Monday, July 30, 2018

Canadian Headaches: Parker's Star Wars Puzzles

Ron writes:

 A few weeks ago I published a post on Kenner's line of jigsaw puzzles of 1977 through 1979.

Canadian collectors of the late '70s also had the opportunity to purchase Star Wars puzzles. In Canada, however, puzzles weren't marketed by Kenner Canada; rather, they bore the logo of the company's affiliate, Parker.

Their boxes also bore the French term for "jigsaw puzzle," "casse-tete," which I believe means something like "headache" if translated literally.

Is this the only Star Wars toy named after an actual ailment? Does Prune Face count?

You might recall that Kenner's initial assortment of puzzles came in boxes that were uncharacteristically colored. Some were blue and some were a shade that I dubbed "electric mauve."

One of the fun aspects of the Parker puzzles is that they all came in fruity-looking boxes; none sported the familiar black-and-silver deco scheme that we now associate with vintage Star Wars products of the 1970s. This makes them worth seeking out, especially if, like me, you enjoy the funky head shop quality of those blue and mauve boxes.

I'm not going to devote much space to discussing each puzzle. For the most part the photos speak for themselves. And, generally speaking, the Canadian puzzles repeated the American ones in terms of design.

You may, however, notice a few slight discrepancies. For instance, note that the puzzle depicting the Sand Person features a picture that has been flipped through the vertical axis. On the U.S. puzzle the business end of that gaffi stick was on the left rather than the right side of the image.

The image showing Luke leaning in to make out with R5-D4 was similarly flipped on the Canadian version.

Although, like their American counterparts, the Canadian puzzles came in 140- and 500-piece types, the 140-piecers came in blue boxes that were vertically oriented while the 500-piecers came in electric mauve boxes that were horizontally oriented. The American line wasn't nearly so regimented.

Curiously, the electric mauve puzzle boxes featured the Parker logo on their fronts while the blue ones did not.

Note that the Canadian puzzle depicting the medal ceremony is once again flipped relative to its American counterpart.

Incidentally, no "extended box photo" variation of this puzzle was released in Canada, meaning that none of the Parker boxes depicted those two stick-in-the-mud-looking guys whom my co-blogger Yehuda Kleinman calls Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Another flipped image relative to the U.S. was in evidence on the box of the puzzle depicting the Rebels' spacecraft inside their secret base.

In my post covering the American products, I noted that the Sand Person puzzle was the only one to use an image featured on Kenner's action figure blister cards.

The Canadian line adds one more: the Canuck Stormtroopers puzzle employed a photo that will be familiar to toy collectors who've pursued the carded figures. The photo on the puzzle, however, retained the original background, airbrushed out on the action figure packaging, and was flipped through the vertical axis.

If you look closely you'll see that the title of the puzzle was misspelled on the box.

Yes, you've been introduced to the Stoom Trooper. Now meet the Stormtroppers.

Oh, I've gone and buried the lede. The Stormtroppers puzzle is of interest in large part because it was not released in the States. It was a Parker exclusive.

Here's another Canadian exclusive.

Do you think this is the least exciting photo used on a Star Wars puzzle? I do. Maybe that's why Kenner didn't release a puzzle featuring this image?

I thought this was the only puzzle released by Kenner or Parker to lack a title printed on the front of the box, but Scott Bradley has pointed out that the box does have "Luke - C-3PO" printed in black text at the bottom left of the image.

The third and final Canadian exclusive was this puzzle, titled "Death Star." It featured a pretty unusual composite image of X-Wings and Darth Vader's TIE Fighter zooming around in space.

Did this image appear anywhere else? It strikes my eye as pretty unique. Shoot me a message or post in comments if you've seen it on another product or in a publication.

What about variations?

Well, I'm glad you asked.

The only one I'm aware of concerns the trademark notice, which on at least some puzzles appears stamped onto the reverse of the box rather than printed within the graphical overlay on the side.

