Saturday, December 3, 2016

0% Chance Of Success: Firefly The Verse Trading Cards

The Good: Some decent autographs, Some good artwork
The Bad: Missing cast members, Erratic artwork, Basic autograph style, Impossible collectibility
The Basics: Firefly The Verse trading cards partially reward fans of Firefly for keeping the light burning, but then creates an impossible-to-collect art card set.

Every now and then, I review a product that puts me at odds with myself. The Firefly The Verse trading cards are one such product. Firefly The Verse trading cards are an art-themed Firefly trading card set that continue in me the conflict between the trading card collector/genre fan geek and the small business owner. As a small business owner who sells collectibles, I understand the Firefly The Verse trading cards; they have insane rarity to them that leads a handful of collectors worldwide to shell out incredible amounts of money trying to get exceptionally rare cards. Sets like Firefly The Verse are generally good for business for those who manage to pull one of the critically rare cards from the set and can generate a bidding war as a result.

As a collector and genre fan, I hate sets like the Firefly The Verse trading cards. Trading card collecting is one of the few hobbies I picked up as a teenager that stuck with me into adulthood. It is also one of the hobbies I have been a part of where I have witnessed the absolute destruction of the hobby and the industry. Trading cards used to be an amusing diversion that allowed fans to collects something very different from their beloved television shows and films. They take up less space than action figures, are less homogeneous than 8 x 10 photos and have - for years - had a wider variety of subjects and styles than virtually any other collectibles, whatwith foil parallels, autograph cards, sketch cards, and costume/prop cards. And while the concepts of so many trading card sets remain solid and interesting, the execution of some of the new trading card sets are problematic.

Firefly The Verse is one of the most troublingly-executed trading card sets to come out in recent memory with card rarities that make collecting a literal impossibility.

Firefly The Verse cards were produced by Upper Deck, Inc. in 2015 and it is virtually impossible to define how many complete sets of the trading cards actually exist. Because of the rather obtuse breakdown of sketch cards, it is hard to be certain of how man master sets of Firefly The Verse cards are actually available. With the inclusion of Printing Plate cards for each of the common cards, the Firefly The Verse cards might have only four true master sets that could be created; producing a trading card set that only four people could actually assemble is somewhat ridiculous.

As a collector, as well, the Firefly The Verse cards have mixed execution on two key points. The artwork is decidedly mixed in the set and while Upper Deck worked hard to get participation from all of key people involved with Firefly, they failed. For a set that is bloated with autograph cards (single, double, and triple signature cards), the fact that Upper Deck did not manage to get the entire cast of Firefly to sign cards - and/or get Joss Whedon, the creator of Firefly to sign cards - is a strike against the set.

Basics/Set Composition

The concept behind the Firefly The Verse cards is good. The set is an artwork set which features nine cards of new art for each of the fourteen episodes of Firefly, two sets of nine character based cards and cards of the ship, Serenity. There are incredible amounts of bonus cards in the Firefly The Verse set and the set represents the last (known) collectible for fans of Firefly that Ron Glass was able to participate in.

Like almost all of Upper Deck trading card products, the cards come with a UV protective coating to protect the trading cards from fading over time and to give them a nice satin sheen. This does appear to work as I've not had any cards from Upper Deck, Inc. fade. The autographed cards - parallel and flat-out autographs - and sketch cards do not have the UV coating on the front. Unlike some sets of trading cards, the Firefly The Verse trading cards are not consistently oriented; some are in portrait, some are in landscape orientation.

The Firefly The Verse trading card set is an impossible mess when it comes to attempting to define the number of cards in the set. There is no checklist that reliably defines how many cards are in the set. As near as I can determine, the practical number of cards one might want to collect would net a 986 card collection, though there are at least 1581 cards in what would be defined as an absolute, true, master set (if such a thing was actually possible to collect). Even for those trying to complete 986 card set would find it near-impossible to collect given that such a set would require one to track down one of four of each of the 171 printing plates. As best I can determine, the Firefly The Verse trading card set is 986 (or 1581) cards made up of 171 common cards and 815 (or 1400!) chase cards, all but one found in the packs and boxes of the cards.

Common Cards

The Firefly The Verse common set is a 171 card set of artwork cards that were produced exclusively for the set. Each of the 14 episodes of Firefly are given nine cards, each by a different artist. The nine-card episode cards are stylistically incredibly different from one another, from character-centered iconic shots for some episodes to cartoonish artwork that is a stylized representation of the characters and scenes being depicted. The painting style of artwork for the episode "The Message" by Rupam Grimeurve is some of the most compelling, though Mick and Matt Glebe once again produce incredible artwork for "Bushwacked."

The character shots of the main Firefly cast from David Hindelang and Tim Shay are interesting and they precede new renditions of ships and classic propaganda posters for the Firefly universe. The common cards have varying quality and they also have problematic orientation: cards are scattered between portrait and landscape orientation, which makes for a somewhat sloppy appearance when the cards are in a binder.

Chase Cards

The Firefly The Verse cards are chock full of bonus cards, including three styles of parallel cards. The set has 815 trading cards in the bonus sets (of 1400 if one is a stickler!), only one of which is not available in the boxes and sets. The problem with the 814 card number to try to define the set comes in the sketch cards (we'll get to that!), but the 814 bonus cards seems like the best way to define the set. The Firefly The Verse set is made up of green parallel cards, leather parallel cards, autographed parallel cards, autographs, patch cards, sketch cards and printing plates.

