The 10 Entertainment, Pop Culture And Movie Card Sets To Keep An Eye On

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Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

This past year has been a wild, transformative one in the trading card hobby. It seems as if there is a new record set almost daily for the price of single sports cards, and that has generated an enormous buzz in the mainstream media.

However, behind the scenes there has been a significant rise in activity in the non-sports related trading card space, specifically in the entertainment, movie and pop-culture category.

I recently had an opportunity to attend the Dallas Card Show, which was attended by thousands of the hobby's most die-hard collectors, and my eyes were opened to just how big these entertainment cards were becoming. Almost every single table displayed PSA slabs with 1990 Impel Marvel Universe and/or 1977 Topps Star Wars cards, and attendees could be heard all weekend talking about how hot those sets were.

The fun part about writing this article is that I actually owned some of these cards as a kid. While I was putting my Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco cards in top loaders and protecting them, my Impel Marvel Universe cards were never looked at as any sort of investment. I just thought they were cool and stuck them in my locker and taped them to my school book covers.

As it turns out, maybe I should have been top loading them and playing with my Canseco cards instead... but the good news is that it's never too late to jump in the game and there are plenty of these cards out there to be purchased.

If you are thinking about making a play, this list below illustrates ten of the most interesting sets of iconic media franchises to keep an eye on.

1. 1977 Topps Star Wars

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The 1977 Topps Star Wars Series 1 set was the first of five series released between 1977-1978 and has 66 total cards. The fronts feature captions that explain the action on the card, and the backs are a puzzle that when completed, makes up the original movie poster art.

Each pack also contains one of 11 different stickers, which are amongst the most collectable cards in the set.

Sealed boxes are very hard to find, and they will set you back a pretty penny if you can locate one. The most recent one to sell on eBay closed for $35,900.

2. 1990 Impel Marvel Universe

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The 1990 Marvel Universe set by Impel features the artwork of all of your favorite Marvel characters with write-ups on the backs that included all different kinds of stats and information.

Each box contained one special holographic insert featuring either Cosmic Spider-Man, Magneto, Silver Surfer, Wolverine, or Spider-Man vs. Green Goblin.

Sealed boxes of these cards have had quite a run, with one selling on eBay for as much as $6,000 in early February, while you could have scooped one up in mid-December for around $320.

3. 2001 Panini Harry Potter The Philosopher's Stone Stickers

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Since the release of British author J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone book in the U.K. (June 1997) was a full year before it was released in the United States under the title Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, most collectors recognize these stickers as the true Harry Potter "rookie cards". There is a "Wizards of the Coast" TCG, but it never really took off and was just an add-on to the Harry Potter movies, rather than a core part of the original IP.

The images on the stickers are from the first movie. Because this set has the "Philosopher's Stone" name on them, if you want to purchase a box, they typically come from outside of the country, mostly in the U.K.

To further illustrate how much juice there is in the Harry Potter collectible market, in late January, legendary Pokemon collector Jeremy Padawer purchased a rare first-edition copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone for a record-breaking $193,000. Harry Potter ranks as the 10th highest grossing media franchise on the planet, with total revenue north of $32.2 billion dollars, well ahead of Spider-Man, Batman, and Barbie.

Sealed boxes of these stickers that contain 50 packs are currently selling on eBay for around $170 US, but they are hard to find, especially in the United States, so be prepared to pay a few extra dollars (and wait a few weeks) for shipping.

4. 2019 Panini Fortnite Series 1

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These cards, based on the wildly popular video game from Epic Games, has been heating up of late. Sealed hobby boxes of the Series 1 cards can be purchased on eBay for around $150-$175 but the sealed Mega-Boxes sell for around $2500 because they are the only boxes in which you can find the super-rare Black Knight Crystal Shard parallel. One raw (ungraded) example recently sold on eBay for over $5,000 and is rumored to be a $100,000 card if graded as a PSA 10.

