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The Birth of FanSets

The Birth of FanSets

Since I was 14 years old I have been a Star Trek fan. I grew up with The Original Series but have loved every incarnation of Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future. Collecting Star Trek has also been a passion of mine since I was a kid. So it’s no surprise that when I was given the opportunity from Gene Roddenberry and Paramount Pictures to launch the first-ever Official Star Trek Fan Club back in the early 80’s, one of the first things I did was add a merchandise section to our Official Star Trek Fan Club newsletter. There was no such thing as too many Star Trek collectibles to add to my collection. As it grew over the years, the newsletter evolved into the Official Star Trek Communicator magazine and I was fortunate to add hundreds of Trek collectibles to our catalog and my collection! Not only did we create our own exclusive products, but we offered all the licensed Star Trek collectibles, too. So I’ve been around the block a few times when it comes to collecting Star Trek.

About four years ago, I was approached by two fellow collector/friends, Lew Halboth and John Garrison, who had an idea. Lew’s sister-in-law, Loretta, worked for me for many years as my personal assistant at The Official Star Trek Fan Club, until she retired years ago. Both Lew and John are collectors extraordinaire and have been so, like me, since they were kids. Everything from Star Trek and Star Wars to comics, cards and action figures – you name it -- these guys know what makes fans’ hearts race because they love it, too. Lew’s basement looks like a museum of all the greatest toys, collectibles and video games ever made throughout the years. It’s like walking down memory lane.

But now, John and Lew had an idea to create some amazing collectibles that they had always dreamed of owning. John and Lew knew that the collectible space was very tight. They regularly walked up and down toy aisles looking at product after product, knowing that if they could find the niche, that I could get their idea through the licensing process. They just needed the right product. John was driving on the interstate when the idea of creating collector’s pins came to him. He quickly shared the idea with Lew and they brainstormed all the possibilities. Excited by the idea, they wrote the first draft of a business plan.

That’s when they reached out to me. As a collector myself, and with my years of experience in the collectibles/licensing business, they wanted to pitch their idea to me and see if I was interested in coming onboard as a partner. Not only was their idea for collectible pins and pin sets extremely creative, unique and cutting edge, but their enthusiasm was contagious. Their initial designs had me very excited and I knew that one way or another I was going to have to own those pins. We discussed creating pins (and limited edition pins) featuring Star Trek ships, characters, actor autographs, sound effects and music as well as cutting-edge Augmented Reality (AR) technology, which absolutely blew me away. The AR pins are an entirely new (and just massively cool) way to experience fan memorabilia with 3-D images that can be viewed through a special Smartphone and tablet app. The app for each pin will feature VFX and sound effects.

After diving into the different pin concepts and refining the plan, FanSets was officially born and we were raising our first round of funding to launch our new business. In June of this year, we officially launched FanSets with our first license for Star Trek – just in time for the 50th anniversary. After years of hard work, countless hours of planning, creative meetings on pin designs and manufacturing, FanSets transitioned from dream to reality. Run by fans for fans, this was the perfect  continuation for me of my many years running the Official Star Trek Fan Club and publishing the Star Trek Communicator magazine. For John and Lew it is the culmination of years of dreaming, planning and working to turn their vision into a business. Star Trek has played such an important role in all our lives that it is profoundly significant to launch our business with it at the helm. We collectively launched FanSets with the hope it would appeal to both casual and serious collectors of Star Trek memorabilia with affordable price points that would allow everyone to enjoy and collect.

As anyone who has seen our pins can attest, quality is our number-one priority. We are creating collectibles you can wear or display proudly, and we want them to last. FanSets is creating pins for all the incarnations of Star Trek during what is arguably the most-important year in Star Trek’s history. We launched in June with our character-based MicroCrew collector pins – we currently have over 60 different Star Trek pins in design or available for purchase featuring characters you don’t see on merchandise very often. Characters like Lt. M’Ress from The Animated Seriesor a Tellarite from TOS. Because we’re die-hard Star Trek fans, we’re pulling out all the stops on finding seldom-seen but popular characters and alien races from the Star Trek archives.

Lew, as a collector of the Playmates Series (he has 2 complete sets of the 1701 Characters), wanted to have a great selection of pins featuring a wide variety of characters, each recognizably represented. Master lists have been created from brainstorm sessions between the FanSets founders. Favorite characters, unusual characters and bits of trivia from a lifetime of being Star Trek fans all go into creating the list. Then the list is sorted and picked through to try and bring about a balance of characters from all the shows and movies. Every character on the list will eventually get made, but efforts are being made to not just produce the most well-known characters or to overbalance on characters from any one show or movie.

One of my favorite series of pins is our gorgeous MicroFleet Collectors pins featuring the ships of Star Trek from all the different series and films. These beautifully designed pins are 2 ¼” and highlight ships we would expect to see – the Enterprise and Voyager, etc. – but also lesser known ships such as the U.S.S. Bonaventure from TAS or the Calypso, the Captain’s Yacht from the Enterprise E.

FanSets is making its first convention appearance this week at Creation’s Las Vegas Star Trek 50th Anniversary Convention. We’ll have our stunning new FanSets booth (B13) and over 90 new, quality, detailed Star Trek pins to offer fans. We can’t wait to unveil our products in-person for the first time to our fellow Star Trek fans. We hope you’ll stop by and say hi to Lew, John and me, and check out our beautiful new Star Trek collectible pins.

If you can’t make it to the con, you can find our pins on our official website at It’s taken over four years to get to this point, and we can’t wait to introduce you to the efforts of three fans to create the ultimate collectible Star Trek pins.

Dan Madsen is the former founder, president and publisher of the Official Star Trek Fan Club and Official Star Trek Communicator Magazine. He is a partner in the new collectibles company, FanSets, LLC and is the publicist for actress Ashley Eckstein’s company,  Her Universe, which produces fashionable, female-focused apparel for Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who and other Sci-Fi properties.