Tuesday, December 11, 2018

'Chive Cast Blog Log Pod Episode 9: Anatomy of a Grail OR Joseph Y. and the Quest for the Uzay Mock-Up

What is a grail? Is there a definition? What about so-called "Grail Inflation?" Is it about the objective rarity, or, about the subjective desire? Either way, Joe Yglesias’s most recent purchase of a Bootleg Uzay Mock-Up Prototype Hoth Troopie qualifies. He tells the 20 YEAR story of its discovery and purchase.

For the first time, the blog logged by the Blog Log Pod is being released simultaneously with the episode, so here is the entire package. Be sure to check out Joe's full post with photos below!

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00:56  Intro to Switzerland
02:55  Brick Through Joe’s Window
06:03  The Archive Grail Classification System Explained
09:21  The Archive Grail Classification System Illustrated with Chewbacca
12:50  What is the prototype Mock-Up bootleg Uzay Hoth Trooper?
17:14  Lev brings the trail out of Turkey
19:43  Lee buys it from Lev…who is Lee? 
20:58  The time Joe traded a Rocket Fett for a Head Man
26:57  The grail makes its first magazine appearance in 1999
27:46  Who is Tom Derby and how did he help get the grail to Joe
33:42  Outro to Switzerland

Joseph Y. writes:

Let me preface this by saying that I feel the term "Grail" is widely overused in the collecting world. Too often it's used to describe items that are readily available, but the person fawning for them is either unwilling or unable to spend the money that the item is selling for. My opinion may not match that of the Archive staff or readers, but that’s where I stand on the overuse of that term.

Now that I've stated my opinion on the misuse of that buzz word in the hobby... let us get on with our quest for a true hobby grail: The mock-up early logo Uzay Hoth Stormtrooper. To a bootleg collector, this piece is the equivalent of the kit-bashed Fett surfacing, in terms of its significance. This quest and its end show that determination, networking (friends), as well having the money when it's needed are all essential to achieve long term goals in this hobby. Not just a combination of 2 of the 3.

The mock-up Uzay card, made in the early stages of the process at SB Products, has a full Star Wars logo and all of the characters names on the back are spelled correctly. Surely the reason the produced cards were changed and given the “Uzay Savascilari” (meaning "Space War") and “StarsWar” logos was to attempt avoid the long arm of LFL and copyright laws. It is a sole survivor from the factory that was bought out in the early 90s by toy dealer Lev from Toy Tokyo. In his travels he went to Turkey and purchased every figure related piece they had, including the mock-up, and brought them back to America. Lev's involvement in importing these pieces accounts for at least 2/3 of the carded Uzay figures known to exist in collections today.

My portion of this story, along with my obsession with bootleg Star Wars starts in the 90s: I'd started collecting Uzay figures, as well as other bootleg figures starting in '94. My first 2 carded Uzays were the Imperial Gunner with his amazing calculator as a computer console, very shortly followed by a carded Blue Stars.

I was using the old Lee's Action Figure News article as my guide to what was out there, and what to look for, as there was limited documentation available otherwise. In 1998 or 1999 I had the chance to acquire a carded Uzay Head Man -- only one known to still exist at that time -- to finish my basic set of Uzay carded. It cost me my J-slot rocket Fett as it was a trade deal. A trade that I've never once second guessed or regretted in any way. Then in late '99 I see in AFN's "Rare Toy Showcase" this Uzay Hoth Stromtrooper that doesn’t match any other known Uzays. No Uzay logo on the front, same photo art as the production one, with the banner “Action Mechanic Robotics” in the lower right corner. It captivates me.

I end up getting Lenny’s (Lenny Lee from Lee's Action Figure News magazine) email from a friend. I email and attempt to buy it, and am met with silence. When Lenny Lee brokers his Uzay set through Tom Derby, it's not among the offered items. It was sold to an off the radar collector.

Distracted with my other bootleg hunting for a bit, the piece slides to the back of my mind. My bootleg collection grows, and then I start asking around about the piece again in the mid 2000s. I'm given a list of the people that it may have gone to. ALL dead ends and no progress made.

