Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Solid Trading Card Set Marks Star Trek: Voyager's Debut With "Season 1 Series 1!"

The Good: Excellent images, Decent text on cards, Nice chase cards, Generally easy to find/assemble
The Bad: Not terribly impressive, Mail-away chase cards are unexciting, Set did not maintain value
The Basics: With Star Trek: Voyager Season 1 Series 1 trading cards, fans are able to find a decent-looking set that is easy to collect, even if it didn't appreciate in value.

For the time that SkyBox, the non-sports card division of Fleer Trading Cards, had the Star Trek trading card license, they quickly learned how to incorporate more and more value into their trading cards. As a result, they tended to learn from their mistakes and adapt. When Star Trek: Deep Space Nine debuted, they released a boxed set of trading cards chronicling the pilot. It was a beautiful little set but because collectors did not have to chase anything down or open packs, the set bombed in the retail and hobby markets. Learning from that mistake, when Star Trek: Voyager premiered, they released Star Trek: Voyager Season One Series One trading cards as a standard release. And it worked out well for SkyBox and collectors.

Unlike the earliest SkyBox Star Trek releases, this set was not overproduced, so finding one of the unopened boxes can be a real treat for collectors. Unfortunately for those same collectors, there is nothing earthshattering in the make up of this set and not everything from it was available in the boxes themselves. That might frustrate some collectors, though many will find value (and headaches) in tracking down the last few cards from the set in the secondary market!

The Star Trek: Voyager Season 1 Series 1 trading card set consists of one hundred common cards, 15 chase cards available in the packs and five bonus cards that were available only through mail-away promotions and are no longer available directly from SkyBox. Like the manufacturer-produced binder the final five cards are not available in the boxes of trading cards. For those not hip to the lingo, "chase" cards are bonus cards inserted into random packs that fall outside the regular numbering system. Usually, there is some special (and usually more-expensive-to-produce) quality to them which is why they were made rare in the first place. The Star Trek: Voyager Season 1 Series 1 set was released at a time when chase cards were not especially interesting, though the highlight of this set was a hologram with an image that moved on it!

A box of Star Trek: Voyager Season 1 Series 1 trading cards consists of thirty-six packs of cards, with eight cards per pack. A box of cards ought to contain at least one complete set of common cards and while it is possible by the numbers to assemble second set, usually the collation of the cards was not that precise. In addition to a common set, each box ought to contain three of the "Spectra" chase cards and two of the Ship Blueprint mail-away offer foil cards. One in every six boxes contained a redemption card for the SkyMotion card and one out of six boxes contained a motion hologram of the Emergency Medical Hologram, The Doctor!

The common card set consisted of ninety-eight cards, plus a title card (T1) and a preview card (P1). The T1 and P1 cards were inserted with such regularity and frequency that they are considered by most collectors to be a part of the common card set. The common card set, then, has 100 cards and one of the nice things is, this set is a very sensibly oriented set! All 100 cards and all of the chase cards are oriented in a landscape orientation. This is especially nice for those who put the cards in a binder as everything is oriented the same direction, making it very easy to see all of the images in a consecutive order and read the backs of the cards in order as well.

The 100 card set focuses on the very first episode of Star Trek: Voyager. It's all "Caretaker," all the time! This set provided some of the first images of the series and contains some of the most unique images from both the series and the pilot episode ever assembled. This is not the typical set in that it is very esoteric, focusing quite precisely on the one episode and exploring it with a depth that most trading card series do not do. In fact, outside sets that are focused on individual films, I do not recall any sets that put this much emphasis on a single episode of a franchise!

The 100 card common set is broken down as follows: T1 - the title card, 1 - 72 "Caretaker" plot cards detailing the entire story in depth of the pilot episode, 73 - 81 U.S.S. Voyager mural card a beautiful nine card mural that depicts Voyager coming over the rings of a planet from the opening credits to the show, 82 - 87 Behind-the-Scenes cards, 88 - 96 Technology cards, 97-98 Checklist cards, and P1 a preview card for the forthcoming "Star Trek: Voyager Season One Series Two" trading card set!

