Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Decent Season Of Star Trek: The Next Generation Makes For A Decent Card Release!

The Good: Continues prior sets well, Good images, Consistent chase cards
The Bad: Overproduced, Rarer chase to be found, Unremarkable chase cards
The Basics: While not the most technically advanced trading card set, Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Season Three had great images and was fun to collect.

It's always a pleasure when I get to write about one of the components of my hobby, which used to be collecting Star Trek trading cards. I've since abandoned that pursuit (subject for a subsequent review), but back in the day I could not get enough of the trading cards and I had them all. Every rare promotional card, every high level chase card, I'd track them down and spend my hard-earned money on them and I had a massive collection that was an envy to those who collected (but pretty much what was expected by dealers, which I eventually became). So now, as I weed through the fractured database which seems to have only one of the seven series of Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection cards, I find myself looking through the remnants of my collection and reminiscing.

The Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Season Three Trading Cards was a series of Star Trek trading cards that followed in the path of the prior two Episode Collection sets and focused exclusively on the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Properly assembled, the set has 122 cards, all but four of which may be found in the standard hobby release boxes. Boxes - though there was a variant box, details below - tended to be 36 pack boxes with eight cards per pack.

The full set of "Season Three" trading cards included: 108 common cards, 6 foil embossed cards, 2 holograms, 1 cinema collection advertisement card, 1 survey card, 1 P1 Oversized prototype and 3 K-Mart exclusive space battle oversized 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 Three" continued that tradition with incredible and rare images taken from digital video transfers, which allowed for high quality images that look great even today.

The common card set follows in the tradition of the prior Episode Collection sets, with 108 cards which include: 9 cards for the timeline mural, 9 cards focusing on Dr. Beverly Crusher, 9 cards focusing on Lt. Commander Worf, 78 cards chronicling the twenty-six episodes of the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, 1 card detailing the main credits for season three and 2 checklist cards. This common set is a beautiful work as the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation was one of its most popular outings.

The set opens with nine cards that form a "title page" when properly assembled in a binder. The front has various images from the third season over a mural of a forward view of the U.S.S. Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) and a card in the center that acts as a title card. The back of the opening mural traces the timeline of the third season allowing a preview of the cards to come by reminding collectors of the significant events and episodes of the third season. This 9-card mural is followed by two more 9-card murals, one of Worf, one of Dr. Beverly Crusher. These are beautiful collections of cards that highlight the accomplishments and relationships of each character. Worf's is a bold green mural of a Klingon symbol featuring various appearances he had over the seven years of the series. Dr. Crusher's is similar with the mural being a medical read-out! 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 third 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 Three" 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, the common card set is capped off with a card that encapsulates the third season closing credits and the two checklist cards. Because this set is following the Seasons 1 and 2 sets, the numbering is continued from the prior set. As a result, the Season Three set contains card numbers 205 - 312. The bonus cards also continue the numbering systems from the prior sets.

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, the survey card and cinema collection advertisement card come up at least one per box, making them a cheap staple to the set - some dealers even include them 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 family, disruptor rifle and K'Tinga-Class Battlecruiser. The three characters that are given beautiful headshots that are embossed are Locutus, Lal and K'Ehleyr. Why K'Ehleyr, I'm not sure; she was not in the third season, but she's a great character so it's hard not to just be happy she was included and got bonus card treatment! These cards are approximately one in every twelve packs, so it took at least two boxes with ideal collation to assemble this set. These continue the previous numbering system as cards S13 - S18.

The high level chase cards, the grails of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Season Three set, were the two dual-image holograms! HG5 is Dr. Crusher and HG6 is Lieutenant Worf. These holograms have a three dimensional image and move one frame, so Dr. Crusher turns her head and Worf flips his batleth! 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 Three 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 Three holograms are still pretty solidly priced in the secondary market at $50 or more!

In order to complete a true master set, collectors must hunt down a binder, the 9-card promo sheet and the three K-Mart exclusive double-sized space battles cards. K-Mart, about a year after this set was released, repackaged the cards with larger packs (15 cards each, if I recall correctly) and at the bottom of the box was placed a giant card that had a special effects shot on it. There were three cards, numbered 1 of 3, 2 of 3 and 3 of 3, and these are twice the size of normal trading cards (making them a bear to store, ship and/or keep from damage!) and they are essentially oversized reprints of common cards 307, 261, and 249 (yes, for some reason they went backwards!) with the alternate numbering. The plot synopsis and images on each card are identical. These are hard to track down these days, yet somehow the market never went above $10/ea. on these rarities. Perhaps they were unpopular.

Unfortunately, with the re-release of the cards, all of the regular in-box cards became readily available and the embossed cards barely hold their $5.00/ea. value these days. The common sets are one of the two most common Episode Collection common sets on the market and while fans might enjoy that, collectors tend not to rush to buy the set because someone will always have it available. As well, this lowered the investment value of this set.

Moreover, collectors today 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 boxed may usually be found relatively inexpensively and yield at least one common card set and three bonus cards (at least). But it's a razor decision because of the overproduction and the lack of enduring value.

I still have mine in my collection and I can't see getting rid of this (or the other six) set, 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 3, reviewed here!

This set of trading cards is one that I proudly sell in my online store! For my current inventory, please click here!

For other Star Trek The Next Generation trading cards, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Star Trek 25th Anniversary Series 1
Star Trek 25th Anniversary Series 2
Star Trek The Next Generation Inaugural Edition
Season 1
Season 2


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

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

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