Trek Artifacts : Skybox TOS Product Inserts


Author: Greg Jones
Date: July 21, 2007

Welcome Back to Trek Artifacts!

Has it really been two months since our last installment? Early summer is a great time for vacationing in the Pacific Northwest and well, suffice it to say that we’ve been taking advantage. And although the summer vacation season is hardly over, Trek Artifacts is back and here to stay. There have also been some changes here at TrekCore that affect this series so I’ll bring you all up to speed. For a variety of reasons we’ve decided to change Trek Artifacts from a weekly (or sort-of-weekly) feature to a monthly feature. Yeah, I know, I know–how can you possibly survive without a weekly dose of TA? Well the upshot of this change is that each monthly TA installment will be larger and more in-depth than the weekly installments, with roughly 2-3 times the number of scans normally posted in the weekly versions. So although we’re less frequent, we’re bigger and hopefully better than ever! So without further ado let’s beam into it...

1990s Skybox TOS Product Insert Cards–Video Inserts

As regular Trek Artifacts visitors know, trading cards have been part of the Star Trek merchandising array from the very beginning. Over the years dozens of card sets based on all incarnations of the franchise have been issued by almost as many different manufacturers. Between 1967 and 1992, Leaf, Topps, FTC, and Impel all issued sets based on The Original Star Trek series, The Feature Films, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. But in 1993 the Star Trek license was assumed by Skybox, a relatively new company which had had great success with their innovative line of sports cards. Skybox was among the first trading card manufacturers to use computer-generated graphics to enhance the look of their cards, and to also employ features like UV coating, metallic inks, embossing, and foil coatings and packaging. Along with Upper Deck, Skybox led a revolution in the way trading cards were made and how they looked; many of the features these companies originated have now become standard in American trading cards.

For some reason Americans fell in love with the trading card all over again in the 1990s. Foil packs of cards based on every sport, comic book character, popular TV series, and blockbuster movie sold like gangbusters, particularly in the early part of the decade. To capitalize on the popularity of trading cards and on the resurgent popularity of Star Trek in all its forms, Skybox and Paramount initiated a number of cross-promotional campaigns no doubt geared to increase the sales of different products to a wider base of consumers. People who buy trading cards often also buy things like comics and magazines, but not necessarily toys or videos; likewise, the purchasers of VHS Star Trek episodes may not be buying the cards, toys, and comics. In order to encourage higher sales of a wider range of merchandise, special, “limited edition” Skybox cards began being inserted in different Star Trek products, both as a “bonus” to the consumer and as a way to promote the trading card product. Trading card collectors are often quite serious about completing sets and obtaining as many special, “limited edition” cards as they can–the more limited the print run and availability, the more valuable and sought after a card becomes–which no doubt was a factor in Paramount’s cross-promotion strategy.

In 1993 Paramount re-issued all the Original Star Trek Episodes on VHS cassette with new packaging designs. The first issue of the TOS episodes (issued in the 1980s) came in black-bordered boxes with an image from the episode inside a transporter graphic design on the front of the box. The new series used a blue-border scheme with the image set in a view-screen graphic with pink trim (see scans below).

The 1993 blue-box video issue with the pink sticker that reads: "Exclusive Skybox Star Trek Trading Card Enclosed!"


The initial manufacturing run of these videotapes also came with a pink sticker on the plastic shrink-wrap announcing the inclusion of an “Exclusive Skybox Star Trek Trading Card” inside. Now for those that just wanted the VHS tape of their favorite episode they got a cool trading card of the episode as a bonus. But for the serious card collector they got a special, “exclusive”, limited-edition trading card and a VHS cassette as a bonus! The only way to get these cards was to buy the video tapes, and only those that had the sticker on the wrapping. At $9.95 to $14.95 per video, the initial cost of completing a set of 80 cards (79 original episodes plus 1 for “The Cage”) was in the range of $796 to $1196, making it second only to the 1967 Leaf card set as the most expensive Star Trek card set around! Obviously, most people couldn’t afford to complete a set or perhaps even come close. In the mid-1990s the set had a guide* value (*the Non-Sport Update Magazine ‘Pop-Out’ Price Guide) of about $300. By decade’s end, this had increased to $800 with individual cards selling at around $8 each.

Eight of these cards are posted here for your enjoyment. These were the only ones I could afford to buy at the time and before the promotion ended, as subsequent VHS copies did not contain the insert cards. The advent of DVD has made VHS videocassettes obsolete, but you can still find some of these tapes with the insert cards on E-Bay, and probably at video closeout sales. Just make sure the box has the pink sticker on the exterior wrapping if you do go looking for these.

1990s Playmates Action Figure Inserts

Skybox cards were also inserted with various Playmates action figures, although not every action figure package contained a card. Below you’ll find scans of some of the cards inserted with various Original Series figures: Sulu, from Star Trek: The Motion Picture; Captain Kirk in green tunic top; Captain Pike, Mr. Spock, The Talosians, and Vina as the Orion “animal woman” which were all part of a special line of figures commemorating the original pilot “The Cage”; lastly, The Gorn from the TOS episode “Arena”, one of the most popular aliens from one of the most popular episodes. The Playmates card inserts were not numbered and the design of the cards varied depending on which particular group the figure was from. TOS, TNG, DS9, and Voyager figures also included card inserts (which will be part of a different TA article down the road). Like the video inserts the only way to get the cards was to buy the action figures and then open the packaging (anathema to the hard-core “in-package-only” collectors). On the secondary market individual cards sell for $2-$6 depending on the character and scarcity of the figure it came with. Some of the Playmates figures were produced in limited quantities therefore the cards that go with them sell for more ($7-$15). There were plenty of these toys produced in the 1990s and since many collectors also speculated by buying in quantity, you shouldn’t have a problem finding the action figures in the packaging. Finding the cards alone however is probably more difficult as most folks who opened a toy package probably saved the card as well. Happy hunting!


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