Wednesday, January 4, 2012

One Terrific, Lame Set Nearly Gutted My Interest In Card Collecting: The "Quotable" Star Trek: The Next Generation Trading Cards!

The Good: Some impressive autograph signers, Some great chase, Some memorable quotes.
The Bad: Ridiculous rarities, Some poorly assembled sets, Lame repeated signers, Unmemorable costume cards
The Basics: The “Quotable” Star Trek: The Next Generation trading card set is one of the hardest to find and by the box represents a terrible overall value.

Trading card collecting in the last few years has gone from being a fun little hobby to a cutthroat industry dominated by a weird proportion of rarity and value. As card collecting companies have attempted to satisfy the collectors, they have created sets that are more and more rare on the misguided notion that their collectibles must be near impossible to collect in order to have value and retain customers. Nowhere is this notion more misguided and deranged than in the Star Trek trading card collectible market. Rittenhouse Archives, which now holds the license to produce Star Trek cards has NEVER not sold out one of its Star Trek products. Want older boxes or cases of Star Trek cards Rittenhouse made? Too bad; you have to buy them from a dealer, the manufacturer has none left!

Rittenhouse, though, had no impetus to make things more rare. They always sold out of their product, they were meeting demand; they didn't need to make things more rare to keep selling out their product. Instead, though, Rittenhouse gutted some of their founding principles regarding rarity, created insanely difficult to collect incentive cards that require the purchase of multiple cases and the net result has been to lower the enthusiasm for collecting Star Trek cards. One of the worst sets in this regard was the “Quotable” Star Trek: The Next Generation set.

The “Quotable” Star Trek: The Next Generation follows in the tradition and general style of Rittenhouse Archives' previous and subsequent "Quotable" sets, The “Quotable” Star Trek (reviewed here!) and The “Quotable” Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (reviewed here!). As a result Rittenhouse created a set that takes some of the elements of the very successful "Quotable Star Trek and added new chase sets that were insanely difficult to collect.

Basics/Set Composition

The “Quotable” Star Trek: The Next Generation was only the second release of Star Trek: The Next Generation trading cards from Rittenhouse Archives. Properly assembled, the set is a collection of 202 trading cards and there is an official The “Quotable” Star Trek: The Next Generation binder from Rittenhouse. All but nine of the cards are available in boxes of The “Quotable” Star Trek: The Next Generation cards, making it one of the sets with enduring collectibility, at least from buying the boxes. The cards were originally released in boxes that contained forty packs of five cards each. Boxes tended to run in the $60 - $75 range and guaranteed one common set, one costume card and one autograph per box. More often than not, collectors came very close to two common card sets.

Collation in the The “Quotable” Star Trek: The Next Generation set was good. To complete a true master set of The “Quotable” Star Trek: The Next Generation cards, collectors had to purchase at least six cases of the cards, as there were two multi-case incentive cards. As well, there were promotional cards that were not available in boxes. In other words, there was quite a lot packed into these boxes of trading cards (the common set is only 110 of the 202 cards!) and a few cards that, rather annoyingly, could not even be found in cases.

Common Cards

The common card set consists of 110 trading cards, which are printed on standard cardstock and have a glossy UV resistant coating. This causes cards to stick together occasionally, but this is a moot issue as the vast majority of trading card collectors keep their cards in binders these days to protect and display their cards. With 110 cards, Rittenhouse Archives created an odd set that does not naturally fit into a binder, as binder pages hold nine cards each, leaving common card set collectors with a final page with only two cards on it.

The one hundred ten card set focuses on the memorable quotes from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The common card set has a definite bias toward the early seasons of the series. The portrait format is held through the entire common set and every card features an image of a character on the upper half of the card with a memorable quote from or pertaining to that character below. The “Quotable” Star Trek: The Next Generation set utilizes many images that are not the typical ones seen over and over again, making for a visually interesting set that features both the main cast and significant guest stars from the series. With different quotes on the front than on the back, collectors and fans are treated to two different quotes per card, netting 220 quotes for the 110 card set!

Cards are arranged thematically in this set, so - for example - the front of card #1 has Captain Picard's first lines and the back has his last lines of the series. Card 26 has from Worf and other Klingons about how the day is a good day to die.

Collation on this set was excellent, so the common sets averaged one and a half per box, which was good for collectors. The common sets do not hold that much value (common sets almost never hold their value these days).

