For many years I wrote a monthly column on sports picture cards. That included hockey, baseball, football, and basketball. When I began to write that the new cards those issued from the mid 1980’s onward were not very valuable I received a number of letters attacking my viewpoint. It was simple from the mid 1980’s onward even rookie cards were issued in such large numbers and were being saved the values were not increasing, but in actuality decreasing. It is simple economics at work.
Star Wars creator George Lucas had grown up watching the old serials in the movies and envisioned his Star Wars movies in that same format. The old movie serials had from ten to thirteen episodes. Each movie ended with a cliff hanger ending ensuring one would return the following week to see the next one.
In his eye the first movie issued in 1977 - Star Wars, The New Dawn was actually episode four. The Empire Strikes Back released in 1980 was episode five and the Return of the JedI released in 1983 was episode six. Starting in the 1990’s and recently new episodes have been released to movie houses. But, like the sports cards the valuable Star Wars items are from the first three movies. Once again it is a case of simple supply and demand. If you are investing in Star Wars action figures or vehicles search for the material from the first three movies and if possible mint condition meaning still in the package unopened or in the box.
George Lucas and the 20th Century Fox were caught by surprise on the release of Star Wars that it caught fire so quickly. So quickly in fact that the first action figures of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Darth Vader, Storm Trooper, R2-D2, C3PO, Chewbacca, Ben Kenobi, Jawa, Death Star Commander, Sand Raider were still being produced in Hong Kong.
The figures made by Kenner were not available for the Christmas of 1977. The 3 ¾" figures would not hit the store shelves until early 1978. One valuable item and if still found in mint condition can fetch $3,000 US is the Early Bird Envelope. The only item available for purchase during the 1977 Christmas Season was an envelope that when the coupon inside was send to the company could be redeemed for four of the first twelve action figures. That was my Christmas gift from my wife and I never did send in the coupon, but did sell the mint envelope which displays the figures on the cover about 20 years ago. The first figures sold for $1.79 US.
Here is the key to date the early figures from the first three movies. Look on the back of the right leg. If it is an original first issue the year 1977 and Hong Kong should be stamped into the leg. The first figures were made in Hong Kong, and if it says China that is from the newest figures. The second way to determine if the figure was issued for the first three movies is their size. The early Star Wars figures are thinner less bulky than the ones made for the later movies. Even if found lose early figures can command a nice price. Even the back header cards without the figure have some value depending on what figures are on the back. Anything with a Boba Fett is sought after. Boba Fett the Bounty Hunter has become one of the most valuable figures that were issued after the Star Wars movie. An original on the card Boba Fett can bring close to $2,500 US or more. A second rare and valuable Boba Fett was the one that could only be obtained by mailing in a proof of purchase from other packages. He came in a small mailer box which included an early product booklet and a sheet explaining why his rocket did not fire. These items with the figure still sealed in plastic are selling on the resale market for $1,000 US. The sheet of paper enclosed explains that the original Boba Fett had a rocket that fired, but due to safety concerns it had been pulled from the market, and replaced with a non firing rocket. Find one of the few with the firing rocket and prepare to retire.
There are two other valuable figures that came with variations. The early Jawa wore a vinyl cape. The later figure issued shortly thereafter had a cloth cape. The vinyl figure still sealed in the package sells for $3,000 US. depending on the condition of the package. The cloth Jawa still brings a nice price of about $300 US.
Luke Skywalker had two light sabers. The rare one which is referred to as a "double telescoping light saber" mint in the package has reached $10,000 US in auctions. Of course the difficult situation is to determine without opening the package if the light saber is a "double telescoping" one or not. I have sold several Luke Skywalker’s and in one instance, two collectors took at least an hour, studying the figure inside the package to determine, if they could tell, which Luke Skywalker he was. Very difficult to do.
There were many items that could only be obtained by sending in either a coupon or UPC codes from other figures packaging. Bossk the bounty hunter was issued in 1980 for the Empire Strikes Back movie. To be complete the mailer box, information sheet, product booklet and the sealed figure could ring in at the price of $400 US. Kenner issued Admiral Achmar, 4-Lom in special mail in offers. Each figure if complete with the box and booklets bring $300 US.
Other mail in items included weapons packs, and different accessories to add to your action scenes.
The first three movies not only focused on the action figures, but the equipment that the figures employed. The Land Speeder mint with the box sells for $300 US. The Snow Speeder which appeared in the beginning of the Empire Strikes Back can ring in at $700 US.
Two of the rare items from the first three movies were issued only in Sears Department stores. Once the first figures were in stores exclusive deals were made for specific items. The Creature Cantina Playset released in 1979. It sold for $7.99 US and is now worth $550 US. The Cloud City Playset released for the second movie in 1981 was $9.69 US. If you want a mint Cloud City today be prepared to pay about $1,500 US.
Both items are rare due to the fact they did not sell very well. When I visited my Sears Surplus store in Massachusetts several weeks after Christmas the tables were filled with the products. Sadly, I only purchased one of each and have since resold them.
The action figures and accessories will continue to increase in value. Many collectors who have seen the new movies have begun the search for the figures from the first three movies. In addition, many individuals had them and threw them out or parents put them into a yard sale. Today, like the generations of kids before them they want to retrieve the toys of their childhood.
Keep searching as I continue to find Star Wars material at yard sales, second hand stores.
I recommend an excellent book to assist in becoming more knowledgeable on the early figures and accessories.
The Ultimate Guide to Vintage Star Wars Action Figures (1977-1985). Published by Krause Publications and written by Mark Bellomo. The book is arranged year by year with figures in one part and the second half of the book accessories. Color photos for each item with even a photo of the different types of weapons issued for each figure. In addition, an excellent breakdown of the value whether mint, or loose.
Happy searching and unlike the new picture cards the early Star Wars figures and accessories will continue to increase in value.