5. 1991 Impel Disney Collector Cards

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Another one of the four 1991 Impel sets on this list, the Disney Collector Cards feature all of the iconic Disney characters in beautiful full-color portraits. Let's keep in mind just how big of a franchise that "Mickey Mouse and Friends" are, currently ranking the 4th highest-grossing media franchise on the planet, one spot above Star Wars with total revenue of around $80.3 billion.

You can purchase a sealed box of these cards on eBay for around $150 and with wildly low PSA populations, there would seem to be some opportunity here.

The Mickey Mouse Family Portrait #100 PSA 10 population is 2, meaning there are only TWO of them currently on the planet, and one is currently up as a "buy it now" for $1500 with the option to "make an offer". It will be interesting to see what it winds up selling for. If it's anywhere close to the asking price, the price of these sealed boxes could see a big run.

6. 1991 Impel GI Joe "A Real American Hero"

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With the new film Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins set to release in October, fans of the legendary cartoon and action figures could get nostalgic and look to purchase all things Joe.

This movie has been long-awaited as its release has been delayed multiple times due to the pandemic, but that might work out well for collectors who still have time to buy in before the movie hype REALLY begins.

With a low cost of entry on these boxes—a sealed box recently sold on eBay for $63—this could very well be a sneaky, low-risk play. YO JOE!

7. 1991 Impel Star Trek

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The final Impel set on our list, Star Trek cards might seem to be a strange play on the surface, but hear me out. This is one of the top highest-grossing media franchises on the planet, with total revenue of over $10 billion.

The upcoming new streaming TV show Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (starring Christopher Pike and Rebecca Romijn) kicks off in May and will be followed by a new animated series called Star Trek: Prodigy on Nickelodeon and Paramount+.

Full sealed boxes can be found on eBay for less than $20. At that price point, with the hype of two new shows, there seems to be very little downside to picking up a few of these boxes and seeing where it goes.

8. 1995 Skybox Toy Story

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When researching how big of a media franchise that Toy Story is, I was shocked to see just how high it ranked. With over $22 billion dollars in revenue, Toy Story is actually a more valuable franchise than the Simpsons, Looney Tunes, and Peanuts.

These Skybox cards came out in 1995, making them 26 years old and right in the wheelhouse of the age of consumers that seem to be driving the value of cards associated with these nostalgic brands way up.

You can purchase a box of these cards on eBay for right around $90-120. There is a lot of chatter about a potential Toy Story 5 movie, with rumors that it could be coming in 2023, making this a long-term play if you want to get in the mix. However, stashing a few boxes in your closet until that time could take that $100 investment "to infinity and beyond!".

9. 2001 Topps Monsters, Inc

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This Monsters Inc. set is the first set that Topps did for any Pixar animated feature. There are a ton of fun inserts in every pack, including puzzles, pop-ups and glow-in-the-dark cards. Since the base set is only 50 cards, even though there are a lot of inserts, it is possible to put together an entire set from just one 24 pack box.

Skybox did come out with their own Monsters, Inc set a few years earlier, but this is the set that collectors seem to be after. You can purchase a box on eBay for just $46 and while the upside may not be as great as some of the other sets on this list, the price is right for a safe, low-risk play.

10. 1994 Skybox Disney's The Lion King

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The 1994 Skybox The Lion King set is one of the biggest entertainment trading card sets of all time. These cards were so popular that they were actually also given out in Burger King Kid's Meals, similar to this year's Pokemon Happy Meal promotion.

There are two series, and series one is much more collectable, with the chase card being lenticular inserts that came in 1:180 packs.

You can find boxes on eBay for around $15 but don't go too crazy... they were mass-produced so even those rare lenticular cards can be purchased for about $20. The Lion King is a $15 billion dollar franchise, one of the top on the planet, so to be able to score a box of these cards for $15 and stash them away could pay long-term dividends... but this wouldn't seem to be a quick flip candidate.