Interview with a President 2009 Edition

Rittenhouse Archives Charendoff Era Part Two

In January of 1999, Steve Charendoff departed from his position as the Entertainment Director of SkyBox and formed his own company, Rittenhouse Archives. Asked about his departure, Charendoff had this to say: “It was time to go off in some new directions, without the financial constraints of a large trading card company whose interests were clearly not in entertainment or science fiction. Ironically, it was only during my time at Fleer/SkyBox when the company was in bankruptcy that I was able to do anything groundbreaking (e.g. the whole autograph in every box phenomenon). In the end, though, there just was no future there for me.” So, he left SkyBox and opened what started out as a one-man operation in the office of his home. What does he see as his vision for his new company? “At the risk of sounding extremely trite, my vision for my new company has been “to boldly go where no man has gone before….”. More specifically, as a lifelong sci-fi fan and reasonably successful marketer of sci-fi trading cards, I really felt that there was a healthy opportunity to create a company whose primary focus was on science fiction. Star Trek, obviously, is the 800-lb. gorilla of sci-fi properties and that was the logical place for me to start. I feel fortunate that Paramount was willing to work with me after leaving Fleer/SkyBox. There were certainly no guarantees of that, and you just never know how much your business partners like you until you’re on your own. I was naturally elated (to start my company off with) the Trek license. I could not have asked for a better property with which to start a science fiction trading card company. In any case, after Star Trek, I really was only after the best sci-fi shows (not movies, which are typically very risky in this industry because the marketing window is so small and the fan base can be even smaller — with the exception of Star Wars, though). We took a chance on a couple of shows like Farscape and Stargate SG-1, as well as Twilight Zone, which has really turned into an anchor franchise for us. We now have more than 10 different sci-fi licenses, and we’re still growing. ”
At the time Rittenhouse began producing Star Trek cards, they were limited by the contract SkyBox had with Paramount as only SkyBox can created standard sized trading cards of Star Trek. Undeterred, Charendoff created oversized (5×7) lenticular cards and a series of 5×7 cards on cardboard stock called the “Archive Collection”. His first product was the Original Series in Sound and Motion. This set of cards offered the first Star Trek cards with sound cards. ” Star Trek is so rife with memorable lines, how could we not?” Charendoff stated. “This is certainly an example of something that would not likely have been possible to do if I had stayed at Fleer/SkyBox.” The second Star Trek released from Rittenhouse Archives was the Women of Star Trek. About this release, Charendoff says, “This was a lot of fun. And it sold out prior to release date. I never realized just how popular these characters are until putting this product out. I was also impressed with how much collectors liked the 5×7 Archive Collection cards. Seems there was a need for larger format trading cards (vs. mass produced 8×10’s), which collectors could take to conventions and get signed. He reflects on some of the more positive aspects of creating these two card sets. “Collectors really embraced what we were trying to do, even in a format that was not at the standard size. I am also constantly impressed with the level of cooperation and enthusiasm of the Star Trek actors and the studio itself. There really is a high level of support and willingness to make all of this work.”
For 2001, Rittenhouse Archives adds another feather to its cap. They courted and were awarded the Star Trek license. Paramount only offered a limited license, giving Rittenhouse the rights to make standard sized cards on cardboard stock for Voyager. They can also make standard trading card sized lenticular cards for any of the 4 series as well. Charendoff comments, “With the addition of our new Voyager license for making conventional trading cards, I am looking forward to more interesting and adventurous times. We have some very bold plans, including the first product which will consist of some very high quality cards, the likes of which have rarely been seen in the entertainment card market (certainly never before with Star Trek). When Charendoff is asked what The future of the Star Trek card line is, he says he plans on “still “boldly going where no man has gone before….”
In 2009, cards quietly chug along. A slow economy and no new Trek for a few years has quieted our favorite hobby a bit. Not just Trek, but all card collecting. Inkworks, one of the major players in the hobby, has closed normal business operations. Collectors don’t have the funds as they once did. Rittenhouse knows they need to walk a fine line going foreward, “With all of our products, we try to ensure that there is enough collectable value in each box and case to continue to make the products desirable. I think we’ve done a reasonably good job of that. We also don’t want to make it so difficult or so expensive — the products need to remain affordable.”
He has great plans, though. With a lot of attention being directed to TOS with the new movie, Charendoff looks to continue his TOS line.His goal to get any and all Trek TOS actors who appeared on TOS and has made great strides in finding some of these actors.