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Signed Star Trek trading cards
Signed Star Trek trading cards have long been prized in the collecting community.

It’s no secret that famous autographs often net collectors large profits. But in the world of collecting, there is perhaps no other television franchise with such a dizzying array of autographs to collect as the ever-popular Star Trek.

Star Trek has produced 890 episodes (and counting) across forty-five television series, as well as multiple Hollywood movies. There are also many non-canon works, from novels to fan-made films. With the franchise being such a juggernaut, it is no surprise that the autographs of Trek actors and actresses have become a collecting phenomenon all their own.

To Boldly Collect

What sets Star Trek apart is its huge and dedicated fanbase, which has only grown with time. Trekkies, as they are called, are an extremely loyal bunch. Many will happily travel hundreds (or even thousands) of miles to attend conventions, hoping to get the autograph of someone who appeared in a lizard costume in one episode.

Prized above all else are official autograph cards. These cards bear a photograph of the actor in character and usually have a blank space in the bottom half where the signature can be written. Topps, Impel, Fleer/SkyBox, and Rittenhouse Archives have produced the main cards available to the modern collector. Of these, the Rittenhouse cards are the most traded today.

With the original show dating back to the mid-sixties, many Star Trek actors are no longer with us. Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) is the most recent member of the Original Series main cast to pass away. Of the original bridge crew, only William Shatner (Captain Kirk), George Takei (Sulu), and Walter Koenig (Chekov) are still alive. There will never be any new Leonard Nimoy or DeForest Kelley autographs in the collecting world, meaning the values of such autographs have increased exponentially and will continue to do so.

Original Series Autographs

Of all the many official (and non-official) Original Series autograph cards, collectors most often seek the twenty-six-card signature group from the 1997 Fleer/Skybox release. William Shatner (Captain Kirk) and Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock) have the most valuable signatures. Indeed, Shatner’s autograph is increasingly rare due to his policy of only signing items at conventions or for charity.

Leonard Nimoy’s autograph regularly fetches many hundreds of dollars. Of particular note to collectors should be the 1998 A31 Captain James T. Kirk card from Skybox. Its limited print run means this is one of the rarest cards to date and can set modern collectors back a thousand dollars for one in mint condition.

A Next Generation

A brand new Star Trek series with a new cast of characters was released in 1987. The Next Generation ran for seven years and is chiefly responsible for why so much Trek content is available to the modern viewer. Without Next Generation, there would have been no Deep Space Nine, Voyager, or any new series currently airing on streaming services.

A new series meant new actors, and autograph card companies were quick to exploit the show’s growing popularity. Card company Impel brought out The Next Generation Inaugural Edition in 1992 when the show was on its fifth season. The 120-card set featured images of ships, props, and key characters. The Inaugural Edition would be Impel’s swan song—the company merged with Skybox that same year. Impel’s legacy in the Star Trek collecting world is immeasurable—it was Impel who set the gold standard for quality in an increasingly saturated market. Most modern trading card companies owe an awful lot to Impel.

The most valuable autograph from The Next Generation set is that of Patrick Stewart, who portrayed Captain Jean-Luc Picard. A signed Impel Captain Picard can set a buyer back at least 300 dollars. Any autographs from cast regulars will hold the most value, including Michael Dorn (Worf) and Whoopi Goldberg (Guinan).

Later Shows and Movies

After the startling success of Next Gen, the 1990s and early 2000s saw what many fans refer to as the golden age of Star Trek. Viewers were spoilt for choice with shows like Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. New shows meant new actors and new autographs. Fleer/Skybox (merging in 1995) went into overdrive, producing card sets at a fantastic rate. But during this time, the company sailed into choppy financial waters. Parent company Marvel entered bankruptcy in 1996, and by 1999, Fleer/Skybox was a shell of its former glory.

Rittenhouse Archives picked up where Fleer/Skybox left off, taking over the license for Star Trek-related trading cards in 1999. The company continues to put out Trek content and is currently one of the top trading card manufacturers in the world.

Two ’90s shows gained huge popularity in the Trek collecting market: Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Popular autographs from Deep Space Nine include Michael Dorn (playing Worf once again), Marc Alaimo (Gul Dukat), Andrew Robinson (Elim Garak), and Terry Farrell (Jadzia Dax). Of all the Voyager signatures, Jeri Ryan (who played ex-Borg drone Seven of Nine) is the most sought-after.

The year 2009 saw the first release in a series of new Star Trek movies featuring Kirk and Co. in an alternate timeline. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto (already big Hollywood stars in their own right) have the most valuable trading card signatures.

The modern iterations of Trek include three new live-action series: Discovery, Picard, and Strange New Worlds. Rittenhouse Archives again came to the fore in the collecting world, producing almost all the official cards for these series. The Strange New Worlds Season 1 Base set (with signature cards for the whole bridge crew) is set to become a real collecting phenomenon as time passes.

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Later shows have seen a massive proliferation of trading cards.

Final Thoughts

Only a collector with a very large budget and inexhaustible patience can acquire an extensive Star Trek autograph card collection. Even then, it will be increasingly tricky to come by the autographs of deceased actors and actresses. If you are willing to invest a good amount of time and energy in the world of collecting Trek memorabilia, your collection will not only increase in monetary value, but you will also own pieces of pop culture history.

If you live in the United States, attending Trek conventions may be a better (and certainly less costly) option than trying to acquire expensive autographs online. You can buy a pack of unsigned cards relatively cheaply—then all you have to do is drive to conventions with Trek actors in attendance and stand in line with your blank card ready to be signed. It’s incredible how many Trekkies (this author included) find this to be a productive way to spend an afternoon. And while nobody will get every signature out there, you might at least be able to net some of your favorites.

Matthew Doherty is a writer, editor, and teacher specializing in all things history-related. His work has been published in the UK Defence Journal, the Small Wars Journal, and The Collector. He holds an MSc from the University of Edinburgh and a BA from the University of Leeds. In his spare time, he also writes science fiction stories.

WorthPoint—Discover. Value. Preserve.

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