Sunday, August 24, 2014

Almost Perfect, Star Trek: 40th Anniversary Trading Cards Are Fun And Diverse

The Good: Great concept, Decent images, Good overall value, Decent chase
The Bad: Problematic high end chase cards.
The Basics: The Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards are wonderful, with a few odd exceptions that once again force collectors to buy obscene amounts to finish the set.

For the fortieth anniversary of Star Trek there was a strange balance of fanfare and absence. The franchise was dying a little bit more, whatwith the failure of Star Trek: Enterprise (finally!), no movies in the pike and the novel line having hit a critical mass a few years before and virtually imploded. As the books and toy markets for Star Trek slowly rebuilt with more of an emphasis on quality than quantity, Rittenhouse Archives surged ahead in the trading card market with some truly ambitious trading card sets. To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Star Trek, Rittenhouse Archives released Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards. There was no series 2.

The Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading card set is a massive celebration of the Star Trek franchise. The set includes materials from all five television series' as well as the Star Trek films. It is important to note, as well, that after Rittenhouse Archives released Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards, they released Star Trek: The Original Series 40th Anniversary Series 1 cards (reviewed here!). They are two completely different sets; those three words make all of the difference.

Basics/Set Composition

As the name, Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 suggests, these trading cards were a celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the Star Trek franchise. Not limited to just the original Star Trek, this was a rich collection of Star Trek cards that featured images, autographs, and costume materials from all five television series as well as the Star Trek film franchise. These trading cards were sold in cases in North America as well as Europe and there were some minor differences in chase cards packaged into the foreign vs. domestic releases.

All in all, Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards were an impressive celebration of the Star Trek franchise. Packed with bonus cards that ranged from costume cards to lenticular (motion) cards to the grails - five autographed costume cards, Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 is an ambitious outing from Rittenhouse Archives and, while not flawless, remains one of their best sets to date. The Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading card set, when properly assembled, includes two hundred twenty-nine (actually, thirty-one) cards, of which twelve are not available in any of the boxes! This was a hard set to complete, but one which the years will no doubt bear out as one of the series' most worth the effort to assemble.

The Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards were released in packs of five cards. There were, appropriately, forty packs per box in both the domestic and international releases.

Common Cards

Out of the two hundred twenty-nine (or thirty-one) cards in the Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading card set, ninety are considered common. The common set actually focuses on the captains of each of the Star Trek series. As a result, there are ninety cards broken down quite simply between each of the five television shows, with eighteen cards each featuring Captain James T. Kirk, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Captain Benjamin Sisko, Captain Kathryn Janeway and Captain Jonathan Archer. All of the cards are in landscape orientation and are printed in bright colors. This set has great color contrast on most of the cards, making for vivid, exciting common cards. All of the cards feature the usual UV resistant coating to prevent fading and this set seems like one that, were it lacking such a coating, fading would be evident in years in unfortunate ways. Fortunately, there is no such fading here.

Each card focuses on the heroic actions of the appropriate captain in one of the episodes of the appropriate series; there are no images in the common card set from any of the films. So, for example, card 28 features Captain Jean-Luc Picard as he appeared in the episode "The Inner Light." Rittenhouse Archives did an amazing job of collecting images from the most popular or relevant episodes of each series. There are few duds in the common set. This is not to say that the set is devoid of them; there are some. Card 39, for example, is from the terribly unpopular episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine "Second Sight." Even with such a dud - including one of the less relevant episodes to focus on the captain (or Commander) in - Rittenhouse Archives manages to do something decent; they provide an image of Fenna, one of the obscure characters who does not appear on photographs, cards, t-shirts or action figures anywhere else to my knowledge. The common card set gives a well-rounded visual interpretation of each captain's tenure on their relevant ship or station.

In addition to the ninety cards that feature bright, often obscure images of the five Star Trek captains, the Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 set is fairly well written. The back of each card features a blurb on the relevant captain and episode. So, for example, card 70, which focuses on the episode "Fair Haven" and shows Janeway and Sullivan on the front, makes a point of mentioning who Sullivan is on the back so the front is clear. The backs paint a pretty thorough picture of each captain and their adventures. There is one common set guaranteed per box and the breakdown per pack and box was remarkably regular usually netting collectors one and a half sets per box.

Chase Cards

These days, though, the common cards are almost incidental in a trading card set and to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Star Trek, Rittenhouse Archives loaded the set up with all sorts of bonus cards from the common and inexpensive to the downright annoying to chase down. Fortunately, in boxes of the trading cards, the one hundred twenty-nine bonus cards that can be found in boxes are fairly regular and the set is one of the more attainable sets to collect. Still, for the cards in the boxes it is likely to take collectors two and a half cases to complete a set of cards! The Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards was packed with bonus cards that included the checklist, ArtiFex, TV Guide Cover, First Officer, Villains ArtiFex, Costume, lenticular, boxtoppers and autographed costume cards. The boxes of these cards are packed with value from the sheer number of bonus cards in them!

