Monday, June 29, 2015

What A Difference A Year Makes: The 2015 James Bond Archives Trading Cards Are Less Spectacular Than Their Predecessor!

The Good: Not prohibitive to collect (yet), A couple of good autograph cards
The Bad: Misprints, Orientation issues, Vast pool of uninteresting autograph signers, Lack of impressive bonus cards
The Basics: The 2015 James Bond 007 Archives trading cards are an awkward idea that makes for a poor sequel that feels rushed and churned out.

As a trading card collector and reviewer, I try to judge each set I encounter on its own. Every now and then, I find one that makes it too hard to do that. The 2015 James Bond 007 Archives trading cards are one such set. While the 2015 James Bond Archives trading cards are only the second James Bond set I have reviewed, after the 2009 James Bond Archives set (reviewed here!), my lukewarm reaction to the 2015 James Bond Archives trading cards cooled even more when I compared them to the 2014 James Bond Archives trading cards. The 2014 James Bond Archives trading cards were chock full of autograph cards and relic cards and, other problems aside, the 2015 James Bond Archives trading card set looks anemic by comparison, having no relic cards, fewer chase cards, and less and lesser autograph trading cards.

As one might expect, the 2015 James Bond 007 Archives trading cards were produced in 2015 by Rittenhouse Archives, one of the biggest producers of non-sport trading cards in the industry, as their annual James Bond trading card release. For the 2015 James Bond 007 Archives cards, Rittenhouse went with a retro look and feel for a couple of the chase sets, following in the tradition and concept of the 2014 James Bond Archives trading cards.

Unfortunately, between misprints, autograph cards that were not returned in time and rejected cards, the 2015 James Bond 007 Archives trading cards had a rushed feel that made for a less remarkable or impressive trading card set than they could have been.

Basics/Set Composition

Fully assembled, the 2015 James Bond 007 Archives trading card set has 622 cards and is essentially four (or six) sets in one. As well, there is an oversized binder produced by Rittenhouse Archives that still does not quite hold the entire set. The set consists of 90 common cards and 532 bonus cards. The chase cards are mostly available in the packs of cards, though seven of them were incentive or promotional cards and could not be found in any of the packs. The 2015 James Bond 007 Archives trading cards were released in boxes of twenty-four packs of five cards each.

Common Cards

The common card set for the 2015 James Bond 007 Archives trading cards consisted of ninety modern-looking trading cards. The entire common set recaps the plot of Quantum Of Solace (reviewed here!). One of the immediately problematic aspects of the 2015 James Bond 007 Archives trading card common card set is that the cards are inconsistently oriented. Some of the common cards are oriented with a portrait orientation, though most are oriented with the pictures in landscape format. That makes the set problematic to ty to arrange in any sensible way in a binder.

While the 2015 James Bond Archives cards have the traditional UV-resistant coating which is flawlessly applied, there is a rushed quality to the common set. There are some problematic misprints, most notably the repeated lines on both cards 43 and 44. While it is nice that Quantum Of Solace finally gets a full trading card set devoted to it, it is unfortunate that Rittenhouse Archives did not take the time to make sure it was done all right. Between the misprints and the lack of consistent orientation for the cards, the common set is executed problematically.

Chase Cards

The 525 chase cards that can be found in packs and boxes of 2015 James Bond 007 Archives essentially create three additional "common" sets and two bonus parallel sets, in addition to more traditional James Bond chase cards.

The 2015 James Bond Archives trading card set features three bonus sets that require multiple cases to complete. There are retro sets that retell the stories of You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me and Goldeneye with 78, 93, and 102 cards each. These sets, like the Quantum Of Solace set are inconsistently oriented and are more problematic to try to put into binder pages in any sensible way. The You Only Live Twice and The Spy Who Loved Me throwback sets are made of a more retro cardboard stock to make the cards from the older films seem like they were from the period in which the films were released.

One per box there are gold parallel cards for the Quantum Of Solace and Goldeneye sets. Each of those sets were limited to only 125 of each of the cards - though I have yet to figure out how that works with one set being 90 cards, the other being 102 cards and only one of each of those cards being found per box (somewhere, it seems, there should be a stockpile of Goldeneye parallel cards). The gold parallel cards are a particularly boring parallel card; they are distinguished from the common versions of their cards by gold foil "007" on the front of each card and an individual foil-stamped number on the back, in the middle of the card. In addition to being especially annoying to find and collate from the packs to the sets (the card numbers are in the lower left corner, the foil stamped number on the back is in the middle right, which is covered up when one organically shuffles the cards to organize them from the packs!), the parallel cards lack any real flash quality to them.

Continuing the tradition of fleshing out prior common sets that featured the rest of the Bond films as chase cards in new sets, the 2015 James Bond Archives set features SkyFall expansion cards, one per box. The SkyFall expansion cards add cards to the James Bond Heroes & Villains set (6 cards) and Dangerous Liaisons (8 cards). While I'm seldom impressed by common cards as chase cards, the 2015 James Bond Archives SkyFall expansion cards are just a mess. Apparently, there were supposed to be 9 Dangerous Liaisons cards and one was rejected by the studio. Rather than resubmit to make the full nine-card set, Rittenhouse Archives cut the card and the result was three of the eight cards ended up with troubling misprints. DL19 features the last shot of SkyFall on the front, with text on the back about the beginning of the film. Similarly, the card that has the image of M dying does not have text that accompanies it and the film's train combat sequence that is supposed to open the set is on one of the latter cards in the SkyFall Dangerous Liaisons set. While Rittenhouse Archives is already looking into fixing the three error cards (and possibly releasing the ninth card with an image that gets approved), one has to wonder why the card company did not delay the set to get it right (especially when one considers that the set was not a sell-out from the manufacturer).

