Over the last 25 years since the first Star Wars movie hit theaters, legions of fans around the world have followed the tales and memorable characters associated with each new release of this blockbuster saga. It is this die-hard fan base, not only in the U.S. but around the world, which keeps the Star Wars franchise alive and the market exciting for collectors.
No other movie in history has so much merchandise associated with its franchise. Not only did Director George Lucas alter the way licensing deals are now made, but Star Wars toys and action figures also kick-started a collecting craze that continues to this day. According to Sharon Scott, historian and author of Toys and American Culture: An Encyclopedia, consumers took note when well-preserved Star Wars toys started becoming collectible – and worth a bit of money. “From the 1980s onward, it became common for Americans to purchase toys and keep them for collectible purposes,” she writes.
As the story goes, 20th Century Fox, which released the first Star Wars movie, assumed George Lucas’ new futuristic space opus would be a stinker. As such, the studio had little interest in maintaining merchandising rights to the film. But Lucas had confidence in his movie and predicted a world where fans would wish to recreate his worlds via toys and collectibles. In a move that seemed reckless at the time – and probably had Fox execs chuckling at the young director’s poor negotiating skills – Lucas ceded $500,000 of his directorial paycheck in order to keep merchandising rights. George Lucas is currently worth $6.4 billion, according to Forbes.
What followed in the wake of Lucas’ faith in his movie was a vision for branding and merchandising Star Wars movies and their characters that continues to drive the market even today with each newly-released Star Wars movie. Thousands of licensed and unlicensed action figures, toys, and associated merchandise have hit the market over the last 25 years that today make for a collector’s dream, especially for “mint-in-box” items.
Toy companies such as Kenner and Hasbro, and later Lego and Disney, were quick to see the potential of jumping on the Star Wars bandwagon, and in 2012, Disney purchased Star Wars–and the merchandising rights–from Lucas for $4 billion in cash and stock.
Like comic books, Star Wars memorabilia is hot right now, both online and at dedicated auctions.
On May 4th, known as Star Wars Day, Star Wars memorabilia that belonged to the actor who played Boba Fett was auctioned off, bringing in a total of £155,000 ($191,164.44 in U.S. dollars). Actor Jeremy Bulloch, who played Boba Fett, the villainous bounty hunter in both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, died in 2020 at the age of 75 from complications related to Parkinson’s disease. According to Bulloch’s wife, Maureen, Bulloch left behind a “loved and appreciated” Star Wars collection that included unseen film reels and scripts. “During the 20 or so years that Jeremy attended conventions in relation to his role as Boba Fett from the Star Wars films, he acquired a large collection of memorabilia. He was also given items made by fans as well as a lot of artwork, some of it by well-known artists. Jeremy loved and appreciated every single item and proudly displayed them in his office.” A “substantial donation” of the proceeds from the auction was donated by the family to Parkinson’s UK.
Earlier this year, Hakes set a new world record for Star Wars memorabilia with a Kenner Star Wars Boba Fett prototype (complete with rocket launcher), made in 1979, which realized $204,435. Said Hake’s President Alex Winter in a press release, “The fact that it sold for so much… shows the current strength of the vintage Star Wars toy market and just how fast it has risen over the last few years.” Boba Fett and Star Wars memorabilia returned to Hake’s on June 2 for an online Star Wars Special Event Auction, where a Boba Fett rocket-firing L-Slot prototype (AFA 80+ NM) took center stage at the gavel-down price of $236,000 (includes Buyer’s Premium). If you have to ask who is Boba Fett and why is he so popular and valuable then you are probably not a Star Wars fan. Other featured Star Wars memorabilia at the auction included a Star Wars Early Bid Certificate (14,278), Vinyl Cape Jawa 12 Back-A, High-grade loose example of the Double-Telescoping Darth Vader, Loose example of the Mexican Lili Ledy Boba Fett (with removable rocket), Power of the Force Canadian Yak Face, and Star Wars- 12 Action Figures Rare Store Display Sign. In total, the Star Wars auction realized over $903,300.
With so many films released across the decades, the collecting potential for Star Wars memorabilia is outstanding. Over one billion dollars in toys, video games, books, and other merchandise since the first film’s release in 1977 has been sold. From a value standpoint, memorabilia related to the first three films tend to bring top-dollar and will continue to trend upward. It’s been speculated that collector markets may also find unique worth in original items from the Walt Disney and Star Wars merger.
What was once purchased and played with by children and fans of all ages to re-enact their favorite battles and battle stations with their favorite characters, has entered the pantheon of high-value collectibles, along with sneakers, comic books, and sports trading cards. With two more Star Wars movies planned by Disney for release in December 2025 and one in 2027, collectors can expect another round of highly-collectible licensed merchandise and limited edition items and character figurines to flood the market. But will they – should they – be opened and played with? While the enjoyment might be priceless, current market values might give you pause.