Friday, February 15, 2019

'Chive Cast 95 - Canadian Coconuts

After speaking with Skye and Steve about collecting and the Great White North, Toby Black and Chris Porteous share their amazing interview with the production manager for all Star Wars toys in Canada, Gord Warren. You will learn a lot from this interview with one of the people actually responsible for getting the toys into the hands of children. We have a great Lightning Round and sudden death overtime MarketWatch on the 95th 'Chive Cast.

Loading the player...


06:29 – The 'Chive Cast List of Enemies
09:20 – Toby and Chris join the show to talk about Canadian Collecting
21:18 – The Amazing Gord Warren Interview
40:10 – MarketWatch with Toby and Chris
01:01:11 – Lightning Round with Chris and Toby
01:20:52 – Outro

Images courtesy of Chris Porteous and Toby Black

Show Note Links:

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Prop Store Vintage Toys & Collectibles Auction Preview

Pete writes:

 Hello Space Freaks! As part of our ongoing coverage of major auctions in the hobby we start 2019 off with a very special event: the first Vintage Toys & Collectible Auction from Prop Store. For those who don’t follow the collectible props market, Prop Store is one of the premier auction houses for film-related props and artifacts. Today they are one of the most popular auction houses in the science fiction and movie industries as a whole with several major auctions taking place every year across a multitude of items and generations.

From props to comics to now toys, this will be another landmark event for Prop Store. We at the Archive have been given access to some of the behind the scenes happenings that have brought two great things together: Prop Store and toys. We’ll cover a few of the items in the listings themselves, the format, but also a look into how this event came together.

But before we get into that, a check on the vitals:

Dates: February 28th and March 1st
Formats: Online, In Person (with voucher), Phone
Categories: Vintage toys and collectibles, crew-used items, partial collection of Howard Kazanjian (Producer of Return of the Jedi).
Buyers Premium: 24%

Catalog: Printed and PDF through website
Auction Lot Count: 783

Key Auctions:
  • Ride-on Speeder Bike MIB with Store Display
  • Several Boba Fett MOCs including a Meccano
  • Several Revenge of the Jedi Proofs Cards
  • A near full run of MOC figures across all three movies.

The website is now live with the full catalog and bidding open. 

When it comes to the catalog for the auction, it’s something unique when compared with others. One thing that really differentiates it is the background and educational aspects that are weaved in throughout the book. There’s a glossary, vocabulary and reference information that have been included, along with some points on the pages themselves, giving new or seasoned collectors a bit more information on the item and what they're bidding on.

Prop Store did an amazing job explaining the vintage toy segment to their prop customer base through insights and documentation. Covering topics such as prototypes and other pre-production pieces as well as basics of cardback variation and grading, the catalog is a book in and of itself and somewhat of a field guide for new and old collectors alike.

Like Hake's and a few other auction houses across the country, Prop Store still produces a printed catalog for their customers. You can get a copy by signing up online and registering for the auction.

As mentioned before, we got a look inside the auction through the mind of one of the event's experts, our own Chris Georgoulias.

Pete Fitzke: When it came to putting the auction together, what were some of the things that stood out to you?

Chris Georgoulias: There was a lot of minutia and details that had to be managed. A lot of the historical information had to be created for the catalog from scratch and that's really time consuming. Not only the knowledge transfer, but getting the imagery sorted out. Grading is a new process for them. They aren’t used to sending their stuff in and waiting to get it back. It creates challenges logistically with pictures and other aspects of the process that Prop Store wasn’t used to. 

PF: What are your thoughts on the catalog? Is it worth the effort?

CG: When you have a printed catalog, it makes the event feel more legitimate. Originally I didn’t think we needed a printed catalog, but they thought it would be a good idea, and it really does make a splash and help communicate what’s going on with the event and with what we're presenting.

PF: What would you want people to know about this auction?

CG: There are a few cool features that are unique to Prop Store.  One is payment plans – a nice and unique option for the winners, more details are listed in the catalog. Another great payment option is payments from other people. Something you rarely see auctions houses do.

PF: What are some of your favorite items that will be up for auction? 

CG: Wow, a few things that come to mind. The Speeder Bike in the original box with the display and inserts is a great piece. There aren't many of those around.

