You may just have noticed the release of the latest Star Wars blockbuster, that’s if you were paying attention to social media, regular media or just people in general. Of course the appearance of Star Wars: The Last Jedi is marked by a simultaneous release of the latest batch of Star Wars toys. The mammoth, but soon to be closing, Toys ‘R’ Us chain in the States are offering no less than 74 different toys based on the characters in the new movie alone. These include light sabers, X-Wing Fighter Helmets, plush Porgs, NERF guns, LEGO sets and of course the action figures. Nowadays we expect every major kid-friendly release — and some adult-friendly ones too — to come with its own range of collectables, but this was not always the case. In fact we have to go back to the original Star Wars movies of the ’70’s and 80’s to find the dawn of the collectable market we know today.
The type of toys that accompanied the early Star Wars movies can now be worth quite a lot of money, as this article from Lottoland will attest. The Kenner toy company bought the rights to make the original Star Wars toys, after another company had passed on the opportunity. Picking up the licence proved to be a very smart decision. With only a month to go to Christmas when they won the rights to the licence, the company was swamped with orders but were unable to match produce enough to satisfy demand. Instead they churned out vouchers which could be exchanged once the toys were actually in the shops — the now infamous Early Bird Kit. The first batch of 12 figures were produced and released in early 1978, and despite looking fairly rudimentary to modern eyes they were a smash hit. Those pioneering figures included familiar faces from the first Star Wars movie, including Luke, Han, Leia, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and the droids. If you managed to resist the temptation to rip open the packaging when you first bought one of these in the 70’s they would be worth a pretty penny now. Some of the many variations of these figures have been changed hands for many thousands of pounds, with prices continuing to rise.
Kenner made more than $100 million from sales of that first dozen figures, and profits showed no signs of slowing down as future movies in the series appeared. By the time Return of the Jedi was released, the portfolio of figures had expanded to 79, not to mention the associated vehicles and playsets. Toy giant Hasbro took over Kenner in the early nineties and took over production of Star Wars collectables at the same time. By the time Revenge of the Sith – the third movie in the prequel trilogy – hit the screens, the accompanying action figures were much more lifelike, better designed with more articulation than ever. Eventually Hasbro would take the decision to make a set of smaller figures for the kids’ market (Galactic Heroes), and larger articulated figures (6″ Black Series) aimed at adult collectors, both of which proved successful and are still being made to this day.
There are now thousands of Star Wars collectable figures on the market, with prices ranging from a few dollars to thousands, depending on rarity. Their success has led to a world where there is a genre of movie that exists for no other purpose than to advertise toys: Transformers, we’re looking at you! While on the surface this seems like a negative, the fact is that people want collectables and they enjoy watching a lot of the associated films. As recent developments have shown, there’s still several thousands of fans willing to back and buy new Star Wars collectables, including the biggest ever made by Hasbro — Jabba’s Sail Barge, coming early in 2019 and costing $500.
For fans it means that there is no sign of the Star Wars saga ending anytime soon, and that can only be a good thing — may the Force be with you!