"They're creepy and they're kooky. Mysterious and spooky... "
The opening lines of The Addams Family theme song not only describe the show's morbid yet amusing cast, but they also accurately characterize the cards in the 1964 Donruss set dedicated to the legendary sitcom.
One of the first sets ever issued by Donruss, this idiosyncratic issue – like the family it depicts – features a number of oddities. Arguably, the set's biggest quirk is that the faces of the show's supporting characters have been altered on the cards.
"This occurred so the manufacturer would not have to pay royalties to the lesser stars," explained Todd Riley, owner of www.non-sport.com.
And Donruss hardly hired a professional to doctor these faces. In some cases, it appears that the adjustments have been made by hand. For example, on card #12 "Only 3 More and the Cemetery is Full," the banker's hair and mustache appear to be hand drawn, while on card #32 "What Do You Mean – Get A Receipt?," the postman's face, eyebrows and hair are similarly altered. And if you look closely at card #56 "I Won't Be Home for Dinner," you'll notice a child rocking an Elvis-like pompadour that he definitely wasn't fashioning on the original telecast.
These amendments are the most glaring oddities in this 66-card offering. Measuring 2-1/2" by 3-1/2" each, cards in this set showcase photos from the half-hour, ABC series that competed against The Munsters – which aired on CBS – from September 1964 to the spring of 1966.
But while The Munsters revolved around a working class family of monsters, The Addams Family focused on a wealthy extended family of humans with macabre interests and various supernatural abilities. Headed by Gomez (John Astin) and his wife, Morticia (Carolyn Jones), the cast also included the bald and wacky uncle Fester (Jackie Coogan), baritoned, behemoth butler Lurch (Ted Cassidy) and the two Addams children, Wednesday (Lisa Loring) and Pugsley (Ken Weatherwax). Gomez's mother, Grandmama (Marie Blake) and Thing, a useful disembodied hand, also figured prominently into plot lines, while Cousin Itt (played mostly by Felix Silla), a short, hairy creature that spoke in gibberish that only the Addams' could understand, made periodic appearances.
Residing in a gloomy mansion (featured on card #64 "House For Sale") that terrified most visitors, the well-meaning yet oblivious Addams clan clashed humorously with normal citizens on the show. Like The Munsters, it wasn't a huge hit upon initial release, but it became popular in reruns.
"If you look at the set, it features a lot of the crazy things that used to take place on the show," explained Brian Karl, who owns the top set on the PSA Set Registry. "They had all of the weird animals. They had the two-headed tortoise. They had the lion walking through the house. They had that fish on the wall with the leg coming out of it. I was a big fan of the show, and the cards just bring a lot of those memories back for me."
Dale Davenport, who has amassed the registry's No. 2 Current Finest set, offers a similar explanation as to why the set appeals to him.
"The reason I collect this set is because of the memories," he said. "I was nine years old when the show came out and it was one of my family's favorite shows. The humor was just so off-the-wall for the time."
The fronts of the cards in this series showcase black-and-white photos, often accompanied by a humorous caption that reflected the show's dark humor. For example, card #2 features a frowning uncle Fester with the caption "Somebody Drank My Embalming Fluid!" While on card #23, Grandmama is pictured reading on a bed of nails with a coinciding caption that reads, "I Can't Stand a Lumpy Mattress!"
The show's name is emblazoned in red lettering across the bottom of the photo alongside the card number, which is found inside a red circle. A large white area below the photo exhibits the caption in red print, while a line encouraging collectors to watch the show ("Watch THE ADDAMS FAMILY on your local ABC station.") and copyright information (1964 Filmways TV Productions, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED) is in black. Another notation is included in red that urges collectors to track down all 66 cards to form a puzzle with the backs.
However, in another twist with this set, not all of the cards feature the same text encouraging collectors to amass the cards for the puzzle. Six cards – #13, #30, #42, #49, #55 and #61 – boast text that reads, "For family fun make a giant size photo of THE ADDAMS FAMILY from card backs." The remaining 60 cards flaunt the notation: "Collect all 66 cards and place backs together to make a giant photo of THE ADDAMS FAMILY."
Riley has documented how the cards piece together to form the puzzle (which is comprised of 11 rows of six cards each). The six cards featuring the "For family fun... " text form the sixth row of the puzzle. Riley and Kurt Kuersteiner, owner of www.monsterwax.com and www.monstercards.org, believe that the sequence of the cards forming the puzzle was likely the same card sequence on the print sheets (although a print sheet was not uncovered during the research phase of this article to confirm this).
"On an uncut sheet, they don't randomize the puzzle," noted Kuersteiner, speaking generally about how sheets are printed. "On an uncut sheet, if you look on the back, the puzzle is an uncut image. And the reason for that is because when you cut it, there can be variations in the cutting. If you didn't do it that way, you would see gaps between the images. This saves a lot of time and you know all of the pieces are present."
