As I mentioned a few years back, we, by which I mean people who started collecting in the '90s or later, often forget that collectors existed earlier, in the '80s or even -- gulp -- the '70s. To the average vintage collector, collecting at a time when merchandise was on store shelves seems odd, possibly even slightly wrong. The question inevitably arises: Is it even collecting if you're just buying at retail? But as the articles shared in this post by Jonathan McElwain make clear, for a Star Wars collector in the '70s and '80s, keeping up with the constant stream of licensed merchandise could be tough. Not everything could be found on store shelves. Shoot, to acquire a scarce piece, you might even have to trade an Olivia Newton-John standee. And if you missed out on an item, there was no eBay. You might never see it again. Poof!
By the way, is it wrong of me to think that it's a little nuts to treasure a mylar teaser poster over an Olivia Newton-John standee? I know the poster is worth a lot of money while the standee isn't, but still. Money isn't everything. If anyone has an ONJ standee in nice shape, I'm buying.
Old fanzines and newsletters offer a glimpse into what early fandom was like. While most ‘zines tended to cater to the broader interests of fans, featuring fictional stories and artwork, a relatively small number included coverage of Star Wars collecting.
This entry highlights a series of Star Wars collecting articles that were featured in an obscure fanzine called The Old Variety Store (TOVS). TOVS started in 1987 as The Toy Candy Container and Food Premium Collector, but changed its name after two issues to The Old Variety Store. TOVS was published by Steve Powers from 1987 to 1989. You can find a complete archive of TOVS issues on The Wonderful World ofPEZ® website.
Issues 4, 5, and 6 of TOVS featured a three-part series of articles written by an early collector Bill Powers (brother of the publisher) titled Star Wars: A Collecting Experience. This trilogy of articles was published in 1987 and 1988. I think you’ll enjoy these reflections from an early collector who assembled a diverse collection, contemporaneously with the film releases.
Part I focuses on the original Star Wars film. This article includes memories of trading an Olivia Newton-John standee for a teaser poster and recalls the sting of missing out on the California Originals tankards when they disappeared quickly from store shelves.
Part 2 primarily covers The Empire Strikes Back era. This article recalls overpaying for the McQuarrie Art Portfolio, missing out on a test screening at the Northpoint Theatre, and collecting at convention dealer rooms in the early 1980’s following the sequel’s release.
Part 3 includes the release of Return of the Jedi and the ensuing years. The article covers the Revenge of the Jedi poster, snooping around ILM, attending the 1985 Trilogy screening at the Coronet Theater, and finally acquiring the California Originals Chewie tankard, missed nearly a decade earlier, at the 10th Anniversary Convention.
You often hear collectors wishing they had a time machine to go back and buy things when they were on store shelves. These reflections provide an interesting perspective on the realities of actually trying to “collect them all” even if you were an active collector at the time of release.
Thanks to Bill Powers and Steve Powers for the original content which is highlighted in this entry. Thanks to Bob Tipton of The Wonderful World ofPEZ® for kind permission to include scans of TOVS Issue #5.