The Firefly The Verse chase cards have a green foil parallel card as the first-level chase set. The parallel set takes almost a complete case to complete as the foil cards are found almost every pack and replicate the common cards with green foil accents. The green foil accents on the front of each card feature a symbol, replace the standard copper colored foil on the common cards and most have an accent of Chinese symbols (which Firefly fans understand, even if they cannot read them.

Found about three per box is another replication of the common set in the form of leather parallel cards. The leather parallel cards are each numbered to 99 on the front of the card, which is very different. The leather parallel cards have a slight texture to them, which is very cool. Given how many cases it takes to assemble the full 171 card leather parallel card set, it is good that this parallel set actually looks cool!

The final parallel set is an art lover's dream, at least for those who appreciate the art for the trading cards. One per box is an uncoated replication of a common card that is hand-signed by the artist or artists who produced the original for the Firefly The Verse card set. Each gold-signed card gives the fans of the artists the opportunity to get their favorite piece in the set autographed by the creator. Personally, I like the fact that those who generated the material for the Firefly The Verse set are given something that shows they are appreciated for their contribution.

The Firefly The Verse set is augmented by 42 patch cards. The patch cards are trading cards, extra thick, that have manufactured patches embedded in them. The patch cards vary between simple patches with the character's name on them to things like a patch that commemorates Shepherd Book's hair, Jayne's Gun Vera, or the Alliance Ship. The patch cards vary widely in quality, though most have truly distinctive moments that they replicate in patch form, like Kaylee's fancy dress. Only Jayne In The Airlock truly stood out as one that I had to stare at and look at from multiple angles before I saw what it was supposed to depict. The patch cards are found one per box, so to complete the set, it takes four cases with ideal collation.

The autograph cards are also found about one per box. The autograph cards were created to mimic identification cards from the Firefly Universe and they feature a variety of main and guest cast members. The autograph cards are very weird in that the thirty main autograph cards are landscape oriented, but most of the autographs are on the side of the card! There are fourteen dual autographs, eight triple autographs and six cards that replicate the character cards from the common set. Herein is the fundamental problem with the Firefly The Verse set: with a slew of autographs, it stands out that the full cast is not represented. While it is wonderful that fans can now get something beautiful signed by the recently-departed Ron Glass, the fact that the Firefly The Verse set does not include autographs by Summer Glau, Gina Torres, or Alan Tudyk is noticeable. Also, with some of the weird dual-autographs, it seems ridiculous that Sean Maher and Jewel Staite were not given a dual autograph in the set.

Then there are the sketch cards and there are further problems with figuring out the Firefly The Verse set. Each of the Firefly The Verse sketch cards are individually numbered and there are thirty different subjects. The problem with the Firefly The Verse sketch cards are that it is impossible to figure out how many actual sketch cards there were for the set. The sketch cards range from characters to replications of moments from the episodes to ships. So, for example, all of sketch card FS-2 are of Zoe Washburn, all of FS-16 have moments from "Jaynestown" as the subject, etc. But, while there are thirty potential subjects on cards specific to the artwork on the front, there are 102 artists who contributed sketch cards. Usually, I define the sketch cards as one sketch per artist, but given that the Firefly The Verse cards include two and they are dramatically different numbers, it is tough for collectors to decide which way they want to collect the set. Does one collect one of each artist, one of each of the thirty cards or one of each card by each artist?! There is no real way to collect them the final way (if each artist even contributed one sketch per card), so the most practical ways for the collectors to collect the sketches is to go one per card, though I'd still say that die-hard collectors will want one sketch per artist, so long as they get one of each of the thirty subjects.

The impossibility of collecting the Firefly The Verse cards concludes with the inclusion of printing plate cards into the set. Printing plates are a delightful addition in recent sets as they are the original plates used to make the common cards, cut into trading card size and included for collectors in the packs. The printing plates are viewed as either unique or one of four of each of the 171 plates that replicate the common cards. The printing plates were found in black, yellow, pink, and cyan (blue) and there are either 171 printing plates or 684 printing plates, depending upon one's perspective. I've come around to the idea that printing plates are one per card (171 in this set) and that means that there might be only four complete sets of Firefly The Verse trading card sets that could be completed.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

Outside the boxes, there was a San Diego Comic Con promotional card; it is the only card int he set, not found in packs and boxes, which is nice.


The Firefly The Verse cards are inconsistently produced which is irksome even to common card collectors, incomplete in the way the whole cast was not included in the autographs and irksome in the impossible way the sketch cards were generated. But, the set has some good artwork and some of the signers are truly impressive and a couple of the sketch cards I've seen were actually amazing. But inconsistency and difficulty are keywords for the Firefly The Verse set, which makes them impossible to recommend.

This set is artwork based on images from Firefly, reviewed here!

This is a set of trading cards I sell in my online store (new inventory being added daily!). Please visit and purchase from the current inventory of them at: Firefly The Verse Trading Card Inventory!

For other art-based trading card sets, please check out my reviews of:
Star Trek 50 Years 50 Artists
Cryptozoic Justice League Cards
Marvel Dangerous Divas 2 trading cards


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

© 2016 W.L .Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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