Action Figures Posts

Guide to Vintage Carded Star Wars Action Figures

A Guest Blog Post by Mark Griffiths
This article was originally written for Rareburg, who in 2016,  joined forces with hobbyDB to provide an excellent source of collectible knowhow for the community. 

As with most things in life, ‘something’ is only worth what ‘someone’ will pay for it. This is true for most things in life, whether that be a second hand car, property or collectable toys.

Luke Skywalker x-wing

This guide to vintage carded Star Wars action figures will provide you with an insight into how to begin assembling a vintage Star Wars action figure collection (on cards) from the 1977 – 1983 era as working out just where to start can be a bit of a minefield. Return of the Jedi (ROTJ), Empire Strikes Back (ESB), Power of the Force and Tri Logo are just a selection of the different branded cards which exist, produced by Kenner and Palitoy with 65 back, 79 back and ‘Last 17’ (and more!) – the barriers to entry in collecting these treasures can be huge.

Imperial Commander

Not only is gaining a full understanding of the vast range of these 3¾ inch action figure produces a challenge, this is coupled with how ‘rare’ and ‘valuable’ is defined in different countries the world over.

My 30 years experience of collecting Star Wars carded action figures began back in 1984, after the final movie from the original trilogy had been released, when the obsession with the Star Wars franchise was well and truly over with the UK public. Believe it or not, I still remember working in my parents toy store having to re-box thousands of unsold action figures and playsets before shipping them back to the UK distributer as we could just not shift the stock. Just imagine having dozens of boxes of these gems in today’s market! From the crest of a wave 18 months previous we now had to make room for the next ‘fad’ as a range of merchandise from a Saturday morning cartoon called Transformers was on its way!

Romba

Since that time I have had a vested interest in collecting these figures and monitoring their values.

The late 1980’s and early 1990’s brought modest increases to most figures, but 1999 was a game changer. Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, produced 16 years after Return of the Jedi brought a great deal of attention back to the original action figure collection, just as The Force Awakens will in December 2015.

Although there had always been ‘hard to find’ figures such as Yak Face, Boba Fett with firing cannon and the elusive Jawa with plastic cape, the focus now began to move to a much broader range and the immense number of variations of each figure.

Darth MaulBut apart from Episode 1 bringing Star Wars back to the forefront of the public’s hearts and minds, why this increase in prices for the original ’77 – ’83 merchandise? Obviously, the rareness of some of these original figures but it was more than that, it was the newly produced Power of the Force range brought out for the Phantom Menace movie. The figures were not well received by the public, confusing ‘Comm Tech’, massive quantities – hundreds upon hundreds in the range and of course Jar Jar Binks! Kenner also seemed wise to the marketing of the so called ‘rare’ figures in the range. Back in the 80’s these ‘hard to find’ figures almost came about by chance, this time it all seemed a little too well planned.

Yak Face

These figures, now 16 years old themselves struggle to break $10 each, with many exchanging hands for as little as $4 – Mint on Card (MOC). The remaining parts of the prequel trilogy, Episodes 2 and 3 did little to change the collector’s appetite for the updated range and instead, once again the focus reverted back to the vintage collection.

But which figures I hear you ask, which particular figures from the original series are still increasing in value? Well as I am sure you will agree, certain figures which were rare 10 years ago are now even more sought after with onset of time but there are still some figures which are financially accessible. The Rancor Keeper for example on a ROTJ card can be purchased quite easily on another marketplace for as little as $30. That same figure on a Tri Logo card however can be valued as high as 5 times that amount, approaching $200. Yes, thats right, $200 for one 3¾ inch action figure, and not a particularly rare one at that!

The reason for this huge range in valuation is largely down to the quality and type of card which houses the character. A ROTJ card is less rare, whereas the ESB and Star Wars increase in value dramatically. In fact figures on a Star Wars card can cost thousands of dollars, particularly key characters like Han Solo and Princess Leia.

Rancor KeeperSo what of Tri Logo cards, where do they fit into the equation? So the story goes, these figures were run off by Palitoy at the very end of the production of Star Wars figures – a combination of overproduced characters backed on cards for the European market and new characters never released in the USA, once again limited to European stores. This is why the value of these cards holds strong in the US market.

