The Good: Good text, Autograph card consistency, Archive Cuts cards
The Bad: Insanely expensive to assemble, Ridiculous look for collated set, Forces the future set
The Basics: Star Trek The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 trading cards continue Juan Ortiz's intriguing artwork in a set that is somewhere between wonderful and an incredible mess.
There are a number of things that go into my reviews of trading cards and when I look back on the trading card sets that have impressed me most, they have been a decent mixture of creativity and collectibility, decent execution of concept and ambition. Rittenhouse Archives has produced some of the sets that have garnered the highest ratings from me. In fact, whenever I find myself trumpeting a Star Trek trading card set, The Complete Star Trek Deep Space Nine trading card set (reviewed here!) is usually the one I cite as the gold standard. Rittenhouse Archives used to make big, ambitious sets and they carried off their concepts with varying degress of success, but usually with such a successful record that they quickly became one of the premiere trading card manufacturers in the industry. As the years have gone by and the markets - both the trading card and general Star Trek collectibles market - have changed, Rittenhouse Archives has worked hard to stay on top and when it comes to Star Trek trading cards, no part of the franchise has suffered quite like Star Trek: The Next Generation.
After years of fulfilling their license obligation to Paramount/CBS with a roster dominated by original Star Trek, Star Trek: Enterprise and Star Trek: Voyager trading cards, Rittenhouse Archives got around to developing some Star Trek: The Next Generation trading cards. Arguably the most commercially popular element of the Star Trek franchise was neglected for years, save one full set focused on the final Star Trek: The Next Generation film, Star Trek: Nemesis. By the time Rittenhouse Archives attacked the task of a comprehensive Star Trek The Next Generation trading card set, the market was a very different place than when they produced sets like the Complete Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Complete Star Trek: The Animated Adventures, or Complete Star Trek: Voyager trading card sets. For those who had been collecting and those left collecting Star Trek trading cards, there was something odd about Rittenhouse releasing a "Complete" Star Trek: The Next Generation trading card set in two parts. The last Star Trek: The Next Generation trading card set was the 2013 Star Trek: The Next Generation Heroes & Villains trading card set that dropped during an unfortunate lull in collector enthusiasm and pretty much tanked in the secondary market (which is actually too bad, because there is a lot to recommend that set)! Now, Rittenhouse Archives is doubling down on Star Trek: The Next Generation with the first of two promised trading card sets in the form of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 trading cards.
The Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 trading cards are a follow-up to last year's Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints trading cards (reviewed here!) and while that set had a very clear concept, the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 trading cards are a bit murkier on the concept, downright troubling on the execution, and are virtually impossible to collect a true master set. That said, the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 trading cards mark the first time Rittenhouse Archives has produced Archive Cuts comic book trading cards for a Star Trek set and they have some ambitious new chase cards that are actually strong enough to generate a lot of enthusiasm in the product.
Properly assembled, the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 trading card set consists of four hundred eighty-one trading cards: four hundred seventy-three available in the boxes and packs of cards and only eight found elsewhere. For a current series of cards, that there are only eight cards that cannot be found in the boxes is actually wonderful. Unfortunately, like many of the sets released for other properties, the most coveted cards in this set - the color sketch cards - are produced and distributed with such rarity that only a handful of collectors will be able to assemble a true master set. With the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 trading cards, Rittenhouse Archives forces collectors to put their money where their mouth is with 48 sketch card artists contributing sketches found only one per case!
Unlike the Star Trek Portfolio Prints, which were based on previously-released artwork produced by Juan Ortiz for startrek.com, the artwork in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 trading cards is unique to this set! Juan Ortiz was commissioned to continue the concept of the retro posters into the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode line.
The hook for collectors with this set is that Series 1 is only all the odd numbers. Unlike the "Complete" Star Trek: The Next Generation Series 1 and Series 2 trading card sets, which split the episodes at the mid-point of the series (the middle of the fourth season), Rittenhouse Archives released what amounts to an incomplete set with the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 trading cards. The clear intent of the Series 1 cards is that they are to be combined with the Series 2 set when that set is released to create one giant super-set. While that might end up being a successful marketing tactic, until the subsequent set is released, collectors have a set that looks incomplete (or, in the case of some of the chase cards, utterly ridiculous) with the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 trading cards.
With only eighty-nine of the cards in the set being common cards, this is a set that is predictably heavy in bonus cards, which is very much the norm for collectors these days. The eighty-nine cards in the common set of Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints are half of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes - the odd ones. The set is comprised of a single card per episode for the odd numbered episodes from "Encounter At Farpoint, Part One" (an oddity considering it aired originally as a single, double-long episode) through "All Good Things . . . (which, if "Encounter At Farpoint" was split into two episodes would make sense to be split into two episodes, too). There are no checklist cards with this trading card set. Fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation are treated to a plot blurb on the back of each common card. The plot synopsis’s are well-written. 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 Next Generation Portfolio Prints is problematic in both concept and execution. The concept is an essentially flawed one: retro posters reminiscent of the Star Trek Portfolio Prints for a show that aired in the 1980s/1990s. The Star Trek Portfolio Prints worked because they mimicked the style of the art deco posters of the 1960s - when the episodes were produced and aired - exceptionally well. There was a sense of kitsch to them that played perfectly for a show that is very dated in a lot of ways. Star Trek: The Next Generation does not have that age to it, so the concept would have held if Juan Ortiz had made the episode posters look like movie posters from the 1980s. That would have, undoubtedly, required a lot more in the way of likeness rights clearances and would have been vastly more time consuming to pull off (and, honestly, how many trading cards with Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes advertised with posters reminiscent of the poster for The Empire Strikes Back could they have done to keep enthusiasm high?!).
The concept might be flawed, but the execution has the potential to save it. Unfortunately, while the artwork is neat, the "every other one" concept guts the common set. For those who do read the cards, there is something surreal about encountering the cards for episodes that were part of two-parters - "The Best Of Both Worlds, Part II," for example, is in this set, but "The Best Of Both Worlds" (Part 1) is not. Similarly, "Redemption 2" and "Unification 1," etc.
All that said, Juan Ortiz did a pretty awesome job with the execution of the artwork. The only card in the set I couldn't figure out was "Unification, Part 1." Every other card in the eighty-nine card set is a clear execution of the concept rendered in vivid colors and usually with an instant evocation of the themes of the episode pictured on the card. "Frame Of Mind" and "Measure Of A Man" stand out as exceptional renditions of the concept in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 trading card set.
The bonus sets for the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints trading cards are a mix of mundane and wonderful, with a continued thorn being that the bonus sets, like the common set, are all the odd-numbered cards, making for incomplete bonus sets. While this is generally bearable, the Ships Of The Line set - which is intended to form two nine-card murals looks absolutely ridiculous without the continuation of the cards from the Series 2 set. With two parallel sets, card collectors who love the common set have a lot to be excited about. Fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation in general are likely to be much more excited by the other bonus sets which focus on the characters and the comic books, as opposed to replicating the common set in new and imaginative ways. The Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints set has three hundred eighty-four bonus (insert) cards in the set, of which all but eight 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 (89 cards), Juan Ortiz autographed parallel cards (89 cards), Ships Of The Line cards (9 cards), TNG Universe Gallery (9), Comic Book cards (40), Comic Book Archive Cuts (40), TNG Silhouette Gallery Metal (5), TNG Rendered Art Metal (5), SketchaFex (48), 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-nine 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 twenty-five, so there are only one hundred twenty-five complete gold signature parallel sets. The faux-signature set cards were found one per box. This is a really cool parallel set because the gold signatures beautifully offset most of the artwork and the contrast is distinctive and cool.
The parallel set that truly surprised me were the Juan Ortiz autograph parallel cards (numbered JOA with the common card numbers). These cards were found one in every other box. 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 watching Star Trek: The Next Generation was like him, back in the day. 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 autograph size is much bigger than on the Star Trek The Original Series Juan Ortiz autograph parallel cards, so there's no mistaking them for the common cards this time around, even just looking at their fronts. The blue ink pops noticeably on almost all of the cards and they look great for it!
One per box are Star Trek: The Next Generation Comic Book cards. These cards replicate 40 of the covers from first major DC Comics Star Trek: The Next Generation comic book series (there was a six-issue mini-series that was the subject of bonus cards in earlier sets). This set is cool because the backs feature plot descriptions of each comic book and the fronts have some of the best, most memorable Star Trek: The Next Generation comic book covers. The plot descriptions are strange for some of the arcs that encompassed several books, but these cards are some of the best in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 trading cards!
The Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 cards mimicked their Original Series counterparts with the TNG Universe Gallery cards. The nine TNG Universe Gallery cards were featured one per box and are art deco versions of some of the most popular main cast (Deanna Troi, Wesley Crusher, and Tasha Yar) and significant recurring guest character - Q, K'Ehleyr, etc. - as if they were Animated characters. This is a neat idea and certainly a good one for people looking for something different for their beloved characters. Sadly, Rittenhouse Archives stepped into a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation by including Lursa and B'Etor into this set. Both Lursa and B'Etor are in the Series 1 set and while that forestalls the obvious question fans would ask if only one of them had been in this set ("Where's the other one?!" "It will be in the Series 2 set!"), it creates the issue that if one creates a true Portfolio Prints set by integrating Series 1 and the eventual Series 2 cards, Lursa and B'Etor will be separated on one's card pages by an interloper character (which, even if it ends up being Toral or Sela does not really work . . .). These cards are interesting at the very least.
Every other box of Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 trading cards features one of nine Ships Of The Line trading cards. The front of these landscape-oriented trading cards feature brand new digital imagery of ships from the Star Trek: The Next Generation era. Some of these ships are concept ships that were never seen in any of the episodes and are somewhat incongruent with what one remembers from the show, but they are intriguing and printed with amazing color contrast. Unfortunately, the backs are an absolute mess. The backs reveal that the cards are intended to go to two different nine-card murals and fans will have to wait until the Series 2 set is released to see what the larger pictures are. This set, sadly, looks sloppy when placed in pages as a result of the backs not coming together to form a single picture.
In most modern trading card sets, the autograph cards are a big deal, but for me the knock-out of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 trading cards were the TNG Comics Archive Cuts cards. The Archive Cuts are a simple concept: they are like costume cards - double-thick trading cards with material embedded and sealed within them with a "picture window" for fans to look at and feel the fabric - but the fabric is replaced with panels from Star Trek: The Next Generation comic books! These panels make each card in the set unique and the 40 cards in the Series 1 Archive Cuts set have rarities that vary, but all seem to be in the 100 - 160 range. The back of each Archive Cuts card bears an individual collector's number, further emphasizing how no two cards are the same! The panels from the Star Trek: The Next Generation have wonderful color contrast and I've not come across a single one that didn't "pop." (On some of the comic book-based trading sets Rittenhouse Archives has produced, sometimes their materials come from VERY old comic books and the panels are faded. Such is not the case with the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 Archive Cuts cards).
With the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1, Rittenhouse Archives assembled a pretty compelling and collectible autograph card set. This set marks the second release to contain a Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan autograph trading card and it gives Star Trek: The Next Generation fans three new Silver Series style autographs of Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis and Brent Spiner. The set has fifty autograph cards and outside the three silver series cards, they are portrait-oriented autographs in the style that was begun with the Complete Star Trek: The Next Generation Series 1 set. The smaller picture on the front of the card allows for a decent amount of space for the signer to sign and this set includes such intriguing guest star signers as Bob Gunton, Jaime Hubbard, Robert Knepper, Joanna Miles and Lisa Wilcox. The set has a few truly obscure signers, most notably George Baxter who appeared in "Unnatural Selection" as David and was mostly in the episode as eye candy. Still, at three autographs per box, with such variety, die hard fans are bound to be thrilled. What is most impressive is that only the Whoopi Goldberg card is classified as Extremely Limited, so this is one of the most attainable and collectible autograph sets in quite some time!
Like most recent releases, the real grail for collectors are the hand drawn color sketch cards. The Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series One set feature forty-eight artists' works. These cards are found one in every case, so that means to assemble a true master set, one would have to buy 48 CASES of these cards, which is pretty cost-prohibitive for most fans! Still, it is hard to argue with results! Warren Martinek did some amazing color sketches of starships, while most of the other artists focused on characters. As one might expect, sketches from Rhiannon Owens and Sean Pence are some of the best between the amazing level of detail they possess and the scarcity of their sketch cards! The Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 cards have artwork that varies for the sketch cards (as one might expect from so many different sketch artists producing unique works of art on each cards), but most of them are astonishingly good renditions of characters and spacescapes.
