Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Rittenhouse Archives Star Trek Beyond Trading Cards Are Better Than The Film!

The Good: Beautiful common set, Decent chase cards, Some cool autograph signers, Impressive sketches
The Bad: Poor internal/external continuity, Repetitive signers/lack of major villain actor autographs
The Basics: The Star Trek Beyond trading cards take a disappointing film and make an impressive trading card set that acts as a decent tribute to the Kelvan Universe Star Trek films!

It is hard not to feel empathy for the trials and tribulations of a trading card company that has a long history of innovating. Rittenhouse Archives certainly has a well-earned reputation for trying new things in the trading card medium and their media-based trading cards are made popular by the results they are able to deliver based upon having a positive relationship with the film studios and talent with which they interact. To make more intriguing trading cards, Rittenhouse Archives manages to get in set materials, costumes and similar materials from studios like CBS Studios, which now produces the television shows and films in the Star Trek franchise. The positive relationship does not guarantee all aspects of an ideal trading card set will come together, though. That premise is embodied well in the new Star Trek Beyond trading cards.

The Star Trek Beyond trading cards, released in December 2017 by Rittenhouse Archives - more than a year after the cinematic release of Star Trek Beyond - reveals the benefits and issues with making a great trading card set based upon a blockbuster film. Fans of the Star Trek franchise, even those who primarily enjoy the new "Kelvan Universe" films, are deeply divided on Star Trek Beyond (reviewed here!) and I definitely fall into the camp that the latest cinematic outing for Star Trek was not one of its better ones. So, when I write that Rittenhouse Archives managed to make a trading card set that was vastly superior to its source material, I am not simply saying that the trading card company made something adequate out of something that was awful; the Star Trek Beyond trading cards are a truly beautiful trading card set with a wide array of benefits for trading card collectors and Star Trek enthusiasts alike.

But even with managing to make something impressive out of something that was unimpressive, Rittenhouse Archives was limited by the access the company had and the timeliness of its production schedule. Conceptually, the Star Trek Beyond set is more like the 2014 Star Trek Movies set (reviewed here!) in that it includes content from the prior two Kelvan Universe Star Trek films, in addition to Star Trek Beyond. Indeed, the chase cards include expansion sets that continue cards from the Star Trek (2009 Movie) set (reviewed here!) and the 2014 Star Trek Movies set, which dilutes the Star Trek Beyond theme of the set. The random expansion relic cards from prior films give the set something of an assembled, almost a collection of leftovers, feel. And, despite the access Rittenhouse Archives has with CBS and many of the actors from the Star Trek franchise, the Star Trek Beyond set is noticeably lacking in an Idris Elba autograph card. In fact, for a set that includes a huge array of costume and autograph cards from all three of the Kelvan Universe films, the Star Trek Beyond trading cards are unfortunately missing any of the primary villains on autograph cards - there are no Eric Bana or Benedict Cumberbatch autographs, either (the biggest adversary featured is a Peter Weller as Admiral Marcus autograph card, which is actually pretty cool in its own right!).

With an arguably lame film as source material and inability to get access to one of the biggest international celebrities on the planet right now, Rittenhouse Archives seems to have been in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" type situation when it took on the Star Trek Beyond trading cards. Rather than harp on the addition of cards that flesh out past sets in an awkward way or the lack of an Idris Elba autograph card, Rittenhouse Archives focused its attention on giving collectors an immense amount of bang for their buck with the Star Trek Beyond trading cards . . . with so much that was good that when one looks at the assembled set, they are likely to forget there is no Idris Elba autograph and actually be dazzled by some of the new relic cards from Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness!

Basics/Set Composition

Fully assembled, the Star Trek Beyond trading card set has 346 cards, all of which is focused on the three Kelvan tangent universe films, with most of the cards relating very clearly to Star Trek Beyond! In addition to the trading cards themselves, there is an oversized binder produced by Rittenhouse Archives that comfortably holds the entire set . . . sort of. The Star Trek Beyond trading card set features four cards that do not fit into any sort of binder page I have yet found (beautiful cards, a pain in the ass to incorporate into the binder in a way that keeps the cards mint!). The set consists of 85 common cards and 261 bonus cards. The chase cards are mostly available in the packs of cards, though eleven of them were incentive or promotional cards and could not be found in any of the packs. The Star Trek Beyond trading cards were released in boxes of twenty-four packs of five cards each and it was priced to be a premium set . . . that delivered premium card quality throughout!

