Star Wars toy Throwback Thursday: The rarest toys from a galaxy far, far away

There has been an awakening. Have you felt it? It is the feeling of toy packages being ripped open, with new Star Wars Episode VII toys spilling out to the potential tune of $5 billion --  according to Disney’s estimates. And while the festivities kick off today, tomorrow is the true return of the Jedi, when the toys go on sale on a day dubbed “Force Friday.”

No doubt kids of all ages, this one included, will be scouring the aisles for some sweet Force Awakens toys, but let’s not forget some of the most popular (and most valuable) Star Wars toys of days gone by. So before you engage lightspeed to the toy store for Force Friday, enjoy this Star Wars toy Throwback Thursday of the MVPs from a galaxy, far, far away.


Double Telescoping Lightsabers

When the first Kenner Star Wars toys began arriving in 1978, action figures of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi had what is known as double telescoping lightsabers. The lightsabers were housed in a hollow tube on the figure’s arms and would slide out. But the double telescoping had an additional, thinner saber that would extended even further out. These would break easily, and so the model was updated to have a single telescoping saber. The Luke figure was part of the original four Early Bird figures and is less rare than Obi-Wan or Vader. Another interesting variation on these figures includes the hair color; young Skywalker goes from blond to brown to yellow, while Old Ben’s goes from gray to white. And oh, hey, his lightsaber was also yellow.


Han Solo with Blaster

Han was one of the “original 12” figures shown on the back of the 1978 series of Star Wars toys, and remains a hot item if you can find him in his blistered packaging with his sidearm. Also, the old phrase about two heads being better than one applies here. Han was initially released with a smaller head, then a later version had a much bigger (too big!) noggin meant to resemble Harrison Ford more (it didn’t). Both versions are desirable, but the smuggler with the smaller melon is harder to find.

credit: The Star Wars Collector's Archive

Boba Fett with Firing Rocket

In 1979, the fearsome bounty hunter was also a danger to kids when his original action figure was created. Boba was the first Star Wars mail-away figure, and was supposed to come with a rocket-firing action, but the projectile was deemed to be a potential choking hazard. So the rocket-firing Bobas out there are prototypes, and not official products. But what is curious about the Sarlacc snack is that he was initially released on a Star Wars card, and not a The Empire Strikes Back one – despite the fact that he wasn’t in the original edition of the movie. He was later carded with ESB, so the SW cards are quite collectible. The figure is additionally notable for featuring original artwork on the card, and not a movie still. There is also a European release version called the “trilogo” (with the movie logo displayed on the card in three languages to cut costs) Boba Fett figure, which has more of a lighter gray coloring instead of blue on the toy.

credit: eBay user BriansToys

Yak Face

Although he may not be the most popular Star Wars characters, he has become one of its more famous toys. Ol’ Yakky was the final figure that went into production before the 1985 cancellation of Kenner’s Star Wars line. Yak Face never made it to shelves in the U.S., but Kenner – to avoid eating the entire cost -- sold the toy in Europe, Australia, Asia and Canada. He was alternately sold with a collector’s coin and weapon, and on a trilogo card without either.

credit: The Star Wars Collector's Archive


Unless you’re a big fan of Star Wars: Droids (and if so, why?) or toy collecting, you’re likely not familiar with Vlix. But he is a highly sought-after toy never sold outside of Brazil. When the cartoon was canceled, Kenner had already begun making the figure of the villain as part of the second wave of toys. Only a company called Glasslite was able to get him to retail in the South America country where they held the rights. As a result, Vlix on a card is exceptionally rare.

credit: The Star Wars Collector's Archive

Blue Snaggletooth

First off, let’s acknowledge that “Snaggletooth” is a very unkind epithet for the Snivvian species first seen in A New Hope. Still, the Blue Snaggletooth is one of the more well-known Star Wars collectibles, though not necessarily the hardest to track down. Originally sold as part of the four-figure Cantina Adventure “playset” (basically a stand-up cardboard set), Blue Snaggletooth was created by Kenner designers based on a black-and-white headshot of the creature. So it was a little surprising when they found out the movie character was not dressed in blue clothes with boots and human-sized, but instead was a short little barefoot dude in red. Blue Snaggletooth was available in 1978 through the Sears Christmas catalogs, and in a Sears mail-away two-pack with Greedo. By 1979, Red Snaggletooth had replaced Blue. Also, fun fact, fandom has determined Red and Blue are actually different characters, and that the Snivvian seen in ANH is Zutton (Blue), and Zutmore (Red) was the one seen in The Star Wars Holiday Special.

credit: The Star Wars Collector's Archive

FX-7 Medical Droid from Palitoy

This figure deserves an honorable mention, though it’s a bit of an anomaly. A figure of the medical droid – which helped patch up Luke on Hoth in ESB – sold at auction in 2014 for about $12,000. Instead of Kenner, this carded toy was from the British company Palitoy. Why the droid sold for so much remains a mystery, but demand for it has increased -- though you can still get one on the card for less than a grand.

credit: The Star Wars Collector's Archive

Jawa with Vinyl Cape

These little guys are infamous for more than just being shrewd scavengers. Within the toy world, their vinyl cape varieties have the distinction of being the most faked (and the most valuable) Star Wars collectible. The Jawas were the final item to of the original ’78 toy line to be released, and were initially sold with this cape. However, Kenner decided the small size of the figure, and the cheapo cape, was kind of a ripoff to consumers paying the same price as they would for a full-sized fig. So they replaced the cape with cloth one, which looked way better. Vinyl-Cape Jawa has since become very rare and created a situation where frauds would attempt to fake the cape using an Obi-Wan version cut down to size (though most true Jawa vinyl capes, aside from some sold in Australia and New Zealand, are slightly lighter in color than Ben’s).

credit: Mental Floss

LEGO Chrome-Plated C-3PO & LEGO Yoda Toy Fair Cube

Although many of the collectibles here are Kenner action figures, the LEGO mini-figs certainly drive fans wild as well. The most famous is the 2007 30th-anniversary gold chrome-plated C-3PO added to 10,000 playsets and sealed in a white bag (Mental Floss has a nice list of LEGO collectibles, such as this one). Perhaps even more rare is the Yoda Chronicles 2013 Toy Fair cube distributed to a limited number of press. The cube contains a LEGO Yoda mini-fig in a “I heart NY” shirt, and standing on a Star Wars-themed Times Square corner. 

credit: The Star Wars Collector's Archive

Prototypes and Proofs

Firing-rocket Boba Fett notwithstanding, all the toys listed here made it to market in some capacity. But there is a collectibles market for internal mockups and tests from Kenner that never should have seen the light of day. For instance, before the last-minute title change to Return of the Jedi, the toy company had already printed up 50 proof cards with the Revenge of the Jedi logo. In total, a series of 50 were created, including a white error card that is incomplete. How many of each card was printed, or how many full sets, is a mystery -- which makes these highly valuable. Similarly, figure prototypes were often test packages in blisters on cards to see how they’d fit. This led to figures such as Han Solo in a trench coat without camouflage from ROTJ, or Bib Fortuna in a white coat instead of brown. Since these were simply tests, it didn’t matter what the card was, so they’d be put on mismatched backings for other characters.

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