Friday, February 20, 2015

Limelight Collector Interview #3 - Bill Wills

Just north of Kenner Town...

Focus: Luke Skywalker (Jedi Knight)
Likes: 51
Views: 2,517
Comments: 50
Fratastic Collector Rating: Super Focus Collector

Pete writes:

With our third installment of the monthly collector/collection limelight we'll review our first of many focus collections, and get to play a little vintage vocabulary. To begin the discussion this month, I thought it would be prudent to discuss just what a focus truly is.    

The center of interest or activity.

Star Wars Focus
The special sauce that Space Freaks crave in the category of plastic crack...

For the uninitiated, a focus is simply a niche in the hobby that a collector chooses to dedicate their collecting time to. Some examples include: collecting only items from a particular movie, a particular character, a specific type of product (vehicles, figures, etc.); it can be trying to be a completest (one of everything), or even simply focusing on loose or packaged items. The majority of collectors out there have some type of focus at the core of their collection. Most do veer off into other items, and even other figure or collectible lines. Having that strategy keeps a lot of collectors on target (no pun intended) and keeps their collections from getting out of control. Just looking around at my fellow Space Freaks on the 'Chive Cast, I collect ROTJ items, Mike collects Luke Hoth and Luke Bespin, Stephen B. Danley collects B-Wing Pilot and B-Wing items, and Skye collects ways to slam AFA…and Chewy in his spare time. 

It’s not necessary, but having a focus for your collection has definitely become commonplace in this hobby. Because of this trend, the vast majority of our future interviews will deal with “focus” collections, and thus I thought it would be prudent to make sure all collecting aficionados and casual readers were familiar with the term and the trend in collecting in general.
This month’s limelight subject, Bill Wills, has a unique story about his collection, how he got started, and how it’s evolved through his life. With it being a focus collection, it’s easier to dig into all aspects of the collection and really celebrate the great ensemble that he’s been able to assemble over the years.

As Bill and I conversed, we started at the best place to begin -- the early years of his collecting.

FP: What are some of your earliest memories of Star Wars?

BW: I remember seeing all the movies in a theater. I remember when ESB came out and my mom bought me a figure -- I can’t even remember which one, they were so tough to find. One day I rode my bike down to the Kroger’s and they had a full spinner of figures. I didn’t have enough to pick one up, so I went back to my grandma’s and was able to persuade my uncle who was there to loan me a few bucks so I could buy one.

FP: How did you start to collect?

BW: I was born in the 70s, so I had first-hand experience with the line. Everyone in my age group as a kid was into Star Wars -- it was just so widespread. I don’t think that kids in this generation will ever experience anything like Star Wars and the phenomenon it was. As a child I can remember spinner racks of 12 and 21 backs. I still have a lot of what I had as a kid. When I was in a book store in 1993, I saw a guide that had prices listed for Star Wars toys. It had a 12” Darth Vader MIB valued at $75. It dawned on me then that people collect this stuff, and about a year later I came across a Tomart magazine with ads and more information in it. I started by picking up Toy Shops and Tomarts and looking at the mail order way of acquiring things. Around this time as well The Earth was just starting up and she was putting items in the publications but also opened up a store front.

FP: What was the first item you bought as a collector?

BW: My first big purchase was 12 back C-3PO MOC that I picked up for $100. I originally felt stupid as it was just a toy, but it was a great item and brought back a lot of memories. I got a ton of stuff from Traders World during this time, including a sealed Early Bird. A short while after that I started running ads in the Cincinnati paper looking for ex Kenner employees. Down the road Cantina Collectibles ( came along in about 1999. After a few big collections from Kenner guys, I ran auctions through Toy Shop and didn’t want to use my name. My buddy Tracey Hamilton, helped me come up with the name and I created the URL eventually. Tracey (who’s also a collector of some note) was a groomsman in my wedding; we did shows together, Celebrations together, and have built a great friendship through the hobby. I actually met Tracey at Traders World. A lot of guys like Don Gibbs and Charlie Wilhelm would sell there. You’d see everything from rocket-firing Fetts to hardcopies and beyond. This is where a lot of the prototypes made it into the collectors market.

