Thursday, July 31, 2014

Rittenhouse Archives And Juan Ortiz Create A Surprise Success With Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints Trading Cards!

The Good: Surprisingly cool common set, Many of the sketches, Cool chase sets, Some of the autographs, Decent writing
The Bad: Insanely expensive to assemble, A number of terrible sketch cards, Blasé autograph signers
The Basics: Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints trading cards provide a surprising success for artist Juan Ortiz and Rittenhouse Archives.

The strength of an idea can often be judged by how the idea is followed-up upon or how it is executed. Almost a decade ago, Rittenhouse Archives released the Art & Images Of Star Trek trading cards (reviewed here!) and in that set, artists produced sketch cards of each of the first season episodes to Star Trek. At the time, I was wary of the set because outside those sketch cards, the set was very much a risk; art cards and concept cards for the autograph cards and chase sets had the potential to be a difficult sell to fans and collectors. My wariness was spot-on with how the market reacted to the set. Like the Star Trek art card sets produced by SkyBox, the Art & Images Of Star Trek cards produced by Rittenhouse largely collapsed in value. Even the SketchaFEX cards have not held the value in the price guides. So, it is not really a surprise that it has taken Rittenhouse Archives almost a decade to complete the SketchaFEX card set begun in the Art & Images Of Star Trek set. Rittenhouse blew out the final two seasons worth of individual art cards in the new Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints trading cards.

The Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints trading cards are based upon retro art poster prints made by artist Juan Ortiz over the past few years. The poster prints were created for the store at and when I first heard about the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints trading cards, it seemed to me like the set was just going to be an advertisement for the larger prints. The thing is, the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints are executed in a way that feels far less self-promotional than (objectively) the set may be. While the set has some inherent weaknesses (the autograph signers in this set are relegated to extreme background characters from Star Trek and a general subject matter – episodes of the original Star Trek - that have been done to death), the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints are actually pretty cool. Juan Ortiz’s artwork is awesome and some of the bonus cards are imaginative and well-executed.

Basics/Set Composition

Properly assembled, the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints trading card set consists of three hundred seventy-two trading cards: three hundred sixty-two available in the boxes and packs of cards and only ten found elsewhere. For a current series of cards, that there are only ten cards that cannot be found in the boxes is actually wonderful. With the excitement surrounding many of the basic chase sets, the boxes have the potential to retain their value . . . even with some of the erratic issues with those chase sets.

The concept behind Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints is that each episode of Star Trek (The Original Series) could have been promoted by a promotional poster. Artist Juan Ortiz produced full-sized one-sheet retro posters, which were miniaturized for the trading card set. One of the chase sets duplicated the artwork of Juan Ortiz, with his artwork promoting Star Trek The Animated Series. Rittenhouse followed a more traditional model with the bonus cards, which made for strong character-based bonus cards for the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints. The Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints trading cards were initially sold in boxes of twenty-four packs with five cards per pack.

Common Cards

With only eighty of the cards in the set being common cards, this is an exceptionally rich bonus card set for collectors. The eighty cards in the common set of Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints are very simple and straightforward: there is a single card per episode for each of the eighty episodes of the original Star Trek. There are no checklist cards with this trading card set, but unlike most Star Trek sets, “The Menagerie” gets two cards, one for each part. Despite fans of Star Trek and card collectors knowing the source material backward and forward, Rittenhouse Archives includes a plot synopsis of each episode on each card. The plot synopsis’s are well-written and this set is delightfully devoid of typos (which cannot be said of the latest Marvel comics set!). All of the cards in this set were oriented the same way, a portrait orientation that made it very easy to look through the cards when in one's binder. . . at least until the bonus cards.

This common set for Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints did an astonishingly good job of reinventing the wheel. Because there have been so many original Star Trek trading card series, there is virtually nothing left to mine as far as images go. Rittenhouse Archives has done an amazing job of finding new, obscure, images from Star Trek; continuing to plumb those depths is somewhat pointless. That makes the artwork in the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints pop. Juan Ortiz’s vision of how to represent each episode of the original Star Trek in a single art deco-style poster is fresh and different. Juan Ortiz has some creative ideas; “Spectre Of The Gun”’s poster has the Enterprise with pistols replacing the nacelles and the shadowy version of Ruk looming over the android Andrea for the “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” poster card stand out as distinctive representations of the episodes they were created for. I thought the concept of this set was wonky until I actually saw the trading cards in person! This is an actually wonderful set that stands out from all of the other Rittenhouse Archives Star Trek card sets.

