Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Season Two Trading Cards Are Mediocre At Best.

The Good: Establishes sets well, Good images, Interesting chase cards
The Bad: A few rarer promotional cards to be found, Unremarkable chase cards, Dull, Overproduced
The Basics: At the time, the most technically advanced trading card set, Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Season Two is dull and overly common.

Star Trek: The Next Generation was a huge hit when it was on and I was an avid fan of it, almost from the start. The series was smart and different from anything on television at the time it began. Many people do not recall that before the Star Trek franchise rebooted with Star Trek: The Next Generation, science fiction television was pretty much dead. Star Trek: The Next Generation arguably revitalized the interest and viability of science fiction on television. What few people forget is that the second season was shaky as a result of the writer's strike and just plain bad episodes.

As a result, collectibles from the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation are few and far between. One of the few that exist is the trading card set that continues the Episode Collection series of cards. This set follows on the heels of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Season One trading cards (reviewed here!).

Basics/Set Composition

The Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Season Two Trading Cards was a series of Star Trek trading cards that continued the incredible new standard in image transfers to the trading cards that was pioneered in "Episode Collection Season One." 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 Two" trading cards included: 96 common cards, 6 foil embossed cards, 2 holograms, 1 1994 survey card, 1 promotional card, and 92-card 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 Two" continued 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 follows in the tradition of the prior Episode Collection set, with 96 cards which include: 9 cards for the timeline mural, 9 cards creating a tribute to Counselor Deanna Troi, 9 cards creating a tribute mural to Commander William Riker, 66 cards chronicling the twenty-two episodes of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, 1 card detailing the main credits for season two and 2 checklist cards. This common set is a beautiful work, despite some of the quality issues related to the principle photography from the second 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 second season over a mural of the Enterprise going out into the universe that acts as a title card. The back of the opening mural traces the timeline of the second season allowing a preview of the cards to come by reminding collectors of the significant events and episodes of the second season.

Prior to the episodes portion, there are two more 9-card murals, one of Commander Deanna Troi, one of Commander William T. Riker. These are beautiful collections of cards that highlight the accomplishments and relationships of each character. Troi's is a beautiful, very colorful mural of a beachscape featuring head shots of various appearances he had over the seven years of the series. Commander Riker's is similar with the mural being planetscape with a close moon! 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.

After that, the set becomes a very regular series of three cards per episode from the second 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 Two" 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 episode portion, 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 nineteen, 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 a bonus card, the survey card comes 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 Pagh, a bat'leth, and the Klingon Age Of Ascension. The three characters that are given beautiful headshots that are embossed are Guinan, Doctor Pulaski, and Professor Moriarty. 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 S7 - S12. Strangely, the numbering system changed from SP to S.

The high level chase cards, the grails of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Season Two set, were the two dual-image holograms! HG3 is Counselor Deanna Troi and HG4 is Commander William T. Riker. These holograms have a three dimensional image and move one frame, so Troi and Riker both move their head in their three-dimensional images! 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 Two cards shows that the holograms were about that rare. This is why the Season Two holograms are still pretty solidly priced in the secondary market at $30 - $50.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

In order to complete a true master set, collectors must hunt down a binder, the promo from SkyBox (S1) and the nine two-card promo panels. The promotional card has a decent image from season two and is relatively easy to find in the secondary market for approximately $5.00/ea.

The nine card 2-card promos are much harder to find. Produced directly from SkyBox, these were sent to dealers and the truth is, they are almost impossible to find. Most were simply destroyed by dealers who didn't care and the images on them are simply two-card panels from the Riker and Troi murals. They do not have the UV-coating and they do not include any images that are not already in the common set. These are very hard to track down and many collectors do not even bother because they are so difficult 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 all right for collectors who collect for the sheer joy of it as boxes may usually be found 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? Unfortunately, the second season is the weakest and it's hard to get excited about this set unless one can find it inexpensively. Fortunately, it was overproduced enough that it can be. The only people this will appeal to are those collecting the entire Episode Collection series.

This set culls from source material found in Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 2, which is reviewed here!

For reviews of other Star Trek: The Next Generation trading cards, please check out my reviews at:
Star Trek 25th Anniversary Series 1
Star Trek 25th Anniversary Series 2
Star Trek: The Next Generation Inaugural Edition


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

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

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