Star Wars Posts

Buying Back Childhood Memories

Tracy MartinA Guest Blog Post by Tracy Martin
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. 

Buying back childhood memories in the form of vintage toys has become one of the biggest growth areas for collectors in recent years. The Palitoy Employees sale, held at Vectis Auctioneers on Wednesday May 27th, saw lots including Action Man, Star Wars figures, Pippa and Blythe dolls, which all made for frenzied bidding, with, unbelievably, even an empty cardboard box that originally housed Star Wars figures making $160. The overall sale including premium totaled at $200,000, proving that there really is money to be made in nostalgia.

Action Man Judo SetOne of the star lots to be sold on the day was a rare Action Man ‘Judo’ outfit in its original packaging which sold for of $6,480, only one other is known to exist and this has never come up on the open market for sale. Other Action Man lots included a boxed racing car which achieved $2,280 against its estimate of $300-$500 and a Tottenham Hotspur carded football outfit for $2,400.

Most collectors are aware that vintage 1977/78 Star Wars figures will always sell for a premium if in their original packaging and not play worn condition, for example back in January of this year (2014) a Star Wars Boba Fett figure mint in its blister pack sold for a staggering $18,000.

blueOn the day of the Palitoy Sale the first figure to achieve over $3,000 was Princess Leia Organa making $3,600 then Chewbacca sold for $4,560 (including premium) but it was the boxed Death Star which tripled its bottom estimate at $5,280. Even Publicity photos for a Boba Fett Star Wars figure fetched $2,300 against its pre-sale estimate of $40-$60. Specialist, Kathy Taylor has said of the sale, “It is the best Star Wars sale we have ever had at Vectis, achieving high prices for some of the very best condition items”.

TammieAside from the expected prices for Star Wars and Action Man, there are however, other vintage toys now starting to grab attention with those wishing to relive their childhood through the toys they once owned that are surprising us when they sell for well above their expectations.

The pocket sized Pippa Doll released in 1972 was ideal for little girls to carry around, especially as she dressed in fabulous 1970s clothes. This fashion doll has seen a significant rise in interest on the collectors market in the last couple of years and price was no barrier at the Palitoy sale, especially as two ladies who were sitting next to each other bid furiously against each other as both wanted to secure the best dolls and outfits for their collections.

Blythe's BoutiqueA boxed Pippa in orange top and blue trousers sold for $1,200 and two lots of Pippa’s Boutique which included one doll and three outfits fetched $950 and $1,000 each. However, Pippa’s friend ‘Tammi’ wearing jeans and a blue psychedelic blouse in box gained the most interest with the bidding opening at $420 and finally achieving a staggering $2,760, which as far as I am aware, is a record price for a Pippa doll.

The 1972 Blythe doll also made a respectable $1,200 with premium and Tiny Tears is becoming more popular with a trade box of six dolls making $264. Two sealed lot of soothers and bottles accessories, which inevitable became lost when children originally played with the dolls, sold for $360 and $384.

Family Tree HouseOne of my all time favorite toys when I was a child was the Palitoy Discovery Time Tree House which was first released in the late 1970s. This moulded plastic green and brown tree shape opened to reveal a house setting with figures and accessories including a dog and kennel. A few mint in box came up for sale at the Vectis auction and made a respectable price of between $90-$100 each.

Girl’s World, the styling head that all little girls played with at some point in the 1970’s/80’s by applying make-up and adventurously creating hair styles was also up for sale making $30-$50 per lot. Even the cuddly 1980’s monkey Chic-a-boo sold for $15 hammer price with outfits selling for $40-$50 per lot.

Tracy MartinThe toy I personally should have had a punt on was in the previous day’s Dolls, Teddy Bears and TV & Film Related Toys at Vectis. Tracy’s Tea Party, the 1970’s doll that pours tea and serves too sold for between $40-$50 – well I am known to like a cuppa.

The final highlight of the Palitoy sale though was a pallet of Caran D’Ache, Jakar and Raphael pencils, crayons, rulers and assorted other items which opened the bidding at $20, finally achieving an astonishing $672 – proving that no toy item goes unmissed and that there literally is a market for all your childhood memories.

Tracy’s Toy Tips

  • Always try to buy in mint condition in original packaging when your pocket allows.
  • Start with buying things that spark your own nostalgic childhood memories.
  • Check all pieces are present such as accessories and playing pieces for games etc.
  • With dolls, check condition, hair plugs are all present, face hasn’t begun to turn green in color, fingers and toes are not chewed and there are no marks to body, arms and legs.
  • With outfits, check for stains, holes, rips and fading as all devalue the outfit.
  • Always buy from a reputable dealer or auction house.
  • Invest in modern toys although mass produced. Children still rip the packaging open and play with them, so invest in toys that are associated with a huge block buster film, are historically great toy makers and time or limited edition pieces. Examples are Star Wars Lego, Frozen toys, Harry Potter figures, games and toys, diecast cars such as Star Wars Hot Wheels collection.
  • Try and keep away from your children and store them in their packaging.

