On December 16, Rittenhouse Archives will release the all-new Star Trek: Discovery Season Two trading card set. StarTrek.com sat down with Rittenhouse President Steven Charendoff to discuss the upcoming set, the plans for 2021, and his 25-plus years overseeing the Star Trek line of trading cards.
StarTrek.com: Thanks for talking with me today, Steve. First, tell us a little about yourself. How did you first come in contact with Star Trek? Have you been a fan for a long time?
Steven Charendoff: I’ve been a Star Trek fan my whole life. TOS is, to me, the greatest TV show ever made, and Gene Roddenberry is on my Mount Rushmore of the greatest TV show creators of all time. That said, it was somewhat of an accident that I got involved with Star Trek professionally. I was working for Fleer Trading Cards in 1994, when our parent company at the time (Marvel) bought SkyBox, which was making the official Star Trek cards. When the two companies merged, I was tapped to take over the Star Trek business, and I couldn’t have been happier about that. In 1999, I started my own company, Rittenhouse Archives, and the decision makers at Paramount and CBS knew of my commitment to the Star Trek franchise and awarded me rights to make Star Trek cards. By 2002, I had the exclusive rights to make these cards. We’ve been at it ever since!
How did you come to the trading card business?
SC: As a kid, I was always a die-hard card collector. I still am. I bought and sold cards as a teenager, and those entrepreneurial opportunities opened my eyes to the possibilities of making a career in this industry. Years later, after I graduated from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the opportunity arose for me to join The Score Board, which was marketing trading cards and autographed memorabilia, including signed Star Trek photos and other items, and then Fleer hired me to help launch their entertainment trading card business. By 1995, I was managing the Star Trek card business. I’ve been involved in Star Trek continuously since then. I simply love working on Star Trek.
While you were at Skybox/Fleer, you oversaw the entertainment brands, including Star Trek, is that right? How was that experience?
SC: That was a fabulous experience, and I was simply in the right place at the right time. Ken Baroff, who had been the Star Trek card guy at SkyBox, left the company in 1995, and I remember him telling me how he felt that he’d taken Star Trek as far as he thought he could. I remember vividly thinking at that moment how lucky I was to inherit that business from him, because I had nothing but new ideas that I wanted to try. That was more than 25 years ago, and we’re still innovating to this day. It just never gets old.
In 1999, you set out to create your own trading card company, Rittenhouse Archives, kicking it off with a unique series of Star Trek cards.
SC: Yes, at the time, Fleer/SkyBox was transitioning out of the entertainment card business, but it still had a license to make Star Trek cards for another year or so. But the decision makers at Paramount/CBS/Viacom at that time knew of my commitment and knowledge of the Star Trek business, so there was a mutual desire to keep working together. That first set of cards we made at Rittenhouse was a lenticular (3-D motion) card set in an oversized format. Really innovative card set that also featured sound chips in some of the cards. We were really experimenting with some technology that Star Trek collectors hadn’t really experienced before, so that was very cool.
Since then, Rittenhouse has produced dozens of Star Trek card sets. What are some of your favorite memories of the sets you’ve produced over the years?
SC: So many fantastic memories! I’ll never forget the time that Patrick Stewart called my house to apologize for being late in signing a batch of cards. My wife was very impressed by that. George Takei once left a similar message on my voicemail, and his voice is so distinctive that we kept that message on our machine for a very long time. I’m not sure there’s one particular memory, but mostly the interactions I’ve had with so many actors on a personal level. Brent Spiner, Marina Sirtis, Sonequa Martin-Green, Garrett Wang, and many others. But the most special connection of all was with Leonard Nimoy. He was always so very kind and generous to me, and I have some special recollections of him that I’ll cherish forever. He was as honorable and upstanding as you’d want or expect him to be.
One of the coolest parts of your Star Trek cards has been your variety of autograph cards. Please explain the different types of autograph cards, and how you’ve been able to create so many one of a kind pieces for collectors over the years.
SC: Autograph cards have certainly been a cornerstone of our Star Trek trading cards. I’m proud to say that we’ve had every starring cast member of every classic TV show sign cards for us, and most of them have signed cards multiple times. Most recently, we’ve started expanding these to include brief inscriptions on the cards, and those have been really big hits with the fans and collectors. I mean, who wouldn’t want an autograph card of William Shatner on which he also adds “Captain Kirk” or “Star Trek” in his own writing? We’re adding many cards like this to our new Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 Trading Cards in December, and those will surely be among the hottest cards in the set.