The first chase card, more on a technicality than anything else, is the checklist for this card series. The checklist is a simple black card found one per box and by stating the odds as one per box, Rittenhouse Archives manages to sidestep the checklist as being included in the common set for purposes of their guarantee – Rittenhouse Archives rather coolly guarantees a common card set and two costume cards in each box of Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards!

The first real set of bonus cards is the ArtiFex card set. These cards feature sketches of every major character from Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise. For these cards, artists like Douglas Shuler, Cynthia Cummens, John Czop, Geoff Isherwood, and Sean Pence were commissioned to sketch the characters. The ArtiFex cards are not hand-drawn sketch cards (i.e. each one is not a unique piece of art), but rather each card is a copy of a sketch produced by one of the artists. These range drastically in quality. Shuler, for example, clearly used Keith Birdsong's portraits as a reference and those who have the Star Trek Masterpiece Edition trading cards (reviewed here!) already have essentially the same sketches of the original series crew that he produced from that set (and in color!). These black and white portraits are generally good, though there is no Jake Sisko in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine block, nor is there a Kes card in the Star Trek: Voyager block - though rather lamely, Nurse Chapel and Yeoman Rand are included in the Star Trek block. The quality varies, sometimes within the nine-card collection for each crew. For example, Isherwood's Janeway has depth and shading that is incongruent with the other Star Trek: Voyager sketches. The most consistent, recognizable and well-done are the seven Star Trek: Enterprise characters sketched by Sean Pence. Pence did an amazing job and his portraits are lifelike to an extent that makes them the best of the forty-three ArtiFex cards.

At two per box was one of sixteen TV Guide cover cards. Following in the tradition of the original and Next Generation "Quotable" sets, the 40th Anniversary set included TV Guide cover cards from TV Guide's celebration of the thirty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek. The sixteen cards in this set feature the outstanding cards from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise. Like the prior releases, these are foil cards and look amazing. They remain highly sought-after, especially the Star Trek: Voyager ones which seem to be oddly rarer than the others. The TV Guide cover cards were only available in the U.S. release cases, not the European ones.

The European boxes of Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 cards featured Villains ArtiFex. Like the crew portrait ArtiFex cards, these nine cards - found only one per box - featured original artwork by Warren Martinek replicated on the cards. As the name suggests, this set featured one villain per card and included the likes of the Borg Queen, Khan, Q, Gul Dukat, and a Suliban. These vary in quality fairly drastically, from the well-detailed portrait of Kor the Klingon from the original Star Trek to the almost cartoonish Borg Queen which opens the set. Recognizable characters like Sela and Gul Dukat are not quite right - especially in the hair and jawlines - and more obscure villains, like the Hirogen appear more bland than interesting. Still, die-hard collectors will feel the need to hunt this set down, despite its mediocrity.

At only one per box are one of six First Officer cards. These landscape oriented foil cards feature a photograph of each major first officer from the Star Trek franchise and it is a nice collection. Those asking "six?!" will be pleased to note that Rittenhouse Archives honored Majel Barrett's character Number One from the original Star Trek pilot "The Cage." The First Officer cards are initially quite nice and seem like they would be a great set. Unfortunately, these cards chipped remarkably easily and many of the pictures of the first officers themselves had holes or chips in them, which is quite noticeable considering through each hole the silver sparkles shine right through!

Also at one per box are the boxtoppers, oversized mini posters featuring artwork of each of the crews. These are simply replicas of the Lightspeed fine art prints and there is one per crew. These five by seven inch boxtoppers are limited to 1900 of each crew portrait - which is not very limited at all - and has an individual number printed on the back of each card. These are textured with the canvasboard stock much like the common set of Art & Images Of Star Trek trading cards (reviewed here!) and were conveniently packaged in an individual wrap with a cardboard backer board to prevent the edges from getting damaged.

Arguably the best cards in each box are the costume cards. Two per box are one of forty costume cards. These costume cards follow in the style and numbering of costume cards from the "Quotable" Star Trek trading cards (reviewed here!). Each double-thick card features a swatch from a set-worn costume - or in the case of the original Star Trek costumes, a bolt of fabric from the fabric the costume was made from - from the five television series and the movies. Far more than bland uniform swatches, the Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards include some truly intriguing costumes. For example, C10 is Mea 3's sarong fabric, which is a bright collection of blues, rust, black and white colors; no two costume cards of the C10 are identical! As well, costumes like T'Pol's catsuits, Leeta's bathing suit, Quark's jacket, Dolim's armor and Sisko's baseball uniform are included in this set! Also cool is the Sulu costume card which includes a swatch from Sulu's shirt and pants! This is an amazing collection and the forty costume cards are the singular best reason to buy boxes of these cards.

Two per case - one every six boxes - is a lenticular card of each captain. The captains motion cards are variable in quality. The M1, Kirk, features Kirk and Spock and is a darker card that barely has any sense of movement. The Picard card is actually of Locutus of Borg! Lamest of the bunch is the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine card, which has Sisko, Dax and Odo beaming out of a darkened hallway on the station. The card is dark, does not prominently feature Sisko and the movement is not exactly the captain moving. Janeway's motion card is unfortunately identical to the Star Trek: Voyager Season Two lenticular of Janeway. These cards only have value because of their rarity and, unfortunately, have not retained their value proportionate to their rarity at all.

