Sunday, September 25, 2016

'Chive Cast 76 - Ceremonial Luke Jedi


Despite a wedding, a birthday, a Bar and Bat Mitzvah and the beginning of the semester, the 76th 'Chive Cast comes roaring with its coverage of Return of the Jedi figures with Skye's interview with Luke Jedi mega-focus collectors Bob Martinazzi and Shawn Kemple. But first, he guides Steve through his trip to the huge vintage get-together from earlier this month in the DC area with many additional interviews and sound taken from the 4 day International Collectors Event. Its an episode with all the usual content in completely mixed up order, because 'Chive Cast content can neither be created nor destroyed!

 

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Revell is Ready for Rogue One!

Steve writes:

The Archive's resident Revell correspondent Yehuda Kleinman is here to highlight the company's new Rogue One product line.




Yehuda writes:

Revell continues to re-imagine the Star Wars universe in their highly detailed screen accurate model kits. Their required skill level makes for a fun build for both adults and children alike.

Revell and its parent corporation Hobbico have been revolutionizing the model world over the past several years by making their projects accessible and enjoyable to Star Wars fans with different levels of developing skills. The models include features such as lights and action sounds that bring them to life. The parts are also made from durable ABS plastic and the completed models have many points of articulation so they can be displayed or played with. The company first released the newer type of models for the last installment of the Star Wars series The Force Awakens with a tremendous positive response from fans.

For the upcoming new Star Wars standalone film Rogue One, Revell will release 3 new exciting snap tight models which will not require glue and are pre-painted. All will be available at retail on Friday, September 30th!

The Imperial AT-ACT Cargo Walker, which is an impressive larger type of AT-AT type vehicles is designed to transfer munitions, building materials and large numbers of troops. It features a positionable head, shoulders and knees as well as movable guns, an illuminated command cockpit, and both walking and battle action sounds.




The Rebel U-wing Fighter is a new ship from the movie. This 35-piece plastic model kit features a lighted cockpit that reveals Rebel soldiers ready for combat, rotating wings that can switch between two flying modes, removable landing gear, and battle action sound effects.







The third new offering is a model of the classic Imperial Star Destroyer -- the signature vessel of the Imperial fleet introduced in Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977. The model kit is an impressive 15.75” long when assembled, and includes features like light-up engines and movable gun turrets as well as audible engine vibrations and turbolaser fire.









Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Speeder Bikes, Prototypes and Australians
(And How They Collided)

Steve writes:

Guest blogger Ben Sheehan is back with a retrospective on the interesting historical connections between Australia and Kenner prototypes.




Ben writes:

The vintage Star Wars grapevine rumbled last year with rumors that an Australian collector had purchased the only complete set of unreleased 2nd series Droids and Ewoks prototypes (currently) known to collecting.

Just a decade ago, that idea would have seemed a notion less likely than the original wax sculpt for the Boba Fett action figure miraculously appearing at a museum exhibit in Paris (which it effectively did in 2012).


Either way, Australia is a lot more famous for kangaroos than it is for vintage Star Wars prototypes.

Yet, the country does have a longstanding link to them -- one established before even the first US based collectors began buying up pre-production pieces from Kenner employees around 1990 or so.

Just like Paul Hogan, the Sydney Harbor bridge, and POTF Yak Face, pre-production material already existed Down Under before most collectors even became aware of it.

Australia is about as geographically dislocated from Kenner’s former Cincinnati headquarters as you can get, yet the very first prototypes sent to the antipodes came from the company directly – via Kenner’s sister business Toltoys (Kenner would acquire Toltoys completely by the mid 90s).

Circa 1982, it wasn’t unusual to see the likes of Toltoys’ founding family water skiing with Kenner’s management on the Great Lakes in the USA, so this is not quite a surprise.

In 1994 there were rumors of Toltoys employees having fired Rocket Fett missiles at each other across a table during a sales meeting in circa 1980 (though this has never been substantiated beyond that company anecdote, despite a good deal of research by US sleuth "Fluffy," myself and one toy dealer).

What is startling perhaps, is how little remains of what Kenner sent over at this time.

The tooling used to produce the locally made injection molded ESB era playset and single SW series vehicle were destroyed. Proof material for boxes, stickers and instructions have also been lost to the scrap heap.

The only concrete evidence we really have of US made pre-production items in Australia is the existence of the Speeder Bike Concept Model that Kenner sent first to the UK, and then on to Australia for photography purposes. A Scout Walker used for the same images was tragically lost to a landfill after children and Aussie garbologists had their way with it.

While the Speeder Bike itself is well known, the full story behind it is less familiar.