Another form of autograph card is a “cut signature” card. Cut signature cards are cards that typically have authentic signatures embedded into them using cancelled checks or other similar documents. We’ve done this with Gene Roddenberry a few times over the years, with cooperation from his estate, which supplies the signatures from cancelled checks.
Relic cards are another pretty amazing part of your collections. What is the process behind creating those?
SC: Some of the materials for these cards have come from the studio. Some from the public auctions that have taken place over time. Essentially, we take small swatches of material and embed them into trading cards. Sometimes those are even signed by cast members. Fans really enjoy these, because it’s a chance to touch and feel the actual material used in production. Most people never get a chance to get that close to the item. It’s a way of bringing fans just that much closer to the show and the characters.
On December 16, the Star Trek: Discovery Season Two set will be released. What most excites you about that set?
SC: I think what excites me most is actually the knowledge I have about how generous the cast and the production staff have been with us, and how excited they are to help us create such a great product line. And that starts with Sonequa, who is one of the nicest, classiest people I’ve ever met in this industry – and that says a lot. I just can’t say enough good things about Sonequa and what she brings to this show, the production, the trading cards, the entire franchise. She’s simply phenomenal. As just one small example, when she signed her first cards for us, she took it upon herself, without being asked, to add inscriptions to her autograph cards. Now that may not seem like a big deal, but it just showed her commitment to and appreciation for the fans. She went the extra mile. But there’s so much more to her, and I think that the Star Trek franchise will eventually come to recognize her as one of its most important and influential figures.
Looking ahead to 2021, what can Star Trek fans look forward to coming from Rittenhouse?
SC: We have great plans ahead, not just for 2021, but well beyond. We’re really excited for the release of the first set of cards for Star Trek: Picard in March 2021. Patrick Stewart, Isa Briones, Brent Spiner and many of cast members have signed cards for us, and it’s such a treat to work with these actors. Just so generous and enthusiastic. I can’t say enough good things about this cast. We also have an artistic set of cards based on The Women of Star Trek coming this summer, and then a retrospective of TNG towards the end of the year. That TNG set will include loads of inscription autograph cards from key cast members such as Brent Spiner, Marina Sirtis and many others. I’m really thrilled that we’ve already started working on our next TOS card set, which will bring the total number of autograph cards in that series to more than 300 different! We started that autograph card line back in 1997 at Fleer/SkyBox, and we’ve continued it to this day. Just an awesome set of cards!
Thanks again for chatting with me, Steve. Is there anything else you want to tell us?
SC: It’s really been the thrill and privilege of my professional life to be associated with Star Trek and to work with so many wonderful people associated with the franchise over the past 25+ years. It’s just so much fun and so gratifying to be involved with this franchise.
The Star Trek: Discovery Season Two Trading Card Set feature:
A base set of 84 cards, with 6 cards for each of the 14 original Season Two episodes. Photos and plot synopses for every episode.
Rarer Insert sets feature:
- 9 Sticker Cards
- 9 Character Quote Cards
- 11 Character Acetate Cards
- 9 Expressions of Heroism Cards (numbered to 150 each)
- 10 Starfleet's Finest Painted Portrait Metal Cards (numbered to 50 each)
- 27 Storyboard Artwork Cards
- 27 "Short Treks" Episode Cards
- 3 Opening Credits/ Artwork Expansion Cards
- Wardrobe Relic Cards
- 2 Case Topper Metal Cards
Plus, Autograph, Sketch, and Relic (pieces of costumes, etc.) Cards are randomly inserted in packs and boxes. Autograph signers include Sonequa Martin-Green, Mary Wiseman, Ethan Peck, Tig Notaro, and many more.
Jake Black (he/him) is a writer whose credits include Star Trek: Starfleet Logbook, Star Trek Magazine, the upcoming Star Trek: Short Treks and Picard trading cards, as well as works for DC Comics, Marvel, WWE, and many more. An eleven-year cancer survivor, he lives in a quiet Connecticut town with his wife, son, and twin daughters. Found online @jakeboyslim.
Star Trek: Discovery streams on CBS All Access in the United States, airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave in Canada, and on Netflix in 190 countries.