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The Beautifully Drawn True Crime Trading Cards From The '90s Were An Instant Outrage

Updated October 1, 2019 3.4k views12 items

There are many who find the world of true crime appealing, as is evidenced by the sales of socks emblazoned with Charles Manson’s face, jewelry with charms referencing Ted Bundy and other quirky true crime gifts.

Such memorabilia was once a pipe dream, with newspaper clippings or clandestine chat rooms filled with like-minded people taking its place. That changed in January 1992 when Eclipse Enterprises announced the release of trading cards featuring convicted felons. Fans of the macabre rejoiced while the families of victims made their outrage public.

Amid attempts to ban sales and constant negative media attention, Eclipse successfully peddled millions of the cards before taking them out of print. Even so, any collectors willing to spend a little can still purchase them on sites such as Amazon and eBay.

  • Eclipse Also Released Cards About Iran-Contra And The Kennedy Assassination

    Eclipse Also Released Cards About Iran-Contra And The Kennedy Assassination
    Photo: Eclipse Enterprises / eBay

    No strangers to controversy, Eclipse Enterprises worked on several trading card sets of questionable taste. In 1990, it released “Coup D'Etat: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy Trading Cards,” a follow-up to their 1989 sets focused on dictators and New York politicians.

    In 1991, Eclipse released card sets on the savings and loan scandal, the war on drugs, and scandalous stories and figures from the world of baseball. AIDS awareness cards sold in 1993 mark the last time the company released anything, as Eclipse ceased business the next year and filed for bankruptcy in 1995.

  • The Trading Cards Are Featured In The Film ‘Addams Family Values’

    In the 1993 film Addams Family Values, Uncle Fester’s (Christopher Lloyd) devious new wife Debbie (Joan Cusack) lies to get Addams children Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) sent off to summer camp and out of the picture. Already suspicious of Debbie, the children realize the danger Fester is in when Wednesday’s love interest Joel (David Krumholtz) pulls out his collection of Eclipse Enterprise’s True Crime Trading Cards.

    The trio finds Debbie among the well-known serial killers, alerting them to her alternate identity as Black Widow.

  • In 1993, Eclipse Released Rodney King Bonus Cards

    In 1993, Eclipse Released Rodney King Bonus Cards
    Photo: Eclipse Enterprises / ebay

    In April 1993, Eclipse Enterprises announced their True Crime Trading Cards II series would include four bonus cards. Rodney King - a Black man who was brutally beaten by Los Angeles police in 1991, sparking riots and public outcry concerning police brutality - was the focus of those cards.

    Like past cards, each featured a painting of the person or event it referenced: King post-injury, the trial, the police officers, and the riots. Less than 10,000 of the King-related cards were printed.

  • Law Enforcement Officers, Gangsters, And Other Criminals Were Featured On The True Crime Cards

    Law Enforcement Officers, Gangsters, And Other Criminals Were Featured On The True Crime Cards
    Photo: Eclipse Enterprises / Amazon

    While most of the public attention centered on the cards depicting violent criminals, Eclipse’s True Crime Trading Cards also featured other criminals and even some law enforcement members. While Ted Bundy’s card disturbed consumers, J. Edgar Hoover’s card assumedly received little press.

    The cards also depicted events, such as the assassination of Chicago’s Mayor Anton Cermak and the origins of various gangsters from the early 1900s.