Friday, November 4, 2011

Unpopular Trek, Deeply Cool Trading Cards: The Complete Star Trek: The Animated Series Trading Cards!

The Good: Detailed, Interesting chase cards, Decent concept, Well-executed set, Collectibility
The Bad: Somewhat lame subject matter
The Basics: Rittenhouse Archives took a rather unpopular television series and proved there was money to be made from it with their amazingly detailed and quality-oriented The Complete Star Trek: The Animated Series trading cards!

Is it possible to create a great set of trading cards off mediocre or even poor source material? I would never have thought "yes" could be the answer until I came upon Rittenhouse Archives The Complete Star Trek: The Animated Series trading cards. This set, detailing with exceptional thoroughness, the most neglected Star Trek series, is a masterwork of images, writing and creating valuable chase cards. At the time, it was probably the biggest Star Trek risk that Rittenhouse had taken, but it paid off big as fans quickly bought up the boxes and illustrated to Paramount Pictures that there was a clear interest from fans for Star Trek: The Animated Series to be released on DVD.

For those unfamiliar with it, Star Trek: The Animated Series (reviewed here!) was a series of twenty-two half-hour episodes released in the early 1970s, which were designed to continue the adventures of the U.S.S. Enterprise on its five-year mission. Voiced by actors from the original Star Trek (save Walter Koenig) and written by original Star Trek writers, Star Trek: The Animated Series was often plagued by clunky, child-oriented dialogue and canon issues, but it was still Star Trek and fans wanted anything they could get from it. Rittenhouse Archives met that need with one of the most extensive, impressive trading card sets they ever produced!

Basics/Set Composition

It is hard not to say a set is truly massive when the cards not available in the boxes and packs exceed the number of cards in some (many!) master sets. But that is how it is with the extensive Star Trek: The Animated Series set from Rittenhouse Archives. Ironically, this is both one of the most collectible and least difficult to collect sets Rittenhouse Archives produced. Loaded with great autographs from main cast members, The Complete Star Trek: The Animated Series trading cards is a decent mix of quirky common and impressive value with some of the chase cards.

The Complete Star Trek: The Animated Series trading cards are comprised of 524 cards (though five of them aren't actually cards at all). Let's repeat that: FIVE HUNDRED TWENTY FOUR cards in the complete set! Those looking to complete a master set certainly have a lot to hunt down. But it is not all doom and gloom for collectors: 259 of the cards are not even available in the boxes or packs and they are traditionally sold in large blocks (see below under "Non-Box/Pack Cards"). And of the 265 cards that are available in the boxes, two hundred are part of the common set!

Properly assembled, a master set of The Complete Star Trek: The Animated Series trading cards is made up of two hundred common cards and three hundred twenty-four bonus cards, two hundred fifty-nine of which aren't even available in the packs! This card set was originally released in boxes of forty packs, with nine cards per pack.

Common Cards

Two hundred common cards for a series of Star Trek that actually offers the lowest amount of source material! How did Rittenhouse Archives do it? Well, they made this THE definitive (and thus only one that will ever be needed) set of Star Trek: The Animated Series cards. Each of the twenty-two episodes is given nine cards of treatment. Yes, in order to make this mammoth set, every episode had a full nine-card page in the binder.

The images on each card were diverse and were spread among the entire episode in question and each of the twenty-two episodes was given nine cards. The back of each of the nine cards spelled out in great detail the events of the episode. So, when placed in a binder, the front of each page told the visual story of the entire episode that was the focus of the page and the back spelled out exactly what happened with every twist and turn. The entire Star Trek: The Animated Series was essentially rewritten in trading card form.

One of the nice touches to the common set was that each episode, which naturally formed a nine-card page in the standard trading card binder sheet, was differentiated from each other episode by the color of the border of the card. As a result, every card for a particular episode had a border around the image, almost as if the trading card was a little television screen. The "screen" of the card contained an image from the episode, the "television" was a colored border. It added a great sense of unity and style that each episode had its own border color and as a result, each page in a binder is left feeling like it truly was a whole episode.

As for the images themselves, Rittenhouse Archives painstakingly cleaned up the images. Gone are the specks and dust from the original film and instead, each image is pristine and clear. As well, Rittenhouse Archives had them color corrected, so the colors are bright in a way that most people never actually saw the Star Trek: The Animated Series. It is impressive the time and care that went into the creation of each card.

Equally impressive is the writing on the back of each card. Every nine cards tells a complete story of an animated adventure from Star Trek and - lacking some of the canned dialogue and abysmal 1970's animation - Rittenhouse Archives makes the episodes sound intriguing enough to watch! As well, there are sidebars on each card that provide details about production, voices that James Doohan provided in the episode, etc. There is a lot of information packed into each card and this set appears to have been painstakingly proofread, making it one of the best written Star Trek trading card sets!

In addition to the 198 common cards focusing on the twenty-two episodes, there are two checklist cards.

