Monday, February 29, 2016

Do-Overs: Repurposed Action Figure Sculpts

Ron writes:

Here's something that's not widely known: When creating several Star Wars action figures, the sculptors at Kenner reused the sculpts for earlier figures, in the process sculpting right over the original art for some of the most recognizable pieces in the line.

It's funny to think about, right?

As a kid, did you ever imagine that your favorite figures might conceal the remnants -- the very souls! -- of figures that had come before? Had you registered this, you probably would have felt like John Randolph in the movie Seconds when he realizes that the mysterious man who keeps bothering him is actually a long-lost friend -- in someone else's body.

One figure whose original sculpt was refashioned in such a way is the Stormtrooper.

In the late '70s, during pre-production on the Empire Strikes Back line, the original wax sculpt for the Stormtrooper was pulled out of storage and remade into the Hoth Stormtrooper, one of the first figures released in conjunction with Empire.

I know what you're thinking: "Those figures don't even look all that similar!"

Well, they look similar enough. More importantly, they have the same stature and pose. They have the same construction, too, the heads of both figures being immobile extensions of their torsos.

Wax, remember, is a malleable medium, and the folks who work in it employ a combination of carving and modelling. That is, they both cut into the hardened material and add to it through a process of melting and joining.

Therefore, although the helmet of the Hoth Stormtrooper is more rather than less voluminous than that of its regular-climate counterpart, it doesn't follow that it wasn't resculpted around the head of the earlier figure. It would have been quite easy for an experienced toy sculptor to add additional wax, and then carve it into the distinctive shape of the Hoth hijab. (The mask of the Hoth Stormtrooper is actually closer to a niqab, but let's not let mundane details get in the way of some good alliteration.)

Also remember: Outward looks aren't the only things to consider when creating an action figure sculpt. What's inside matters, too.

I know this maxim isn't equally applicable to all situations. When dating, for instance, you always want to seek out the person with the best external appearance, and disregard all of that tedious internal stuff.

But where prototypes toys are concerned, you can't afford to be so shallow. As a collector, you're doing yourself a real disservice if you fail to look beneath the skin.

A wax action figure sculpt isn't just a solid chunk of pinkish stuff; its torso encompasses a brass "buck," it has nylon or brass disks embedded at the articulation points, and its thinner portions are sometimes bolstered by a wire armature. All of this helps to keep it together, stable, and in proper alignment.

But incorporating all of that junk into the wax is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. By sculpting over a piece that already has it in place, a sculptor can save himself a lot of effort.

After all, the folks at Kenner weren't in the business of preserving future collectibles; they were trying to bring toys to market. And if a few sculpts were lost in the process, then so be it. The future passions of a few nerdlingers were not dreamt of in their philosophies.

What are some other figures that were created over pre-existing sculpts?

One is Bossk.

Any idea which figure served as the basis for Bossk?

I could name it, but I'm sure the photo speaks for itself:

That's right: Bossk is a made-over Blue Snaggletooth.

I won't enumerate all the ways in which the two figures resemble each other. It's better if you compare them side by side. Pay particular attention to the snouts, the collars, and the bends in the arms.

(Please be forewarned: If you ask me if it was the dent or no-dent version of Blue Snaggletooth that served as the basis for Bossk, I will probably never speak to you again.)

It's likely that other early figures were sculpted into new figures, just as Stormtrooper and Blue Snaggletooth were. But as there is, as far as I know, no solid documentation of this, the identities of these figures must remain speculative.

Before closing out this post, I'll indulge in one bit of speculation: I think it's feasible that the sculpt for the 1978 Han Solo was reworked into the 1980 Han Hoth.

Don't think that's possible?

Pull out loose examples of each figure, and compare them closely. Note in particular the face of the large-head version of the figure, and the way in which it resembles the face of Han Hoth.

Now turn the figures on their sides and compare the arms -- the right arms in particular. 

If you want to extend this comparison to the left arms, you'll quickly notice that they, too, are very similar. Specifically, they both feature the same, very distinctive gesture, with the elbows being fairly straight, and the back of the hands turned outward, with all fingers extended.

Pretty suggestive, right? Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean anything. But it doesn't necessarily mean nothing either.