So, where would I begin, what advice would I provide to collectors hoping to move into the vintage Star Wars carded action figure market?

Begin at the end! There are so many variations of just 1 action figure, it would be extremely (financially) challenging to collect every figure from that era as there are literally hundreds and hundreds – just one selling for $18,000 at a recent auction in the North East. Therefore, decide on your target collection, whether that be a full set of 1 character on different cards or a full set of figures on 1 card e.g. a full set of ROTJ backed figures.

BaradaDo your research! Before you begin, consider how many figures there are in a particular collection, which are more common and identify those which are rare – how much are you willing to pay and how are you going to acquire them, there are more avenues than just another marketplace…?

Understand your Cards! Which logo – ROTJ, Star Wars, Tri Logo…how many figures on the back of the card e.g. a 65 back is sometimes worth more than a 79 back, is the card ‘punched’ or ‘unpunched’ and is the card flat and free from sun damage and tears?

Life, Death, and the Price of Princess Leia Action Figures

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

There’s been a lot of chatter on Facebook from collectors who complain about sellers raising the prices of collectibles related to a famous actor or public figure when they die. Right now, of course, lots of folks are concerned about the price of Princess Leia action figures in the wake of Carrie Fisher’s sudden death.

“How dare you?” they ask. “You ghoul!” they scream (yes, I actually saw someone call a seller a ghoul a couple days ago). “How can you even think about exploiting a person’s death for profit?” they yell.

Well, they have a point. But only sort of.

luke skywalker princess leia han solo

So what do you do when this happens? Several possibilities come to mind…

Spare the outrage. So maybe the seller is taking advantage of the situation. Calling them ghouls (such an underutilized word!) won’t help. The market decides what an item is worth by how rare it is and by how many people want to get their hands on it. They have the right to ask a price, and you have the right to decide if you’re willing to pay it.

princess leia action figure

Wait a couple weeks. Part of the reason for the higher price is that a lot of non-traditional collectors are suddenly looking to buy a memorial item, which can drive up the market. So wait for that first wave to calm down, and you might be competing with fewer buyers. There’s a phenomenon that often occurs when a particular collectible sells for ridiculous bucks that goes something like this:

• The first seller gets a huge price for a rare item.
• Other collectors who have the same item to sell put theirs up for sale right after that.
• Suddenly, there are several of that supposedly “rare” collectible available.
• That first buyer, who was willing to overpay, is no longer competing with you.
• And then the price settles into its natural place.

Hold on, you don’t already own one? If you’re a serious collector, you should already have that item on your shelf, right? Well, not necessarily. Maybe it really is a rare action figure, in which case, you should expect it to be expensive. So maybe it’s a fair price. And if the price is higher than anyone is willing to pay, the seller might lower it eventually.

Finally, why were you looking up prices in the first place? Here’s a 2001 cartoon by Rex Silo, published shortly after Dale Earnhardt, Sr. died, that explains a common process.

Food Shelter Cable Rex Silo

“Food, Shelter, Cable” by Rex Silo. (c) 2001, used with permission

So why did you look it up? Were you just curious about the value of an item? Or were you considering selling one yourself if the price is right? Admit it, we all have different reasons to collect, and cashing in on a rare item at the right time is one part of the game.

In the meantime, let’s appreciate Carrie Fisher for who she was… an actress with a beautiful voice, a ferociously funny writer, and someone whose films have left us with fantastic memories for almost four decades now.

princess leia han solo

A Look at the Scary Side of Collecting

The macabre, the horror movies, the candy, the decorations, the candy, the costumes…oh, and the candy.  Just a few of the many reasons I look forward to Halloween every year, and why it’s been my favorite holiday since I was a kid donning my Ben Cooper Boba Fett costume.  (You know, those plastic costumes you couldn’t breathe in or see out of, but were worn by children everywhere). As an adult….ok, as a “big kid”…it’s always amazed me to see the variety and cult following of horror-related collectibles and toys.  You can find action figures and statues for virtually every pop culture franchise these days, but you can still find a few classic collectibles from the horror genre.  Here are some of my favorite Halloween-friendly collectible ideas… the Scary Side of Collecting!

