Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Decent Concept, Before The Collecting Lost Its Fun: The “Quotable” Star Trek Trading Cards

The Good: Interesting concept/decent execution, Some good chase cards
The Bad: Rarities on some of the autograph cards
The Basics: A remarkably good set, despite having problems with high range autograph cards not falling along the odds, the “Quotable” Star Trek satisfies collectors, investors and Star Trek fans.

Star Trek is a series that has been pretty well mined to death in the trading card world. Out of the almost one-hundred full sets of Star Trek franchise trading cards that have been produced since the late 1960's when Star Trek made its debut on cardboard, the majority - by a pretty sizable margin - have been original Star Trek sets. I understand that the show has a bit of a head start on the rest of the franchise, but considering that most of those sets were produced following the rebirth of Star Trek cards in 1991, it's problematic at best that Star Trek has the least amount of source material and the greatest amount of exposure in trading cards.

I made this argument to the head of Rittenhouse Archives shortly after they came out with one of the sets of Star Trek cards and before they unleashed a set that committed them to three years of new Star Trek sets that have not a lot of collectors other than make collecting Star Trek cards significantly less enjoyable. As I thought about this and began reviewing the various Star Trek trading card releases, I tried to remember the last time collecting the original Star Trek trading cards was actually fun for me. I finally settled upon the “Quotable” Star Trek Original Series trading cards as the last series I enjoyed thoroughly and actually was psyched to collect.

The “Quotable” Star Trek set a standard for a new style of Star Trek card that was later continued with The “Quotable” Star Trek: The Next Generation and The “Quotable” Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This was an intriguing idea that translated well to the other Star Trek series' and was based upon the premise that most people collecting Star Trek cards did not need the plots of every episode on the cards anymore. Faced with that, Rittenhouse Archives cleverly sought to capitalize on something fans might enjoy: memorable quotes from the original series.

Basics/Set Composition

The “Quotable” Star Trek was only the fourth release of Star Trek trading cards from Rittenhouse Archives, counting the "Legends Of James T. Kirk." Rittenhouse Archives had, up until this point, focused more on Star Trek: Voyager and mixed series sets, like the Women Of Star Trek (the whole franchise), so having a set devoted to the original Star Trek was something special, despite the fact that the series had been mined by Fleer/SkyBox while Steve Cherendoff (who left to found Rittenhouse Archives) was leading that company's Star Trek line. Properly assembled, the set is a collection of 208 trading cards and there is an official The “Quotable” Star Trek binder from Rittenhouse. All but seven of the cards are available in boxes of the “Quotable” Star Trek cards, though there were two types of boxes (North American and International) making it one of the sets with enduring collectibility. The cards were originally released in boxes that contained forty packs of seven cards each. Boxes tended to run in the $60 - $75 range and guaranteed one common set and two autographs per box. More often than not, collectors came very close to two common card sets.

Collation in the “Quotable” Star Trek set was remarkably good. To complete a true master set of the “Quotable” Star Trek cards, collectors had to purchase at least three cases of the cards, as there was one multi-case incentive card and the StarFleet's Finest cards were that difficult to find. As well, there were promotional cards that were not available in boxes or cases. This is one of those sets that took quite a bit of time, money and luck to make a true master set and is one of the harder ones to complete as a result.

Common Cards

The common card set consists of 110 trading cards, which are printed on standard cardstock and have a glossy UV resistant coating. This causes cards to stick together occasionally, but this is a moot issue as the vast majority of trading card collectors keep their cards in binders these days to protect and display their cards. With 110 cards, Rittenhouse Archives created an odd set that does not naturally fit into a binder, as binder pages hold nine cards each, leaving common card set collectors with a final page with only two cards on it.

The one hundred ten card set focuses on the memorable quotes from Star Trek. The common card set has a definite bias toward the first and second seasons of the series. The portrait format is held through the entire common set and every card features an image of a character on the upper half of the card with a memorable quote from or pertaining to that character below. "The 'Quotable' Star Trek" set utilizes many images that are not the typical ones seen over and over again, making for a visually interesting set that features both the main cast and significant guest stars from the series. With different quotes on the front than on the back, collectors and fans are treated to two different quotes per card, netting 220 quotes for the 110 card set!

Cards are arranged thematically in this set, so - for example - the front of card #1 has Captain Kirk's first lines and the back has his last lines of the series. Card 26 has quotes of McCoy griping about the transporter and most of the set seems content to be clever in that way with cards having concepts or equally memorable quotes on the front and on the back.

Collation on this set was excellent, so the common sets averaged one and a half per box, which was good for collectors. The common sets do not hold that much value (common sets almost never hold their value these days).

Chase Cards

There are ninety-eight chase cards in the “Quotable” Star Trek set, with ninety-one found in the boxes of cards and the remaining seven available outside the boxes and packs. The bonus cards that can be found within the boxes were the Space The Final Frontier, “Quotable” Star Trek: Animated Series, “Quotable” Star Trek comics, TV Guide Cover cards, Captain's Women, StarFleet's Finest and two sets of autographs. For some baffling reason, there was no checklists for this set. This is rather annoying and it is compounded by some of the cards having numbering issues. For example, in one of the autograph sets, the cards start with number A86 and there is no A104, despite the last one in that set being A105.

The most common bonus cards in this set were the Space the Final Frontier cards. These cards a formed mural and the backs form a mural that has the opening monologues to Star Trek on them. That said, the murals (there is one on the front and one on the back) are pretty impressive. Featuring the full cast of the show as well as several key recurring characters, the mural cards present a very intriguing collection of images that nails home what the series was truly about. These cards were found one in every five packs, so two boxes were needed just to complete one set!

Also at one in every five packs were the “Quotable” Star Trek: The Animated Series bonus cards. These cards are essentially chase cards only because of their rarity and alternate numbering. These are fairly banal and lack even the charm of the mural cards.

Similarly disappointing, despite having a tiny bit of foil embossing were the “Quotable” Star Trek Comic Book cards. These cards feature a frame on the front from the first nine Gold Key comics Star Trek comic books. These are fairly lame, though it is neat to see the backs which have the cover to the corresponding comic book and have quotes which are likely to amuse fans of Star Trek. For example, card five has Kirk ordering the crew to use their seatbelts, despite the fact that seatbelts were never utilized or shown on the Enterprise.

At one per box in the boxes released in the United States and North America were the TV Guide Cover cards. The “Quotable” Star Trek featured a card of each of the TV Guide covers from the 35th Anniversary that had a Star Trek theme. As well, these cards were foil cards, enhancing the natural images of these cool covers. These remain some of the most sought-after cards by collectors. Strangely, Rittenhouse Archives only included the cards of the seven main cast members, holding off the Chapel and Rand TV Guide cover cards from the same series for another set!

Also one per box, but limited to the International release cases, were Captain's Women foil cards. This set of six featured Captain Kirk various stages of embrace with such notable women as Yeoman Rand, Edith Keeler, and Andrea, the android. It includes a quote from right around when Kirk was getting it on with the pictured woman and it's an interesting set, though one is left wondering why Rittenhouse Archives did not make this set a complete set of nine as well.

This brings us to the autograph cards. The “Quotable” Star Trek set has thirty-two autograph cards available in the packs, divided into two sets. This is a decent number for a Star Trek trading card release, though by this point in Star Trek autographs, the fine folks at Rittenhouse Archives are plagued with repetition (signers who have signed trading cards for them before) or flat-out dull signers. The primary autograph set is the Quotable autographs and features images of various members of the bridge crew and quotes by that character. Of course, these feature members of the primary crew and signers in this set were William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Majel Barrett and James Doohan. The irksome thing about this set is that there are not seven cards in this set, there are thirteen. William Shatner signed three cards, each with a different quote. So while there are approximately 500 QA1 cards in existence, there are less than 200 of each quote version of QA1. This is especially irksome with QA2, because Nimoy signed somewhere between 125 and 150 of each of the two cards he signed for the set, making it a bear to complete this set. Takei, Koenig and Doohan each signed approximately 250 of both of the quote variations for their autograph cards.

What was less problematic was the second autograph set. This set finally continues the style of autograph card (including the numbering) first released in SkyBox's Star Trek Episode Collection sets. Starting with card A86, these are full bleed (pictures that take up almost the entire front of the card) images with signers who did not sign this style of autograph card in the past. Notable signers include Sally Kellerman, Julie Newmar (those two were the only "limited" ones, meaning they signed 500 or less), Sean Kenney and Morgan Woodward. The set was rounded out by a number of characters that appeared briefly on screen and had minimal lines, like Garry Walberg or Lois Jewell. Strangely, A101, Eddie Paskey - who appeared in a surprising number of episodes as Lieutenant Leslie signed on a sepia-colored card that does not fit the rest of this set.

As well, there was a landscape-oriented dual autograph of Lawrence Montaigne and Arlene Martel as Stonn and T'Pring.

The final level of chase cards found in the boxes were the StarFleet's Finest. These cards pop up approximately one in every four boxes. They are strictly limited to only 399 of each card. The StarFleet's Finest cards were one of the real pleasant surprises of the “Quotable” Star Trek set. They are thicker foil cards, each with an individual collector's number stamped on the back and that generally enhanced the value. The StarFleet's Finest has one large image along with a secondary, background image of each main character (as well as secondary characters Nurse Chapel and Janice Rand).

Non-Box/Pack Cards

As with most "modern" trading card releases - certainly the ones from Rittenhouse Archives - not all of the cards needed to make a true master set are available in the boxes of these trading cards. In this set, there are only seven cards that cannot be found in the boxes, which is nicer than in some sets. There is the usual promo card which foreshadowed the series release which is common enough to find (P1). There are two cards exclusive to the “Quotable” Star Trek trading card binder, the binder promotional card (P3) and a costume card of Scotty's costume! It is worth noting that all of the costume cards in this set feature costume material used to make the character's uniforms and not fabric from a dissected uniform (as in most trading card releases). The P2 card is a promotional card available only through Non-Sports Update Magazine and it might take a little work to track down (though the magazine offers back issues pretty readily).

The remaining cards are the two casetoppers and the multicase incentive card. The casetoppers are two different costume cards -only one per case - from the North American and International case releases. The U.S. cases has a card of Captain Kirk's uniform from "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and the international cases has a card with Yeoman Rand's costume fabric. These are two real nice costume cards that have a similar style (but not numbering) to the costume cards released in the prior 35th Anniversary set.

Then there is the multicase incentive card. Rather decently, when this set was released, there was only one incentive card and it was received when one purchased only two cases! This was a dual-autograph of Gary Lockwood and Sally Kellerman, which made for a nice way to cap off the series.


The set looks nice and the most serious problems with it are in a handful of the autograph cards, making it one of the better and more collectible and valuable sets. This set a decent standard, though it also eroded some of Rittenhouse Archives own standards (at least conceptually) for their autograph availability guarantees, which foreshadowed something far, far worse in the future. But this set . . . this set still shines.

This set culls images from all three seasons of Star Trek, reviewed here!

This is a set of trading cards I proudly sell in my online store. For my current inventory, please click 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
35th Anniversary HoloFEX Holofoil cards
The Art And Images Of Star Trek
Star Trek 40th Anniversary Season 1
Star Trek 40th Anniversary Season 2
Star Trek (2009 movie) cards


For other trading and gaming card reviews, please click here to visit my index page on the subject!

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