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.
If you’re anything like me, you’d find yourself wondering what purpose a series of superconductors and satellite equipment would serve atop the All-Starz Performing Arts Studio, on Henry Lawson Drive at Peakhurst. Wonder no more.
Once upon a time, this building played host to a company called Dynamic Marketing, which produced several series of trading cards back in the 1990s. Yes, only in the 90s was the global financial situation decadent enough to allow a company to receive the bulk of its income via licenced trading cards. The company was such a product of that decade that it even managed to have a token happy mascot, a smiling sun-lightbulby looking dude. Pretty sure he’s giving the finger.
Batman, Disney, the Phantom all received Dynamic sets, with the NRL being the crown jewel in the Dynamic empire. In a time when American cards like Fleer, Upper Deck and Topps were dominating the market, it was pretty incredible that Dynamic made the impact that they did. Shrewd licence choices and well-made cards were among the things they did right. (Things Dynamic did wrong: a set of cards based on the Super Mario Bros. movie.) I like to think all the folderol on the roof was for setting up crucial cross-global meetings on futuristic video-phones, with hotlines between Dynamic and Warner Bros., Disney and… David Gallop. C’mon, use your imaginations!
Dynamic magically went bust in the late 90s, a time when trading cards themselves were on their way out. It’s as if Dynamic knew something we didn’t, and as we the public sat around anxiously awaiting the next set of NRL cards complete with holoblast foil inserts (1:60 packs), Dynamic were cleaning house, severing all the fibre-optic cables attached to the faxes, and taking axes to their hard drives. Today, the All-Starz Performing Arts Studio has attempted to paint the equipment the same colour as the building so as to make it less conspicuous, but we Dynamic faithful know the truth.
UPDATE: Reader Martin says that before Dynamic occupied this location, it was home to the ill-fated Catco Developments. Catco went bust in 1987, a collapse that had a severe effect on the tradies, subbies and builders of the day.
DYNAMIC UPDATE: Reader Ken has reminded me of Scanlens, Dynamic’s cardmaking predecessor. Between 1963 and 1990, Scanlens produced various series of sports cards, focusing on the AFL and NRL. They also made several non-sports series, but these weren’t the bread and butter. Scanlens cards also came with gum, which in a time before foil-embossed noctovision inserts were the biggest treat in every pack. It’s interesting that Scanlens stopped producing cards only a year before Dynamic’s first set, ‘Attack of the Dinosaurs’, was released. It should also be noted that Scanlens didn’t operate out of this address, just in case you had the wrong idea.