Collecting Film and TV Memorabilia

A Guest Blog Post by David Limberg
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. 

I feel like I have been collecting my whole life and when I stop and look at what I have done over the years, I realize I really have been collecting film and tv memorabilia since a very young age.

Back in the 1970’s, there weren’t as many TV shows and movies as there are today that related to Sci-Fi and Fantasy and there definitely wasn’t as much memorabilia then as there is now, although back then, these were just called toys.

I grew up on Star Trek, James Bond, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, UFO and ‘The Man from Uncle’, and one my favorites, Our Man Flint / In Like Flint (still an awesome couple of movies).

There was a local toy shop to where I lived and if I was a good boy I could have my Enterprise, Aston Martin DB5, UFO Interceptor or Thunderbird 2 Dinky or Corgi toy.

Dinky U.S.S. Enterprise Then came the late 70’s and we had Space 1999, Superman, The Hulk, Spider-Man and then there was Star Wars and the Star Trek movies.  This era was a defining moment in toy history, but only because of Star Wars did, which in my opinion revolutionized toy manufacturing.

Even though Star Trek The Motion Picture blitzed the market with toys, it was nothing in comparison to Star Wars which was everywhere all over the world with that famous opening line…

It was here that I feel true toy mania and collecting started, I know it was for me as I simply just had to have, well, everything and in some cases twice, unless it was a Stormtrooper then it had to be (ok, I think I will stop now).

From then on, more movies and TV shows were churned out and then the toy market exploded; the choice was endless and kids would compete with each other comparing what they had.

So from then till now, we have become a world of collectors. For some, it is an obsession, for others a hobby and for the rest, well they don’t get it; and it’s not just for kids, it’s also for the big kids with credit cards and jobs and families who we call adults.

For us adults, we still love all this ‘tuff’, the thrill and for many, it’s not just about the new items, it’s about getting the toys we had when we were young that we for some reason no longer have, these items are now called memorabilia and the fun is in the chase. So the hunt is on to find that rare Star Wars carded X-Wing fighter we had in 1978, boxed Dalek, Spider-Man action figure by EMGO or in my case a FAB 1 due to the fact that I had painted mine in black.

When I started my hunt for toys that I had when I was younger, there was no dedicated websites, no blogs, no groups, in fact, there was no internet, all we had was the occasional toy fair and if you went on holiday, be it in the UK or overseas, you might find a gem of a toy shop that stocked old, rare, unusual and unique memorabilia.

Today, it is so much easier to find what you want, go to a show, look around, check out websites, save searches, join a group, do a blog, in fact, it’s too easy and because of this, you need to be careful.  What I mean is, do your research, don’t just buy the first rare carded V.I.N.Cent The Black Hole Action figure you see just because you are looking at it, for starters, it might be overpriced, it might not be the exact one you received as a generic image is being used and if it is too cheap, again, don’t just buy it, read the description to see why, 9 times out 10 it will be an old toy with a modern reprint card.  In addition, check out the seller; see if you can find out if they have a good reputation.  

You can also go to Conventions, Film Fairs, Toy Fairs and again, be careful not to spend your money straight away.  I recall going to Westminster Central Hall back in the 1990’s and after paying my 50p entrance fee, table one had an Enterprise 1701 and Klingon Battle Cruiser set of DINKY toys in gorgeous condition to which I promptly got out my $120 and bought them both, I didn’t even ask for a discount I was THAT HAPPY, well I was for about 5 minutes until at another stall I saw the twin pack for $100 and then another pair for $80, AHHHHHH and I could not get my money back.

At some events, you might even get a chance to meet some celebrities.

Naturally, if you have done your research, you will have an idea of what something should cost and what you are prepared to pay, but again, there will always be the exception to the rule. Amongst my collection, I have a fondness for a TV show called ‘Automan’.  Like the movie Blade Runner, this show did not have much merchandise made on it and what there was, was in limited quantity, so when the hardly ever seen Scalextric style set came up for grabs of which there are only 7 that are known of in the world, I knew I would do anything to get it.  At the time, it was worth about $100, but I wanted it at any cost and was prepared to go 4 figures.  As it turned out I was lucky, $145 AND, the owner lived 6 miles from me so I went and picked it up.

Indiana JonesThere is one very important rule that you should remember and that is, buy the item for you, ok, you might purchase it as an investment as it is a sure thing, but, sometimes, prices go down as well as up and don’t forget, items today are manufactured in their thousand’, sometimes millions, so unless it’s a limited edition of 5,000 worldwide, that gorgeous looking action figure you want, may never be worth more than the price you paid and if you take it out of its packaging, well the value drops.

