Sunday, August 21, 2011

Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Season One Reset The Standards For Star Trek Cards!

The Good: Establishes sets well, Good images, Interesting chase cards
The Bad: A few rarer promotional cards to be found, Unremarkable chase cards, Box price!
The Basics: At the time, the most technically advanced trading card set, Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Season One had great images and was fun to collect.

Once upon a time, I was an avid collector of Star Trek trading cards. Until the current manufacturer released a nearly impossible to find card, I collected everything in terms of Star Trek trading cards and I had a formidable collection. Since that release where the collecting became impossible for all but twenty-five people, I have begun to sell off some of my collection. As I do, I review them.

Basics/Set Composition

The Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Season One Trading Cards was a series of Star Trek trading cards that established a new standard in image transfers to the trading cards and set a standard for the subsequent six "Episode Collection" sets, as well as the Star Trek: Voyager equivalent sets. Properly assembled, the set has 122 cards, all but four of which may be found in the standard hobby release boxes. Boxes tended to be 36 pack boxes with eight cards per pack.

The full set of "Season One" trading cards included: 108 common cards, 6 foil embossed cards, 2 holograms, 1 1994 preview advertisement card, 1 Season Seven boxtopper tribute card, 1 QVC poker table exclusive card, and 3 prototype cards. All but the last two types could be found in boxes. There was also a binder available directly from SkyBox, who produced this set of cards.

The Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection trading cards represented a new level of quality for SkyBox, the non-sports card division of Fleer. Gone were the days of cheap cardboardy cards, like the late 70s and '80s had had, gone were the easily damaged cards of the earliest SkyBox releases. In their place were wonderful, high quality cardstock which featured bright, vibrant images and a subtle UV resistant coating! "Season One" established that tradition with incredible and rare images taken from digital video transfers, which allowed for high quality images that look great even today.

Common Cards

The common card set established the quality of the Episode Collection sets, with 108 cards which include: 9 cards for the timeline mural, 78 cards chronicling the twenty-six episodes of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, 9 cards creating a tribute to Captain Jean-Luc Picard, 9 cards creating a tribute mural to Lt. Commander Data, 1 card detailing the main credits for season one and 2 checklist cards. This common set is a beautiful work, despite some of the quality issues related to the principle photography from the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The set opens with nine cards that form a "title page" when properly assembled in a binder. The front has various images from the first season over a mural of a communicator symbol with the opening monologue to the show hidden in the background and a card in the center that acts as a title card. The back of the opening mural traces the timeline of the first season allowing a preview of the cards to come by reminding collectors of the significant events and episodes of the first season.

After that, the set becomes a very regular series of three cards per episode from the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The set includes a decent mix of special effects shots and character images and the backs are plot summaries that detail well the aspects of the episode needed to recall what happened in the episode. The backs are very complete with the plot synopsis's so fans who have not seen episodes might not want to read the cards as most do indicate how each episode ended!

In one of the more clever and collector friendly aspects of the set, the Episode Collection cards, "Season One" included, alter the location of the card number for ease of organization and collation. Because the murals must be put into card pages a certain way to get the desired result (one image from all nine cards put together), the cards that follow must be organized in order as well (which makes sense because they tell the plot of an episode! Cards have their collector numbers on the left, center, and right - respectively - for the first, second and third cards in each episode. As well, there is an alternate numbering system to reinforce this order wherein the episode number may be used as a reference point, with a, b, and c denoting the proper order. It may seem like a lot of fuss, but it's awfully convenient when collating hundreds of cards to be able to eliminate so many with a glance based on where the card number is located.

Following the episodes portion, there are two more 9-card murals, one of Captain Picard, one of Lt. Commander Data. These are beautiful collections of cards that highlight the accomplishments and relationships of each character. Picard's is a beautiful, very colorful mural of a nebula featuring head shots of various appearances he had over the seven years of the series. Lt. Commander Data's is similar with the mural being a circuit board! The backs of these cards are wonderfully detailed containing information and very complete character biographies of the characters (and often how they interact with other main characters). These cards are wonderful for fans who go to Star Trek conventions and get trading cards autographed because they are nice headshots with intriguing backgrounds with plenty of space for the celebrity actor to sign over.

