Daily Lists, Movies, Toys

The 10 Most Embarrassingly Collectible Star Wars Toys of the ’90s



?By Adam Pawlus

In 1995, Kenner relaunched the Star Wars action figure line with all the hype you
would expect out of one of the biggest collectible toy lines of all
time. Naturally, since it came in the wake of the explosions of
interest and disinterest in both comics and trading cards, some toys
gained insane fame and fortune until cooler heads prevailed several
years later. It’s worth noting that some of these weird variations or
hard-to-get products weren’t intentional collector’s items made by the
designers at Kenner, but were simple product revisions, the kind of
things that happen all the time in Play-Doh or Mr. Potato Head that go
ignored. Fans had a lot of time on their hands, and in the days of the
line’s infancy, money too.

It’s worth noting that a lot of fans — perhaps even you — have many of
these items in their closet, stashed away for a rainy day. There was an
honest belief that the new figures of 1995 and beyond were to follow in
their ancestors footsteps on the secondary market, showing that fans
underestimated Hasbro’s ability to make dozens of versions of the same
character in the same outfit. Obscure little variations like this were
the discussion topic du jour of their day, not because they were
particularly amazing, but because there wasn’t much else to talk about
once you bought the first 9 action figures, the first 5 vehicles, and
the mail-in action figure from Froot Loops. So sit back, and enjoy a
glimpse into what it was like to be a hardcore collector of new Star Wars figures back when the whole line was genuinely new.

10) .00, .01

This may sound like meaningless jargon today, but early on Hasbro used
to print a “part number” on every packaged action figure. The suffix —
initially, a .00, indicated it was the first release. It may be
followed by a .01 or .02 as other changes were made to the “part.” Fans
didn’t know it at the time, but this only reflected the packaging– not
the contents. There were times that the figure was changed at the same
time as a package change, but this wasn’t particularly common. Minor
changes included a warning label going from a sticker to a printed
warning, a word being capitalized, typographical errors being
corrected, or a comma becoming a period. While this sounds incredibly
dull, fans did pay a $5-$15 premium on a $4.99 figure because they felt
the first release had some real significance behind it. Today, these
(and other figures on this list) are generally worth a couple of bucks,
a far cry from the price they rang up at when purchased at Target or
Toys “R” Us nearly 15 years ago.

So to reiterate: fans were searching for and buying multiples of
figures just because a little number on the back of the package that
you likely would never see changed. This kind of attention to detail
was unique to the early days of the modern line, by 2000 fans got over
it, and the original 1978-1985 action figure line never got examined in
quite this detail — although today people are cataloging the many
variations from the old days in great depth.

9) Lando Calrissian

While fans had very little communication with Kenner when this line
launched, one little tidbit was circulating that figures like Lando
would be in circulation for some time. The figure first shipped in
December of 1995 and disappeared by February of 1996. Panic! The once
ignored figure that shipped alongside Boba Fett suddenly became a hot
ticket, easily selling for $30-$35 in many comic shops with some fans
reporting price tags as high as $60, but it’s unknown if anyone
actually shelled out that much money for the figure. Lando figures have
been historically weak performers, and this figure’s popularity is
squarely based on the whole speculation that what was out in very early
1996 would be it, but more figures would ship through 1996 and into
1997. What’s particularly funny is if you get a look at this one today,
you can see that it’s a ridiculous, puffed-up muscular action figure
with bell bottoms and a passing resemblance to Billy Dee Williams.

8) Tan Vest Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker

What started as a simple goof-up by Kenner resulted in a rationalized
variant for fans to hunt. In the summer of 1996, Kenner released its Shadows of the Empire action figures which featured all-new designs and characters plus a few returning favorites from Return of the Jedi.
The very first shipments featured a Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker, with
his black robes, but with a significant change — his “vest” was tan,
and not very dark grey or black like it was supposed to be. Because the
character had a tan vest in the Shadows of the Empire storyline
plus it was another obvious, unique variation, speculators and fans
flocked to stores to snap these up as they stopped production almost as
soon as people became aware they existed. Like Leia, this goofy little
error shot up in value, only to plummet years later.