Chase Cards

The bonus sets for the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints trading cards are split between being very much for collectors and others that are clearly designed by a broader Star Trek fan base. With two parallel sets, card collectors are bound to be thrilled. Fans of Star Trek are likely to be much more excited by the other bonus sets which focus on the characters and the episodes, as opposed to replicating the common set in new and imaginative ways. The Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints set has two hundred eighty-two bonus (insert) cards in the set, of which all but ten are found in the boxes and packs of cards. The bonus cards found in packs are broken down into the following sets: gold signature parallel cards (80 cards), Juan Ortiz autographed parallel cards (80 cards), Animated Series Poster cards (22 cards), Bridge Crew Abstracts (9), Bridge Crew Portraits, Bridge Crew Portrait Alternate Gold (7), SketchaFex (57), and Autographed cards (20).

The two parallel card sets replicate the common card set and were very much designed for trading card collectors. The first eighty card set is printed on thicker cardstock and features embossed gold signatures by Juan Ortiz printed on each card. The glossy backs are foil-stamped with an individual collector’s number. Each card is given a number from one to one hundred fifty, so there are only one hundred fifty complete gold signature parallel sets. The faux-signature set cards were found one per pack. This is a really cool parallel set because the gold signatures beautifully offset most of the artwork and the contrast is distinctive and cool.

Found one in every other box were the Juan Ortiz actual autograph cards. Each of the poster cards were replicated and then signed by Juan Ortiz in blue ink. The Juan Ortiz autograph cards were re-numbered and the backs have Juan Ortiz’s statement on what Star Trek means to him. This parallel set is an interesting one and, like the gold faux-signatures, the blue autographs have good contrast with most of the cream-colored artwork on the poster cards. This bonus set might have been a little more interesting if Juan Ortiz had commented on each episode and/or his process with making the posters, but the rarity and signatures make for a cool set. Theoretically, there are only seventy-five of each of the JOA cards, which makes for a serious investment by fans and collectors (I opened eighteen cases of twelve boxes and did not manage to pull all eighty of these cards!).

The original bonus cards unique to the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints appealed more to fans of Star Trek than to general trading card collectors. Two per box were the twenty-two Star Trek The Animated Series poster cards by Juan Ortiz. There are no parallel versions of the bright colored, glossy bonus cards that each feature a plot description of the episodes of the animated Star Trek, so this is the most natural expansion of the common card set.

The Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints has a conceptual set with the Bridge Crew Abstract cards. The nine Bridge Crew Abstract cards were featured one per box and are art deco versions of the nine main Star Trek characters (this set includes Rand and Nurse Chapel). This set is mediocre, but continues the theme of the portrait posters and a consistent sense of artwork. The nine art cards come together on the back as a single mural of Kirk and Spock in an action pose, which is consistent with the fronts of the cards, but is not truly incredible. That said, this easy-to-collect bonus card set looked good and fits the overall set of Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints well. The consumer response to this group of chase cards was lukewarm; it was arguably the least popular bonus card set, though it looked good.

Also at one per box, there was one of seven Bridge Crew Portrait cards. The Bridge Crew Portrait cards were foil cards featuring bust shots of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, Uhura, and Chekov. The backs have full-body shots of all of the main characters. These cards were beautiful and one has to imagine they look amazing autographed by fans.

The Gold Bridge Crew Portrait cards were the exact opposite of their more common bonus card; these two-per-case chase cards feature a full-body shot of the seven mail characters of Star Trek on their fronts over a gold background. The backs have the same bust shots that are featured on the front of the Bridge Crew Portraits and the backgrounds are gold as well, though not foil like the front. Each of these rarer bonus cards is foil stamped with a collector’s number out of 250 and, interestingly, the archive boxes that Rittenhouse Archives produced did not have matching numbers on the cards. This set is one of the rarer bonus card sets, but because they are common enough to be assembled with only four cases, it is not cost-prohibitive to assemble the way some of the other parallel sets are.

Arguably one of the key selling points of the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints are the fifty-seven SketchaFex cards. These hand-drawn sketch cards - each card is a pencil-drawn sketch and therefore, technically unique! - were commissioned with various artists doing a popular character or scene from an episode from the second and third seasons of Star Trek. So, for example, Sean Pence did depictions of Mara, a Vian, and Marta from “Day Of The Dove,” “The Empath” and “Whom Gods Destroy,” respectively. Steven Miller captured iconic images like Vaal from “The Apple,” Kirk as a Romulan from “The Enterprise Incident,” Elaan Of Troius, and Abraham Lincoln (somewhat surprising is that he did not do Yarnek) from “The Savage Curtain.” Rittenhouse Archives standards for the Star Trek sketch cards – Warren Martinek, Czop, and Dan Day each did several cards and they play to their strengths. Warren Martinek, for example, focuses on starships. Unfortunately, these sketch cards are highly variable in quality based upon the artist. For example, Chuck Zsolnai’s sketch for “All Our Yesterdays” is lazy and Brian Kong’s “Is There No Truth In Beauty?” sketch is just sloppy. Sadly, several of the sketch cards of the fifty SketchaFEX cards found in the packs (one per box) do not capture distinctive moments from the episodes they depict. “The Deadly Years”’s sketch by Dan Day is just the Enterprise cruising through space. Almost entirely exclusive to the archive boxes are seven variant sketch cards and they are generally cool, though there is little difference between the John Huan and John Czop sketches for “Plato’s Stepchildren.” After not completing these sketch sets in the Season Two and Season Three sets that Rittenhouse Archives produced, blowing all fifty (plus the seven variants) out in one set makes them feel a bit more common than they actually are. The Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints cards feature SketchaFEX cards one per box.