On and off I have spent the last 20 years hunting for this piece. It has become my holy grail and white whale all rolled up into one. For years, Tom Derby was helping dig around to see if he could turn up who had it. He found hi-res pics that Lenny had him take of the piece. But no clue as to who the current owner was. Every lead was exhausted at that point.

Rumblings of another collector having found the owner of the mock-up began to surface, with him emailing me and claiming to be in negotiations to purchase it starting about 3 years ago, which turned out to be false. They gave me false hope that the piece at least having survived, as well as potential for me to acquire it as at the same time I had started talking to a person that also claimed to be the owner. The pics they sent looked legit, but communications were sporadic at best and fueled by the moody nature of the person claiming to be the owner. That false lead was just that. It was disheartening and disappointing to the point that I had pretty much resigned myself to believing that the Uzay mock-up was lost to time. Perhaps it was sitting, forgotten about in storage or lost to disaster.

Then in June of this year (2018), I get the text from Tom Derby that made my heart almost jump out of my chest... it was out of the blue and simply read "I found the prototype Uzay." Discussions were had over the next few weeks, prices were hammered out and solidified. A brief moment of worry about the money to make it happen was shushed by my girlfriend's insistence that I just push forward and get it...Once a price was agreed on, I started to look at what I could sell to get the money together quickly. In early July I sold an equally iconic and grail-worthy piece to get most of the money to buy this amazing and illusive piece: the steel injection molds for the Uzay Chewbacca figure. With the mock-up mostly paid for, I had to wait until I could take some time away from work to go pick it up. I had originally planned on a fall road trip down to get it, but my schedule did not allow for that. Anxious to finally have it in my possession, I finally booked a flight and picked it up just last week.

The unreleased version of what the Uzay card back could have looked like had they not changed it is finally in my collection. This quest is finished. No more lost sleep. I breathe a sigh of relief now that it’s home safe and sound. Now onto some of the other vintage bootleg items that I know were produced, but no examples of them have surfaced yet. No rest for those with the collector gene in our DNA. Thank you to: Thomas Derby of CIB. Without your help from day one, this piece would not be resting in Mos Yglesias.

Monday, November 19, 2018

40 Years of French Culture: Interview with Stéphane Faucourt

Ron writes:

 I recently noticed that our friend and SWCA editor Stéphane Faucourt has released a new book (along with co-author Yann Leroux). Stéphane is a machine; he's always working on something new. So I asked guest blogger Kevin Lentz to do an interview with him, because I was curious to learn more about the topic. It's on sale now. If you buy a copy, maybe Stéphane will sign it for you at Celebration in Chicago.

Kevin writes:

I was in Paris this summer and had the pleasure of hanging out with Stéphane Faucourt for an afternoon and evening, getting to see his collection, visiting the famous Lulu Berlu toy store, meeting up with Matthieu Barthelemy, and generally having a grand time!

Stéphane has just published the English edition of his latest book Star Wars: 40 Years of French Culture. Collectors may be familiar with his previous publications, including Meccano to Trilogo (2006), Meccano Trilogo Collectors' Handbook (2016), French Touch: Definitive Guide to French Star Wars Collectibles 1977-1987 (2016), and La Saga vue de France (2015). I enjoyed getting to chat with Stéphane about his new book.

Kevin Lentz: What makes 40 Years of French Culture different from your previous books?

Stéphane Faucourt: That’s indeed a totally different idea than the previous books, which were targeted at a collectors’ audience. We came up with the idea to make a commemorative book for the 40th anniversary of the original movie release. Inspiration came from Steve Sansweet’s 1,000 Collectibles that I like very much -- nice pictures of iconic items and collectibles from various themes with personal anecdotes. So the book targets fans at large, collector or not, because whatever age you are, you will find a page with stuff that connects to memories.

KL: How long has this book been in the works? When were the French and English editions published?

SF: The idea came up four years ago, yes FOUR years ago. It was an opportunity to commemorate the 40th anniversary with a book focusing on the French market, as it was unlikely that an official book would be released on that perspective.

