Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Against My Original Standards, I Fall In Love With The Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary Trading Cards!

The Good: Awesome sketches, Very cool bonus cards, Neat common cards, Quality of cards
The Bad: Collectibility, One less impressive bonus card set, A few obscure autograph signers
The Basics: The Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary may be a bear to collect, but the end result is a pretty fabulous trading card set!

It seems like the last ten years have just flown by for me. Ten years ago, the Star Trek trading card market underwent a fundamental shift from which it could never turn back: the trading card hobby became the trading card industry. I adequately kvetched about that when I reviewed the set that destroyed collecting once and for all with the Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 2 trading card set (reviewed here!). Since then, the bar has been raised several times for Star Trek trading card collectors and when there has been even a shift toward the way card sets used to be, the set released has not performed nearly as well in the marketplace. Go figure; I guess most collectors actually want the impossible find!

So, last year, when Rittenhouse Archives produced their Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary trading card set as a premium trading card release, I vowed not to simply complain about how uncollectible the cards were. I found my happy medium last month when I reviewed the Rogue One: Mission Briefing trading cards (reviewed here!) and I decided to review the product with dual ratings; the substance of the set and separately with "collectibility" factored in. It is with that new sense of standards that I sat down to review the Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary trading card set.

And WOW! The substance of the Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary set is amazing. For the money, the set is a bit small (a true master set only has 359 cards), but the content is absolutely incredible!

Basics/Set Composition

The Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary set was a set of trading cards produced by Rittenhouse Archives to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Original Series, instead of doing season by season celebrations of the 50th Anniversary. Boxes of the TOS 50th Anniversary cards contained only twelve packs with five cards per pack. One does not get a lot per box and the only guarantees are one common set and two autographs per box. One of the decent aspects of the Rittenhouse guarantee for this product is that one is guaranteed one of each of the two different autograph types on a box. Unfortunately for those trying to collect the set, there is not a single chase set that can be completed with even a single case of these cards!

The common set traverses the entire 80-episodes of Star Trek. The chase cards are focused largely on "The Cage" and "Mirror, Mirror" with generic crew cards and production artwork cards thrown in. The set has a beautiful tribute set to the late Leonard Nimoy (still nothing for Grace Lee Whitney, who also died since the last Original Series set!), a diverse array of autograph cards and sketch cards that are actually very dud-free. The element that makes the set virtually impossible to complete, though, are the 3 cut signature cards that made the cases a sell-out at the manufacturer's level and left a few very determined collectors hunting them down!

The TOS 50th Anniversary set consists of 359 cards. The 359 card set consists of 80 common cards and two hundred seventy-nine chase cards, eleven of which cannot be found in the packs or boxes.

Common Cards

The 80 card common set of TOS 50th Anniversary cards are a fairly cool design (though I still have not figured out how the form fits into the theme of the set/show). The common cards are die-cut so they have indents in the centers of the sides, top, and bottom. The corners are not squared; they have beveled edges. As a result, each card is a 14-sided (?,!) trading card with a text block at the top and one at the bottom that makes it vaguely resemble the viewscreen on the Enterprise bridge. Each card has gold foil borders around each of the four pictures on the front and a gold foil center that features the Star Trek 50th Anniversary symbol.

The common card set for the Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary is another set that makes an episode by episode journey through all of the episodes of the original Star Trek. The twist on the familiar subject - other than the physical form of the cards - is that the backs are written as if they were Spock's logs about the plot of the episode. Spock makes perfect sense as the "writer" of the mission logs as he is the only character to appear in each episode and it avoids narrative hassles like "which version of Captain Kirk made the log for 'The Enemy Within' or 'Turnabout Intruder?'"

The writing on the cards is fun and done at a consistently high level of quality. The Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary are written to sufficiently capture Spock's sense of humor and observations on humanity, while adequately telling the story of each episode of Star Trek.

The Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary cards feature bright, beautifully-crisp images on each card. The four pictures on the front of each card tend to be different from shots used in prior sets, which is a nice thing. The photogaphy on the front of the cards also finds the right balance of character images without neglecting the special effect shots. The result is a structurally-weird looking common set that actually serves as a fitting tribute to the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek!

Chase Cards

The TOS 50th Anniversary set has two hundred seventy-nine chase cards, of which two hundred sixty-eight are available in the right packs! Some of those cards, though, are statistically improbable for a collector to pull from the packs or boxes. Ironically, there are some sketch card artists whose works are more rare than the Jill Ireland cut signature card that was pack-inserted!