7) Monkey Face Leia

Crowned “rare” before she even hit store shelves, this figure was the
eighth release at retail, not appearing on the packaging of her
casemates. As such, she was something of a myth to some fans, not
believing she was out. Because of this, her price shot up immediately,
and she traded for $15-$30 for close to a year after she came out.
What’s particularly notable is that this is not a terribly gorgeous
figure, and fans hated
her. If you worked in a collectible or comic store in the Fall of 1995,
you would hear someone make a crack about the “Han Solo in drag” or
“Monkey Face Leia” action figure, and then plonk down an Andrew Jackson
to bring it home.

The “I hate this but I’m buying it” attitude remains with the line to
this very day, and can be seen on numerous other products if you watch Star Wars
collectible message boards. Due to the premium pricing involved, this
remains one of the best examples. Interestingly, the figure’s belt had
two or three rings molded onto it, depending on which version you
stumbled on, yet this never caught on as a widely collected variant
because the normal release in and of itself was seen as “rare.”

6) Short Lightsaber in Long Trays

The most important lesson in toy collecting is that things change.
These things include prices, colors, and the size of one’s accessories.
In early 1996, Kenner decided that the action figure lightsaber
accessories — once about 3 3/4-inches long — were far too large, and
were trimmed by about an inch to look more in scale with the toy
figures. For those keeping track, five figures were affected by this
change: Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker
(X-Wing Pilot Outfit), and Luke Skywalker (Dagobah Fatigues). But of
course, there was a transition period!

In this very brief window, Kenner was left with the packaging from the
long lightsaber figures, but had new, shorter lightsabers to ship. So
the packaging basically had a bigger slot than the weapon needed, and a
lot of fans jumped on these transitional releases, with some of them —
particularly Obi-Wan Kenobi and the white costumed Luke Skywalker —
commanding $30-$50. Again, for a tray. The ripple-effect of this
variation lasts to this day, as you will still find people trying to
get a premium price for these figures on eBay, and fans really did
shell out for some of these variations until roughly the time Episode I
came on the scene and tens of thousands of new fans decided that it
would not be these strange little variations, but things like Darth
Maul that would be “collectible.”

It’s worth noting that the aforementioned Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke
Skywalker (white outfit) with the short lightsaber in a long tray
really were tough to find, so there was a good reason for these to
command some serious buckage on the secondary market. They didn’t
become more common with time, it’s just that when faced with thousands
of other Kenner and Hasbro figures and accessories to buy, fans moved
on quickly.


5) Orange Card, Green Card

In the waning days of 1996, Kenner did something shocking — they
released 8 new action figures, and within weeks, these action figures
had their packaging completely changed! A batch of orange-tinted
figures, which matched the entire line up to that point, got out of
R5-D4, Jawas, Luke Skywalker in Stormtrooper Disguise, Momaw Nadon,
Greedo, Death Star Gunner, Tusken Raider, and a Tatooine Stormtrooper.
Hasbro decided to make the packaging green for 1997, and sure enough,
they changed almost immediately. As you might have guessed, fans were
paying $20 per figure in many cases to get them on the original orange
cardbacks, for reasons that are difficult to explain to any rational
human being — but if you were there at the time, there was a definite
genuine excitement behind these things.

Eventually, all the early 1995 and 1996 action figures save for a
couple would transition to the new green look. Still, it was only those
eight that commanded any serious interest on the secondary market and,
again, this has since evaporated like so much blue milk on a sunny
spring Tatooine afternoon.