FP: When did you start to collect?

BW: Early 90s, around 93. 

FP: Why did you choose Luke Jedi as the focus figure in your collection?

BW: I always liked the figure, and I just thought it was great looking figure all around, liked everything about it. I didn’t have it as a kid as I was done playing with toys by the time the 45 backs rolled into stores. But when I first started to collect it was one of the first few prototypes I found. I had the blueprints and then found a proto-mold of the figure, so I had a smattering of a few items that were the start of a focus collection.  
Around the time, Tom Neiheisel came on the scene and he had a ton of stuff for sale. Me and Tracey went down to visit him and see what he had. At the time he had a lot of the 12 back stuff left (Photo Art). The prices were around $2,500. I knew it was good stuff but the prices were still crazy to me. I wanted to be smart about it. He only had a few of the 12 backs left. Tracey had already started a focus on C-3PO, so I thought I might get R2 as he had both left.  But I didn’t have anything for the character, and so I debated and debated as I was only going to get 1 piece of photo art. Since I already had a Luke Jedi collection going it seemed like a good choice; throw in the fact that it was only $2,000 vs. $2,500 and that helped as well. As much as I have a good focus today, Matt Brand was really the original Luke Jedi focus collector. He had picked up a lot of stuff from Tom including a bunch of Cromalins and proof cards.

FP: Given that you’re so close to Cincinnati, have you ever visited any of the old Kenner sites?

BW: Yep for sure. Nothing formal, but I tried to hit all the historic spots. Kenner employed so many people in Cincinnati it was amazing, which is why you can find so much in the area today. Stuff still shows up, sometimes today whether it’s aging employees or people passing away and the family is selling or they’ve just lost interest. It’s like a second wave of stuff is getting out into the market.

FP: Do you collect anything else outside of Luke Jedi or Star Wars in general?

BW: When I first started collecting I bought whatever I thought was cool. I’ve always collected something... baseball cards, comic books and even stamps. I had a guy tell me when I was collecting cards, “always buy the best that you can find” and I stand by this advice. I’ve always had a collector's mentality. My collection just got so big I couldn’t even display it all it, as it was so massive. I started to go through and get rid of a lot of stuff that I couldn’t display. I had a lot of duplicates and started to move on from a lot of stuff that I had held onto for a few years. My wife and I were starting to outgrow our current house and so we looked at building a place. Eventually a lot of the funds went to building my house. I still have the first 21 MOC and a lot of ESB stuff, some hardcopies, and store displays. I paired it down and just focused on Luke Jedi as the core of my collection. If you don’t focus your efforts it gets out of control. Too much money and too much time goes into it.

FP: Does your collection spill over into any other lines outside of Star Wars?

BW: I have a lot of old Mego stuff -- it was my first line. It was a big part of my childhood. I read comics as a kid and still have a lot of my old Mego figures from my childhood.

FP: What are your top three favorite pieces in the Luke Jedi collection?

BW: First and second are really a toss up between the painted dynacast hardcopy and the painted protomold. The protomolds are done in this milky white plastic with no holes in the feet and are hand painted. The head is dynacast and then hand painted. The cape is almost black it’s so dark, and the saber is so unique as well. The painted protomold came from someone who worked in soft goods for Kenner so she probably worked on the cape. So, it’s a toss up between that one and hand-painted dynacast. Then number three would be the photo art for the figure.

Painted Protomold
FP: Tell me a little bit about the two framed pieces.

BW: One is literally a working blueprint for the palace blaster (the weapon the Luke Jedi came with, which was unique to his figure -- not common in the vintage line). It has dimensions, scale, cross sections, and all the different angles. It’s definitely a pre-production start to the palace blaster.