Then there are the autographs. This set of trading cards features forty-five autograph cards, which is another step down from the prior few James Bond sets. Autograph cards in the 2015 James Bond 007 Archives trading card set are split between the familiar format of the 40th Anniversary set – which had very small pictures of the character’s head and were oriented in a landscape format – and the vastly more popular full-bleed style which was portrait oriented with giant images of the characters and a minimal signing space at the bottom. The nineteen 40th Anniversary style autographs are split between big names - Roger Moore, Dolph Lundgren, and Sheena Easton - and actors with minimal influence or interest to collectors. Sure, Stanley Morgan and Shane Rimmer are new signers, but is the concierge from Dr. No actually a character collectors care about? Mathieu Amalric and Lundgren are wonderful first-time signers, but given that they appear in this set on the less-popular format than some of the other signers, it is hard to consider them big selling points for the set! They flesh out an autograph set that inexplicably has a Caroline Bliss (she was A70 in the Complete James Bond set with virtually the same image) and yet another Jesper Christensen autograph card.

In the full-bleed autographs, there are some impressive and hard-to-find autographs, including one James Bond (George Lazenby), Christopher Lee (Scaramanga), Halle Berry, Teri Hatcher and Maud Adams (not as Octopussy). Lee has the grail card from the full-bleed set, as he died just over a week before this trading card set was released. The full-bleed autograph cards are unnumbered, which might be in keeping with prior releases, which is really annoying for collectors trying to complete the set. Also irksome is how many of the signers are duplicates from prior releases . . . when there are several big names that could have been a part of the set. Barbara Bach (from The Spy Who Love Me) still has not been the subject of a full-bleed autograph card and this seems like the set that it would have been perfect for. While Jeffrey Wright was originally slated to sign for this set, his card was delayed. The three SkyFall full-bleed autographs are not the most significant potential signers - Ben Whitshaw, Ralph Fiennes, and Javier Bardem have not yet signed (neither did Adele or director Sam Mendes) - and between the signers who have signed for prior releases and somewhat unremarkable minor-character signers, along with the fact that there are fewer autograph cards than in the prior Bond sets, the 2015 James Bond Archives cards have an unremarkable feel to them.

That leads us to a commentary on the collectibility of the autographs. In general, the autograph cards have decent and fairly even distribution. The thing is, and I don't know why collectors haven't figured this out yet and dealers haven't highlighted it, there are five autograph cards that are ridiculously hard to find in the 2015 James Bond Archives set. Five of the autograph cards are classified as Extremely Limited, meaning that the signers signed less than 200 of each card. While some of these have inherent value - Roger Moore, Christopher Lee's final card release - the other three are more hit or miss - George Lazenby is hardly the most popular Bond and Nadja Regin and Yvonne Shima are both obscure characters and have signed for prior trading card releases. What people have not seemed to do yet (save dealers who opened a ton of cases of these cards!) is run the numbers. Assuming that those five cards were actually signed at 200 of each card and taking into account that all five of the autographs were found in the archive boxes (let's very conservatively assume there were 30 Archive boxes), that means that any one of those Extremely Limited autographs is found at a rate of 170 out of 8500 (the number of boxes of 2015 James Bond Archives cards). My experience of opening 18 cases netted only one Extremely Limited autograph in every other case. That means that the five Extremely Limited autographs should have some inherent value to the trading card collectors . . . but they are still consistently selling for less than $100 each, which is insanely low compared to their rarity. The full-bleed autograph cards of Regin and Shima are unlikely to reach a value on par with their rarity because the characters/performers are comparatively obscure.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

The 2015 James Bond 007 Archives trading card set has seven cards not found in any of the boxes or packs. There are three promotional cards – the usual general release, an exclusive one to conventions that Rittenhouse Archives attended, and the binder-exclusive promotional card.

The casetopper for the 2015 James Bond 007 Archives trading card set is a fairly bland SPECTRE preview card, which continues the downward trend of casetopper cards (they used to be cool autograph, sketch or autographed costume cards!). The SPECTRE cards are not individually numbered, foil or even sealed into their toploaders!

Then there are the incentive cards and these follow the trend of recent Rittenhouse Archives releases! For purchasing six cases, dealers received a gold series autograph of Britt Ekland as Mary Goodnight from The Man With The Golden Gun. Ekland's autograph card is another example of a step down from the prior release (the 2014 Archives set had a Roger Moore gold series autograph for the six-case incentive), though the card looks good. For buying nine cases, dealers were given a Daniel Craig autographed costume card. They were limited and hand-numbered to 250 and are a tough sell after the Craig/Judi Dench dual autograph that was the comparable incentive card last year!

The final card in the 2015 James Bond Archives set is the Archive Box exclusive George Lazenby gold series autograph card. Found only in the archive boxes, which were randomly inserted into cases in addition to being an eighteen-case incentive for dealers, the Lazenby autograph is similarly undervalued as the rest of the set.


The 2015 James Bond Archives set is a set designed to keep interest in James Bond collecting through the release of SPECTRE this winter and foreshadow inevitable future releases that make full common sets for SkyFall and SPECTRE. Unfortunately, the annual release of a James Bond set was treated with less respect, enthusiasm and access than prior James Bond releases. The result is a placeholder set that feels like a placeholder . . . and an unfortunately sloppy one at that.

This set culls images from the James bond films Quantum Of Solace, You Only Live Twice (reviewed here!), The Spy Who Loved Me (reviewed here!) and Goldeneye (reviewed here!)!

These cards are available in my online store! Please check them out here: 2015 James Bond Archives Trading Card Current Inventory!

For other trading card reviews, please check out my reviews of:
Star Trek Aliens
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1 trading cards
Cryptozoic DC Comics Super-Villains


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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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