Sunday, August 7, 2011

Shiny And Cool, Rittenhouse Produces A Real Mixed Bag With Star Trek 35th Anniversary HoloFex Cards!

The Good: Great concept, Some interesting autograph signers, Generally easy to assemble, Wonderful sketch cards!
The Bad: Sketch card rarities, Common set images, Warping of cards
The Basics: Despite structural problems in terms of physical and content composition, the Star Trek 35th Anniversary HoloFex cards have some real value from their concept chase cards, like hand-drawn sketches!

Rittenhouse Archives has managed to become the trading card company of loyal Star Trek fans through two simple principles: they have the license and they make great trading cards. Since Rittenhouse Archives snagged the license and produced the Star Trek In Motion trading cards to launch the company, they have innovated and retained the interest of card collectors by creating interesting sets of trading cards.

Unfortunately, some of the ideas Rittenhouse experiments with are not as successful as they could be. Sometimes, this is not the fault of the company, as it arguably cannot be anticipated that a concept will not soar from a daring idea (as it flopped with Art & Images Of Star Trek). But sometimes, the company comes up with a great idea and then inadvertently cuts the concept down in such a way that collectors are left disappointed by the execution of the idea more than the concept. As I look back upon the Star Trek 35th Anniversary trading cards, I suspect this is what happened here; the concept of an all-foil set was a wonderful one, but the execution of it, packing each card with tiny images, didn't fly with fans and collectors.

Basics/Set Composition

The Star Trek 35th Anniversary HoloFex set was a set of trading cards produced by Rittenhouse Archives to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the original Star Trek. Milking the anniversaries with card sets is not a new concept; in 1991 Impel relaunched the Star Trek trading card franchise with a celebration of the 25th Anniversary and while the license was at SkyBox, they produced three different 30th Anniversary sets. What sets this set apart was that the cardstock was thicker, the set was smaller and all of the cards were foil cards! Boxes of the Star Trek 35th Anniversary HoloFex cards contained only twenty packs with six cards per pack. One does not get a lot per box and the only guarantees are one common set and three autographs per box. With the quantity of autograph cards in this set, three per box is not a whole lot. Still, Rittenhouse Archives was good to its word and this set was remarkably by-the-numbers with common sets per box and the proportions of chase cards.

The common set is all about the characters of Star Trek. The chase cards, however, range from inexpensive sets focused on different costumes the characters wore to autograph cards featuring characters and actors from all three seasons of the show. This set feels remarkably sloppy the way it is put together, mostly because Rittenhouse seemed obsessed with quantity over quality in the images.

The Star Trek 35th Anniversary HoloFex set consists of only one hundred fifty-four cards, making it a fairly easy set to complete. The 154 card set consists of 72 common cards and eighty-two chase cards, only four of which cannot be found in the packs.

Common Cards

The 72 card common set of Star Trek 35th Anniversary HoloFex cards established a new style of card, which was a foil card that had a glossy UV-resistant coating on its surface. The cards looked almost like bonus cards because they were shiny and their thickness. Initially, fans were wowed by the gimmick of the set. But as the years have gone by, fans have become disenchanted with this set for three reasons.

First, the front of each card features an image of a character from Star Trek along with a caption with the character's name. There were nine foil cards each of Kirk and Spock, six for Doctor McCoy, three each for Scotty, Sulu, Uhura, Chekov, Chapel and Rand. The rest of the set was filled out with notable guest stars and the set was generally in alphabetical order. There was even a card for the Enterprise, which was the checklist. Unfortunately, outside the poor organization that did not entirely alphabetize the set, the 35th Anniversary HoloFex set falls down in that most all of the images are tiny. Each card has one inch and a half tall image of the character, with the rest of the landscape-oriented card peppered with six tiny windows with images of the character or an aspect of the episode the character is from in them. There is also a symbol with the card series name on the front of each card and that little symbol is about the size of one of the images! The result is that the images look sloppy and that is a huge detraction for collectors of the set.

The second drawback is that not all of the cards are oriented the same way! Perhaps anticipating the resistance to the card style, Rittenhouse Archives produces one card of each of the characters named above with a portrait orientation. These cards had one small colored image and one large background head shot of the appropriate character. So, when one puts the cards in their binder, most of the pages do not look uniform as the portrait-oriented card forces people to look at the page from another angle.

The final drawback in the common set has revealed itself with age; when these cards are removed from their packs, they slowly begin to warp, even if they are kept in an environment that is not humid. This makes it very difficult to define cards in this set as "mint" and for those who are getting them autographed by the celebrity on the card, it forces them to mount the card in a seriously strong protector that will not only protect it, but resist its attempts to curl.

The back of each card is a simple description of the character and for the primary characters, it describes their actions within a specific episode. So, for example, one of the Spock cards has images from "This Side Of Paradise." The back of that card simply describes Spock's character arc in that episode. The back of each landscape-oriented card also features one image that rivals the size of the picture on the front of the card.

The images - what may be seen of them - tend to be culled from a great selection of episodes and are not the typical images one sees over and over again in published mediums. This, at least, is a saving grace of the common set.

Chase Cards

The Star Trek 35th Anniversary HoloFex set has eighty-two chase cards, of which seventy-eight are available in the right packs! This is a remarkably decent set to collect in terms of the bonus cards, if for no other reason than with three cases, one is likely to pull all of the cards in the set. Then again, the SketchaFex cards complicate those odds some, but generally, this is a decent set for card collectors and Star Trek fans by the numbers.