4) Broken Hands

What does the 1996 Han Solo in Hoth Battle Gear have in common with the
1996 Tusken Raider action figure? Both were shipped with a design
flaw — each had a hand unable to grip a weapon. The Tusken Raider’s
hand was fused shut into a circle, making it hard to hold on to his
staff weapon, the Gaffi Stick. Meanwhile, Han Solo in Hoth Battle Gear
had a “broken” hand which was sculpted to look good, but totally unable
to grip any accessories. Like “error” trading cards, these two figures
did indeed go for a few extra bucks for a short period of time, and
were viewed by some fans as Kenner’s way of forcing them to buy more
figures. Seriously. This is not a joke, people really believed that the
Ohio-based toymaker was cranking out bum product and revisions so fans
would buy more of them.

As seen in the picture, you can kind of force it– if you push Han’s
hand right next to his leg, and cram the gun in there, he can kinda
hold it. The retooled version actually can grip the gun, though, so
that’s the one to get. But as they’re both worth about a buck, go ahead
and get the set — you’re worth it.

3) The Incontinent Wampa

This one is a bit of an oddity in that it’s a little tough to discern
how much of it is fan imagination, factory variance, or an actual
change. In 1997, Kenner cranked out some really cool, really big
12-inch action figure-scaled creatures like the Luke Skywalker vs. Wampa
set sold as a Target store exclusive for a couple of years. What’s
really notable is that the big fluffy Wampa, while mostly white in the
movie, has some yellow on him. Jokingly referred to as pee stains — or
at least, it’s assumed that it may be a joke — some of the earlier
figures sported a little more yellow fur than others. Of course, some
reported seeing fur in the later releases, but what matters is that
this goober was really tough to get for a long time and you could
stroll into a collectible toy show and expect to see a $200-$300 price
tag on it, and this was a $50 item. This lasted for quite some time,
and fans did put a slight premium on the figure if it had a little more
yellow on his fuzzy person. Fans not yet squicked out may also wish to
research a figure which fans referred to as “Money Shot Chewbacca,”
which we really can’t discuss in the confines of this column.

2) C-3PO

C-3PO was only the 9th figure released in the modern line, but due to
the insanity surrounding the first batch, he immediately became a major
collectible for fans who weren’t lucky enough to find him at retail.
Because he appeared on the back of the packaging — which is a great
source of toy release information — fans assumed he was out since Day
1. He wasn’t — and since he came out 2 months later than the rest of
them, there was a huge built-in demand and fans were paying upwards of
$20 for him. There’s nothing special about it, there were no unique
variations or packaging errors, it was just a case of what happens when
Internet rumors get out of control. “My cousin had one,” some people
said, while others said “My store said it was recalled because of lead
paint, that’s why it’s so hard to get.” The logic in this is beyond
ridiculous, as anyone that follows toy recalls can tell you that they
don’t merely slow down when toys are toxic, they send them back to the
vendor and issue a massive government-aided recall campaign.

For whatever reason, this figure stayed valuable for months after its
initial release thanks to some dealers buying them all up and a lot of
fans simply not knowing any better. This very C-3PO would continue to
ship for another two years, and eventually, he would get some packaging
variants and a Japanese greenish tint variant of his very own. Still,
it just goes to show that a little hype and a little knowledge can be a
dangerous combination.

1) The Gloves of Boba Fett

While some figures had to rely on rumors or some other odd event to shoot up to some crazy level of interest, Boba Fett
was and remains hot every time a new one comes out. In 1995, there were
two different overlapping variations which fans were paint
significantly for, seemingly because Kenner didn’t make enough stuff to
buy at the time. The very first releases of Boba Fett featured brown
gloves with two half circles on the back of his hand. Later releases
had a black circle. Guess which one started selling for $25-$30? As an
added bonus, Kenner also changed up the packaging, and samples of the
figure appeared on these slightly-altered cardback which featured a
minor, almost invisible grammatical change.

14 years and dozens of Boba Fett figures later, this is more of a
footnote or a curiosity than anything most collectors take serious
interest in. If you meet anyone that has these variations, it’s a safe
bet they were part of the hype in 1995 and 1996 when Star Wars collecting was based on three movies, a couple of comics and books, and a lifetime of memories with no prequels in sight.

Sponsor Content