As previously stated, this is a nice looking set featuring images from the first episode of Star Trek: Voyager and it is bound to thrill any fan of that series. The images are full bleed which is especially nice for collectors and fans who like to get trading cards autographed. This means that there are no borders on the front of the card and the image is large. This set is characterized by a fairly bright color palate and the captures for the card images are largely clear and well centered. The back of each card is fairly written with the entire story of "Caretaker" being detailed scene by scene to correspond with the image on the front of the card. The technology cards and behind-the-scenes cards are interesting and written fine as well.

The bonus cards to this set include a nine-card Spectra card chase set, three blueprint offer cards, a SkyMotion redemption card, and the EMH hologram card. While not strictly speaking a chase card, this set also included a survey card. The Spectra cards are nice, etched foil cards with a blue background and each of the nine cards has one of the main crewmembers from Voyager on the front and a character biography on the back. The blueprint offer cards have a silver foil front depicting a part of the ship and the back has information on how to order the actual blueprint cards. The SkyMotion Redemption Card features the U.S.S. Voyager and the words "SkyMotion Redemption" on the front in big letters so it is easy to recognize. The back of that card has information on how to redeem the card for the actual SkyMotion card. It is worth noting that neither the blueprint offer cards nor the SkyMotion Redemption Cards represent any offers for cards that are still valid. SkyBox lost the Star Trek license almost a decade ago and they do not honor the old redemption cards any longer.

The true prize of this set is the one per six boxes EMH hologram card. The front of the card has a hologram that actually contains several frames of images. As a result, as one turns the hologram in normal light the image in the hologram actually animates! The image is of Voyager's holographic Doctor, which is very appropriate. When one moves the hologram, the Doctor opens his eyes and waves the scanner wand and arches his eyebrow. It's a nice effect, but hardly flawless. Because the arm movement is so extreme, it's impossible to catch the hologram with only one frame at a time. As a result, the arm waving the medical scanner is pretty much always a blurred amalgam of the frames featuring the arm movement. The back of the card is rather lame, simply a series of SkyBox logos and copyright information.

In addition to the cards available in the boxes, there are several cards that were not available in the boxes. They included the three blueprint cards, which had to be ordered directly from SkyBox. These were very rare cards that unfolded to have blueprint representations of key rooms in the U.S.S. Voyager as well as one of the starship itself. There was the regular trading card-sized SkyMotion card, a thick plastic card featuring the U.S.S. Voyager going to warp. These cards were only available from SkyBox with the mail-in Redemption card. As well, SkyBox offered an oversized SkyMotion card that was at least twice as big as the standard one and had the same image. The jumbo SkyMotion card was something that could be bought directly from SkyBox at the time (again, that offer has long since expired!).

For the true completist, there are four promotional cards, two of which are actually oversized promo card sheets and are rather hard to find. The other two promotional cards, given out in the magazines Non-Sports Update and - the near impossible to find - Cards Illustrated Magazine finish the set.

The cards that retained the greatest value in this set are the ones that were direct mail-aways from SkyBox, largely because at the time many collectors did not seem that excited about them. As a result, completist collectors and a few foresighted dealers bought them up and they command a decent price to this day. As well, the C1 promotional card retained quite a bit of value.

But out of a box of these cards, the best one may hope for is the EMH hologram card. While the market fluctuates, these cards have sold consistently for $30 - $50 for the past seven years to ten years. The set, as available in the boxes (the 100 cards + 15 chase cards) represents a decent and eminently collectible set. With six boxes one is virtually guaranteed to pick up a full set.

This set might sell best to fans of Star Trek: Voyager and those who want a simple, affordable Star Trek card collection. Indeed, if one were to use the checklist as the guide, the complete set of cards (all of which are in the boxes) represents a very attractive, colorful set.

But by today's standards, the savvy card collector is likely to find this set quaint and somewhat simple. It is inexpensive to assemble - boxes sell regularly for $15 - $40 in the market - and the value of the sets tends to reflect that low cost. Despite not having a lot to offer collectors in today's more extreme chase oriented marketplace, this set was fun to collect and it is worth recommending to any collector who wants to have fun assembling a set of trading cards that looks good!

This set uses material solely from the Star Trek: Voyager pilot episode "Caretaker," reviewed here!

For other Star Trek franchise card sets, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Star Trek Season One trading cards
Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 1 Episode Collection trading cards
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Series Premiere trading card set


For other card reviews, please be sure to check out my Card Index Page for an organized listing of all my card reviews!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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