What other early sculpts do you think may have been reworked into later figures?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

'Chive Cast 70 - Steve Sansweet and the Creation of the Vintage Star Wars Collecting Hobby

Where do people get information about Vintage Star Wars collectibles? Before Facebook groups and podcasts there were message boards. Before message boards there was the Star Wars Collectors Archive. And before the Star Wars Collectors Archive, there was Stephen J. Sansweet’s 1992 book: Star Wars: From Concept to Screen to Collectible. It is the foundational document of our hobby and the book that created the vintage collector mindset. It introduced terms like Hardcopy and First Shot and showed the first photographic display of a pre-production "run" on legendary page 93. It was the first book to talk about both the creation and the collecting of Star Wars memorabilia from Gamorrean Guard banks to Darth Vader wax sculpts. This is the book that started it all, and Ron Salvatore helps us to interview the author on 70th issue of the SWCA Podcast.

Then, we get a dose of vitamin G with Chris Georgoulias who discusses a few hot topics of the day: the mr.klimko sales, the resurgence of Blue Harvest, and the Mailer Sample Rocket-firing Boba Fett. Come celebrate the beginning of the 7th year of 'Chive Casting!

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Image Sources and Show Note Links:

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Intergalactic Talking Heads:
A Vintage Collector's Review of Star Wars
Collecting Podcasts

Ron writes:

When Skye Paine first told me that he was thinking of starting a podcast focused on vintage Star Wars collectibles, my response was something like, "Who wants to listen to people talk about toys? Listeners won't even be able to see the items you're talking about. What's next, a phone-in petting zoo?"

Fortunately, that didn't deter Skye from moving forward with his plans, and six years later the 'Chive Cast (or whatever we're calling it now) is still going strong. I think it's fair to say that it stands as one of the best things we've featured on the Star Wars Collectors Archive.

Skye and Steve have had quite an impact: Multiple vintage-focused podcasts have followed the trail they blazed, each with its own unique style and take on collecting. To my mind, that's a tribute to the 'Chive Cast, as well as to the ingenuity and vigor of the vintage collecting community.

You may be a bunch of nerdlingers, but at least you're an industrious bunch of nerdlingers.

In all seriousness, we're living through an era rich in hobby discussion, forums, and platforms. So I was glad to see that Ross Barr contributed this piece on the world of vintage podcasting. It serves as a primer for those who have yet to sample this growing area of the hobby.

By the way, don't let Ross fool you into thinking he's a "Joe Schmo." Every time I look at Facebook, there he is staring back at me, often bare chested. At first I thought he was the result of some kind of glitch or malware. I slapped my computer, repeatedly pressed control-alt-delete, even called my internet company to inform them of my suspicion that North Korea had hacked into my computer and replaced all the cat videos with photos of some naked guy. Didn't work: Ross was still there.

Then I realized that Ross is simply the hardest working man in the social media arena -- a guy whose energy is nearly equal to the unsightliness of his dishabille. So while we're busy appreciating podcasts, let's take some time to appreciate Ross for all the effort he puts into promoting the hobby. Clothed or otherwise.

Ross writes:

As vintage Star Wars collectors, we fortunately benefit from lots of pretty, pretty pictures of collectibles in various online forums, collecting groups, and websites. A collector doesn't have to look too long before he or she finds a wealth of information about our hobby online, along with  some great images that are pleasing to the eyeballs. An important but perhaps unfairly overlooked aspect of the hobby, however, is the great work being done by several vintage collectors in creating podcasts covering numerous angles related to vintage collecting. Why should our eyes have all the fun and our ears not have any?

Full disclosure: I have been an active listener to certain vintage-related podcasts for only about the last year or so. But it appears that podcasting has recently become the en vogue medium for expression, the way that blogging was a few years ago. As such, you may ask, "Well, Ross, aren't you reviewing podcasts on a blog right now? If you want to be fashionable, shouldn't you be podcasting about podcasts instead?" I'm old school, I guess; just be happy this isn't a newspaper article that I'm presenting to you on an overhead projector. 

In all seriousness, I get great pleasure from seeing on iTunes that one of the podcasts to which I subscribe has released a new episode. I gobble them up, listening to them during my work commute, at the gym (yes, I work couldn't tell?), and whenever I want to escape something my wife is trying to tell me about. In fact, being relatively new to podcasting, I have spent much of the last year going back and listening to most of the archived episodes of the four podcasts I discuss in this piece. It has been a blast hearing how the hobby and collecting perspectives have changed over the past several years. If you haven't already, I wholeheartedly recommend that you do something similar – you can tell a lot about today’s environment by listening to how folks viewed yesterday’s.

