My Little Pony Trading Cards: Repackaging Your Repackaged Youth
I have quite a collection of Marvel Comics trading cards from the 1990s gathering dust somewhere in my parent’s house — one of those nostalgic things you always mean to bring back to your own home someday but never quite get around to. For all I know some of them may even be valuable, though I doubt it. I was never all that lucky.
There’s a good stack of baseball cards in there somewhere too, though my brother and I were never as excited about those (to my father’s disappointment I’m sure). I am fond of my 1992 Greg Maddux card, his last year with the Cubs before they let him go for nothing, but really only as a reminder of that beloved franchise’s unflinching dedication to failure.
I’d always sort of assumed that the 90s were the last gasp of trading cards in general. Collectible card games (CCGs) were muscling in, and you have to admit the appeal — why shell out for a pack of 12 or 15 cards that you can only keep or trade when you could spend the same money and build a deck you can play games with?
(In my case, the answer was “because I’ll never be able to spend enough to build killer decks like the rest of you WASPy sons of bitches, so come play me at something where money doesn’t decide who wins.” But teenaged suburban angst is an ugly thing, and we won’t dwell on it.)
Fast forward now to 2012. The unexpected success of Hasbro’s My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic among 18-35 year olds has been widely remarked upon, to the point that “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Fandom” has its own Wikipedia entry with contributions refrencing the New Sincerity movement and various other cultural studies concepts.
So a return to trading cards was perhaps inevitable.
Unwrapping (no pun intended) all the layers of re-packaged youth here can get a bit dizzying. Say whatever you like about New Sincerity, a lot of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic‘s success is that it’s a “reboot” of a show many of us remember only as vague images and associations from childhood. Your average “brony” is unlikely to have a detailed knowledge of the 1986 My Little Pony movie, but probably knows it exists in some vague way, and that it was a lot more bland and childish than the unabashedly-quirky Friendship is Magic episodes.
So there’s a beautiful symmetry to rebooting the trading card craze with a rebooted franchise. I can’t say yet how successful it will be — the cards are slated to be widely distributed by July, but are still fairly hard to track down in anything but pre-order form as of the time of this writing. They may kick around Walmart shelves for a couple months and then vanish.
But at least this first run of cards looks very similar in the details to those old Marvel Comics and Topps Baseball card sets, with foil cards and temporary tattoos and everything. There just might be a bigger market for them than Hasbro is thinking. And if the My Little Pony cards do well, who can say what other brands might start bringing the idea back.
I mean, I’ll probably buy a couple packs. I’ve got all those empty card sleeves lying around in my parent’s house somewhere…