Movie merchandising was really nothing to speak of before “Star Wars” came along. There were tie-ins, sure, and popular movies and TV shows had a few action figures that sold reasonably well, but in numbers that couldn’t come close to what Kenner moved in 1977 alone.
Around the same time fans started lining up (in front of the wrong theater, as it turns out) for “Revenge of the Sith,” Toys “R” Us, Wal-Mart, and other quality stores had a midnight sale to unleash the new wave of “Episode III” toys, including the likes of “Holographic Yoda” and “Lava Reflection Darth Vader” (I was holding out for “Lava Immersion Jar Jar,” myself). Hasbro, which holds the film’s toy licenses until 2018, is hoping to see boffo sales figures for what we’re told will be the last movie of the series.
Well do I remember my first “Star Wars” toys? I was told that I could have either a) one die-cast metal Shogun Warrior, or b) two “Star Wars” action figures. Realizing the virtue of quantity over quality (and still smarting from taking one of Gai-King’s chest missiles in the eye), I naturally chose the latter. My reward came in the form of Han Solo and a stormtrooper. Han bore little resemblance to Harrison Ford (his “Caesar” haircut made him look more like Barnabas Collins of “Dark Shadows” fame), and I’m pretty sure I lost his choking hazard/blaster within a week, but I was hooked. Before long, I’d beefed up my collection of figures and supplemented them with vehicles, playsets, and even that worthless Darth Vader carrying case.
Where “Star Wars” really led the way was in the number of variants available for each character. Admittedly, even the first wave had two versions of Luke (original and X-wing pilot), but with the release of the second movie and its multiple locations and wardrobe opportunities, the floodgates opened.
My collecting continued through “Empire” (I was a huge fan of the snowspeeder), but it slacked off pretty much for good by the time “Return of the Jedi” came out. I was almost in high school, after all, and could scarcely be expected to continue with childhood pastimes when there were video games to play and women to embarrass myself in front of. Like many of my generation, I unloaded all of it except for a landspeeder and some miscellaneous figures at a garage sale one year.
Do I regret it? To an extent, but I’m not one of these guys who laments getting rid of his figures because “they’d be worth so much today,” because they wouldn’t be worth s**t. The painted hair on most of the original figures had mostly worn away after six years of abuse, while the turbo laser in my Death Star set pointed at a constant down angle, thanks to a broken lever. Worse, half my stormtroopers were charred from repeated firecracker assaults (though this gave a few a really cool “battle-scarred” look). I think they’d be fun to have for nostalgia, not for value. Hell, if you took those things out of the packaging, it was pretty much game over from a collecting standpoint, and it’s what drives me nuts about collecting in general. Who expects a kid to leave his toys in a box?
The report continues in part two of THE STAR WARS REPORT: MAY THE SALES FORCE BE WITH YOU>>>