Star Wars Early Bird Certificate (Kenner – 1977)

A Legend is Born!

For my very first Toy Spotlight article, I wanted to focus on something that changed the way modern toy lines are created and sold. An item that was not only a pioneer in the action figure industry, but a true game changer in retail. There are certainly many to chose from, but in the end, I went with the one that changed my life personally. So without further ado, I humbly present Kenner’s Star Wars Early Bird Certificate from the Holiday season of 1977.

When George Lucas began shopping around for a company to distribute products and toys from his new Science Fiction movie called Star Wars in 1977, nobody seemed too interested. Mego Toys had famously passed on the opportunity, but a small company named Kenner Toys decided to take a chance on it. At that point, Kenner was most known for Easy Bake Oven, Lite Brite and the Six Million Dollar Man line. Once the movie actually hit theaters, Star Wars took everyone by surprise with its immense success, which put Kenner in immediate scramble mode for new products. Due to their late start, Kenner had only produced a handful of items for 1977, such as puzzles, bop bags and a board game. They still wanted to get something out to the public to showcase their upcoming action figure line for the holiday season, thus, the Early Bird Certificate was born.

The Early Bird Certificate Package began with a “promise” of new Star Wars action figures. The certificate was basically the toy world’s first “pre-order”. It essentially said the consumer who purchased the Early Bird package would receive the first four Star Wars action figures ever, delivered right at their doorstep before ever being released to the general public. This was a brilliant promotional idea by Kenner, but one that was made out of necessity. Consumers gobbled them up quickly and it became a smash hit for Kenner. Along with the mail-order form that was needed to send in for the new figures, there were some other nice goodies inside the cardboard envelope as well. Included was a foldable cardboard stand, featuring portraits of each of the original 12 Star Wars figures, and small white pegs that would allow the figures to stand up on the display when inserted into the small holes on their feet. Also included were a cardboard photo of Han and Chewie, another cardboard photo of a Stormtrooper, a Space Club Card that could be filled out with your name on it, and a nifty Star Wars mini catalog featuring all of the upcoming Star Wars toys inside of it, including photos of all 12 of the upcoming action figures.

Then in early 1978, a plain white package arrived in your mailbox, containing the first four figures, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, R2-D2, and Luke Skywalker. The Luke figure is the most noteworthy of the four due to his lightsaber. It had the same arm-fed saber that other Luke figures had, but with an additional telescoping tip that could slide out to make the lightsaber even longer. Kenner quickly realized that additional piece was easily broken and unnecessary, so it was eliminated on future releases, making this Early Bird Luke figure very rare. The Leia, R2 and Chewbacca figures were essentially the same as the ones released at retail. Each figure came inside of a sealed plastic baggie, which were then all placed in a plastic tray that was grooved out to fit each figure.

The rest of the regular figures were released later in 1978, and the world was never the same. With all of their action figure and accessory innovations, Kenner began a new era in the toy industry and completely revolutionized how toy lines are marketed and sold to this date. Early Bird Certificates can still be found in their original envelopes on various secondary markets, but they tend to be on the expensive side, depending on condition. The Early Bird boxed figure sets can be VERY expensive to find, so make sure you have your bank loan paperwork pre-approved before you go on the hunt for a complete and sealed set.

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