Which puzzles exhibit this variation? Was the error corrected? I'm not sure. But these are questions to keep in mind while pursuing these items. This particular instance occurs on the Space Battle puzzle, which was one of the earliest designs released by Kenner in the States. It's possible that this issue affected only the earliest of Parker's puzzles.

As mentioned above, Canada saw the release of three unique puzzles.

But that's not all the puzzle uniqueness bestowed upon our excessively polite friends to the north. They also benefited from a promotion that allowed the consumers of Alpha-Getti to mail away for two different puzzles.

Marketed by Libby's, Alpha-Getti was a pasta product that was shaped like letters. Presumably, this allowed children to spell out a ketchupy "help me" should they be forced to eat it by the giant sea anemone that served as Libby's mascot.

In case you're wondering, Alpha-Getti has no connection to Ceti Alpha V, where Khan was banished to live out his final years with no one to keep him company but some gross ear worms and those sidekicks who looked like extras from a post-apocalyptic aerobics video.

According to our friend Scott Bradley, the man responsible for the essential Canadian Star Wars Gallery:
Libby's Canada sponsored a mail-in offer in 1978 for two of the Canadian Parker Star Wars puzzles - R2-D2 & C-3PO as well as Han & Chewbacca. Consumers would send in $1.25 (plus provincial sales tax where applicable) as well as two labels from any size can of Libby's Alpha-Getti for each puzzle requested. The offer came on cans of three different sizes - 8 oz fl/227 ml, 14 oz fl/398 ml and 19 oz fl/540 ml. Oddly enough, this promotion almost never took place. From the book: "Star Wars: From Concept to Screen to Collectible" pages 114 and 116 (Stephen J. Sansweet, 1992, Chronicle Books): 
Lucasfilm's interest in promoting only healthful foods also led to an initial turndown in 1977 of a Canadian promotion featuring an offer for a Star Wars puzzle on labels for Libby's Alpha-Getti, a canned spaghetti product. Libby's appealed, noting that its product was "a regular menu item for patients at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto." A compromise was struck. The promotion could proceed if Libby's also ran it on labels of an even more nutritious vegetable or tomato juice product.
Maybe those kids were sick because they were eating Alpha-Getti?

By the way, I'd love to acquire one of these Libby's cans. So if you have one that you don't need, please let me know!

And if you get a chance, head over to Scott's website, where he has lots of information on Canadian products, including the puzzles discussed here. Scott helped me out on this post by providing photos of the Libby's can and the Canadian puzzles that I don't have in my collection. Thanks, Scott!

Here's a chart I put together showing all of the Canadian puzzles. The years are approximations.

That's all I have on puzzles. Does your head ache yet?

Update 7/30/2018

Food collector Jonathan McElwain was kind enough to send me the below scans of several Alpha-Getti labels: specifically the 8 oz, 14 oz, and 19 oz examples, as well as a close-up of the puzzle offer.

Enjoy. And thanks, Jonathan!

Update: 8/1/2018

Pete Vilmur figured out the source of the odd composite image used on the Parker "Death Star" puzzle: Kenner's Destroy Death Star Game!

And Steve Danley noticed that the same image is present on one of Kenner's in-pack catalogs from the late '70s.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Archive Party IV Sponsorship Opportunity!

With the fourth episode of the Archive Party Saga coming opening night of Celebration Chicago 2019 (Thursday April 11th at ROW 24 Chicago), the time has come to recruit sponsors! This is the official call to the collecting community to be a major part of something fun that will support a very good cause. All proceeds beyond the cost of the event will be donated to a Chicago-area animal shelter/adoption organization (TBA).

48 Sponsorship spots (once again in honor of Skye’s favorite 48Bs) will be open. A very limited number of tickets will be available for this year's event, so don't miss out on your chance to guarantee yourself entry and the opportunity to significantly contribute to one of Celebration's can't-miss events.

All Archive Party IV Sponsors... 

Hereby promise to donate a sum of $425.00 to the "Archive Party Fund," with the understanding that none of the money will be returned, but that sponsors are allowed one additional guest and will receive all sponsor/standard attendee exclusive give-away items created from the Fund.*  

The first 48 sponsors that submit donations will secure their sponsorship and we want to have the deposit for the venue paid ASAP, so the sooner the better! 

Send an email to for instructions and additional details if interested.    

*Sponsors were allowed to split the cost of sponsorship for previous parties. This option will be available again, with the understanding that joint sponsorships can be split by a maximum of two entrees to the event. Any co-sponsors beyond that will be required to purchase an additional entry ticket due to very limited space. Joint sponsors will forgo their guest spots and determine among themselves how the exclusives will be distributed.

Thanks so much for your support,
Steve & Skye

Special thanks to Jarrod Clark for creating this year's sponsorship graphic!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Summer 2018 MarketWatch

Pete writes:

 Happy July Space Freaks! Wow, what a year it’s been and we’re only halfway through it. So far this year we’ve seen a major auction house wreak havoc across the hobby, a movie release that wasn’t well received by fans, and Star Wars Fandom becoming a hot topic on social media as in-fighting among fans reaches new heights. All of this together has created an interesting but extremely volatile market.

The one thing that hasn’t waned in lieu of all of these activities is that amazing pieces continue to come onto the market and perform well even vs. a year ago. The market is still hot, and although some segments like loose figures have lost some luster over the past 24 months with a rise in the quality and availability of reproduction accessories, packaged toys and pre-production continue to be strong.    

With all that in mind let’s look at some of the great pieces that came up on the open market via eBay over the first half of the year.


Revenge of the Jedi Box Flat AFA 85  - $785 - eBay listing
Well let’s start it off hot. Here we have something we don’t see hit the open market all that often: a Revenge of the Jedi box flat for the Tripod Laser Cannon. A great piece and a hot growing segment of collecting, box flats represent an interesting intersection between the pre-production and production worlds. They can be either based on how you look at it, as a box flat is usually identical to the production boxes, however most of those that have been found represent internal or salesman samples, pushing the majority onto the pre-production category. In the case of this piece, the line is drawn clearly to the pre-production side of the equation given the Revenge logo. Overall a great price with pieces like this and mini-rigs well passing the $1,000 mark in recent history.

POTF Luke Stormtrooper AFA 85 - $2,897 - eBay listing
Well, well, look what we have here, a clear bubble Luke Stormtrooper. One of the best figures ever produced by Kenner, this is also widely regarded as one of the most difficult pieces to find with a clear bubble in the Power of the Force series. Given that and the overall condition, the price of $2,879 seems about right for a top end example.

Early Bird Certificate/Display Stand U85 - $5,400 - eBay listing
Early Bird Package with DT Luke CAS 80 - $7,322 - eBay listing
Moving back to where it all started we have a pair of Early Bird items: The Early Bird Certificate/Display and an Early Bird Mailer Set with a Double Telescoping Luke Skywalker.  

The Certificate represents the start of the Star Wars series and because of that it will always have a special place with collectors. In this example, we have an open graded example in great condition. Not sure why one would open a sealed certificate, but to each their own. For the condition, it’s hard to argue with a strong price on this, however I think someone could find an open EB Certificate and get it graded for quite a bit less.

Next we have the payoff from the empty box promotion: a complete mailer set. This is a great example of a piece that seems to be getting harder and harder to find these days. Graded 80, it’s a clean example as many of the mailer boxes that survived are significantly damaged. Good price for a piece that needs to be cased to be displayed properly.

Sears Exclusive Skin-Wrapped Ugnaught MOC - $7,500 (Estimate) - eBay listing
Here we have a truly rare piece and one that like many other rare items has grown in value over the past few years by leaps and bounds: a skin-wrapped Canadian MOC. This particular example featuring the Ugnaught is one of a very few of these fragile and low production number items to survive into the modern era. Like Luke Hoth, AT-AT Commander (or as the Canadians knew him, General Veers) and a handful of others the skin-wrapped line was exclusive to Sears Canada for multi-packs. The figures are rare and when they come around they demand a commanding rate. In this case we can’t hone in on the exact amount, but it gives us an idea where they are trading for these days.

Lot of 40 POTF Coins - $9,400 - eBay listing
Hot and cold, the Power of the Force coin series is one of the most volatile segments of collecting when it comes to value and demand. The concept of completing a full collection of 62 of these is something that many collectors aspire to and in comparison to many other focuses or runs, this set is quite obtainable with two essential things: time and money. In this case, we have what I would recommend as a good jumping off point for anyone who is looking to start from scratch: a nice lot of coins of multiple rarity tiers. This is a great way to get some tough pieces along with what can be at times annoying to find Category 1 and 2 coins. Priced right for the market, it makes for a good deal for both buyer and seller.

DT Luke Skywalker MOC - $15,000 (Estimate) - eBay listing
For our last entry, we have what is considered by many to be one of the few Holy Grail pieces of collecting that made it to production: a Double Telescoping MOC figure. In this case we of course have a Luke Skywalker, the most common of the three DT figures. Now these have come up more regularly in the past few years then historically, and part of that is just due to identification of known examples and finds that have come into the market both from the wild and through former Kenner employees. Here we have a great example and the highest condition in terms of grade in recent history with a solid 80. The price is on par with what other examples have sold for in the last year, as well as the recent Hake's auction.

That’s all for this month. Until next time...

Wampa Wampa!
Fratastic Pete

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Kenner's Star Wars Puzzles

Ron writes:

 You're a kid in the fall of 1977. You've just seen Star Wars for the 11th time, and you're wandering through the toy aisle of a department store while your mother fends off the advances of the slightly louche gentleman who sells mops and vacuum cleaners.

What do your eyes fix upon?

Chances are they fix upon the first wave of Kenner's Star Wars jigsaw puzzles.

Remember, in the fall of '77 licensed Star Wars product was scarce. Kenner, the principal toy licensee, offered only a board game, two painting sets, and the Early Bird Certificate Package. Actual honest-to-goodness toys were still several months away.

So you're looking at puzzles. And perhaps you're thinking, "What have puzzles ever done for me?"

Sure, there was that time you and Timmy Perkins argued over who got to put the last piece into Farrah on that Charlie's Angels puzzle that his uncle gave him for Hanukkah. But that was different. You had a broken ankle. And it was Farrah.

Come to think of it, Timmy Perkins is Methodist. What is he doing getting presents for Hanukkah?

Regardless, you're not exactly convinced by Star Wars puzzles. But the pictures are cool; they really evoke the movie. And what are you going to do, buy a freakin' Micronaut? Micronauts just won't cut it. Not now that Star Wars exists.

So you look back over at your mom as you try to formulate a plan to ask her for $2.50. She's still talking to that guy. And now she's calling him by his first name.

Kenner's puzzle line debuted with four products spread across two assortments. One assortment contained a pair of 140-piece puzzles, one depicting the droids, the other depicting Han Solo and Chewbacca. The other assortment boasted 500-piece puzzles depicting a space battle and Luke Skywalker on his home planet Tatooine.

The earliness of these products is demonstrated by their aesthetics: They don't even look like Kenner Star Wars products.

Rather than the familiar black-and-silver color scheme that Kenner would eventually use on every Star Wars product that had no connection to Play-Doh, their boxes sported odd, almost fruity design schemes. While the 140-piece puzzles came in blue boxes, their 500-piece counterparts featured packaging of a color that can only be described as electric mauve.

Coloration aside, the boxes featured primitive star-field graphics and a motif of concentric circles that may have been a reference to the illuminated charts seen in the Rebels' command room on Yavin.

No doubt about it, with the possible exceptions of Blue Snaggletooth and the plush version of Chewbacca, these are the most '70s-looking things that Kenner released in association with Star Wars.

Perhaps the most amusing puzzle of the original four was the one titled "Space Battle," which featured an image of an X-Wing and TIE Fighter locked in battle.

This is undoubtedly the product to which Kenner representative Jim Black referred when he told Steve Sansweet that "One of the first things we shipped was a boxed puzzle that had so much black sky and so many small stars, that it was almost impossible to put together."

Impossible to put together or not, Kenner re-released the Space Battle puzzle as part of their 1978 line of products. And when they did, its box was sporting the familiar black-and-silver deco scheme.

Not only were all four of the early puzzles reissued in the new packaging, text was added to their boxes to make it clear that they comprised the first series of Kenner Star Wars puzzles. Lest anyone doubt that additional series were imminent.

For some reason, upon its reissue, the puzzle depicting Han and Chewie was packaged in a horizontally oriented box. The original blue-box version featured a vertically oriented design.

The photo I'm using to illustrate the puzzle featuring the droids provides a good opportunity to discuss a variation that affects the puzzles. If you look at the lower portion of the silver "racetrack" border, you'll see that the Kenner logo appears between the title and the circular element highlighting the number of pieces and size. This variation appears to affect all of the first- and second-series puzzles. In other words, all the puzzles from these series can be found in versions with and without the Kenner logo on the front of the box.

When the Kenner logo was added to the front of the box, age ranges were also added to the upper right corner.

You might also have noticed that, on the droids puzzle featured above, there is text below the title indicating that it was "manufactured in Canada." That's getting a little too esoteric for my tastes, but if you want to try to hunt down all the "manufactured in Canada" versions, be my guest. And then considering scheduling an appointment with your therapist.

So what about Series II? I know you're dying to learn about Series II.

The series consisted of -- shockingly -- four new puzzles! As was the case with the earlier series, two consisted of 140 pieces, and two consisted of 500 pieces. My favorite is probably the one seen above, depicting the duel between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader.

If you're looking at this item and muttering, "Gee, that looks a little odd," it's probably because the entire background, showing the Death Star hangar in which the Falcon is parked, is the creation of an airbrush artist. In the film, the orientation of the Falcon is flipped. I think it more than likely that the original background was too dark to serve as good puzzle material. So Kenner redid it. Also, the sabers have been recolored. Ben's yellow saber matches the accessory eventually packaged with the large-size action figure.

A variation of this image appeared on Kenner's packaging for their inflatable lightsaber toy.

This puzzle is entitled, very appropriately, "Trapped in the Trash Compactor!"

Exclamation points were added to the titles of the puzzles released in Series II, presumably to make them sound more exciting. Possibly someone at Kenner was following the lead of Topps, whose trading cards often featured titles with exclamation points.

This 500-piece puzzle featured one of the film's most iconic moments. It's a good shot of that moment, too. Hamill really seems to be feeling it.

Rounding out Series II was this 140-piecer depicting Luke leaning in to make out with R5-D4.

Clearly, this momentous event necessitated the use of an exclamation point.

As this page from Kenner's 1978 catalog makes clear, in addition to the Series I and II puzzles, the line for that year included two new 1,000-piece products, each measuring 21.5" by 27.5".

This example, entitled "Aboard the Millenium Falcon" (sic), shows the four male heroes contemplating the "small moon" that is in fact something far more sinister.

But the cooler of the duo, and perhaps the coolest item in the entire Kenner puzzle line, was this nifty number featuring the famous art developed for the movie by the Hildebrandt brothers. Factors sold tons of posters featuring this image; I'm sure Kenner had a similar idea in mind. Its title: "Star Wars Adventure."

Kenner's puzzles were a success. In his book Star Wars: From Concept to Screen to Collectible, Steve Sansweet claims that Kenner sold nearly 2.5 million of them during 1978 alone. That being the case, it should come as no surprise that by 1979 the line had expanded to include 20 different products.

Is this most extensive line of puzzles ever developed in conjunction with a single movie? I would guess so...

"Stormtroopers Stop the Land Speeder!," part of Series III, presented kids with yet another iconic Star Wars moment to -- erm-- puzzle over during rainy afternoons.

As the above image demonstrates, a variation affects the Series III puzzles. Specifically, they can be found with the Kenner logo either in the lower right corner or interrupting the bottom of the "racetrack." Note that the corner-logo version omits the age ranges.

Well, at least  the 140-piece Series III puzzles can be found in either style. I've yet to find evidence that the 500-piecers from this series exist in logo-in-the-corner versions. All the examples I've seen feature the logo in the racetrack.

"X-Wing Fighters Prepare to Attack" is one of my favorites.

Given the limits of the material Kenner was working with, it's a little surprising that this is the only puzzle that utilizes one of the images used on the company's action figure cardbacks. Note the mirroring effect used to extend the image on the left side.

Surely the most interesting puzzle released in Series III is this one: "Victory Celebration." As you've no doubt noticed, its box features a sticker that says "pictorial content of puzzle inside does not include these two characters."

It appears the folks at Kenner cropped the photo when producing the puzzle, but forgot to do the same when designing the box.

Okay, so maybe those two guys aren't the most exciting-looking fellows. And yet I find them intriguing. 

In particular, the guy on the left, whom I call Space Force Thomas Jefferson, has all the gravitas needed to pull off his hairdo. 

Certainly, he's more interesting than Space Force Steve Jobs, whose face remained unmolested behind the grumpy-because-he-has-no-medal Chewbacca.

Naturally, Kenner corrected the error by issuing this puzzle-accurate box.

I wonder: What did those two guys on the left do to warrant expulsion from the Star Wars toy universe? I don't know about you, but I find this example of Stalinistic historical revisionism to be more than a little disturbing...

Series IV was the final series of 140- and 500-piece Kenner puzzles. My rough impression is that the puzzles in this series are a little tougher to find than those in the other series. 

The title of this example, "The Cantina Band," pretty much says it all.

You know, it never occurred to me until now, but this must have been a hard scene to shoot. All those costumed children and little people carrying the R2 prop and trying not to trip over something. And having to do it while being "faster, more intense."

The puzzle's title is "Jawas Capture R2-D2."

Kenner never made a Bantha toy, but they did make this Bantha puzzle...though they blew their big moment in the spotlight by misspelling the creature's name. Their title refers to it as "The Banta."

Rounding out Series IV, and confirming that the series was an all-Tatooine affair, was this puzzle, "The Selling of Droids."

As far as I know, the Series IV puzzles do not exhibit a variation with respect to the placement of the Kenner logo. All the examples I've seen feature the logo in the racetrack.

While looking at the above-pictured spread from the 1979 catalog, you may have noticed that puzzles of a larger size were introduced in that year. They consisted of a whopping 1,500 pieces, suggesting they were aimed at the lucrative incarceration market. Because who but an incarcerated criminal had the time to put one of them together?

The title of the puzzle pictured above, "Millenium Falcon in Hyper-Space" is not only partially misspelled, it's inaccurate, as it appears to show the Falcon just kind of floating there.

Finally, we have "Corridor of Lights," featuring a rather odd composite image of a Stormtrooper firing his blaster within the Death Star's prison corridor. The image was also featured on one of Kenner's wholesale catalogs.

Well, that wraps up our look at Kenner's Star Wars puzzles. If you're looking for a one-shot overview of what I know to have been available, see the above chart (click to enlarge). Possibly I've failed to account for some variations? If so, shoot me a message and let me know. I plan to follow up with a look at the puzzles released in Canada by Kenner's sister company, Parker.

Update: 8/11/2018

Okay, so I was wrong that the Attack of the Sand People! puzzle is the only one to utilize the image from the Kenner action figure line. As Skye, Steve, and Scott point out in our podcast, modified versions of the images used on the puzzles were employed on the packages of several of Kenner's early action figures. Nitpicking: It's what we do.