We focused on efforts to make the French edition available in May 2018 with the 20th anniversary of the major French convention Generation Star Wars, which draws each year 10,000-plus visitors during two days. Then, we worked on the English edition which is now available.

KL: Who all was involved in the book's production?

SF: Other collectors and pals involved are Jean Bernard, Jérome Brun, Pascal Delvordre, and Yann Leroux. Because none of us are completists, it was necessary to team-up our five collections in order to make this book possible. A few other pals contributed specific items that were still missing from our five collections' base. Yann Leroux also worked on the design and provided his photography skills. Dallas Ewen worked on the English review and edits. At the end, it’s another good example on how Star Wars collecting gathers people at large. 

KL: What are three of your favorite pages in this book? What makes them special?

SF: Three pages over 40 years is a tricky question since I have dozens of fond memories connected with those products. I would pick the 1984 Giveaway ROTJ poster promotional kit for retailers, 1996 BN playing cards, and 2012 Quick Dark Burger marketing campaign. Beyond the items and collectibles, it witnesses the know-how of French marketing teams through cleverly designed marketing campaigns and material.

KL: I remember that Dark Side Burger making international waves. Did you eat one? If so, how was it?

SF: Yeah I remember the Dark Burger promotion. I had the chance to taste all three burgers and even kept the various items like the placemat and unused burger boxes. That wasn't the best fast food burger I had, but a funny experience because of the black bun and limited time offer. As I mentioned, it was limited to 250 pieces per restaurant, and some didn't even receive the full delivery.

KL: Why do you think that item got so much international attention?

SF: I think it got quite some attention because it's one of those food offer yet to remember -- a lot of premium stuff to collect, and a lot (and I mean a lot) of advertising material, and in addition, even some special food, while most food-based marketing campaigns are based on additional products, not the food itself.

KL: What are items in the book that readers outside France would be surprised about?

SF: Our motto was that readers discover or rediscover original, rare, commonplace and unusual objects produced from 1977 to the present day; and so we selected exclusive and/or remarkable items: specific French packaging and marketing among LaserDisc sets, lottery tickets, food premiums, TV channels and phone operators packs and merchandise, convention exclusives, Atlas collectibles-by-subscription, cereals, water and milk bottles, credit cards etc. We also selected a few toys from the vintage and modern lines with a new way to present them using a photographic sense instead of “laying flat” items used in collectible books.

KL: What is something you learned while writing this book?

SF: Well, do not underestimate the time needed to achieve a project, even if you think you pretty much have all the material available.

SF: Collecting-wise speaking, I am a vintage stuff collector with an interest to modern stuff limited to food premium, marketing material, and posters. So it was a very interesting journey to venture into modern merchandise. The product range is so much more developed than it was during the original era.

KL: Did you find room in the book to talk about records and tapes?

SF: Yes, Kevin, records, audio tapes, and video media (videocassettes, LaserDiscs, Bluray…) also have their specific products and packaging. In the book we selected original soundtrack material and Original Trilogy era read-along records; modern merchandise is more video-related.

KL: Thanks for taking the time to discuss the book! Anything else you want to tell potential buyers?

SF: We are excited and proud to have this book finally come true. It is both a touchstone for the fans who were there from the beginning and an historic journey for those who have discovered Star Wars more recently. We are already getting very nice feedback since anyone surely finds a page with stuff that connects to personal memories, and that’s the best reward we can get.

The book is available on Amazon.com and UK at the price of $48 / £34.5. It’s a nice 8.5” square format, and 162 color pages.

It can be found on Amazon here.
It can be found on Amazon UK here.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Fall 2018 MarketWatch

Pete writes:

 It's been an interesting season in the hobby starting on quite the downer coming off of the poor box office reception of Solo: A Star Wars Story and the continued negative fandom related to The Last Jedi. The months of June and July were two of the slowest of the past few years, with some definite spikes and declines taking place in certain segments. Leading into September the market saw an uptick, driven by availability of high end MOCs, and generally rare pieces.

With that being said, here are some of the top items to come onto the market over the past few months.


Lobot First Shot Head Pull and Unpainted Torso CAS 85 - $965 - eBay listing
A nice place to start, this is one of the few entry level pre-production pieces to pop up on eBay over the Summer. Graded by CAS, this unpainted head/painted torso combination is both fun and unique in the way that it gives you two types of first shots in one package, Because of its character and overall population, it’s at an obtainable price point for most pre-production collectors.

Turret/Probot Playset MISB AFA 85 - $4,889 - eBay listing
One of the better playsets from the ESB line given its lack of dependency on cardboard and bagged figures, it’s possibly the most literally titled playset in the Star Wars galaxy. What it says is what you get: a big block of plastic ice, a turret gun and the Probe Droid. Sometimes simplicity is the best way to approach naming your playsets, as calling it "Land of the Probots," or "Hoth Ice Adventure" would be a little redundant. A cool variant given its name vs. the more commonly seen but still hard to find "Turret & Probot Playset," it has a very low population with AFA with only 2 examples graded over the years. Interestingly enough, this piece was sold at Hake’s Americana this past July with a total price of just under $4,000.  

Star Wars Special Offer 3-Pack Creature Set AFA 80 - $5,350 - eBay listing
Always popular with collectors new or old, the Special Offer 3-Packs always seem to be in season in the hobby. They consistently command strong values despite some of the ups and downs of the market as a whole. In this case we have one of the more common sets featuring three of the Cantina creatures. Although one of the most common, it’s also one of the most popular given the character mix.

Darth Vader Double Telescoping Lightsaber  CAS 80+ - $6,646 - eBay listing
Another perennial favorite here on the MarketWatch, the Double Telescoping lightsaber figures are a segment of items that always seem to be hot. With prices of loose examples reaching $10K and up in the past few years, seeing one with a modest grade at a more modest price is refreshing.

Yak Face Power of the Force MOC AFA 90 - $19,888  eBay listing
Rounding out our single item update, we have the double play of value in collecting: a combination of rarity and condition. This example of the POTF Yak Face is the best graded example in existence. Now that may not mean much to many, but in terms of the general collecting populous that’s still an extremely high mark to hit. Like all POTF examples of the Yak Man this one is quite yellow, but the card is impeccable and the figure is amazing. Coming in just shy of $20K shouldn’t shock most people. There have been some great examples to come up in the last year -- many going into the 5 figure price range -- however what we have here is truly an astonishing piece and thus we have to apply the rules of the lunatic fringe as this is an outlier in the overall population of examples today.

Prototype Coin Auctions

Circling the track we come back to a series of rare items to pop up recently: prototype coins in a myriad of colors, including the very rare bronze versions of Category 1-5 POTF coins. The collective set was impressive to say the least, and to learn more about these check out the James Gallo and Mark Salotti’s book Coining a Galaxy, as even resources here on the Archive are scarce given the rarity. 

The prices were all over the place. Some outliers like Paploo and Teebo were surprising given the cost of the some of the core characters such as Ben Kenobi and Stormtrooper, but it’s really hard to gauge where these should have come in price-wise given the lack of direct and/or generally similar items out there in the hobby. With several of these having never been documented before, there has been some interesting discussions among the collecting community on Facebook (for a few, see here and here).

Anakin Skywalker (Bronze) - $1,825 - eBay listing

Barada (Bronze) - $2,601 - eBay listing

Boba Fett (Bronze) - $3,150 - eBay listing

Darth Vader (Bronze) - $4,715 - eBay listing

Han Solo Carbonite (Bronze) - $2,650 - eBay listing

Imperial Gunner (Bronze) - $1,136 - eBay listing

Lando Cloud City (Bronze) - $3,150 - eBay listing

Luke Skywalker Original (Bronze) - $5,900 - eBay listing

Luke Stormtrooper (Bronze) - $1,925 - eBay listing

Obi-Wan Kenobi (Bronze) - $961 - eBay listing

Paploo Bronze - $2,650 - eBay listing
Stormtrooper Bronze - $1,568 - eBay listing

Teebo Bronze - $3,150 - eBay listing
For those looking for more information on these pieces here are two Archive entries to reference:

That does it for this update, keep checking back for more updates on the Star Wars Archive.

Wampa Wampa,