The purpose of this blog entry is to review four podcasts I highly recommend to anyone who wants to treat their ears as well as their eyes when it comes vintage Star Wars collectible content. I present each of them in descending order from, in my own modest opinion, the most “vintagey” (spell check, anyone?) one to the one that has the highest concentration of modern collectibles and other content mixed in with the vintage discussion. 

So without further ado, here are my reviews of the four great podcasts:

The ‘Chive Cast Vintage Pod

The ‘Chive Cast is the official podcast of the Star Wars Collectors Archive, the self-proclaimed “audio magazine dedicated to the collecting of vintage Star Wars toys and memorabilia.” The ‘Chive Cast is hosted by Skye Paine and Stephen B. Danley, Chewbacca and B-Wing Pilot focus collectors, respectively. “Fratastic” Pete Fitzke and “Brisbane-Brisbane” also Mike Lonergan contribute market data to the podcast. The longest running vintage podcast in this review, the ‘Chive Cast debuted February 27, 2010, and is, as of this blog entry, on its 69th episode, with some bonus episodes sprinkled in.

I recommend the ‘Chive Cast as, in my view, the most educational of the lot when it comes to the history of vintage Star Wars collectibles; the production process as related to the toys themselves; and numerous other aspects of vintage Star Wars collecting. The podcast has no shortage of creative “drops” (musical intros) that lead into their interesting recurring features. These features include, among others, "MarketWatch" (a review of recent sales), the “Nugget from the Archive” (an in-depth look at an item listed on the SWCA), “Vintage Vocab” (an explanation of hobby-specific words for newbies and old timers alike), and the “Unloved Item” (a look at oddball and overlooked items). I personally love the format of the show. 

As Skye and Steve have very different personalities, they make a great team. Steve is the nice, steady, even-keeled glue that holds the show together, while Skye delivers outlandish antics – his Skye-kus, Vintage Poetry Slam, and Vintage Commercial Theater, to name just a few. As I said above, the show is rich with education and information for all collectors – old and new alike – mostly because it benefits from recurring guests who are titans in our hobby, including Gus Lopez, Ron Salvatore, Chris Georgoulias (Skye claims to have said his last name more times on the podcast than he’s said “Star Wars” -- true story), and Mattias Rendahl. This, its biggest strength, is perhaps also a slight weakness, as the inclusion of primarily “inner circle” guys as recurring guests sometimes fails to paint an accurate picture of the various approaches and viewpoints in the vast collecting landscape.  In fairness, though, ‘The Chive Cast does sprinkle in some “Joe Schmo” collectors, such as yours truly; I have been privileged to be on the show three times. Here is a pic of me on my maiden ‘Chive Cast voyage, at Celebration Anaheim in April 2015:

At the end of the day, when it comes to education and pure vintage Star Wars collectible discussion, the ‘Chive Cast may be at the top of the class. Skye and Steve care a lot about the hobby, and have put in many, many hours over the past six years to deliver an incredibly solid product. Heck, they even had rock star and super collector Rick Springfield on the show one time. I am a huge fan of their show. 

You can find the ‘Chive Cast here on the SWCA Blog at:, on Facebook: or on iTunes.

The Vintage Rebellion
Formerly known as the SWFUK Podcast, The Vintage Rebellion is “a Star Wars podcast focusing on vintage toy collecting by a group of fans.” The show is put on by five fantastic and fun-loving guys out of the UK – Stuart Skinner, Grant Criddle, Richard Hutchinson, Peter Davis, and Jez Allinson, who are Greedo, TIE Fighter Pilot, R5-D4, Slave Leia and pregnant Padme (I’m not making this up), and Luke X-Wing Pilot collectors, respectively. The second youngest of the podcasts discussed here, The Vintage Rebellion debuted on June 8, 2014, and, as of this date, has produced 21 episodes.

Here is a picture of these handsome lads (as they call themselves across the pond) with actor Gerald Home, who played Squidhead in Return of the Jedi:

The Vintage Rebellion does a spectacular job of making their podcast personal to the hosts while capturing all that is going on in the various communities that exist in our hobby. The format of the show is similar to that of the the ‘Chive Cast, as each show has various features, including a discussion of each host’s recent acquisitions, a “forum roundup” of the goings-on in several online forums and Facebook groups, “rapid fire” questions posed to those among the group, and interviews of interesting and diverse guests. Even though the hosts of the show will probably tell you that they got their start in the hobby on, or, at the very least, currently spend most of their time on Star Wars Forum UK, they have all have a presence in the wider community, and they present a fair and balanced look at what is going on in the hobby from the perspective of many, many different types of collectors. I love the various Star Wars-related songs they play on the show, although the theatrical skits they put on are, frankly, painful at times. They typically play trivia games among the hosts, which, although a bit fanboy-esque, certainly present some difficult and interesting aspects of the films. Their podcasts tend to run long – the longest to date being five hours and four minutes, with most averaging around four hours – but, hey, didn’t a wise man once say that you can never have too much of a good thing?  

Overall the guys have great chemistry, and you can tell they are all good friends. After listening to a few of their shows, you will wish you were good friends with them too. Having been on the show a few times, I can say they treat their guests with respect and handle their topics with diligence. Their contributions to the hobby shouldn’t be overlooked, so check them out. 

You can find the lads at,, or on iTunes. 

Galaxy of Toys
Galaxy of Toys Podcast is “a discussion about Star Wars toys vintage to modern,” and is hosted by Jason Luttrull along with Tom Berges, Ryan Beise, Chris “Criz Bee” from, and Jake Stevens. They are, respectively, collectors of toothbrushes and Lobot, items from the late '70s and early '80s, pretty much everything related to action figures (Ryan “collects them all, from Bend ‘ems to the Black Series”), action figures with the occasional prop replica and life-size item mixed in, and vintage and modern 3 3/4" figures (Jake has “darn near completed collecting the 3700+ figures out there”).  The second oldest of the podcasts discussed here, Galaxy of Toys debuted January 28, 2013, and, as of this date, has produced 53 episodes. 

I struggled a bit as to whether Galaxy of Toys was a more “vintagey” podcast than the next entry on the list, The Star Wars Bounty Hunters Collectors Podcast, but because Galaxy of Toys has several episodes dedicated exclusively to an in-depth look at certain aspects of the original vintage line, that broke the tie for me. The format of Galaxy of Toys differs greatly from the others mentioned in this blog entry – instead of recurring features, each episode focuses on a particular era or segment of vintage or modern collecting in a roundtable-like discussion among the hosts. For example, the guys have done entire episodes on each of the vintage die-cast vehicles, vintage large-sized action figures, and POTF2 variations, to name a few. As someone who collects vintage exclusively, I have spent more time listening to the vintage-focused episodes the guys have produced than the modern ones, but if you promise not to tell my elitist vintage collecting friends, I will also admit that I did in fact enjoy listening to some of their modern-focused episodes, such as the one entitled “The Power of the Force Turns 20.”

Other than Tom Berges, whom I thoroughly enjoy, especially when his co-hosts make fun of him for being the “OT curmudgeon” (that is, a guy whose interests do not extend past vintage collectibles, and who playfully deflects questions about modern collecting), I don’t know the hosts of this show personally. But while listening to them you can really feel the passion these guys have for collecting all of the toys, whether vintage or modern, and they clearly know what they're talking about. I find this podcast especially fun, even if the subject matter doesn’t always line up with my interests, and I eagerly await each new episode. 

You can find Galaxy of Toys podcast at,, or on iTunes.

Star Wars Bounty Hunters Collectors Podcast

The Star Wars Bounty Hunters Collectors Podcast is a “podcast dedicated to collecting both vintage and modern action figures, comics, the movies and more!” The podcast is hosted by Bill "Darth Bill" Harvat (a Darth Vader focus collector), Mike "Crunchy Mike" Harvat (a Luke Skywalker focus collector), and Phil "Boba Phil" Reno (a Boba Fett focus collector). The newest of the podcasts discussed here, the Bounty Hunters podcast debuted November 19, 2014, and, as of this date, has produced 21 episodes, with some bonus episodes sprinkled in. Here is a picture of the guys:

The show focuses on vintage collectibles, modern collectibles, comics, and the movies themselves.  Unlike the ‘Chive Cast and Galaxy of Toys, which break out each show based on a particular segment of collectibles, Bounty Hunters, like The Vintage Rebellion, has a random theme for each show. The guys also organize each episode into various features, including the “Vintage Vault” (a discussion of a particular vintage collectible), “Modern Masterpieces” (a discussion of a particular modern collectible), the “Collector’s Cantina” (each month’s guest), and “Toshi Station Comics and Games” (a discussion of a particular comic or game).

I know Bill reasonably well from interacting with him on the vintage Facebook groups (I don’t know the other two guys personally), and have witnessed firsthand his deep love of Star Wars. And that love, as well as the love of his fellow hosts, really shines through in their work. Serious vintage collectors are likely already familiar with most of the vintage information and discussion featured on the show, but the guys bring a really fun emphasis to everything they discuss, always approaching their subjects from the point of view of the die-hard fan. The guys have a great sense of humor and  don’t take themselves too seriously, which is very refreshing. The show speaks to how most of us collect, which is something I really like about it. At its core, the hosts are really down to earth, and that helps them connect with their audience. I certainly recommend checking them out.

You can find SW Bounty Hunters Collectors Podcast at,, or on iTunes.

Monday, February 15, 2016

MarketWatch: Luke Skywalker (Hoth Battle Gear)

We're happy to finally present Michael's Luke Hoth MarketWatch tied in with 'Chive Cast 69. Much like the majority of that podcast, it is presented here as it was written nearly a year ago.

Michael L. writes:

After last month's attempt at finding a "game-show" version of displaying the data, I've decided it will revert to just presenting a simple overview of the market.

The market continues to power on...the pricing we are seeing for some of the more headline items in the hobby are reaching crazy pricing (yes 12 Backs, I'm looking at you). It's hard not to apply a simple financial logic to all this and say it is a classic asset bubble developing which is destined for a crash. That said, lots of emotion and nostalgia are tied up in these pieces and it is simply reflecting the fact that more and more people want to collect these items. I do wonder what will happen if Episode VII ends up having an Episode I feel in the fanboy community. That said, if Disney really nails this movie are we in for an even big price surge. There are lots of threads out there discussing this very phenomenon so I will end it there.

Here's the overview for the month (this data is from early 2015):


45 Back
 - AFA80 - $425.00
 - AFA80Y - $227.50
 - AFA75Y - $162.50
 - Ungraded - $150 (approximate - BIN offer)

47 Back
 - AFA70Y - $300
 - Ungraded - There were a range of these with varying quality from $99.99-$175. The MOC at $175 was quite beat up with the POP neatly removed but had a clear bubble.

48 Back
 - 48B Ungraded $83
 - 48C Ungraded $69.99
 - 48C Ungraded - sold together with a Han Hoth 48 Back $223.50 (the Luke Hoth had two price stickers - with the cheapest price tag of $1.88).

I wasn't overly surprised by the examples found this month. The debut card graded AFA80 went for a solid price, without it seeming too crazy. Still plenty of cheaper examples around for the ungraded pieces. And I really liked that double sale with Han Hoth -- nice way to add two nice pieces for just over $100 each.

45 Back - AFA80 - $425
45 Back - AFA80Y $227.50
45 Back - AFA75Y $162.50
45 Back Ungraded $162.50

UPDATE TO POST - February 2016:

Given the above data was compiled back in mid-2015, I felt it appropriate to add in a few current examples. Oh and yeah, you can disregard my reference to any thought that Disney might NOT have nailed Episode VII... it's safe to say they did! And pricing has certainly continued to be strong, though perhaps a few examples out there that the high graded pieces in the 12 backs (at least) may have seen a top, but we'll see if that's a trend or aberration in the coming months.

As you'll see below there is one crazy auction where the price settled on over $3k for a clear bubble AFA80 48A (the only offerless ESB cardback). It's hard to think the buyer actually went through with the purchase. But there are some serious deep pockets out there these days. The other two 48A's were much more reflective of what we'd expect for this figure.

The market has certainly increased a over the period between data points - the two $800+ examples plus the $3k (if we assume it was paid) show what the higher end more desirable examples are fetching. I would say though that when the examples are not graded the market has not risen too dramatically, reinforcing the premium people pay for those acrylic tombs for their MOC's.

Anyway, here's a quick rap of some pricing (circa late 2015 - early 2016) for Luke Hoth:


45 Back
 - AFA85-Y - $380
 - Ungraded - $149.99

47 Back
 - AFA80-Y - $369.99

48 Back
 - 48A AFA80 - $3,383.33 (here's the eBay link)
 - 48A AFA80 - $861
 - 48A AFA75 - $354.89
 - 48C AFA85Y - $821.25
 - 48C ungraded - $75
45 AFA85-Y $380
45 Ungraded $149.99
47 AFA80-Y $369.99
48A AFA80 $3,383
48A AFA80 $861
48A AFA75 - $354.89
48C AFA85Y $851.25
So I'll end the post at those examples. Was interesting to re-visit this post after the actual 'Chive Cast for Luke Hoth fell into the abyss for a period. The higher end pieces have certainly increased over that time. And there certainly has been a shift into ESB characters for the newer collectors, given 12 Back pricing has continued to climb and climb, thus driving up the high end pieces. There certainly remains value out there if you hunt the non-graded items ---and as a collector who started with graded pieces but moved away I would recommend the ungraded items. And you can always pop them in an acrylic case to give that almost 'high' end look :).

As always, happy buying and selling Space Freaks... Wampa Wampa.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Photographing a Galaxy: A Talk with Kim Simmons

Steve writes:

Guest blogger and fellow vintage collector Stephen Ward recently interviewed former Kenner photographer Kim Simmons about his involvement and processes that yielded so many familiar images depicting the vintage Star Wars line.

Stephen W. writes:

For those of us involved in the vintage Star Wars collecting hobby, the name Kim Simmons is synonymous with the photography used on the cardbacks and boxes of the Kenner products.

Kim has been interviewed more than a few times in regard to his work on the line, but I wanted this one to be different. One which covered slightly different ground, and one which delved into the nuances of the hobby that collectors, especially, might find interesting. Hardcopies, proofs, Kenner baggies, cardbacks, and the collecting hobby itself isn't usually the material of interviews related to his work, but I wanted to cover that here.

We talked not just about the photography itself and the legacy that Kim has, but about the process of actually getting the toys themselves from Kenner. We spoke about what Kim thought about the toy line, his favorite Kenner Star Wars products, and more.

Today, Kim runs, where many of the images he shot are available as archival quality prints. One note that I will add is that Kim is very adamant about ensuring that people know about and remember the late Roy Frankenfield, who is mentioned below in the interview. Roy was the photographer who was working on the line before Kim got involved prior to The Empire Strikes Back’s release. 

Without further adieu, my conversation with Mr. Kim Simmons about all things vintage Kenner Star Wars.

Stephen Ward: When you first began work to photograph the line, did you consider it as something which would be a collectible decades down the road?

Kim Simmons: At the time, I can tell you no one ever thought the Star Wars toys would be collectible. Even today, when I talk with the former Kenner people like I did at the Kenner symposium, they were all saying the same thing: “Who would have thought these toys would be so collectible?"

SW: In regard to the toys you photographed (of which there were many), how did the process of you getting them in your hands occur? And were there instructions from Kenner in regard to how they wanted the finished product? Was it all related to the “playability” of the products?

KS: When I first started, Roy [Frankenfield] was going to the design studio, now LPK, and getting the brief, then he’d come back and tell me what was [discussed], then I ‘d shoot it. Eventually, I would go over, get the brief and come back, shoot it, and take it back. There were multiple steps. If it was a new toy, I’d pick up the toy and shoot it in multiple angles and closeups.

At first, I shot them as Roy had wanted, using 35mm, but I eventually shot the initial shots using a 4x5 and the lens I would eventually use, because the designer would select the views (images) which best fit the package within the design. During this stage, there was never a direct contact with Kenner, unless you were to count the sample department. If the figure or playset came to me nicked, I needed to get it repaired, so I would take it up [to the sample department] to get retouched.

Eventually, I asked if I could have paint and I’d retouch the toys myself to save time. The idea was to show the playability of the toy by showing the specifics of what the toy was capable of doing -- how to play with the toy. If a child did not know a toy could do something, how would they know how to play with it? We needed to get that across with images.

SW: Did Kenner ever solicit feedback about the toys themselves from you, unrelated to your photography work?

KS: No, never heard a thing, nor ever asked anything about the toys. Their testing was done before or after a toy was in my hands.

SW: Was there anything related to the design of the toys you found surprising insofar as prototypes you photographed vs. the final product? For example, the burgundy cape Bib Fortuna vs. the production Bib Fortuna. Did you ever have any thoughts on why the changes were made, or did you just assume it was a part of the process related to authenticity?

KS: I always thought it was so funny to have three different variations of Bib. I learned after Luke’s hair color being changed you just never asked those kinds of questions. It was a change someone wanted done, and it was directed by someone “upstairs” well beyond my pay grade.

SW: Having your hands on different iterations of the final figures, did you notice at the time (or afterwards) that the figures and playsets you photographed differed from the ones that ended up on the shelves?

KS: To me it was always kind of odd to keep being given the same figure but with tan hair instead of blond (Luke), but that was all I ever thought about. I really never studied the toy shelves once released.

SW: As far as process is concerned, the work you did for Kenner, was it a piece by piece rate with them issuing purchase orders to photograph individual pieces?

KS: Each toy or figure was its own purchase order issued by the design studio. We did do work directly for Kenner, and some of that was Star Wars related, some was not. Usually they had us invoice the design studio. many times those types of jobs were sales presentation-related.

SW: How did the pieces that arrived come packaged? Did you get Kenner baggies with figures in them with their weapon, along with paperwork (manifest of everything in the box, etc.)? Was it a box with random stuff tossed in it? As far as vehicles, especially before production (since there wasn't a box to put it in), how did those arrive? Were there any instructions as far as assembly?

KS: Usually new figures arrived in an envelope. Production figures would arrive in a sealed bag sometimes; other times they would come in on a blister card. Playsets arrived in a cardboard box of any kind. Sometimes we’d walk in with the toy itself in our bag, and we’d carry it back and forth.

SW: As far as photographing work for Kenner, were you privy to any of the internal Kenner workings as far as knowing the development process of the pieces? (i.e. were you aware that figures you received were hardcopy prototypes versus finished production pieces, etc.)

KS: Yes, I knew we were being given hardcopies or first shots, once those terms were explained to me. Those are what I ended up retouching myself.

SW: Did anything ever get broken while trying to photograph it? Anything you wondered about as far as how stout the piece would be in the hands of kids once it was released?

KS: As I was told, things happen. This is where hot glue or beeswax became so useful, but these were hardcopies, not something kids would be playing with. I do not remember thinking, “how long will this actually last in the hands of a kid?”

SW: Related to actually receiving products for photography, did Kenner ever send multiples of things to photograph for reasons other than if they were to be in a “diorama” setting (AT-AT on Endor, or the Ewok Village, etc.)?

KS: Yes, they did. When I was going to be shooting the Hoth Battle scene, I was sent 4 AT-AT’s, multiple X-Wings and Snowspeeders, then I asked for multiple Micro Collection X-Wings and Snowspeeders…and of course a Micro AT-ST for way in the back. I had the [3.75” scale] AT-ST to use in the front. But in many cases, if they had a new toy there might be only one, so I had to deal with the one and rely on Billy to merge the two together. The ISP-6 is one example. I needed two, but only one was available as a photo sample. While rare, when I needed multiples of the same figure, I would be given production figures on blister cards. I never received proof cards with figures I was to use in a shoot unless they were the reason to get them, like to shoot the card with the figure on it.

SW: Were there ever any big disagreements with Kenner related to how you set up the shots for box artwork? Did they give you specific direction related to composition and lighting or did they just allow you free reign?

KS: Not really, because of the way it was worked out prior to them actually seeing the finished work. By shooting so many different angles of a playset from above, to below, to 3/4 views, then the designer selecting the ones they wanted, they would work out the package using actual photography (in B&W) before any final work. Problems would be worked out during this stage. This was the reason I found it so smart to shoot this stage using a 4x5, since that is how it would be shot eventually. This kept the perspective correct, and no unexpected issues popped up.

SW: Did Kenner ever send proof cards/box flats your way to show you the almost-finished work before it was on shelves? 

KS: Not Kenner, but the design studio would send us the finished comp to copy; I never saw the flats as I recall. I know Roy did shoot some of the flats in the beginning, but I did not see them until they were shipping, if I saw them at all.

SW: What was your biggest surprise related to the line? Whether its success, oddities in the line, etc., what surprised you the most about the Kenner Star Wars line overall, or specifically related to a certain piece?

KS: Overall, it was the cancellation of the Micro Collection, I thought that line was fantastic (I still think that).

SW: Did you have a favorite piece in the Kenner line, and if so, why? 

KS: Not really, I liked them all, but as I said I really liked the Micro Collection line the best.

SW: Was there any particular stuff Kenner wanted you to photograph which you just shook your head at, or wondered "what they were thinking?" (Imperial Dignitary is one example- just a creepy dude in a purple robe with no accessories.)

KS: To me, the Imperial Dignitary was just another figure, the name said it all; he needed no weapon, the Dignitary’s weapon was [his] mouth.

SW: Were there any characters you wish Kenner had made for the toy line? Either as just a neat addition, or because you thought it would be interesting/fun to photograph?

KS: Not really, however I wished there had been Star Destroyers in the vintage line, and a toy Death Star, that could have been very cool, done properly.

SW: Did you ever buy figures off the shelves yourself? Either for the fun of seeing your work or for any kind of collecting itself? Did Kenner ever provide completed production pieces for you once photography was done and the figures were on the shelves?

KS: Nope, never collected figures, and never bought any for my son, either. But, I would bring home figures for him if he asked for any. I was able to keep, in most cases, everything they gave me to shoot. The Ewok Village was one example of something I was not left with. Eventually, I started asking for production flats, and every now and then they would give me one.

SW: Worst Kenner Star Wars toy? Why?

KS: Not so much worst, but I originally had issues with the toys that I never saw in the movie. Once it was explained to me that these were being done to expand the playability to larger toys, I just accepted them.

SW: Did you ever go into stores and see your photography on finished boxes/cardbacks and have any thoughts related to that?

KS: You might find it kind of funny, but no, I never really ran out and checked on the packages at the toy stores.

SW: Let's talk legacy. At the end of the day, what do you want your legacy related to the hobby to be? And are you surprised by the fact that you're somewhat of a legend within the collecting community because of your involvement with the line?

KS: I was an extremely lucky person to have landed such a job. Yes, I am somewhat surprised at being a legend, but then I know a lot of that is Roy’s doing because he was there first...and it was those first few years that established the legacy.

I was just able to continue under him and after him. First off, I’d like people to understand it was a job, it just happened to be a job most would want now not realizing what you’d have to do to land the job. Roy was on the verge of losing the line, very close to it from what I was told. So if anything, I was able to help keep Roy from losing it and eventually purchase the studio from him and continue in 2000 when Kenner/Hasbro left Cincinnati.

Overall, I am somewhat uncomfortable being a legend, but it is an ego booster and extremely appreciated. It is because of that I have tried to keep the prints we sell as inexpensive as we can. We sell 8x10’s or 11x14’s for the same amount of money as we charged in 1981 through 2000. The technology changed and that alone allows us to do that. But to do that requires a lot of time and equipment that we were able to accumulate over the years. I’d like people to understand and realize what goes into preparing each image for printing before complaining about the cost of a print. We do this for the collectors out there. Yes, we are able to make a little money, but trust me, it is not very much when you think about the time spent on each image, not even counting the scanning of each piece of film. We enjoy bringing joy to the little kids in each of the collectors.

SW: …and the million-dollar question. What do you think happened to the kit-bashed Boba Fett figure?

KS: I am betting it was ground up or tossed in the trash a very long time ago.

Photograph credits: Kim Simmons -

Thursday, February 4, 2016

That Leia Looks Familiar...

Amy writes:

There are so many Facebook fan groups these days. Each one seems to highlight a separate collecting subset. Lately, I've been expanding my collecting knowledge through Facebook groups. From time to time new images appear of toys I didn't even know existed.

My most recent Star Wars discovery was from a post over at the Labyrinth Fan Club group. Before Jennifer Connelly was Sarah in Labyrinth, she was Princess Leia on a vintage Star Wars item. Really!

To back up a bit, Connelly was a child model before she became an actress. The bulk of her modeling work was done in pattern catalogs like Vogue and McCall's.

Connelly's modeling career occurred in the late 70's and early 80's. If you recall my post about Star Wars costume patterns, one of the earliest Star Wars patterns available was McCall's Star Wars pattern no. 7772. It features a picture of characters, including Princess Leia modeled by Jennifer Connelly.

As further reference, check out Dynamite Magazine Issue 96 from May 1982. In this issue, Jennifer Connelly's modeling career is featured. Pictures include her modeling portfolio which contains the Star Wars page from the McCall's catalog. You can read the full transcript online.

There is always something new to discover in Star Wars collecting, and it can come from the most unlikely places.