Star Wars toy collection 1978 by Kenner is the most sought after by toy collectors. These Kenner star wars toys are from a large collection displayed temporarily in Chicago. I was at the movies opening day of star wars episode 4 a new hope as a kid.
The Kenner toy company produced a line of Star Wars action figures based on characters in the original Star Wars movie trilogy, episode 4 A New Hope.
Over 100 unique action figures were produced and sold from 1978 to 1985, during which time more than 300 million Star Wars action figures were sold.
Although the original Star Wars film, A New Hope, had been released in May 1977, Kenner was unprepared for the unprecedented response to the film and the high demand for toys, mainly due to George Lucas’s unwillingness to provide character/vehicle designs for fear his creations would be plagiarized by movie/tv competitors.
Unable to build sufficient stock in time for the lucrative Christmas market, they instead sold an “Early Bird Certificate Package” which included a certificate which could be mailed to Kenner and redeemed for four Star Wars action figures.
The first four figures to be distributed were Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewbacca and Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2). The box also contains a diorama display stand, some stickers, and a Star Wars fan club membership card.
By the time the action figures were offered for direct sale in shops, the range had been augmented with a further eight figures—See-Threepio (C-3PO), Darth Vader, Stormtrooper, Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi, Han Solo, Jawa, Sand People, and Death Squad Commander—bringing the total number of figures in the initial release to twelve. These were supplemented later in 1978 with a number of vehicle and playset accessories, as well as the J.C. Penney exclusive Sonic controlled landspeeder and the Sears exclusive Cantina adventure playset which introduced four new figures.
The four figures first brought out in the Sears Cantina set were released for individual sale with a further four figures later in 1978, bringing the total number of figures to 20.
Demand for the star wars action figures and accessories was such that Kenner continued to have difficulty fulfilling demand. Shortages of the toys in the lead up to Christmas 1978 led some to claim that Kenner was deliberately manipulating the market. Sales of Kenner’s Star Wars range in 1978 reached 40 million units, accounting for a revenue of $100 million!
Sales in 1979 for Star Wars action figures again topped $100 million. Kenner continued to introduce waves of action figures from the sequels and in 1984, the year following the release of the movie Return of the Jedi, the range totaled 79 unique character designs (not including the retired versions of R2-D2 and C-3PO).
In the anticipation of the release of the sequel movie The Empire Strikes Back, Kenner offered its first mail-in promotion, in which four proof of purchases could be redeemed for a new action figure, Boba Fett. This figure was originally intended to feature a backpack with a firing missile, but this was abandoned due to safety concerns. Similar mail in promotions were periodically offered through to 1984.
In 1985, the figure range was renamed Power of the Force in which a further 15 figures were released. Two further ranges of Star Wars action figures were also released, based on the animated series, Star Wars: Droids and Star Wars: Ewoks. The Droids range comprised 12 figures (two of which were identical to figures from the main Star Wars line) and the Ewoks line comprised six figures.
By mid-1985, the demand for Star Wars merchandise had slowed and Kenner discontinued production of its action figures.
Variations exist for most of the different figures. These can range from major resculpts and differences in accessories supplied with the figures, to differences in paint detailing, for instance in hair color, or differences in sculpting materials. Some variations command higher prices in the collector market due to relative scarcity.
During the Empire Strikes Back run, the R2-D2 figure was altered to include an extendable “sensorscope.” Similarly, C-3PO was resculpted with removable limbs. In 1985, R2-D2 was again altered to feature a pop-up lightsaber. Both the removable limb C-3PO and pop-up lightsaber R2-D2 were offered with alternate paint detailing in the Droids range.
The lightsaber-wielding characters originally featured a double-telescoping saber mechanism. This was changed to a single-telescoping mechanism early in 1978. As the Luke Skywalker action figure was part of the Early Bird promotion, proportionately more of these were released with the double-telescoping mechanism, while double telescoping Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi and Darth Vader figures are comparatively more rare and sought-after.
The Sears exclusive Cantina adventure playsetcontains four action figures. The Snaggletooth figure initially included wears a blue outfit with silver disco style boots, and is about the same size as the Luke and Han figures. Upon George Lucas’s request, this “Blue Snaggletooth” was subsequently corrected to represent the character as actually featured in the movie; and a resculpted shorter, barefoot, red-outfitted figure was released. Only the corrected “Red Snaggletooth” was released on blistered cardbacks, which made the “Blue Snaggletooth” more scarce and sought after by collectors.
Early Han Solo figures have a somewhat diminutive head sculpt. This was later replaced by a larger sculpt.
Early Jawa figures were released with a vinyl cape similar to that of Obi-Wan Kenobi. This was later changed to a fabric cloak.
In 2018, a rare double telescoping lightsaber version of Obi-Wan Kenobi figure sold for a world record $65,000 while a Darth Vader double telescoping lightsaber figure sold for $55,000.
From the period through 1977 to mid-1984, figures sold individually in stores were issued on cardbacks that corresponded to the most current movie, with figures being sold on cardbacks with Star Wars designs through to 1980, then on Empire Strikes Back cards through to 1983, followed by Return of the Jedi cards and Power of the Force cards in 1984.
As the number of figures in the range increased, the cardback design would be altered accordingly. Thus the earliest figures released for direct sale in shops were issued on a cardback, the rear of which illustrated the then full range of 12 figures, known as a 12-back. The 12-back was supplanted by the 20-back, and subsequently by the 21-back, the 31-back, the 32-back, the 41-back, the 45-back, the 47-back, the 48-back, the 65-back, the 77-back, the 79-back and the 92-back.
Variations exist for each of the cardback fronts. These range from differences in promotional offer stickers applied to the card to differences in the photograph illustrating the character. Variations exist for all of the cardback rear designs with the exceptions of the 47-back and 92-back designs that were only available in a single version.
As of 2012, there are 57 different cardback front-rear combinations recognized. This does not include figures released through overseas companies or the Droids or Ewoks ranges.
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