Three Pack Hunting

One of the most fascinating aspects of Star Wars collecting is learning about other collectors and their interests.  You’ll quickly find out that collectors have different goals, passions and foci and these can range from assembling loose or carded collections right through to oddballs and ephemera such as stationary and documentation.  Whatever your journey, you will realise that there is a vast range to collect.

However, some areas of collecting came in limited runs and one of these areas is the Star Wars 3-Pack sets.

What you see here is the full set of Kenner 3-packs which were available in limited numbers from 1978-1982.  Surely, collecting 16 packs of figures shouldn’t be too difficult?  Well, the images above are from an auction back in July 2016 and had an estimate of between $150,000 – $200,000. Gulp!  Even more surprising when considering that these were for retail at the same price of a typical mini-rig back in the day.

Why are they so expensive?  As previously stated, they were released in limited runs and only to larger department stores in the US.  As a side note, Kenner Canada also ran a similar promotion and those 3-packs are even more difficult to acquire.

So, as you’ve probably realised Star Wars 3-pack collecting is an entirely different level of collecting.  But if you think collecting these are tough, what about pre-production items for them?  Surprisingly, there seems to be (relatively speaking) a lot of pre-production out there for this market.  But it won’t come cheap, or any time soon.  How does 18 years sound?

What you see here is a Bespin Set 3 pack Trademark Sample recently purchased by Chris Caswell a 3 pack preproduction collector.  This would have been used internally within Kenner to identify final changes required before the full production run.  The reverse of the set has more.

As you can see on the reverse the Kenner employee has written ‘see notes’.  Sadly, the notes are no longer with us and we can only speculate what they contained.  Chris was aware of this 3 pack from an advert he saw on Chris Georgoulias’ scrapbook website.  Even the prices back then were high!

I am delighted that Chris has not only managed to acquire this piece, but has also showcased it around the community.  It is true testament to how networking and raising your profile can help shake tough pieces from other collectors’ hands.  Often newer collectors coming into the hobby attempt to prise these items loose with money but this is not always successful.  Nothing beats networking, demonstrating interest and passion for the hobby we enjoy.

So, what other pre-production items are out there?  When compiling research for this article I happened to notice an update to another fellow collector’s Facebook profile.

Jesse Cedar Soberman is another collector with a keen interest in 3-packs.  As you can see from the picture above, Jesse has managed to not only acquire a good proportion of the production 3-packs in his collecting journey but also has some pre-production items too.

Over to the top left you can see a prototype box before a stunning run of production sets.  Along the bottom row from the left we firstly have an unproduced box flat which would have been one of the final stages before the boxes were approved and produced.  This is followed by four different cromalin proofs which are the among the final stages for tweaks and proofing.

In reality, these should not still exist to this day.  Pre-production items were never intended to be kept, and certainly not to be in collectors’ hands.  It is through the diligence of the early collectors, who visited Kenner employees in the mid 1990s, and former Kenner employees such as Tom Neiheisel that we are fortunate that these and other pre-production items are around to appreciate and understand their place in the 3 pack run.

Special thanks to Chris Caswell and Jesse Cedar Soberman for assistance in this article

Photos © Chris Caswell, Jesse Cedar Soberman, Chris Georgoulias,

Richard Hutchinson
Richard's love of the community side of Star Wars is infectious and he can often be found supporting toy shows, such as Farthest From, and Celebration. He is co-host of The Vintage Rebellion podcast which is a monthly vintage Star Wars collecting show.