The other piece says "Jedi Luke Deco Drawing." What you can’t see in the photo is that every single paintable attribute is labeled. It’s numbered which I believe are paint codes with sub words such as golden and others. It was probably used by the vendors over seas for the painting of the figure.

Rounding out Bill’s collection are a plethora of other items of note. He has a very full and representative run of items for the Luke Jedi figure, many of which we didn’t get a chance to talk about. Like most collectors, he has a run of MOC figures for the character, but given the fact that he was released for ROTJ its variation is somewhat limited as you don’t have the depth you would have with a figure that was released for one of the first two films. In the MOC run we see several great pieces. In addition to having the domestic Kenner pieces such as the 65A back, which was the first release for the figure, the run also features a Tri-Logo piece and the last of the ROTJ releases -- the 79A. When it comes to extending the MOC run outside of the United States, he has a Palitoy version from England, Lili Ledy from Brazil, and a Clipper piece from Belgium. He also has a sealed catalog mailer 8-Pack with Luke Jedi.

Moving onto the pre-production, there are several noteworthy pieces including more 2D items and photo sample figures for the 77 and 79 backs. An offerless Cromalin could be the highlight of his proof card and photo sample run. He also has a square cornered proof card of the 65 back which are difficult to find in comparison to most other releases proof cards

In addition to the extensive pre-production run, there is a sizable collection of smaller pieces related to Luke Jedi. One of my personal favorites is the "pitch coin" used for the Power of the Force series of figures, which he has had graded. There are several variations of the cape for Luke Jedi from overseas manufactures, given variation in cut and dye used on the pieces. As Bill mentioned his top two favorite pieces are pre-production versions of the figure. To add to that segment of his collection, he has a few more pre-production figure pieces in the form of a head pull sample test shot with a clear torso and a pair of heads (one clear and one painted), as well as a first shot with production limbs and head. Thus regardless of the limited number of production examples released for the figure, Bill has amassed an extremely complete collection of the including every segment whether it be production or pre-production.

FP: My favorite question -- how does your significant other feel about your collection?

BW: Early on, she thought it was just kind of cute. We started dating in 94. We’d be out on a Friday night or Saturday night and we’d stop off at Wal Mart to pick up Star Wars figures. It didn’t bother her at all. At the time it was different because I didn’t have the stuff I have now, as it was 95-96 and I was trying to get the new toys as opposed to vintage. The financial picture changes everything as at first I didn’t have the stuff I would later have. Eventually she started to see its value as she saw me sell some stuff, and is supportive of it 100%. If it makes you happy that’s what’s important.

Today Bill has a family of his own, with three kids: two daughters who are 12 and 11, along with a  son who is 9. His dirty little secret is none of them have seen Star Wars to date.

BW: I had one daughter walk in once when I was watching Jedi. She saw the Rancor scene and was scared to death of it.  My son won’t watch it. He is relishing his role of not liking what dad likes.  

FP: Are there any thoughts or lessons you’ve taken away from your years of collecting?

BW: When I was first was into it was just about the toys. I had a close knit group of friends. It wasn’t about anything social. But as I got older I’ve made so many friends and it became more about the hobby. The best part is about being with the people, whether it’s at Celebrations and other events. It’s so important today vs. when I started -- so much so that Tracey and I were planning on setting up shop at Celebration Anaheim this year and decided not to. We had some family and friends lined up to receive our stuff and do the logistics for us, but we just started talking about the fact that when you have a booth it’s really tough to enjoy the event itself. So we’re taking a pass on that this year and just focusing on the event and enjoying all it has to offer.   I know all the Archive guys really well. It’s some of my best memories, and this way I can make sure that I spend enough time with them and other friends I’ve made over the years.

