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 it, but a small toy company named Kenner stepped up and took a chance on it, and the toy world was forever changed. At the time, Kenner was most known for Easy Bake Oven, Lite Brite and the Six Million Dollar Man figure line. Kenner made the bold decision to shrink down their Star Wars figures to a more economical 3.75 inch size. This new action figure design allowed Kenner to create more scaled accessories, playsets and vehicles for their Star Wars line. It also added a whole new playability factor that many other past figure lines just didn’t have. It all began with the “promise” of new Star Wars action figures at Christmas in 1977 with the release of the Early Bird Certificate, which led to the first four action figures being sent to eagerly awaiting fans everywhere. 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 revolutionized how toy lines are marketed and sold.
Kenner quickly discovered they had a massive hit on their hands with the Star Wars franchise, so they were more than happy to produce figures for its sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. The series was broken up into three primary waves with a few other smaller waves mixed in. Expectations were very high for the new merchandise and Kenner certainly did not disappoint. The line gave us pretty much everything we needed to stage a small scale version of the movie itself. Kenner decided to ditch their slide out lightsaber design from the previous line, and go with a more traditional freestanding weapon that you could actually place in the figure’s hands. All of the original 21 (with Boba Fett) Star Wars figures were re-released on Empire Strikes Back cards, along with 29 brand new figures that were released throughout the Empire Strikes Back line until 1982. Kenner also released a ton of new vehicles, playsets and other accessories to along with the figures.
With the release of Return of the Jedi in 1983, Star Wars and its cast of memorable characters had all become household names. Kids all across the globe were dragging their parents to local toy stores to purchases the newest Star Wars action figures and toys as fast they came out. So once again, Kenner cranked out some quality figures, ships and playsets based on the newest movie, The Return of the Jedi. By this time, Star Wars was a worldwide phenomenon, so of course the action figure line sold incredibly, even ridiculously well and Kenner never disappointed when it came to their Star Wars line. One of the most noteworthy developments with this line came with the title change of the movie itself. The movie was originally called “Revenge of the Jedi” but was famously changed by George Lucas at the last moment. Most of the promotional material put out by Kenner at the time all had Revenge and not the updated Return, but when the line hit the toy aisles, it had all been changed over to the new title.
With the last new Star Wars movie being released in 1983, and no new movies on the horizon, Kenner had to come up with a different way to market their Star Wars action figures moving forward. So they introduced the Power of the Force product line in 1985. The Power of the Force line would introduce 15 brand new figures, as well as re-pack many of the older ones with the new Power of the Force packaging. The big change for this line was the inclusion of a coin in each package, depicting each carded character. These coins have become extremely coveted by Star Wars collectors and have proven tough to track down loose on the secondary market. A planetary map was also included with the figure and accessory packaging as well. The map featured the various known planets of the Star Wars universe at the time, which was a very cool piece of Star Wars lore for fans and collectors. A line of Droids and Ewoks figures based on the animated series of each were also released in 1985, but both toy lines and shows were short-lived.
The original line of Star Wars action figures from the seventies and eighties remain the gold standard of what a successful toy line looks like. Over its storied history, many quality Star Wars products were released between 1977 and 1985, and continue to this day by Disney and Hasbro. Just like every toy line, the values of certain items can greatly fluctuate over time. This is based on several factors, including the item’s time period, scarcity, consumer demand and overall condition. The good news for Vintage Star Wars collectors is there’s ALWAYS a demand for items from this franchise, as Kenner created some truly iconic and memorable pieces. Loose individual figures from the Kenner lines can still be found on the secondary market in varying degrees. The same goes for loose playsets, vehicles and accessories. Carded or boxed items can also still be found on the secondary market, but can vary in value, depending on which series they were from and condition. Typically, any original early Star Wars items fetch quite a bit of money on the secondary market, especially if they are the main characters. The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi lines can be found more easily, but even they are ever increasing in value. The Power of the Force figures can be tough to track down on the secondary market, as they were only released for a short time and in limited numbers. The bottom line is just about everything from the golden age of Kenner Star Wars items are steadily increasing in value on the secondary market. Almost all of the original items will only continue to increase in value, and are definitely worth picking up when found at a good price. The market remains extremely strong due to an ever present Star Wars nostalgia and a rabid fan base. The figures, playsets, vehicles, and other accessories from the various Star Wars lines can most definitely be considered a great investment for any collector.
Click These Links to See The Individual Star Wars Pages
Empire Strikes Back
Return of the Jedi
Power of the Force
Die Cast/Micro Collection
12 Inch Figures
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