Saturday, August 13, 2011

Impel Revitalizes Star Trek Collector's Cards With An Uninspired 25th Anniversary Set!

The Good: Some interesting images, Decent writing on the backs, Good chase
The Bad: Terrible collectibility, Vastly overproduced, Chase is nothing special, Lack of consistent orientation.
The Basics: The first of many Star Trek trading card releases is bound to disappoint fans, collectors and investors universally.

Let's go back to the beginning, or rather the new beginning. For many years, Star Trek was an under-exploited franchise (yes, it's hard to believe that now!). Between the series beginning in 1966 and its 25th Anniversary in 1991, there were only six series of Star Trek trading cards released and outside the Mego action figures from the '70s and figures made for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the action figure market was pretty devoid of Star Trek toys. Indeed, the big sellers for the bulk of the first twenty-five years were books, models and video tapes. Now, in 2011, there are hundreds of action figures available, around a thousand books and well over seventy trading card sets. The new resurgence in Star Trek began with the 25th Anniversary and that marks the start of the rampant exploitation of the Star Trek franchise in merchandising, making it a quick and powerful cash cow for Paramount Pictures.

This begins (for the trading cards) with Star Trek 25th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards. These cards were originally released in boxes with thirty-six packs, packs containing twelve cards each. The series consists of 160 cards with two chase cards. Chase cards, for those not up on card collecting lingo, are bonus cards that appear in packs with an infrequency that makes them hard to find and therefore must be chased after. They are considered bonus cards and are numbered outside the numbering of the regular (common) cards in the set.

The Series 1 Set is broken down evenly between Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Star Trek is represented by eighty cards (the odd numbers) and Star Trek: The Next Generation is represented by eighty cards (the even numbers). This is rather annoying to start the set with because it compels the collector to choose between organizing either by strict number order - which ends up looking ridiculous in a binder as the Star Trek cards are delineated visually with a thick blue border while the Next Generation cards have an ugly maroon border - or by series, which is a bit awkward when it comes to reading through the set sequentially.

The order problem is made more problematic by the sloppy way this set is assembled. Images are oriented both landscape and portrait style with no rhyme or reason to the direction of the image other than what fits. When assembled, this means one has to constantly turn the binder to read cards or see the image from the proper orientation. This is particularly annoying when reading the backs in order as it means turning the binder every four or five cards to read them.

This haphazard quality to the cards is continued with the general order of the set. The set is neat in terms of its content and the sweeping quality to it. So, for example, Series One includes episode summaries from episodes of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation, technology and alien races, pretty thorough character biographies (two sets for Star Trek characters), actor biographies for Next Generation actors, artwork and descriptions of comic books and novels, and collector's plate images. But the order of those things is irregular and poorly organized.

A good example of this is in the Star Trek half of the set. Card number 3 is "Space Seed," one of the episodes late in the first season. It is sandwiched between cards with the plots of "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and "The Corbomite Maneuver." Why is it there? No clue. In the Next Generation portion of the set, first and second season episodes are intermixed with no rhyme or reason. As the set progresses, books, comics and plates are mixed together with no differentiation or sense of theme.

The only really decent thing about this set of cards is the images and the writing on the backs of each card. The "25th Anniversary Series 1" cards have decent images. Some of them are not the typical images that are seen constantly in publicity stills or on-line from screen captures or in other card sets. As a result, there are some wonderful cards in this set for those who are looking to get cards signed by celebrities associated with the shows.

The writing on the backs of the cards is pretty decent as well. This set of cards manages to summarize episodes of Star Trek and Next Generation fairly well on a card each and some of the insights on the alien race and character cards illustrate a reasonably good sense of what the shows are all about.

The chase cards are holograms and the Series 1 set has a hologram of the Enterprise and the Enterprise 1701-D, so there are only two bonus cards to hunt down. The holograms look quite good and the 3-D effect is appealing, if simple.

But that's where the decent aspects of this trading card release end. The major problem with this series is how it was released. Boxes of this product were originally gobbled right up in the marketplace. Long before taste and concern over quality kicked in, fans who were hungry for new trading cards gobbled up these boxes. So Impel, the manufacturer, in its wisdom decided to flood the market with boxes of these cards. When originally released, boxes tended to sell around $35 - $50 and there was no guarantee that one would get a complete set of 180 cards in a box. As a result, common sets used to sell for $25+. The holograms, which averaged out at one in every five boxes, commanded prices in the range of $100!

When Impel reprinted the set (there is no differention between the first and subsequent release), the value plummeted, especially on the holograms. The holograms became one in every other box (approximately) which caused the value to plummet down to $25/ea. Now some dealers dump the holograms at $5.00! The common sets are easily available in the market and if you pay more than $10 for the 180 card Series 1 set, you're paying too much (though, admittedly, it's a big set and costs a bit to ship!).

The lowered value makes this a poor investment for collectors. Indeed, a box of these trading cards, unopened, is often easily obtainable for $5 - $10! As well, there was a way to obtain the complete set (including chase cards and two unique bonus cards) in an individually numbered collector's tin that was released, further devaluing the product. The packs are a mix of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation cards, usually six of each. The cardstock is medium grade and there is no UV coating, so the cards get damaged and discolored fairly easily when not properly cared for.

Purists and absolute completists will want this set, but it has little appeal for general fans. The episodes were more effectively rendered in vastly superior sets that came out later on. Indeed, the biggest value in this set was in the official collector's binder; the binders (when one can find it) command prices of $150 or more (originally, they were sold through the manufacturer for $19.99 including shipping!). The two cards exclusive to the collector's tin and the promotional cards - none of which are available in the unopened boxes - also exceed anything in the box for retaining value in the secondary market.

Despite my review, I have a collection of these in my collection and the reason is simple; sentimental attachment. I remember opening packs of these cards with friends as a young adult and I remember being thrilled at the time by getting into this new (to me) hobby. But now, I wish I didn't have those memories because then I could sell off this otherwise not worthwhile set.

No need for you to make the same mistake!

This set culls images from:
Star Trek
and the first three seasons of Star Trek The Next Generation!

This is a set of cards I occasionally have for sale in my online store. Be sure to check out my current inventory by clicking here!

For other Star Trek franchise card sets, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Star Trek - Season One Episode Collection cards
The Art & Images Of Star Trek
Star Trek Cinema 2000


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

© 2011, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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