Topps – Star Wars Galaxy 4 (2009)
For nearly two years, hints of a return to the Star Wars Galaxy concept for a trading card set have circulated. In early 2009, collectors finally had the unveiling of Topps' Star Wars Galaxy Series Four. The set is both spectacular for collectors, and at the same time, a slight disappointment.
The three previous Galaxy card series were never praised without also being condemned. Some collectors loved the three series of cards that reintroduced Topps to the Star Wars franchise. Some collectors found the focus on artwork, and artists concepts of the Star Wars universe, to be annoying. The sets always contained such a wide variety of artwork, any given collector would find cards that they loved, and cards that they hated. And the individual artists concepts about the Star Wars universe didn't always match with a fans concepts. It could be difficult to see a favorite character portrayed in a new way that didn't fit with the existing story lines of Star Wars, or a fan's personal ideas.
Yet for every collector who didn't love the Galaxy cards, there were always just as many who did love them. The expansion of the Star Wars universe to include new ideas intrigued, and the cards also captured and gave a behind-the-scenes look at official artwork created for posters, toy packaging, and other areas of the universe seldom revealed. The reading material on the back of a Star Wars Galaxy card was always amazingly informative.
For 2009, Topps did an incredible job reaching out to both established artists within the Lucasfilm universe, and to new artists. A selection of wonderful images can be found on the 120 base cards for Star Wars Galaxy 4. As with previous sets, the images include artwork found on book covers, posters, and other official Lucasfilm production materials, and artwork that is more speculative and personal to the artists selected. Some images are wonderful, some quirky, some will not be to a particular collector's taste. All images seem to have relevance and appear to have been selected carefully to represent a portion of the current Star Wars Galaxy.
And collectors opening packs and boxes of the Star Wars Galaxy 4 cards may feel they've stepped back in time slightly, to a time when opening packs was more fun than it has been in recent years. Approximately every 3rd pack contained a chase card, and boxes were very well collated. Collectors generally found exactly the expected number of chase cards in their packs, and those who purchased a box generally found a perfect set of the base cards along with a few spares. This hasn't always been an area where Topps excelled, and it has been fun for collector's to open packs of this set. With every card new and interesting (instead of an overly familiar stock photo image, or a dull replay of a movie plot) and collation so well executed, the set was fun to open.
As with earlier Galaxy card sets however, Galaxy 4 is not perfect. In a stunning lack of quality control, nearly 1 in 6 of the common cards have errors on the card backs. From misspelled words to paragraphs that end suddenly in the middle of a sentence, and even factual errors and misspelled names, a surprising number of cards have problems. In the cases of cards where the ends of paragraphs are missing, the error is significant, in that the card is essentially incomplete. In every instance, the lack of proofreading and quality control seem careless. A company that seemed to have in every way focused on the desires of their collectors when selecting artists, composing the card set, and determining insert odds, seems to have completely disregarded collectors with the card backs.
Similarly, there is a reasonable level of discord among some collectors about the sheer quanity of card inserts, and their lack of availability. Only 15 collectors will be able to own an example of a hologram foil parallel card from the set, as these cards were created at 1:1 odds. Original descriptions of plans for the set had indicated there would be no retail version of the card set. Later, collectors heard that cards would be available in retail stores, but would be the same as the hobby set, with only 'red themed' artist sketch cards being added to those sold in Target stores (whose logo is red). Only after the release of the cards did collectors learn of a 6 card insert set that was unique to retail stores, but with an insert ratio that would require a collector to purchase a case of retail cards to obtain the 6 cards. With retail cards not readily available to buy by the case, and few collectors having an income that would allow them to purchase cards in that quantity, a retail chase set has become impossible for most collectors, and seems to disregard what collectors routinely say they want in a card set.
For a collector who focuses on the incredible imagery in this card set, and who collects only the more common chase card types, the Galaxy 4 set will on the whole be a wonderful and fun set to collect. For some, the set may prove to have too many flaws. With pre-sales of boxes of the hobby cards very strong, how collectors ultimately feel about the set may not matter too much. A card set that sells out is a successful card set.
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