The Plush Chewbacca QC Sample from the collection of Howard Kazanjian is also really interesting as it's so close to the Canadian version, but Kenner, I've never seen one before.

Another fun piece is the Bubbl-matic store display. It's not seen very often and is in great condition.

Lastly there's the X-Wing Aces Game. It's another piece from the Howard Kazanjian collection. What's unique is that is still has the moving label from Los Angeles to Marin County back in the day.

One piece that Chris didn't mention was the above soft copy for the Paploo coin from the 2nd series of the Ewoks cartoon series. Very rare for one of these to come out on the open market, and it's also being sold with an original sketch of the coin artwork.

That concludes our preview coverage of this auction. Check back for the results recap.

Wampa Wampa,

Monday, February 4, 2019

An Oldie but a Goodie!

Ron writes:

 You may have noticed that vinyl-cape Jawas from non-US locales have been in the news lately. As the linked article explains, SWCA contributor (and good friend) Shane Turgeon has managed to bring to market a rare Canadian example of the figure. So this remembrance by guest blogger (and good friend) Ben Sheehan is timely as well as interesting. Here's Ben to tell us about the time he had in his possession two Australian VC Jawas, both on Empire Strikes Back blister cards.

Ben writes:

Prior to the time this pic was taken in 2002, I’d been attempting (successfully in the end, much to my relief!) to have collectors in the US recognise and understand the history of the vinyl-cape Jawa in Australia. I managed to get the two known MOC examples in the same place at the same time, and send them over to collectors in the US for examination with anecdotal and analytical evidence of what they were.

Even though I knew that the figure was a legitimate variation, explaining that to people half a world away wasn’t entirely easy -- particularly since the only carded examples had shown up on ESB 41 backs. I was lucky enough to have the ear and trust of collectors such as Chris Georgoulias, Ron Salvatore and also Tom Derby though, which helped the cause a great deal.

My MOC ESB Jawa had come directly form a Toltoys salesperson's collection, via a dealer in Melbourne (who had a reputation for faking items no less). I’d spent four or more years scrutinising the figure during the 1990s. During that time the figure even wound up going to the USA for a year or so, including a visit to Kane Country Toy Show, where it was initially rejected since the cape color didn’t match the US version.

I must have looked at blister seals on hundreds of figures during research, before I was satisfied the ESB Jawa was original. I visited the seller often, with magnifying glasses and questions. Finally I learned the name of the guy it had come from, eventually confirmed that story, and pulled the trigger on buying it. The other example was uncovered during this time by Kosta from Sydney's Comic Bug, which was around 900 kilometres away.

At least one other MOC has turned up since, and loose examples have come out of the woodwork steadily from right around that same date (many of us had owned them for years, but it was impossible to get a non-local to believe that they were legit). It was definitely exciting times for me --it seemed I was able to turn up a new Toltoys related MOC variation every other month, particularly in the lead up to the release of John Kellerman's book 2-3 years after I purchased my Jawa.

Many of those variants were featured in John's book, including my Toltoys offer ESB 41 Leia Bespin (still the only one to have shown up, I'm pretty sure), a bunch of sticker and printed offers I owned, and anecdotes here and there. The prices for Toltoys items from ESB and ROTJ were cheap back then too, and there really wasn't much competition for them. For some reason though, John's book ultimately didn't include the ESB VC Jawa -- I can't remember why exactly.

Obviously, lots more neat Toltoys-related product has shown up since the late ‘90s and early 2000s through the incredible work and research of others. For me personally, the period I mention above was definitely the nadir for my research on local Aussie product. Not long after, I steadily began to ditch Toltoys items for either a house project or my prototype collection (probably both). I'd be kidding myself if I said that I don't miss them -- Toltoys items are wonderful, and genuinely rare. Insanely so, even. It was easy to forget this,when you were looking at two MOC ESB Jaws though!

Special thanks here to Chris, Ron, my Australian peers from that time Paul Naylor and Andy Beckerath, along with Mike Mensinger for providing the industrial-strength magnification used in the US for the early examination of the figure.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

'Chive Cast Blog Log Pod Episode 10: Most Beautiful Kenner Artwork (and Archive Party IV Info)

Ron Salvatore joins Skye and Steve to discuss a beautiful and gigantic piece of unused ROTJ Kenner art. What was this Endor scene intended for? Was it for a never released display? What does it have to do with the Northern Renaissance? Is it, in fact, the greatest piece of Kenner art ever?

