Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Old Shots of an Empty Store: A Look at the Star Tours Giftshop During the Dark Times

Disneyland's Star Trader gift shop, where it all began.


Tommy writes:

 When one considers the tens of thousands of Star Wars related photographs out there, some of the hardest to find are shots of old merchandise on store shelves. Especially in the age before digital cameras and phone selfies, it just wasn't a regular thing. Someone might inadvertently capture some toys in the background of a family picture, but very few people deliberately take photographs inside a store. In this case though, someone was paid to do that very thing.

When Star Tours opened in 1986, it featured something that few had ever seen before. No, not just the groundbreaking technology or a Disney attraction using (at that time) non-Disney characters, it featured a theme park attraction which exited directly into a gift shop. Disney had toyed with the notion over the years, recognizing that routing guests past merchandising areas increased sales, but it was almost always a passive thing. A cart selling Haunted Mansion-themed "invisible dog leashes" in front of the entrance to the ride, or a counter which sold pirate themed jewelry near the exit of Pirates of the Caribbean, for example. With Star Tours though, Disney had the space and the willingness to turn passive subliminal marketing into a full-fledged SUPERliminal push. If you wanted to ride the newest attraction in the park, you'd have to literally walk through Disney's store to get back out. Star Tours is really the first ride where we see this idea put into action, and it was so successful that it's since become fairly commonplace in the entire theme park industry.  So common, in fact, that Disney duplicated the "exit through/near the gift shop" layout when the Star Tours ride was cloned in Tokyo Disneyland in 1989.  Or as close as they could anyway, even if it involved putting in a glass 2nd story walkway to get guests from the exit of the ride to the area of the gift shop.

However groundbreaking (or annoying) the hard-sell opportunity was, Disney wasn't alone in this deal. Because the ride was a partnership, Disney needed to keep Lucasfilm informed about the status of the ride and ensure that certain maintenance and upkeep standards were met. Given that LFL was dealing with Disney (as well as Disney's partner in Tokyo Disneyland, The Oriental Land Company), this was merely a formality. Still, periodically, someone would need to go to Disney and take pictures of how things looked. What was Disney doing with LFL's intellectual property? Were the retail spaces well maintained? Were the products displayed in a way which would inspire someone to purchase them (thus ensuing that LFL got its cut of the profits)? That's where these photos come in.

What you're looking at are internal Lucasfilm Licensing shots, taken inside the Cosmic Encounters store at Tokyo Disneyland.  They are LFL's way of keeping track of their partner in the Star Tours ride and ensuring that the retail space is being used correctly. Although the shots are undated (well, technically they are dated, but the 1989 date is clearly incorrect and was probably the result of a camera glitch), we can do a fairly good job of dating them just by looking at what's actually for sale in the store. I think we're looking at a time-frame of late 1994 / early 1995, which would only be about 5 years after Tokyo Disneyland's Star Tours opened. While that wouldn't classify them as "vintage," they still provide us an interesting view of Star Wars products available in the Dark Times before Hasbro's POTF2 toys were released. And for the Disney fans out there, these are some of the only shots of the shop you'll ever see without any guests.


In this shot, we can see Kenner's then fairly new Action Masters line and an assortment of model kits.  


Here's a shot of the main cash register area of the store, showcasing a lot of Star Tours branded items: T-shirts, puzzles, keychains, and a plush Ewok. In the background on the right, you can see some unlicensed lightsaber-style role play toys. LFL apparently wasn't too concerned about their partner selling knock-off items like this, since there were no real licensed alternatives at the time. Although, Disney never really stopped selling this kind of thing in their parks, even after they purchased the Star Wars franchise. You can also spot an umbrella, which I assume was somehow Star Tours branded, and a child's shirt which appears to have an image and slogan related to Endor. I've never seen that shirt though, so I couldn't tell you what it says. 


Since Star Wars merchandise was few and far between at the time, Disney had to fill its shelves anyway it could. In this case, they have a whole display of expanded universe Star Wars novels and books on tape, issues of the Dark Horse Comics Dark Empire series, and some RPG source books from West End Games. As more Star Wars merchandise became available, Disney scaled back this kind of thing and replaced it with more impulse purchase items. It's odd to envision a time when you could go on the Jungle Cruise and then immediately walk over and purchase audio cassettes of the Heir to the Empire series. But at one time, you could.