A great way to end any discussion on the hobby is with how it’s impacted your life. It’s profound that so many people who were just starting a small scale hobby have been able to develop so many great relationships over the years. But when it comes to any niche hobby like this, a great deal of how you expand your collection is through expanding your network as well. It’s the key to how many people continue to find something new in the hobby year after year.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Celebration Fan Swag Roundup: Part 1

Amy writes:

Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim is right around the corner and collectors are prepared to hand out their own unique items if you know where to look. As mentioned in my previous article on pin trading, this will be a banner year for swag with over 40 pins announced to date. In addition to pins, there will be patches, lanyards, mailers, trading cards, and many more surprises yet to be announced.

Mike Ritter with 3 lanyards full of pins at CelebrationVI

Here are two places to keep on top of the latest pin announcements:

If you are looking to add some fan made pins to your lanyard look no further than the Collecting Track area. Also, if you have tickets to the now sold out Archive Party by the 'Chive Cast, expect a trading frenzy. 

Here is a list of what has been announced so far with quantities (when stated) and names of who is handing things out:

Boba Fett Special Offer button - Tom Berges
Darth Vadar Lives - Tom Berges
Space Club pin - Tom Berges
Krieg der Sterne - Tom Berges - Tom Berges
8-track IGUSW Podcast - Tom Berges
Palitoy jubilee - Jason Smith
Palitoy label - Jason Smith
Star Wars Record Label - Kevin Lentz
Max Rebo (285) - Kentucky Star Wars Collectors Club designed by Craig Aossey
Preschool Mafia with Boga head - Jarrod Clark
Wicket the Ewok logo - Dale Justus
3D printed Kenner Gooney Bird (40) - Dale Justus (see Rebelscum post with details on how to obtain)
Vader 'Poppin Collars Cince '78' - Tad Moore
Plastic Galaxy Gonk Droid Projector pin - Brian Stillman
Kea Moll (125) - Thomas Garvey
Pop-up Sensorscope R2 Dome (140) - Michael Ritter

Kubrik Han and Luke Stormtroopers - Ian (Thursday)
Ugnaught - Ian (Friday)
Gonk Droid - Ian (Saturday -- must answer a question)
Become a Bounty Hunter - Ian
Surf's up! Kenner Gooney Bird (100) - Chris
Ewoks and Droids from Play Doh molds (45) - Amy Sjoberg
Teebo Mobile (75) - Amy Sjoberg
Felt Gonk Droid (55) - Amy Sjoberg
Cross-stitch Ewok pins (45) - Amy Sjoberg
Jedi Luke (green lightsaber) - Shawn Kemple
Jedi Luke (blue lightsaber) - Shawn Kemple
Prototype Jedi Luke - Shawn Kemple

Additional pins not pictured: - Jacob Stevens; designed by Tom Berges
All things R2 - Sean Fuller; designed by Tom Berges
Lord Gamorrean - Gorge Casas
Team Tonia Jawa pin (50) - Jason West
Double M French Touch logo - Stephane Falcourt
A New Hope screen shots with dialog (200) - Bobby Sharp
Kenner 'Collect 'em All' - Chris Georgoulias; designed by Jeff Correll
Keep calm and Chivecast on - Trevor Hoppers
Vintage figures with color backing - Bobby Sharp
'Breaking Baddie' - Mike Woods (


Death Valley Tatooine Adventure poster (77) - Tom Berges 
Kenner coin mailer envelope with Sy Snootles Rebo Band coin pin inside (100) - Mark Huber

Other items not pictured:

'Where Vintage Collectors Know Your Name' patch - Jason Thomas; designed by Jarrod Clark
Darth Vader carry case patch set (100 sets) - Various

Have a giveaway that is not listed? Feel free to share in the comments below and I'll include it in the Fan Swag Roundup: Part 2.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Kenner Kids Vol. II: "The super-8 film never tangles!"

Steve writes:

And the Oscar for achievement in cinematography goes to...

