Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Vintage Collector Etsy Gift Guide

Amy writes:

Ever get the old 'I don't know what to get you because I don't know what you already have in your collection' comment? One solution is to direct people to find hand made collectibles, supporting small businesses and often artsy collectors at the same time.

Here are a few treasures that you may need in your collection:

Nerdy Soap in the UK features Star Wars soap cast from vintage figures and collectibles such as this Jabba and ESB candy head set.

Dr. Mutato's shop has a handful of a vintage figures as art prints including our favorite bounty hunter Boba Fett. The artist, Jorge Baeza also has a website for his art.

Dougy74Design creates unique paper sculpted figures in vintage packaging:

Vintage collector Robert Sharp has a store called WoobiesTreasures that sells Kenner offers and store displays as buttons.  

If you need a card, ComradeCards has you covered with their witty vintage figure cards.

Ornaments make great package toppers too. TheFandomsMenace sells both laser cut Star Wars ornaments and necklaces.

If finding space in your collection is an issue, CarvedCrayons may be the solution.  These one of a kind works of art are hand carved on the end of a crayon.  

Temple7e on Etsy sells hand painted wood figures. For the full listing of Star Wars figures available check out this link.

Happy hunting!

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Awesomeness of Ralph McQuarrie

Gus writes:

One of the first Star Wars collectibles I owned was the Star Wars Portfolio by Ralph McQuarrie. I remember being blown away by McQuarrie's spectacular imagery that enabled Lucas to convince Fox  to produce Star Wars and formed the characters, vehicles, weapons, and settings of this amazing universe that would take the public by storm. As most fans are aware, many of McQuarrie's concepts evolved during pre-production while still retaining many of his initial characteristics to create the Star Wars universe.

I kept my original Star Wars portfolio, along with all my Star Wars items from my youth, during those quiet years when little was happening with Star Wars. As I started to ramp up on Star Wars collecting in the early 1990's one of the first areas I pursued was autograph collecting. This was a time before the big Star Wars conventions and paid signings, and I wrote to many of the cast members and behind the scenes staff who made Star Wars possible.

I was able to obtain Ralph McQuarrie's address via a friend, so I unpacked my original portfolio from the late 1970's and mailed it off to him. My vision was to get McQuarrie to sign every print in the portfolio to eventually frame them as a set along with a signed photo of the artist. Realizing that this was probably a huge imposition, I also sent him a check for the trouble and for the postage costs back to mail back to me. 

Several months had passed, and I thought the portfolio might have gotten lost, but then one day it arrived in the mail. I was surprised to find that Ralph had sent my check back, refusing to take any money for signing or for postage. He signed every print in the portfolio and wrote a nice letter. I didn't realize it at the time, but that moment was significant in my evolution as a Star Wars collector because it had bridged something I had owned as a kid with this newly found hobby I was learning about in 1990's. McQuarrie is a legend. And like other people who achieve such greatness, he was also generous and humble.

Friday, November 21, 2014


Ron writes:

I was amused by something said by Mel Brooks in the documentary Mel Brooks: Make a Noise.

Brooks claims to have sought George Lucas' blessing before making his legendary Spaceballs.

Lucas, he says, had no problems with the idea of Star Wars being spoofed. But he did issue one warning: stay away from marketing action figures!

According to Brooks, Lucas felt that Spaceballs figures would resemble his characters to such a degree that they would cut into Lucasfilm's merchandizing profits. It's a funny idea, especially when you consider that by the time Spaceballs debuted in theaters (1987), Star Wars was fast disappearing from toy aisles.

Well, if Lucas put the kibosh on Spaceballs action figures, at least we got to see some prop versions in the movie itself. Of course, those figures now reside in Gus' great collection. You can view them on the SWCA here.

Mel Brooks: Make a Noise is available now on Netflix Instant.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"Chewbacca Blocked in Effort to Go Home"

Steve writes:

With the 36th anniversary of the Star Wars Holiday Special coming to pass yesterday, what better time to point out a couple of interesting related items in the Archive Database and elsewhere on the interwebs.

Funnily enough, a couple of toy concepts were in the works before the train went off the rails, namely a set of prototype action figures representing Chewbacca's family and potentially, Boba Fett's Sea Serpent.

From the collection of Lisa Stevens and Vic Wertz
Lumpawarrump's facial expression is appropriately creepy. I'd imagine he'd be equipped with a small X-wing toy as an accessory, while Chewie would be draped in a crimson choir gown, Malla would be adorned with a kitchen apron, and Itchy with a disturbing virtual reality "movie" viewing device.

From the collection of Lisa Stevens and Vic Wertz
We've discussed this set of sketches on the podcast before (Episode 34 from November 2012). It's a pretty nifty design, but I imagine a toy version from 1979 wouldn't deliver the same effect.

Tommy also recently posted a November 11, 1978 preview article for the special at The Newsstand. The article weirdly refers to one of Harvey Korman's characters and C-3PO as "Dromboids" -- a term I had never come across before.

Also, an intriguing auction on eBay for Miki Herman's script for the special recently topped at out at 29 bids and an unmet reserve price of $2,225. Should be interesting to see how the sale of that item pans out.

Lastly, if you haven't had a chance to listen to last year's Holiday Special 35th Anniversary podcast put together by our friends at Galaxy of Toys, it's a must.

Hope your Life Day was a blessed one. Stir, whip, stir, whip, whip, whip, stir, beat....

Friday, November 14, 2014

Shane Turgeon in the News

Ron writes:

I'm thrilled, and even sort of proud, to see my good friend Shane Turgeon honored by "Avenue Edmonton Magazine" as one of Edmonton's least unimpressive people under the age of 40.

Image from Avenue Edmonton

Not only is Shane not unimpressive, he's positively one of the most un-lame people I have ever met.

In all seriousness, this is a well-deserved honor: Shane has made quite an impact on geek culture, most of it via nothing more than good old-fashioned chutzpa, smarts, and positivity. Even more importantly, he's a great person. If you live in the Edmonton area, be sure to put down your hockey stick for two seconds and pick up the magazine, as I don't believe the complete feature is available online.

Congrats to Shane!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

November General MarketWatch Update

Pete writes:

Happy November Space Freaks! 

I hope life has been treating you well this Fall, as it’s one of my favorite seasons given it’s the last semblance of decent weather before we head into the abysmal Midwest Winter. Of course this Winter I’m spending my time in Southern Florida, so as a lot of you are digging out of three feet of snow, I’ll be enjoying 70 degree weather. Hate me yet? If not you might by the end of this update, as this month we have some truly great pieces, most of which you will NEVER HAVE! Okay not trying to be overly dramatic, but this month we have a few very rare pieces from the Star Wars vintage toy line that are sought after amongst collectors of all types, some of which have less than 10 examples in existence. So without wasting any more time, here’s the November update, Snootchie Bootchies!

First up is simply the best of what came on the market this past month as far as my opinion is concerned. You’ll hear me talk a lot about ways to get the most for what you’re selling, such as the time of the day, week and even year, the titles of your auctions, no reserves and several other methods to get the most for what you’re selling. One of the biggest ways to get a lot of attention and traffic is listing multiple items at once, especially if you have a certain category of items, such as MISB SW, or MOC ESB figures. In these cases you hit up people’s saved and regimented searches in a more aggressive fashion and thus increase traffic to your auction pages. This month we have one seller who did just that when they listed several carded Uzay figures at once. The seller took the opportunity to showcase his items at the same time and was rewarded by great results in the ending prices. Let’s take a closer look at three of the auctions specifically.

First we have the Blue Stars figure. One of the most sought after loose or carded figures in the hobby, he’s become a staple of high end collecting and is as rare as he is legendary. Featured on one of the last episodes of Toy Hunters, he’s become more popular amongst collectors over the past few years. The Uzay take on the Snowtrooper figure is one that, unlike Headman or some others, makes some sense.  How do you show that this guy belongs in the snow, it’s simple -- paint the dude an ice cold blue, how more frigid can he get? A great novelty out of the Uzay line and a great rarity for those high collectors who spend their time collecting Uzays, 3 Packs, and POTF proof cards, you know the types I’m talking about, the ones that can’t be bothered with simple great condition production stuff…

This particular piece did quite well given its condition. A Q40 is pretty much a decimated item (even if it’s an Uzay) and the Q grading, (which according to AFA they don’t give on figures…) makes it questionable if you can even call it a MOC item. By comparison the one that sold last Spring on Toy Hunters was an AFA75 and sold for over $8,000. Thus with a slope in condition of basically half, you have something that still brought over half the price of another recent auction -- impressive given the diminishing returns you see with lower quality figures.

Blue Stars AFA 40-Q -$5,100

Although it’s not as complicated as the control panel for the Death Star, a 1980s HP calculator is still an impressive piece of technology for its time. And the folks at Uzay used it to make one of the most confusing and comical cardbacks in the history of Toy collecting. The Uzay version of the Imperial Gunner is a great piece MOC if you can find one and here we have a fairly good condition item (For an Uzay MOC). Like the Blue Star this did very well, if not better considering that it is not as sought after as the prior auction. Condition is more than likely the primary reason, making this another successful sale for the eBayer.

Imperial Gunner MOC Uzay - $4,500

Lastly in our Trio is the Darth Vader Uzay MOC, a sort of psychedelic take on the cardback, making one wonder if this makes people in Eastern Asia break out is seizures if placed on a turntable. Also in great condition (for an Uzay MOC, that’s three disclaimers), this piece saw a great return for the seller with a $4,000 price tag -- inline for a very rare Vader, as there tend to be more Vader focus collectors in the hobby than any other character, and this would be a great addition for anyone looking to put the cherry on top of their collection.

Darth Vader Uzay MOC- $4,000

So what do you get when you sell the best graded example of the largest vehicle in the original series? Around $3,000. Our next item is none other than the Imperial Shuttle, one of the biggest items in the original toy line and the largest of any vehicle. Like a lot of the items released in the ROTJ series, this piece just simply doesn’t get the love that it deserves. It’s large, impressive, has great detail, and is simply the king of the vehicles, taller than an AT-AT, more prestigious then that old Correllian Falcon; it’s the Empire at their best, and only the best get to travel in it, guys like Vader, Dignitaries, and of course the Emperor. This puppy clocked in at a huge price increase as most 85s see an auction price of $1,200-1,400 consistently. But as many have said when you want the best of the best you have to pay for it, and someone dropped over double the going rate for an 85 with this one going for over $3K. That’s a lot to pay for a 5 point grade increase, and I don’t think it’s justified. However when you are talking about something this big that 5 point difference can at times be noticeable in condition, as it is the best of the best, the only one to get a 90 and I’m sure whomever bought it was waiting for it to come around.
Imperial Shuttle AFA90 - $3,100

As prefaced by Jordan (Creeptastic) Hembrough himself, there’s a big difference between the Creature Cantina Playset and the Cantina Adventure Set. One of the few exclusive sets done for Sears in the Star Wars line, it’s also one of simplest items they ever produced: a few pieces of cardboard and four figures.   Simplicity sometimes creates some of the best collectibles, as this piece is dollar for dollar one of the most expensive items in the production line up. Not many boxed examples made it around until today as the box itself is rather thin and tall, not great in terms of structure. Here we have a graded example with a solid grade of AFA80 and a price of $5,500ish as the item ended with an offer vs. in auction style.

Cantina Adventure Set MISB – AFA80 - $5,500ish

This month I wanted to pause on our continuing updates around collections of the first 21 and first 12. As many of you know I was more than mildly taken aback by the on air transaction for 15 MOC figures from the first movie series. To say the least I thought it was more of a black eye for our hobby then a high spot. Some D-Bag on showing off his boat and then dropping $25K for figures that he could have gotten for half the price, do you think he’s trying to compensate for something…just a thought. But as I’ve heard time and time again, a fool and his money quickly part ways. And thus they completed a transaction for the first 12 MOC with Hammerhead, Walrusman and Greedo in tow.

