Topps Original Card Artwork
The Topps Company Inc. struck a deal with Nintendo in 1989 to produce a variety of Nintendo merchandise, like plastic Mario and Link bubble gum dispensers (shown below).
Its most popular Nintendo-endorsed product may have been the Topps Game Pak trading cards. Selling for 50 cents, each pack contained three scratch-off card games and two peel-off stickers.
Kids could battle enemies, achieve K.O.s, or move across the screen by getting lucky and scratching the correct matching pictures as instructed on the back of the card.
For example, on one Super Mario Bros. scratch-off card, the directions read: “Find 3 arrows and you win. Uncover 3 Buzzy Beetles and you lose!”
Translating Nintendo video games into a scratch-off cards was a clever idea, but, like used lottery tickets, the scratch-offs became litter afterwards instead of collectible trading cards. (Unlike lottery tickets, though, kids weren’t given anything by winning. “THIS PRODUCT IS FOR FUN–NO PRIZES AWARDED” was plastered on the front of every pack.) There were 60 different scratch-off games to play.
The peel-off stickers, on the other hand, numbered 33 in total. On the backside of each sticker was “Top Secret Tips” containing game hints and strategies.
In 2006, The Topps Vault, under the name of thetoppsvault, auctioned off several of the actual original Nintendo color art and black and white overlays that were used to create the cards.
Taken from the actual auction description:
Direct from Topps’ legendary vault, this is the actual color art used in the creative process of this 1989 Topps release. One is the original color art, the other is the overlay containing the camera-ready B&W line art. In order to create the reverse side cartoon image, the overlay is placed over this mini art board. Each piece measures (2 1/2″ X 3 1/2″). This art and overlay sheet come encased in hard plastic holders to maintain its delicate and original state.
Some of the card art reached fairly high prices. The Zelda logo went for over $70, and an image of Link holding the Triforce ended for around $55.
I managed to pick up some of the more characteristic card artworks put on the auction block, like a Little Mac of Punch-Out!! fame, a cool Samus Aran original reverse side card art, and an affordable Cobrat (the snakes from Super Mario Bros. 2). Cobrat and Samus turned out to be stickers that Topps never released.
Cobrat Super Mario Bros. 2 Topps Original Card Art
Samus Aran Topps Original Reverse Side Card Art
Little Mac Topps Original Card Art / Camera-Ready Overlay
About a year later, Topps then began selling the original art and card overlays from their Nintendo scratch-offs. Many of these were actually unproduced pieces, including an entire line of never-before-seen Metroid scratch-off cards.
It was hard for me to pick and choose because there were just so many of them, but I controlled myself and went after three that I had remembered from my childhood.
Super Mario Bros. 2 Topps Original Card Art / Camera-Ready Overlay
My favorite of the three, this piece arguably represents the best example from the Super Mario Bros. 2 Topps cards. Here we have Tryclyde blasting fireballs at our famous plumber friend. The black and white line overlay is on top and the coloring is at the bottom. As you can see by comparing the prototype with the released card, the scratch-offs are missing, so they must have been applied by a machine at a later time. Another difference is the size. Unlike the Topps sticker prototypes, which are the same dimensions as the mass produced stickers, these prototype scratch-offs are much bigger and measure a whopping 4″ x 5 1/2″.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link Topps Original Card Art / Camera-Ready Overlay
The second scratch-off prototype artwork depicts a scene from The Legend of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link from one of the random Hyrule forest screens that Link is forced to go through if he runs into an enemy on the overworld map. Again you can see that the scratch-offs have not yet been added. You’ll also notice that the sky is blue instead of black.
Double Dragon Topps Original Card Art / Camera-Ready Overlay
I cannot seem to locate my matching card for this last piece, unfortunately, but I have confirmed that it is a released Topps card from the Double Dragon series. The most affordable of the three scratch-off prototypes, this one caught my eye because of the bright ’80s colors in the background. Nothing says ACTION like throwing crates from a pink construction site! The card’s image depicts the first screen of the second level in Double Dragon.
Archive Listing of Topps Vault Auctioned Nintendo Card Art