Saturday, July 30, 2011

How Many Times Can You Celebrate An Anniversary?! Star Trek: The Original Series 40th Anniversary Series 2

The Good: Interesting chase cards
The Bad: Pathetic common set, Difficult odds on chase sets, Virtually worthless autographs
The Basics: Rittenhouse Archives appears to have run out of ideas for milking the original Star Trek for trading cards, creating instead a set that pays homage to earlier, better sets.

Star Trek trading card collecting has become terminally un-fun for completists. Yes, those of us who collect things because we want it all (in whatever collection we choose to collect) have rapidly come to discover that trading card collecting has become so difficult as to be unenjoyable. Take, for example, Star Trek: The Original Series 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards (reviewed here!); that card set virtually destroyed the Star Trek trading card collecting market by creating a card that would only satisfy twenty-five collectors worldwide. The Gene Roddenberry cut signature card in that set was limited to twenty-five and its rarity destroyed the collections of many a collector who up until that point had been able to collect one of everything.

Enter Star Trek: The Original Series 40th Anniversary Series 2, an equally bad set further hobbled by fewer packs per box. Sure, there are no cards limited to only twenty-five, but it is still a lousy set. Moreover, the existence of the set makes many of us collectors shake our heads and wonder how long Rittenhouse Archives is going to keep milking the original Star Trek. I've been a Trekker since I was in sixth grade and I'm to the point of saying "enough is enough!" with the trading cards of the original Star Trek. As important, the "Series 2" set seems devoted to paying homage to trading card sets released long before this one, making it seem like it's a poor series, paying respect to the bygone days . . . when trading cards were good.

Basics/Set Composition

The Star Trek The Original Series 40th Anniversary Series 2 set was a set of trading cards produced by Rittenhouse Archives to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the second season of the original Star Trek. It was a pretty shaky idea to begin with, whatwith the previous year having a set that commemorated both the entire franchise and the first season of the television show. Boxes of the "Series 2" cards contained only twenty-four packs with seven cards per pack. One does not get a lot per box and the only guarantees are one common set and three autographs per box. Still, with the sheer number of autograph cards in this set, three per box is not a whole lot.

The "Series 2" set is weird in that it continues the haphazard set established in Series 1. By that, I mean that the common set is all about the second season of Star Trek. The chase cards, however, range from expensive sets focused on the first season to autograph cards featuring characters and actors from all three seasons of the show. In other words, this set feels remarkably sloppy the way it is put together.

The "Series 2" set consists of 242 cards. The 242 card set consists of 110 common cards and one hundred thirty-two chase cards, eight of which cannot even be found in the packs.

Common Cards

The 110 card common set of "Series 2" cards continues the style of the "Series 1" set. The front of each card is modeled after the old Topps 1976 Star Trek trading card set and the card stock is a very primitive-appearing cardboard type. The backs are rough and unlike virtually every other set produced by Rittenhouse Archives and other current trading card companies, "Series 2" does not have a glossy UV-resistant coating on its surface.

Instead, the front of each card features an image of a person, character, situation or artifact from the second season of Star Trek along with a caption describing exactly what the front is. The back of each card is a puzzle piece for a mural. Murals include larger shots of images from second season episodes. For example, there is a mural of Spock with a goatee from "Mirror, Mirror." Every nine cards forms a mural on the back and the last two cards are checklist cards for the series.

I actually applaud Rittenhouse Archives for not wasting the backs of each card with yet-another plot rehashing of each episode or scenario from the second season of Star Trek. After all, people who collect the trading cards by now know the episodes depicted. Moreover, when SkyBox - while being run by Steven Cherendoff, founder of Rittenhouse Archives - did their "Episode Collection" sets of Star Trek trading cards, most fans got all they could handle of the individual episodes of the three seasons of Star Trek.

This, of course, makes collectors like me wonder what the point of this set was. The original Star Trek has the least source material and the greatest number of trading card sets in the Star Trek franchise. Speaking for collectors everywhere: we're sick of it! Star Trek has been mined to death and there are very few images in the "Series 2" set that look original or different, that is to say that have not been plastered on every 8x10, t-shirt or trading card for the last forty years.

As an additional liability with the common set, the cards seem more easily damaged than most cards produced these days.

Chase Cards

The "Series 2" set has one hundred thirty-two chase cards, of which one hundred twenty-four are available in the right packs! Given that there were only twenty-four packs per box of trading cards with the "Series 2" release, this is an astonishingly difficult set to complete.

One in every eight packs has a Portrait card. Like the "Series 1" set, the Portrait cards are full-bleed black-and-white images of significant characters. The back of each card has the character's name and the actor who portrayed them. This set includes all of the main cast from the second season of Star Trek and in order to squeeze in another notable guest star, Rittenhouse Archives surrendered its usual obsessive devotion to Nurse Chapel with this set. As a result, there are all of the main crew, plus the mirror Spock and Sulu, and notable extra characters like Sarek, Amanda, T'Pring, Gary Seven and Eleen. This is an annoying set because there is no reason for the cards to be black and white as the series was shot and aired in color! Retro for the sake of retro does not impress me. Moreover, the change in odds (these were one per box in the "Series 1" set) makes for a weird collecting experience. There are twenty-seven portrait cards, beginning with PT19, continuing the numbering from the first set of portraits.

One in every twelve packs is one of eighteen different 1967 Expansion set cards. This set focuses on the first season episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and I'm absolutely baffled as to why. This set continues to reproduce the form and style of the 1967 Leaf trading cards and the only reason these make sense to be in black and white is that the original trading cards were. However, it is ridiculous that these focus on a first season episode like "Where No Man Has Gone Before" as opposed to continuing that set into the second season, which is what this series is supposed to be commemorating.

