Friday, March 27, 2015

Proof? You Can't Handle the Proof!
An Interview with Mattias Rendahl About His New Book

Ron writes:

We're happy to announce that Swedish collector, designer, and all-around cool guy Mattias Rendahl has completed work on his new book, a stylish tome devoted to the process behind the creation of the packaging used on Kenner's first wave of Star Wars action figures. Judging by the sample pages Mattias sent me, it's going to be terrific.

Mattias was kind enough to let me interview him about the publication. I hope the resulting piece will serve as a nice tease of the product as well as an instructive peak into Mattias' collecting and design philosophies.

Ron Salvatore: So what’s the focus of this book?

Mattias Rendahl: Kenner packaging design in the years 1977-79. Basically everything related to 2D pre-production, from concept to printed proof. It's the first book in a series of four.

RS: It's a great topic. What to your mind makes proof cards and related material interesting collectibles?

MR: As a designer I know how much importance the packaging has. And just like the Star Wars movie itself, the packaging by Kenner was really something new. To me, proofs represent the best of two worlds, Star Wars and design (the latter is something I work with on a daily basis). But I have to admit that when I first bumped into proof cards and related things in the late '90s, I thought it was a stupid collecting area. As a designer I've marked hundreds of Cromalins, printed thousands of proofs, and then just thrown them away. I couldn’t see them as collectibles. They were more like a necessary evil that was needed to get to the final product. But that changed pretty quickly.

RS: Proofs in particular have an interesting history as collectibles, don't they? Where do you think the hobby is today with respect to proof cards?

MR: It has never been crazier. 2D pre production stuff always seemed to be much less popular than 3D prototypes, and historically there has always been lots of 2D stuff available through Tom Neheisel's sale lists, Steve Denny's sales, etc. So no one ever felt stressed about finding stuff. But as soon as the usual sources were sold out and the proofs disappeared into collections, the demand began to slowly increase. And with the growing popularity of pre-production material in general, proofs and such have become a huge collecting area among many collectors, partly because the stuff is out there for those who really want to pursue it.

RS: How do you think the proof collecting hobby has changed in the last 15 years?

MR: Proofs have gone from being easy to buy whenever you wanted for reasonable prices to hard to find and crazy valuable. One of the factors there is that most collectors seem to want to have at least one proof in their collections. And when you get one, you often want to get more. So the competition has increased a lot. 10 years ago it seemed like it was only Derek Ho that really cared about 2D stuff!

RS: Aside from photos of cool things, what kind of content is included in the book?

MR: Guides providing information on rarity and what's known to exist, info on the packaging design process, and some interviews. The interviews are with the original designer of the Star Wars blister cards and (former Kenner employee) Tom Neiheisel, who recounts his famous "rescue" story.

RS: I see you interviewed Ray Perszyk, whose company had a hand in designing a lot of the early packaging and marketing materials. What was that like?

MR: Surreal. Me being an art director like Ray, it was such an honor for me. I got to know him and talk with him about design from back in the day, and it was great that it was about Star Wars too. It was the best thing about this whole project. On one level I was just pleased talking with a guy who is the founder of a huge and successful design firm. I have a long way to go with my own advertising agency.

RS: Did you learn anything interesting from him?

MR: Lots of stuff. Best were all his stories about his meetings with Kenner and his own creative process, and his making the sketches for the blister packs. It was also great having him confirm my thoughts while he told me more about the design process back in the day. One of my favorite details: he did the first blister card drafts on a camping trip with his family…

RS: Definitely looking forward to reading more about that in the book.

RS: It’s astonishing how much was saved from the blister-card design process. We’re quite lucky to be sitting here nearly 40 years later and looking at all of it. Do you have any thoughts on that?

MR: It’s astonishing indeed. Lots of archives like this are thrown away, with just random stuff from nostalgic designers being saved. But the Star Wars hobby is unique in that so much pre-production stuff was saved. A lot of 3D stuff was saved by you guys (associated with the SWCA), and the 2D stuff was saved by basically two guys, Tom Neiheisel and Steve Denny. Without you guys I’d be collecting purple-smock variants for Ugnaught.

