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Parents did not like the Garbage Pail Kids in 1988

A lot of parents had the same reaction to seeing Garbage Pail Kids cards in their home — the cards were gross and they wanted them gone.

Gross trading cards were intriguing to kids, upsetting to parents

What are the Garbage Pail Kids?

33 years ago
0:18
Reporter Bill Gillespie describes the Garbage Pail Kids phenomenon to viewers. 0:18

In the late 1980s, Canadian parents from coast to coast were doing double takes when they saw the gross trading cards their kids were collecting.

The Garbage Pail Kids cards featured grotesque cartoon images of children with bulging eyes, who were often shown throwing up or involved in some kind of disgusting or violent circumstances.

"They're sadistic, they're violent," said the CBC's Bill Gillespie, when describing the cards to Ottawa viewers in 1988.

'They're gross'

The cards were made by the U.S.-based Topps Company, a well-known manufacturer of baseball cards.

"Topps admits they're gross, but says it's what kids like," Gillespie said.

Three boys who Gillespie talked to about the cards seemed to confirm the company's take on the Garbage Pail Kids. All three were interested in the cards in front of them, despite the imagery. "Aw, gross!" said one. "That's disgusting," said another. 

Not what some parents wanted at home

Pat Smith thought the cards should be banned. (Midday/CBC Archives)

Unsurprisingly, they weren't a hit with many parents, whose grievances against the cards were the subject of repeated CBC News reports — from British Columbia to Atlantic Canada — in the summer of 1988.

Pat Smith of St. John's said her kids brought some Garbage Pail Kids cards home, not knowing what they were.

"My youngest son was quite upset when he opened one of them and thought it was his baby sister in the picture," Smith told CBC back then.

"My husband and I had a look at them and one picture was worse than the other. They all depicted children in terrifying situations."

Smith thought no one should have the cards.

"They're not fit for adults or children. They should be banned completely," she said.

Legislation against the Garbage Pail Kids?

33 years ago
0:42
In 1988, parents in N.L. were making complaints about the sale of Garbage Pail Kids trading cards. 0:42

A few Newfoundland parents made a point of making official complaints, though the province's Consumer Affairs department told CBC it was hard to stop the sale of the cards without legislation.

A government official wrote and asked some stores to not sell them, on a voluntary basis.

"It could take more than public pressure to influence some stores which do sell them," reporter Deborah Collins told viewers. "One retailer we spoke to indicated she'd continue selling the cards until ordered not to."

They won't sell them in Chester, N.S.

33 years ago
0:24
Garbage Pail Kids cards were being sold at a store in Chester, N.S., until the owner learned more about them. 0:24

Out in Chester, N.S., Bill Hilchie sold Garbage Pail Kids cards at his store, until a parent showed him what was on them.

"I think kids have enough bad influence nowadays as it is and if there's anything we can do to stop it, we will," Hilchie said.

The uproar over the Garbage Pail Kids even made it to Parliament, where Liberal MP Don Boudria wanted to see the Canadian government ban them.

Liberal MP Don Boudria wanted to ban the sale of Garbage Pail Kids trading cards. (CBC Ottawa/CBC Archives)

And, as he told CBC, he didn't think he was overreacting.

"They're designed to attract the attention of a six- or seven-year-old child who may be mad at their baby brother or baby sister or whatever," Boudria said.

Topps, however, again pointed to the intrinsic interest their youngest fans had in the cards.

"Kids have always liked gross," a company spokesman told The Globe and Mail in August of 1988, in response to Boudria's call for a ban. "And this is a gross product."

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