Thursday, February 22, 2024

Broadway Collections: Playbill Cards

Somewhere between the baseball card boom and the advent of Lights of Broadway cards, Playbill gave us their version to trade. 

Broadway Collections:
Playbill Cards

While cleaning off and rearranging my shelves the other day, I came across a huge 3-ring binder down in the lower corner. Hard to believe I kinda forgot it was even there. I opened the cover and there they were. Dozens and dozens of collector sleeves filled with Playbill Cards! It was like running into an old friend after many years - a chance encounter that made the memories come flooding back.

Oh, the days gone by when pre-matinee and between shows time was spent running from Broadway theater shop to shop and getting down on the floor to comb through baskets of the black, white and yellow treats. All four of the merch shops kept them in baskets on the floor in corners of the room, and somehow it felt like those of us who knew they were there were in a special secret club.

Who knew there would be so much history on these pages?
The Phantom of the Opera and Into the Woods?
Patti LuPone's triumphant return to Broadway in Anything Goes?
Joel Grey's final Broadway turn as the Emcee in Cabaret?

Each season of Playbills were in a separate bag - you got the whole season at once, not packs of 5 where you had to buy dozens to get the whole set (not to mention a zillion repeats!). I'm pretty sure there were 31 sets altogether, ending with the 2007-08 season, and it nagged at me for years that I didn't find them all!  
For the record, I have the 1977-78 & 1983-84 sets, then every set from 1987 on.

This page brings me back to where it all started - Mame 1983!

Getting a new set brought me such joy. I'd carefully handle each card (no fingerprints or bent corners!!) and slide them into the special card pages. Then I'd devour each one, taking the cover art work, then turning them over to read and reread each and every credit on the Opening Night title page. I know some other collectors (we'd met on the floor of the old store that used to be at the Marriott) arranged their cards alphabetically, but I arranged mine by opening night date.

Playbill didn't discriminate - even flops got their due.
This page has 3 of my favorite flops are on this page: 
Side Show, Triumph of Love and The Scarlet Pimpernel!

Now that I have them out, I think I'll re-devour each one, and all of the memories I have of shows, seen, missed, loved, hated. Sure, I can see the same thing and more online at the Playbill Vault, and get the details from a number of sources. But there is something wonderful about the simplicity and tangible nature of each 2x3 inch cardboard gem.

I would love to hear from any of you that have these, too! Leave a comment or email at

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