Release Date: 1967
72 Base Card Set
1? 3? Cards Per Pack
24 Packs Per Box
The first Trek set, generally known as the “Grandfather” of all Star Trek card sets, was issued by the Leaf Brands Division, W R Grace and Co. in 1967. It is considered quite rare; a regional distribution area of Ohio and Illinois (the company was based in Chicago) and licensing issues that are believed to have forced a recall combined to limit the availability of the set. Since packs are so expensive and rare, it isn’t known for SURE how many cards are in a pack. One source said it was one piece of gum and one card but someone who had a pack feels sure it’s 3.
Consisting of 72 cards, the Leaf set is recognizable for black and white card fronts and extremely original show synopses on the back. Some of the cards contain text that describes the episode pictured on the card front in a reasonably accurate way; which makes many of the other cards more odd in their disconnect. The vast majority of the cards have completely unrelated text and photos, and most of the text seems to have been created without any knowledge of the television series or the characters involved. It may have been necessary to invent plot descriptions to avoid copyright problems with the original scriptwriters, or just someone having some fun. Neither Paramount nor Leaf has any records of the set’s creation, so tracking down why the backs are so odd has proven difficult.
Prices for single cards vary greatly depending on condition. Cards #1 and #72 merit a premium price as they are ones that were often damaged in storage, as sets were commonly held together with a rubber band.
The cards are easily damaged and were subject to discoloration from the gum that was included in each pack and the wax wrappers themselves.
There are two known variants of the Leaf set, neither of which commands the high price of the original. Not much more about these sets is known then the original.
European Leaf Set
The first is known as the European Leaf set because it was supposedly found in a warehouse of the Monty Gum company in Europe in 1989. 2700 sets were made from the uncut sheets, and came with a certificate from the Importer. The rest were sold as uncut sheets. The person responsible for the find insists that they were printed in 1967, but many questions about this set remain unanswered. If the poor quality of the images is due to the inferior cameras of the European manufacturer, why don’t other sets issued by Monty Gum in this period have the same problem? If the manufacturer had proceeded far enough to cut the cards into singles (which supposedly caused the poor cutting of the set), why are there no European-printed boxes or wrappers? Attempts to verify the age of the set (looking at the dpi of the screens and paper used) have only confirmed that the card stock was made sometime before 1984.
Richard Arnold, who worked with Gene Roddenberry and on Star Trek over the years, reports that he was approached by Kremer when he initially started selling the sets and that “He sent me a sample set to examine, which he told me I could keep, saying they were worth something like $1500 to $2000. I immediately shot off a letter to him, on my Star Trek stationery, telling him that the cards were NOT an heretofore unknown version of the original set, but were in fact a modern reprint, and not one that had been authorized by the studio (I worked closely with Paramount’s Merchandising and Licensing Division at the time). There was no doubt in my mind that someone was trying to pass these off as originals, when they so obviously weren’t (I had a couple of original sets myself).
A few weeks later I got a call from someone in the M & L offices, asking me where I got off writing a letter of authenticity for Dan and his wife. I asked what they were talking about, and went over to their offices to see. Sure enough, Dan had taken my letterhead, my signature and some of the wording of my original letter to him and had fabricated a letter of authenticity from me, stating that his cards were, indeed, a rare, heretofore unknown European edition of the 1967 Leaf cards! It was Dan and his wife who were printing up the cards (it turned out that her family in Holland owned a printing company), and that they were hoping to enrich themselves passing these sets off as real and selling them for a bundle. Paramount’s attorneys then sent him a Cease and Desist and demanded that he immediately stop printing up any more sets, and to get rid of the sets that they’d already printed, but that it had to be made clear that these were reprints and not original 1960s sets. Dan continued to dance around the edge of legality and eventually he and his wife moved back to Holland to get away from Paramount’s lawyers.”
Text from the European’s Certificate of Authenticity:
On side one:
Certificate of Authenticity 1967 Leaf (European) Star Trek Set This Star Trek Leaf card set was discovered in Europe in 1989 at a former card producer’s warehouse that has been in business since well before the 60’s. From the information provided to us, we understand that these were manufactured in cooperation with Leaf for European distribution only. Shortly thereafter, Desilu withdrew the contract with Leaf, due to contractual difficulty. Upon notification of the aforementioned problem, the European card manufacturer decided not to issue them and stored them in the warehouse where they have been until their re-discovery in 1989 by Dan Kremer, a European collectibles importer. On side two:
Upon examination, The European set exhibits the following differences to their American counterpart. The European sets were never gloss coated (very few European cards were ever gloss coated). The cutting was poorer than the American edition (the cutting machines in Europe were early outdated cutters from the U.S.) The camera work is slightly poorer (again, inferior cameras). We hope you enjoy the very special previously unavailable set.
1981 Leaf Reprint Set
The second reprint, the 1981 set, is marked reprint. There is no risk of buying what you think is an original Leaf card only to discover it is this reprint. However, the history of this reprint set is also shrouded in mystery. Despite having text that indicates a printing date of 1981, Non-Sport Update reports that the set did not begin circulating until 1993. The manufacturer of the set remains unknown, and no authorization for the set was ever issued by Paramount. Of interest to collectors is the fact that two variations of the reprint set exist; one with black & white images on the reverse, the second with light pink.
The easiest and best way to tell if the card you have in your hands is a true US leaf, look at it from the side. If it has a layered look (white/grey/white, it’s a US set. None of the reprints mimic this feature.
Here is a more in depth look at the differences between the three sets:
- Original has a layered look: white/gray/white when viewed from the side.
- The US reprint set has the back printed in B&W and now a second set which has a light pink tone to the back.
- The European set and the US set have a red border around the text and the picture on the back has a red, almost maroon tint to it.
- The US reprint has a 1981 copyright and says reprint.
- The Leaf and the Reprint are the same size. The European cards are slightly smaller.
- The image on the European cards are cropped, slightly less of the image (around the edges) is present.
- The images and text are much clearer on the US Leaf set than the others.
- The Leaf set has more of a gloss finish compared to the European set that has a satin type finish and the Reprint set that is like the European set.
Images of some of the differences in the various reprints
These scans show a bit of the blurriness evidenced in the reprints and the dots. Apparently, someone with some printing skill can see something in the screen of dots to determine age/reprinting?
Another Example of blurriness in reprints. Top: US. Bottom: European Set
Examples of the cropping noted in the US set (top) vs Euro set (see the top of McCoy’s head)
- There were no inserts for this set
- There were no promos for this set.
- A full box could net thousands of dollars. One collector noted a trade of a full Leaf box for about $70,000 worth of non-sports cards. There was a report of a box selling for $25,000 at an auction house. Auctions of Leaf box replicas have appeared over the years, so be alert if buying an empty box.
Note that boxes from this period were not sealed in any way, so don’t look for any shrink- wrapped boxes!
A book entitled Star Trek Vault, 40 Years From the Archives was released in 2011. It included 3 reprinted Leaf cards.The cards are labeled reprinted, are on thin stock and measure 2 3/4 by 3 3/4.