Also one per case are metal insert cards from one of two five-card, character centered sets. Metal cards are becoming a real coveted chase card and the ones in the TNG Portfolio Prints Series 1 set are notable in that they are not simply parallels of other chase cards in the set! One of the two five-card sets focuses on the main cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation and they are similar to the Crew cards from TOS Portfolio Prints, save that they are metal and artwork, as opposed to photo images. The other five-card metal set replicates the artwork from the Star Trek The Next Generation Blu-Ray seasons boxes and they look absolutely amazing, especially in metal! All ten of the metal cards from the cases of Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints are each individually stamped with a collector's number out of 100.
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 nine-case incentive cards that dealers were given for buying in volume. There are two other promotional cards in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 set: the P3 album exclusive set and the P2 convention-exclusive promo. The P2 Convention Exclusive promotional card is harder to track down than the other two and is notable for its fidelity to the TOS Portfolio Prints promo set as opposed to this set; it is a landscape-oriented starship card, as opposed to a portrait-oriented card. The P3 is portrait-oriented and features a Borg ship, while the P1 is a card featuring Captain Picard. None of these promotional cards are yet impossible to find in the secondary market.
This set also had one of two casetoppers. The two casetoppers were very basic Juan Ortiz art cards featuring Data's poem "Ode To Spot" and a representation of Picard's relationship with Riker ("Make It So, Number One!"). There is nothing remarkable about either of these casetoppers, save that they are rare, though they are not even individually numbered.
For every six cases of Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints trading cards a dealer ordered, they were granted a Dual autograph, in the popular Complete Star Trek Movies style, though this is the first dual autograph in that style yet produced. The 6-case incentive autograph features Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes in their Star Trek: Nemesis wedding dress and dress uniform, respectively. Of all the characters to do a dual autograph from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Sirtis and Frakes (Troi and Riker) make the most sense and these seemed to be signed with great consistency by the pair.
The real grail of the bonus cards was the incentive card for buying nine cases of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 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 characters with extensive and detailed backgrounds, while the brothers Mick and Matt Glebe seemed to focus on character portraits. Either way, the artists did immaculate work that was absolutely incredible for their incentive cards.
Exclusive to the Archive Boxes was a landscape-oriented metal card of the U.S.S. Enterprise-D. Individually numbered on the back up to 100, the metal card gives fans a reason to chase down the archive boxes which were given as an incentive to dealers who purchased 18 cases.
The Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 set is one I spent a long time considering and to reach my verdict, I had to compare it to multi-part movies/television shows. Episodes of serialized television can, on their own, be quite poor and not drag down the overall season or series. But when I review an individual episode or movie within a series, I review it on the merits of the individual work. As an individual work, the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 set is a mess. It is so hard to collect that the Archive Box is nowhere near a true Archive Box (archive boxes were created by Rittenhouse Archives as a random luck-upon-it boxes that was randomly inserted into cases of the boxes that would contain a master set of all of the cards in a set. By this point, "Archive" boxes are given away as an 18-case incentive and even a two-box Archive box like the one for Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 cards cannot hold anywhere near what it would need to in order to yield a true master set.) and it, like a solid cliffhanger episode, relies in part on the unreleased second part for a sense of completion. In this case, it forces the collector to commit to the second part which will either be a part of a very Star Trek heavy trading card year next year (it's the 50th Anniversary after all!) or wait two years to finish the set. And when put all together as a full TNG Portfolio Prints set, these might be amazing and worthwhile, but in the half-release, it does not stand on its own well.
It's just too much, too awkwardly released. I keep finding myself looking for episodes that are not in this set when I look through it and some of the bonus sets look anemic without the additional cards. But still, those sketches! the metal cards! and the Comic Book Archive Cuts . . . it gives us something to anticipate in the future - completion!
This set culled images from Star Trek The Next Generation, 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 Next Generation Portfolio Prints Trading Card Inventory!
For other Star Trek The Next Generation trading cards, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Star Trek 25th Anniversary Series 1
Star Trek 25th Anniversary Series 2
Star Trek The Next Generation Inaugural Edition
"Quotable" Star Trek: The Next Generation
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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