Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Shaky Signatures, Shadowboxes, And Interesting Star Trek Cards: Star Trek Heroes & Villains Is Cool!

The Good: Interesting concept/decent execution, Some good chase cards
The Bad: Rarities on some of the autograph cards, Pointless autographs, One terrible chase set, Strangely low initial collector’s value!
The Basics: Rittenhouse Archives could conceivably go out on a high note for Original Star Trek with their new Star Trek Heroes & Villains trading cards.

I have been out of the Star Trek trading card market for about two years. Financial hardships and a collapse in the market has prevented me from investing enough to keep my business going. So, I stopped while I regrouped and rebuilt and now I am pleased to say that I am back! In fact, investing with my tax refund this year, I have just picked up the very new set of Original Star Trek trading cards: Star Trek Heroes & Villains. And it is (mostly) good.

In fact, if trading card manufacturer Rittenhouse Archives decided to make Star Trek Heroes & Villains their final Original Star Trek trading card set, it is hard to not say that the company would be going out on a high note with the product. I doubt they will, but collectors and fans – who have been inundated with original Star Trek trading cards for decades now and who might feel a bit milked dry on how the company stretches to make new Original Star Trek sets when there is plenty more to the franchise to mine – have a lot to enjoy about Star Trek Heroes & Villains, even if it does illustrate the fundamental continuing flaw in the original Star Trek card collecting, namely a tough time getting any new and interesting celebrities for autographs.

Basics/Set Composition

The Star Trek Heroes & Villains was the eighth release of original Star Trek trading cards from Rittenhouse Archives, not counting any of the "Legends Of Star Trek" sets. By comparison, Rittenhouse Archives has only produced three Star Trek: The Next Generation trading card sets (including Star Trek: Nemesis, but not the “Legends Of Star Trek” sets focused on the second crew. This is off considering the original Star Trek had less than half as many episodes as the Original. Properly assembled, the set is a collection of 278 trading cards and there is an official The Star Trek binder from Rittenhouse. All but eight of the cards are available in boxes of the Star Trek Heroes & Villains cards. The cards were originally released in boxes that contained twenty-four packs of five cards each. Boxes tended to run in the $60 - $75 range and guaranteed one common set and one autograph and one dual autograph per box.

Collation in the Star Trek set was good. To complete a true master set of the Star Trek cards, collectors had to purchase at least two cases of the cards, though there were incentive cards that were only released to dealers who bought six or more cases. As well, there were promotional cards that were not available in boxes or cases. This is one of those sets that took quite a bit of time, money and luck to make a true master set, though it was the new Extremely Limited autograph cards that were the toughest to find.

Common Cards

The common card set consists of 100 trading cards, which are printed on standard cardstock and have a glossy UV resistant coating. Rittenhouse Archives must have perfected their formula in the last few years because none of the cards in this set stuck together. With 100 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 a single card on it.

The one hundred card set focuses on the memorable characters from Star Trek. The common card set features blue cards featuring heroes of Star Trek and red cards that depict the adversaries from the series. The Star Trek Heroes & Villains common cards utilize 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 a single larger picture on the front and two smaller, different imaged on the back, collectors and fans are treated to a lot of pictures of each character. Each of the cards features information on each character as well. While there are no incredible character revelations on the cards, they are written well-enough to inform and entertain.

Collation on this set was excellent, so the common sets were exactly one per box, with only about three cards left over! The common sets do not hold that much value (common sets almost never hold their value these days). All of the common cards are landscape orientation with the “sensible” format, which means that they have opposite orientation for their backs, so when they are in the binder they may be read without having to turn the binder around.

Chase Cards

There are one hundred seventy-eight chase cards in the Star Trek set, with one hundred seventy found in the boxes of cards and the remaining eight available outside the boxes and packs. The bonus cards that can be found within the boxes were the Tribute, Kirk’s Epic Battles, Mirror Mirror, Star Trek Bridge Crew Shadowbox and two sets of autographs. Continuing in the unfortunate tradition, there was no checklists for this set. This is rather annoying and it is compounded by some of the cards having numbering issues. For example, in the standard autograph set, the cards start with number A202, then jumps to A236, A242, and then A249! The numbering of the autograph set is sporadic.

The most common bonus cards are almost not chase cards. Each of the common cards are replicated as rougher cardboard trading cards, which have a more retro look and feel to them. This is a somewhat pointless parallel set and certainly an underwhelming one. These cards are one in every three packs and are a pretty lousy bonus card.

