Variant collecting is nothing new in the hobby but over the last few years it has taken on a life of its own. Dedicated collectors are scrutinising the minute details between figures and attempting to backtrack their journeys from the productions factories in the Far East, Europe and Central America to match them with their moulds. There are equally passionate collectors who think that most of the variants are a myth and are a result of collectors looking too much into the figures. Does a figure count as a variant if the paint was mixed slightly differently at the start of the batch? Or if through 40 years of degradation new colours start to appear such as gold chrome or green limbs? Some would say yes and others say absolutely not.
Today I’m going to look at the Red Bar R5-D4. This is not a new term although it has shot to prominence in the last 12 months. It even has its own subcategory on the Star Wars tracker which shows the changing prices over the last year. I’m not so certain that the Red Bar is worthy of such a category and personally I feel that only major variations such as Vinyl Cape / Cloth Cape Jawa should be awarded such distinction.
Firstly, how to identify a red bar. Here they are together. Can you see it?
You will see that the one on the right has a tiny rectangle coloured in red, hence known as the Red Bar R5.
So, where did these come from? We know that conscious decisions were made to alter figures such as Tusken Raider Hollow Tubes v Solid Tubes. Someone at Kenner for whatever reason made the decision to improve the sculpts and the tooling was therefore modified. Does anyone truly believe that the same is true for R5-D4? Research suggests they do!
What I believe to be far more likely is that one of the three main production facilities in the Far East (Kadar looks like the culprit) ran off batches of stickers that had the red bar. Whether this was spotted and correct later on, or whether nobody really cared, we don’t know the answer to. It was initially believed to be an error on the 77a Return of the Jedi carded figures due to the volume that have turned up over the years.
until they discovered them on the Star Wars cards here.
There are no known carded Empire Strikes Back Red Bar R5-D4s however an image of one is rumoured to exist. There have been all sorts of explanations as to how they have been found on Star Wars and Jedi cardbacks including using overstock from initial printings or late assembling of earlier figures. Here is a fantastic shot by fellow R5-D4 collector and a good friend Brian Angel (he’d be sure interested if you have an ESB or Trilogo Red Bar in your collection)
And finally, the prices. How does this tiny red bar affect the prices of the loose and carded figures? Surprisingly carded figures have been bought and sold for not much more than regular R5s. If you have a carded one you’re not going to get rich quick I’m afraid. The loose ones are going nuts however with a decent condition red bar R5 hitting around £170 compared to £15 for regular as of July 2017. It’s very unlikely that the Red Bar R5 craze will last and we’ll be moving onto Disco Boots Death Squad Commanders or unpainted hip Luke Bespin’s again in no time (I have not made either of those up!) Anyone wanting to buy a Red Bar R5-D4 my best advice is to check Ebay US where they appear with a fair regularity. Check those images closely, especially job lots as you could grab a bargain, but be careful there are reproduction stickers of Red Bar R5 making the rounds too.
Photos © Brian Angel, Richard Hutchinson, Brian’s Toys