In most modern trading card sets, the autograph cards are what sell collectors. With the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints, Rittenhouse Archives is hoisted on its own petard. While the entire surviving bridge crew autographed cards for the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints set, the standard Star Trek autograph cards which continue the cards begun in Star Trek Season One have hit a rut. Yvonne Craig signed less than two hundred cards for the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints set (in eighteen cases of cards, I only pulled one of this autograph!) and the thirteen other autograph cards in the set were of background characters of an unfortunately obscure nature. Given that most of the signers for the set were red shirt Enterprise officers who were killed off in their respective episodes, the autograph cards in the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints cards were not at all strong enough to retain their value. Having made so many autograph cards and managing to track down every major living celebrity from Star Trek long before this set, they are left with an unfortunately underwhelming assemblage of signers for the majority of the twenty autographs in the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints set.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

As is customary from Rittenhouse Archives, there are a few cards not available in the boxes, no matter how many one buys. These range from the ultra-common P1 promotional card (easily available in the secondary market) to the two six-case incentive cards that dealers were given for buying in volume. There are three other promotional cards in the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints set: the P2, P3 album exclusive set, and the P4 convention-exclusive promo. The P2 Non-Sports Update promotional card and the Convention Exclusive promotional cards are harder to track down than the other two. The P2 is available easily enough by purchasing the current issue of the relevant Non-Sports Update magazine. The convention exclusive promotional card is a little harder to track down, now that the conventions at which they were distributed have ended, and they tend to be in the $10 range on the secondary market. The convention exclusive promo does not follow the same orientation as the rest of the promos and that is weird.

This set also had one of two casetoppers. The two casetoppers were foil-enhanced art cards of the Enterprise and a Romulan Bird Of Prey, each individually numbered to 400.

The real grail of the bonus cards was the incentive card for buying six cases of the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints trading cards. For that, every dealer was given a hand drawn, painted sketch card by either Charles Hall or the Glebe Brothers. Charles Hall painted starships (incredibly well) and the brothers Mick and Matt Glebe painted scenes and characters from “The Cage.” The Glebe Brothers paintings are the grails of the set, though Charles Hall did incredible work on his starships.

For every nine cases of Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints trading cards a dealer ordered, they were granted a DA32 Dual autograph, in this case featuring William Shatner as Mirror James T. Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Mirror Spock. Interestingly, this incentive card has not held value against the six-case incentive card.

Also not in the packs and boxes of trading cards is the Rittenhouse Rewards U10 card. Commissioned to continue the 9-card Bridge Crew Abstracts set, the U10 features Khan and was only available by sending wrappers to Rittenhouse Archives and redeeming them for the prize card. Khan is rendered in the same style as the other nine cards and features Khan on the front in the red outfit and on the back features him in the classic yellow outfit in which he went to dinner in.


The Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints set is an unlikely winner. While the set might be virtually impossible to collect, the set is worth collecting because the concept is executed remarkably well for the common and most of the bonus sets. Given that Juan Ortiz’s artwork posters have sold-out through Star Trek’s official website, these cards and the bonus cards represent the best chance most fans have to collect the intriguing artwork he produced.

This set culled images from Star Trek, which is reviewed here!

This is a set of cards which I sell in my online store.  Be sure to visit and shop from our extensive inventory of them at the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints Trading Card Inventory!

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
Star Trek In Motion
35th Anniversary HoloFEX Holofoil cards
Legends Of Captain James T. Kirk
Legends Of Spock
"Quotable" Star Trek
Legends Of Dr. Leonard McCoy
Legends Of Scotty, Sulu And Uhura
Legends Of Chekov, Chapel And Rand
Star Trek 40th Anniversary Season 1
Star Trek 40th Anniversary Season 2
Star Trek (2009 movie) cards
Star Trek Heroes & Villains


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

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