Common Cards

The common card set for the Star Trek Beyond trading cards consisted of eighty five trading cards and this is an important divergence from the 2014 Star Trek Movies set. The 2014 Star Trek Movies trading cards featured sets of cards for Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness that were 110 cards each. The moment the Star Trek Beyond trading cards were first introduced, most collectors assumed that Rittenhouse Archives was going to continue the same style of those cards for Star Trek Beyond. The common set illustrates brilliantly how Rittenhouse Archives made amazing lemonade out of some very bitter lemons: the writing on the Star Trek Beyond trading cards details every moment of the film. The plot summary is incredibly complete with a great attention to detail; Rittenhouse Archives made a set that utilized the entirety of the source material. The eighty-five card common set's length represents the best possible attempt to be thorough without stretching the plot to make more cards.

One of the nicest aspects of the Star Trek Beyond trading card common card set is that the cards are consistently oriented. The entire set features images in landscape orientation with a single decent-sized image on the front and a different image on the back. The Star Trek Beyond cards have the traditional UV-resistant coating which is flawlessly applied. The back of each card has a plot synopsis of the scene depicted on the front and the writing is impressive in its level of detail. The Star Trek Beyond common set accurately portrays the entire plot of Star Trek Beyond and is certainly intended for those who have seen the film, as the plot synopsis is complete. Rittenhouse Archives did an amazing job of translating the film into trading cards; this is an entirely complete and comprehensive set for relating the story of Star Trek Beyond!

Chase Cards

The 250 chase cards that can be found in packs and boxes of Star Trek Beyond are rich in material, with the Star Trek Beyond set focusing intensely on high-end insert cards, like relic, costume and autograph cards, though there are some less-expensive chase cards in the set as well. The chase sets take at least a complete case to finish, but most of the chase sets require multiple cases to have a fair shot at completion.

The first level of chase cards in the Star Trek Beyond set are the "Quotable" Star Trek Beyond cards. Each card in this subset is in landscape format and features a big image of a character (or, in some cases, multiple characters who shared the scene) and large text for a cool quote from the film Star Trek Beyond. These brightly colored cards follow the same type style as the "Quotable" cards that Rittenhouse Archives made for the Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary trading cards. These "Quotable" cards find a nice balance between the images and text, which was one of the issues with some of the earliest "Quotable" cards (small text, long paragraphs with tiny or no images, etc.). The technical issues fixed, the "Quotable" Star Trek Beyond cards feature, arguably, the best thirty quotes from the film over the course of the fifteen cards. It is a little odd that the set is not some multiple of nine cards, but it seems (again) like Rittenhouse Archives did all they could with the source material!

The Star Trek Beyond set has only one parallel set, which is a refreshing change from the 2014 Star Trek Movies set. One per pack is one of the eighty-five metal parallel cards mimicking the common cards on metal trading cards, as is the current trend in parallel cards. The bright coloring of the common cards translates beautifully to the metal cards, which are easily distinguished from the common cards by their rounded edges and an individual collector's number stamped on the back of each card. There are only one hundred of each of the eighty-five Star Trek Beyond metal parallel cards and this set looks great in metal!

The rest of the chase cards in the Star Trek Beyond trading cards are comparatively high-end cards and Rittenhouse Archives delivers a set that looks amazing with their new, ambitious, concepts. One of the coolest cards that continues the metal card trend into the Star Trek Beyond trading card set are the nine movie poster cards. These metal cards replicate the movie posters created for Star Trek Beyond during the massive promotional campaign for Star Trek Beyond. All seven of the main cast, plus Jaylah and Krall had posters, which are replicated into glossy, beautiful, metal cards. The popularity and quality of these cards exceeds that of the similar metal movie poster cards Rittenhouse Archives created for the James Bond films. While not individually numbered on the back, like other metal movie poster cards, the Star Trek Beyond metal movie poster cards were quite rare, being found only two per case!

The Star Trek Beyond set makes a number of conceptual callbacks to the trading card sets Rittenhouse Archives made for the classic ten Star Trek films. In some of those earlier sets, Rittenhouse Archives created patch replica cards of the patches from Star Trek The Motion Picture. In the Star Trek Beyond set, Rittenhouse Archives included manufactured patch cards for characters from Star Trek Beyond and Star Trek Into Darkness. The patch cards are well-made and intricately detailed, even if the patches in the films lack the prominent positioning of the patches in the original films (the patches Rittenhouse Archives replicated were shoulder patches as opposed to patches on character's chests). These landscape-oriented patch cards were also found only two per case.

