Trek Artifacts 1967 Leaf Trading Card Set
PUBLISHED: August 28, 2006
Hello, and welcome to “Trek
Artifacts”, a new special at TrekCore where you’ll be able to see and
read about a variety of “artifacts” related to Star Trek. As most of you
are aware there have been literally thousands of items related to Star
Trek released over the last 40 years: from trading cards and comic
books, to wall clocks and neckties. In this special we’ll try to feature
some of the more obscure and noteworthy memorabilia items known to
exist, mostly of the flat, paper type, such as trading cards, comics,
magazines, advertising, etc. If you think you’ve seen it all, guess
again. The world of Star Trek merchandising and memorabilia can be a
strange place full of unknowns, friendly and otherwise! Keep checking
back since we plan on posting new items on a regular schedule. Sorry,
none of these items are for sale so go find your own!! Enjoy.
One of the earliest bits of Star Trek merchandising – as well as one of the most bizarre–was the Leaf Company’s 1967 trading card set. Consisting of 72 black & white cards, the Leaf set is one of the rarest and most coveted Star Trek collectibles around. At the same time it is also one of the strangest and most mysterious of TOS memorabilia ever produced. The B&W picture fronts vary from actual episode scenes to promotional and publicity stills, to “out-take” style pictures probably shot on the set between takes. The captions and text info on the card backs are even stranger: some cards have a back-text episode plot synopsis that doesn’t match the episode the photo on the card front is from (see cards #6 and #9 below for example); other card backs describe “episode plots” that never existed on TOS (thank God; see cards #4, #10, #23, #48, and #59 for example). The captions on the card fronts range from attention-grabbing phrases (#2 - “Attempted Mutiny”; #14 - “Prepare to Fire Phasers”) to puns on the photo image (#7 - “Beside himself”), to just downright bizarre (#23 - “Teenybopper”; #43 - “Spock Takes a Job”; #66-“Funny Little Enemies” for example).
The origin and style of this set has baffled collectors and fans for years and since there is virtually no information available about these cards (Leaf has long since gone out of business; Gene Roddenberry and others that may have had some insight are also no longer with us) fans have been left to speculate on the set’s origins and oddity. It is known that Leaf pulled the cards from circulation shortly after their debut, leading some to believe that this was a “test set” that failed to sell and was thus pulled from the market. Others speculate that the manufacturer didn’t have the proper license agreements with the authors of the various TOS scripts used as the basis for the back-text plot synopses–which is often the same explanation given for the fabricated, nonsensical episode descriptions on the card backs–and were thus forced to pull the product from the market. The cards short life in the marketplace and limited distribution (mainly limited to the eastern U.S.) has made them one of the rarest, hard-to-find sets around, rivaling the scarcity of the classic Mars Attacks! card set from 1962 which was also quickly pulled from circulation. Whatever the real reasons for the set’s strange approach and scarcity, they have combined to make this debut TOS card set legendary in the non-sports card collecting community.
Initially, a wax-wrapper pack–probably consisting of 7-10 cards and a piece of chewing gum–sold for 5 cents. Today a single card from this set will fetch around $10-30, depending on condition. A complete set would probably set you back anywhere from $2000-8,000 (possibly more for a completely “mint” or “near-mint” set), that is if you could find one. Even rarer than the cards themselves are the wax paper wrappers and wax-coated display box, each of which could cost anywhere from $300-$1000 or more depending on condition. The cards displayed in this special of TrekCore are from the 1981 reprint set, which apparently is an unofficial “bootleg”. Reprint sets can be found at Star Trek conventions, comic & card shops, through mail order, or online dealers for $30-$60 and are somewhat uncommon themselves, although much easier to find–and afford–than the originals.
And so begins our journey into the universe of Star Trek artifacts; a sampling of interesting, noteworthy, and sometimes just plain odd items that 40 years of Star Trek fandom (and the pursuit of the almighty dollar) have helped make possible.
Click thumbnails for larger
In our next article we will look at more of the cards from the Leaf Series!
The following sources were used for research for this article: