by Amanda Sheriff
The wonderful thing about Star Wars collecting is the multitudinous trove of material that spans across entertainment mediums and collecting focuses, centered around one series. Star Wars collecting has always been an element of fan appreciation, with series devotees compiling the movies on different formats, all types of toys, the original comics run, Expanded Universe (now Legends) novels, collector plates, vinyl soundtracks, and trading cards. But in recent years, Star Wars collecting has gained significant momentum, pushing 3-3/4″ action figures and movie posters from the late ’70s and ’80s to five-figure prices – feats that are not replicated by its contemporaries.
Star Wars toys had a major impact on movie tie-ins, movie marketing campaigns, and the toy industry at large. After being shopped around, the license went to Kenner, who received massive interest in the toys. The line began with 12 figures of main and supporting characters, followed by successive line releases for each of the original trilogy movies. Then in 1985, Kenner re-branded the line “Power of the Force” with new figures and reissues accompanied by aluminum collector coins. A total of 92 figures were issued in the original Kenner run.
Some of the most valuable figures are the Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Darth Vader double telescoping variations. The “double telescoping” term describes the lightsabers, which have two extendable portions. Few carded double telescoping figures remain, because Kenner switched the lightsabers early in the production process. In a testament to their rarity and desirability, Hake’s Auctions recently sold a Ben version for $76,700 and a Darth Vader for $64,900.
Another popular variant is the early vinyl cape Jawa figure. To add perceived value to the smaller-sized figure, Kenner replaced the vinyl cape with a cloth fabric tunic. Production of the vinyl cape version ended when they had barely hit shelves, making them highly coveted in the secondary market, reaching $10,000-$20,000.
Preparing for The Empire Strikes Back, Kenner created a rocket-firing Boba Fett action figure. But, the rocket-firing mechanism was deemed a choking hazard for children and was pulled from the line before reaching final production. The largely unpainted prototypes are among the most coveted series toys with an example selling for a staggering $86,383 at Hake’s Auctions in March 2018.
A Collectible for Every Star Wars Iteration
Expanding on the single figures, Kenner created 16 carded three-pack action figure sets and two varieties of six-pack boxed sets. Unopened multipack figures have seen a significant rise in value in recent years due to their extreme rarity. Sales have illustrated the potential for $10,000-$20,000 prices, prompting more to hit the market while collectors continue a voracious hunt for the limited supply.
After toys, movie posters are the most lucrative and popular type of Star Wars collectible, with a marked uptick in interest as the third trilogy of films began releasing. Since the first promo poster was made in 1976 through the new films, there have been over 200 poster styles created in the United States. They come in several sizes, have anniversary and re-release versions, and specialty posters. In general, original trilogy posters, large sizes like seven-sheets and 24-sheets, and select specialties, are among the most valuable.
Two of the rarest posters were both printed in 1978. One is the one-sheet that commemorated the first anniversary of the movie’s release, featuring a large birthday cake surrounded by the original wave of Kenner action figures. The other is the specialty concert poster used to promote the Star Wars Concert Series, depicting C-3PO and R2-D2 playing a litany of orchestral instruments. Both posters saw limited print runs, making them difficult to find and highly coveted by collectors.
Artistically speaking, The Empire Strikes Back style A poster by Roger Kastel is one of the most popular. Also known as the Gone with the Wind style, it parallels the art on the historical drama’s poster and routinely outsells others from the series. There was some controversy because the poster does not depict Lando Calrissian, who did appear on Kastel’s original concept poster. For that reason and the brighter color palette, the value of the concept poster has driven to upwards of $26,000.
Another must-have poster is the Return of the Jedi advance, originally titled Revenge of the Jedi, featuring art by Drew Struzan. The poster was pulled after the title was changed because the Jedi would not take revenge. Few made it to theaters. George Lucas sold the 8,000-9,000 that were printed to members of his fan club, which sold out in three days.