Found only one per case are one each of the nine Anton Yelchin In Memoriam and six Leonard Nimoy In Memoriam cards. Anton Yelchin lost his life in a freak tragic accident shortly before the cinematic release of Star Trek Beyond and the Star Trek Beyond cards are the first chance Rittenhouse Archives had to produce a tribute card to the young actor. The Anton Yelchin In Memoriam cards are beautiful and include nice images from each of the three Star Trek films. The In Memoriam cards for Anton Yelchin are individually numbered up to 100 and they are consistent with the quality of the prior In Memoriam cards. The Leonard Nimoy In Memoriam expansion cards continue the In Memoriam set for Nimoy that was begun in the Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary cards with images of Nimoy as Spock from his appearance in Star Trek (the 2009 film). Numbered to 125, each of the cards features images of Nimoy's penultimate performance in the Star Trek franchise beautifully rendered (it would have been virtually impossible to use a shot from Star Trek Into Darkness as Nimoy's Spock only appeared on the viewscreen in that film. The In Memoriam cards are one of the solemn gems of the Star Trek Beyond trading card set.

One per box there are one of thirty-five cards from a Relic, Uniform Relic and Pin card set. This is, arguably, the most conceptually-fragmented portion of the Star Trek Beyond trading card set, even if the results look absolutely amazing. The Relic and Pin set is a hodgepodge of relics, costume cards (inexplicably called "relics" in this set, despite being pieces of set-worn costumes) and manufactured pin cards. The thirty-five cards in this set are fractured throughout different styles, orientations and even the films, which makes for a conceptually erratic subset. Ultimately, I feel on the side of "it's far more wonderful that we collectors get these awesome relics than have to either buy an expansion set or go without them!" There are three proper subsets of actual relic cards on this Star Trek Beyond set: 2 expansion relics from the Star Trek set, four expansion "relics" (they are actually costume cards!) from Star Trek Into Darkness and two for Star Trek Into Darkness. The Star Trek expansion relics allow collectors to get a piece of a StarFleet chair and the interior of a shuttlecraft and the latter is an extremely limited thick card that is pretty cool. The Star Trek Into Darkness expansion relics fit the style made for the 2014 Star Trek Movies set flawlessly, though it seems odd that the RC13 card is unclear on whether it used material from Khan or Kirk's outfit (unless Pine and Cumberbatch shared a costume!). Rittenhouse Archives easily overcomes any trepidation on the one Relic card by having amazing variation with the Klingon Shoulder piece costume card and the scarce Admiral Pike costume piece (all of which that I found featured a piece of Pike's gold braid!). The two Star Trek Beyond relic cards are absolutely awesome. There is a piece of the Enterprise's interior and the exterior to a Swarm Ship. The Swarm Ship piece is an awesome find as each piece, like the Klingon Shoulder fabric, seems to have a different sense of coloring and texture, making each one unique!

Rittenhouse Archives manufactured uniform pin cards, which were part of the Relic and Pin set. The thick cards form a ten card subset that features full-sized metal pin badges embedded in each card. The badges replicate the metal pins worn by each of the main cast members on their uniforms (with variants for Kirk, Chekov and Spock to flesh out the set).

Rarer than the uniform pin cards are the seventeen costume relic cards, which are spread out into three subsets of the main set. Landscape-oriented, the relic costume cards feature single swatches, two swatches of fabric from a single character's costume (i.e. Kirk's shirt and pants) and single swatches from two different characters (like Kirk's shirt and Krall's armor). These cards are generally cool - the two that have costume materials from Krall are actually awesome! - though it seems a little odd that there is a Dual Character Relic of Jaylah and Chekov, when Jaylah and Scotty spent the most time together in Star Trek Beyond. That said, the various relic costume cards in the Star Trek Beyond set offer some of the most beautiful and diverse costume materials assembled for a film-based Star Trek set!

Despite being an assemblage of four different subsets, the autograph cards are pretty awesome in the Star Trek Beyond trading cards! With fifty-two different autographs, Rittenhouse Archives managed to get an impressive variety of signers, especially from the main cast of the three Kelvan Universe Star Trek films. The autographs come in four subsets - autographed relics, Star Trek (2009 Movie) full-bleed style, Classic Movies style (begin in the Complete Star Trek Movies set and continued through the other classic Star Trek movies trading card sets, and the Star Trek Into Darkness (landscape-oriented) cards. Star Trek fans will be thrilled to get autograph cards from Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Alice Eve, one of three different ones from rising international star Sofia Boutella (which is the biggest new signer in the Star Trek Beyond set and a very cool one at that!), and a scarce (less than 100 signed!) autograph card from Simon Pegg. There is even a new full-bleed Chris Pine autograph card and multiple Karl Urban autograph cards in the Star Trek Beyond set! While collectors might be underwhelmed by having three Jason Matthew Smith autographs in the Star Trek Beyond set, it's pretty cool that Rittenhouse Archives managed to get Peter Weller to sign again, as well as a new autograh card from Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin.

For the first time in a Star Trek movies set, Rittenhouse Archives had sketch cards produced! Found one per case, the sketch cards feature subjects from all three Kelvan Universe Star Trek films rendered by one of thirty different artists. The Star Trek Beyond sketch cards were drawn by renowned artists like Kristin Allen, Carlos Cabalerio, Chris Meeks, Charles Hall, and Warren Martineck. The Star Trek Beyond set is a premium trading card set and the sketch cards bear that out; there are no duds (that I've yet seen!) in this collection of sketch cards. All of the sketch cards in this set were immaculately rendered by wonderful artists, none of whom seemed to rush their work on this set. All of the sketches look recognizable and like fine art, as opposed to having an assemblage of great artists with a few duds that make for disappointing pulls. Instead, the Star Trek Beyond sketch cards are some of the best that Rittenhouse Archives has ever released, making the implicit argument for better artists, better cards!

Non-Box/Pack Cards

The Star Trek Beyond trading card set has eleven cards not found in any of the boxes or packs. There are three promotional cards – the usual general release, an exclusive one placed in Non-Sport Update magazine, and the binder-exclusive promotional card.

The casetopper for the Star Trek Beyond trading card set is a strange one. Rather than have a movie poster card for Star Trek Beyond (there was at least one style not released in the metal movie poster set!), the casetopper for the Star Trek Beyond trading cards was an acetate movie poster card from Star Trek. The movie poster card featuring the (almost) negative image of the Enterprise at warp from the 2009 movie Star Trek translates incredibly well to the clear plastic card, though!

The Star Trek Beyond set is fleshed out with incentive cards and these follow the trend of recent Rittenhouse Archives releases! For purchasing six cases, dealers received a Zoe Saldana autographed costume card. The autograph costume card looks incredible and all of the cards I've seen have a very clear signature from Saldana, who has become quite a star in recent years, making for a coveted incentive card. The nine-case incentive card is a cool Chris Pine autographed costume card, which is rarer than the full-bleed autograph card from the set. This is an awesome addition to the Star Trek Beyond set!

The archive box for the Star Trek Beyond trading card set features four premiums not found in any other packs or boxes of the cards. There is a Classic Movies style autograph card for director Justin Lin, a variant badge pin card for Chekov, and an ambitious multi-costume card that features fabric swatches from all seven of the main crew members from the Star Trek films. The bridge crew costume card is a concept that seems iffy, but Rittenhouse Archives executed it incredibly well. The picture on the card features the whole cast and the layout of the fabric swatches is artistically done, making for an immaculate collection of costume pieces and an amazing trading card! The Archive Box is fleshed out with a four-card set of printing plates for one of the common cards in the set. Those are pretty cool and a nice addition to the Archive Box and the completed set.

The final chase card of the Star Trek Beyond set is the Rittenhouse Reward card. The Rittenhouse Rewards cards is a variant costume card for Chekov. The SR8a card is essentially the same as the SR8, but with Chekov's image facing the opposite direction as the main release card. It's hard to complain about another Chekov card and the SR8a card is an nice added incentive for collectors!


The Star Trek Beyond set ends up as an impressive collection that takes an lot of materials from all three Kelvan Universe Star Trek films and makes a great tribute to Star Trek Beyond that is far better than the last film alone!

This set culls images from the Star Trek films Star Trek (reviewed here!), Star Trek Into Darkness (reviewed here!), and Star Trek Beyond!

These cards are available in my online store! Please check them out here: Star Trek Beyond Trading Card Current Inventory!

For other Star Trek franchise trading card reviews, please check out my reviews of:
Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary
Star Trek Aliens
2013 Star Trek Into Darkness Preview Set


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

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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