Friday, March 23, 2012

Decent Cards, Annoyingly Difficult Set: The Complete Star Trek Movies Cards From Rittenhouse Frustrate.

The Good: Creative idea, Interesting autograph signers, Decent chase cards
The Bad: Difficulty of assembling a master set
The Basics: In the long-term, The Complete Star Trek Movies trading cards may be a great investment, but it's a bear to collect and expensive for the quality of most of the cards.

Star Trek trading cards have some serious ups and downs and as a market, there are concepts that make those ups and downs harder to swallow sometimes. The ideal investment - in terms of trading cards - is one where there is a balance between collectibility and value, such that the breakdown of a box of trading cards nets the buyer with enough to collect or - barring that - a proportionate value to each of the cards in the box. Common card sets, in this eBay dominated marketplace, seldom hold their value any longer and as a result, collectors and investors look to the bonus cards for value to recoup the cost of a box of trading cards (usually in the $70 - $90 range for most current releases).

Then there are sets of Star Trek cards that are so hit or miss in their value and collectibility that they become so difficult and unpleasant to try to collect that it sucks both the fun and profitability out of assembling a master set. The Complete Star Trek Movies trading card set is one such collection of Star Trek trading cards. Vastly better than SkyBox's "Cinema Collection" disaster (reviewed here!), this set from Rittenhouse Archives seems strangely like a continuation of SkyBox's "Cinema 2000" trading card set and the original Star Trek episode collection series. The problem is, a box of these cards nets so little to the collector that it becomes more of a chore than a treat to make one of these sets up. Because of this, I honestly have no idea where my rating is falling; the cards are nice, when one gets them all together, but because the basic chase sets all require - with ideal collation - TEN BOXES to complete, for bonus cards that are surprisingly simple in a lot of ways and high end cards that require a minimum of six CASES to make a set, this is a real crapshoot. I suspect the more I write about this set, the further into "average" territory this set will sink.

Basics/Set Composition

The Complete Star Trek Movies was the first release of Star Trek trading cards focusing entirely on all of the cinema adventures of Star Trek from Rittenhouse Archives. Properly assembled, the set is a collection of 246 trading cards and there is an official The Complete Star Trek Movies binder from Rittenhouse. Ironically, the binder for this set was shortprinted and remains one of the more difficult components of the set to track down. All but eleven of the cards are available in boxes of The Complete Star Trek Movies cards, making it one of the sets that offers real challenges to collectors. The cards were originally released in boxes that contained twenty-four packs of five cards each. Boxes tended to run in the $65 - $85 range and guaranteed one common set, two costume cards and two autograph per box.

Collation in the The Complete Star Trek Movies set was remarkably good, at least as far as cards falling along the promised ratios. To complete a true master set of The Complete Star Trek Movies 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 or cases. In other words, there was quite a lot packed into these boxes of trading cards (the common set is only 90 of the 246 cards!) and a few cards that, rather annoyingly, could not even be found in cases. The challenge in The Complete Star Trek Movies is that the cards that make up even the most common sets fall in ratios that require that one buy ten boxes just to make a set of them. And, sadly, many of these sets are hardly worth the expense of such a hunt.

Common Cards

The common card set consists of 90 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. Each film in the Star Trek cinema collection is granted nine cards in the common set and Rittenhouse makes the order they want the cards to appear in the binder completely obvious: the backs of the common cards contain no writing; they simply form nine-card mural of the film's theatrical release poster! As a result, collectors get nine wonderful and generally uncommon images from each movie on the front and a little poster on the back when assembled properly.

The common cards look decent, with all of the cards oriented in a landscape format. The Complete Star Trek Movies 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 movies. There is a decent mix of cards featuring characters and special effects shots, making for a visually interesting common card set.

Collation on this set was excellent, so the common sets averaged one and a half per box, which was good for collectors. As a result, this set is actually less common than many other Star Trek sets. Even so, the common sets do not hold that much value (common sets almost never hold their value these days).

Chase Cards

There are one hundred fifty-six chase cards in The Complete Star Trek Movies set, with one hundred forty-five found in the boxes of cards and the remaining eleven available outside the boxes and packs. The bonus cards that can be found within the boxes were the Plot, Character Logs, Gold Plaque, Behind-the-Scenes, Profiles and Motion cards, plus Costume cards, and an ambitious set of autographs. For some baffling reason, there was no checklists for this set. This is rather annoying, though this is only a serious issue with the highest end chase cards because the common and primary chase sets are rather well-designed to more or less "spell out" exactly how many of the cards there are supposed to be.

Despite the differences in ratios of availability, ultimately the main six sets of chase cards all have the same level of difficulty in completing the various sets. As a result, the Plot, Character Logs, Gold Plaque, Behind-The-Scenes, Profiles and Motion cards all take ten boxes to complete a complete set of each. There are, however, three Plot, two Profiles and one each of the other bonus cards. This means that four of the chase sets have only one card from the set in each box! This is a ludicrous way to force collectors into purchasing multiple boxes and there is a weird feeling of collector extortion here in that the chase sets assemble ideally as a nine-card tribute to each film, much the way the Star Trek episode collection cards created a nine-card tribute to each episode in the classic, industry-changing SkyBox set. Just because there are three plot cards per movie and per box (cards which describe the plot of each Star Trek movie) does not mean they are more collectible than, say, the Motion cards because there are three times as many to collect.

Moreover, some of these cards in the main chase set are fairly pathetic excuses for bonus cards, especially at the rarity of one per box. The plot cards are essentially common cards augmented by a simple foil stripe on the front of the card. Similarly, the Character Logs (written as if from the perspective of one of the principle characters in the film), Behind-the-Scenes (providing information on an element of the creation of the movie), and Profiles (two cards per movie featuring a significant guest character from each film) cards are only bonus cards because of their rarity and numbering and a foil stripe. Otherwise, they are virtually identical on the front of each card to the common cards. The most distinctive trading cards in the 9-card mural sets are the gold plaques, which make for a wonderful centerpiece to each movie plaque and the motion cards. The lenticulars are well done in this set and feature images with several frames of movement from each movie, including such images as Data and the Borg Queen kissing in Star Trek: First Contact and Spock's good-bye from Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan.

At two per box were the Costume cards. These could have been the grail of The Complete Star Trek Movies, if only they had come from interesting costumes. For those unfamiliar with costume cards, please check my review of one here!. In this set, there are sixteen costume cards, all of which may be found in boxes of The Complete Star Trek Movies. Sadly, of these sixteen costume cards, eight of them are from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which had unique, but lame uniforms for the main cast. The only one of those that is even remotely intriguing is the Lt. Ilia costume card (whatwith Persis Khambatta being dead for so long, it is the closest trading card there is to an autograph for her character). I understand (somewhat) why Rittenhouse Archives went with costumes from The Motion Picture; the main uniforms for the other Original Series films (as evidenced by the McCoy costume card) are a pretty monolithic red color. Fortunately, Chekov's civilian outfit from Star Trek III: The Search For Spock and McCoy's camping outfit from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier are included for some diversity. The only Next Generation movie costumes included are one from Riker and one from Data. Each of the costume cards has a foil-stamped individual number on the back of the card. This is intriguing and illustrates that there are wildly different number of each costume card available with some being harder to find (limited to 701) and some much more common (1701 available).

