Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Final Season Of Star Trek: Enterprise Yields A Pretty Wonderful Trading Card Set!

The Good: Excellent image quality, Good writing, Good chase
The Bad: Unnumbered autograph cards, Rarity issues
The Basics: With interesting signers and great costume cards, the Star Trek: Enterprise Season Four set is a great value and boxes yield much for collectors and fans to love!

Following on the shortened third season of Star Trek: Enterprise (reviewed here!), the fourth and final season of the show was eventually cut down to twenty-two episodes, despite having brought on Manny Coto and writers who loved the Star Trek franchise to try to save the series. They failed.

Rittenhouse Archives, who produces Star Trek trading cards and had a generally successful run with their Star Trek: Enterprise Season Three set (reviewed here!) benefited in many ways from the collapse of the series. Costumes became more prevalent, celebrities who participated in the series were willing to sign trading cards for their release and as a result, Rittenhouse Archives managed to take an uncertain season of television and make it into a pretty wonderful set of trading cards!

Basics/Set Composition

Continuing in common card numbering, but not the autograph or other chase (save, bizarrely the costume cards), Star Trek: Enterprise Season Four was the fifth release of Enterprise trading cards from Rittenhouse Archives. Properly assembled, the set is a collection of 148 trading cards and the official Season Four binder from Rittenhouse. All but ten of the cards are available in boxes of Star Trek: Enterprise Season Four cards, making it one of the sets with enduring collectibility. 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, two autographs and a costume card per box.

Collation in the "Season Four" set was generally good, save for some of the high end cards. Whatwith the number of episodes being less than some prior releases, often collectors could get three entire common sets out of a box! To complete a true master set of "Season Four" cards, collectors had to purchase at least six CASES of the cards and a binder, as there were two multi-case incentive cards and cards exclusive to the binder. Even then, there were exclusive cards that had to be hunted down elsewhere.

Common Cards

The common card set consists of 72 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. The seventy-two card set focuses exclusively on the episodes in the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise and there are three cards per episode, detailing the plot of each episode.

The common cards look wonderful, following in the same format that made Enterprise Season Two and Season Three trading cards popular. The landscape format is held through the entire common set and it is distinguished from the "Season Two" and "Season Three" set by having a green border framing the top and bottom of the front image and framing the text on the back. This set is a wonderful mix of character and special effects shots and the primary images on the front of each card tend to favor shots of characters and aliens over special effects shots (at least 2/3 people). This makes the set a good one for fans to get autographed at conventions. There are three images per card, with the front being dominated by a single image and the backs sandwiching two windows of images in next to the text. It's nice to see that Rittenhouse Archives sought to uses as many images as possible while maintaining image integrity and collectibility. The images on the back tend to have more special effects shots.

The format is one that was pioneered back when SkyBox was producing "Episode Collection" series' of Star Trek: The Next Generation trading cards. The cards are numbered 235 - 306, continuing the numbering begun with "Season One" (even though the style of card changed) The backs are well written, adequately detailing the plot of each episode over the course of the three trading cards. Indeed, the "Season Three" trading card set makes it seem like the show was worth watching, so well written are the cards!

Collation on this set was excellent, so the common sets averaged three per box, which was good for collectors, but generally devalued the common sets (common sets almost never hold their value these days).

Chase Cards

There are 76 chase cards in the "Season Three" set, with 66 found in the boxes of cards and the remaining ten available outside the boxes and packs. The bonus cards that can be found within the boxes were the In A Mirror Darkly cards, Genesis cards, Archer In Action cards, Costume cards and autograph cards. This is the first set of Star Trek: Enterprise cards to not have a "First Contact" chase set (it was a common thread through the three prior releases) and the costume cards do follow the numbering and style of the two prior costume cards (one each released in "Season Two" and "Season Three").

The most common bonus cards in this set were the In A Mirror Darkly cards. These cards are intriguing foil cards illustrating the alternate universe personas of the Enterprise crew. There were two of Archer and one of Forrest in order to bring the number up to a full set of nine. The cards had no writing on the back so those unfamiliar with the characters and actors were lost as to the significance of these people. These cards were slightly thicker than usual and were silver foil and look just great. This is one of only two groups of cards in this set that is oriented in the portrait orientation. Every now and then an inexpensive chase set dazzles and this is consistently a fan and collector favorite. As there were only four of these per box, it took at least three boxes to complete a set of them.

At two per box were the Genesis cards, simple cards with a large headshot of the subject on both sides. This is the "genesis" of the make-up effects and one side of each card has an image of a character or alien race as it appeared in the original Star Trek and then on the obverse how the race appeared in its Star Trek: Enterprise incarnation. This set is nice because it has a straightforward contrast between such favorites as the Klingons, Andorians, Tellarites and Gorn! Outside the subject matter and the rarity, these cards are fairly unremarkable bonus cards. The set of nine took five boxes to complete, with ideal collation.

In each box there was one Archer in Action card as well. The Archer In Action cards were double-thick foil cards with a raised border. The images contained Captain Jonathan Archer doing something heroic, like fighting the Andorian Shran in an honor battle. One wonders why Rittenhouse used a shot of Archer playing basketball as part of this set, but generally the idea is good. Honestly, when many of us heard there was going to be an "Archer In Action" subset to "Season Four," we thought it would be a group of lenticular cards, with actual movement. In this fashion, the Archer In Action subset is a disappointment. Even more of a disappointment is the fact that even with ideal collation, it takes nine boxes to complete this set!