Chase Cards

There are ninety-two chase cards in The “Quotable” Star Trek: The Next Generation set, with eighty-three found in the boxes of cards and the remaining nine available outside the boxes and packs. The bonus cards that can be found within the boxes were the Space The Final Frontier, "Quotable" Star Trek: The Next Generation comics, TV Guide Cover, Captain's Women, Costume cards, StarFleet's Finest, Sketch cards and three sets of autographs. For some baffling reason, there was no checklists for this set. This is rather annoying and it is compounded by some of the cards - most notably the autographs - not having numbers on them. Instead of a checklist card, though, there was a card advertising a new series of Star Trek: The Next Generation action figures being released.

The most common bonus cards in this set were the Space the Final Frontier cards. These cards a formed mural and the backs form a mural that has the opening monologue to Star Trek: The Next Generation on them. That said, the murals (there is one on the front and one on the back) are pretty impressive. Featuring the full cast of the show as well as several key recurring characters, the mural cards present a very intriguing collection of images that nails home what the series was truly about. These cards were found one in every five packs, so two boxes were needed just to complete one set! These are barely chase cards as they are essentially a different style of card like the common cards. Still, they look good and their rarity makes them chase.

Rittenhouse Archives improved upon the past series' release with the "Quotable" The Next Generation Comic Book cards. These cards feature frames from the first six DC comics The Next Generation comic books. They are formatted like the comic book cards from The “Quotable” Star Trek: The Next Generation set, which means they are an oversized card that opens up to reveal more text inside. This is a cool idea and a real innovation, but it never took off with the collectors and, unfortunately for dealers, they remain largely unwilling to pay more for them based on their rarity, though there were three of these per box. Still, these are not bad and the idea shows some real initiative on the part of Rittenhouse Archives.

At one per box were the TV Guide Cover cards. Continuing the tradition of the other "Quotable" sets, The “Quotable” Star Trek: The Next Generation featured a card of each of the TV Guide covers that had a Star Trek: The Next Generation theme. As well, these cards were foil cards, enhancing the natural images of these cool covers. These remain some of the most sought-after cards by collectors, because they have great images, are less bulky than TV Guides and make for something different to get autographed at conventions.

Also one per box, but limited to the International release cases, were Captain's Women foil cards. This set of nine featured women who Captain Picard was more or less involved with, like Kamala, Vash and Lwaxana Troi. They include a quote from each woman and these are generally nice cards. This was a concept that worked better with Captain Kirk as Picard was nowhere near as promiscuous, so a lot of the women on these foil cards were not characters he was exactly intimate with. This set made a lot of international buyers feel like they were getting the short end of the stick and it's hard not to agree with them.

At one per box were the Costume cards. For those unfamiliar with costume cards, please check my review of one here! . In this set, there are only nine costume cards, all of which may be found in boxes of The “Quotable” Star Trek: The Next Generation. All of the costume cards were portrait orientation with a fabric swatch from every main cast member from Star Trek: The Next Generation. This becomes the easiest way to get a piece of Picard, Riker, Troi, Data, Worf, Geordi, Dr. Crusher, Wesley or Tasha Yar's outfit. Unfortunately, they are all uniform costumes, so it is a very bland set with most of the fabric swatches being black. There were also colored fabric swatches that were slightly more rare than the black ones and some of the cards had swatches that had two colors of fabric and they were almost impossible to find. But basically, the fabric swatches in these cards tend to get lost (visually) on the surface of the card because the format does not accent the bland swatches well.

One per box there was a boxtopper of a gaming card from Decipher and a note that Saul Rubineck's autograph was not going to be in the set. One promo is of Sela, another of Picard and fans of the Second Edition Star Trek CCG tend to be happy to take these off the hands of trading card collectors who ended up with oodles of them.

This brings us to the autograph cards. The “Quotable” Star Trek: The Next Generation set has only twenty-five autograph cards available in the packs, divided into three sets. This is an especially small number for a Star Trek trading card release and given the number of truly wonderful stars to grace the series, this line-up is one of the most lackluster Rittenhouse has ever presented. As well, considering that there was only one autograph per box, it made it especially difficult to recoup one's investment in this set. Moreover, with only one autograph per box, one needed three CASES with ideal collation to pull a complete set and with the rarity of these autographs, it tended to take more than six cases! The primary autograph set is the Quotable autographs and continues the style started in The “Quotable” Star Trek set. Of course, these feature members of the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew and signers in this set were Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, Michael Dorn, and Marina Sirtis. Each of these autographs was limited to 300 or less, save Frakes, who each signed less than 500. This limited status made it very difficult to collect.