Of the photos, this one is probably my favorite. While it might be hard to make out if you're not familiar with Star Tours items, those little bins contain the ubiquitous Star Tours PVC figures: Chewbacca, R2, Wicket (from the Ewoks cartoon), Yoda, Vader, 3PO and Stormtrooper. Disney sold those little figures for YEARS. In the late 90s, when they finally stopping offering them, I remember seeing literal barrels of them for sale at Disney overstock dealers. They're still a really neat set to see complete though and they always make me smile.

Below the PVC figures, we can see some Out of Character statues. They're essentially the same as the Applause figures released a few years later, which collectors might be more familiar with. We can also see some Star Tours branded mugs on the left, and some Return of the Jedi posters to the right. In the background, we can spot the then brand-new Star Wars Micro Machine sets from Galoob. 


Here's a wider angle shot of the store, showcasing plush Ewoks, more models, a bunch of t-shirt designs, and some masks. On the right of the display, we can spot what appears to be the familiar shape of Kenner's vintage Darth Vader carrying case. The Star Trader shop sold a lot of vintage merchandise in the early years, from Micro Collection overstock figures to Star Wars 10th Anniversary items. If I had to guess though, I'd say that this particular case might be from the Bendems release of the case, rather than the original Kenner version. But I'm not sure, since we can't see the front of the case in this pic. 


Our last image is of this display of 3PO and Vader banks, sitting below a reprint Empire Strikes Back Advance poster. To the left, we again get a little glimpse of some Micro Machines toys. You can see how new the line was when this photo was taken, because every one of their packages is in absolute mint condition. When you think about the sheer number of people walking through the Star Trader gift shop on a daily basis, you can imagine how quickly they ceased to be in such beautiful shape.

So, there you have it. A half dozen photographs taken inside a theme park gift shop 23 years ago. But if you're a fan of Star Wars toy shop pictures or old photos of Disney stores, they're an invaluable glimpse of times gone by.

If you have any vintage shots taken inside the Star Trader shop or the Cosmic Encounters shop, feel free to post them!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Episode 85 - The 'Chive Cast Halloween Special

Welcome to the first Halloween Special Podcast of the Star Wars Collectors Archive with your hosts, Stephen B. Dead and Skye “is in Torturous” Paine, Oof.  

This month Skye and Steve present the first ever Halloween episode of the SWCA Podcast. We present a terrifying tableau of terror as we get stories of spooky finds in the scariest of basements, attics and porches from Ron “Wookiee Slayer” Salvagore and Ross “I’ll use a butcher knife to” Cuddie your Neckie. Then Todd "Chamber of Horrors”-lain gives an overview of vintage Ben Cooper costumes. Terminally, Sean and Ryan Lehmghoul join to tell a legitimate and gruesome ghost story of Dead, Dead Cincinnati Fred. All this, plus many chilling reminders of your own mortality on the haunted 85th 'Chive Cast Vintage Pod. 
 

Loading the player...

DIRECT LINK DOWNLOAD
YOUTUBE VERSION

TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1:48 – Intro
11:02 – Spooky Tale: Steve & Skye’s “Scary” Griffith Park Experiences
14:10 – Spooky Tale: Skyelence of the Lambs
17:30 – Failed attempt at Calling Todd
19:03 – Scariest parts of Star Wars? 
22:30 – Ron Salvagore Joins the Show
23:30 – Ron’s Report from the Cincinnati Toy Show 2017
30:50 – Ron’s Trilogy of Terror
31:10 – Chapter One: The Feral Child
38:22 – Chapter Two: Just Drive
45:33 – Chapter Three: Drain the Kenner Morgue Swamp
53:39 – Vintage Halloween Newspaper Clippings
1:03:32 – Ross Cuddie presents “A Picker’s Tale”
1:24:22 – Todd Chamberlain teaches about Ben Cooper Masks
1:56:05 – Tales from Two Lehmkuhls
1:59:32 – Chapter One: Dead Cincinnati Fred
2:06:03 – Chapter Two: George the Ghost and Fred’s Revenge
2:13:58 – Outro and Contest Info





















Image Sources and Show Note Links:

Friday, October 20, 2017

Woktots: Kenner's Preschool Star Wars Toys

Ron writes:

 Is it possible to show your face on Facebook after admitting that you collect the Preschool Ewoks line? I mean, Ewoks are bad enough without an explicit connection to small illiterate people who sometimes eat paste.

Yet the range was a significant part of Kenner's 1984 lineup. Like the Micro Collection before it, it was a major extension of the Star Wars brand that lasted a little over a year. Silly or not, it holds a significant place in the history of Kenner Star Wars toys.

What I'm trying to say is that, if you don't collect this line, you're not a real Star Wars fan.


The roots of the Preschool line actually extend back to the earliest days of Kenner's association with Star Wars. In those days, one of the company's bestselling products was Treetots, a line focused on a family whose home is a tree.

Yes, Treetots: the toys that encourage children to develop an impossibly idealized notion of homelessness.


By the way, did you know that the patriarch of the Treetot family was named Treemont Treetot?


Treetots being such a success, it was natural for Kenner to consider releasing a similar Star Wars-themed line. At least four figures and two vehicles were prototyped for this line, often referred to as Star Tots, but they appear to have never made it beyond the earliest stages of development. 

As you can tell by looking at the above photo, Star Tots would have featured chunky, buttplug-like figures very similar to those of the Treetots line.

***

As you might expect, Treetots and Star Tots informed the look and feel of their Ewoks descendant, the -- uh -- Woktots.


The Woktot line was announced to retailers in 1983 via an advertisement that dropped the hint of "new stories for the Ewoks." Presumably, Kenner's marketing folks were thinking of the Ewok TV movie, Caravan of Courage, as well as the Nelvana animated series of 1985 and 1986, but didn't yet have permission to mention either.

Keep in mind that this period in Star Wars merchandising was an unsure one. Return of the Jedi was wrapping up its theatrical run and the future popularity of Star Wars was uncertain.

Dig the trying-too-hard quality of the final statement of the ad's copy: "all of our toys featuring Ewoks will be surefire winners in 1983."

In what was left of 1983, maybe. But what about 1984? Or 1985?


This promotional flier, from early in 1984, makes the connection to the TV movie explicit. It also mentions some of the products developed for the Woktot line.

"So get in on the ground floor and watch your sales figures go sky high."

There's that trying-too-hard quality again.


The flier was packaged with this cardboard diorama including seven Woktot figures. Presumably, these were mailed to retail buyers as a means of promoting the line. Though the figures included with this particular example are glued to the display platform, they seem to have shipped in sealed plastic bags. This example originated with a Kenner source; I believe it was used as a display model.


I'm aware of only a few examples of the Ewok Family diorama; it's probably one of the rarest promotional Star Wars items released by Kenner.

***

What about commercial Woktot products? Well, they fell into two general categories: those with figures and those without figures. I'll discuss the latter group first.


The earliest products in the line bore "Discovery Time" branding, indicating that they were released in the latter part of 1983.

Come 1984, Kenner's Preschool division ditched the rainbow-colored Discovery Time look in favor of a simple blue bar enclosing the words "Kenner Preschool."

The two products released with rainbow branding were the Give-A-Show Projector and Sit 'n Spin.


The Sit 'n Spin pictured on the above catalog page is a prototype; when the item was produced, it was green rather than orange. Of course, Sit 'n Spin was a classic Kenner product, having brought joy and debilitating motion sickness to thousands of children.

Although Ewoks and Sit 'n Spin may seem like an odd marriage, the preexisting nature of the ride-on toy meant that Ewokizing the product involved little developmental cost. What's more, Sit 'n Spin was a proven seller.

So confident was Kenner in their ability to sell branded Sit 'n Spins, the company released Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake versions alongside this Ewoks one.


The second Discovery Time product was another revamped version of an evergreen Kenner property -- the Give-A-Show Projector.

Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back iterations of Give-A-Show had already hit the market, making this the third pairing of a Lucasfilm property with the cheap-o plastic slide-viewer.


In 1984, after the abandonment of the Discovery Time branding, the Give-A-Show Projector was released in the green packaging unique to the Woktot line. Judging by the photo used on the box, the color of the projector and its decal were also changed to conform to the new look.

The green-box version of the Give-A-Show is rarely seen, suggesting that it was on the market for a very limited time.

Although I think it's likely that a green-box version of the Sit 'n Spin was also produced, I haven't been able to track down a photo of one.


