This one’s a bit different to the usual stuff, but if you’re my age and demographic (and I’ll bet you’re not) this’ll appeal to a long-forgotten part of your brain. Prepare your past life for a future shock.
When I was a kid, if a big budget movie was coming out to appeal to all six of my senses (you know you have more when you’re a kid), chances are one of its avenues of assault would be a series of trading cards. On me, it worked like a charm. I had a tonne of them, and they made sure that each set was an OCD’s delight. You had to order them correctly in the official collector albums, you had to get all the inserts, you could even collect the wrapper variants. Nothing was more boastworthy at school than the rarest inserts or a complete set, but completing a set wasn’t as easy as you’d think. Trade negotiations between jealous and selfish five-year-olds were more heated than that era’s US-Soviet peace talks, and eventually you’d reach the point where you only needed one or two cards to be done with the whole business. A pack would typically contain seven cards or more. How to solve this dilemma?That’s where Vend-A-Card came into the picture. A vending machine for cards. The only thing better for a kid my age would have been a vending machine for action figure accessories you’d managed to lose. The machines would typically play host to single cards (at inflated prices), and sometimes packs as well, presumably because newsagents had gotten sick of snotty kids coming in and chewing them out for picking the wrong pack off the shelf (if I’d wanted Spiderman 94s, I wouldn’t have asked for Spiderman 95s, would I?). It should say something about the popularity of trading cards at the time that these beasts could even exist. Many a set was completed through the luck of spotting that last elusive #33 staring out at you through the Vend-A-Card, and for a time they were heroes.
Then 1997 happened. Topps and Skybox execs were jumping from the 40th floor windows of their buildings and hitting the streets below among scores of pedestrians too busy playing with their Tamagotchis to notice. The videogame industry had inflicted a Dim Mak upon trading cards, and things would never be the same. The Vend-A-Card machines were destined to become landfill, and they, once my eternal saviours, exited my consciousness…until about two weeks ago.
Strathfield bowling alley’s arcade isn’t huge, and certainly isn’t huge enough to contain THREE Vend-A-Card machines, but they made it happen. Even back in the day you wouldn’t have seen a Vend-A-Card at a bowling alley despite their ubiquitousness, but Strathfield quietly installed these three to provide for the needs of the masses once more. But, I hear you say, cards are an anachronism. Surely they wouldn’t be vending cards these days.
You’d be right.