1979-kenner-alien

1979 Kenner Alien Large-Size Figure

Its evil brains glow in the dark! When Kenner picked up the license for the 1979 Ridley Scott movie, Alien, they were hoping to be on track with the next big thing after Star Wars.  While the movie was undoubtedly a success, the film’s R-rating and graphic violence resulted in a very quick death for the toy line. While a line of 3 3/4″ figures was planned (and later reproduced by Funko & Super7), the only item to make it to production was this behemoth 18″ figure. Given that these are often found missing the dome, one of the five back spikes, or tail, and often with a broken set of retractable teeth, finding one of these complete and in nice condition can be difficult.  Gentle Giant later reproduced these in larger scale (24″ tall).

 

maxxfx-freddy-krueger

Matchbox MaxxFX Freddy Krueger

Kenner wasn’t the only company to have a toy from the Alien franchise planned, only to later ditch the concept.  In the late 80s, Matchbox was to include the Alien Warrior from the 1986 film, Aliens, in their MaxxFX line. These 9″ action figures were similar to Mego figures in style, and allowed the owner to dress up the character as one of multiple horror characters.  Several prototypes were developed for this line, but ultimately only Freddy Krueger was released.

 

cult-classicsNECA Cult Classics

McFarlane Toys might have set the stage for horror figures coming to the mainstream with their Movie Maniacs line, but in 2005 NECA took it a step farther by introducing their Cult Classics line. Similar in style to the Movie Maniacs, these 7″ tall figures took small-scale collecting to a new level with their incredible sculpts, statuesque posing, and the diversity of the line. While the line featured many horror favorites such as Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, fans were also treated to debuts of figures such as Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, Frank the Bunny from Donnie Darko, and The Jigsaw Killer from Saw.   The line continued for a solid five years and gave us dozens of unique characters from the genre.

 

neca-nbxNECA The Nightmare Before Christmas

What Halloween would be complete without some of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas? In 2004, NECA launched a line of figures from the cult movie, and what is in my opinion one of the best action figure lines of all time (despite the occasional quality issues).  Over the course of five years, nearly every character from the movie saw release in this line, making it not only a fun set to complete, but also making for an amazing display.  (Note: the image shown is only part of the line!)  NECA even produced the Spiral Hill and the Snow Buggy Jack heisted from Christmas Land.  The only downside to this line is that it’s *sooooo* close to being complete, those of us who are completists will feel annoyed about the few missing characters.  (The band, Finklestein’s second creation, the tree with hanging skeletons, and the reaper…I believe these are the only characters not made.)

 

mcfarlane-twisted-christmasMcFarlane Toys Twisted Fantasy

NECA has had many successful 6-7″ action figure lines, but along side them has always been McFarlane Toys, the company that sparked the highly-detailed figure lines in this size.  McFarlane is known for Spawn, various sports series, and their Movie Maniacs, but some of my favorites fall in the “Twisted” categories.  McFarlane has lent their horrifying takes to The Wizard of Oz, Christmas and general Fairy Tales, creating masterpieces in action figure form and inducing nightmares everywhere.  Some of this stuff is not for the faint of heart (like Humpty Dumpty), or oversexualized (like Mrs. Claus), or both (like Red Riding Hood), but these series add an extra degree of macabre to any collection.

 

sideshow-horrorSideshow Collectibles 1:6 Scale & Statues

OK, so maybe the smaller figures aren’t really  your style.   Maybe you’re looking for something a bit larger to be the centerpiece(s) of your frightful collection.  That’s where a company like Sideshow Collectibles comes in.  Sideshow has made a name for themselves making top-notch large scale figures, having started with 1:6 scale action figures and moving into 1:4 and even larger.  Some of their early offerings included 1:6 scale versions of horror icons like Freddy, Leatherface and Jason, which then progressed into their mixed media 1:4 scale line, the Premium Format Figures.  These days, Sideshow is revisiting new versions of their classics with all new and improved sculpts and features.