To complicate matters, there's a Canadian version of The Addams Family cards which, oddly enough, can be distinguished from the American version by the words "PRINTED IN U.S.A." stamped across the bottoms of their fronts. The U.S. cards do not have this stamp.
"The odd thing is that the stamp isn't in the same place on all the cards," noted Davenport. "It almost looks like somebody did it with a hand stamp. Sometimes the wording is broken. Sometimes it will be solid and clear. Sometimes it will be straight and sometimes it will be tilted either to the right or left. There wasn't a uniform location for the stamp."
The wrappers for the Canadian cards were the same as the American wrappers, and the cards were distributed in five-cent packs (24 packs to a box) with gum. These wrappers are now tough to track down.
"You just don't see unopened packs. I keep my eye out for them, but they just don't exist," said Davenport.
Bob Florio, who owns the registry's No. 3 Current Finest set, concurs.
"I own wrappers of both The Munsters and The Addams Family cards, and the Addams Family wrappers are much more difficult to obtain than The Munsters," he noted. "The Addams Family display box is also more difficult to find than The Munsters."
In 2010, an Addams Family display box fetched $705 in a Robert Edward Auctions sale.
Cards from this issue focusing on single characters generally command a premium. And only four cards feature one lone character with a single-word caption (the character's name): #1 "Gomez," #19 "Fester," #36 "Thing" and #44 "Mortica."
According to Karl, these single character cards are the most sought-after from this particular set, especially the Gomez card. "He was the [main] guy, plus he was the No. 1 card. That's a huge card in the set," added Karl.
If the card sequence on the print sheet is the same sequence as the puzzle, the Gomez single is the last card on the right in the ninth row – an edge-sheet position that generally makes cards more susceptible to production flaws. There has yet to be a PSA MINT 9 or PSA GEM-MT 10 of this card. A PSA NM-MT 8 sold for $208.50 on eBay in February 2013.
In Davenport's experience, the Morticia single (#44) is also in high demand. But he points out that there seems to be a production flaw on this card located on the top right-hand side of the white border.
"It almost looks like the border blends into the side of the picture. It makes the card look terrible," added Davenport.
Of the 42 Morticia cards submitted, there has been one PSA 10 and one PSA 9. The PSA 10 fetched $395 on eBay in January 2013.
Another popular single is card #5, which showcases Lurch, the massive, deep-voiced butler, who appeared when family members pulled on a noose and responded, without fail, "You Rang?" This trademark response is the caption on this card and likely the most repeated line from the series. Just two PSA 9s exist of this single. A PSA 8 commanded $36.44 on eBay in November 2008.
Gomez, however, is clearly the star of this set, appearing in some form on 30 different cards. Pictured on 18 different singles, Morticia is the second most prominent character. Davenport points out that for some reason Cousin Itt isn't featured on any of the cards.
PSA 9 examples have yet to be uncovered for two cards in this issue: #10 "This Will Stop His Headache!" and #50 "You're A Real Cut-Up, Fester!" Like the Gomez single (#1), these cards appear to have been located on the edge of the print sheets. Card #10 was likely second from the left in the bottom row, while #50 is positioned on the left edge in the third last row.
It's also probably not a coincidence that the two cards that have been sent into PSA the least amount of times are located in edge-sheet positions. With just 23 submissions, #57 "Lurch Lowers the Body So Beautifully!" (top left corner of the sheet) is by far the lowest population card, while card #43 "Bury the Next One Over There!" (first card on the right in the third row) is the second least submitted (32 submissions).
Hobbyists say centering issues plague many of the cards from this set.
"There are several off-center cards in this set," said Karl. "I think finding these cards centered is the hardest endeavor."
"The centering on the cards is terrible," he said. "It's hard to find anything really well centered. A PSA 8 is a good grade on an Addams Family card. The cards are off side-to-side and they're off top-to-bottom."
Florio notes that approximately half as many 1964 Donruss Addams Family cards have been submitted to PSA as 1964 Leaf Munsters singles. He believes this could be because The Munsters was a more popular show at the time.
But despite the challenges in tracking down high-grade examples, The Addams Family cards remain relatively inexpensive.
"You can get PSA 9s or 10s from this set for a fraction of what you'd pay for those in the [1962 Topps] Mars Attacks set. They're more affordable," said Florio. "The prices for PSA 8s were never really an issue for me when I was putting together my set."
A study of recent eBay auctions reveals that PSA 8 commons are generally selling in the $14 to $25 range. So while these pasteboards might be creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky, they also remain affordable and fun, even if you're not independently wealthy like Gomez.
Please feel free to contact Kevin Glew at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any additional information or comments. Dale Davenport provided pictures for this article. Please note that the Population Report figures quoted and Set Registry rankings reported are those as of May 2013.
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