Peel Here #105: Rescued from 23 years of un-love!

By Shawn Robare

The wife and I were browsing one of our local antique malls recently when I stumbled on a new booth with a couple bins of ephemera.  I usually strike out when I find stacks of magazines and paper as the stuff I’m interested in, kids stuff mostly, just doesn’t seem to register as profitable.   But something caught my eye that got me to stop, a bit of Mylar sticking out from the stack that looked really familiar.  Sure enough, it was the outer packaging of a sticker collecting set put out by Diamond back in 1987.  This particular set contained a G.I. Joe sticker collector album and ten packs of stickers…

I’ve talked about this fad before with a set of Jem, Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling, and the Filmation Ghostbusters stickers, but basically in the late 70s through the early 90s there were a handful of companies (the main one is called Panini) producing sticker collecting sets that took a cue from the excitement surrounding baseball and bubblegum cards.  Instead of releasing sheets of all purpose stickers, companies like Panini and Diamond would put together mini collector albums, these magazine-like books that you’d fill with specific stickers to illustrate a story or to fill out sports team rosters.  The hobby is mainly a European one which is still going strong today.  I haven’t really seen is stateside since the 90s though.


What’s a little sad is that while inspecting the set I noticed that there was a little piece of wrapping paper tapes to the back.  This had been intended as a Christmas present for someone back in 1987 and it was never opened.  For 23 years this sticker set has been laying around unloved, and I planned on righting that wrong.  I never had the G.I. Joe set growing up (I only had a handful of Topps branded baseball sets and the Transformers the Movie set), so I was really excited to get this home and see what was inside…

My biggest fear was that the stickers wouldn’t stick to the pages after all this time.  Of all the stickers in my collection, there are only a handful that could probably still be used as intended.  Most, including just about all of the Topps, Donruss, and Fleer sticker cards have bonded semi-permanently with their backing, and even if they can be peeled up, they just don’t have any stick left in them.  With a sticker book like this it would be a shame if they didn’t work anymore, but my fears were assuaged.  The stickers stuck just fine!

One of the things that I love about this set is that it featured a bunch of stickers which utilized the packaging art from the figures.  I love this art and it’s really cool to finally get a hold of some for characters that I hadn’t seen in years like Chuckles and Jinx.  I only managed to get 4 of these pieces in the 10 packs which is kind of a shame.  It makes me want to rush over to eBay and see if I can’t complete this set…


These album sets were also fun because they typically featured some sort of activities on the pages to go along with the story and the stickers.  The gimmicks in this set are hidden printing on the pages, much like the McDonald’s calendar I shared a while ago.  The set comes with a little red cellophane decoder screen that filters out the obscuring red ink overlays to reveal secret messages, character file-card info, and the answers to puzzles.  Below you can get an idea of what these games were like with the mismatched hats of the following four Joe team members (which I’ve digitally un-obscured with the modern magic of Photoshop…)

It’s also kind of neat that Diamond took the time to print out the sticker images on the majority of the spots where the actual stickers are supposed to be applied so that kids who couldn’t track them all down had a chance to more or less follow along with the story (again with their trusty decoder strip.)  The one time when they refrained from this was with the images that required multiple stickers to complete.  These are considered top secret, which is also kind of neat as it enhances the collectability factor.  I know I always relished the feeling of completing a four-sticker image.  The artwork in the album is pretty decent as well (even though the cover of the book is kind of fugly.)  In particular I really dug this hidden image of Zartan posing as a government agent.

Again, through the magic of Photoshop we can see both images clearly probably for the first time in 23 years…


My favorite piece of art by far is on the back cover.  It features a bunch of the season two (of the cartoon series) Joes as well as a kid with a walking stick against going into battle against a single B.A.T. and a bunch of Crimson Guard soldiers.  The painting also features a rare moment where Lifeline, the medic in red at the front of the charge, is strapped.  Odd considering the character is a pacifist and all…

I also thought it was interesting that the company featured a sticker trading policy where anyone could trade any two doubles for a specific sticker they desired.  I wonder how many kids took advantage of this service?

