Monday, December 5, 2011

Star Trek: The Next Generation Cards Strike Back With Episode Collection Six's Greater Collectibility!

The Good: Good images, Decent chase cards, New motion cards
The Bad: Serious collation issues, increased rarity confounds collectors.
The Basics: The Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection cards return to their former glory (and then some) despite some serious issues with rarity.

There is something alarming for collectors when the company that provides them with their favorite collectible begins to lose financial stability well before they are done with a series or a complete collection. This is exactly what happened for collectors of the Star Trek trading cards when Fleer/SkyBox began to restructure while producing the Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection trading cards. Each season was given its own series of trading cards and fans and collectors were delighted by the quality and originality of the cards . . .

. . . until it appeared that SkyBox might go bankrupt. When that happened, the season five set was rushed to market with no promotional card and nothing outside the boxes to hunt down. When the Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Six Episode Collection set was released, fans had little more to get excited about as SkyBox was still in dire financial straits, but they made an effort. The Season Six set marked the first lenticular cards being used as bonuses in the Episode Collection series and the rarity of Season Six cards did make them more collectible again. This was a nice change following the overproduced and almost worthless Season Five set.

So, to commemorate the sixth 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. Today, in an era of autograph and costume cards, the series seems a bit less sophisticated, though it does have consistency within the series.

Basics/Set Composition

The Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Season Six 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 24 pack boxes with eight cards per pack.

The full set of "Season Six" trading cards included: 108 common cards, 6 foil embossed cards, 2 holograms, and two lenticular motion cards. All of the cards could be found in boxes, save one. Eventually, there was also a binder produced privately to allow fans to complete their collection, but there was not one produced by Fleer/SkyBox at the time.

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 Six" 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 sixth 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 Chief Miles O'Brien, and 9 cards creating a tribute mural to the villainous Q. This common set is a beautiful work, despite some of the quality issues related to the principle photography from the sixth 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 sixth season over a mural of the Enterprise top-view schematic, which acts as a title card. The back of the opening mural traces the timeline of the sixth season allowing a preview of the cards to come by reminding collectors of the significant events and episodes of the sixth season.

The set is a regular series of three cards per episode from the sixth 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 Six" 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 sixth season closing credits and the two checklist cards.

Capping off the set, there are two more 9-card murals, one of the transporter chief Miles O'Brien and one of the recurring adversary Q. These are beautiful collections of cards that highlight the accomplishments and relationships of each character. O'Brien's is a mural of the transporter chamber, with head shots of various appearances he had over the years he was on the series superimposed. Q's is similar with the mural of space with a Q-net! 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.

Unfortunately, collation in the Season Six set was absolutely terrible. In a box of twenty-four packs, it was entirely possible to not end up with even one set, but end up with five copies of one common card. This was a very poorly collated set, such that even years after its release, many "by-the-pack" fans are still hunting down singles to complete their sets.

Chase Cards

As for the bonus cards, there are ten, 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 death howl, the painstick, and the Klingon cloaking device. The three characters that are given beautiful headshots that are embossed are Scotty, Alexander, and Lore. These cards are approximately one in every twelve packs, so it took at least three boxes with ideal collation to assemble this set. These continue the numbering system from the prior sets as S31 - S36.

Each hobby box had a boxtopper, which was identical in every box. The boxtopper was the SP2 card, which depicted the Runabout breaking the energy beam and causing an explosion in "Timescape." Unfortunately, while the shot in the episode is clever and very cool, on the trading card, it appears to try to cram too much information into too little space. It is blurry and somewhat lackluster. The idea is good, though.

The high level chase cards, the grails of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Collection Season Six set, were the two holograms! H11 is O'Brien and H12 is Q. These holograms have a three dimensional image as well as one frame of movement, restoring the standard originally set for these holograms. 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, is fairly difficult. With the decreased number of packs per box, 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, up to fourteen boxes would be needed to assemble a master set of cards that can be pulled from boxes. Experience with the Season Six cards shows that the holograms were even less common than that, popping up about every eight boxes. This is why the Season Six holograms have held strong in the secondary market at approximately $50/ea.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

There was a casetopper as well for this set and, like the box topper, it is a motion card. The SP1 was one per case and it depicts Amanda Rogers stopping a warp core breach. This card is much clearer, brighter and better uses the multiple frames of images needed to make an effective lenticular card. It is both intriguing and rare, which is pretty much the ideal for collectors.


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 decent for collectors who collect for the sheer joy of it, but many fans who have been collecting all along will feel sucker punched with Season Six, especially after how common Season Five was.

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 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 6, which is reviewed here!

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


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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