Way back in the early 90s, I was REALLY into collecting things. Comics, Spogz, trading cards, action figures, and Star Trek memorabilia were my core obsessions. I suppose my collector’s mentality really has it’s origins in 1977, when I became almost too obsessed with collecting Star Wars trading cards. I was pretty sure than my collections would help me not only buy a mansion, but coast through retirement once I got super old and decided to sell everything. That’s not so much the case now that the speculator bubble has burst, but I still have a bunch of valuable collectibles that will at least afford me a box of tacos and half a tank of gas when I get desperate enough to sell.
In the mid-90s I moved from Washington to Illinois. It was kind of a crazy, ill-advised move, sight unseen, to Charleston, IL. Not exactly an urban mecca overloaded with high-paying jobs, I pretty much did every job known to man in an effort to keep feeding my comic book addiction. Somehow, through numerous bouts of unemployment, and jobs that paid about as well as cancer, I rarely missed an issue that I wanted to collect, and even found time (and money) to expand my collectibles into stickers.
But not just any stickers. We’re talking stickers than cost fifty cents out of the vending machine at Walker’s Supersaver Foods. When I first spotted Wolverine in prism sticker format glaring up at me from the plastic case that anybody whose ever bought anything from a grocery store vending machine is familiar with, I knew that I would not rest until I had them all or I was broke(r).
These stickers seemed to combine everything I was into back then. Comics, trading cards, and the X-men. This was at the height of the X-men Animated Series popularity, which I was way into. All of the main cast of the cartoon are represented in sticker form here except for Professor X and Jubilee. Magneto gets his own sticker, but Xavier doesn’t? Score one for the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
Every time I’d hit the grocery store back in late ’94/early ’95 I’d plug a buck or so into the machine and anxiously flip open the white cardboard protector to see if I’d get a NEW sticker or yet another Rogue sticker. I must have spent $25 on Rogue stickers alone, and probably close to that on Sabretooth.
And what’s up with the character selection? Cyber? Shatterstar? Over such mainstays as Spider-man and the Fantastic Four? Carnage and Venom each get their own sticker, but other Marvel villains such as the Green Goblin and Ultron get no love? I do secretly love that there are two 2099 stickers in this set, but I’m pretty comfortable stating that the lack of the non-2099 Doctor Doom is an oversight punishable by death in many countries.
As the weeks went by I amassed a pretty good collection. I had 25 stickers. Now, this was just as the internet was starting to enter the mainstream, so it wasn’t until 2005 that I came to find out that there were actually 30 stickers in the set. Collectors refer to them as “Marvel Prism Series Three”. And not only that, but these were unauthorized stickers based on a select number of cards from the Marvel Masterpieces 2 trading cards.
I didn’t exactly spend every waking moment scouring the internet for the missing stickers from my collection, but I did spend a big chunk of time searching for them. It took me five long years. but a few weeks ago I finally found somebody on ebay auctioning off a handful of these stickers. Included in that auction were all five stickers that I didn’t have. I contacted the seller to see if we could strike a deal for those five stickers and, after an exchange of emails, we agreed to a price and less than a week later, my collection was finally complete!
One thing I discovered was that the Beast sticker that I owned was NOT the Beast sticker that is considered a part of Marvel Masterpieces 2. I have no idea what series it belongs to, but for 15 years I thought it was a part of this series. Looking at it now, it’s clear that it’s quite different from the rest of the stickers, but if you compare the Captain America sticker to the Hulk sticker, they don’t exactly look like they belong in the same series either. Five of the stickers are, for reasons unknown, die-cut. The Iron Man sticker is the only sticker with the name as a separate sticker. Unauthorized sticker sets seem to make their own rules.
The collectors out there no doubt know the feeling you get when you FINALLY complete a collection after years of searching. Very few things in life ever come to a definitive end, where you can say, “That’s it. It’s done.” When you’re talking about obscure copyright-infringing vending machine stickers, that sense of accomplishment is about a thousandfold. I seriously never thought I’d complete this set, and yet here I am, 15 years older, relishing a Doom 2099 sticker than I never thought I’d actually get to hold in my hands.
These stickers probably mean something to exactly one person in the entire world: me. They bring back my time in Charleston: a very specific time in my life that was tough as hell at the time, but that I look back fondly on now. These stickers real value are being a touchstone to that time and a link back to the person I was all those years ago. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that they’re worth $8 per sticker, individually, and god knows how much as a complete set. Since I may be the only person in the world with a complete mint condition set of these stickers, I place their value at $100,000. They’re for sale at that price. Email me.
The moral of this story is never give up. Dare to dream big. Everybody has there own metaphorical (or actual) Doom 2099 sticker. Never quit.
Never surrender. If I can complete this sticker set after fifteen years, then I’m sure you can do whatever terrible waste of time and money you want to do. Maybe not as triumphantly and kick-ass as I, but probably well enough.
*numbers in parenthesis correlate to the Marvel Masterpieces II Trading Cards card number
Captain America (#15)
Doom 2099 (#43)
Ghost Rider (#13)
Iron Man (#4)
Jean Grey (#75)
Silver Surfer (11)
Spider-man 2099 (#41)
Well, well, well. Looks like somebody is offering a complete set of these stickers for the low, low, low price of ONLY $700.
Gee. I wonder which blog the seller was referring to (though I have to take some minor objection to the phrase “tons of money”.
Check out the auction here while it lasts (and no, it’s not me selling my prized set)
Another set is up on eBay for just under $500 (again, not my set). Also references this post. Glad to help, fellas.