Well...Jimmy here isn't actually shooting film, but viewing it. I've been fascinated by the Kenner MovieViewer ever since I first saw one in person while visiting the actual "Toy Chamber" of Todd Chamberlain's this past summer. I think of them as the second generation View-Master in that the illusion of movement is achieved by a device that mimics hand crank movie cameras rather than the View-Master's simulated shutter and click of a still camera. Though the Star Wars manifestation of the MovieViewer was released in late 1977, the toy itself, much like many of the film's early licensed items, was merely an easily adaptable retread from Kenner's existing repertoire (we'll pick up on this theme further in future posts in the series). This particular image is derived from the 1978 Kenner Retailer Catalog, which makes a point of mentioning that "The super-8 film never tangles! No batteries needed." Though modern parents needn't worry about their kids' Nintendo DS game cartridges tangling, they'd likely appreciate the absence of battery burden with old "analog" toys like this.

I'm hoping to write a more thorough post about these things once I'm able to add a working viewer and set of cassettes to my collection. On that note, if you have any to spare, drop me a line! :^)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Celebration Anaheim Collector Showcase

Tommy writes:

Celebration VII Collector Showcase
It’s all about the presentation!

The Collecting Track is once again seeking collection photos to highlight at Star Wars Celebration VII in Anaheim. This year, our focus will be on quality and creativity of presentation. Whether you have found an innovative way to highlight a single item, or have converted a large space into a Star Wars shrine, share your ideas for making a collection stand out. Attendance at Celebration is not required to participate!

We plan to feature a variety of collectible types to show the diverse range of items that people collect and unique approaches to presentation. Some photos may be selected for printed displays, while others may be used in slide presentations running in the Collectors Track rooms.

DEADLINE IS MARCH 1. Contact Todd Chamberlain at for details about how to submit photos. Please do not send e-mail attachments.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Our Love Will Endor!

Amy writes:

Think back to Valentine's day in school. That magical day where you're excused to eat copious amounts of sugar cookies in class and spend an afternoon carefully crafting desk mailboxes for your classmates to put Valentines in. You'd just spent the past week scouring the store shelves for the right card set to hand out to your class. The previous evening was spent carefully selecting and addressing cards.

Of all the numerous Star Wars card sets that have come out over the decades, there is one set that stands out above all the rest: Ewok Valentines by Drawing Board from 1983 (a close second being the Return of the Jedi card set). If I were old enough, I would have purchased this set when it first came out for my classmates. Why? It has it all!  

Cuteness quotient? Check. 
A generic Valentine for the classmate you have to give a card to? Check.  
A Valentine for your secret crush? Check.  
A Valentine for your friend? Check.
A Valentine for your teacher? There's 3!
A Valentine for your principal? Check.

Even better, this set features artwork both on the box and on the cards that is not Photoshopped to death.  

Happy Valentine's Day to my Star Wars collector friends. As Katie Cook's A Very Vader Valentine's Day book from 2014 says, 'our love will Endor!'  

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Force in the Flesh, Volume II

Ron writes:

Back in 2007 Shane Turgeon released The Force in the Flesh, a deluxe hardcover tome devoted to Star Wars tattoos. It was eagerly received by the multitudes of Star Wars fans and collectors harboring an interest in tattoo art. Since the book debuted, I've noticed a significant uptick in the number of collectors who've gotten inked with Star Wars designs. A coincidence? I think not!

I'm happy to see that the second volume is imminent. In fact, it's available for pre-order

If you're at all interested in this topic, I heartily recommend you pick up a copy. Get it before it's sold out and you have to buy one on eBay from a guy named Jeb.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Fratastic Pete's Limelight Collector Interview #2:
Sean & Ryan Lehmkuhl

A collection from the "wild"...

Focus: items, collections, displays, emotion, time, space.
Likes: 43
Views: 3,335
Comments: 44
Items: 250+
Fratastic Collector Rating: Seasoned Super Pickers

Pete writes:

With that start of the New Year we enter another year of collecting -- a year that is special in that since 1977, it’s only the 7th year in the 34 year history of Star Wars to see a new full length motion picture from the series hit the big screen. With every new movie comes a new wave of excitement in the hobby and new found interest in the franchise. That makes for an interesting scene for seasoned collectors and new collectors alike, as we see an influx of interest leading to some getting out of the hobby, some getting deeper into it, and of course new blood as well.

