Sunday, December 4, 2011

Overly Common And Unexciting, Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Five Trading Cards Flops.

The Good: Continues the sets well, Good images, Interesting chase cards
The Bad: Unremarkable chase cards, Dull, Overproduced
The Basics: At the time, one of the most technically advanced trading card sets, Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Season Five now seems dull and overly common.

As the years I have gone on, I have found that there is little that brings me back to merchandise that surrounded Star Trek: The Next Generation. I grew up watching the show and I loved it at the time, but now when I look back at it, I find how disappointed I am by its episodic nature and the very clean cut nature of almost the entire crew seems . . . stale. Don't get me wrong, I still love the show. But compared to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (reviewed here!), Star Trek: The Next Generation seems very obvious and strangely bland, especially with the recycling of plots from the original Star Trek.

To commemorate the fifth season, 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. Today, in an era of autograph and costume cards, the series seems more or less passe. Fortunately, it is one of the least expensive sets to come by and assemble.

Basics/Set Composition

The Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Season Five 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 118 cards, all but one of which may be found in the standard hobby release boxes. Boxes tended to be 48 pack boxes with eight cards per pack.

The full set of "Season Five" trading cards included: 108 common cards, 6 foil embossed cards, 2 holograms, 1 survey card and 1 cinema order card. All of the cards 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 Five" 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 sets, with 108 cards which include: 9 cards for the timeline mural, 78 cards chronicling the twenty-six episodes of the fifth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, 1 card detailing the main credits for season five, 2 checklist cards, 9 cards creating a tribute to Guinan, and 9 cards creating a tribute mural to Ensign Ro Laren. This common set is a beautiful work, despite some of the quality issues related to the principle photography from the fifth 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 fifth season over a mural of an Excelsior-class starship's blueprints, which acts as a title card. The back of the opening mural traces the timeline of the fifth season allowing a preview of the cards to come by reminding collectors of the significant events and episodes of the fifth season.

The set is a regular series of three cards per episode from the fifth 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 Five" 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 has a card that encapsulates the fourth season closing credits and the two checklist cards.

Capping off the set, there are two more 9-card murals, one of the bartender Guinan and one of Ensign Ro Laren. These are beautiful collections of cards that highlight the accomplishments and relationships of each character. Guinan's is a mural of Ten Forward's windows looking out at a nebula, with head shots of various appearances she had over the six years she was on the series superimposed. Ensign Ro Laren's is similar with the mural of Bajor's landscape! 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.

Chase Cards

As for the bonus cards, there are ten, all 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. As well, there is the cinema order card which is simply a card that allows fans to buy into the Cinema Collection 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 Great Hall, Lursa and B'Etor, and the Klingon homeworld. The three characters that are given beautiful headshots that are embossed are Dathon, Spock and Sela. 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 S25 - S30.

The high level chase cards, the grails of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Season Five set, were the two holograms! H9 is Guinan and H10 is Ensign Ro Laren. These holograms have a three dimensional image, but unlike the prior sets, there is no movement. 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 is real easy, too. With the increased number of cards per pack, the hologram frequency is seriously diluted. The stated odds for a hologram card were one hologram in every 180 packs (four boxes). This means with ideal collation, only eight boxes would be needed to assemble a master set of cards that can be pulled from boxes. Experience with the Season Five cards shows that the holograms were even more common than that, popping up about every three boxes. This is why the Season Five holograms have slipped in the secondary market to approximately $25/ea.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

There are no cards not in the boxes.


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 two common card sets and four 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? This set is overproduced and did not hold its value. Looking back at it, it is unexciting and hard to want to buy into. It was overproduced enough that it can be found easily. 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 5, reviewed here!

This is a set of cards I proudly sell in my online store! For my current inventory, be sure to 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
Season 3
Season 4


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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