Then, we go over ALL the details for tickets and premiums for the upcoming Archive Party IV at Celebration Chicago. Sculptures! Cereal! Prices! Pizza! It is all on this double Blog Log Pod.

Loading the player...


02:38 – Ron Joins the Show
05:04 – Potential Unused ROTJ Kenner Display Art Described
07:40 – Ron explains how the piece came into his collection
12:10 – The Specialness of the Art
13:13 – What was this art for?
15:00 – Connection to ROTJ Space Display
24:09 – The Northern Renaissance Connection
27:02 – The Archive Party Discussion Begins
32:01 – Food at the Party
37:43 – The BIG Contest
38:45 – Bill Cable's Key Art
41:34 – Cardback and Coin Art
45:03 – The Coin
46:03 – The Sculpture
50:13 – Ticket Prices


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The 200 Million Dollar Brand

Ron writes:

 Star Wars was a pretty big movie. It probably qualified as a cultural phenomenon.

But you know that, right?

I mean, here we are over 40 years later and you're reading a blog post about obscure Star Wars ephemera. Nobody understands the cultural impact of Star Wars better than you, a card-carrying member of the nerdlinger elite, and probably one of the four people who paid to see Solo in the theater.

So big was Star Wars that it vaulted the aforementioned toy company, Kenner, a mid-level operation run out of Cincinnati, Ohio, to national prominence.

Kenner did over 200 million dollars in sales during 1978 alone, nearly doubling its volume of three years prior.

Obviously, the bulk of that volume was Star Wars.

If you're Kenner president Joe Mendelsohn, you're proud of moving over $200M in product. So proud that you make the achievement the focus of your first "Sales Force Bulletin," released in January of 1979.

Above you see a copy of that bulletin, which includes Joe's immortal prediction that "I think this paper will be fun!"

Well, I don't know if I'd go so far as to call it "fun," a word I normally reserve for inventing derogatory nicknames for random people at the mall, but it's certainly pretty interesting.

Of particular interest is the art that graces its front cover. It presents Joe's congratulatory message in graphic terms.

That art also appeared on a special print provided to employees. An example is featured above. It was printed on deluxe textured paper at a size larger than the standard 8.5" x 11". The cream-colored sheet you see below the print was intended to protect its surface from abrasions.

When your print comes with a protective cover sheet, you know it's high class.

Although Star Wars claims a prominent space within the print's design, homage is also paid to other Kenner properties of the time, such as Stretch Monster, the Easy Bake Oven, and the Play-Doh Fuzzy Pumper Barbershop. The latter product allowed aspiring right-wing children to practice the forcible shaving of hippies. Hey, if your big sister was dating one of those dirtbags, you'd want to shave them too.

Interestingly, the print's R2-D2 may have been based on the conceptual model of the small R2 action figure that Kenner used to represent the product early in the production process. That's what is suggested by its unusual shape, at any rate. Note that the X-Wing featured on the print looks pretty much exactly like the production toy. Not that R2, though.

Lest any of Kenner's faithful employees find the print unsatisfying, the company also issued a mug commemorating the $200M milestone.

Interestingly, it can be found in at least three different formats. This second one has an hourglass shape that prevents the graphics from printing squarely. The graphic seems oddly skewed on the majority of examples that I've seen.

This third example features a little ridge in its lower portion.

It's possible that each format corresponds to a different production run. Or maybe they made all three versions at the same time? I don't think anyone knows for sure.

November 27, 1978 was the Monday following that year's Thanksgiving. Presumably, that's the date on which Kenner's shattering of the $200M barrier was made official.

Interestingly, and somewhat tangentially, November also saw Kenner's hosting of a "Star Wars is Forever" meeting. It was at this meeting that the company's Sales force was propagandized into believing that George Lucas would never stop making Star Wars movies and that Kenner would never stop selling Star Wars toys. Above you see Boba Fett himself gently persuading the Sales force of the foreverness of Star Wars.

