MOST Star Wars aficionados are familiar with the story of the Flintshire pensioner who bought 20 Palitoy action figures for 49p each in 1978 and sold them at Stockton-on-Tees toy specialists Vectis for a small fortune in 2003.
While working as a newsagent 25 years ago, the lady had bought
one complete set for her grandson to play with but kept a second
set in their original packaging in case any of the figures became
Well, Bury St Edmunds saleroom Lacy Scott & Knight
(15% buyer's premium) could relate a similar tale
following their May 15 sale that included 26 lots from a lady who,
having bought a set of figures for her son in the late 1970s and
early 1980s, had liked them so much she bought some for
Tens of thousands of Star Wars figures were sold in the
1970s and '80s during the height of the film's popularity. The
original wave of Star Wars figures, which didn't hit the
shelves until almost a year after the film opened, consisted of a
dozen key characters from the first movie. Collectors refer to them
as '12-back' figures, coining the phrase from the original bubble
packs that showed all 12 figures from the series on the card
They sold in the thousands but were packaged in a way that
encouraged the 'box' to be immediately discarded and, anyway, few
children thought to 'collect' them until a cult emerged later in
the trilogy (the standard issues relating to The Empire Strikes
Back and The Return of the Jedi are much easier to
find and a fraction of the price).
The Suffolk collection included all of the original 12-back
figures, all unopened in their original packaging: 11 by British
manufacturer Palitoy and one (Chewbacca) by their American parent
Putting aside some rare prototypes, the most desirable of the
series is the callow youth turned Jedi knight Luke Skywalker.
Naturally this figure, notable for his shock of yellow hair, was
among the best sellers, but most surviving examples are heavily
playworn. The estimate here of £400-600 was an indication of what
they have made in recent years but such a good example took
For the other figures bids of £200-300 were generally
successful, an indication that, at least relative to a decade ago,
the market has softened as cupboards have been cleared and the
supply slowly increased.
The figure of Princess Leia, the action figure that shattered
the myth that no boy would ever play with a female figure, took
£300, while Hans Solo, the best-loved character of the film and the
best-selling of the first series figures, took £270. The solitary
Kenner figure of Chewbacca was suffering from 'bloom' to the
plastic, a condition that can occur with age and one that has led
some toy collectors to question the longevity of these
collectables. It took a modest £80.
Incidentally the rarest of the rare in Star Wars figure
collecting are those from the very first wave of production that
saw Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker holding
telescopic lightsabres. These proved difficult to manufacture and
broke easily, and were scrapped after only a few hundred figures
had been sold.
The Darth Vader version is the most highly prized and has a
value of more than £3000.
By Roland Arkell