Saturday, December 23, 2006

Collecting Star Trek & Star Wars Ornaments

By the Rat Packer

Ornaments usually make the top of my Holiday wish list, specifically Star Trek and Star Wars ornaments. Produced by Hallmark these ornaments are some of the best ever made. They’re well detailed, accurate, and colorful with lights and sounds that make a Christmas tree stand out in my book.

Star Trek ornaments made their debut back in 1991 with the release of the still highly prized Enterprise from the original T.V. show. It featured blinking lights that worked when you removed a bulb from a Christmas tree light and inserted the plug attached to the ornament. Originally sold for twenty dollars, this is the most sought after ornament and the most expensive in secondary markets. Easily selling for the low hundreds on eBay, the bidding wars are fast and furious. I’ve even seen non-working ornaments sell for about forty dollars. Who wants to pay that much for something that does not work?

The following year, the shuttlecraft Galileo from the original series was released also with lights and Spock's voice wishing a Happy Holiday. 1993 and 1994 brought us respectively the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation and the Klingon Bird-of-Prey. Then 1995 the line expanded to include characters from the Trek universe. Obviously the first ones were the captains from both shows, James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard. The company also released that year a set of three mini-ornaments without any lights or sounds; they were of both Enterprises and the Klingon Bird-of-Prey. The ornaments are still being produced with varying degrees of success which depends on what they release for a particular year.

In 1996, Hallmark introduced the Star Wars ornaments and unlike 1991, they put out more than one ornament in the debut year. They included the Millennium Falcon and a set of three mini-ornaments (an AT-AT vehicle, the X Wing and TIE Fighters). The following year saw the introduction of character ornaments starting with Luke Skywalker, Yoda and Darth Vader. The last one is like the ships ornaments which can be plugged into Christmas tree lights. This popular line continues to expand with new releases each year.

It should be noted that there are much more Star Wars character ornaments when compared to Star Trek character ornaments. And I've read online that the Star Wars line sells very well, while the Star Trek line hasn't been as successful in recent years, though I've seen signs that it's on an upswing. Regarding the popularity of the Star Wars character line, it's fairly easy to understand why. The characters are very colorful and strange looking whereas the Star Trek character ornaments are often about bland humans. How can you compare a plain human Trip Tucker (from Star Trek: Enterprise) ornament to a Chewbacca ornament? Be honest, what would look cooler in the tree?

This doldrums that the Star Trek line experienced seemed to affect the decision makers. That can only explain why in some years they released questionable ornaments of very obscure ships. Namely 2003's Scorpion ship from the movie Star Trek: Nemesis, which was a huge failure in the box office. Another culprit is the Vulcan command ship released in 2004 from the Star Trek: Enterprise show. Speaking of bizarre decisions, I'm perplexed as to why the ornament of the title ship from that show was only released in 2002 as a die-cast model without any lights. Understand that the program was still relatively new so it would make sense to release an ornament with attractive lights. The ornament is attractive and the metal finish actually suits the actual look of the NX-01 Enterprise but it is too heavy to hang from a tree branch. A collector would see this and then ask why release that same year a light-and-sound ornament of the Delta Flyer? Again this ornament was well-designed but it was of a shuttlecraft from Star Trek: Voyager, a show which had been off the air for a while and derided by many Trekkers.

But the Star Trek line has begun to bounce back. Last year, the Enterprise A from the movies was released and sold very well. This year's ship model, a reissue of the original Enterprise to celebrate the show's fortieth anniversary, is also very popular. And the line should be known for trying new concepts, first with mini-ornaments and character ornaments then blown glass ornaments were tried for three years but something new has come along that seems to have struck a nerve for collectors.

In 2004, Hallmark released a new type of ornament for the line which has been used with other lines like Disney. This one called City on the Edge of Forever, was a mini-display of the round, stony time travel portal featured in the original series episode of the same name. Within the circular device small figures of Kirk and Spock are displayed as emerging from the portal. The background from where they jump out of is lit up to simulate the time travel effect. There is also sound featuring the Guardian, Kirk and Spock's voices. This ornament was very popular and the concept was tried again in 2005 with the Locutus of Borg display. This one featured Picard when turned into a half-machine Borg drone and the Borg Queen, both in a regeneration chamber and the ornament had vocal exchanges between the two. This year a transporter chamber was released. It has Kirk, Spock and Scotty and includes the famous transporter sound effect with lights to represent the start of beaming. It's already hard to find in stores and selling for high prices on eBay.

Not to be outdone, the Star Wars line has jumped into the act with two display releases this year. The first is the Imperial AT-AT and Rebel Snowspeeder, which is a small ornament tethered to the leg of the AT-AT, the other is one of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi in their climatic duel from Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Lights and sounds simulate the lightsabre attacks and is very eye catching with the simulated lava flows around the combatants.