Also one per box were the costume cards and herein lies the benefit of the downfall of Star Trek: Enterprise to the card collectors; "Season Four" was released with fourteen different costume cards (numbered C3 - C16). These represent some of the most intriguing costumes and characters from the series and fans will appreciate that there are three different costumes from T'Pol, alternate universe costumes for Archer and Mayweather (and T'Pol!), and that the supplemental characters who have costume cards in this set have some of the more interesting costumes. Especially noteworthy are the C10 and C8 cards. C8 is Silik, the Suliban's, costume and it is a pleather ridged fabric that is very intriguing. The C10 card is made from and even thicker rubbery fabric that has deep channels in many of the costume pieces! As a result, packs with the C10 were known to come with only one other card given how thick the costume fabric and resulting card were!

This brings us to the autograph cards. The Season Four set has twenty-five autograph cards available in the packs, in a style unique to the "Season Four" set. These are large images on each card, comprising about the upper 5/8 of each portrait-oriented card. The signers included such notables as Jolene Blalock, Linda Park, Jolene Blalock (all of whom were categorized as Very Limited, meaning they signed only 250 - 300 cards each) and Anthony Montgomery. Montgomery, Bill Cobbs, Vaughn Armstrong, Gary Graham and Steve Schirripa were all limited signers meaning they each signed less than 500 cards. The set is rounded out by some decent signers like guest stars Jeffrey Combs, Richard Riehle (whose signature is absolutely terrible! It could be an echocardiogram!), John Schuck and Kaj-Erik Eriksen, who played one of the Augments but is probably better known for his role in the first season of The 4400 (reviewed here!). Star Trek: Enterprise fans will no doubt appreciate the fact that four different actresses who played Orion Slave Women are included in the set as well.

The problem with the autographs was that they were especially uneven in terms of numbers (rarity) and the fact that they were not numbered. It is especially sloppy whenever a set is designed such that the cards cannot be numbered for ease of organization and collectibility. As a result, the twenty-five autographs remain unnumbered and it's up to each collector to decide how they would like to put the set together. But two of the autographs seem to come up with alarming frequency, the cards from Leslie Silva and the one from Eric Pieroint. In a case of twelve boxes, I pulled three of each of those two autographs! Given how it might take two to three cases before a collector pulls each of the Very Limited autographs, this seems rather unbalanced.

Also problematic to collectors is the fact that Linda Park was a Very Limited autograph. Signing only 250 - 300 of the card increases its inherent worth, but finding people willing to pay the hundreds of dollars that usually accompany Very Limited autographs is near impossible, so unpopular was her character.

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 ten 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 "Season Four" trading card binder, the binder promotional card (P3) and an autograph of Lee Arenberg, who played Gral on Star Trek: Enterprise but is known to genre fans best as Pinzetti in Pirates Of The Caribbean (reviewed here!)! 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). As well, there was a convention-exclusive promotional card and that might take some digging to track down.

Even more limited were the UK exclusive promotional card and the near-impossible to find promotional card given out at the San Diego ComicCon. These are only available now in the secondary market and they are largely unremarkable, save their value as promo cards.

The remaining three cards are the casetopper and the two multicase incentive cards. The casetopper is a dual-costume card featuring fabric from the shirt and pants worn by Brent Spiner as Arik Soong. This is actually a very nice card and the fabric swatches look just like the outfit in the picture that accompanies it!

For every two cases, dealers were given an autographed costume card of Linda Park as Hoshi Sato. The fabric swatches are unremarkable dark blue of her uniform jumpsuit and her autograph is just as legible as the one in the regular release. Again, Park's general lack of popularity does not make this a highly hunted card, meaning most people will be able to find it much cheaper than what it's worth in the secondary market these days!

The grail of the set, outside the Jolene Blalock autograph in the regular autograph release, is the 6-case multicase incentive autographed costume card. The card is an autograph and costume card of Jolene Blalock as T'Pol! It features a fabric swatch from her second season blue uniform and combined with her autograph and the card's rarity, it is the hardest card to find in the set and one that is highly desired by fans of the series and card collectors alike. It, like the casetopper and first-tier incentive cards, comes sealed in a toploader with the gold Rittenhouse Archives seal. This card was given to dealers every time they purchased six cases (72 boxes) of the product and they are only available in the secondary market. Given how hard it is to track down Jolene Blalock for conventions (she rarely does them) this is a keeper.


Overall, the set looks nice, and despite my problems with them not numbering the autograph cards, Rittenhouse Archives did a great job at getting signers who were interesting, many of whom have been in other projects! The only real annoyances involve the rarity of some of the out-of-the-box cards, like the 6-case incentive and the difficult-to-find promotional cards. But, it's a strong set for collectors and fans of Star Trek: Enterprise.

Like the series, Rittenhouse Archives ends the Star Trek: Enterprise trading card releases on a high note!

This set culls images from Star Trek: Enterprise Season Four, reviewed here!

This is a set of trading cards I proudly sell in my online store! Check it out at Star Trek: Enterprise Season Four Inventory Page!


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

© 2014, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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