Very rare Blade Runner diecast model from ERTL worth far more if still boxed.

The next point to consider is, what do you want of the item or your collection? Must all items be mint in box (MIB)? They will be cheaper without packaging. Does it matter which country it was made (some items can be the same but made in different countries, not necessarily today, but older products).  Naturally the better the condition of the item, the more it will be worth, if that is a factor.  I mostly collect MIB but will happily buy a loose item, even if I have it i its packaging just so I can touch it, especially if it is very rare.

Eventually there may come a day where your collection takes over your home, even your life, try to see this before it is too late as some items might get damaged due to how you have stored them, such as in sun light or a heavy box on top of a light box but also because you great big beautiful collection is just a series of items in card board boxes which means you never get to see or enjoy your memorabilia and you place looks like the end scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark and putting your items into a storage place might not be such a good idea as this is very expensive.

I have a passion/interest for a great many Sci-Fi Film & TV shows and sometimes, it’s just because I like the item and not what it relates too.  Others dedicate themselves to one subject and sometime just the action figures from that show or movie or they only collect model kits or whatever tickles their fancy.

It can be an expensive hobby, even new products such as Hot Toys figures are several hundred pounds, but oh boy are they amazing.

There are times when you may need to sell some or all of your collection, but for whatever the reason is, once again, do your research on values, don’t let someone take advantage of your situation and if you have no clue, seek advice of a specialists, it might cost you for their time, but it’s worth it and they may even be able to make suggestions to help.

So, old or new, action figures, model kits, models, mugs, pins… whatever it is you like or want. Do your research before you spend your money. But, most of all have fun.

Why is THAT one worth so much? Odd Reasons for Rare Collectibles

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

After some time in a hobby, collectors get a sense of the value of certain items. Some collectibles are intentionally made rare as limited editions, of course, which drives up the cost for obvious reason. In some cases, only a few of a particular item were ever made before the company made a change or cancelled production, such as the original Hot Wheels Beach Bomb. And there are occasionally errors, but those are usually single events such as one car missing a tampo or placed on the blister card. In that case, it’s more of an oddity than a variant.

But every now and then, some variant goes off the charts in value for unforeseen or fluky reasons. Here are some rare collectibles and the stories behind them…

kenner ssp super stocker

Kenner SSP Super Stocker (orange): The Super Sonic Power cars were all the rage in the early 1970s, with about 65 different models produced throughout the decade. For 1971, Kenner added several new designs, including a Plymouth Road Runner Superbird. While several SSP models were in production for multiple years, the Super Stocker was only made for one year. The most likely reason for the short run was that the rear spoiler on the car was very fragile for a toy designed to be raced and crashed. As a result, cars with wings that aren’t bent or broken are rare today in any color. Also, in recent years, this particular model was sought after not only by SSP collectors, but by MOPAR fans as well, further driving up their cost. Many other SSP cars sell for under $20 in good condition, but a nice, unbroken Super Stocker will set you back at least $100. 

Here’s where it gets strange. This model came molded in six colors: The most common hues are purple and lime green. Red, magenta, or light blue copies seem to be a bit rarer and might sell for $125-$175 (prices for the blue version are skewed higher in part because the color is similar to the shade Richard Petty used on his NASCAR Superbird.) And then there’s orange… for some reason, this color is exceedingly rare on this model. I’ve only seen an orange Super Stocker on eBay three times in the last 15 years, selling in the $500 range.

So what’s the story? One theory is that Kenner rolled out certain models in a few colors first and then added the other colors in later runs… So it seems orange may have been the last color for this particular model, right about the time they decided to stop producing it altogether.

corgi mini pop art

Corgi Pop-Art Mini: There are few toys more quintessentially British than a Corgi Mini. The company made many versions of the car over the years and produced quite a few of them. In good shape with a decent box, you shouldn’t expect to pay more than $100 for any of them. 

But when you see the Corgi Pop-Art Morris Mini Minor, sellers are usually asking at least $500 for starters. Why’s that? First, this particular version appears to have only available for about 6 months in 1967 and only by mail for members of the Corgi Club. So if you didn’t send off for it, tough luck. Secondly, it’s actually a unique casting from all the other Corgi Mini models with its jeweled headlights and an extra mold line on the front fender. This exact mold was never used again, as Corgi soon introduced a new casting with opening features to replace it. Even badly restored models sell for decent money because of the unique body. All of which makes it one of the “mostest” rare models by Corgi.

schwinn sting-ray cotton picker

Schwinn Sting-Ray Cotton Picker: In the 1960s, Schwinn set off a major craze by combining a miniature cruiser bike frame with wild hi-rise handle bars and a banana seat to create their Sting-Ray bikes. With hot rod looks and perfect gear ratios for excellent performance (if you had a single speed version, that one speed was “fast!”), these bikes were a major hit. By the end of the decade, they offered a deluxe version with a a springer fork up front and spring mounted rear posts… in effect the first mass-produced full suspension bike. The tip-top version also had a 5-speed stick shift mounted on the top tube (which was later banned for safety reasons). 

