Nobody knew it at the time when the complete card set could be purchased for $5, which included shipping and handling to anywhere in the world, but the 1982 Wrestling All Stars Series A set has become the professional wrestling equivalent to 1952 Topps Baseball or 1948 Bowman Basketball. The set includes some of the biggest names in wrestling history.
Card #1 is Andre the Giant and #2 features the Hulk Hogan rookie card, but there are many other WWE Hall of Fame wrestlers in the set. It’s not printed on shiny foil stock and there are no autographed inserts to chase, but for fans and collectors, its popularity grows as the years pass.
The 1980s All-Stars sets serve as sort of a bridge from the regional wrestling organizations to the national phenomenon it would soon become during the Vince McMahon years.
It was advertised by Pro Wrestling Enterprises as “the first set ever of real professional wrestling trading cards with full color photos of thirty-six top stars”. Readers of the Wrestling News magazine just had to send their $5 payment off to Minnesota, which was one of the biggest territories for wrestling back then, and in return they would receive a complete set of 36 cards which were sealed in plastic. The Wrestling Revue also carried ads for the cards.
All the pictures were posed, and can also be seen in the wrestling magazines of the day. Much later, the publisher sold the photos used for the cards and the leftover stock to a wrestling website, which eventually sold out of them. David Peck, who owns the top set on PSA’s Registry, believes no more than 2,000 sets were created. Packed tightly in cellophane when they were shipped as full sets, the corners often sustain mild damage and today the 1982 Wrestling All-Stars cards are hard to find in high grade.
The words “Wrestling All Stars” are above the picture and the wrestler’s name is below. The cards have a variety of border colors. The backs have comprehensive information about the wrestler, which could include current or former titles, who they had been managed by or interesting personal information.
To a lot of fans at the time, Hogan was probably associated with the name Thunderlips, his character in the Rocky III movie, but a couple of years later Hulkamania was born as he defeated The Iron Sheik for the WWF World Championship and ever since he has been synonymous with pro wrestling.
The #2 Hogan card is considered by many to be his “rookie card”, something that in the past wasn’t a consideration for wrestling card collectors but is getting more acknowledgement today as Topps puts rookie symbols on their new releases for a wrestler’s first card. His cards should remain popular for years to come as he has built an international fan base over his many decades in the WWF, WCW, WWE and other wrestling companies.
Hogan’s card prices are nearly as big as his biceps. A PSA 9 MINT sold on eBay a couple of years ago for $2,650. Recent sales of PSA 7 cards have been $349, $255 and $227.
Just like WrestleMania III, it is a battle between The Hulkster and Andre the Giant to see who has the most valuable card in this set. A recent eBay auction for an Andre card graded BGS 9.5 ended at $1,908. There have yet to appear any perfect 10 graded cards of Andre. Only two of his #1 cards have been graded PSA 9, but there have been ten Hogans. Listed by the WWF as being 7-4 and 520 pounds, Andre the Giant had been a famous superstar for over a decade before this set came out. He was also part of memorable matches in all the early WrestleMania events, including winning a famous battle royal at WrestleMania II. His card appeals to more than wrestling fans as he appeared in movies, like The Princess Bride, and TV shows.
Always styling and profiling, and jet-flying and limousine-riding, Ric Flair was the NWA World Heavyweight Champion at the time when the cards were sold. “The Nature Boy” is still a fan-favorite, making appearances at WWE events to sign autographs and occasionally finding his way to ringside. The third biggest name in the set, prices for the Flair card range from around $100 to several hundred for a mint, graded example. Those who collect Hall of Famers have two reasons to get his card. he entered the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008 and then a few years later was inducted again when his Four Horseman group was also celebrated by WWE.
While Hogan, Andre and Flair are the best in the set the other wrestlers also have legions of fans. In the 1980s, Dusty Rhodes was very successful in the NWA and his recent death has only served to increase interest in his memorabilia. Expect to pay $200 and up for a graded, mint example of his card but lower grades are available for less.
Another wrestler in the set who is constantly on TV today is Jerry Lawler while Terry Funk stands out in the set as he is pictured with a wrestling belt. A PSA 9 Funk sold for $57 recently. If the All Stars set had been produced in the 1970s then Bruno Sammartino would have been the biggest name and his card represents one of the better bargains.
As with the early baseball, football, basketball and hockey sets it is the card condition that has a huge impact on the price of 1982 Wrestling All Stars. Centering and corner wear are two areas where grades are impacted, but there are some cards that are perfect. A Ted Dibiase PSA 10 GEM MINT sold for $841 and a Harley Race PSA 10 went for $895 on eBay.
Ungraded sets in nice shape typically bring $400 and up but in 2012, sealed sets sold for $1,110 and $765. There was a recent sale of a complete set of PSA graded cards. The Andre and Hulkster cards were both PSA 6 but most others rated PSA 7. The final price was $500.
Fans of wrestling in the 1970s and 1980s will find so many of their favorite wrestlers in this set. Also appearing are Don Muraco, Pedro Morales, Tommy Rich, Ken Patera, Ivan Koloff and even The Fabulous Moolah. Throw in Ivan Putski, Tony Atlas, Dory Funk Jr. and Wahoo McDaniel and set has a checklist of very memorable names for long-time wrestling fans or historians.
1982 Wrestling All Stars Series A is not only rare for the small production numbers, but also as a product that was able to capture all of wrestling, not just a single federation. As it has the first real North American wrestling cards on cardboard and simply paper cut from a magazine, it deserves its reputation as one of the most popular wrestling sets ever issued.
There was also another set that year, Series B, as well as a set released in 1983. Each set had different wrestlers, so as 1982 Wrestling All Stars Series A is the only one with Hogan, Andre the Giant and other icons of the squared circle and it is the one for which collectors will continue to pay the highest prices.
The 1982 Wrestling All-Stars Series A is popular and the relatively few cards and sets that are offered each month illustrate why it has been growing in popularity and value. You can see what’s currently available on eBay by clicking here.