What was even more problematic was the second autograph set. In that set, there are thirteen autographs, four of which are Very Limited (300 or less cards signed), four are Limited (500 signed) and the remaining five are common. I salute Rittenhouse Archives for getting Famke Jansen to sign, but with only 300 autographs of her as Kamala, it's a tough sell. Moreover, everyone else, save the binder-exclusive Marta DuBois and Diana Muldaur and Carel Struycken had signed in other sets. In other words, this is a stiflingly unoriginal autograph set. As well, the autograph cards had small images with a large signing area that were somewhat annoying. This was not the best use of space. And while this set includes some clever cards, like Brent Spiner signing a Data as Sherlock Holmes card and a Patrick Stewart as Dixon Hill autograph, these are all from top-name signers who have signed before, making it a real collectible crapshoot. It's hard to keep shelling out hundreds of dollars for the same autograph based upon an inflated sense of demand.

Finally, there were the dual autographs, autographs signed by two celebrities on one landscape-oriented card. They included Frakes and Sirtis, Struycken and Barret, Dorn and Plakson and Sirtis and Barret. Given that these were each limited to 300 or less signed, the dual autographs were incredibly annoying to try to collect. This set, the combinations of signers were interesting; a Frakes/Sirtis dual autograph makes a lot of sense as Riker and Troi were lovers in the series. But the form of them is hardly exciting.

The penultimate level of chase cards found in the boxes were the StarFleet's Finest. These cards pop up approximately one in every four boxes. The StarFleet's Finest cards were one of the real pleasant surprises of The “Quotable” Star Trek set and this set simply mimics that. Rather decently, all nine cast members who were ever credited in the opening credits received a StarFleet's Finest card. They are thicker foil cards, each with an individual collector's number stamped on the back and that generally enhanced the value. The StarFleet's Finest has one large image along with a secondary, background image of each main character. This lent a strong element of consistency between the three "Quotable" sets.

The grail from the boxes, though, had to be one of seven different hand drawn sketch cards. Chris Bolson drew the U.S.S. Enterprise-D in various positions. They were regular enough so there were about two hundred of each angle or format that Bolson drew. Some of these - like the Enterprise with the saucer separating - were truly amazing. These sketch cards popped up one in every twelve boxes, demanding that collectors purchase seven cases just to get each of these cards. That type of chase card is just ridiculous in the rarity and it is more painful than fun to collect them as a result!

Non-Box/Pack Cards

As with most "modern" trading card releases - certainly the ones from Rittenhouse Archives - not all of the cards needed to make a true master set are available in the boxes of these trading cards. In this set, there are nine cards that cannot be found in the boxes. There is the usual promo card which foreshadowed the series release which is common enough to find (P1). There are two cards exclusive to the The “Quotable” Star Trek: The Next Generation trading card binder, the binder promotional card (BP) and an autograph of Marta DuBois as Ardra from "Devil's Due." It may be a lousy episode, but she makes for a decent enough premium card. The P2 card is a promotional card available only through Non-Sports Update Magazine and it might take a little work to track down (though the magazine offers back issues pretty readily).

There was one other promotional card, exclusive to conventions. That was the P3 promo card and while it was originally near-impossible to find, it has suddenly become quite available in the secondary market, allowing collectors to get them easy enough.

The remaining cards are the two casetoppers and the two multicase incentive cards. The casetoppers are sketch cards (only one per case!) that were drawn by artists Warren Martineck and Chris Bolson. In the U.S. cases, Bolson provided a sketch card of a Romulan Warbird. In the international cases, Martineck had a sketch card of the U.S.S. Enterprise facing off with a Borg cube. The Martineck is about twice as rare as the Bolson, but all of these are sketch cards that are each a hand drawn work of art!

The grails of the set are the multicase incentive cards. Trying to capitalize on the popularity of the TV Guide cover cards, Rittenhouse presented a card that was available only with the purchase of two cases, a Marina Sirtis autographed TV Guide Cover card. It is not a foil card and the card is basically a card of a TV Guide cover framed as if it were a celebrity with Sirtis's signature. This is one that is far more rare than valuable and that's disappointing for investors in the cards. We tend to like both value and rarity to go hand in hand.

The six-case incentive card was an dual-autograph of Brent Spiner and Patrick Stewart. Data and Picard had a great relationship in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Spiner and Stewart had great on-screen chemistry. This is a dual autograph that makes sense, looks all right and has great value as Stewart and Spiner - despite having two separate autograph cards each in this set - tend to be harder signers for the trading cards. This is a real incentive card and despite the annoyance of the rarities in this set, this is a good one overall.


The set looks nice, but when one looks into the overall value of this set, it is terrible. The near-impossibility of pulling - not some, but MOST - of the autograph cards in this set makes for an exceptionally low value out of the boxes.

This set culls images from all seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, reviewed here!

This is a set of trading cards I proudly sell in my online store. For the current available 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
Season 3
Season 4
Season 5
Season 6
Season 7


For other card reviews, please visit my Card Index Page!

© 2012, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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