RS: Hey, don't mock the smock!

RS: We’ve seen a lot of self-published collecting books lately. What is the benefit of traditional publishing (i.e. books) over publishing on a website or blog?

MR: Money. LOL. But seriously, there are two aspects. One is indeed money. When spending thousands of hours on a hobby, you're lucky if you can get some bucks back. And that's so much harder to do when you limit yourself to online publishing. But the main thing, which is far, far more important than any money (and most self-published books won't break even anyway), is getting a physical product. I love that: a real book is far better than a website, in my opinion.

RS: Do you have any advice for collectors thinking of putting together their own books?

MR: Make sure you have time. And money. And time! Plus, you need to be able to say when enough is enough, to know when to stop and just be pleased with what you have. It’s just like re-decorating a home: there are thousands of options but you just have to make decisions and live with some compromises. And if you aren't pleased with it in the end, you can always re-do it further down the road. And most important: do a book about a subject that you really love, not one you think others will love. That's how I approached this. Proofs are quite niche, and I’d be happy to just have my own example of this book. If others buy it that will be almost a bonus.

RS: As a collector, what are some of your favorite books on collecting, and why are they your favorites?

MR: From Concept to Screen to Collectible (by Steve Sansweet). Still the most in-depth book on collecting, and so well written -- a book that kicked off the hobby more than any other. Plus, John Kellerman’s action figure book, which really gave a boost to proof collecting and taught everyone so much about 2D stuff. And of course the books I've made with Gus (Lopez) and Duncan (Jenkins), especially the prototype book, from which I actually re-used some design elements for this new book.

RS: I know you utilized collectors from around the world in acquiring imagery and information. Can you tell me a little about that?

MR: That’s been a fantastic experience. So many people from all over the world have been so generous with sharing stuff and info. I wanted to put together a book that was as comprehensive as possible, and without reaching out to the community (and getting access to Tom Neiheisel’s photo archive), that would not have been possible.

RS: It must have been difficult taking photos in different locales and under varying conditions. How did you manage that?

MR: You were with me while I went through Vic's (Wertz) and Lisa's (Stevens) 2D collection. So you know it wasn’t very professional! Getting various pictures from all over was the real task. Most of the work was in trying to achieve the feeling that they were all photographed at the same time and in a studio. That took a lot of retouching work. And it's still easy to spot quality differences among the photos. Color quality varies as well. But that's kind of a good thing, as it’s next to impossible to use any of these images for reproduction. Also, many of them had to be retouched because they were in those d*mn AFA cases!

RS: Hey, maybe someday someone will do a book on the design history of AFA cases, and collectors will praise the guys who saved those things.

MR: . . .

RS: You’re obviously a terrific graphic designer. What was your philosophy or strategy when designing the book?

MR: Thanks! I wanted to make a book -- and this is what I always try to do -- that is fun to browse through, is historically relevant in its design, and is visually playful as opposed to static.

RS: Who took that incredible photo of you holding the bootleg lightsaber? Is he a professional photographer?

MR: It could have been you or Herb Ritts. I can't really remember and it's impossible to say for sure. But it was in Los Angeles.

RS: Of all the items showcased in the book, which hold the most interest for you as a collector and researcher?

MR: Ray's first design meeting notes and the conceptual hand-drawn sketches that were done later on. I've been after those sketches for ages, but they are of course next to impossible to find and/or pry out of collections. There are a few items in upstate New York that I’d love to get, but I doubt that collector would part from any of them.

RS: Maybe the Herb Ritts estate will sell you something?

RS: What to your mind made Kenner Star Wars packaging unique and noteworthy when compared to other toy packaging of that era?

MR: Definitely the use of the color black. Before Star Wars, toy packaging only had blue, pink, or other bright colors. Black was a crazy idea. Today, black is normal when it comes to action figure packaging, but it was quite innovative back then. That and the cool design definitely contributed to the toy line's success. Even (Kenner chief) Bernie Loomis thought that, and he sent an awesome letter to the design firm thanking them for their role of the line's success. You can read that letter in the book.

