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21 Jul

July 21, 2015

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The Sad History of Star Trek Trading Cards

24 Jan

January 24, 2011

Star Trek. We’ve got to support this little TV show or it’ll never catch on.

Captain Kirk. Mr. Spock. Dr. McCoy. The red-shirted guy who is always the first one to die. Today they are all cultural icons. You don’t have to be a nerd to know the Enterprise’s number. (You do, though, have to be one to speak Klingon.) These things are modern icons.

Of course, it wasn’t always this way. Before there were a dozen movies, before there were four spin-off shows, before Star Trek was a franchise, it was a struggling television show that NBC didn’t like. It is television lore how Star Trek was cancelled in the sixties and fan support brought it back. In those early years the poor show got low ratings and no respect. What do I mean? Take a look at these early Star Trek card sets and see for yourself.

All  images are from www.wixiban.com, a great site to learn about the worlds of Star Trek merchandise than and now. They were the inspiration behind this post.

In 1967 the first card set came out. They are pretty basic, with black and white pictures and plain text captions. Despite that, it happens to be my favorite set because, even though some of the pictures seem too dark, they lend the series a sci-fi quality not seen in other card sets. On the other hand, they do have some drawbacks. Some extreme drawbacks.

From wixiban:
“Most of the backs have text that is pure fabrication and is unrelated to any episode, let alone the one the image is from. They appear to be written by someone who never saw an episode”

Into a New World

CARD BACK- Captain Kirk, Spock, and crew members step off an elevator into a new world. Orbiting unknown planet Thorasian II, Kirk learns that any downward movement beams him onto the planet. He can return his crew if the ship moves upward. In one bone-jarring move, the Enterprise frees itself.
Ah, I can see the solicitations now: “Captain Kirk gets trapped in an elevator. Can Scotty get him out? Find out tonight at 10! Only on NBC!”


 The next set of cards moved ahead into the wonderful world of color. For some reason, the set only covers one episode, “What are Little Girls Made of?” That’s the vaguely HP Lovecraft inspired season one episode where Kirk finds Dr. Roger Korby and the robot Ruk, created by “The Old Ones.” Korby makes a robot duplicate of Kirk and tries to take over the Enterprise, but Ruk turns on him and helps destroy Korby, who turns out to also be a robot. (BTW- I am not worried about spoilers for a show which even your dog knows.)

It isn’t a bad episode to base a whole set around. It has interesting sets, a bunch of guest stars, and a whole lot of mistakes in the card set.

From wixiban:
“Kirk’s first name is given as ‘Roger’ on the first card; Spock is described as part ‘Martian’ on card #2; and the android is named ‘Rock’ instead of Ruk consistently throughout the set.”

Captain Roger T. Kirk

CARD BACK- Roger Kirk, Captain of Star Cruiser, United Space Enterprises. Out on a 5-year mission in space to complete research, explore and enforce space law. Each journey brings new challenges and danger for Kirk and his experienced crew.

No, I didn’t make a typo there. It really says “Captain of Star Cruiser, United Space Enterprises” so I guess the ship is named “Star Cruiser” and Kirk works for “United Space Enterprises.” I hope that one day Kirk gets out of middle management and gets promoted from Captain to Vice-President in Charge of Marketing.

The next Star Trek set came out in 1975 and is actually a sticker set from Canada. Oddly, four of the images are not from Star Trek at all but strange drawings of things never shown or hinted at on the program.

What episode did I miss?

I can find nothing that screams Star Trek any less than that robot.

The 1976 Topps Star Trek set consisted of 88 cards and covered all the episodes. All the episodes, but not all the characters.

From wixiban:
“Sulu fans were out of luck with this set as he is neither pictured nor even mentioned on any card or sticker, not even the cast listing on card 13!”

"Men" of the Enterprise

Interestingly, Nichelle Nichols is one of the “men” of the Enterprise. Do they know something we don’t know? I know that Kirk and Uhura had the first interracial kiss on television, did they have the first homosexual kiss too?

 There were no more sets based on the TV series made until the 1990’s and by then they unfortunately got it right.

So there it is, the sad history of Star Trek trading cards. I miss the old days when Star Trek was so little regarded that you could get away with sticking a random drawing of a fishman in a deck and calling it Star Trek. Today Star Trek fans are so obsessive we get technical manuals of imaginary starships. Imagine if this came out today? Thousands of guys in rubber ears declaring “worst card set ever” all over the net.

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