The largest no-figures-included toy in the 1984 Preschool line was this Ewok Talking Telephone. It boasted a nicely detailed representation of Wicket holding a telephone receiver -- because everyone knows how much Ewoks love to talk on the telephone.

If an Ewoks telephone doesn't strike you as weird, what about an Ewoks soap dish? That's right, Kenner appears to have considered reworking the Wicket figure from the telephone into the base of a bathroom product.


"What child wouldn't be thrilled to get a phone call from an Ewok?"

Now, I've seen Return of the Jedi a few times, and I like to think I'm pretty familiar with the Ewoks' linguistic capabilities. The most famous Ewok utterance is "yub nub"; it's like their Gettysburg Address.

That being the case, what the hell is Wicket going to say to your kid?


If the Talking Telephone was uninspired, the Ewok Teaching Clock was close to incomprehensible. I've owned an example for many years, and it wasn't until I sat down to write this article that I realized that I have no idea what it does.

You know that a toy is lame when the designer of its packaging chooses to emphasize its reset button.


The catalog copy reveals that the number of Ewoks displayed at the base of the clock changed depending on the time indicated by the position of Wicket's hands.

Can you imagine a child playing with this and not weeping from boredom? I can't. Personally, I'd rather play with the soap dish.


Somewhat more appealing was the Ewok Music Box Radio. At least it didn't try to teach you something.


The "radio" part of the title should be in quotes, because it was basically a straight-up music box. It played a tinkly version of John Williams' Star Wars theme.


The final entry in the non-figure line was this Ewok Toothbrush. I'd write something about it, but I already have, in this post about Kenner's electric toothbrushes.

***

In addition to the above-mentioned products, the Woktot line consisted of three items designed to be used with small, one-piece figures made of hard plastic. The figures, 11 in number, came packaged with the toys, just like misery and disillusionment come packaged with your life choices.


Though you wouldn't know it from watching Return of the Jedi, the Ewoks had a fire department.

Hey, do you think it was the Ewok fire department that put out the Darth Vader fire at the end of Jedi?

I can just imagine Lando, having downed a few too many Colt 45s during the course of the celebration, looking at Logray and saying, "Well, this fire ain't gonna pee itself out."


According to Kenner's 1984 catalog, the figures included with the Ewok Fire Cart represent Wicket and Kneesaa, meaning that Chief Chirpa, who was obviously the Ewok Fire Chief, got majorly shafted by not being included in this toy.

The referenced "noise maker" must be that yellow acorn-looking thing that hangs from the front of the wagon.

Is it just me, or is the inclusion of a stretcher a bit gruesome?


Okay, so the Ewok Woodland Wagon was way too similar to the Ewok Fire Cart, and perhaps both were too similar to the Ewok Battle Wagon.

But we're talking about the Ewoks here. They haven't even gotten around to inventing pants. Let's not humiliate them by reminding them that their culture has barely advanced beyond the wheelbarrow phase.


The fundamentally unsanitary conditions that prevailed within the Ewok community are indicated by the above photo, particularly the puddle of filth that Paploo and Latara have allowed to accumulate below baby Mookiee. Indeed, this is a sad step down from the bourgeois comfiness of the Treetots Family Treehouse. What would Treemont Treetot think?

Actually, the box refers to the puddle as a "rug." Is that why the included horsey creature is smiling -- because he's anticipating a happy afterlife as an Ewok doormat?


Actually, the horsey is called Baga.

I've seen enough samurai movies to know that in Japanese "baga," or "baka," means something like "stupid."

From this we can conclude two things: 1) Baga is a moron, and 2) the Ewoks are Japanese.


If the Woktot line had a Death Star, it was the Ewok Family Hut.

As I pointed out in this piece on recycled Star Wars toys, it was a reworked version of the Treetot Family Treehouse, though it was updated to make it look less like a tree and more like a place where cannibals might live.


By the way, did a more conflicted-looking kid ever appear on a Kenner package? He seems to not be looking at the toy but rather pondering something far in the future -- something profoundly upsetting, like dying alone or Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.


Please let me die.


Fear not -- the Woktot Hut included yet another wagon. Because what would an Ewok toy be without a wagon? It also included a second Baga, this one slightly different from, but just as stupid as, the one that came packaged with the Woodland Wagon.


Actually, I believe the box and catalog photos show the wrong Baga. The one that came packaged with the Woodland Wagon had a halter sculpted onto its head, whereas the one included with the Hut did not.