As we’ve seen several times since, buying a set of AFA graded 12 back should run you about $10K, and a set of the first 21 will be about $15K. In this case we’re not too far off the mark given the condition of the figures and grades assigned. A very nice set and instant collection for someone who just wants the original figures. 

First 21 Set AFA 85 and 80, $17,100

Well that sums up our General Update for the month of November, hope you enjoyed this one and keep up to date on what’s going on in the hobby via www.theSWCA.com, with new blogs, articles and everything else vintage related. 

Wampa Wampa,

Monday, November 10, 2014

NEW ACQUISITIONS: From Concept to Mold to Collectible

Steve writes:

The Archive Database is back in business after an extended summer vacation (huge props to Chris N. and LoBarth for addressing the glitches). This first batch of new entries cover the breadth of the toy production process with items from throughout the history of the vintage line.


Conceptual Imperial R2-D2 Action Figure

Little did the designers at Kenner know that the Imperial Troop Transport would become all the rage in an animated television series over 35 years later. While the "ITT" has endured, this stumpy evil twin of R2-D2 that would have served as an exclusive pack-in when the toy was originally conceived ended up not making the cut.  

Concept Art for AT-AT Vehicle 

Recently revealed on the 56th podcast by Chris Fawcett, this fully scaled concept painting of the All Terrain Armored Transport (apparently referred to by Kenner designers as the "Armored Dog" and pronounced @-@) is an impressive representation of a high-cost/high-reward product that went on to be come one of the most memorable toys from the line. The story behind the acquisition is great as well.

Concept Art for Darth Vader's Star Destroyer

This scanned slide originally used at an internal Kenner presentation depicts a piece of concept art for Darth's recreational vehicle (complete with meditation chamber and "swiveling command podium"). It displays an overall similarity to the produced toy, with some peculiar differences. Wall shackles would definitely be much more comfortable (and practical) than hanging from the ceiling.

Happy Toys Materialize

Production Mold for Yoda Hand Puppet
From the collection of Sean & Ryan Lehmkuhl

Manufacturing rotomolds such as this example for the Yoda Hand Puppet involved some pretty complex processes that are linked to in this entry. The supportive copper rods attached to the head and ears are particularly interesting. This piece has somewhat of a "Statue of Liberty" vibe to it, but maybe that's just me? 

Be sure to check out the related pieces linked in the entry as well. There is way more documented pre-production material tied to vintage Yoda products than I had ever realized -- much of which can be found by navigating through database entries such as this one. 

Painted Romba Hardcopy 
From the collection of Broc Walker

It isn't too often that hardcopies are added to the Database these days. This painted Romba hardcopy from the Power of the Force line exhibits the common trait of coming from a "hardcopy-plus-cowl" combo mold (that may be a new collector term in and of itself). Be sure to check out the link within the entry to see some more Romba pre-production goodness, because who wouldn't want more Romba in their life?

Pack 'em Up, Ship 'em Out

X-Wing Aces                           Quality Control Sample
From the collection of Ron Salvatore

How many collectors actually had and played with the X-Wing Aces game back in the day? This is one of those 1977 items that must have fallen by the wayside once the action figure line came to market. This quality control sample of an already rare item has some interesting characteristics.

Star Wars 12-Back Princess Leia Organa (white footer) 
From the collection of Jean Bernard
This carded Leia is desirable on several fronts. Beyond the character and Star Wars 12 back "A" debut cardback, it features a white cardboard "footer" beneath the figure in the bubble that, while seemingly inconsequential at first glance, has tremendous significance all its own. This is one of those finer variation details that will certainly catch the attention of carded figure collecting enthusiasts.

Some more freshly added entries:
All "New Acquisitions" can be accessed via the "What's New" section linked from the Site Menu on the SWCA homepage.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Pin Trading and Star Wars Celebration

Amy writes:

By now you have likely heard of the Disney Star Wars pin trading program that will be held at Celebration in Anaheim next year. Star Wars collectors are not new to the concept of pin trading. In fact, they have been trading pins at the past few Star Wars Celebrations.