RS: Looking forward to it.

RS: How do you think the vintage packaging designs compare to the designs for contemporary toy packaging?

MR: The vintage featured such better craftsmanship. Today, everyone thinks they can do design and swing something together in Photoshop. But packaging design is a kind of art form -- one intended to help sales. And that is difficult to do. The thought and craftsmanship behind the vintage packaging; that's the main thing separating it from what you see today. You can see it took days to create some of that vintage stuff. And today that might be done in five minutes using Photoshop.

RS: Having spent so much time immersed in this subject, I’m guessing you learned some things. What is the most interesting or surprising thing you learned while researching this stuff?

MR: My father has been a printer his whole life. I've worked as a printer and in pre-press departments. Plus, I've been doing packaging design stuff myself. So it would have been hard for me to learn something new about the process. The new stuff I learned came out of the in-depth info I was able to unearth, info that I didn’t know existed.

RS: What do you hope collectors take away from the book?

MR: Knowledge about 2D pre-production stuff, its process, and its history. I hope people come away from it seeing proofs etc. as more than just cool, rare items that they "must have." Plus, the "wow, I had no idea that existed" feeling.

RS: So how do people go about getting their hands on this?

MR: Hopefully, I’ll start taking pre-orders at soon. They won't be shipped until the week of Celebration Anaheim, where the first sale will be, but collectors will soon be able to reserve a copy. Since it’s a niche area, I’ve only printed a very limited number of books. So keep an eye out for the site to launch!

RS: Will do. Thanks, Mattias.

Be sure to join the Facebook Group for A New Proof for all the latest on the book.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Archive Party Exclusive: Cincinnati Kenner Fun Map

Steve writes:

Well Archive Party-goers...if cardbacks, coins, pins, and patches still haven't satisfied your appetite for exclusives, you need not worry. has just unveiled a poster that has just about everything a vintage Kenner enthusiast could want. Appropriately dubbed the "Kenner Fun Map," this amazing piece of work designed by Josh Blake with Dan Flarida as technical advisor and creative consultant will be available for all party attendees (1 18x24" print each). Head on over to for all the details!


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Celebration Fan Swag Roundup: Part 2

Amy writes:

Further proving the generosity of Star Wars collectors, here is a continuation of the Celebration Fan Swag Roundup. For this second part, fans have made items that reflect vintage interests, store displays, special offers and even hot issues like U-grading. There's also items beyond buttons that include t-shirts and even tooth brushes! If you are looking to do some trading, but don't have a ticket to the sold out Archive Party on Thursday night, try the Collectors Swap Meet and Social held in the Celebration Collectors' Lounge on Saturday, April 18th at 7 pm.

Vintage Pod cast - SWCA podcasters Skye Paine and Steve Danley
(A limited quantity of magnets will be available at their two live shows)

Chewbacca's Family Special Offer - Shawn Moynihan

Pine-Sol frisbee flyer set of 6 - Matt Erickson, Todd Chamberlain, Duncan Jenkins, Todd Giganti, 
Alvin Furlya, Matthew Mulinaro

Pine-Sol flyer store display available to the first 19 people who complete the set of 6 buttons shown above.

Star Wars badge set of 7 pins with badge - Daryl Whitlow and other SW Action News crew

No UGrade - QuinnJedi (on Rebelscum) / Ross Barr (designed by Josh Blake)

'I go Jawa for vintage Star Wars' - Kenner76 (on Rebelscum)
I love Cloud City - Jon Peck

Star Wars Collecting Cosmos - SWCC podcasters (designed by Tom Berges)

Ewok Ice Capades (100) - Sarah Kemple

Napoleon Dynamite Star Tots for collecting track volunteers (45) - Amy Sjoberg

Swag King Gorneesh (10) - Amy Sjoberg (must be one of the first 10 ppl to have 3 lanyards full of buttons)

Additional pins not pictured:

