I was recently asked by Fabio Fiori and Dan Solo over at Tatooine Times if I would write a guest article for them. This means a lot to me to be asked to do this and I would like to thank them for the invite to become a ‘Special Guest Writer’.
It was published last weekend on their site, but they have kindly agreed that I could share it with our audience here at Jedi News. As you are all aware, my specialist area is literature, but I thought I wanted to try and do something different. Then while making my breakfast one Sunday morning, the subject of this article came to me. So, here we go!
POTF2 – The Rebirth of a Star Wars Collector
In early 1995, Hasbro announced the launch of an all new Star Wars toy range for the first time in over 10 years. They were going to be giving us all new sculpts of our classic characters and breathe life into the dormant collecting giant.
Star Wars was going through what is now known as the ‘Dark Times’, during the period between Return of the Jedi and the release of the novel ‘Heir to the Empire’ by Timothy Zahn. The embers of the fire grew and soon Dark Horse were releasing a plethora of new material and the fan base was starting to grow once more.
Back in the day, I remember being given my first figure, a second hand Luke Skywalker. Now I say second hand, and technically it was a gift. While out in the back yard playing with our old neighbour’s son. Darren, who was a few years older than me, had already amassed a healthy collection of the first wave of figures and in a selfless act of kindness, he gave me my first ever Star Wars figure! He gave me the start to my own collection. Darren had a paper round, so had some money each week to spend on his collection. As Luke was so easy to replace, as these figures were everywhere by then, on his next trip in to town he was replaced. And as they say, the rest is history.
My dad was a hardworking man, and always put our family first. He worked long hours for his money, but we weren’t as affluent as other families where both parents worked. I never went without, but the larger items in others collections didn’t happen for me. So, no Millennium Falcon, Slave I, Rebel Transport, TIE Fighter or X-Wing, I had to make do with Mini-Rigs, improvised ships built from LEGO or even scratch built cardboard models of sets. Up until the infamous last 17, I had every figure, even some duplicates, so although I didn’t have all the big ships, it wasn’t a problem as I had plenty of friends who would come round to play or that I could visit and utilise their collection.
We’d all raid our moms nail varnish collections and pick a different colour each and then mark our figures, usually on the bottom of their feet, to signify who’s was who’s when we had to tidy up and take our collections home with us.
Like many others, after the release of ‘Jedi’, I got to an age where other things took over. Football, girlfriends, work and eventually sharing a few beers with friends. But, little did I know at the time, work was going to be my friend in 1995. Work made life easier for collecting as I now had my own income. No more reliance on pocket money, washing up, birthday and Christmas gifts, I could go out and buy all that I wanted and what I missed out on when I was younger.
Now here comes the difficult bit to confess to. After losing interest in my Star Wars figures, I agreed with my parents that I would sell them. I don’t remember who bought them or how much I received, but I do remember it wasn’t much at all. In fairness the figures were pretty worthless as vintage figures go. All removed from their cards, well played with, rubbed paint, nail varnish coated soles of their feet, missing weapons, you know the drill, and the term we use is a ‘beater’. One thing I am sure of though is that if whoever did buy them had 10% as much fun I did with them, they will have loved them and hopefully they still cherish them now or have handed them down to their own children.
So fast forward to 1995, the relaunch was imminent and I had set my heart on a Darth Vader figure for on top of my PC monitor at home. This would serve as a permanent reminder of a great childhood each and every time I sat down.
The first Saturday after the release, I decided to go take a look at what was on offer in my local Toys’R’Us. I rushed through the aisles with my wife and her young brother left in my wake and found the all new Star Wars section. Memories of 1978 came flooding back and I must admit it was quite emotional. Not in a break down in tears way, but I could feel that 6 year old boy inside yearning to own it all again. I excitedly took all the figures off the shelves and looked at what else was available. I marvelled at what excitement these could bring to a new generation of fans, not knowing what was around the corner for all of us with the cinematic relaunch in 1997 with the Special Editions.
I found what I wanted, Darth Vader. Although he was looking like he’d been hitting the gym and steroids hard since I last saw him, it was still Darth Vader and I just didn’t care. £3.99 is all that I paid to take him home with me. My thirst sated and my mission complete, I returned home and unboxed him and placed him on display.
As the next few weeks went by, the draw of Vader kept me thinking. He looked lonely there on his own and come on there were only another eight to collect, surely it wouldn’t break the bank to buy the whole first wave? I was sure they wouldn’t make any more after this release and I could keep them as a permanent display and reminder of my childhood. So, I decided to complete the first wave, but a return trip to Toys’R’Us didn’t prove as fruitful as I’d hoped. They had sold out of some figures. Oh no, what could I do? Remember, this is a time before the internet had really taken off and online stores were a thing of the future. Other retailers were waiting for stock and some weren’t sure when they’d be receiving anything. This is the point where work became a great ally to me.
I was a field service engineer for a computer maintenance company based in Telford and the area I covered was the whole of the UK. Now, in today’s version of this role, many engineers are based to a certain region of the UK. But being able to travel far and wide, broadened my shopping network. As I trawled the UK’s motorways for work, I could call off and visit most of the Toys’R’Us sites in the UK. Slowly but surely my collection came together, the first wave complete and on display. No longer having to rely on pocket money to fund my collecting, the disposable income I now had made collecting easy. By this time the room with my PC in it had turned into a study and shelves had started to be assembled to house my growing collection.
Hasbro then announced a second wave, with more new figures and vehicles. These were all by now readily available at the likes of Jolly Giant, Beatties, Woolworths, Argos, Index and ‘all good toy stores’ and this made the search even easier. All of these retailers and many independent stores, except for Argos, are now sadly lost to us in the UK.
Then came the day. While having a disposable income, bigger purchases still had to be planned in with the household budgets. On a trip to my local Jolly Giant in Wolverhampton, I decided to take the plunge. My grail piece was finally coming home with me, the Millennium Falcon!
Now this may seem a bit mellow dramatic, but for me this was a moment I still cherish. As I have explained, I never actually owned one in the early days of collecting, but now there it was, my very own Millennium Falcon. Purchased with my own hard earned money. I’d done it, but it was now that I realised that I wanted more. In the following weeks an X-Wing, TIE Fighter and Land Speeder all joined the collection, but not just that. A full set of unopened figures to keep in pristine condition for my rainy day fund.
I now own hundreds of figures and vehicles of all kinds and don’t have the room to display it all. Most of my POTF2 collection is now safely tucked away in the loft as in recent years, my collecting habits have changed dramatically. While I still collect Star Wars toys, literature and collectibles my completest side has waned and I now collect what I like, rather than have to buy it all. In saying that, there is a thrill or a release of adrenalin when you find that hard to find item that you want on a peg in a shop or arriving in the post from an online seller.
Now, there is the stark reality to all this. Alas, the value I had seen them going for in my head or what I actually paid for them may never be realised, but the enjoyment I had assembling this collection was on a level like no other. But could that change with the 25th anniversary of their release only the matter of one year away?
POTF2 figures are much maligned for their ‘He-Man’ like appearance, but give them a chance. They are just as important to some collectors, much to the disbelief of many vintage collectors. In defence of them, I remember the vintage line of figures well. They didn’t look much like their characters a lot of the time as well did they? The model manufacturing business has evolved so much in this past 40 odd years, we are now looking at 3 ¾ inch figures that are unerringly lifelike, with super articulation, but super high prices. But, we all start or even restart our collections somewhere. Where we start and what we decide to collect shouldn’t put barriers up between sections of collector’s, it should help draw us all together.
All these things have also led to me being actively involved in the Star Wars community through my work as Literature Editor for Jedi News. This has allowed me to express my love for all things Star Wars in a completely different way. All of this comes from seeing a film that captured my imagination at the tender age of 5, followed by a gift a few months later. But that flame had been extinguished through my teenage years.
Then that Saturday afternoon outing to buy my ‘new’ Darth Vader figure in 1995, my collecting habit was reborn!