Vintage View: Star Wars collectibles

With the imminent release of the new Star Wars movie on December 18, Kya deLongchamps feels the Force telling her to collect.
Vintage View: Star Wars collectibles

Long, long ago, in a living room not too far, far away, a young boy thrilled by the adventures in The Empire Strikes Back released that year, received a Boba Fett action figure for Christmas.

He had probably hounded his parents for months as the toys were available before the second film in the Star Wars story even reached the cinemas in 1979.

Moved by his own dark selfish desire and forgetting the greater good of the Force (let’s call it market value), he violated the Jedi code and opened the box in which it was contained.

And the lesson is — if you happen upon an attic treasure of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker or any of their iconic companions, never open the box, or if it’s already open lift it like it contains a piece of Meissen. Mint and boxed, they could be worth an intergalactic little fortune.

Boba Fett came with a blaster in the 1970s, which was quickly recalled as it was deemed a choking hazard — naturally the Bobas with the potentially lethal contents are now highly valued (around €2,000 in a sealed box when I last checked).

Remember, unless you want to see an adult collector actually foam at the mouth (largely men it has to be said), don’t touch their boxes, don’t look at the boxes for too long, and never utter the word ‘toy’ or even worse ‘doll’ about any alien or humanoid member of their Star Wars collection.

It’s an action figure — say it with me — an action figure.

I cannot fully understand the draw to collecting anything without intrinsic value or beauty, bar its rarity and price.

However, seeing the potential investment value, my interest is piqued.

A mouse-sized vinyl-caped Jawa (fabric capes are less desirable) from the character in the original film in 1977, can command a black hole of €15,000 untouched, in the plastic bubbled box by Kenner or Palitoy. They are now heavily faked.

From what’s remembered as the ‘opening crawl’ of its credits, Star Wars (Lucas Films) was a worldwide phenomenon for an entire generation with movies spanning the late 70s to the noughties.

The devotion through the curiously back to front sequencing of later film releases has remained steadfast and grown to intergalactic proportions with the launch of The Force Awakens (Disney 2015) on December 18.

The most valuable pieces of Star Wars memorabilia are from the period of 1977-1979, but with few of these imagination-stirring touchstones surviving intact, the value of even later items is likely to increase.

Heroes and villains from later 1980s animation series and video games based on the franchise and made in small numbers, are now changing hands for big money.

The collectability of the heavily marketed products, the posters and action figures that went along with the film releases in the 20th century depends on a number of things.

Figures were adapted, made in variations, withdrawn, made with unintended flaws and so on, and the fewer the number of that product, the greater their desirability.

The figure of Obi-Wan Kenobi produced in the same run as vinyl-caped Jawa in 1978 was made with a double light-sabre, and is worth as much as €6,000 intact and unopened. Lose the box and the weapon, and the value falls to a couple of hundred.

American children who were keen enough to write to toy maker, Kenner, in 1977, could avail of an early version of Luke Skywalker with a double light saber, absent on the Luke released after the movie came out.

It was a tiny detail, but the earlier Luke is worth double the money, around €1,000 or more on the open market.

The figure, also, does not have to be a major player in the film. Yak from Return of the Jedi (1983) was a ‘blink and you’ll miss him’ moment, but highly sought after as it was the last Star Wars piece by Kenner and only released in Canada and Europe.

For those of us without a spare bedroom for a Museum of Childhood, a poster from the Star Wars opera is a more convenient option, but again, prices are stratospheric for authentic early runs in good condition.

The first film spanned a wide variety of posters across the world, the most familiar being the earl Hildebrandt version (1976) with Luke, sabre erect, his chest bare standing above a bored looking Princess Leia who holds no resemblance to actress Carrie Fisher whatsoever.

The spectral hood of Darth Vadar dominates the image in blue and encircled by fighting craft, with the Death Star to the upper left.

A year later, the posters distributed with the film feature a more kittenish, recognisable Fisher and Mark Hamill (Luke).

If you want to see just how far imaginations were flung by individual artists working to promote the films overseas, take a look at the surreal and fabulous work of Hungarian illustrators András Felvidéki and Tibor Helényi who don’t appear to have seen the films at all.

Sadly, all that most of us can hope for in an American or UK poster, is a one sheet, never folded, blue teaser poster from 1978 without a single figure on it for around €500.

Movie posters are notoriously hard to authenticate and Star Wars pieces from the first two films, often declared by specialist dealers to be the most difficult.

“Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.”— Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The work of artist Drew Struzan for the re-release of Star Wars in 1978, Star Wars — a New Hope does appear regularly and in poor to middling condition with folds, a 27 x 41” poster for the American market printed in 1978 will set you back between €1,000-€1,500.

For the intricacies of border sizings take a look at the research by authority Scott McIntosh at icollectmoveposters.com, before buying yourself a nice reproduction.

May the Force be with you.

For every possible thing you could need to know about the world of Star Wars figures, gunneries and ephemera go online to any of the many collector’s sites and chat forums worldwide.

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