Want to Feel Old? The Garbage Pail Kids Turn 35 This Summer
They’re older than Furbies. And Beanie Babies. Even The Simpsons. And they became a household name for lampooning all of the above (and then some). We’re talking Garbage Pail Kids: The sticker cards kids were so obsessed with that many schools banned them for being too distracting. Sorry, Principal Skinner, but the Topps-owned franchise is having the last laugh—this summer, the brand turns 35 (way to make us feel old, right?). In honor of the cards’ anniversary, we’re answering some of your biggest questions about Garbage Pail Kids—and sharing the 10 most off-the-wall GPK designs from over the years.
Wait—Weren’t They Just Cards?
Oh, no. The 88-pack of initial sticker cards, launched in 1985, are what the brand’s known for, but the characters themselves soon took on a life of their own. And if they look familiar, that's because they were initially inspired by the hottest toy of the early '80s: the Cabbage Patch Kids. (In fact, the company behind GPK, Topps, initially intended to license the cherubic dolls' likeness for a series of cards. When that fell through, they decided: If you can’t join ‘em, parody ‘em.) The line was aimed at tweens and teens, and its satirical take on trendy toys earned it a cult following. Before long, those 88 cards inspired several other decks, as well as t-shirts, posters and The Garbage Pail Kids Movie…a live-action movie.
So, Are My Old Garbage Pail Kids Worth Anything?
Uh, maybe, though unless you were a serious collector—like, you bought entire boxes of foil-wrapped packs back in 1985 and never touched them—don’t bank on retiring early. As you might imagine, cards from the original 1985 launch tend to be the most coveted. That aforementioned unopened box of cards, featuring 48 packs of GPKs? It sells for $24,000 on average on eBay. The very first card in the series, Adam Bomb, has sold for anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 recently on eBay, depending on how rare it is. Beyond that, international editions, like Japanese Garbage Pail Kids cards—known as Bukimi Kun—tend to be pretty sought after. Like most collectibles, they have to be in excellent condition, and having a pristine wrapper for said card is just as crucial.
OMG, Adam Bomb! What Are Some of the Other Major GPK Cards?
So glad you asked. Here’s our take on the 10 weirdest cards they've come up with over the past three and a half decades.
10. Phony Lisa
While Garbage Pail Kids are known for imagery that's borderline gag-inducing, Phony Lisa is a surprisingly cutesy take on one of the world’s most famous pieces of art. You can score this 1985 card for $8 on Etsy.
9. Bruised Bruce
Toys and classic art aren’t the only zeitgeisty topics GPK’s designers put through its subversive lens. Bruce Willis got the Garbage Pail treatment in 2015, as part of the brand’s 30th anniversary series. Mr. Glass may be unbreakable, but not this version, apparently.
8. Explorin’ Norman
We all knew a kid in school who was continually caught knuckle-deep picking his (or her) nose. Maybe that kid was you. Someday, hopefully, he/she/you learned to grab a tissue—and head to the bathroom first.
7. Catch ‘Em Al
Pokemon was hot in the ‘90s, then came back in full force a few summers ago. For that double dose of nostalgia, Catch ‘Em Al makes the cut.
6. Gerald Goldfish
If this image still haunts your dreams, you’re not alone.
5. Bad Bart
If you were to draw a venn diagram of people who collect GPK cards and people who watch The Simpsons, we bet there would be serious overlap. It’s only fitting, then, that in 2019, Garbage Pail Kids released a throwback “We Hate the ‘90s” collection that featured a tribute to El Barto himself.
4. Bad Pet Pete
Admit it: As desperately as you wanted a Furby, the moment it was in your arms, you started to question your life decisions. And whether the thing—which frequently chattered to itself—was somehow sentient and not-so-secretly conspiring against you. GPK captured those fears perfectly.
3. Bony Tony
Ghastly without skewing gross-out, Bony Tony is a classic card among GPK fans. You can snag one for about $4 on Amazon, or wear your fandom on your sleeve (or tote bag) with a fan-made lapel pin. He’s got such a cult following that in 2011, Topps released a new take on the character—this time unzipping the skeleton too—as part of its “Where Are They Now?” series.
2. Leaky Lindsay
Leaky Lindsay is one of the OG Garbage Pail Kids, so popular that you can buy her likeness as a magnet, Funko mini figure—even molded into a tiki glass. Now, she’s experiencing a resurgence, becoming a meme after people renamed her “Corona Mona,” citing her as patient zero in the pandemic. Crass? Yes, but that’s pretty on-brand for GPKs, if you think about it.
1. Joe Chaotic
It was only a matter of time, right?