By the time that this classic 3 ¾-inch Star Wars action figure variation came out – first on a tie-in card for The Empire Strikes Back and then repackaged for The Return of the Jedi – it was already clear that toy manufacturers Kenner were happily set on helping kids re-enact all three movies using the entire cast, down to the smallest walk-on role! I actually watched The Empire Strikes Back again a few weeks ago on DVD and must have blinked at the wrong moment, because I could barely remember … [Read more...]
Vintage Star Wars (1977–1989)
Whilst George Lucas' surprise box office smash Star Wars movie may have reinvented the science fiction genre, the collection of Star Wars action figures also spawned its own sub-genre in the field.
Since the advent of the Star Wars prequel movies (which did not always thrill hard-core fans of the original series), the collection of Star Wars action figures has been subdivided into three distinct eras: Vintage (1977–1989), Neo-classic (1990–2000) and Prequels (1999–present). The vintage era covers the three original movies - Star Wars (aka A New Hope), The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
Vintage action figure collectors have targeted Star Wars figures for investment purposes for many years, but many more choose to focus on them because of sheer nostalgia and a real love for the series of movies. It may seem strange today when every cinema release is preceded by a huge merchandising campaign, but when the Star Wars action figures first came out, giving fans the opportunity to recreate scenes from the films and even invent adventures of their own at home, it was an entirely new movie merchandising concept!
With the release of the J. J. Abrams' directed Star Wars: The Force Awakens in December 2015, a new era of Star Wars movies begins with a trilogy of sequels. And with it, a brand new generation of action figure collectors...!
When Kenner launched its 3 ¾ inch Star Wars movie tie-in action figures in 1977 it soon emerged that kids wanted not only the major players – Han, Luke, Leia, Chewbacca et al, who appeared in a first wave of 12 carded figures, known ever after as 12 back figures – but that there was also a clear market for practically the entire cast! No matter how few the seconds of screen time, there was a place for every weird and wonderful being that had populated any of the movies in the original … [Read more...]
Billy Dee Williams, who played Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi in the original Star Wars Trilogy, came away with something which none of the other cast members managed to obtain – a series of action figures that actually looked rather like him! Of all of the Lando figures, this stunner which shows our redeemed hero in his Skiff Guard Disguise, is not only my absolute favourite Lando, but also one of my favourite vintage Kenner Star Wars action figures from … [Read more...]
Almost all vintage Kenner Star Wars figures seem to have slight variations that set the hearts of adult collectors a flutter, but the 1980 Leia Organa is found with three major variations – crew neck, turtle neck or the rare gold neck. Identified as the “Bespin Gown” figure thanks to a spectacular decorated vinyl cape that does an excellent job of representing the cloak that Carrie Fisher wore on Bespin in The Empire Strikes Back, my crew neck version is possibly the easiest to track down, but … [Read more...]
In many ways, vintage action figure collectors have toy giants Kenner to thank for first nurturing the collecting bug in kids when they launched the hugely popular 3 ¾ inch Star Wars action figures and thus set-off a chain reaction of film tie-in merchandising which is thriving even to this day. They also threw in a enough variations in paint work and molds on certain figures, that over thirty years later adult collectors are still kept extremely busy tracking them all down. Back in 1977, … [Read more...]
I say the legendary Boba Fett, for there can be no doubt that some vintage action figures acquire a kind of cult status and become must-haves in a collection. Boba Fett - everybody's favourite bounty hunter and man of few words – has always seemed to fit that role perfectly! He is hardly a rare figure and was available from his first appearance as a The Empire Strikes Back movie tie-in, right up to, and including, the Droids animation line, but he is just so perfect in his detailed moulding and … [Read more...]
When today's toy manufacturers launch a new action figure with myriad variations it's hard not to smile ruefully and picture the board meeting in which that decision was made and to hear the Kerching! of the cash register ringing in one's head as collectors scramble to add every version to their set. It's fun, therefore, to look back at vintage action figures with genuine oddities or variations depending on their country of origin or for reasons which are hard to explain. Kenner's Star Wars … [Read more...]