Collector pin trading could be seen as having its roots at Celebration IV in 2007. The show celebrated the past with the 30th anniversary of Star Wars and the transition from a promotional convention for Star Wars movies to a true fan celebration began. Collectors gave away items such as business cards and a few sparse pins.

Button trading grew exponentially by Celebration V in 2010 with businesses, clubs, and collectors handing out pins. There were enough buttons available to fill a lanyard.

When Celebration VI rolled around in 2012, it seemed that buttons and pins had replaced collector business cards entirely. Before the convention even began, collectors compiled giveaway lists. This thread on Rebelscum was a way to track the items being made and even influenced others to join in the collecting free for all. Button trading had evolved into a way for collectors to recognize one another by what they collected and where they were from. Some pins were puns and others showcased the design talent of collectors.

At the Celebration VI Archive Party held by the 'Chive Cast, there were so many pins being traded that lanyard space was at a premium. Collectors had to either bring an extra lanyard or purchase one in the exhibit hall to display them all. The burden to necks was great but the desire to 'collect them all' outweighed the pain.

If you find yourself headed to Celebration in Anaheim next year, don't forget to pack and extra lanyard and a few buttons to trade.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Serious Competitive Threat

Ron writes:

Kenner reinvented the action figure with Star Wars. While the toy industry had seen similarly scaled figures prior to 1978, the success of the Star Wars line, its integration with a wide range of accessories, and its intimate connection to a blockbuster media franchise forged a new standard -- one that Kenner virtually monopolized for a few years after the line debuted.

But by 1983 Kenner's competitors had caught up.

In 1982 Hasbro debuted G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. The line leveraged the public's existing familiarity with the Joe brand to launch an entirely new, small-scale range of military figures. And in the same year Mattel, traditionally a powerhouse in the realm of girls' toys, enjoyed a major success with Masters of the Universe.

Both lines boasted figures that were arguably of higher quality than the ones that were part of Kenner's Star Wars range. G.I. Joe had more articulation; the MOTU figures were both larger and outfitted with unique action features.

More importantly, both of the newer lines were eventually supported by cartoon series. This was revolutionary. Prior to 1983, FCC regulations prevented the airing of kids' shows that doubled as advertisements for commercial products. And there was no doubt that both He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero were little more than animated toy commercials. Kids could see something in action on the small screen, then run to the store and buy a replica of it.

Whereas Star Wars remained a mostly see-it-in-the-theater experience, the cartoons screened in homes on a daily basis. This limited Kenner's flexibility. Being tied to a movie franchise meant the company had to wait for Return of the Jedi to smuggle subliminal toy desires into the minds of America's youth. Mattel, on the other hand, need only wait for the next round of He-Man cartoons -- which were cheaper and easier to produce than blockbuster movies.

Differences in mediums and distribution led to disparities in quality. The folks at Hasbro and Mattel could let their imaginations run wild; whatever they dreamt up, the animators could plop into an upcoming episode. But Kenner's designers were forced to pore over the The Empire Strikes Back in an effort to find background characters that might make for interesting action figures. They had a tough time. Consider the Bespin Guards. Lame figures, right? Well, there are two of those guys. And they each came with two accessories: A laser pistol and a massive inferiority complex.

"Inferiority complex"is a term that sprang to mind when I saw the below ad, posted by collector Kevin Lentz on Facebook. (He credits He-Man.org with the image; give the site a look if you're interested in MOTU.) The ad is Mattel taking a big, smelly pee on the action figure territory. They'd had a success with MOTU, and they wanted everyone to know about it -- including He-Man's wimpy counterparts in the toy aisles.

"Dramatic personal appearances by the muscle man himself"?
Does he bring the massage oil or do you have to supply that yourself?

Speaking of wimpy, take a look at Luke Hoth. Could Scarfboy look more butt-hurt?

