Monday, December 5, 2011

Digging Itself Out Of The Hole, SkyBox Ends Strong With Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Season Seven!

The Good: Good images, Decent chase cards, Autograph cards!
The Bad: Increased rarity confounds collectors, Final episode issue with common set.
The Basics: The Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection cards get even better for the final installment of the popular product!

Following the near-collapse of SkyBox, the non-sports trading card arm of the highly successful Fleer card company, collectors of the Star Trek line of trading cards were cautious and nervous about the direction of their favorite franchise in its cardboard incarnation. SkyBox bounced back with the erratic Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Six set, which foreshadowed some serious changes at SkyBox and made some (very few) collectors bolt from the market. But those who bore through the erratic time and were fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation were finally rewarded with a product that might well be the ultimate Star Trek: The Next Generation trading card set.

So, to commemorate the seventh and final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Fleer/SkyBox continued the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode collection set of trading cards. At the time, this was using cutting-edge video capture technology and the holograms seemed sophisticated. The Season Seven set overcame one of the limitations of the Episode Collection sets by adding autograph cards and a very rare Captain's Card which makes this set one of the most coveted, especially in today's trading card marketplace.

Despite the complaints of some, Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Seven is the series of trading cards that offers the most complete Star Trek: The Next Generation autograph collection as it includes all but one of the principle stars from the series signing. As well, it includes popular villain Q and the now-deceased Andreas Katsulas (Tomalak on Star Trek: The Next Generation) in the signers, increasing the value of the overall set. Indeed, the autographs go a long way to settling the restless minds of fans and investors who might otherwise be underwhelmed by the set.

Basics/Set Composition

The Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Season Seven 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 132 cards, all but one 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 Seven" trading cards included: 103 common cards, 6 foil embossed cards, 2 holograms, one promotional card, nineteen autograph and one individually numbered Captain's card. All of the cards could be found in boxes, save one. There was also a binder produced by SkyBox that corresponds with the others in the Episode Collection.

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 Seven" continued that tradition with incredible and rare images taken from digital video transfers, which allowed for high quality images that look great even today. As well, the autograph cards - each one embossed with the seal of SkyBox for authenticity - represented a new level of collectibility for fans and collectors alike.

Common Cards

The common card set follows in the tradition of the prior Episode Collection sets, with 103 cards which include: 9 cards for the timeline mural, 75 cards chronicling the twenty-five episodes of the seventh season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, 1 checklist cards, 9 cards creating a tribute to Captain Jean-Luc Picard, and 9 cards creating a tribute mural to the android Data. This common set has a few problems that might well annoy die-hard fans of the Episode Collection series.

The set opens with nine cards that form a "title page" when properly assembled in a binder. The front has various images from the seventh season over a mural of the Enterprise sealing the anti-time anomaly, which acts as a title card. The back of the opening mural traces the timeline of the seventh season allowing a preview of the cards to come by reminding collectors of the significant events and episodes of the seventh season.

The set is a regular series of three cards per episode from the seventh 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! Unfortunately, the double-length series finale "All Good Things . . ." is treated as any other episode and also receives only three cards in the set, which is unfortunate given how important the episode is.

In one of the more clever and collector friendly aspects of the set, the Episode Collection cards, "Season Seven" included altered card number locations 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 had a single checklist card. The Season Seven set neglects the two-checklists that have been traditional in the prior releases. As well, there is no card that encapsulates the seventh season closing credits. the checklist card is adequate, save that it lacks the autograph cards, which are possibly the most coveted cards in this set.

Capping off the set, there are two more 9-card murals, one of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and one of the Lieutenant Commander Data. These are beautiful collections of cards that highlight the accomplishments and relationships of each character. Picard's is a mural of the bridge, with head shots of various appearances he had over the years he was on the series superimposed. Data's is similar with the mural of Data's open head with the circuitry exposed! 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. The thing one has to ask, though, is why are Picard and Data getting another nine card mural each?! They opened the Episode Collections with the murals back in "Season One!" Given that they are the most popular characters and that a Tasha Yar/Enterprise-D set of murals would have been less popular, I suppose this makes sense.

On the flip side, collation in the Season Seven set was absolutely incredible. In a box of thirty-six packs, it was entirely probable to end up with three sets, and a few extra single cards. Packs tended to have runs of numbers in order, which made for very easy and regular collation of these cards!

Chase Cards

As for the bonus cards, there are twenty-nine, all but one of which were present in the boxes of these cards. 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 bloodwine, romance and opera. The three characters that are given beautiful headshots that are embossed are Lursa, Tomalak, and Hugh. 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 numbering system from the prior sets as S37 - S42. These are nice, but why Lursa was chosen without B'Etor will forever be a mystery to fans.

Previously, the highest level chase cards, the grails of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Season sets, were the two holograms. That tradition is continued in "Season Seven," though they are no longer the hardest cards to find. H13 is the entire crew and H14 is the Enterprise-D. These holograms have a three dimensional image and H13 has one frame of movement. The crew hologram transforms from the Season One cast shot into the Season Seven cast shot, a beautiful transformation that clearly illustrates the changes that occurred over the seven years. 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.

Above the one-per-five-box holograms are the one-per-box autograph cards. The Season Seven set featured autographs from all of the principle cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, save Michael Dorn. As well, popular recurring actors Patti Yasutake (Nurse Ogawa), John de Lancie (Q), Dwight Schultz (Barclay) and Jonathan Del Arco (Hugh) signed. There were nine other, fairly more common autograph signers, like Robin Curtis (Tallera), Gwynyth Walsh (B'Etor) and Barbara March (Lursa). In fact, the only one that seemed overproduced and unliked by fans and collectors was the Lee Arenberg (Daimon Bok) autograph. I wonder now with his success in the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies if it has gone up any . . .

The autograph cards are exactly what autograph cards should be: big headshots with ample space below for the signers to sign. As well, SkyBox embossed each card after it was signed as a seal of authenticity, making it extraordinarily easy to see if one has an authentic autograph card or a possible forgery when buying autograph cards individually instead of out of the boxes of cards.

The grail for this set, though, was the Captain's Card. Following in the tradition of the other three sets that included black plastic cards with the captain silk screened on it, "Season Seven" includes the Captain Picard #2 of 4 card. Each card is numbered to 1200 and they appeared in approximately every twenty boxes (one per case). This has easily held the market value of $100 or more for the past few years, rivaling even the Patrick Stewart autograph in this set for the most valuable card to be pulled.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

There was a promotional card as well for this set and it is a pretty simple card with the whole cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation on it. It is simple, obvious and easy to find in the secondary market. There is nothing special about it, save that it is needed to complete a true master set.


Wow, this is the Episode Collection set that fans have been waiting for. Trading card collectors are treated to a near-perfect set with these cards and the autographs and other chase cards make up for the lower level chase and problems in the common sets. This is a truly amazing trading card set worth collecting for anyone who loves Star Trek: The Next Generation.

This is one I am proud to still have 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? This set is underproduced and one of the few Episode Collection sets that increased in value.

This set culls from source material found in Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 7, which is reviewed here!

This is a set of trading cards I sell in my online store. For a current inventory, click here to see what I have available!

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
Season 3
Season 4
Season 5
Season 6


For other 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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