Also at two per box are the autograph cards. The Complete Star Trek Movies set has a pretty impressive array of thirty-nine autograph cards available in the packs. The autographs (along with the casetoppers) are the only portrait-oriented cards in this set. Rittenhouse Archives managed to get a wide array of autograph signers for this set. They range from the downright obscure (A4 is Linda Fetters-Howard, who played the three-breasted Feline Dancer who jumps on Kirk in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier or A10 Michele Ameen Billy who appeared as a Lieutenant On Epsilon IX in Star Trek: The Motion Picture) to the highly sought after (A1 is Ricardo Montalban as Kahn and A14 is Christopher Lloyd as Kruge from Star Trek III: The Search For Spock). There are some big name signers in this set, from F. Murray Abraham (Ru'afo) to Stephen Collins (Decker) and Malcolm McDowell (Soran), but all of the highly sought after ones were limited (signer signed approximately 500 of the card) or very limited (signer signed 200 - 300 of the card). This level of difficulty becomes problematic when one considers that 10,000 boxes of the cards were produced and seven of the autographs were classified as Very Limited. Annoyingly for collectors, some of those signers that undersigned for this set are ones that ought not to have been so difficult to get, like Robert Picardo and Rene Auberjonois. That said, I opened twelve CASES and pulled nowhere near all of the Very Limited autographs needed to make even a single master set! This certainly sucks the fun out of collecting and leaves it very difficult for anyone to make a master set. Also annoying within the autograph set is the numbering. Cards are numbered up to A40 sensibly enough (though A20 is one of the incentive cards), then there is an A49 (Catherine Hicks) and an A50 (William Shatner, the 6-case incentive card). This is problematic lacking a checklist for the set.

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 eleven 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 Complete Star Trek Movies trading card binder, the binder promotional card (P3) and an autograph (A40) of Miguel Ferrer from Star Trek III: The Search For Spock! 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 were three other promotional cards, all exclusive to conventions. The first was a general convention release promo (CP1) and it seems to be fairly available in the secondary market. The other two promotional cards are much harder to find, as they were given out only at the FX Canadian convention and an Allentown card show. These tend to be a little pricier . . . when they can be found.

The remaining cards are the two casetoppers and the two multicase incentive cards. The casetoppers are two different movie poster cards (only one per case!) featuring the promotional release posters from the new Star Trek movie. They are individually numbered on the back with a foil-stamped number out of 500. These are particularly lame, especially because the second promo poster was simply a giant white sheet with the words Star Trek on it (and the now-incorrect date).

The grails of the set are the multicase incentive cards. Rittenhouse gave buyers a new autograph of George Takei as Sulu from . . . Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Why not Captain Sulu from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country? Who knows? Problematically, the ratio on these were changed from every two cases to every three, severely hampering dealers who count on this type of incentive card to recoup the investment in the cases. It, like the casetopper movie poster cards, comes sealed in a toploader with the gold Rittenhouse Archives seal. This card was given to dealers every time they purchased three cases (36 boxes) of the product and they are only available in the secondary market.

The six-case incentive card was an autograph of William Shatner from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. By this point in the Star Trek trading card collecting, William Shatner has been fairly well represented in the autographs. In other words, we don't need yet another signature by Shatner at the high price level like this!


Overall, the set looks nice, but the difficulty in collecting it makes it expensive in a way that is utterly un-fun and unprofitable to collect. I ultimately flipped a coin to "recommend" the set, because the final product in a binder looks amazing, but I could not bring myself to rate this higher than average. The few valuable cards do not in any way undo the difficulty in acquiring them, especially by the box.

This set culls images from the Star Trek films, reviewed here!

For other trading card collections based upon the Star Trek films, please check out my reviews of:
Star Trek: The Motion Picture Topps card Set
Star Trek Master Series
Star Trek 1994 Edition Master Series
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier Cinema Collection
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Cinema Collection
Star Trek: Generations
Star Trek: First Contact
Star Trek: Insurrection
Star Trek Cinema 2000
Star Trek Movies In Motion
Star Trek (2009 movie) cards

This is a set of trading cards I proudly sell in my online store. Be sure to check out my current inventory by clicking here!


For other trading card reviews, be sure to visit my Card Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the card reviews I have written!

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