For our second limelight review here on the SWCA blog, we follow suit on the original segment which covered a collector deeply entrenched in the hobby with nearly two decades of collecting under his belt. This time we have a pair of brothers who are equally vested in the hobby as a whole but with a very different approach to how they built their collection. This is the collection of Sean and Ryan Lehmkuhl, a pair of brothers from Cincinnati, who have an equally unique story behind their collection.  

Nostalgia is always a theme with collecting, however for our subjects this month they are unique in that they never saw the movies until after they had played with the toys as kids. That aspect of their collecting story struck me as the contextual aspect of the toys and the universe they lived in was unknown to them as children. Given that the toys came before the movies instead of vice versa, this and many others aspects of the “why, when and how they collect story” gives us a different perspective from the typical collector.

So what is collecting in the "wild?" The term seems to have an increasing presence in recent collector discussions. Does it involve isolating oneself from others and going off on a spirit journey? Does it involve wild animals? Or, is it simply that they collect at the tail end of wild nights out on the town? At the end of the day collecting in the "wild" is quite simply collecting off the main grid and not utilizing the more common channels that collectors use today. In the early days of Star Wars toy collecting (1990s), the majority of purchases came through two means, mail order and brick and mortar toy/comic shops. Mail orders usually came via publications like Toy Shop with sellers such as The Earth or other shops across the country taking out ads with listings of their available inventory. Fast forward another 10 years and we have the internet being readily accessible to the majority of the population, giving birth to today’s mainstream channels for collectors. The big one, eBay, has remained the main source for collectors since the late 90s. Other channels such as forums (, and Imperial Gunnery) gave way to more direct access between collectors prior to Facebook coming around. Today these sites along with retail based web stores like make up the vast majority of all transactions in the Vintage collecting hobby. Collecting in the "wild" goes around all of these traditional and more accessible channels, and focuses on places more familiarly documented on shows like American Pickers and Toy Hunter. These include garage sales, attics, basements, and the occasional toy show. It’s a much more involved way of collecting, but it usually reaps larger rewards for those who are willing to invest the time into digging into these locations, and more importantly the time to find them in the first place.

As adults today the Lehmkuhls' collection still resides in their parent’s basement, mainly for nostalgia and the fact that it belongs to both of them. Sean mentioned that the walls in the basement are covered with faux wood paneling. This adds to the nostalgia, and is something I can relate to as that’s exactly what covered the walls in my parent’s basement when I was growing up as well. As Sean and I started to discuss the collection, collecting in Cincinnati, how he and his brother started to collect, and their unique method of obtaining items, it was easy to see that this was going to be less about the what and more about the how and why of collecting.

Onto the interview...

FP: What was your first interaction with the toy line?

SL: A school that I attended had a lot of the toys. Kenner employees would donate the toys to the schools in the area including Star Wars, Ghostbusters and other Kenner lines from that time period.   We hadn’t seen the movies at the time so we didn’t have a lot of context for the worlds the characters existed in and had to use our imaginations. We liked the characters so much that we went to see the movies, and that built on our love of the toy line.   

FP: How did you start to collect?

SL: I was 13, and my brother was 11 is when we started to collect loose figures. We picked up the majority of our collection in the early days at Traders World (flea market) right outside of Cincinnati; this is how a lot of prototypes got to the market. My parents were antiquers through the 70s so I spent a lot of time going to auctions and antique houses growing up. Thus the flea markets were familiar territory for me and I knew how to haggle from watching my parents. I saw my first display of plastic treasures there and was able to haggle with the seller on the getting a TIE Fighter Pilot for $3. From there we were hooked. A few weeks later we made our first big purchase: a Darth Vader case full of figures with their weapons. 

