The Charendoff Era
We now enter the section of Trek Card History I call the “Charendoff Era”. Steve Charendoff, as the Entertainment Director, takes the reins and changed the look and direction of Star Trek cards and Entertainment cards. Though he was involved peripherally in earlier sets like First Contact, the sets produced from TOS I through TOS III are “pure Charendoff”.
Charendoff reports that statistics show that 2/3 of the collectors of Entertainment trading cards are men between the ages of 25-54. (at the time of this article being written around 2000) The one time kids who collected nickel packs of cards were now grown and with bigger disposable incomes than ever before. Charendoff feels that cards became more in the way of high end merchandising rather than just “trading cards”. The benchmarks that earmarked a good card set had changed, it became necessary to put out the best possible product, with all sorts of bells and whistles. “You had to make it so that a collector HAD to have it in his collection because it was SO good.” Collectors have been offered all sorts of quality Trek products and “our product had to stand out.” By the time he took over, sales for Trek cards had dropped drastically and all that was left was the core collectors. To entice collectors and fans into collecting, Charendoff created The Original Series Seasons One, Two and Three card sets. There had been no card set since 1976 that featured the TOS series (setting aside the gaming cards). He created sets with a limited release and each box was individually numbered.
Charendoff admits to being a great fan of the Original Series and for several months ate, slept and dreamt TOS in an effort to produce the most comprehensive, exciting and visually stunning Trek set to date. Well over 7000 images were examined in an effort to find THE shots to use. In total, over 1500 images were used in this three series card set, and though some were standard images, many had never been used before and truly enhanced the overall quality of this set. FS had all the original reels duplicated which enabled Charendoff to select these high quality images.
The biggest change that Charendoff implemented was the insertion of one autograph card per box which caused a collecting frenzy. For TOS I alone, collectors were looking at spending in excess of $2000 per set. Overall, there were 85 different auto cards across all three series. Charendoff reports that all actors who signed for the product were thrilled to be a part of it, were cooperative and did what had to be done to get the cards signed. Charendoff was terribly impressed by William Campbell, who he said is the nicest person you could meet. Campbell helped track down several actors and encouraged them to work with SkyBox. Among the other actors who were especially cooperative and enjoyable to work with on a personal basis were George Takei, Walter Koenig, Majel Barrett, Grace Lee Whitney, Clint Howard, Sherry Jackson, Barbara Luna, Arlene Martel, Tyge Andrews, Lee Delano, John Winston and Yvonne Craig, as well as series producer Bob Justman and writer Dorothy Fontana.
Steve Charendoff left SkyBox in January of 1999. In looking back at his tenure at SkyBox he summed it up this way “Working on Star Trek has been a great labor of love for me. I always loved the original, watched it as a kid in the ’70s after school, and vividly remember collecting the 1976 Topps set and 1979 movie set. Among all the entertainment properties we had at Fleer/SkyBox during my time there, I always thought I could make more out of the Trek cards than anyone else had up to that point. I really love the subject matter (and sci-fi in general), and as a collector, there were a number of ideas which I wanted to try out specifically with Star Trek. The autographs were of course at the top of the list, and I was ever so glad that the idea was so well received. My M.O. in making cards, especially Trek cards, is that I want to be able to go to a show a year from now, 5 years, 10 years, whenever, and see my products in dealers’ display cases and be able to say proudly that that was mine. I love seeing people collecting my products, and I love seeing high values for the cards in the price guides. I’ve never thought of this as just a business like selling insurance. I look at this from the standpoint that I have been a collector since I was a little kid and will continue to be a collector until the very end. As a result, I push myself a little harder than some of my colleagues, and I give the details of each project a lot of thought. Anyone can come up with a basic concept for any set of cards, but to really make it work well is very difficult. Photo selection, editorial content, unique features, autographs, etc., are all key elements that most marketers pay little attention to. Look at the detail in the TOS card sets. Those sets established a very high standard of excellence, even without the autographs. I just figured if I had the luck as a collector and fan of this show, whatever I did had to be spectacular. I just didn’t want to have any regrets later that there was something I could have or should have done better.”