If nothing else, I had a lot of fun peeling these stickers and placing them in the collector’s album.  Even if it sat for 23 years, this book finally got some of the love it deserved!

  • Jephso

    I’m surprised sticker albums weren’t big in the US. Here in the UK sticker albums were massive when I was a kid and we all collected football (soccer) stickers made by a company called Merlin (Panini would also make stickers and albums for all the international tournaments, such as the World Cup). A new album came out every season and and every break-time at school was spent trading with friends. The most coveted stickers were “”shinies”” – the team badge on a glittery/sparkly background. I never completed an album, mainly collecting the players from my favourite team, but I always saw adverts in the albums for trading meets like the one you’ve mentioned above. It would have been my dream to make it to one of those – as well as trading you were able to buy up any stickers missing from your collection direct from Merlin.

  • R.

    I always loved these Diamond sticker books as a kid. For some reason, they always felt top notch — real quality stuff. I had The Real Ghostbusters book, and i’m pretty sure an Alf book. thanks for posting.

  • Tim L.

    What an awesome find! I used to mail in for missing stickers from the Topps baseball albums — I wish there would have been a 2 for 1 option with my extras. Had there been I probably wouldn’t have ten years worth of half-complete sticker albums!

  • Jephso

    We hardly had trading cards at all. I remember a series of football cards came out one year, but they didn’t take off and I remember thinking they were strange. Stickers were definitely more popular.

  • Brooksie

    It was stickers all the way here – movies, music, sports – you name it. Trading cards just didn’t have any ground. I think because with the stickers you got the album to fill in, and also because you could stick them anywhere (your spares) and decorate things. Finally, I think it’s because UK comics often used to have small free gifts, and that would often be a pack of stickers, so there was a kind of cross-promotion going on. For example; the UK mag ‘Spiderman and Zoids’ came with a free Transformers sticker album and a pack of stickers one week, and then a few weeks later some more free stickers. That happened *a lot*; almost every sticker album I owned was free with a magazine I used to buy. Addictive stuff! It was a tradition in my neck of the woods when someone had completed their album, to either give away all their spares (usually over a hundred by the end), or – much more fun – to get everyone who cared ready, shout “”Scramble!”” then throw them up in the air! Happy days!

  • Brooksie

    They were good times! I missed out on seeing ‘Back to the Future’ at the cinema back in the day, but I had a door covered in BttF stickers. A few years ago, I came across an issue of kid-friendly pop culture magazine ‘Look-In’ on ebay (with Wham! on the cover), and it came with the free BttF sticker album and pack of stickers it came with back in ’85. I had to have it! Sure enough, the mag promised another free pack of stickers in the next issue. The same newsagents selling the magazine would’ve had boxes of the stickers right on the counter. They were like drug dealers!

  • Brooksie

    Many UK comics were large format, and came out every week / two weeks. With the comics that used US stuff, it was usually a few pages of one US comic, backed up by another (lesser) title, and sometimes some UK-produced stuff would be in there too. So in the case of Spiderman and Zoids you had; several pages of Spiderman reprinted from the US comic, and Zoids – a UK only story promoting the toyline (‘Starriors’ were something else) and some other bits. Zoids only every got an annual and a few standalone issues in the UK, they were mostly made up of reprinted material from the regular comic. The two never actually crossed over into each others storylines (I don’t think they could). US comics were smaller, different paper, and usually focused exclusively on one character. The UK versions were an attempt to produce ‘weeklies’ by stretching out US material and add UK stuff to it. For example; G. I. Joe was introduced to the UK via a UK title called ‘Battle Action Force’ which was a development of an earlier very British title called simply ‘Battle’. When Battle Action Force folded, Action Force became a backup strip in Transformers, and it was entirely made up of reprinted US G. I. Joe stuff. It eventually got its own UK Action Force title made up of US reprints and UK only stories (with the same characters). I have the Action Force sticker album, which I think is similar to the one you show above. UK comics were very tied into promoting toylines, and were often rammed with ads for newly released toys.

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