 

lovecraft-sota-statuesSOTA Toys H.P. Lovecraft Statues

In my humble opinion, H.P. Lovecraft is the undisputed master of terror.  Writing well ahead of his time, Lovecraft let the imagination run wild with indescribably horrific creatures in other-worldly settings, creating horror that to this day remains some of the best of all time.  Many have tried to capture the spirit of the creatures of Lovecraftian lore, but few have been as successful in doing so as SOTA Toys.  In 2010-2011, SOTA released statues of Cthulhu, Dagon, and Nyarlathotep, each measuring over a foot tall, with insanely good detailing and paint.  While these retailed in the $200 range, they generally go for at least twice that now, when and if they become available.

 

funko-horror

Funko Pop Vinyl, Mystery Minis, & ReAction Figures

OK, maybe you love horror, but the blood and guts or a two-foot tall machete-wielding murderer isn’t the best decor for your home.  Or maybe having a large statue of the Master of R’lyeh is enough to give Grandma a heart attack when she visits.  If so, then Funko has some much more tame, adorable options for you.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock over the last few years, you’ve no doubt seen or heard of Funko’s Pop Vinyl figures. This collection of cute, stylized 3 3/4″ tall figures includes everything from My Little Pony to A Clockwork Orange, including a wide variety of your favorite horror characters. The beautiful thing about these – they’re small, inexpensive (with a $10 price point) and won’t result in the neighbors running from your house screaming.  If the Pop Vinyl isn’t enough, Funko also makes retro style ReAction Figuresblind box mystery figures, and even various forms of plush.

No matter your taste or budget, there’s always something out there for those of us with the horror gene.  Tell us about your favorite horror collectibles in the comments!

Typewriters, Snowglobes and Spiders: Celebrity Collectors

One of the most common questions we get at hobbyDB is “Why is it so important to enter things in the right Item Type?” Another frequent question is “How do you decide what Item Types to allow in your database?”

As for the first question, when you go to sell something like, say, a Matchbox dump truck on eBay, their site doesn’t really care what category you use. You can list it as a diecast car or a lunchbox for all they care. The reason for this loose approach is that they aren’t trying to create a permanent archive. List your item, sell it, move along. At hobbyDB, we want to create a permanent, accurate, and complete archive, so we have some important questions for every type of collectible.

collectibles

The questions we ask about a model truck (Type of cab, number of axles, etc.) are vastly different from the questions we ask about a lunchbox (Color of handle, includes Thermos bottle, and so on.) By answering those questions as completely as possible you are helping to fill in our database with excellent information. But we also have questions that differ from something as similar as model cars vs model trucks. And the more we all get it correct from the get-go, the more accurate the database will be.

As for the second question, we have a lot of factors determining what Item Types to offer. And it’s not that we are “banning” certain things (although there are cases if you read on), it’s more about the interest level and our ability to adequately cover certain areas. If someone comes to us with a large collection of something we haven’t made a space for yet, we consider adding it as long as they are willing to add their collection to get it rolling.

And as far as certain things not allowed, that’s not necessarily true. We do have a category for “Whatever Else” if you collect something we haven’t categorized yet. If we see a good reason to make a new type, we will. But some are, well, not likely.

Just for fun, let’s pretend some Celebrity Collectors contact us and want to add their collections. They might fall into three areas:

Items we currently have a place for on hobbyDB

Barbie and Ken Dolls

johnny depp

It may come as a huge surprise (or none at all) that actor Johnny Depp collects Barbie dolls. Ken, too. Actually, he doesn’t just collect them, he plays with them. Chalk this one up to having a couple of daughters, and it doesn’t seem so strange. Actually, with Depp, it usually is kind of strange. We’re looking to beef up our coverage of Barbie and other fashion dolls, so if you’re a collector, please start adding your items!

Video Games

jeff gordon

There are so many areas in life where Jeff Gordon has won so convincingly that you just have to bow down and admire him. You could say he has struggled at being a NASCAR announcer, but only due to the fact that he keeps getting called on to drive the cars in place of injured drivers. Oh, and he’s a major video gamer, especially with driving games. Life is often unfair, and here, it’s unfair in his favor.

vin diesel dungeons and dragons

Board Games

You might know him as a tough guy fro the “Fast & Furious” movies, but Vin Diesel has been playing Dungeons and Dragons since the 1970s. In addition to having one of his character’s names, “Melkor,” tattooed near his belly button, Mr. Diesel wrote the foreword for the book 30 Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons and Dragons. So if he’s been spending his spare time painting warrior figures, who are we to turn him away?