C3-PO Leaving Vegas - Robert Daugherty
Kubrick Figures (4 kinds) Max Rebo / Sy Snootles / Droopy / Doda - Yancy Bear (on Rebelscum)
Wokling - George Coomber
Buttons4Boobs - Gary Haygood
Krayt and Barrel (50) - Eric Franks
Be cool! Hoth Leia (3 kinds) (100) - JoeKersavage (on Rebelscum)
Meesa Bombad - Chris Botkins
Thug Life Fantasy themed proof cards (set of 6) - Arizona collectors
Celebration VII Seer Draken - SeerDraken (on Rebelscum)
Vintage R2-D2 Collectors - Brian Jayne
Loose Lips Might Sink Ships (3 kinds / 100 ea) - Don Raskin
Romba 'Fairly Awesome' - Broc Walker
Crochet Jabba and Yoda - Sarah Kemple
Choose Your Destiny - DarthBaldylox (on Rebelscum)
C3-PO 'Use extreme caution drinking with Swedes' - Bill Cable
'We Hate Everything' Muppet pin - Tom Berges
Star Wars Forum UK - Todd Osborn
The Force Awakens BB-8 vintage cardback - Dave Williams
Star Wars Collector Groups Meet and Greet - Jenni Bennett (must attend event to receive pin)
Star Wars Road Trips Death Valley, CA (2 kinds) - Carl Cunningham
Vintage Star Wars Fan Club Boba Fett (2 kinds) - BlueSnag (on Rebelscum)

Ewok Builder Club trading cards (set of 12) - Various SARLACCians (designed by Tom Berges)

2" Vader challenge coin (numbered 21-100) - Bill McBride (designed by Josh Blake)

2" Chase gold Vader challenge coin (numbered 1-20) - Bill McBride (designed by Josh Blake)

2" prototype Vader challenge coin framed set (5) - Bill McBride (designed by Josh Blake)

SWCA Podcast vinyl stickers - SWCA podcasters Skye Paine and Steve Danley

Other items not pictured:

Chewbacca lanyards - Michael Ritter
Chris B. Dental Health card / bagged and boxed toothbrushes (random) - Chris Botkins
No UGrade t-shirts - Ross Barr
Rebelscum badges - Sign up here:
Admiral Ackbar coffee sleeves - Sarah Kemple

Can-can Dancing R2's - Brian Jayne
Kenner Mailer Project - Josh Blake and Dan Flarida

We all know this list is far from over and will continue to grow. Depending how many items are announced between now and Celebration, there may be another update before a post-convention report.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Palitoy's Droid Factory: Base for Your Face!

Ron writes:

All-star guest blogger and internationally recognized sex symbol Yehuda Kleinman continues to give us great material related to worldwide toy variations. A while back he posted about the Palitoy Death Star. Here's his latest, on the Palitoy version of the Droid Factory.

Yehuda writes:

After the initial Star Wars release of 1978, Kenner remained a tough act to follow, as they continued to revolutionize the toy market with creative new ideas. In 1979 Kenner introduced American children to  the Droid Factory playset. It was the first Star Wars playset that a company produced that was never actually referenced in the movie!

The toy consisted of a large, hard, durable base with a mobile crane to move the droid parts around. It also included a few dozen droid parts, including five droid bodies, multiple droid legs, connector pieces, arm attachments, wheels, axles, and treads. All parts were interconnectable and allowed the user to build five complete droids at the same time, including an R2-D2.

The set also included:
  • A "Droid Maker Blueprints" booklet with instructions on droid building. 
  • A Kenner "We Really Do Care" order form for additional and replacement parts (this was particularly important given the inclusion of some easily lost, but very necessary, connector pins). 
  •  A sticker sheet, which included a sticker for R2's torso.
  •  A Kenner Star Wars Death Star mini-catalog.
When Palitoy was designing their version of the Droid factory, the company aimed to cut costs while maintaining the features and character of the American toy. Palitoy realized that they could not redesign the entire Droid Factory out of cheaper materials -- as they'd previously done with the Death Star Playset -- and still produce a viable product. Therefore, the toy was produced with the droid parts that were already available in the Kenner product, and all cost-cutting was achieved via production of a completely different base.