The painstakingly milled and molded prototype Speeder Bike arrived unceremoniously in Melbourne’s Comics R’ Us Prahran store, with a pile of loose figures circa 1998. It was purchased for a couple of dollars, and had seemed unremarkable enough that it was promptly gifted by the store owner to his one time employee, Troy Varker (now owner of World’s Best Comic Store Winner 2014, All Star Comics, Melbourne).


A longtime collector (and former Tomart’s Custom Action Figure Design Contest Winner), Varker noted the prototype’s metal and resin construction, and intuitively sensed it was something significant -- despite being unaware that Kenner had even had a model shop. Without Varker’s intervention, it may never have survived at all.

After carefully preserving the piece for some eight years, he allowed Toltoys.com Editor Will Sowth to post an image to the Rebelscum forums in 2006.

The piece was quickly identified by European forum members as belonging to a UK merchandising poster from Palitoy -- prior to Toltoys using it in multiple images for their own promotion.

During a convoluted and at times confusing selling process, this author delicately maneuvered a deal to get the piece to SWCA Editor Chris Georgoulias (much to the chagrin of resident Archive poet John Alvarez).

One year later, Will Sowth recognized the Speeder Bike again in an image from a Paul’s Ice Cream promotion, run in Australia around the time of ROTJ.


That well-known image had been ignored by others Down Under, despite appearing on an expensive, highly sought after (by Australian collectors) box.

During a 2015 US trip, while trawling through Kenner photography from Kim Simmons in Atlanta, and I spotted it again -- this time on what looked like photo art from a box design identical to the one used for production.



A message to Chris G. soon saw him find another image of it on a box mock-up (see the previous Archive Database link for more information).

The chronicle of the piece now reads something like this: made in Cincinnati, sent to Australia via the UK.  Found in a comic book store, identified online by Europeans; sold back to America, identified again by an Australian, then spotted in the Kenner photography archive by another prototype collecting Australian visiting the USA (who lived down the road from the store it originally turned up in) -- and finally recognized again by its new owner in another Kenner image.

It’s quite the story.

But it’s not just this prototype Speeder Bike that has turned up in Australia.

Australia became home to 100s of carded samples and engineering pilots in the early 1990s. Many of these are around in number even today – hand-cut, ROTJ era bubble test pieces for Yoda on a ESB 41 Snaggletoothcard, multi-coloured Rebel Commando first shots, unpainted Bib Fortunas and other Jedi characters on late release ESB cards. In fairly recent times, a case of Nikto on ROTJ Hammerhead cards turned up.



A few years back, Sydneysider Nick Johnston even purchased a Leia Boussh with a hand painted helmet that was stapled to an ESB Bossk card

The vast majority of these prototypes arrived via the Hong Kong warehouse cleanouts in the early 1990s, as stock was dumped by Kenner in one hell of a fire sale. As recently as 2004, a dealer invited me to look at one last warehouse full of that product (replete with Tri-Logo, Takara and other internationally licensed items), which was subsequently farmed out to other collectors and dealers around the world.

Australia had long been a dumping ground for toy companies, and a mechanism already existed to place this stock on the collector market. Almost all of these prototype pieces were sold to dealers in the US during the mid to late 1990s and early 2000s (some would later come back to Australia).

Yet the history of these carded prototypes goes even further back than the Hong Kong warehouse fire sale.

Sometime in the mid 1980s, an Australian Venture store sold a Leia Poncho on a ROTJ 48 back Hoth Stormtrooper card to an unidentified collector. But it wasn’t just the odd cardback the figure came on that was notable.

The figure’s cape was the pink fabric synonymous with ROTJ era soft goods test pieces. For a long time there had been no other recorded instance of a prototype not only making it out into the public realm during the vintage era, but actually being sold at retail (another one, believed to have been sold in the US has since been found).

From the collection of Oliver Sudweeks

Nothing else has turned up since, but with the incredible rarity of so many Australian production items -- including ESB 12” dolls, the ESB vinyl cape Jawa, and more early release MOC figures than column space allows, it remains an outside chance that similar prototypes are still waiting to be discovered.

While it’s recently become almost the de rigueur for collectors around the globe to put together incredible runs of vintage Kenner prototypes, Australia -- which was one of the smallest markets for Star Wars toys during the vintage retail era -- is the one country outside of the US to have actually contributed Kenner related items to the diminishing pool of supply.

Yet it’s somehow taken a long time for Australians to develop a satellite culture of collecting vintage prototypes (such as the rumored unreleased Droids and Ewoks set) -- lagging a long way behind our Asian and European cousins (and ground zero in the USA). The last ten years have seen Down Under produce a genuine second and third wave of prototype collectors, after the mid to late 1990s saw the birth of the hobby locally. Almost perversely, this new era has roughly coincided with the export of the last locally sourced Kenner prototypes.