Remember that, in the late '70s, movie merchandising was in its infancy; it was virtually unheard of for a movie to serve as a long-term platform for toys. Yet Kenner was banking on selling Star Wars stuff for years. The strategy probably warranted a little propagandizing. And though Kenner's first foray into Star Wars ended unceremoniously in 1985 after everyone finally admitted that the Droids and Ewoks cartoons were irredeemably lame, Star Wars returned with a vengeance a mere 10 years later, and it hasn't disappeared since.

So, heck, maybe Star Wars really is forever and will survive even that part in The Last Jedi where Luke Skywalker milks a walrus.

Hey, in case you haven't made the connection, I'm guessing that Boba Fett's appearance at this Sales meeting was connected to his visit to Kenner HQ, during which he posed for the photograph that was eventually used on the blister card of the character's action figure. You can read Chris Georgoulias' write-up of this visit here. Obviously, that's the official Lucasfilm-created costume you see in the above photos of the meeting, and not something hacked together by Kenner's model shop.

There was probably a bit of trepidation around Kenner in early 1979 and 1980. After all, the company's status as a top-tier player largely depended on Star Wars. If enthusiasm for the franchise dipped, or if -- God forbid -- The Empire Strikes Back bombed, Kenner was in trouble.

But the company had a lot of non-Star Wars product, too. Foreverist optimism aside, Kenner couldn't afford to become The Star Wars Company.

You can sense that fine line being walked in the below "Sales Force Bulletin," the follow-up to the issue featured at the start of this article.

If in the inaugural issue Kenner's president had offered the carrot of congratulations, in the second issue its VP of Marketing offered the stick of withering downtalk.

In brief, his message to the Sales force was: "Yeah, Star Wars is hot, but we have a lot of other product, and those Butch and Sundance toys ain't gonna sell themselves, slacker."

My favorite part: "You have not done your job if the non-Star Wars part of the order does not meet the requirements. You have allowed the account to buy -- you haven't sold."

Sheesh. It's a message worthy of Boba Fett himself. You get the sense that disintegrations might be in order should Fuzzy Pumper sales fail to meet expectations. I can imagine this guy asking disappointing Sales people to return their commemorative mugs. Because commemorative mugs are for closers.

The bar graph featured on the bulletin's cover only upped the pressure. Not content with a mere $200M in sales, Kenner was shooting for $300M in 1979. And that was without the benefit of a new Star Wars movie.

Did they meet the goal? Honestly, I'm not sure.

But this article, from a June 1980 issue of The Jackson News, reveals that Kenner sold over $100M of Star Wars product in 1979, matching the Star Wars-specific volume of 1978.

That's alotta space doodads. Enough to make Kenner the number-two toy company in America, behind only Mattel.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

'Chive Cast 94 - Bib Fortuna Filth Dance

Skye and Steve talk about the worst character in the Star Wars saga, Bib Fortuna. We discuss different colored capes, amazing toothpaste figures, dentist postcards, beezers, Paint-by-Numbers and then are joined by the #1 Bib collector in the World, Phidias Barrios. He regales us with the stories of his amazing collection and how it was made. We're talking everything from wax pieces to strange and exotic patent references that you have definitely never even thought about. An episode so good, you'll be saying "Yay wanna wanga" and "Yay Jabba! Yes Badda!"

Loading the player...


02:26 – Skye explains how PSAs made him hate Bib Fortuna
06:19 – What there is to love about Bib
08:12 – Bib's Coin Text
08:56 – Majordomo Talk
11:14 – Behind the Steve on Bib Fortuna's Design Origin
17:07 – Skye-Ku
18:38 – Unloved Item of the Month (Paint-by-Numbers)
23:45 – Vintage Vocab (Red Cape, White Cape, Burgundy Cape)
41:13 – Spanish Colgate Bib Fortuna
48:07 – Oral-B Dentist Postcard Set
53:53 – Skye plugs his stupid music YouTube channel
56:19 – Phidias Barrios joins to discuss his mind-blowing collection
57:22 – The Wax Sculpt (and what is a Wax Cast?)
01:03:20 – The Unpainted Hardcopy
01:06:03 – The Painted Hardcopy
01:10:02 – The Protomold
01:19:09 – Bib Fortuna Smash Bros. MarketWatch Game
01:29:40 – Nugget from the Archive (Bib's Patent References)
01:48:13 – Outro

Image Sources and Show Note Links: