Out of this World Card Sets
by Kurt Kuersteiner © Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards (© The Wrapper Magazine #162)
The last few months have been good for sci-fi card collectors. Star Trekers saw a new motion picture and two new card series. Alien-aholics got to collect a set featuring all four Alien movies. And Babylon Five fanatics received a card series devoted to the fifth and final season. These four sets not only have futuristic themes, but somewhat elaborate levels of chase cards. So why not pull up an anti-gravity posterior flotation device and let's have a look. (An old fashioned chair will work fine, too.)
Starting with the Star Trek sets, how many of you saw the latest flick, Star Trek Insurrection? Some fans felt it wasn't as good as the last movie (First Contact). But let's face it- anything with the Borg in it is a tough act to follow. This latest effort was still quite entertaining. If you're like me, you couldn't help but observe that all the regular cast seemed noticeably older. It turns out to be part of the plot. Without revealing too much detail, the Federation discovers a planet where nobody ages. It doesn't take long before others are out to rob that planet of its secret. Naturally, the Enterprise crew attempts to protect the natives.
The Fleer Skybox series are wide vision cards (4 3/4" X 2 1/2") and fit in six pocket sleeves. The 72 card basic set profiles the film with 23 Mission Log cards, provides memorable dialog with 27 Soundbyte cards, highlights the cast with 13 Character Profile cards, and showcases the aliens with 8 Alien Races cards. The title card is a checklist.
There are also six levels of chase cards. It begins with 9 Schematic cards, showing color sketches of the various space ships (1:4 packs). The unusual thing about these is that they are made out of different card stock (a soft non-glossy variety). They look like they belong to a different set. The same goes for the 9 Wardrobe cards. They are 1:4 packs and are also sketches. The 9 Okudagram cards return to regular card stock with photos, and feature set designs of Michael Okuda (1:6 packs). The 9 Relationship cards (1:8 packs) detail special relationships between characters. Six Gold Character cards (1:360 packs) profile key crew members. (These are gold embossed all foil cards). And finally, 19 different autograph cards feature various cast members (one autograph per box). The six crew members (Picard, Data, Riker, Troi, LaForge, Crusher) are the toughest ones to find.
Also from Fleer Skybox is the third and final installment of Star Trek: The Original Series. These conventional sized cards started the "one autograph per box" craze when Series One first premiered. (Each series represents a season from the classic 1960s TV show.) There are six levels of chase cards and each level is more expensive than the first. Some of the autograph cards from the first two series resold on the second hand market for several hundred dollars each. For this reason, some collectors claim this series is the Anti-Christ of Budget Busters. Complete "master sets" have been known to sell for two grand! But if collectors can control their "must have it all" impulses, the basic set is an inexpensive and fun addition to any Star Trek collection. So long as collectors avoid getting bitten by the autograph bug, they can even complete all the "regular" chase cards and still spend less than a couple hundred bucks. (That saves $1,800 to use on life's others luxuries, e.g. food and shelter.)
Nearly all the photos are video grabs, but they have been enhanced to remove the grain and darkness. So most these pictures not only look good, but they have not been seen in any other set. Another positive aspect is that when all the chase cards (except autographs) are incorporated with the regular set, each episode consists of nine cards. So they view nicely in 9 pocket sleeves. The reverse is printed upside down, so the viewer doesn't need to flip the binder to read the backs- they just turn the page. Neat-o!
72 cards and 3 checklists make up the basic set. The chase sets are as follows: There are 48 Character Log cards (2:1 packs). There are 48 Behind The Scenes cards (1:2 packs) with silver foil lettering. There are 24 Character Profile cards (1:4 packs) with gold foil lettering. Then are 24 Commemorative Gold Plaque cards (1:12 packs) which are embossed gold foil cards (no photos). Then there are 27 different autographs, including Spock, McCoy, Scotty and Chekov (1 per box). Die-hard collectors might also want to seek out the super rare Captain's Card of Kirk (1:720 packs).
The autograph challenge cards are packed one per pack. There are 13 different cards that form the phrase "Space the Final Frontier". The letter "C" is the tough card that allows you to win a complete set of the autograph cards from the company. But you stand a better chance of naming a planet. The odds are only 1 in 18,000 packs! On a serious note, collectors are warned not to pay outrageous sums for "voided" versions of the scarce letter cards. The company produced many of these and offered them (voided) to collectors to finish their sets. Because of the abuse by unscrupulous retailers, the company has discontinued this offer.
In other Star Trek news, Fleer Skybox releases Deep Space Nine Memories from the Future in April.
Babylon Five has concluded its final episode of the series. Fleer Skybox marked the event with the release of Babylon 5, Season five. There are 81 cards in the basic set. The same cards are available embossed (1:1 packs) as a parallel set.
There are five other levels of chase cards: Thirdspace TNT movie cards are 1:6 packs. River of Souls TNT movie cards are 1:6 packs. Sleeping in the Light Cards (based on the final episode) are 1:9 packs. One Exit at a Time Cards (chronicling the exit of the show's major characters) are 1:9 packs. All of the above are in nine card subsets, except One Exit at a Time Cards (which have six in the set). There are also 22 different autographs randomly inserted into this series (one per box). Most the major characters are here, including Sheridan, Lochley and Bester.
From an artistic point of view, many of these images are somewhat grainy and dark. It is also a little disappointing that the parallel cards didn't emboss the image of the photo, but rather, a standard Babylon 5 logo. The point of embossing is to help the image "pop out" from the card. Stamping an embossed logo on every card looks more like a watermark. (It looks okay, but it lacks the impact that embossing the outline of the image would provide.)
"In space, nobody can hear you scream." If you don't remember what movie that slogan is from, then you were either born after 1979 or living in chronic suspension. Alien took America by storm and made quite an impact. Commercials featured a glowing green egg, eerie music, and no explanation other than the enigmatic slogan. Many consider it one of the best science fiction movies ever made.
The cards from Inkworks are nice, too. They're clear, not too dark, and feature all four Alien movies. Each of these movies get their own subset in the 90 card basic set. There is also a 9 card subset devoted to Alien Technology & Environments (of the cool space ships and gizmos). There are 9 drawings highlighting the Alien Art & Design (of Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger). 18 cards feature the Alien Evolution (from movie to movie). The last 9 cards are various character cards and a checklist.
Three levels of chase cards are included in Alien Legacy. The nine different Poster Gallery cards (1:17 packs) are printed on a colorful foil process. They feature the classic posters that promoted the movies. The four different Evolution of Ripley cards (1:27 packs) show how Ripley changed from movie to movie. Then there's an embossed Acid Bath card (1:108 packs). It's a pretty cool shot of the real star of the series: The steel toothed acid dripping alien!
It is late, dear reader, and I must retire. There's no telling which of the above series I will dream about in my slumber, but if you hear a distant scream in the night... you can bet it was Alien.
A special thanks to Tamara Mainwaring of Warp 9 Cards for providing information used in this article.
The Non-Sports Trading Card Article Index