Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Best Of The Simpleton Star Trek Trading Cards: Star Trek: The Next Generation Inaugural Edition!

The Good: Decent images, Easy to collect, Good writing on backs
The Bad: Very simple set! Foreign language cards make for lame chase.
The Basics: The first Star Trek: The Next Generation, the "Inaugural Edition," trading card set remains a fan favorite and an inexpensive, quality set worthy of any collector's collection!

Long before trading cards, specifically Star Trek trading cards, became packed with bonus cards and gimmicks like autograph and costume cards and multicase incentives, they were simple and fun to collect. The market was very different in the days before eBay and common card sets tended to hold their value relative to a box of cards and bonus cards were simple. A box of trading cards would cost $25 - $50 and there were no hard and fast guarantees as to what was inside.

Times have changed. But now, looking back on my collection, it is surprising what I keep and what I am willing to part with and one of the earliest sets I have kept through all sorts of adversity is the Star Trek: The Next Generation Inaugural Edition trading card set. As its name implies, this was the first set of trading cards dedicated entirely to Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Basics/Set Composition

The Star Trek: The Next Generation Inaugural Edition card set was the third release from Fleer/SkyBox and was produced during the fifth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Capitalizing on the success of the television series, this was a mass produced set that ultimately was a 135 (or 142, depending on perspective) card set when properly assembled and despite its simplicity, it remains one of the most popular Star Trek: The Next Generation trading card sets, in large part due to its image quality.

All of the cards (save one of the out of box cards) are oriented in a landscape orientation, making this set one of the nicest and most consistent when in a binder. The 135 card set is made up of 120 common cards and 15 bonus cards, 13 from the boxes and two that were not available in the primary release. Boxes of the "Inaugural Edition" featured 36 packs of ten cards each.

Common Cards

The "Inaugural Edition" set remains one of the best sellers in Star Trek trading cards because of the common card set. With 120 cards, the common set might look primitive by today's standard. Printed on a thin cardstock without a UV protectant coating, the "Inaugural Edition" is a true tribute to Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Starting with the third season cast shot (the back has the opening monologue to Star Trek: The Next Generation), the 120 card set offers fans and card collectors a wonderful array of images in a very consistent format. In addition to all of the cards being oriented the same way, the images are framed with a bright blue background/border that is very easy on the eyes. The style of the cards is very influenced by the use of graphic design. So, for example, the main cast members each have a card of their own. The front of each of these cards utilizes an image from a publicity still, but the background of the publicity shot has been removed and replaced with a blue starfield. This gives all of the cards a very similar look and feel and unites the set, making it look great.

The back of each card is a well-written description of the subject of the card and some of the information is very technical and well-researched. In fact, some trading card releases phone in the writing, figuring that most collectors are just collecting the cards for the images, but this set was released when people seemed to genuinely care about the quality of the images and the writing on the backs. The "Inaugural Edition" actually encourages fans to read each card by including trivia cards in the common set.

The common set of 120 cards consists of: 3 commemorative cards, 9 primary crew cards, 18 support crew (recurring or significant guest characters), 12 starship cards, 22 U.S.S. Enterprise cards (focusing on the various parts of the starship), 9 equipment cards, 9 graphics cards (featuring the symbols of each major interstellar alliance), 9 Behind-the-Scenes cards, 20 technical data cards (featuring information on how technology in the 24th Century works), 7 trivia cards and 2 checklists.

The consistency of the image quality - the ship cards look just as good as the personnel cards! - set a new standard for the Star Trek trading cards. The personnel cards remain highly coveted because they have such good images of each cast member and there is a big, open space next to the image, which inspires many fans to use the "Inaugural Edition" as a set of cards to get autographed by the celebrities who visit Star Trek conventions and sign!

The only real drawback within the common set comes in the technical data cards. Some of the cards utilize computer-generated graphics of a very unsophisticated nature to illustrate the technical concept the card is depicting. So, for example, card 108 discusses the theory of how the holodeck works. The representation of this on the trading card involves graphics that are not much more than stick figures. While the effort in coming up with something original is appreciated and even laudable, the execution does not live up to the quality of the rest of the set.