The next most common bonus cards in this set were the Tribute cards. Continuing the faux-autograph cards that began two sets prior, the Tribute Set are 12 cards, profile orientation, which feature full-bleed images of actors, in-character, of performers from the third season of Star Trek who died. Most of them died prior to being able to sign autograph cards, though some simply did not live long enough to sign this style of autograph card or cards for this particular set. These cards were one in every six packs, so it took an average of three boxes to complete this set!

At one in every twelve packs were the Kirk’s Epic Battles cards. These foil-embossed cards featured an image of Captain Kirk in conflict with various adversaries, like Spock in “Amok Time,” the Gorn in “Arena” or his transporter duplicate in “The Enemy Within!” The backs have information on each conflict and how the fight was resolved. These are cool cards with very atypical images, enhancing their value to card collectors.

Then there are Mirror, Mirror cards which are double-thick. These are essentially identical to the Complete Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Alternate Reality cards (reviewed here!). Instead of a film clip, these nine cards which are found one in every box have a mirrorboard embedded in each one. The mirrorboard features the Mirror Universe incarnation of the relevant character and all the main cast, Marlena Moreau, and the Enterprise are given this treatment! Given the popularity of the Mirror Universe subplot, this makes for a great set.

Unique to this set are the Bridge Crew Shadowbox cards. These cards are five times as thick as normal cards in the Star Trek Heroes & Villains cards. These layered cards focus on each of the seven bridge crew characters and when they pop up, they are only one per pack! Found in every other box, these are incredible cards that cannot fit into one’s binder page.

This brings us to the autograph cards. The Star Trek set has thirty-three autograph cards available in the packs, divided into two sets. This is a decent number for a Star Trek trading card release, though by this point in Star Trek autographs, the fine folks at Rittenhouse Archives are plagued with repetition (signers who have signed trading cards for them before) or flat-out dull signers. The primary autograph set is the autographs which continues the style of autograph card (including the numbering) first released in SkyBox's Star Trek Episode Collection sets. Starting with card A202, these are full bleed (pictures that take up almost the entire front of the card) images with signers who did not sign this style of autograph card in the past. Notable signers include Maggie Thrett, Diana Muldaur, William Shatner, and Nichelle Nichols. The latter two were limited to two hundred or less of the card!

The other autograph set was seventeen dual autograph cards. Signers include a dual autograph of Grace Lee Whitney and Robert Walker Jr. on a single card, William Shatner’s daughter and the grail: William Shatner and Joan Collins on a single card. This set is cool in that it includes autographs from several people who died prior to this set of cards being released, like William Campbell and Charles Napier.

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 only eight cards that cannot be found in the boxes, which is nicer than in some sets. There is the usual promo card which foreshadowed the series release which is common enough to find (P1). There was a card exclusive to the Star Trek trading card binder - the binder promotional card (P3). 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).

The remaining cards are the two casetoppers and the multicase incentive cards. The casetoppers are two different plastic cards - only one per case – one of the heroes, one of the Star Trek villains.

Then there are the multicase incentive cards. Continuing the format of the hard-to-find autographed costume cards from the Star Trek 40th Anniversary (franchise) set, for every three cases, Rittenhouse Archives released an exclusive autographed costume card of Nichelle Nichols as Uhura.

For every six cases, fans could get a Silver Series Leonard Nimoy autograph, which is the only landscape-oriented autograph in the set.

Rittenhouse Archives also released a single Tribute Card as a Rittenhouse Rewards exclusive. The exclusive card of Roger C. Carmel as Harry Mudd is liable to quickly become a fan favorite, given the popularity of Harcort Fenton Mudd!


The set looks nice and the most serious problems is that it tries to fill in the gaps in prior autograph card sets and that the parallel set is decidedly uninspired. The shadowbox cards are incredible and well worth the price of hunting down the boxes!

This set culls images from all three seasons of Star Trek, reviewed here!

This is a set of trading cards I proudly sell in my online store. For my current inventory, please click here!

For other original Star Trek trading card sets reviewed by me, please check out:
Star Trek - Season 1 Episode Collection trading cards
Star Trek - Season 2 Episode Collection trading cards
Star Trek - Season 3 Episode Collection trading cards
35th Anniversary HoloFEX Holofoil cards
“Quotable” Star Trek
The Art And Images Of Star Trek
Star Trek 40th Anniversary Season 1
Star Trek 40th Anniversary Season 2
Star Trek (2009 movie) cards


For other trading and gaming card reviews, please visit my Card Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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