The most disgusting trading cards ever made: exclusive Boing Boing preview!

Img 0682 (All images copyright 2012 The Topps Company, Inc., used by permission.) My kids and I have become deeply engrossed with the book Garbage Pail Kids, a fond look at the Topps bubblegum trading cards that were art directed by Art Spiegelman 25 years ago. This book, published by Abrams ComicArts, has all 206 images from the Garbage Pail Kids stickers produced in 1985 and 1986.

Below, a gallery of some of our favorites along with an excerpt of the great artist John Pound's essay about the creation of the cards. Incredibly, he painted one per day!


Popping Out Garbage Pail Kids, by John Pound

The early 1980s saw punk rock, personal computers, Rubik’s Cubes, Star Wars sequels, video games, Reaganomics, and AIDS.

In California I was painting lurid underground comix covers, heavy metal–style art prints, and fantasy book covers. Meanwhile, in New York, while creating comix, Art Spiegelman was also art directing Topps Wacky Packages stickers, which parodied products sold in stores. In 1984, Art called and asked if I could paint a few Wacky Packages. I loved humor art, so it sounded great. I did nine paintings from their gag roughs.

One idea, sketched by Mark Newgarden, was “Garbage Pail Kids,” a parody of Cabbage Patch Kids dolls. But that image was never printed when Topps decided to do a whole series of Garbage Pail Kids stickers. They asked several artists to each draw some idea sketches plus a color rough to show how the cards might look. I got carried away, doing about fifty pages of loose sketches, with lists of ideas and names. I planned to redraw the six best ideas to look more professional, and send those in. But my wife, Karen, said, “Don’t redraw. Send them everything. They already know you can paint.” Wise words. Topps liked the ideas and sketches I sent in, and the color example, so they asked me to paint forty-four stickers for Garbage Pail Kids (only forty-one were used). Art said having all the paintings done by one artist would give the set unity.

The deadline was two months away. That meant doing one painting a day. For covers or art prints, one painting took two to five weeks, but there was no time for perfectionism. I had to get organized. I broke each painting into little one-hour tasks: sketch rough layout; trace tight pencil; send copies to Topps for approval or revisions; color rough; paint flesh and hair; paint clothes; paint props; and airbrush the background.

Art assigned me ideas to paint from the ones I’d sent in, and from others that artists like Mark Newgarden had developed.

Using shock tactics for maximum impact, GPKs (as they came to be known) would be gross, mean, snotty, rude, and rebellious. But since I had to look at these violent, miserable, and disgusting kids all day while painting them, I selfishly wanted them to also feel good to look at—to be cute and lovable while spewing mayhem, disasters, and wild, crazy nonsense like they’re proud to be weird!

Overall, making Garbage Pail Kids was a dream job. I’m deeply grateful to have worked with a team of many talented creators, sharing crazy fun with the world.

JOHN POUND has painted art prints, book covers, comics covers, and hundreds of Garbage Pail Kids stickers. He also writes code that draws instant random art books.

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Buy Garbage Pail Kids on Amazon


  1. I collected these as a kid… stuck them on my binders and the side of my dresser or my walkman. My friends and I even tried drawing our own GPK’s. Good times.

  2. Parents didn’t like them, teachers tried to ban them. They were almost as bad as snap bracelets. 

    1. Topps also got sued for copyright infringement by Xavier Roberts, the creator of the Cabbage Patch Kids. They won, though, cause parody is protected speech.

      1. Actually that figure is incorrect, you forgot to carry the 1.  The correct answer is eleventeen dollars.

  3. I tried to collect these,then came the re-issue of “Mars Attacks”,& “Dinosaurs Attack”-(a wonderfully violent,weirdly Lovecraftian,tale wherein they open an ill-advised door to the distant past with apocalyptic results!).
    I miss this kinda stuff……..
    there was also a parent-despised series by Basil Wolverton in the 60’s……..

    1. Thanks for alerting me to the existence of “Dinosaurs Attack”, I enjoyed seeing a selection of the cards along with descriptions of the plot on this page…looking at the last few, I see what you mean by “Lovecraftian”! And with a little more searching, I came across this page which shows the complete set!

