first of all the packs of cards I decided to buy when I found the seller. As The Beatles were also known as The Fab Four, this came in a bundle of four. I don’t think that was at all planned since the seller breaks up most trading cards into groups of four packs, and I didn’t even clue in to this coincidence until I added the following photo to this post. Nonetheless, let’s explore these pocket-sized Beatles collectibles.



My thought was that the cards contained within these wrappers could be a unique way to get a history lesson on the Beatles. For arguably the most-documented band out there (though being in a social media age, I’m not sure if or for how long that claim holds validity), I would be roundly schooled in a Beatles trivia contest in spite of an appreciation of the band that has grown strongly over the past decade. I was hoping these cards would give me some obscure facts that span the entire scope of their performing and recording career. While I didn’t quite get that, I did like what I saw.

The card with the oldest image that I found was this 1962 depiction, with the group standing in (of all places) a dump. Ringo Starr replaced Pete Best on drums in August of that year, so this may be one of the earlier photos of the group in their final form. It’s an interesting location choice, perhaps made to drive home the idea that they come from humble beginnings. As can be seen on the card’s back, details of the photo shoot are all laid out as well as a smaller image of the original photo in the bottom-right corner. It wasn’t the type of information I was hoping for, but if you’re a photograph aficionado, you’ll appreciate the detail the set focuses on. In some cases it not only tells you the photographer and location, but also in what context the picture was originally used for.



The front of the cards look rather sharp for the most part, though I’m not sure if my scans do them much justice. Most music fans will have seen many variants of the included pictures before, but here we get a bit of artistic liberties taken with the photos. Some of the cards colorize black-and-white images, some add motion blurs to emphasize what a certain picture is capturing, while other cards do a good amount to bring life to what is an otherwise dull photo, such as the addition of a backdrop when none existed before. See card number 85 below for an example of what I regard as a good artistic decision. I was never into the blandness that is a band pictured in front of a blank wall in spite of the fact it made the photos more easily adaptable for a variety of promotional material.



Here’s another one that I found particularly striking. George Harrison looks absolutely demonic with that glow about him, not to mention the goatee. If this were blown up to a larger scale and hung on a wall, those eyes would follow you around the room. Several cards use the glowing outline around the band members, and it’s put to good use on an image that otherwise looks like a group towards the end of a long, hard day.



I can’t tell if they’re wearing pajamas, football (soccer) gear, or underpants in this next card, but here the mop-tops are clearly Monkee-ing around. While I know they weren’t influenced by the Monkees or anything as naive, but being decades too young to have been immersed in Beatlemania period makes me forget how playful the band behaved in the public eye. I got on board as a true admirer of the Beatles by finding a used copy of ‘The White Album’ at a Goodwill, an album where the band was far-removed musically and image-wise from this period. I was forgetting that by many metrics you could argue they were one of the first “boy bands” that caught on internationally. Light-mannered, goofy imagery scattered throughout this set is a good reminder of all the different phases the group went through.



Here’s an example of those motion blurs I mentioned being put to proper use. With the band poking their heads out of the top of a bus, it gives the slight illusion of forward momentum.



Motion makes sense in this card, but the effect does seem kind of overdone if you look at the edges on the card fronts where the photos meet the black border. They felt the need to do this with every card in the set. In spite of this, it could easily be mistaken for a printing error at the factory.

One other thing this set has plenty of is images from their live appearances on radio, TV, or concert. A wiser person would need to point me in the right direction since this is one of few cards that does not reference the photo directly (see the back for the sort of trivia I desired), but since it features a tight, up-close shot of all musicians, it became a stand-out among those I found.



I will say that the set does have its share of eyesores. And when they are ugly, they get really, really ugly.



Make what you will of the collage this card partially utilizes, but this has to be universally considered a downgrade. What made the Anthology art so endearing was the clever use of clippings from throughout the band’s existence, which works best when using the original colours. What we get instead is what it might look like through the eyes of the Predator.

And who can’t forget the band’s infamous rooftop performance on their Apple Corp headquarters? Of course, nobody remembers it quite like this. I find this one takes away from the spectacle of their performance and reduces it to what could be a band rehearsal. The radiating flare atop Paul McCartney’s head looks interestingly halo-like, which may be fine by you if he’s your favorite Beatle, but this isn’t my cup of tea overall.



The set also has a different take on the checklist card. Rather than the traditional checkbox next to the card number you may be used to seeing, these feature shrunken images of each card. This makes it much more difficult to actually check the cards off as you acquire them (especially when considering their glossy finish), but if they can get inventive, so can you! Keep a list of the cards you need on a memo pad, inside a notebook, or simply carry every single card on you at all times in the event you stumble across one you are missing, anything but using the checklists provided for their intended purpose.



You can view the remaining cards from the 100-card set right here, but also of note are the randomly-inserted bonus cards. The backs list the odds of obtaining an insert card in any given package.

Insert / chase card odds:

  • Die-cut, foil stamped Gold Record – 1 in 7 packs
  • Digicolor Meet The Beatles – 1 in 14 packs
  • Day-glow Magical Mystery Tour – 1 in 36 packs
  • 24kt gold Signature Series – 1 in 144 packs
  • Redemption Card for BeatleBilia – 1 in 20 cases

Here’s the card that made it worthwhile getting all these packs. While it was the least-scarce of all possibilities listed, I find it quite gorgeous.



This Rubber Soul card is from the Gold Record insert set, as you might have guessed. You get a shiny foil gold record, complete with Apple Records logo in the middle, emerging from behind one of the many iconic Beatles album covers. It’s likely only worth five dollars at best to even the biggest Beatles fan, but it’s such a gorgeous card that I’ve got it placed in a top-loader protector sleeve. To date, it’s the only music-themed card that I’ve designated as worthy of a little extra protection. The only change I would make is for the back to have included a replication of the reverse side of the album’s sleeve. Still, a complete listing of songs, songwriters and original release date is a nice touch.



I fear I may be pushing my luck if I were to order more packs from this set, but I may consider hunting down more of the gold album cards. From what I can tell of the Meet the Beatles or Magical Mystery Tour sets, I think I dodged a bullet and found a much better looking card.

So how to end this entry? If you’re looking for one last positive regarding this set, I am eternally grateful that by 1996, virtually all card manufacturers were past the point of putting sticks of gum inside of packs to sweeten the deal for potential purchasers. Look no further than these 1984 Fleer Dune sticker cards below (also from Wonderland Toys), fresh from a 35-year old wrapper to witness the horror show that gum residue can cause.


It’s enough to cause a Fremen revolt, I tell ya!!

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