In all honesty, the Family Hut was a pretty nice toy: It came with lots of interesting accessories, including a hang glider and a hammock. It also included bongos, to recreate those rare occasions on which the Ewoks performed beatnik poetry.

Weirdly, it's the only Woktot toy whose figures are not identified by name in Kenner's 1984 catalog. I'm guessing the larger figures represent Wicket, Kneesaa, and Zephee. The wokling is probably named Gizmo or Twiki or something. Oh, and don't forget Baga.


In case you've been laboring under the impression that the Woktots weren't important enough to have their own mail-away promotion, feast your eyes upon the above page from Kenner's 1984 "Go for the Gold" catalog. It spotlights a promotion that was tied in to the Preschool line as a whole, including the Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake portions of it.


Interested parents could fill out the form found on the back page of the above-pictured in-pack catalog, and send it to Kenner. Then their child would receive a birthday card along with a $1.00 rebate on Kenner Preschool products.


The birthday card is rarely seen. I'm still looking for an example!

***


The products discussed above comprise the Woktot line of late 1983 and 1984. What was released in later years?

Nothing.

After being introduced with great fanfare, the line disappeared. By 1985 it no longer appeared in Kenner's Toy Fair catalog. Presumably, its sales didn't warrant the continued investment. Also, I think it's likely that the introduction of the Ewoks action figure line generated concerns of Ewoks oversaturation.

One interesting relic of the Woktots' cancellation is the above advertising insert, from a copy of Playthings magazine dated February 1985. As you can see, it features Woktot products front and center. I'm guessing it was put together just before Kenner decided to pull the plug on the Preschool range.


The publication's interior contains a blurb claiming that the Woktot line "promises to turn an entire new generation of toddlers into Star Wars fans."

Can you smell the desperation?

So desperate was Kenner to convince buyers that Star Wars would continue to rule the toy galaxy, they misrepresented the lifespan of the action figure line, pegging it at 10 years.

Maybe they were hoping it'd last 10 years. In reality, it lasted seven.


In the 1985 catalog the Kenner Preschool line covered a meager two pages. One was devoted to a generic version of Sit 'n Spin, the other displayed a new version of the Give-A-Show Projector -- one that included slide strips based on several different licensed properties.

One can be forgiven for mistaking the Ewoks for Care Bears.



Special thanks to Jarrod Clark for supplying a few key photos.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

MarketWatch Summer 2017 Round-Up: State of the Market

Pete writes:

 Happy October Space Freaks! As we look back on the Summer this month on the MarketWatch, we dive deep into the vast sea of Vintage floating out there at nearly record low prices and absolute bargains as the sky has literally fallen. The bubble has burst, the champagne has popped, the bottom has fallen out, this is it folks...the Dark Times are near. Loose Vinyl Cape Jawas for $19.99, complete 12 Back runs for $100, Revenge of the Jedi proof cards at $1.00 a piece.  

If you haven't realized by now, I’m being a tad bit facetious! But who can blame me? It seems every week there’s a new thread popping up somewhere in social media about how the market is crashing. Most of these threads fall into a few categories: perception, speculation, trolling(?), and one data point theories.   

It reminds me of a famous line from The Simpsons when Lionel Hutz was asked by the judge if he has any evidence, and he replied in kind “Well Your Honor, we've got plenty of hearsay and conjecture...those are kinds of evidence.

The fact of the matter is that for as long as eBay has been around there have been great deals in the marketplace, and using these outliers as the basis for predicting patterns in the market is one of -- if not the most -- damaging things to the hobby. I know that may seem a bit extreme, but the fact of the matter is that a false perception is damaging to any hobby, especially a highly socialized one such as ours. It’s all about belief. Things such as scandals shake the hobby quickly and aggressively, whereas false perceptions of value kill the hobby slowly by eroding one of its founding aspects: the belief that there is value in what we collect.

This month we take a hard look at the market through the Three Cs - Categories, Condition, and Characters, and where things are hot and where they may be cooling off.  In addition, we’ll look at literal results from eBay and discuss the assumptions that are made with each of the channels of buying and selling in the marketplace today.  

So what’s going on with the market these days? What are the trends that we’re seeing?   