The first level of chase set was the MorFex set, which were die-cut cards with a red foil border featuring images of characters from episodes where primary crewmembers appeared out of uniform. So, it features shots from "Return Of The Archons" and "A Piece Of The Action" and the like. These cards, shaped as a quadrilateral instead of a rectangle, oddly feature headshots mostly of the characters, which makes one wonder what the point was. More than being Kirk in a suit, for example, the "A Piece Of The Action" card is more Kirk in a funky hat.

Because the set was released shortly after the death of actor DeForest Kelly, two packs per box had one of nine Best Of Bones cards. These portrait-oriented cards were cut to the shape of a StarFleet emblem badge and feature Dr. McCoy's trademark "I'm a doctor, not a . . ." lines from throughout the series. Interestingly, Rittenhouse was unable to come up with nine that purely used that setup, but it is a nice concept and the pictures of Dr. McCoy are well-selected. This is a thoughtful set fans still appreciate.

At only one per box was one of six Federation Foes cards and this was a neat concept that was pioneered in this set. These six cards are landscape oriented and feature one of the many villains from Star Trek; two Romulans, four Klingons. Each card has a window cut in it and embedded in the card is an acetate film cel (not an actual frame from the show, all of them are identical) of the villain. This is a neat concept and fans responded fairly well to the idea.

Also in the packs are the autograph cards. The autograph cards are found three in every box, which are good odds, but there are thirty-three autograph cards in the various packs. Unfortunately, these autograph cards proved to be very unpopular with the fans because they contained tiny head shots with a large white field for the celebrity to sign in. Having invested much in the autograph cards from the SkyBox Star Trek Episode Collection set, fans were used to beautiful full-bleed autograph cards and these failed to live up to the high standards of most fans. At least they managed to get all the numbers in order and one for each number! The other sticking point for many fans was that none of the main cast signed in this set. As a result, this set features autographs from guest stars ranging from the famous Sally Kellerman to the moderately well-known Marj Dusay to the obscure actors like Laurel Goodwin whose appearance in the Star Trek pilot "The Cage" was one of her only acting experiences on film. Fortunately, none of the autographs were particularly rare and only actors like Elinor Donahue and the actors who have since died have higher priced cards. At this point, at least four signers in this set (including Jane Wyatt, Jeff Corey, and composer Alexander Courage) have died, which has the effect of driving up the value of their cards.

Approximately one per case was one of three costume cards. The costume cards, featuring fabric used to make Kirk, Spock or Uhura's outfits (not taken from set worn costumes!) were nice, but collectors quickly picked up on the idea that these were not actually from costumes and some rejected them because of that (those of us who know what set-worn Star Trek costumes fetch at auction do not begrudge Rittenhouse this and actually applaud that they were able to get material that could be authenticated to make these beautiful costume cards!

Approximately one in every other case was a single dual autograph card which, like the costume cards, was a landscape orientation. Fans were thrilled to have an autograph card signed by both William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, no matter how small their images on the card was! That card quickly became the most valuable card in the set and still commands prices in the $350 range.

The grail of the packs are the 17 SketchaFex cards. Each of these cards was a hand drawn sketch (not a copy of a sketch, but a unique sketch each and every one!). Various artists contributed several sketch cards of the same general thing, like Bolson (ships), Czop (aliens), Martineck (Klingons), Pablo (4 characters, 1 Guardian Of Forever), Schaeffer (2 characters), and Geoff Isherwood (Uhura). Rittenhouse Archives insisted on having some standards so while each card is technically unique, artists simply drew the same thing over and over again, like Bolson drew a couple hundred sketches of the Enterprise and a few hundred of the Shuttlecraft Galileo. This was a nice touch, but left collectors hunting some very rare cards. For example, Isherwood's sketch of Uhura was limited to 125 hand drawn sketches, which means there are only 125 possible master sets of this series. That, technically, means that the 35th Anniversary Set is twice as hard to complete by the numbers as the next nearest set that preceded it (until this point, the most limited card Rittenhouse Archives had produced for Star Trek was an autograph card that was limited to 250 signed cards!). Still, these sketches are nice and the concept is a good one that collectors responded favorably to.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

There are only four cards that cannot be found no matter how many packs one opens. These include the regular P1 and P2 promotional cards, which is easily available in the secondary market. Rittenhouse gave them free to dealers, who distributed them pretty freely at the time. The P2, Spock, promo is a little harder to find than the P1 Kirk promotional card. These promos are landscape oriented and feature the same annoying preponderance of crushed images as most of the common set.

The other two cards were exclusive to the binder and were the P3 promotional card and an autograph card. These were exclusive to the Rittenhouse-produced binder and the irksome thing about them was that the P3, which featured McCoy, was portrait oriented and featured a big, different image of McCoy! Still, it is nice to not have to chase too many cards down to make a complete set of these cards!


Star Trek 35th Anniversary HoloFex is fairly disorganized and problematic set in terms of its composition. Because of the structural flaws, the common set is a tough sell and while Rittenhouse has gone back and managed to get most of the signers to this set to sign their preferred style of autograph card, there are some celebrities who were too late for Rittenhouse to get over. Between that and the sketch cards, this set ends up having just enough to recommend it.

This set culls images from Star Trek, 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 40th Anniversary Season 1
Star Trek 40th Anniversary Season 2
Star Trek (2009 movie) cards

This is a set of trading cards I occasionally have for sale in my online store! Check out my current inventory of it, by clicking here!


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

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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