Monday, March 21, 2011

Cardzillions, hey they only cost a quarter....

So after the first attempt to launch Sailor Moon in the US, I begin to notice a four bay trading card vending machine at Toys R Us. Each of the four properties in a bay was some Bandai property like Sailor Moon, Masked Rider, and Power Rangers. Just put in a quarter and turn the dial and a little folded over white cardboard holder slides out of the slot containing 1 of 42 cards in the series. The neat thing was, sometimes a foil card would come out. It wasn't long before I would fork a couple of dollars at a time into the machine per visit, up until I would hit a foil card.

Then it wasn't long before I discovered the cards were basically assorted in such a way that if you put in say, $10, you would get the main set of cards and 2 foils, so for about $30 you got 3 sets of regulars and if you were lucky, 6 out of the 6 foils in a set. So to resell the sets on the newsgroups (yes this was before ebay) if you sold foils at $5 each, a set of regulars at $10, or a complete set of foils and regulars for between $20-30, you started either breaking even or turning a profit.

With the lack of merchandise support in the US in those first few years of Sailor Moon, these cards were an easy sell. Most people I think labored under the impression that these card machines, called Cardzillions, were totally random. I had had enough experience with trading cards in the past to notice a pattern in the distribution of cards. By the time series 2 came out I had a few other fans lined up to buy sets off me. The same with series 3.... with series 3 I think I got my complete set with foils, a complete set for a buyer, and sold a few foil-less sets and got my $50 initial investment paid back practically overnight, as I had the sets pre-ordered from me.

I was surprised that when the Pokemon phenomenon hit about 5 years later that they didn't have machines similar to these in the US cranking out special vending series cards. I think Japan did have some vending machine exclusive cards, that probably functioned a lot like these Cardzillions machines. Unfortunately by the time Sailor Moon's resurgence hit near the turn of the millennium, these machines were long gone. Oh yeah, I nearly forgot, something the Cardzillions would share with Pokemon cards was that the corners of the cards were rounded instead of squared off, making the cards stay in better condition with less bent corners than regular trading cards.

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