The Force is with Harris? Harris who?
By the 1970’s, H.E. Harris & Company, Inc. of Boston, Massachusetts was a dominant force in the world of stamp collecting. Much of their business was based on the “approvals” model, where the company made an introductory offering for a low price on the condition that the consumer agree to receive future offerings, which they could either keep (and pay for), or return. This is the same gimmick that Columbia House used to sell many of you 11 (no, 12!) albums for only a penny.
Harris was absorbed into the General Mills conglomerate in 1975. As part of General Mills, they were able to get a piece of the Star Wars action. This advertisement from the January 1978 Playthings trade magazine announced the Star Wars Postage Stamp Collecting Kit as a new product for 1978. The advert boasts: “The STAR WARS SALES FORCE is with Harris. The STAR WARS SALES FORCE can be with you...and the profit potential is out of this world!”
How could any self-respecting retailer NOT stock this product?
The Star Wars Stamp Collecting Kit included a stamp album, 24 Star Wars seals, 35 space-themed postage stamps from around the world, 300 stamp hinges (used to mount the stamps in the album) and a plastic magnifier. You can find a nice breakdown of the kit contents in this Fantha Tracks blog post by Richard Hutchinson.
The kit was available for purchase in several different formats. The boxed versions retailed for $4.95.
This version of the boxed kit, with black-and-white photos and text on the back side, was presumably the first version offered. The image of the Star Wars seals on the box back is different (and a bit cruder) than the final product.
This version of the boxed kit, with color photos and text on the back side, features an updated image of the Star Wars seals in their production form. The contents of the kit remain the same, but the box back layout is a definite improvement over the black-and-white version.
This awesome store display is from the collection of Ian Regan. It's filled with two dozen of the boxed kits with black-and-white backs.
This is the set of 24 Star Wars seals that were included in all of the kits. Although perforated and backed with adhesive, these seals were not official postage stamps. The sheet is pre-printed with a price of $2.00. I’m not aware of evidence that the sheet was sold individually. My guess is that this was just a way to add perceived value.
Harris released a set of six supplemental packs (Assortments 1 through 6). Each shrink-wrapped pack included six Star Wars seals that are unique to the pack, 10 cancelled space-themed postage stamps, and 300 stamp hinges. The packs were pre-printed with a $1.79 price. I believe that these were available at retail.
This is the set of six seal sheets from the supplemental packs. These seals are formatted consistently with the seals from the original kit, with the green Star wars logo and a caption.
Some of the captions featured on the seals from the supplemental packs are pretty lame, as if the person writing the captions just couldn’t be bothered to figure out an appropriate name to match up with the image.
“Fighter Ship." Really?
Last but not least, this seal features a poorly cropped photo of the “Sand Citizen”.
There must have been a ton of stamp kits left over after production ended. Both of the boxed variations remain readily available in sealed condition to this day. When you adjust for inflation, they still typically sell at about the same cost as the original retail.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this look at the Star Wars Stamp Collecting Kit and related promotions. As is often the case with these things, there is more to collect from this promotion than it first appears.