The Kenner base was made out of a thick plastic that could easily handle many hours of rough play. The plastic base was also strong enough to support the durable plastic crane that attached with a press fit in its center. Additionally, it was produced with many molded compartments to hold the assorted droid parts.

In contrast, the Palitoy base was made of a thin vacuformed plastic that was stabilized with a cardboard flat bottom. Due to the limitations of the cheaper material, the base features some significant differences. Specifically, it has more rudimentary compartments for the droid parts and is not strong enough to support a robust crane.

Palitoy compensated for these deficiencies with a simpler, minimalistic version of the crane. The large plastic stand and arm of the Kenner crane were not produced. Instead, the small black connector peg that was manufactured by Kenner to attach the crane's base to its arm was repurposed as a winch. The Palitoy base was molded with a slot on the top of the ramp portion to accommodate this peg. When a string was placed around the peg, and the peg turned, droid parts could be hauled up the ramp. Additional stickers were also added to decorate the simpler base.

If you look carefully at the right side of the playset, you can see where the Doctor visited the Palitoy Droid Factory inside a Tardis carefully disguised as a dangerous laser-welding booth.

The Palitoy set also boasts an interesting variation. Specifically, the base can be found in two different colors, blue and tan. The blue base is the one pictured in the photograph on the box, visible above. The tan version features the same type and color of plastic used on Palitoy's Land of the Jawas playset.

As with all Palitoy versions of Kenner's playsets, unique packaging was produced. Interestingly, many of the Star Wars sets share design elements similar to the Star Wars cardbacks, including a space-like black border with a starry background.

The set also features a unique version of the "Droid Maker Blueprints." The document illustrates the Palitoy version of the toy. Additionally, it came packed with the elusive Palitoy mini-catalog featuring the Death Star playset on its cover, as well as a sticker sheet. In contrast to the Kenner version, no order form for additional parts was included because, apparently, Palitoy really didn't care.

Some additional facts:
  • The Kenner Droid Factory was re-released for the Empire Strikes Back featuring an updated film logo on the packaging. The Palitoy version was never updated.
  • Palitoy was able to save additional production costs by repurposing preexisting toy parts from other sets, meaning they did not have to prototype new parts and create new steel molds for production. This cost-cutting method was also applied to Palitoy's Death Star, which contains two X-Wing fighter guns to be used in the gunner's chair.
  • As did the Kenner version, the toy included droid parts required to build an exclusive three-legged version of R2-D2. Some loose figure collectors consider the Droid Factory R2-D2 a loose variant, while others consider it simply parts from a playset. Amusingly, this R2-D2 figure is the playset's lone connection to the Star Wars films!
  • The Kenner and Palitoy R2-D2 stickers differ, and some collectors consider them to be distinct variants. The Palitoy version has a wavy blue line near the top of the sticker, while the corresponding line on Kenner's version is flat. The Kenner stickers also have a glossier finish.

Please stay tuned for the next installment: Palitoy: The Land of the Jawas playset!

-- Yehuda Kleinman

Sunday, March 15, 2015

MarketWatch: Too-Onebee (2-1B)

Michael L. writes:

Another background character rolls around with another period where there were plenty of sales. As always, I was able to find a good mix across the cardbacks 2-1B appears on (aside from Coin Offer stickers, which I thought I would find for sure). I found a few foreign items as well, and a nice POTF Coin. 

Having listened to the show and seen Fredrik's collection, I have gained a real appreciation for the figure. The cardback colour scheme is very appealing once combined with the colour of the figure. 

Anyway, onto the data...

I decided to try and create a game format this month. Given the show would hit the podcast airwaves in March, I decided on a March Madness ‘bracket’ format. I’ll admit it was a little confusing as I listened to the guys read it back on the show, but thought I would at least document it here on the blog. 

But before I get into the bracket, here's a summary of what we did see:


41A -- I found 3 examples of his debut card, all ungraded, with prices of $109.99, $160 and $211.50

47 back -- Only 1 example which sold at $190.89

48B -- 1 graded (AFA80) selling for $262.07 and an ungraded 48C selling for $62.