I imagine his conversation with Scarlett went something like this:

Luke Hoth:  Who's the sorehead in the furry shorts?  
Scarlett:  . . .  
Luke Hoth:  Hey muscles, your over-compensation is showing.
Scarlett:  . . .
Luke Hoth: They were going to package me with a lightsaber. I didn't want one, really. Truth is, I'm pretty satisfied with these molded-on monoculars. If you look through them backwards the world looks tiny. Oh look, there's Rebel Commander! Hey tiny Rebel Commander! Heeeyyyy!

Anyway, by 1984 Kenner's status as the leader in action figures was in jeopardy. And, as the below slides make clear, the company was doing what it could to remain on top.

The slides are from an internal presentation given in 1985. As you can imagine, the specter of a world without Star Wars movies loomed over the proceedings.

Yet the first slide puts a positive spin on things. Even though Jedi was old news, Star Wars sales had increased in '84. And despite competitive threats from other companies, "an aggressive defensive plan" had been "developed and implemented."

What, precisely, was this plan? I don't have a slide that details it. But I think it's likely that it included initiatives aimed at inculcating a love of Star Wars in younger toy buyers. 

It was in 1984, remember, that Kenner rolled out the Young Jedi Knight program. The company had also participated in a pedal-car giveaway that was heavily promoted through large retailers. On top of that, Kenner was in talks to produce toys in support of the Droids and Ewoks cartoon programs. Both debuted in 1985, though neither met with the success of He-Man or G.I. Joe.

The second slide provides a fascinating glimpse into the mid-'80s action figure market.

It reveals that though Kenner's sales had increased during each of the previous years, their share of the market had plummeted from 58% in 1982 to just over 30% in 1984. In fact, by the time of this presentation, He-Man and his 'roided-out buddies commanded a share of the market that was nearly equal to Kenner's. 

Take that, girly-man space losers.

In the end, Droids and Ewoks failed to save Star Wars, and The Power of the Force line lasted only a single year. By '86 Star Wars had been relegated to bargain bins and close-out dumps, from which nary a bubble emerged undinged.

Fortunately, it was only nine years before Star Wars returned to toy stores. When it did, the figures were almost as muscly as the Masters of the Universe. Maybe they'd learned a lesson during their exile?

What toys were you playing with in '85 and '86? Did you cheat on Star Wars with He-Man? If so, did he remember your name the next morning?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

MarketWatch: AT-AT Driver

Michael L. writes:

I had some fun with this month's research. Came across lots of MOC's... graded and ungraded. Managed to find a POTF MOC sale along with a Proof, and even an army of AT-AT Drivers. I had no luck however with a Coin Offer MOC (this seems to be our new holy grail of the MarketWatch). And lastly I did find a 48B .... Skye will be envious.

Whilst the market has risen over the past 12-18 months I think it's fair to say that there are still decent deals for MOC's out there. You just need to look. Though once AFA get involved prices are at the higher end, so again the moral is... do your research, know what you are looking for and a good deal can still be had (oh and don't worry about grading).

And here's the data for the month ...

Power of the Force

Whilst I normally go in order of figure release I had to break that to ensure I highlighted this POTF MOC

92 AFA80 Y-NM (C80/B80/F85) $2,200 - eBay link

Not sure if this will qualify for Steve's ' oh man' for the month, but should come close!! Now back to the regular order ....

Empire Strikes Back 

Whilst there were some bargains to be had, this was not one of them. To be fair though this was a really nice card, clear bubble and is his debut card.

41A Ungraded - $233.50 - eBay link

41A Ungraded - $109.99 - eBay link

41C AFA80 (C85/B80/F85) approx $400 - eBay link

41E AFA80 (C80/B80/F85) $400 - eBay link

41E AFA80 (C80/B80/F85) $368 - eBay link

45 AFA80Y (C80/B85/F85) $175.50 - eBay link

47A Ungraded - $135.49 - eBay link

48A Ungraded - $147.38 - eBay link

48B AFA80Y (C85/B75/F85) approx $350 - eBay link

48B Ungraded - $67.00 - eBay link


45 Back proof card AFA85 approx $1,100 - eBay link


Loose army of 31 AT-AT Drivers $199 - eBay link

Sealed Mexican Bootleg pack $36 - eBay link