At a high level the overall health of the Vintage market is good. Now that may seem a bit vanilla, and to be honest it is. I look at this as a balancing situation. Some things are up, some are down, but the only extremes in the market are actually on the positive side of the equation. The market is what it is, not because of a lack of engagement, but because of a lack of buzz. This for better or for worse has normalized the trends that we’ve seen leading up to the release of The Force Awakens and directly following its release given the overall positive reception for Star Wars as a brand. Even though this buzz has died off a bit, we still have movies coming out regularly which are receiving praise from critics and fans. The other factor that is keeping the market up while we are seeing declines in awareness is the global economy, and more-so the economy in the key countries where the majority of collecting occurs. The simple rule is the hobby thrives when people have more money to spend on it.

To dive deeper into what’s happening and uncover areas of growth and areas which have seen a decline, I dissect the market through three factors, the aforementioned three Cs of the collecting community.

Condition:
-          High grade* = Flat. The best will always demand the most and hold its value. This seems to be the case still today with higher grade items doing extremely well.

-          Mid grade* = Down. I won’t say the middle has fallen out, but this segment has seen the most decline across all categories and characters of toys.

-          Low grade* = Up. Surprisingly the lower end of collecting packaged toys has actually seen an uptick over the past year. This really has to do with the barriers to entry for both new and existing collectors. With prices swelling throughout the past several years more and more collectors are fine with accepting lower grade items in their collection then previously, it all comes down to the elasticity of the market.

*Grade = overall condition and is not specific to items graded by a third party such as AFA, CAS or UKG

Categories:
-         Packaged Toys = Down marginally to slightly up, so there’s a little Yin and Yang when it comes to the core packaged toys category. On one hand we are seeing Star Wars atrophy in a few segments. Specifically, more common items like the first 21 on Star Wars cardbacks are at the core of this decline. As most people know, the first 21 characters on Star Wars cardbacks are the most readily available of almost any in the series, with 12 Backs being the most common of the series. It feels like a greater part of the market has realized this over the last year as we continue to see 12 Backs decline in price. Collectors are getting smarter and as long term collectors reach a more mature phase in their acquisitions, there seems to be diminishing demands for Star Wars back MOC figures.

The same can be said for the MIB segment. Common items are seeing some decline, although not as rapid as with MOC figures. The other side of the coin are rare items which continue to go up in value. And when I say rare, I’m not stating it in the true rarity scale index, but in broad strokes. Things like MISB short release items and 12” sealed figures seem to be on the climb, as do popular mainstays like the Falcon and AT-AT. Additionally, the exception to the 12 Back dive are items such as carded Double Telescoping figures and Vinyl Cape Jawas, which continue to remain strong and show some signs of growth.

-         Pre-production = Still at an all-time high in some segments like Revenge proofs, first shots and other 3D pre-production, as well as early pre-production. Although it may not be as noticeable on social media, proofs hit an all-time high at Celebration this year. With lower demand, 45 Back and Revenge characters were reaching upwards of $2,000 a piece on the show floor. 3D pre-production is hotter then ever, with prototype limbs and torsos going for thousands of dollars for tertiary characters like Ackbar and Prune Face.

-         Loose = Hot as ever. I mean come on guys, if you ever have a doubt that things are looking good, look at what graded loose figures sell for: more than beat up MOCs. It’s a new trend and one that’s been sustaining itself for over a year now. With new and exciting designs from CAS mixed with more attainable price points than high quality packaged items, there’s new excitement in this segment of collecting that’s driving up demand across the board.

-         Mailers and Multi-packs = Holding flat to last year. In short, there’s not much to say about mailers and multi-packs. What was one of the fastest growing categories over the last 5 years has now leveled off and in turn created a new normal for collectors of tiny white and brown boxes. Another factor to the plateauing of this segment has to be associated with the fact that AFA wasn’t accepting submissions of these items for nearly a year. That has since changed and in the last month we’ve seen things take a bit of a jump, but not enough to call it anything other then a blip on the radar.

Characters (Supply/Demand):
The last factor that I’ll be discussing is related to a core aspect of the hobby that’s hard to quantify. Call it popularity, call it desirability, or even call it rarity, for all of these descriptive terms come down to one thing: what is the item itself. Characters as a measuring stick for the market is used a bit ambiguously, as not all items are characters in the hobby. But what we’re talking about here is really how many people will go after an item and how much they will spend. When it comes to this past year, we see some interesting results.  

