It’s been more than 30 years since Kenner released its first Star Wars figures. There are lots of fans who still hunt down these vintage figures.
There are plenty of challenges that come with being a vintage collector, so for our second part of our “Let’s Talk Toys” series, we spoke with toy collector and YouTube reviewer, Darth Bools.
He discusses what goes into tracking down vintage figures, what’s important to know going in and what he loves about the line.
Boba Bounty: When did you start collecting Star Wars toys? What was the first line you got into?
Darth Bools: I first started collecting Star Wars toys when I was around 4 years old around 1989, after I received all my older brother’s vintage Kenner figures.
BB: How did you get started collecting vintage figures? Do you get a different thrill from scoring from the vintage line than you do modern figures?
DB: I first discovered Star Wars in the late 80’s. At the time vintage stuff was the only line available. My brother gave me all his figures and watched the movies with me. We looked through his old Kenner stuff and I immediately fell in love with the movies and the toys. I definitely get more of a buzz picking up vintage pieces. I love the modern stuff too, but you can’t beat the feel and the buzz of acquiring a vintage piece you’ve wanted for years and finally having it.
BB: What are challenges with finding vintage figures?
DB: The biggest challenges I’d say are the obvious things, such as condition of the pieces, be it loose, carded or sealed. Also, finding them complete with real their original accessories. A big issue these days is the legitimacy of a piece, especially buying online like through eBay. You will often find re-cards or repo weapons sold as the real thing, which is very annoying for vintage collectors. Always know your stuff before buying online.
BB: What is special about vintage figures that still capture the hearts of collector’s today?
DB: There are so many things that make them special! You have the nostalgia factor, wanting to own something you once had as a kid. There is an unexplainable feel and vibe that this stuff has, like the fact its part of the history of the movies and toys. I can’t quite describe it, but looking back now, the whole lack of articulation made them better, they just scream retro and vintage. The vintage Star Wars stuff goes hand-in-hand with the Original Trilogy. It’s essentially an extension of itself. Nothing could beat the feel of the vintage Kenner line; it will always remain a league of its own compared to modern lines.
BB: What’s your favorite vintage figure? Is there a toy in particular that continues to elude you?
DB: Very hard question. I really do adore the whole vintage Kenner run, but if I had to pick a single figure, I’d say the original telescoping Luke Skywalker. It’s such a lovely figure and a great representation of the look and feel of the vintage line. The one piece to elude me till my dying day is the same as nearly every vintage Star Wars collector, the beautiful prototype rocket firing Boba Fett. I would sell a couple of limbs for that piece!
BB: What would you recommend to someone starting a vintage Star Wars collection?
DB: For any first time vintage collector I’d start with loose figures and work up from there. Mainly just get the things that really appeal to you, the pieces you want. Just be mindful, when buying vintage, to do your research on pricing and legitimacy of its authenticity. There are a lot of sellers putting prices too high or repo pieces. A good place to go is BriansToys.com, which offers a lot of vintage stuff and the prices are usually the average of what you would expect to be paying. They are a good pricing source guide.
BB: Where are the best places to find vintage Star Wars toys?
DB: EBay is great for finding a lot of vintage stuff. You can often find things you’re looking for on there, but as I said before, be cautious and do you research beforehand. Conventions are also great for finding deals from reputable dealers, as well as networking with them by chatting and getting their business cards and info for future purchases. If you’re lucky, like me, and have a vintage toy shop close by, they are always killer places to find rare vintage, very cheap.
BB: What’s the biggest difference between vintage and modern Star Wars? Just the articulation or is the difference more about nostalgia?
DB: Obviously there are major differences in molding and the tech used to produce these pieces. As I previously said, it’s mainly the look, feel and spirit of the items and their eras that make them different. They’re all part of the thing we love the most and will collect them as they continue to evolve over our life time.
BB: Anything else you’d like to share?
DB: All I can say is, collect what you love, keep collecting and, “May the force be with you!”
I’ve always seen action figures as more than just toys – I see them as pieces of art. Some artists have taken this view and expanded upon it, by creating amazing works of fine art, with vintage Star Wars figures as their muse.