    2. Fun fact: The Dinosaurs Attack cards were  illustrated by Hal Robins, aka Dr. Howland Owl, aka Dr. Hal of the Church of the SubGenius. He’s also the voice of Dr. Kleiner from Half Life 1 & 2.

      edit: He was one of the artists. Herb Trimpe was a penciller, and Paul Mavrides also painted some of the cards. There were I think four other guys, but I don’t know who they are.

  4. How timely! I just finally brought my old box of Garbage Pail Kid cards to the local Comic Book Store Guy for an appraisal. Apparently the first edition cards are worth 3-5 dollars each, second edition $1.50 each, subsequent editions from the ’80s $.25 each. I’ve got enough here to pay for my honeymoon this summer! Well, I hope. I’ll be listing them on eBay next week!

    1. i have a couple of first series completes.  mostly in excellent or very good condition.  no original packaging though.  i was too much fun for that ;-P
      expect my competition on ebay…

  5. Those cards had an import ban in México, for threatening and making a mockery out of childhood.

  6. Most disgusting trading cards ever made?
    I see your garbage pail kids and raise you the serial killer trading cards.

  7. Oh my god, I had these! The stickers I think. I’d completely forgotten about them and this article awoke a memory that might have never surfaced. Weird sensation.

    Wish I still had them, they’re awesome.

  8. Wow, a movie, huh? I guess I should stash mine for a little longer. So glad my mom made me put them in albums instead of throwing them away like the other moms.

  9. I was in 6th grade when these came out so I was the perfect demographic. These things covered every binder and notebook I used in school. Never thought I’d get nostalgic over them, but this post did it.

  10. Trivia: Importing Garbage Pail kids to mexico is still banned:

    * Stamps or printed transfers in colors or in black and white, displayed for their sale in envelopes or packages, even when they include chewing gum, candies or any other type of articles, containing drawings, figures or illustrations that represent childhood in a degrading or ridiculous way, on attitudes of incitement to violence, to self-destruction or in any other form of antisocial behavior, known like Garbage Pail Kids, for example, printed by any company or commercial denomination.

  11. Loved these as a kid. Now that I look back on it, they added much needed levity and low-brow genius to my baseball/football/basketball cards obsession. 

  12. I must admit I was slightly addicted to these.  I sold them just after the boom when they went for ridiculous amounts. Bought a car!  I was thinking what a loss I probably took if I had kept them until today but researching the subject I found I did the right thing.

  13. I remember as a kid collecting these, I loved it, there were even some limited edition Dutch one’s, where the names where translated into Dutch. I guess my mom threw them all away, on the back they had images like pieces of a puzzle, if you collected enough, you’d have a poster of one of the cards, great stuff :)

  14. so many memories.  banging out the drums of Run DMC on a desk, a trapper keeper full of Garbage Pail Kids, Swatch watches, WWF, floppy discs full of programs we wrote in BASIC.  I had a bunch of these cards.  The artist’s production schedule was _insane_!

  15. Me and my brothers must’ve rented that movie a billion times. We were curling on the floor laughing as soon as the ‘state home of the ugly’-sign came on.

    The gum that came with the packages was godaweful though.

  16. Another thing that would never be allowed in today’s society. What a shame.  Kids back then were so much tougher and not as naive as today.
    When need to start a revolution!

  17. Being exposed to Garbage Pail Kids was one of the best things about being in Boy Scouts. I even remember some of the ones pictured above…along with so many others.

  18. About ten years ago, they “opened” the Topps vault and started selling the original artwork to these stickers. I had been an avid collector of them throughout the mid- to late-80s. I started with Series 3 when I was in about the first grade. I purchased some of the original pieces for what I thought were a steal. Let’s hope they are one day considered valuable art.

  19. I had the entire 2nd series & most of the 1st & 3rd. Unsure what became of them; I have a vague memory of them getting ruined somehow, but the details elude me. Finding out they have a decent resale value is going to irk me for a while.

  20. I have to chime in and say I too loved these as a kid. Collected loads of them. Sold an old packet that I found recently on eBay (fetched a few quid, but that’s all).

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