The first level of chase sets are two expansion sets that explore "The Cage" and "Mirror, Mirror." Cards in each of these sets are found only two per box, which means that they take three cases to assemble each set (assuming one does not pull duplicates!). These two chase sets are substantive and incredible. The "Mirror, Mirror" cards feature foilboard borders that are shiny and distinctive. The "The Cage" bonus cards have neat purple borders and a thin gold border around the image on the card, which makes it look like one is using one of the Talosian's viewscreens to look in on the episode! These chase sets are reminiscent of the James Bond retro "throwback" sets that Rittenhouse Archives has produced for some of the older James Bond films. The result is essentially a flashy additional "common" set for two of the best episodes of Star Trek and it's hard not to gush over just how pretty the "The Cage" cards actually are!

Interestingly, Rittenhouse Archives continues to state the odds of its chase cards in terms of packs. I find this interesting because, especially in the Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary trading cards, the odds for most of the bonus cards are more reasonably stated in terms of boxes or even cases! The Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary two chase sets where their components are found one in every four boxes and three that have only a single card from the set in a case!

The Bridge Crew Hero cards are landscape-oriented acetate trading cards featuring the seven core Star Trek characters, plus Nurse Chapel and Yeoman Rand. The Bridge Crew Hero cards look good, but I found myself split on them. The rarity of the cards is high, the content is hardly audacious and as an avid convention-goer, the Bridge Crew Hero cards are another set that is unfortunate in its timing. This is yet another set that fans cannot use to get autographed by the stars of Star Trek. For sure, the four cast members featured who are still alive and represented in this set could make thes cards look amazing by signing them in gold, but it's a set one could never possibly get completely signed and that's sad. While that is not an inherent problem with the Star Trek cards themselves, whenever Rittenhouse Archives makes a new-looking, cool card like this, it is hard not to look at them and consider the alternative use for them! That said, the acetate cards are clean and crisp and look very good.

Also one in every four boxes is one of the nine U.S.S. Enterprise Concept Art cards. Rittenhouse Archives managed to get the original production artwork that pitched various looks (and feels!) of the U.S.S. Enterprise before the first shooting model was ever made. These cards might be the low point of the set; they are gold-bordered and brown and do not look overly distinctive (the back of each card is, essentially, a visual checklist of the set). Sadly, the designer of the U.S.S. Enterprise is dead, which prevented Rittenhouse Archives from using behind-the-scenes interviews on why each of the concept sketches for the Enterprise was rejected. For an unfortunately unremarkable chase set, the rarity of these cards is vastly disproportionate to their value.

One per case is a "Mirror, Mirror" card. Reminiscent of the mirrorboard cards made popular in the Star Trek Season 2 trading card set (reviewed here!), each of the cards in this subset feature big pictures of the main cast, Marlena, and the Enterprise. On one side of each card is an image of the regular universe version of the character, the obverse has the Mirror Universe version. These high-quality cards are a great alternative to the Season 2 Mirror, Mirror set at a more affordable price point!

Also one per case is one of the nine Leonard Nimoy Tribute cards. Since Rittenhouse Archives started producing trading cards, they have made Tribute cards to the now-deceased stars of Star Trek: DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, and Majel Barret. The Leonard Nimoy Tribute cards are the first ones in the set that have been included in the packs (previously, they were casetoppers and there were only 3!). The standard trading card-sized Tribute cards are individually hand-numbered on the front out of 125 and feature bright, distinct images of Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek (no shots from Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Star Trek films or his Spock Prime role from the new film universe). The tribute to Nimoy is a fitting one and this is one of the nicest all-Spock sets ever assembled!

Like most modern Star Trek sets, the Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary trading cards feature autograph cards. Found one per box is a Silver Series autograph card and one "Black" autograph. The "Black" autographs are the same format as the Bridge Crew autographs from the Star Trek Portfolio Prints trading cards (reviewed here!). The "Black" autographs feature a much wider range of characters than the initial bridge crew run - performers like Sany Gimple, Michael Dante, and the grail Teri Garr! The Silver Series autographs are an incredibly popular, landscape-oriented autograph card with a single characrter image and the autograph - signed in silver ink - over a black starfield. The Silver Series Autographs feature the likes of William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and Walter Koenig before going into the significant (and a few unfortunately indistinct) guest stars. The set has a Joan Collins autograph card and autographs from the now-deceased Grace Lee Whitney and Yvonne Craig. Regardless of the occasionally mundane subjects on the cards, all of the Silver Series autographs look incredible! Rittenhouse Archives assembled an impressive list of signers for the Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary trading card set!

The Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary trading cards also featured sketch cards found only one per case. The sketch cards in the Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary were beautiful and there is something to the overall value of the set when one of the most common sketches comes from the acclaimed artists Mick and Matt Glebe! The Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary features sketch cards from 42 different artists, with only 8 of them being done by artists who produced less than 25 sketches for the set. I have yet to see a lousy sketch from this set, with truly amazing works from Sean Pence, Kirsten Allen, Helga Wojik, and Melike Acar! Rittenhouse Archives advertised the set as featuring the best-yet sketch cards and they absolutely delivered!

Finally, found about one in every eighteen CASES was one of three Star Trek cut signature autograph cards. Rittenhouse Archives managed to get their hands on authenticated autographs from the long-deceased Jeffrey Hunter, Susan Oliver and Jill Ireland. Ireland's material is the most plentiful, while Hunter's cut signature autograph cards are now the rarest Rittenhouse has produced for a Star Trek set. The cut signature cards for the Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary might be virtually impossible to find, but they look amazing!

Non-Box/Pack Cards

There are eleven cards that cannot be found no matter how many packs one opens. These include the regular P1 promotional card, which is easily available in the secondary market, as well as the P2 promotional card which was exclusive to the Rittenhouse-produced binder. The two promotional cards are distinctive from the other cards by being heavily-embossed, gold foil cards that advertise the Star Trek 50th Anniversary!

One per case, there is an alternate version of the common card #40. The 40a Casetopper card is a "Mirror, Mirror" card that features different images and alternate text from the common card. The 40a is written as it if were from the perspective of the Mirror Universe Spock and they look cool. Having had casetoppers that were once autograph, autographed-costume, sketch or dual-autograph cards, it is hard to get truly psyched about an "alternate common" card as the Casetopper.

For every six cases purchased, Rittenhouse Archives gave dealers a Silver Series Leonard Nimoy autograph card. If the casetopper is lackluster, the six-case incentive is absolutely incredible! Featuring artwork of Nimoy as the Mirror Universe Spock, the 6-case incentive autograph from the Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary matches the quality of the other silver series autographs and has much higher inherent value to it!

For every nine cases purchased, dealers were granted a Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary William Shatner/Leonard Nimoy Dual Autograph card! The dual autograph for this set is similar to the Shatner/Nimoy Dual Autograph from the Star Trek Portfolio Prints trading card set. Where that incentive card featured Kirk and Spock in their Mirror Universe garb (and, in Spock's case, facial hair), the Dual Autograph for the Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary features a traditional promotional photo of the Captain and First Officer. Oddly, its value has been depressed since the cards were released in the secondary market, but this card is poised to explode in value given the more universal appeal of the traditional appearance of Kirk and Spock.

Finally, there are the Archive Box exclusive cards. Rittenhouse Archives expanded the SkyBox "Mirror, Mirror" trading card set with an Archive Box exclusive M8 card of Marlena Moreau! Because Charendoff designed the original "Mirror, Mirror" card back in 1998, the new card exactly matches the style and quality of the prior release!

Rittenhouse Archives also included a set of printing plates in each Archive Box and it is hard not to give the company a huge amount of credit for the way they released them. Some trading card companies release the printing plates in the packs and collectors have to desperately attempt to cobble together one of four possible printing plate sets to achieve a true master set. Rittenhouse Archives takes a different approach and it is far more humane to collectors! The Archive Box includes one set of all four printing plates used to make a single common card (and the casetopper!), so collectors get a set of printing plates as opposed to trying to reconstruct a whole set of cards in printing plate form.

For the serious collectors, there is a Rittenhouse Rewards card as well, the E10 expansion card that makes the 9-card Enterprise Concept Art card set into a 10-card set. Available only through redeeming points from wrappers, the E10 features the familiar version of the U.S.S. Enterprise, which is a cool way to cap off the lackluster subset.


The Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary trading cards are well-organized, look amazing and make a potentially stale subject feel remarkably fresh again. While the Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary trading card set is a fairly small trading card set for the price one would pay attempting to assemble it, it is a true celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek. Those who are not obsessed with creating a master set will still find ample material to gleefully collect in the Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary trading card set!

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

These cards are available in my online store! Please check out my growing Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary 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 3 Episode Collection trading cards
Star Trek In Motion
35th Anniversary HoloFEX Holofoil cards
Legends Of Captain James T. Kirk
The Art And Images Of Star Trek
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 2
Star Trek (2009 movie) cards
Star Trek Heroes & Villains

8.5/10 (substance/content)
2/10 (factoring collectibility)

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

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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