The grail of the boxes, though, are the autographed costume cards and here there is a strange mix of quality and sloppiness. Four of the cards were obviously created for this set and feature uniform materials and autographs from notables like William Shatner, Brent Spiner, Avery Brooks (Sisko's baseball uniform) and Scott Bakula (Archer's environmental suit). These are popular characters and great autographs and the cards are instantly recognizable from the others for their portrait orientation and the decent field of white on each one where the cards are autographed by their respective celebrity. The final autographed costume card is one of Jeri Ryan as Seven Of Nine. This card is a leftover from the Complete Star Trek: Voyager set (reviewed here!) and is landscape oriented and looks nothing like the others. The back of each of the Jeri Ryan autographed costume cards is individually numbered out of five hundred. The autographed costume cards were found one in approximately six boxes and the Ryan and Spiner autographed costume cards seemed to pop up quite a bit more frequently than the Brooks and Shatner cards. If it weren't for the lack of cohesion in this chase set, it would be an amazing incentive!

Non-Box/Pack Cards

Outside the packs found in the boxes, there are ten (twelve) cards that cannot be found no matter how many packs are opened. They include the promotional cards and the binder exclusive costume card. The promotional cards include a P1, which is simple to find and was given to dealers to promote the set and the P2, which was an exclusive promo in Non-Sport Update Magazine. P3 and the Neelix costume card were exclusive to the Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 binder from Rittenhouse Archives.

In every case, there was one of three James Doohan in Memoriam oversized cards. Individually numbered and limited to three hundred of each card, the oversized Memoriam cards paid homage to James Doohan, who died before the fortieth anniversary. Each card has an image of Doohan from the classic Star Trek and the tribute, 5 x 7" as it is, is identical in format to the DeForest Kelley tribute cards inserted into the first Rittenhouse Archives product, Star Trek In Motion (reviewed here!). The consistency of quality and the acknowledgment of the passing of the actor is appreciated by fans and collectors alike. These are coolly sealed in oversized card holders, protecting them from wear quite nicely.

For every two cases of Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards a dealer purchased, they received a costume card featuring fabric from Captain Kirk's uniform and Captain Jean-Luc Picard's uniform. This is, conceptually, a decent concept, especially considering that the two captains were together in Star Trek: Generations. In this case, though, the uniforms are from the television series and a film other than Generations, so the card is more of a novelty than anything truly meaningful to collectors. After all, it's not like the incentive card is autographed by both celebrities!

The six-case incentive card, though, is a decent one . . . only it does not fit this particular set. The six-case incentive, which remains highly sought-after, is a Legends Of Star Trek Patrick Stewart autograph. This autograph, which would have been ideally released in the "Quotable" Star Trek: The Next Generation cards, seems out of place in a 40th Anniversary set. It is a beautiful card, but it hardly celebrates the entire Star Trek franchise well.

Throughout this review, I have alluded to the idea that there are two cards, not available in packs, that technically are components to the Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading card set. For the "Rittenhouse Rewards" program, which award points for each wrapper redeemed to Rittenhouse Archives, fans could get an exclusive Seven Of Nine or Captain Jean-Luc Picard costume card. These cards, almost identical in fabric swatch to the cards released in the packs, feature alternate images of the two characters and are highly sought after by collectors. They are not supposed to be available in the secondary market, but do seem to have made their way there anyway. True collectors will consider these cards to be a part of the master set.


The Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards are a great blend of beautiful images and interesting chase cards, hampered only by some truly outrageous rarities that suck down the collectibility for fans of some of the cards. After all, it is one thing to shell out a lot of money for a 6-case incentive card after spending thousands of dollars to collect the rest of the set, it is another to feel like the high-end cards or the cards exclusive to Europe do not quite fit the set one is collecting. That is the case with this set; the easy chase are easy and mediocre, the hard chase are hard and pointless or mediocre outside a few truly fabulous cards. Still, overall, it is a wonderful set and most fans will love it.

This set culls images from:
Star Trek
The Star Trek Movies
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Star Trek: Voyager
Star Trek: Enterprise

This is a set that I proudly sell in my online store! Check out my current inventory at: Star Trek 40th Anniversary Trading Card Page!

For other mixed series Star Trek trading card sets reviewed by me, please check out:
Star Trek: The Motion Picture Topps card Set
Star Trek 25th Anniversary Series 1
Star Trek 25th Anniversary Series 2
Star Trek 1994 Edition Master Series
Star Trek 30th Anniversary Phase One
Star Trek 30th Anniversary Phase Two
Star Trek 30th Anniversary Phase Three
Star Trek Cinema 2000
The Women Of Star Trek In Motion
Star Trek (2009 movie) cards


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

© 2014, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment