It’s (unofficially) Star Wars Week here at Collectors Quest, and as a longtime Star Wars collector, I’m psyched.
Because the universe of Star Wars toys is so ridiculously vast, I have to limit myself to those things concerning the Original Trilogy, as well as the occasional awesome alien, robot or Jedi. That’s it. You won’t find any Clone Troopers in my collection – no Jar Jars or Wattos, and no Anakins unless they’re bald, old or wearing big, black helmets. I follow a bastardized version of the old poison ivy credo – ‘Not original three, let it be.’ It’s saved me from both poverty and unsightly rashes.
While I don’t own anything especially rare, there’s a short list of action figures that most collectors know about and will keep their eyes open for at a tag sale. Keep in mind that we’re talking about the figures that are roughly 3.75” tall here – the scale that the Star Wars line was introduced in.
Before I count down the list (in no particular order), it’s important to note that I’m only including action figures that were produced and released to the public. The legendary ‘Rocket Firing Boba Fett‘ which allegedly choked a 3-year old child with its projectile was never actually produced, though a handful of unpainted prototypes exist (which have gone for $16,000 of more). These were never sold in stores – and the unfortunately airway-obscuring projectile was actually fired from a Battlestar Galactica toy made by Mattel.
1. Blue Snaggletooth (1978)
‘Blue Snaggletooth’ was released in 1978 by Kenner as part of the very first Star Wars figure set, both as a Sears mail-away figure and with the Cantina Adventure Set. When Kenner created this figure, all the modelers had to go on was a black and white photo of the creature’s upper body from ‘A New Hope’, and as a result, the figure differed significantly from the actual character – which was red, barefoot, and a whole lot shorter. Upon realizing this, all figures of Snaggletooth (also known by his Christian name, Takeel) after 1978 were remodeled to appear more film-accurate. While not overwhelmingly rare, this figure fetches prices up to $100 when loose, and over $400 while still sealed.
Recently, Medicom’s fifth line of Star Wars Kubricks even paid tribute to this collecting phenomenon by including a secret, super-rare Blue Snaggletooth figure, which itself fetches prices over $100.
2. Vinyl-Caped Jawa (1978)
Usually regarded as the second-rarest produced figure, the Vinyl-Caped Jawa was the result of a running change in Kenner’s production. The Jawas were released as part of the original 12 Star Wars figures in 1978, though because they were relatively small (even compared to the 4-inch standard of the line), Kenner wanted to give the consumer more bang for their $1.99. In order to make the figure appear more complete and a comparable value when displayed with the rest of the line, they replaced the cheap-looking plastic cape with a sewn fabric cape, which adorned all future Jawas after that initial batch.
That would be that, but toy once profiteers saw that this original Jawa was increasing in value on the collectors’ market, the forgeries began. With little more than an average cloth-robed Jawa figure and a piece of cheap, brown vinyl, people started cobbling together their own ‘VC’ Jawas and passing them off as original. Fortunately, today we have the proper dissemination of information regarding this, and there are extremely detailed webpages detailing the minutae of each version of the Jawa, from how the tiny eyes were painted to mp3s of the sound that your fingernail makes when running across the vinyl. Yeah, Star Wars collectors are wacky. It’s probably the only non-geological item that’s analyzed with a scratch test.
A loose, authenticated Jawa can net you about $1000, while a sealed and authenticated Jawa will get you about $2000. Authentication is important for these figures especially, due to the high rate of forgery. Even unauthenticated figures get get a few hundred bucks. I swear that I played with one of these as a kid.
Of course, we can suppose that the fake Jawa sellers are only operating in the spirit of the Jawas themselves, who tried pawning off broken droids to the Lars family on Tattooine. If the Jawas had access to the internet, and were real, and could read, they’d surely be giggling and shouting ‘UTINNI!’ at the whole debacle.
3-5. Telescoping Lightsaber Luke / Obi-Wan / Darth Vader (1978)
Right after Star Wars was released in 1977, kids were abuzz for action figures. Because Kenner wasn’t prepared for the popularity of the movie and the Christmas toy interest that it would produce, they instead sold boxed certificates which would entitle the bearer to a complete set of the first four Star Wars figures ever – an ‘Early Bird’ set that included Leia, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and Luke. The box that the certificate was delivered in also functioned as a display base, but the glee of Christmas morning often caused this box to be torn wildly open, so very few exist intact today – and almost none of the mailed in certificates. All those happy, tearing hands finding coupons inside of otherwise potentially valuable boxes – a Christmas morning that sends shivers through the Star Wars collecting world. Forget about the joylessness of a coupon – that box was worth something!
This earliest figure of Luke had a unique feature that wouldn’t be repeated in later Lukes : his lightsaber would extend from his arm, and a tiny little plastic blade would then extend again from within that saber. This ‘double telescoping’ feature would be repeated in the first editions of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader. These tiny inner-blades proved to be very fragile and not really convincing as action features, so they were quickly phased out.
Of the three, Luke is the most common, and I distinctly recall playing with just such a Luke as a child, amid the piles of Micronauts and Star Wars guys that my uncle had collected. I also remember stepping on an X-Wing, my uncle freaking out, and chewing on the end of Luke’s rare telescoping lightsaber – well before I knew the potential investment in treating your Star Wars guys kindly, of course. It’s the kind of moment you relive in your head with great regret. A loose telescoping Luke will get you around $600, if it’s in great condition, and only about 15 sealed examples are known to exist.
‘DT’ Vaders and Obi-Wans very rarely even surface, and when they do, a sealed one will earn you about $7000 or more.