MOTU Cardbacks: 1983

Recently one of my connections on social media was asking if there was a resource of all of the vintage cardbacks collected somewhere. While most of them are scattered throughout my site, I thought it might be helpful to collect them in one place.

There are lots and lots of cardback variants, both by country and by release order. My objective isn’t to provide every single last variant (and I certainly do not have scans or photos of them all). My objective is to do all the US cardbacks, and any major variants. Major variants would include things like 8-back vs 12 back reissue versions of the earliest cardbacks, or any major updates to the artwork on the scene at the top or the illustrated instructions on the back of the card. I generally won’t provide variants based on different cross sell art featured on the cardback. For example, a 1983 He-Man 12-back would have different cross sell art compared to a 1984 He-Man 12-back. The character selection changed to reflect whatever was new for the year.

Let’s define cardbacks: for my purposes this won’t include the backs of boxes on large items like Castle Grayskull or Battle Ram. You can find those in my previous “Box Art From A-Z” series. This is the back of the individual figures on blister cards, for the most part. I’ll also include the cardbacks of smaller accessories like Jet Sled, since the back of the packaging was in a very similar format to the standard figures. I’ll also include the backs of the Modulok and Multi-Bot packages, for the same reason. I’m also not including gift sets with the regular carded figures – I plan to do a separate article about those later.

I’ll sort the cardbacks in chronological release order to the best of my knowledge. Please note, however, that some figures, like He-Man and Skeletor, were released at the same time.

Photos and scans in this article come from: Hake’s Auctions, Heritage Auctions and KMKA.


12-back action scene art: Errol McCarthy
SKU Number: 5879

Man-E-Faces is a bit unique in that his was the very first 12-back. For that reason the first release (“G0”) has a different format, with the three action feature illustrations directly below the main action scene, rather than to the left and below as on all other standard 12-backs. The cross sell art is also much smaller on the first release. The first release (nicknamed “Man-E-Weapons” by fans) came with five bonus Castle Grayskull weapons cast in dark red, some of which were later given out with Special Offer He-Man. The revised cardback had a more standardized format, with the instructional artwork moved to the left side of the card. I’m including both versions below.


12-back action scene art: Errol McCarthy
SKU Number: 4482

Faker is also a bit unique in that he is the only 1983 figure to come on an 8-back card. My evidence says he was available in stores just a bit after Man-E-Faces, but his packaging may have been worked on first, given the reuse of the 8-back card from 1982. Reissues in 1983 featured the revised 12-back. Faker was reissued again in 1987, and again the cardback was noticeably updated, with new instructions and action feature information on the left side of the card.

Ram Man

12-back action scene art: Errol McCarthy
SKU Number: 5896

Ram Man’s cardback is also a bit unique. The explanation of the action feature on the left is uncolored, and the action scene at top is larger and bleeds down into the cross-sell section.


12-back action scene art: Errol McCarthy
SKU Number: 4301

Tri-Klops and Evil-Lyn have the first standardized 12-back cards. The proportions and formatting used on these cards would be reused for most MOTU cardbacks going forward. You can also see this one has a different bit of cross sell art for Trap Jaw – it has the “jawless” version, as do other cardbacks going forward. More on that here.


12-back action scene art: Errol McCarthy
SKU Number: 4712

Trap Jaw

12-back action scene art: Errol McCarthy
SKU Number: 4302


12-back action scene art: Errol McCarthy
SKU Number: 4919

Note: Technically Mekaneck was considered a third wave figure by Mattel, but he was released a bit early, in December 1983. Because he kind of exists in both the 1983 and 1984 waves, I’m including two different cardbacks for him, and I’ll also include him again in the 1984 article. The early card includes only second wave figures in the cross sell art. The later revision includes characters like Buzz-Off and Whiplash, and also omits the “proof of purchase” cutout.

Thank you to the following individuals who are current Patreon supporters!

  • Philip O.
  • MOTU Origins Cork
  • Bryce W.
  • Ben M.
  • Matthias K.

Cardbacks series1982 | 1983 | 1984 | 1985 | 1986 | 1987 | 1988

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