Friday, September 9, 2016

MarketWatch: C-3PO (Removable Limbs)
& R2-D2 (with Sensorscope)


Michael L. writes:

We were almost done with the ESB cardbacks, but we've come back for one last round with the droids in their ESB variations. These figures were great as a kid -- who didn't use that backpack to re-create a destroyed 3PO being carried around?




I was interested to see how the droids were fairing in the market given their appearance/continuation within the newest trilogy. I was lucky enough to find some high graded pieces. Again, the price jump between an AFA85 piece and either the next tier(s) down or ungraded was bordering on astronomical. There continues to be a high premium out there for the high grades. Clear bubbles on these figures as we move into ROTJ cards will no doubt attract high price results (in the main).

Onto the data...

C-3PO (REMOVABLE LIMBS)

EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

47 back AFA85 (C85/B85/F85) $1,225 - eBay link

47 back AFA85 (C85/B80/F85) $499.95

47 back ungraded $202.50 - eBay link

I also found a 47 back ungraded at $71.00. Damn good bargain, relative to the high end pieces.

RETURN OF THE JEDI

65 back ungraded $120.00 - eBay link

65 back ungraded $81.00 - (Anakin Offer) Auction no longer available 

77 back ungraded $175.00 - eBay link

POWER OF THE FORCE

AFA90 Y-NM $599 - eBay link

AFA80+ NM. $179 - eBay link

FOREIGN

Italian 4 pack $2,470 - eBay link

Spanish 65 back $1,895 - eBay link


R2-D2 (WITH SENSORSCOPE)

On the whole I was a little underwhelmed with the pricing on R2. It is fair to say this cardback is the poor relative to the original and POTF variants (and Droids for that matter).

EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

45 back ungraded $255 - eBay link

45 back ungraded $102.50

47 back AFA80 $476 - eBay link

48C AFA80 $366 - eBay link

48C ungraded $175 - eBay link

RETURN OF THE JEDI

65A ungraded $122.50

65C (with Anakin offer) $93

77A ungraded $154.25

77A ungraded $64.99 (cardback was heavily creased)

FOREIGN

Trilogo ungraded $99 - eBay link

And that is a final (again) wrap on the ESB characters. It's interesting as we end the ESB characters to see what the market dynamics are. Certainly high end items continue to attract a significant premium. Clear bubbles are also held highly and come at a premium. Foreign pieces have enjoyed a decent run-up in pricing as well. Whilst MOCs in average to poor condition have seen some increases, its fair to say that a budget-conscious collector could still put together a run with a little patience and compromise in quality.

Until next month, happy buying and selling...

Wampa Wampa!

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Whole Lotta Doh In a Galaxy Far, Far Away:
Star Wars and Play-Doh


Ron writes:

Has there ever been a more unjustly popular toy than Play-Doh? The product has one thing going for it: it's non-toxic. Meaning that, like boogers or Tylenol, a kid has to eat a lot of it before he dies.

But in virtually every other way Play-Doh is a lousy substitute for clay or plasticine. I mean, it was invented as an agent for cleaning wallpaper. Does home improvement sound fun to you? What's next, Play-Caulk?


General Mills acquired Rainbow Crafts, the perpetrator of Play-Doh, in 1965, and in the early '70s the product became associated with GM's Kenner subsidiary. This was apparently a big deal for the folks at Kenner, as they immediately started referring to themselves as "the Play-Doh people."

How the Spirograph and Girder and Panel product lines felt about this is unclear, but it's a good bet neither was happy about being passed over in favor of colored wallpaper putty.


Nevertheless, come 1972 there was the irritating Play-Doh mascot shamelessly consorting with Kenner's Gooney Bird on the cover of the company's Toy Fair catalog.

Is it me or does the Gooney Bird look a little conflicted in this picture? Maybe he's wondering what the kid with the Afro is doing back there...

Regardless, it was around this time that the Gooney Bird stopped regularly appearing in Kenner's advertising materials. He was right to look conflicted.


It didn't take Kenner long to associate their new acquisition with popular licenses. This Flintstones-themed Play-Doh set was advertised in the company's 1973 Toy Fair catalog. It allowed kids to make Play-Doh into king-sized Flintstones vitamins.

Hey, they're non-toxic!


Kenner's big pre-Star Wars licenses, The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, also received some Play-Doh love. These products debuted less than a year prior to the release of Star Wars.


But few properties are capable of competing with the licensing powerhouse that is the George Orwell estate. 

That Snowball figure has the look of a pig who's bent on leading the revolution!

The first Star Wars-themed Play-Doh product was called the Star Wars Action Set. Its box is unusual among Kenner's early Star Wars offerings in that it deviates from the line's signature black-and-silver design scheme. Its look was visually simpatico with the Play-Doh line rather than the Star Wars one.


The set came with hinged molds that allowed kids to create doughy representations of four Star Wars characters, a plastic X-Wing Fighter, and a colorful playmat representing the Death Star. 