Chase Cards

With three hundred twenty-four bonus cards, boxes would seem to be packed with value. However, two hundred fifty-nine of the cards are not even available in the boxes, no matter how many one opens! The sixty-five bonus cards available in the boxes include: James Doohan Tribute cards, Enterprise Bridge Crew, Captain Kirk In Motion, Micro-Cels, Autograph cards and boxtopper CD-ROMs!

The most common bonus set in The Complete Star Trek: The Animated Series card set is the James Doohan Tribute set. Like the common card set, these tended to be found one whole set in a box as there were nine cards in the set and there was one James Doohan Tribute card in every four packs. This set was a simple collection of images of each and every character, creature or machine James Doohan provided a voice for on the Star Trek: The Animated Series. This is a giant mural and the fronts are foil cards and that makes for a nice touch. The back has an image of James Doohan as Scotty as well and that is cool. It is impressive how much of the work one actor carried for the series!

At one in every eight packs are the Bridge Crew cards. Foil cards as well, this set of nine features the main bridge cast of the U.S.S. Enterprise for the Star Trek: The Animated Series. Gone is Chekov, but in his place there are cards of M'Ress and Lt. Arex. These cards, featuring the animated likenesses of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Sulu, Scotty, Uhura, and Chapel have a primary, colored image on the front with several thumbnail images that look more like sketches in the background. This is an intriguing set and one that has retained its value well.

At only two per box are the Kirk In Motion cards. These thin, lenticular cards were plastic cels that had images that moved, featuring Captain James T. Kirk's animated likeness flipping open his communicator or shooting his phaser or such. These looked good and generally used the movement about as well as the Star Trek: The Animated Series used it in the show!

Also at two per box were the grail of this set, the Micro-Cels. The Micro-Cels were very cool, original cards and there were twenty-two of them. One per episode, these double-thick cards had embedded in each one two frames from the film of Star Trek: The Animated Series! Detailed and every card technically unique, this was a real find and an amazing work of love from Rittenhouse Archives.

At only one per box were the autograph cards. There were eleven autograph cards found in the packs and they included all of the main cast (save George Takei, who was the binder exclusive) and some even got double treatment. James Doohan signed as both Scotty and Lt. Arex (Doohan's human likeness appears on the back of both trading cards) and Majel Barrett signed as both Nurse Chapel and Lt. M'Ress! As well, Dorothy Fontana, Director Hal Sutherland, and Producers Lou Scheimer and Norm Prescott signed cards from the behind-the-scenes staff! None of these autographs is impossible or stiflingly priced to find, and with at least two of the signers being dead now, boxes of the cards can have some real value in the autograph cards alone!

At the bottom of each box was the boxtopper and for this set, Rittenhouse Archives again did something quite different. Instead of a boxtopper trading card, there were one of five die-cut (shaped) CD-ROMs featuring the likeness of an Animated Star Trek persona. Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, Sulu and Spock each had one CD-ROM and while the faces on each one was different, the content was the same. Each disc includes an interview with D.C. Fontana talking about the series, wallpaper and a computer screensaver!

Non-Box/Pack Cards

With two-hundred fifty-nine insert cards not even found in boxes of The Complete Star Trek: The Animated Series, collectors might be instantly wary. However, these sets are remarkably easy to complete. First, two of the cards are available in the Rittenhouse Archives binder for the set, which is a good way to display and protect the cards anyway. Those are the P3 promotional card and the A3 George Takei autograph card. The binders are easily available still in the secondary market.

Also easy to acquire are the general distribution promotional card of the Animated U.S.S. Enterprise and the Non-Sports Update Magazine promotional card of the main crew beaming down. Neither of these ought to cost more than $5.00 when found.

A bit harder to find is the package of three "Enterprise In Motion" casetopper cards. Like the "Kirk In Motion" cards, this set of three cards was found one per case and features the Animated starship Enterprise moving across the screen and firing phasers. It is a beautiful set, but harder to find.

The other two hundred-fifty two cards seem like they would be intimidating to track down, but they are actually quite easy. Both were sold as exclusive additional sets. Dealers who bought cases were entitled to buy (and resell) foil sets of the Star Trek: The Animated Series cards. These were the exact same cards as the common set, save that they were reprinted as silver foil cards! This set, unlike the common set which sells for approximately $20, sells on average for $100 when it can be found!

As well, in the boxes, there were cards that were part of a giveaway of unique art cels from the Star Trek: The Animated Series. There were two seriacels (which are essentially prints of original artwork used to create the panels on the show) and fifty unique production cels (the ACTUAL cels used to create the animation for the television show!). Because these cards turned up about one per case for any of those type cards, Rittenhouse Archives did its best to appease the trading card collectors by reprinting the set of fifty-two cards as voided cards and selling them as a set. That was decent of them and those sets tend to sell for about $100 as well.


Boxes of The Complete Star Trek: The Animated Series trading cards are getting harder to find, but they are packed with surprising value. Rittenhouse Archives took a potentially shaky subject matter and made it into a surprisingly strong product by adding a lot that was impressive to the set and making it seem indispensable.

For other Star Trek card sets, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Series Premiere Trading Cards
Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Three
Legends Of Captain James T. Kirk


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

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

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