One of the most recent artists to catch the eye of Internet reporters is Swedish-based painter Mats Gunnarsson. He is an oil painter, who has become keen on using the Kenner style action figures as the subjects of his paintings. Gunnarsson’s recent life-sized painting of Boba Fett is making its rounds on Star Wars sites earlier this week.
Even more impressive, is his portrait of all six bounty hunters from the Death Star’s bridge in Empire Strikes Back. Gunnarsson’s paintings captures the details of the sculpts, as well as uses light to present an almost life-like quality to the action figures.
San Fransico-based artist Rob Burden is another painter who uses vintage toys as the subject of huge portraits and murals. Earlier this year, he began a Kickstarter project. Burden set a goal to raise $24,000 to finance two Star Wars mural paintings – he exceeded that goal last month, the Kickstarter raised, to date, more than $34,000 – stretching his aim now to three giant murals.
Burden’s two oil paintings will be 10-foot x 14-foot – his largest projects tackled. The central character in one of the paintings will be vintage Boba Fett, who was chosen by contributors after a poll was taken. He previously created three 114-inch tall paintings of Threepio, Boba Fett and a Stormtrooper – funded from a $4,000 pledge.
The majority of Star Wars collectors are familiar with the storied past of Boba Fett’s action figure. The vintage Boba Fett was released as a special mail-away offer in 1979, originally advertised as including a rocket firing jet pack – a promise never fulfilled, as the feature was cancelled due to safety concerns.
It’s been rumored that shortly before the figure’s release, there was a court case involving a young boy choking on an accessory from the result of a similar firing action. Presumably, the news was enough to result in Kenner pulling out from their plans.
Boba Fett is one of the top five best-selling action figures in Star Wars collecting, according to many reports. We could argue the various reasons Boba Fett toys sell so well, but it’s all subjective. I have to say though, out of the dozens of Boba Fett action figures I have – the vintage figure is one of my favorites.
The sculpting of action figures has evolved greatly over the years, but the simple, yet elegant mold of the vintage Boba Fett, still enchants me. Earlier this year, Gentle Giant released a 12-inch jumbo sized version of the vintage Boba Fett. They re-wrote history a bit, as it is actually the rocket firing prototype – which never made its way to the general public, and is only available in a small number, however many prototypes were made, at high prices to collectors.
Gentle Giant digitally scanned an authentic Kenner prototype for its reproduction, featuring a J-Slot, one of the two firing mechanism types found on the prototypes – the second being an L-Slot. Usually when you blow something up, it becomes less detailed, but the Boba Fett jumbo action figure looks better than ever. It’s sleek, defined and pulls the eye in all the right ways.
Another 12-inch jumbo vintage figure was released for Boba Fett earlier this year, as a premier guild membership exclusive for Gentle Giant. This is the same mold as the previous version, but painted in its unfinished blue state. The deep red hue of the rocket, contrasts sharply with the light blue and is absolutely stunning.
The vintage Boba Fett will always be one of my favorite molds, as it’s not only just plain cool – but represents inventive toy design, captures a time in toy collecting and Star Wars fandom, nostalgia and most importantly – is simple – showcasing an era long gone.
The guys over at the Star Wars Collector Archive released their latest podcast, diving deep into the history and back story of vintage Boba Fett action figure. When Kenner promised a free mail-in offer for the first Boba Fett action figure in the late 1970s, kids were stoked about the rocket firing action promised with the offering.
However, the rocket would be deemed a choking hazard and the rocket firing feature was removed from the figure – except for a limited amount of prototypes – that today, go for as high as $20,000 to collectors.
In their Vintage Pod 34: Disney and Fett (Classic), a roundtable consisting of collectors Gus Lopez, Chris Georgoulias, Ron Salvatore and Tommy Garvey, discuss their personal experiences obtaining this rare action figure for their vintage collections.
Was the rocket firing feature an urban legend? What’s the difference between the J-Slot and L-Slot prototypes? Why was Boba Fett so popular? They tackle all these questions and more.
The guys also discuss the future of the Star Wars franchise, the acquisition of Lucasfilm by Disney and how new films could affect the market value of vintage Star Wars action figures.
You can download this podcast for free on iTunes or visit www.theswca.com/podcast