Since Play-Doh doesn't come in black, Darth Vader had to be molded in a disappointingly less-than-evil hue. 

If you think the Vader figures depicted on the box are grasping lightsabers, look closer. Those are actually blaster rifles that kids could make out of Play-Doh using one of the included molds, then smoosh onto the figures in strategic locations. 


The positioning of the blaster in this image makes Vader look a little salacious. Topps C-3PO has nothing on Doh Vader!

In my opinion, the coolest component of the set is the vinyl playmat. This unfolded prototype provides an unencumbered view of its super-colorful graphics. 

Note that the Stormtrooper's gun appears to be squishing out Play-Doh rather than firing energy bolts. The Dianoga is a nice touch.

1980 saw the debut of the second film in the Star Wars series and the addition of the Empire Strikes Back Action Set to the Play-Doh range. Now Vader could be molded in dark blue, which I suppose was fairly acceptable. 

Why Kenner didn't reuse the Vader mold from the earlier set is a mystery. The one included here is slightly different. Not sure if the R2-D2 mold is different or not. Not sure I care either.


The mold for Luke yields a figure that looks a bit like everyone's favorite space rent-a-cop (and unlikely fashion icon), Captain Panaka. 


There's a project for an industrious nerdlinger: Find one of these sets, and mold up an army of Play-Doh Panakas.

The set also included a plastic snowspeeder and a vinyl playmat. Above you see a prototype of the latter article. The longer you stare at it, the less you'll understand its spatial relationships.

In 1981 Kenner released its third Star Wars Play-Doh product, the Yoda Play Set. 

Perhaps someone within the company realized that using the word "action" in reference to these products was somewhat misleading. 

The original incarnation of the toy came packaged in a white box similar to that used for the ESB Action Set, but it was quickly replaced by the yellow version seen above. 

This particular yellow color became part of Play-Doh's branding, and it remained associated with Play-Doh products throughout the remainder of the vintage Star Wars years.

The white-box Yoda Play Set is probably the scarcest of the vintage Star Wars Play-Doh items, especially in sealed condition.


The Vader figure produced by this set's molds looks to be identical to the one included with the previous ESB set, and the X-Wing is the same as the one released with the SW set. Weirdly, the Luke mold from the SW set seems to have been reused here, meaning users were forced to tolerate the presence of the Tatooine Luke in the Dagobah environment. 

I love that the set allowed kids to make "levitation boxes." 

I also love the suggestion, provided by the above photo, that Yoda keeps a firearm handy at all times. Perhaps he's leery of home invasion?


When Return of the Jedi hit theaters Kenner was ready with this Jabba-themed set. It featured a greater number of figure molds, including one that produced a nifty version of Han Solo frozen in carbonite.

Who do you reckon is more Doh-appropriate, frozen Han or Jabba the Hutt?

On the minus side, the molds were now one-sided rather than hinged. How do you imagine kids, with their disgustingly chubby fingers, managed to pry the figures from these molds? By ruining them, most likely.


Since Jabba was a big secret prior to the release of Jedi, Kenner's catalog photos omitted the Jabba figure, and an alternate image of the playset's box was utilized. The plastic skiff that came with the set is pretty cool.


1983 also saw the release of the Wicket the Ewok Playset. It put a sizeable dent in the demand for toy incarnations of Baga, the Ewoks' irrepressible llama thing.


Ironically, the molds in this cartoon-based set produced figures that were more detailed and voluminous than the rudimentary, suppository-like figures of earlier sets.

The set's plastic cart could be used to recreate various Baga-related adventures.

Note that the box depicted on this catalog page is different from the one released to stores.


For years collectors considered this Attack the Death Star Playset a quasi-rarity because its box bears Power of the Force branding. But it's actually among the easier Play-Doh sets to find in unused condition, perhaps because virtually no one bought it at retail.

Can you blame the shoppers of 1985 for failing to be inspired by this toy? In place of the figural molds of earlier sets Kenner provided molds for a quartet of tiny, impotent-looking vehicles. Oh, and there was one mold devoted to explosions. It yielded strange barnacle-like conglomerations more reminiscent of Play-Doody than Play-Doh.

The best part is the molded plastic component. It's a bland slab of nothing that Kenner attempted to pass off as a "launching pad." It looks more like the conveyor belt on which you place your Yoda grapes as you check out at the grocery store.


The fall from grace experienced by the Star Wars product line during the second half of the '80s is amply demonstrated by the manner in which the Attack the Death Star Playset was presented in Kenner's 1985 Toy Fair catalog. The product's photo spans two pages, making it hard to get a good look at the barnacles and the grocery shelf. Maybe that was intentional?

Kenner should have marketed this thing as the Star Wars Wallpaper Cleaning Playset. It would have sold better.