Also at one in every twelve packs of "Series 2" cards is a sticker in the form and style of the 1976 Topps trading card set. This set of stickers follows the same look and dippy captions of the mid-1970s set. It's nice as far as consistency goes in that regard. However, these eighteen sticker cards are a mix of the main crew from the first and second season and then aliens from the first season like the Talosian, Vina, the Salt Creature, Edith Keeler and Khan. Again, this rather ridiculously defies the concept of paying tribute to the 40th Anniversary of the second season of Star Trek.

At one per twenty-four packs (one per box) are the Revised "Charlie X" cards. When the "Season 1" set was produced by Fleer/SkyBox, Robert Walker Jr. who played Charlie in that episode had not signed away his likeness rights. As a result, the cards for that episode were notably lacking images of Charlie Evans! Rittenhouse Archives rectifies that terrible circumstance by reproducing the nine cards from the "Season One" set with images that have Charlie on them. This is a real clever idea, but at only one per box, it is cost-prohibitive for all of us who collected the old set to try to collect these revised cards to update our sets.

The grail of this set in the packs are the autograph cards. The autograph cards are found one in every eight packs, which are good odds, but there are fifty-two autograph cards. First off, these cards do continue the style of autograph card begun in the Star Trek episode collection set, continued in "Quotable 'Star Trek'" and then continued in "Series 1." The style and numbering are the same and that is decent. However, at this point, Rittenhouse Archives is milking a rather tapped out base of actors. From the main cast, only William Shatner, Majel Barrett and Grace Lee Whitney signed for this series and the cards make little or no sense in this context. Shatner's autograph is of Kirk as a Romulan from the third season episode "The Enterprise Incident!" While Barrett's Computer Voice autograph is fine for this set, an autograph card of her as Chapel from the series finale is as ridiculous as any card signed by Grace Lee Whitney (who was only in the first few episodes of the first season). That all of these are classified as Very Limited (meaning the signers signed between 250 and 300 of each card) is ridiculous. This unnaturally presses up the price of a Grace Lee Whitney autograph, when she is one of the most readily available autograph signers and she has signed a ton of cards in prior Star Trek trading card releases. My point with this is completists are likely to be sore having to shell out that kind of dough for the autograph of someone who is not terribly popular or (usually) scarce.

The other autographs range from the ridiculous - several actors have signed autographs in this style for the same characters before, like Yvonne Craig as Marta - to the pointless. By pointless, I mean that we are down to roles like A185 Jerry Ayres as Ensign O'Herily from "Arena." To the best of my knowledge, this was a non-speaking redshirt who died in the first act! At this point, all of the most coveted signers have signed and Rittenhouse Archives is having a difficult time padding out the common autographs with people to keep collectors interested. (How many BarBara Luna autographs do they truly think we need?!) At least, outside the three main crew and Yvonne Craig, all of the autographs are common enough (though Craig Huxley signed two cards that are limited to about 500 of each card). Sadly, it's hard to care about most of the signers on the cards.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

There are eight cards that cannot be found no matter how many packs one opens. These include the regular P1 promotional card, which is easily available in the secondary market, as well as the P3 promotional card and A187 Ralph Maurer autograph card which were exclusive to the Rittenhouse-produced binder.

The P2 card follows the same pattern as the other promotional cards and it was exclusive to Non-Sports Update magazine. That is easily available as the magazine has affordable back issues available for a relatively inexpensive price. The P4 is a little more difficult to find as it was given out exclusively at Star Trek conventions in 2008. Still, it can be found usually for under $20.00.

The big cards not available in the packs or boxes were the incentive cards. In every case, there was an A136 Joanne Linville autograph card. Linville played the Romulan Commander in the third season episode "The Enterprise Incident" so this, like many of Rittenhouse's choices in this set, is rather baffling. It's a nice card, though.

For every three cases (thirty-six boxes) purchased, Rittenhouse Archives gave dealers an autographed costume card of George Takei as Lt. Sulu. Takei tends to be a good sport about signing, so it seems like a weird stunt that Rittenhouse would make his autographed costume card one in every three cases as opposed to two. I guess they're just trying to sell more.

The supposed grail, then, is the cut signature card of James Doohan. Doohan signed a slew of trading cards for Rittenhouse Archives and SkyBox, so the cut signature is more of a novelty, a "final hurrah" for Doohan than something that is truly worth treasuring. After all, Doohan was one of the most accessible celebrities of the past thirty-plus years from when Star Trek ended its run until he died. In other words, the value in this is certainly more for the card and the novelty than the actual autograph.


"Series 2" is a somewhat sloppy set in terms of its composition. The topic is uninspired and haphazard as it is not a true celebration of what it claims to be, which is the second season of Star Trek. It sets up for a disappointing "Series 3" and collectors and fans find themselves begging Rittenhouse to claim that this will be the final original Star Trek set of trading cards, at least until the 50th Anniversary!

This set culls images from Star Trek, reviewed here!
It focuses especially on the second season, reviewed here!

For other original Star Trek trading card sets reviewed by me, please check out:
Star Trek - Season 1 Episode Collection trading cards
Star Trek - Season 2 Episode Collection trading cards
Star Trek - Season 3 Episode Collection trading cards
Star Trek (2009 movie) cards

These cards are sold in my online store. For a current inventory, please be sure to click here!


For other trading card reviews, please be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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