Chase Cards

There are fifteen (or 22) bonus cards in the "Inaugural Edition" set, thirteen of which are available right in the boxes of cards! The first level of chase card is the least sophisticated: the foreign language subset. Numbered 01A - E, the five chase cards are replicas of the 001 card with the cast shot and the opening monologue on the back. The chase cards have the opening monologue written in Japanese, Spanish, German, French and Russian, respectively. These cards came one in approximately every 7 packs, so virtually every box had a complete set in it.

Only two per box at 1:18 packs were the hologram cards. The holograms feature popular starships from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The "Inaugural Edition" holograms feature the Klingon Bird-of-Prey, Klingon Vor'cha class battleship, the Romulan Warbird and the Ferengi Marauder. Each hologram has the starship and a piece of a planet. Properly assembled, the four cards form an image of all four ships around a single planet! The holograms look surprisingly good and the images are quite sharp and capture a very realistic and beautiful 3D effect.

The last bonus set in the boxes is something of a cheat: most collectors consider the misnumbered hologram set a chase set of its own. The fronts of the holograms are identical to the standard, properly numbered 01H - 04H holograms. The only thing that separates the misnumbered holograms from the proper ones is that they bear the numbering of the common card versions of each ship (i.e. 031.033, 034, and 036). Misnumbered holograms are approximately one in every ten boxes, but only the obsessive collectors consider these a part of the set!

Non-Box/Pack Cards

Universally accepted as part of the set are the two cards that cannot be found in packs, no matter how many one purchases! The first of these is a special gold mail-away hologram. When the set was released, fans were offered the opportunity to get a special limited edition hologram, the gold hologram of the NCC-1701-D Enterprise. For $2.00 and three empty wrappers, fans were able to get a hologram 05H and it is a sharp one! The gold hologram is something different and it looks wonderful; it even has a moon in the background, so it becomes a nice footnote to the hologram set! This was a great value when it came out and turned out to be a fabulous investment as they sell now for $10 - $15.00! That the card held its value despite being reprinted and encased in lucite for the "Making Of Star Trek: The Next Generation" Platinum set ought to indicate just how popular these mail-away holograms were! These are, of course, no longer available directly from SkyBox, so the secondary market is the only place to find them.

There set was also rereleased in a collector's tin at one point and that collection had an exclusive card (the only one not oriented in the landscape layout!) which is basically a graphic of a StarFleet symbol and the image from the top of the original box of cards. It's not a terribly exciting card, but it's enough to make a true collector hunt it down.

The reason for the number difference throughout the review is that there were two promotional car packs released as well to promote the set well before it was released. There is a three card and a four card promo pack which have images and text of three of the common cards and the backs are stamped "sample." One of the promo cards in the four-card pack has details on when the set will be (well, was, now) released. They are nothing special and they are hard to track down these days, but many collectors will no doubt want to include them in their collection.


The Star Trek: The Next Generation Inaugural Edition cards are relatively inexpensive and very easy to collect (two boxes gets a collector a virtual master set or leaves them with enough to trade to make a master set). Despite the popularity of this product, it was mass produced enough that the common set prices have depressed down to a pretty standard $7 - $10 price, but the box prices have fallen as well, so it is not a terribly expensive set to assemble if buying by the box.

Despite the changes in card technology (better image capture, UV coatings), the "Inaugural Edition" cards still look great today and fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation continue to find it to be a set worthy of their attention and collecting. This set is a great one to get younger people interested in card collecting due to the ease of assembly. And while it may not be the strongest investment set of all time, it does seem like people are always looking for these cards.

This set culls images from the following sources:
Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 1
Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 2
Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 3
Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 4
Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 5

This is a set of cards I proudly sell in my online store.  For my current inventory of them, please click here!

For reviews of other Star Trek trading cards, please check out my reviews at
Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 1 Episode Collection cards
Star Trek 25th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards
Star Trek (2009 movie) trading cards


For other card reviews, please be sure to check out my index page for an organized listing by clicking here!

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

No comments:

Post a Comment