After the trilogy was completed, a few commemorative posters were created to incorporate and represent all three movies. The 1985 triple bill one-sheet, that was made for a one time showing of all three films, features the trilogy titles along with the performance details. It is extremely rare and among the most valuable series posters selling for up to $20,000.
Marvel’s initial run began with a six-issue movie adaptation, with #1 published before the film was in theaters. They started providing original stories at #7 introducing new series villains like the House of Tagge and Lumiya. Marvel adapted The Empire Strikes Back in #39-44 and Return of the Jedi in a four-issue miniseries separate from the main title. Valuable keys include #1-6, #42 (Boba Fett comic debut), #107 (last issue), and the early 35¢ variants.
Dark Horse published hundreds of comics in a variety of series, with adventures played out across a vast tapestry of time. The first limited series, Star Wars: Dark Empire depicted a galaxy still torn by fighting, with the Empire reborn under a seemingly new leader. Beginning in December ’98, Dark Horse began their ongoing Star Wars comic set during the prequel trilogy era. Other significant limited series were Tales of the Jedi, X-Wing Rogue Squadron, Empire, Knights of the Old Republic, and Legacy.
One of the most versatile and bountiful ways to collect Star Wars is in the hundreds of novels, which are set across hundreds of years in familiar and foreign territories throughout the galaxy. The first novel, Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker, was an adaptation of the movie that was published in 1976, months before the movie premiered. Other films have been novelized and there have been standalone and multi-book series for kids to adults. Most books are available in very affordable ranges, though a first edition of the first book sells for about $150 and copies signed by Lucas and Alan Dean Foster (the book’s ghostwriter) can go for up to $1,000.
Star Wars Continued Variety of Collectibles
As a series, Star Wars is ripe for imaginative fans who want to take the story into their own hands via tabletop and video games. Tabletop examples come in the varieties of role-playing, card, war, and board games, typically selling in the range of $15 to $50 new in stores and on the collecting market.
A timeline of video game progression and growth can be measured using the plethora of Star Wars games. From the 1982 The Empire Strikes Back Atari cartridge to games for systems like Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Arcade cabinets can sell for north of $1,000 and some of the vintage games clear over $100 if they are still in original, sealed packaging.
With so many great heroes and villains in the series, kids growing up in the ’80s wanted to be them for trick ‘r treating. Enter, Ben Cooper Star Wars Halloween costumes. The inexpensive costumes with thin plastic masks and vinyl-like material quickly sold out upon their introduction in ’77. The company continued making costumes for the series over the next few years, featuring box art for all three original trilogy movies. Most vintage costumes sell for about $30-$50, though R2-D2 (Star Wars box), Klaatu, Wicket, and Admiral Ackbar (ESB box), and Klaatu and Gamorrean Guard (ROTJ box) can fetch higher prices.
Star Wars got into the holiday spirit when Hallmark began issuing Star Wars ornaments in 1996. The first was the Millennium Falcon, then they introduced the official Star Wars Collector’s Series with Luke Skywalker, and since then there have been dozens more, including event exclusives. The most valuable examples are the limited edition ornaments created for comic conventions in San Diego and New York, and Star Wars Celebration, which sell for hundreds.
Topps has produced hundreds of base cards, specialty cards, and stickers in dozens of sets, steadily creating new lines for each film as well as specialty lines. On average, individual cards sell for a few dollars, even among some early sets, though the autograph cards and graded stickers from the first series can sell for over $2,000. Sketch cards or error cards like the infamous C-3PO card #207 and unopened boxes and uncut card sheets from early series peak in the hundreds.
As the series continues to thrive with new films and other media, and certain collectibles make headlines with exceptional sales, interest in collecting Star Wars memorabilia shows no signs of slowing or stagnation. Though some material continues in the same price range, the rarities, unopened items, and high grade collectibles continue to grow in value. No matter the budget, Star Wars material is accessible to all collectors interested in the space opera.
Amanda Sheriff is the Associate Editor of Gemstone Publishing and author of The Overstreet Price Guide to Star Wars Collectibles, available at gemstonepub.com.