If you grew up in the 80’s like I did, there is very good chance you are already pretty familiar with the topic I’m going to devote this week’s Flashback Friday post to. Yes, it’s the one and only trading card series intended for those younger minds who were still (and in some cases still are) fascinated with toilet humor… Garbage Pail Kids!
Garbage Pail Kids were created by the Topps company, which is better known for making baseball cards back before the greedy big kids ruined that hobby for everyone two decades ago. The concept was inspired by the wildly…. and I mean WILDLY popular Cabbage Patch Kid dolls that had mothers fighting in the middle of toy store aisles every holiday season long before Furbys or Elmos ever came along. Topps had a similar sticker series aimed at kids at the time called Wacky Packages that parodied famous company brands and products, and according to the Wiki page for Garbage Pail Kids, the series began its life as an unreleased design for a Wacky Package sticker.
The cards were released in series from 1985 through the late 80’s, with around 40 or so new Garbage Pail Kid designs per set. The cards contained a sticker on the front that was die cut to allow kids to peel off the main part of the image and stick them on their walls, books, Trapper Keepers, the dog, whatever they wanted. The artwork featured a child similar looking to a Cabbage Patch Doll (This would eventually get Topps sued by CPK’s maker Coleco for trademark infringement) in some disgusting, deformed, weird, and often just plain gross situation. There were two different cards issued for each design, with different names attached to each “twin”. The names were usually alliterative, rhyming, or a bad pun… some of which likely wouldn’t even be recognizable to the prepubescent intended audience of Garbage Pail Kids…
Garbage Pail Kids appealed to the gross sense of humor that all good children of the 80’s had, and the more kids loved spending their allowance on cards, the more parents grew to loathe them. Some schools even banned the cards because they were a distraction (Like cell phones nowadays aren’t???).
The series became so popular, that they even made a Garbage Pail Kids movie! I seriously wish I was kidding about this… the movie really exists. It was a huge flop, and I recall watching a bit of it once at my friend’s house, and it was dreadful even to my 12 year old self who loved the cards…
After 15 series in the U.S., the lid was finally put on Garbage Pail Kids as the 90’s were dawning. The original fans of the cards were now in high school and more obsessed with hickeys than boogers… and as with pretty much anything good, the franchise eventually jumped the shark in the later series as it became less cutting edge and original in its grossness.
Of course, when 80’s nostalgia returned within the last decade, so did Garbage Pail Kids. Some new series were introduced along with classic “Flashbacks” that even contained funny Fakebook accounts on the back. But the original craze these fucked up characters caused will never be duplicated. All those quarters I threw away at the convenience store when I was 11 and 12 just for a pack of cards will always be considered well spent. Thank you so much Garbage Pail Kids for showing us that it’s OK for kids to laugh and enjoy gross and sick humor, and that our days of innocence all need to have those guilty pleasures that are going to draw that concerned look from Mom and Dad’s face. We here at The Nest salute your contribution to the green slime generation!