Allen’s and Regina Star Wars Trading Cards – 1977 & 1983
Topps trading cards are surely amongst the most collected Star Wars items of all time. In the 1977-1983 era, subsets of these Star Wars bubblegum packs could be found nearly ubiquitously at New Zealand corner dairies, and the associated movie photo cards were collected and traded widely by kiwi kids of the time. The local versions of this confectionery were made by Allen’s and Regina Ltd, and bear a few differences from their US counterparts. Read on for the background behind Allen’s and Regina Star Wars cards….
Regina Confections Ltd is a long-standing New Zealand confectionery company that, in 1954, partnered with Scanlen’s Goblin Sweets Pty Ltd (of Australia) to manufacture chewing gum products. In 1972, Scanlen’s share of the Oamaru chewing gum factory was taken over by A.W. Allen of Melbourne, which is how the Allen’s and Regina brand came to prominence just before the Star Wars bubble gum and trading cards became one of their many local favourites. Regina has since been bought and then sold by Nestle NZ Ltd, and the brand still exists today having been re-launched by Rainbow Confectionery Ltd, still located at the premises in Regina Lane (historic info courtesy of RainbowConfectionery.co.nz).
Topps released a total of 5 series of Star Wars cards, 3 series of The Empire Strikes Back cards, and 2 series of cards depicting scenes from The Return of the Jedi. In order to effectively distribute this product internationally, confectionery companies in different countries took on the role of duplicating the chewing gum and collectible cards for local release. For example, ‘O-Pee-Chee Co. Ltd’ made and distributed these items in Canada, ‘Scanlens’ did so in Australia, ‘Laboratorios y Agencias Unidas’ in Mexico, etc. Unfortunately, a consequence of this distributed manufacture was that not all of the above-mentioned series were deemed worthy (from a cost-benefit point of view) of release in some countries.
New Zealand was locally only supplied with the first series of Star Wars cards (which featured a blue border on the cards, and which was packed in a single version of the C-3PO wrapper), and the first series of Return of the Jedi cards. The ROTJ product came packed in 3 major variations of wrappers featuring either Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, or Jabba the Hutt, each of which had two minor variations: including or omitting the reference to “6 cards”. The Star Wars wrapper is perhaps the most unique to NZ, in reminding the consumer to “Be a tidy Kiwi” by putting discarded wrappers in the rubbish bin, and reinforcing the marketing message that “A & R Playtime Gum is Fun”. The ROTJ wrappers convey their country of origin by referencing Allen’s and Regina as the manufacturer and authorised user of the Topps license, but the front of the packaging uses the graphics of their Australian counterpart, and hence includes the ‘Scanlens’ name.
Allen’s and Regina Star Wars Cards
The New Zealand blue-bordered series of Star Wars cards are different in a number of ways. First, and most subtly, they were printed on thicker cardboard than they were in other countries, the back of which was quite an unbleached beige colour, compared to the white or grey seen overseas (see comparison image in the gallery below). Second, the American Topps versions had one of a couple of things on the backs of the cards: a piece of a jigsaw puzzle from one of two pictures, or brief, textual “Story Summaries” or “Movie Facts”. New Zealand cards also had the two jigsaw components (a 4 card x 4 card photo of Han Solo, Ben Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, and Chewbacca in the Millennium Falcon cockpit, and secondly a 4 card by 7 card interpretation of the classic movie poster, re-drawn by Topps artist Augie Napoli, who also drew the box and wrapper art for the original Topps Star Wars series), but had plain unprinted card backs where the Story Summaries might have been. Thirdly, and most significantly, other countries had a total of 66 cards and 11 stickers in the series. The NZ set has 72 cards, made up of the 66 international issues, and 6 of the 11 stickers presented as blue-bordered cards, carrying the numbering through to 72 (see the rest of cards 67-71 in the gallery below). Interestingly, this means that if a kiwi collector has gone on to acquire the second and subsequent Star Wars series from outside of New Zealand, then because the latter sets have numbering consecutive with the preceding set, their collection will have very different two versions of cards numbered 67-72.