65B AFA 85 - $123.61

77 back -- A couple of ungraded MOC's selling for $76.95, $99.99 and $125.00

Trilogo - ungraded $63.00


Micro unproduced 1st shot - $411.95, similar to that depicted in the Archive entry for this month's Nugget.

AFA85 Power of the Force Coin - $750

So that's the data summary - and this is how it was turned into a bracket format for Steve to test Skye's guessing ability on the podcast. I did think going in that the debut card was a strong chance of winning the overall bracket...

Here are the brief parameters I set up to create the bracket:
1. Two pools - Empire and Jedi (though I added a few loose graded figures into this side)
2. Pick a random eBay auction per cardback (or loose figure) to determine winner of that round
3. Can only use auction result once; i.e. then find another sale for that cardback in its next 'round'

Here are my seedings before I collected the data:

Empire Strikes Back Round 1:
41A ungraded v 41D ungraded 
Result: 41A ungraded ($211.50) v 41D ungraded ($175) 
Winner: 41A advances to Final 4.

47 ungraded v 48B  
Result: 47 ($190.89) v 48 ($262.07)
Winner: 48 advances to Final 4.

So this will pit an ESB 41A up against an ESB 48 back

Return of the Jedi Round 1: 
ROTJ 65B AFA85 v AFA90 loose
Result: ROTJ 65B AFA 85 ($123.61) v AFA90 loose ($149.99)
Winner: AFA90 loose advances to Final 4.
ROTJ ungraded v Foreign 
Result: ROTJ ungraded ($76.95) v Foreign (trilogo $63.00) 
Winner: ROTJ ungraded advances to Final 4.

So this will see a graded loose figure up against an ungraded ROTJ MOC in the next round.

Final 4 - Empire Strikes Back
41A v 48 
Result: 41A ($160 - ungraded) v 48 ($62 - ungraded) 
Winner: 41A advances to the championship round. 

Final 4 - Return of the Jedi
AFA Loose v ROTJ ungraded
Result: AFA Loose ($59.99) v ROTJ ungraded ($125) 
Winner: ROTJ ungraded advances to championship round.

41A ungraded v ROTJ ungraded 
Result: 41A ($109.99 ungraded) v ROTJ ungraded ($99.99).
Winner: 41A ungraded

So, I think in summary I may well agree with Skye... the format was confusing and trying to run a bracket with Vintage Star Wars pieces just didn't quite work. But it's recorded here for prosperity.

I will return to the normal format with Luke Hoth next time. Wampa Wampa!!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Star Wars Patterns & Costumes

Amy writes:

Fabric companies have offered licensed and non-licensed Star Wars patterns for over 35 years. Here's a look back at of some of the most common and infamous patterns to hit store shelves.

Shortly after Empire Strikes Back, McCall's pattern company offered up this pattern. Masks and accessories sold separately of course.

And it wasn't just costumes that were sold as patterns but sweaters as well. Check out this unlicensed 'Star Galaxy Cardigan' we all know it's an X-Wing sweater.  That's some lucky kid right there! 

Butterick sold doll patterns for 12" dolls. You can spot the Kenner Leia on the bottom center of this pattern.  Just in case you wanted to make that school teacher outfit for your Leia doll.

And what young kid didn't want to be an Ewok for Halloween in 1983?! On second thought, after seeing this frightening pattern by McCall's... maybe not.

By the time of the prequels, we finally got licensed Star Wars patterns for adults and kids.  

But that didn't keep pattern companies from continuing what they've always done. Emulating popular costumes from film and tv with unlicensed patterns.

As a result, just in time for The Phantom Menace, we got Darth Grim Reaper his Druid apprentice and pouty kid! 

Darth Vader appears to be in disguise here as a silver luchador ready to fight with batguy. 

Simplicity released Attack of the Clones type patterns that were so convincing we'd almost think they were licensed.  

Selections for patterns dubbed with Revenge of the Sith.


In the future, be sure to expect even more licensed and non-licensed Star Wars patterns to show up at local fabric stores.