Model Trains

rod stewart model trains

As rock stars age, many of them tend to spend less time cavorting around and more time on safe, quiet pursuits. Rod Stewart spends quite a bit of time with model train layout at home. Heck, his layouts have even been on the cover of “Model Railroader” magazine a few times, which he claims is more exciting than being on the cover of “Rolling Stone.” He has a portable 1,500-square-foot scale model of New York’s Grand Central Station circa 1940, which he has worked on while on tour.

leonardo dicaprio django action figureAction Figures 

We have a Type for Action Figures, so we need to hear from you collectors and get some items uploaded. We’re looking at you, Leonardo DiCaprio! His collection includes ‘Star Wars’ and ‘He-Man’ action figures, as well as other vintage toys. We can assume he has a figure of his own character from “Django Unchained,” too.

Items we might consider adding if there’s enough interest from Users

Snow Globes

taylor swift snowglobes

Singer Taylor Swift’s favorite holiday hobby isn’t too strange… she creates homemade Christmas snow globes. As for collecting and archiving them on hobbyDB, we have at least one avid collector on our staff, so this Type might show up sooner rather than later.

lebron jamesBasketball Headbands

We’re working on some sports uniforms collectibles categories, but it’s harder to think of every single thing to include. Don’t believe us? Even though he has stopped wearing them on the courts, LeBron James collects headbands from other athletes. We’ve recently started adding some sports memorabilia categories to our database, but believe it or not, it gets tricky with sports apparel. Any big collectors out there want to help us along?

Shoes

celine dion

Most of the time when you hear about shoe collectors, that person owns a bunch of Air Jordans and other limited edition sports models. If you step outside of sports kicks. Celine Dion is the Imelda Marcos of shoe collecting, most likely not of the sneaker type. We have areas for some clothing items, initially geared towards convention collectibles such as hats and shirts and jackets, but with the right boost, we could make this a thing.

Movie Props

george lucas death star

This is a tough one, because so many items of this type fit into other existing areas. But “Star Wars” creator George Lucas collects and reconstructs props from his movies. So yeah, if he called us, that would be neat. His other hobby reportedly involves feeding the local squirrel population. That’s not really a collection, so we’re going to pass on that for now.

Item Types that just aren’t going to happen for some reason.

Vintage Daggers

A lot of folks collect old pocket knives, and some of them are worth thousands of dollars. A bit more unusual would be a dagger collection like the one actress Angelina Jolie has built. It’s one thing to have a bunch of safely folding multi use jackknives in your collection, but unsheathed daggers exist pretty much for stabbing and throwing. Needless to say, there are all kinds of local, state, federal and international laws regarding these things, so we don’t have a spot for them just now.

claudia schiffer angelina jolie

Spiders and other bugs

We’re assuming this about deceased, artfully mounted specimens, but critters like the ones collected by supermodel Claudia Schiffer pose a logistical problem in that there are literally millions of species to document. Like knives and other weapons, there are some legal snags we would have to consider, especially if you run into endangered species. And you thought there were a lot of Hot Wheels variations to consider!

Of course, whether you’re famous or not, if you collect something we don’t have a niche for on hobbyDB, let us know in the comments.

Join hobbyDB at Time Warp Comics for Free Comic Book Day!

Time Warp Free Comic Book Day Galactus

Do you collect comic books? Action figures? Super hero stuff in general?

Have we got an event for you! Yes, Free Comic Book Day 2016 is coming to a comics shop near you on Saturday, May 7, 2016. In our case, that’s Time Warp Comics in Boulder, Colorado. In addition to all sorts of costumed crusaders, and well, free comic books, hobbyDB will be there giving demonstrations and signing people up to use our site.

In fact, sign up on your way in (there’s usually a line, which goes past our booth, and registration only takes a few minutes, so why not?) And on the way out, we plan to have another table where you can shoot a photo of your item and add it to our database. That only takes a few minutes too!

Time Warp Free Comic Book Day

Time Warp Comics is located at 3105 28th St, Boulder. Free Comic Book Day runs from 10am to 6pm, with the line forming early outside. Everything in the store will be on sale, too! See you there!