Comparison to US Topps Stickers
Here we have a side-to-side comparison of the six unique New Zealand A&R cards (numbers 67-72) and the series one stickers from Topps that they were based upon. The blue border and the numbering (which is in an altered order as well as being at the other end of the card number range) are the the most immediately evident characteristics that set these variations apart. In addition, the images on the kiwi cards appear to have been printed at a slightly lower quality.
(For completeness, the gallery below also contains the series one character stickers from Topps that didn’t get converted in to Allen’s and Regina cards.)
Allen’s and Regina Return of the Jedi Cards
Most of the New Zealand red-bordered series of Return of the Jedi cards appear, from the front, fully akin to their American cousins. The difference can be spotted on the flipside where, under the photo description, Allen’s and Regina is noted as Authorised User of the license to the images and design. This credit also appears on the front of cards 131 and 132, which are the series checklist cards, as does an introduction line which declares the series is presented by Allen’s and Regina. Interestingly, card number 1 references A&R’s Australian partner company and brands the collection as “A Scanlens Picture Card Series” on its front.
The point-of-sale packaging for the Star Wars cards was a box that used the same C-3PO graphics as the individual packaging. The ROTJ point-of-sale box made use of graphics from the Australian Scanlens packaging, but also referenced Allen’s and Regina, discretely, on the side of the carton (see image in gallery below).
Comparison to International Packaging
Below are scans of the analogous wrappers from other countries, for comparison with the NZ wrappers shown earlier. The first is a Star Wars wrapper from Mexico (produced by ‘Laboratorios y Agencias Unidas’). It is printed on very waxy paper, and hence the white areas are actually transluscent. Take a close look at the C-3PO image: despite the similiarities, you will notice that it is actually a different drawing from the one used on the Allen’s and Regina wrapper.
The next three images below are from Topps, USA (this is a subset of the wrapper variations that Topps issued for the series one Return of the Jedi cards: there is also a Wicket the Ewok version, using an otherwise similar design). These wrappers differ from the New Zealand versions in that they too use paper that is slightly more waxy, and they bear the Topps name/logo where the New Zealand (and Australian) iterations display the Scanlens name. They also have advertising along the border for additional Topps products, and make reference to the fact that the USA release contained 10 cards and a sticker per package.
The images used on the ROTJ wrappers appear to be the same as the NZ versions. A couple of New Zealand specimens are in the gallery below… occasionally there appears to be a variant wherein Jabba has yellow eyes, but this is due to printing misalignment – the NZ Jabba does in fact have sinister red eyes just like the US version.
One additional difference is worth mentioning: the ingredients of the gum itself. I remember the New Zealand gum being barely edible (it certainly wasn’t the attraction in purchasing these products). The NZ Star Wars wrapper doesn’t reveal the constituents of the gum, but the Jedi wrappers declare that the gum is made up of “Sugar, Glucose, Gum Base, Flavour, Colour and Antioxidant”. While some of those components are described ambiguously, it suggests a different composition to other versions (from USA: “Dextrose, Corn Syrup, Gum Base, Softeners, Natural and Artificial Flavours, Artifical Colors and BHT – to maintain freshness”), implying local manufacture of the confectionery.
These locally made variants of the Star Wars and Return of the Jedi bubblegum cards were affordable collectibles that many of us were excited to acquire and trade with fellow Star Wars-obsessed schoolkids through the late ’70s and early ”80s. Even if in a slightly creased or worn well-loved state, Allen’s and Regina Star Wars cards are a fun nostalgic trip back to a time where you could head to the local dairy to spend mere cents, or splash out with a couple of dollars, and rush home (if you could wait that long) to unwrap and potentially reveal new images of our favourite heroes and action scenes. As the characteristic yellow gum wrapper proclaimed – A & R Playtime Gum certainly was fun.
Allen’s and Regina Star Wars Trading Cards Gallery
Celebrate the Allen’s and Regina bubblegum cards with apparel from the SWNZ Merch Store.