Common Characters = Up dramatically in pockets. The interesting thing that has really impacted the less popular characters in the series is the advent of focus collecting and a deeper interest in variants. Here we see new collectors jumping into the fold and gravitating towards a specific character or item that is more obtainable. Another aspect that is impacting this is the fact that collecting hobbies have changed. As I mentioned earlier, two of the strongest segments of the hobby are loose and pre-production, and this is driving some of the growth we see here. A few examples to think about would include trying to find a good condition Black Bespin Guard, a figure that is fairly plentiful, but finding one that has all of his gold in tact is nearly impossible. The same can be said on a Death Star Droid with his black paint. On the pre-production side, as the category goes up so do all things pre-production. Thus we’ve seen examples of Revenge proofs reach over $1,000 for very common characters. Again I’ll bring up the Bespin Guards and even the disco king Lobot. Going to vehicles and playsets, we’ve seen appreciation in Mini Rigs and other small items that typically have all been sub $100 in price.

Average Characters = Flat. As I mentioned before, there’s been some fallout in the middle to the extent that it’s hard to really separate the category into three segments. Sometimes the line isn’t just blurred, it’s been erased. As common characters and items appreciate and middle-ground characters and items stay flat, it’s hard to distinguish what side of the line items reside on.

Key Characters = Flat to slightly up. The top of the food chain will always demand the highest dollar figure in the hobby. Over the last year we’ve seen things like Vinyl Cape Jawas, and Double Telescoping Luke Skywalkers hold their value and appreciate slightly, however the variation hasn’t been dramatic. There are exceptions to this rule, and the major exception is the extremely rare. Always realize when I use the term "rare" in the Star Wars hobby that it’s about proportionality, not the true measure of rarity as outlined by some other hobbies like comic books. Items such as Double Telescoping Vaders, Meccano carded figures, and other short release or non-domestic release items continue to see increases in value. Overall, the theme of "value" in the high end is very similar to where we’ve seen over the past decade: steady predictable appreciation in pricing.

AUCTIONS:

Although the topic of this MarketWatch update was really about the market itself, I wanted to cover some of the high points that have been seen over this past Summer and share some of the impressive auctions that we’ve seen.

Vinyl Cape Jawa (Carded) - $5,950 Ungraded - eBay listing
Although the lower end scale of condition always seems to take a hit, this is an exception to the rule. With no POP and some significant creasing, this items did fairly well.


Boba Fett AFA80+ 21 Back - $5,655 - eBay listing
         Always a popular figure and the cornerstone of many collections, the 21 Back Fett is still one of highest value items from the first 21 release and this example was on par with where these have been priced in the past year.


Yak Face POTF MOC - $4,200 - eBay listing
Yak Face sees a lot of fluctuation based on his grade and condition, and this one was right in line with where the market has been over the past few years.


"Collect All 21" Bell Display AFA90 - $3,000 - eBay listing
The highest price "Collect All 21" Bell I’ve ever seen on eBay of course has the highest grade I’ve ever seen on eBay. Where great condition loose versions go from around $1,500-$1,750, this particular piece did extraordinarily well driven by its condition.


ROTJ Millennium Falcon AFA 80 - $1,776 - eBay listing
One of my personal favorite pieces of box art is without a doubt the ROTJ release of the Falcon.
·       Falling right in line with my estimates, this particular piece is one of the few graded pieces of this version existing in a sealed package today -- fewer then either the ESB or SW releases.

ROTJ Yoda MOC AFA 95 - $1,981 - eBay listing
·       The central theme behind the market today is that condition and characters drive price in the hobby, and what we have here is a perfect example of this. What is traditionally a $400-$500 figure in 80 condition skyrockets when you have the best of the best. Finding a MOC that is graded a 90 is difficult. Finding a 95 is nearly impossible and thus this item was able to demand a 4x lift above that of its other high grade counterparts.


That’s it for this month. I hope you’ve enjoyed the update, the coverage of the market, and are able to take away a grounded and informed analysis of where the market is today, where it’s been, and what factors to continue to look at to evaluate the hobby as a whole.   

I’d like to dedicate this article to a good friend of the hobby who I had  some great interactions with over the years, Mete Akin. You’ll sorely be missed my friend. Gone to soon, but so many of the good die young and you were one of the best, honest, friendly and knowledgeable, rest in peace my friend.

Wampa Wampa,
Fratastic Pete