FP: What’s it like collecting in Cincinnati given it’s where Kenner was originally based? Has it impacted your ability to discover good finds?

SL: Yes and no. There aren’t a lot of toy shows in the area -- this last year was the first one. It was a great event with 5 times what I saw at the Chicago at Kane County auctions. There’s a local company that runs the shows here as well as Dayton and Columbus. 

So that was the "no" part, but as Sean explained further and as you’ll see through the rest of the discussion the other side of this is a more resounding "yes." Think of it like being a Disney collector growing up in Anaheim, or being a Harley collector growing up in Milwaukee. Being in the key city where the licensee was headquartered gives you a strategic advantage in terms of the quantity per capita compared to other markets. You've also got a local network of people who worked for the company. If Kenner employed thousands of people in its heyday, with annual turnover there was an incredible amount of people that had a working relationship with the company in the Cincinnati metro area during the 1977-1985 run of the Star Wars toy line. This has a huge impact on access to items, specifically pre-production items.

SL: Knowing the market is the key. Friends, family, and general connections are at the heart of being effective at picking up items. Random connections from others give you more leads. Another thing that really impacted the area around me was Toy Hunter; it made people in the town realize what some of this stuff was worth. It also made me and my brother take notice of the different opportunities to find a lot of great items in the Cincinnati area.

FP: When did you start to collect?

SL: 1995

FP: What is your favorite figure and why? 

SL: Imperial Gunner. I remember playing with in pre-school. It came from a Kenner employee and was in a baggie. I don’t recall ever seeing a baggie version of Imperial Gunner so I’m not sure if this was meant for something or if it was a quality control item.

FP: What is your most coveted piece in your collection? 

SL: There are really two answers to that: near term and back in the day. When me and my brother were starting out our collection there were a few figures that we didn’t have because of the cost of the figures. Yak Face was one of these and he would show up once in a while but was too expensive for us at the time. We just couldn’t understand why a figure would cost over $100. It turns out that on one of our trips to Don Gibbs' booth he mentioned to our Mom that he had one coming in. He gave her his card and said to call him on Monday. That Christmas we ended up getting a Yak Face from our Grandma (via our Mom) we  still have the card that says,“I have a Yak Face coming in Monday give me a call.”

On the newer acquisition side, it’s my roto-cast Yoda hand puppet mold. With Yoda it looks great because the metal gives it an additional level of detail. It’s the only one to pop up on the market that I’ve seen over the years.

Like many collectors Sean and Ryan stopped collecting when Sean went to college. It’s a common occurrence as most in college don’t have the greatest level of discretionary income or the time to invest into a hobby like this.

FP: What are some of your more recent acquisitions from the "wild" that stand out to you?

SL: I bought 4 speeder bike (pedal bikes) in the last year. I always tell people to show up with money in hand so you can get what they have. I buy most everything in person and very little off of eBay and Facebook. I don't like the idea of flipping for trade bait, or buying single items for flipping, but bulk purchases are great to flip if you’re keeping some and getting rid of something.

FP: Do you have a focus for the collection?

SL: I don’t have a focus today necessarily; when we started it was to get a full loose run of figures.   Then it changed to vehicles then it was keep one of everything that we find.

Sean and Ryan’s collection is expansive, so Sean and I had a very lengthy chat on the collection itself, cutting it into segments and looking at some of the unique, rare and just impressive aspects of what makes it such a great collection in itself. However, one of the key things that I wanted to discuss with Sean was the Kenner coin section, how it came together, and of course the specifics of what it entails. As most know, the majority of these coins were released with figures in the Power of the Force, Ewoks and Droids lines towards the end of the Star Wars Kenner production run in 1985. There were 62 coins released, including those associated with the last 17 core Star Wars figures to be released. These are broken down into 5 categories based on rarity, with some being released exclusively through Kenner’s mail-in promotion. For more information on vintage Kenner Star Wars coins, see the Coins section of the Archive.) The collection itself spans every coin released in all three segments (Power of the Force, Droids and Ewoks) as well as some pre-production pieces. Needless to say there was a lot of chatter about this segment of his collection.