As to which line is better that's up to personal preference. For my money, I think the Star Trek line has better ship ornaments. They're more colorful and the lights complement the small ships well. Even if they're of unpopular ships, the ornaments are well done and accurate. The only exception is the Borg cube from 2000. But that's because of the bland ship design. It's just a cube with pinprick lights but that is the way the ship is shown in the Star Trek shows. The cube is very similar to the Star Wars ship ornaments. Those are also well detailed and crafted but they have very few lights if at all and sometimes it is like getting a bare-bones edition with very few features. For instance the only feature the TIE Fighter released in 2003 has is sound and frankly without the lights it is difficult to see the dark grey ornament. In fact, the Slave I ornament released in 2002 doesn't have any features; it's a painted up die-cast ornament that is difficult to hang from a tree. Also note that the newer ship ornaments no longer have attached cords to plug into a Christmas tree light bulb. That could be due to the increasing popularity of fiber-optic trees and newer lights that don't accommodate the older cords. Instead they're battery-operated that keep the ornaments lit for a finite amount of time. For ships I go with Star Trek, for characters Star Wars wins and the displays are a toss up.

Hallmark won't reveal yet what will be next year's ornaments. So here is my wish list of potential ornaments, I'll leave out displays and characters since I have no preference. By the way, the number one item on that list was the Enterprise A, which became a reality last year so it never hurts to hope.

Star Trek
The original series: The Botany Bay (Khan's sleeper ship) and the original Klingon D-7 battlecruiser
Star Trek: The Next Generation: the Ferengi Marauder and the Stargazer (Picard's first command ship)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Dominion attack fighter and the Cardassian Galor-class ship
Star Trek: Voyager: The Maquis ship and the Prometheus (the Equinox would be a runner-up)
Star Trek: Enterprise: A light-and-sound model of the NX-01 Enterprise and the Andorian ship
The movies: The Reliant (Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan), the Excelsior (Star Trek III: the Search for Spock), the Borg sphere and the Phoenix (both from Star Trek: First Contact)

Star Wars
Episode I: The Droid Fighter and the Sith Infiltrator
Episode II: Obi-Wan Kenobi's Jedi Starfighter and Senator Amidala's Star Skiff (or the Republic Gunship)
Episode III: The Republic Attack Cruiser and the Droid Tri-Fighter
Episode IV: The Y Wing Fighter and Luke Skywalker's Landspeeder
Episode V: the Snowspeeder and the Bespin Cloud Car
Episode VI: The A and B Wing Fighters

A rundown of what's been released to date:
Star Trek
1991: The original Enterprise
1992: Shuttlecraft Galileo
1993: Enterprise D
1994: Klingon Bird-of-Prey
1995: Romulan Warbird, Captain Kirk, Picard and mini-ornaments of both Enterprises and the Klingon Bird-of-Prey
1996: Voyager, Spock, Riker, original Enterprise with mini-ornament of the Galileo (die cast)
1997: Defiant, Data, Dr. McCoy
1998: Enterprise E, Captain Janeway
1999: Runabout Rio Grande, Worf, the original Enterprise blown glass, Star Trek Stamp
2000: The Borg Cube, Seven of Nine, Worf blown glass
2001: Deep Space Nine station, Captain Sisko, Q blown glass
2002: Delta Flyer, NX-01 (die cast), mini-ornaments of the Defiant, Enterprise E and Voyager, The Emergency Medical Hologram Doctor
2003: Scorpion Class Attack Flyer, Captain Archer, Sub-Commander T'Pol,
2004: The Vulcan Command Ship, Star Trek Insignias mini-ornaments, Commander Trip Tucker, City on the Edge of Forever
2005: Enterprise A, Khan, Locutus of Borg
2006: The original Enterprise (with display base), Transporter Chamber

Star Wars
1996: Millennium Falcon, mini-ornaments of the AT-AT, X Wing and TIE Fighters
1997: Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Yoda, C3PO and R2D2 mini-ornaments
1998: X Wing Fighter, Boba Fett, Princess Leia, Star Wars Lunchbox, Ewoks mini-ornaments,
1999: Darth Vader's TIE Fighter, Naboo Fighter, Chewbacca, Queen Amidala, Han Solo, Max Rebo Band mini-ornaments
2000: Gungan Submarine, Darth Maul, Stormtrooper, Qui-Gon Jinn, old Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Council mini-ornaments
2001: Naboo Royal Starship, Anakin Skywalker as a child, Jar Jar binks, Battle of Naboo three mini-ornaments, R2D2
2002: Slave I (die cast), Death Star II, Jango Fett, Luke Skywalker (black outfit), young Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader (no features)
2003: TIE Fighter, Yoda with lightsabre, Padme Amadala, C3P0 and Clone Troopers two mini-ornaments
2004: Star Destroyer and Blockade Runner, Star Wars: A New Hope MovieTheater Sheet, Anakin Skywalker, Chewbacca and C3P0
2005: Anakin Skywalker's Jedi Starfighter, Clone Trooper Lieutenant, Darth Vader (from Empire Strikes Back), Princess Leia in slave girl outfit, mini-ornament of Darth Vader's TIE Fighter and the Millennium Falcon
2006: Imperial AT-AT and Rebel Snowspeeder, Luke Skywalker and Yoda, Anakin Skywalker and. Obi-Wan Kenobi, mini-ornaments of Anakin Skywalker, Yoda and Asajj Ventress from the Clone Wars cartoon

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