Following the murals, the common card set is capped off with a card that encapsulates the first season closing credits and the two checklist cards.

Chase Cards

As for the bonus cards, there are fourteen, most of which are still very easily available in the market today because they are present in the boxes of these cards. While not strictly bonus cards, boxtopper series tribute card and the 1994 preview card come up at least one per box, making them a cheap staple to the set - some dealers even include the latter with the common card set.

The first level of chase card (chase card, insert card and bonus card are all the same thing - cards that are far less frequent than common cards and have a different numbering system and usually something distinctive about them that makes them more valuable than normal cards) is a set of six embossed Klingon and Character cards. These are glossy cards that have a raised surface and foil lettering or accents and they stand out, front and back, as chase cards. There are three Klingon culture cards, written on the backs in both English and Klingon, that focus on the Klingon Empire, the d'h'tang knife, and a Klingon tactical display. The three characters that are given beautiful headshots that are embossed are Lt. Tasha Yar, Q, and The Traveler. These cards are approximately one in every twelve packs, so it took at least two boxes with ideal collation to assemble this set. These established the numbering system for these as cards SP1 - SP6.

The high level chase cards, the grails of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Season One set, were the two dual-image holograms! HG1 is Captain Jean-Luc Picard and HG2 is Lieutenant Commander Worf. These holograms have a three dimensional image and move one frame, so Picard makes a hand motion, as if to say "Make it so," and Data moves his head! By the time this set came out SkyBox seems to have gotten its act together and picked decent images to use for the holograms. As a result, these provide two good, clear, solid images each.

Finding them, though, can be a real pain! The stated odds for a hologram card were one hologram in every 180 packs (five boxes). This means with ideal collation, ten boxes would be needed to assemble a master set of cards that can be pulled from boxes. Experience with the Season One cards shows that the holograms were a bit harder to find than that and out of twenty boxes, one would be lucky to get three holograms. This is why the Season One holograms are still pretty solidly priced in the secondary market at $50 or more!

Non-Box/Pack Cards

In order to complete a true master set, collectors must hunt down a binder, the 3-card promo from Non-Sports Update, the QVC exclusive card and the two other promotional cards. The promotional cards, one of which has an image not from the first season, are fairly easy to find in the secondary market for approximately $5.00/ea. Even the promotional sheet from Non-Sports Update may be found fairly easily.

The QVC card was, as its name suggests, an exclusive from QVC. The image is perhaps the last known publicity shot from Star Trek: The Next Generation, in that it has the command crew together at the poker table where the last shots of the series were taken. All seven cast members are posing before the table and the card is limited to 10,000. Many of these were destroyed and this card might take a little to track down. Despite the fact that the image is clearly from the end of the series, many collectors consider this part of the Season One set because it came out at the same time and is in the same style as these cards. It's not much of a chase card, but it is harder to find.


Today, collectors tend to be a bit more savvy with their chase cards. With the advent of autograph cards and costume cards, things like holograms (and certainly simple embossed cards) seem passe. The set is wonderful for collectors who collect for the sheer joy of it as boxes may usually be found relatively inexpensively and yield at least one common card set and three bonus cards (at least).

I still have mine in my collection and I can't see getting rid of this (or the other six) sets, so ultimately, I'd say that it's an intriguing and enjoyable enough set that collectors and fans will want to make the effort to assemble a full set, who knows what the future holds as far as its value? For now, the value comes in that it is a great looking set with a wonderful subject matter and some intriguing collectible gems.

This set culls from source material found in Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 1 - reviewed here!

This set of trading cards is one that I sell in my online store!  Check out my current inventory of them by clicking here!

For other sets of Star Trek trading cards, please check out my reviews of:
25th Anniversary Series 1
Star Trek Episode Collection Season 1
Star Trek In Motion


For other trading card reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

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

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