SL: We have the full run of production coins as well as prototype example of nearly every Droids and Ewoks coins, (partly from a big find) but there were some we had to track down. When it comes to the silver POTF coins, my brother was the one who made the frame you see in the pictures. He has a knack for that sort of thing.

With a lot of these pre-production coins (which can go for big bucks on eBay) and a full run of the production items, this might be the most lucrative segment of the collection. However we don’t measure our collections in just dollars and cents, but by how much stuff we actually have…

FP: Let’s talk about some of the other aspects of the collection. Since we were somewhat on the topic of pre-production, why don’t you tell me about some of the other pre-production items in your collection.

SL: There are a few pieces in the collection that stand out. We already talked about the roto-cast mold Yoda figure, but there are a few other pre-production items worth noting. There are a few first shots – AT-AT Driver, Hammerhead and Dengar. The Hammerhead figure came in a lot of figures that I picked up for $20 here locally. The unpainted Dengar came from a neighborhood friend who was the son of a Kenner employee; there were several pre-production pieces, half were painted and others were just one color like this one.

In addition to his first shots there were a few other pre-production items worth mentioning. The first is a salesman sample of Ben Kenobi from the 12” release. Sean has recently had this piece graded and it’s a great piece of history from that series as there are so few pre-production era pieces in comparison to the 3¾” release. 

Lastly he has a pair of Gold Vader cases -- one with the black plastic interior and one with yellow plastic. As most know, these were used by the paint department to test out the gold paint that would be used on the C-3PO case that was eventually release in the ROTJ line. It's quite a feat to find one of these. To find a pair is impressive and like most of his collection these also came from the "wild."

In the fraternity of long term Star Wars collectors and new collectors, pre-production is the key segment that has made the hobby exciting for many over the last 10+ years. Let’s admit it, once you collect all 92, you want something more. Pre-production has a been a way that you can continue to introduce something new into the hobby in terms of physical content -- something that’s important when nothing has been made from the line in nearly 30 years. But for the uninitiated and the majority of collectors as a whole, the Kenner production line is still an area where people appreciate the accomplishments of their peers in terms of breadth and depth of collections amassed. This is no different for Sean and Ryan Lehmkuhl. Thus, as we closed out our discussion the topics turned more towards this part of their massive collection.

FP: Your MOC collection is massive and displayed in a great way. Did you get everything graded?

SL: Thanks, no everything is in AFA style cases we picked up when they had a sale a few years back. I really don’t get anything graded unless it’s pre-production.

FP: What’s your goal with the MOC collection?

SL: I would like to get one of every character on the card, and then get more focused the rookie cards for each character. There’s a lot still left to find with the ESB and POTF lines being the key focuses as we have the majority of the ROTJ and Star Wars lines.

In addition to their carded figures, the brothers' collection spans into a full run of packaged and loose items. Some of the other key items include a full boxed run of 12” figures, several mailers including catalog multi-packs and stand alone figures, vehicles, playsets and something from every segment of the original Kenner line up. As many say, a picture is worth a thousand words so I’ll let the images do the talking when it comes to the expansiveness of items in pure volume. Let’s just say that it’s truly amazing to me that such a massive collection came primarily through non-traditional channels.

In addition to his collecting hobby, Sean likes to travel, and not just to flea markets around the Ohio area, but across the country as a whole. Sean is a family man. He has a wife and son who have opposing views on his collection. While his son is turning into a collector of his own, his wife describes the collection and hobby with one word: “Hoarding!” 

Like many collectors, Sean does what he does out of a love of his childhood and rekindling memories, but unlike many he has found a unique way to build his collection -- one that bonds him with his brother and is something that should be acknowledged by collectors as a whole. Collecting in the "wild" isn’t easy, but reflects what is at the core of why so many of us are on this crazy journey to find our fix from a galaxy far, far away.