So it’s easy to see why perfect examples of these top-end Sting-Rays might sell for upwards of $1000 these days… at least the more common colors like the Orange Krate and Apple Krate. But the Cotton Picker? Now that’s a whole ‘nother story. This version was all white (frame, seat, hand grips), which wasn’t as popular as the other vivid hues available. But the reason for the relatively low production numbers was that in hindsight the name “Cotton Picker” was seen as racially insensitive, and the company backed away from it quickly.

If you want to pick up one of these, you’re looking at more like 2,500 bucks for a really nice one.

hot wheels cadbury range rover

Hot Wheels Cadbury Egg Range Rover: In the early 1990s, Hot Wheels offered a new casting for a contemporary Range Rover. Sure, it’s a neat model, but nothing eye popping. The Rover has been released in numerous paint schemes over the years, and most of them aren’t exceedingly valuable, available for under $15. 

Except for the Cadbury candy versions, which might sell for over $1,500 if you can find one. This particular model came in purple with side graphics or yellow with tampos on the hood. They were designed for a promotion in the Middle East. So they weren’t available in Europe or North America… but that’s not why they’re rare. Legend has it the ship carrying them from the factory was sunk during the start of the Gulf War. There are only about ten of each color known to exist, believed to be pre-production models obtained by a Mattel employee.

kenner star wars jawa

Star Wars Jawa Action Figure (with vinyl cape): Hard to believe, but in 1977, very few people expected George Lucas’ new space movie to be a big hit. In fact, he skipped the premiere and hung out on a beach with his friend Steven Spielberg, working on a screenplay that would become “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” 

So nobody saw much reason to start producing action figures in advance like they do today. Heck, the term “action figure” wasn’t even in use yet. So when Kenner finally did come out with a line of small Star Wars characters, there was no thought about limited editions, and kids didn’t really see the point of keeping them in the package. 

One of the last of the original figures was the Jawa, a caped desert scavenger, released in 1978. It wore a brown vinyl cape that was kind of stiff, and not fun to play with. So Kenner very quickly modified the design to a better looking and softer cloth cape and moved on. The extremely short run for the less-playful, not-as-good-looking, vinyl-caped figure makes it rare today. A loose figure is of questionable value, however, because modifying an Obi Wan Kenobi cape to fit is fairly easy. So you have to get one sealed in the package, which is quite rare indeed. That’ll set you back about three grand or so.

Collecting Star Wars is cheaper than you think

screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-1-04-14-pmA Guest Blog Post by Dave Moss
This article was originally written for Rareburg, who in December,  joined forces with hobbyDB to provide an excellent source of collectible knowhow for the community. 

When I chat to people who don’t collect vintage Star Wars toys they all tend to think that it must be an expensive hobby as they have seen news reports about a rare Star Wars toy that just sold for thousands of pounds. And I think this puts many people off from getting started collecting. A recent example of this was when a very rare carded Boba Fett figure sold for $18,000 at auction.

But this is really not the case, yes there are some items that sell for thousands, but there is much more to collecting Star Wars than high price rare items.

My first ever post-childhood purchase of a Star Wars figure was a vintage loose Biker Scout, total cost 5p! OK, this was a few years back, but it’s still possible to find nice items for cheap prices. Online auction sites have made them harder to find, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there, and for me the hunt is part of the fun of collecting.

If you want to get started collecting vintage Star Wars toys then I would suggest you start with loose figures and ships. These you can pick up in many places, online, toy fairs, car-boot sales, second hand shops, charity shops, and flea markets.

Chief ChirpaPrices for loose figures and ships tends to be a lot lower so you can start by only spending a few pounds or less on each figure. This will enable you to get a feel for the condition of the figures and what they should look like.

Figures at the low price range of the market will more than likely be well played with and missing weapons, but you can still find some really nice items and even the odd rare item.

There are plenty of online resources that you can browse through to find out what accessories each figures should come with, or whether there are variations you should look out for. And once you feel more confident you can start spending a bit more and getting some nicer condition figures.

Hopefully by this point you will have caught the bug and want to start collecting carded figures. There are many ways to collect carded figures, some people like to go for the most pristine untouched cards that never even saw the shop floor. While others are happy to have cards that have some wear and tear to them.

Most figures were released on multiple styles of cardback. The rarest being the original ‘Star Wars’ (SW) cards, next are ‘Empire Strikes Back‘ (ESB), and the easiest to find are ‘Return of the Jedi‘ (ROTJ) or ‘Tri-logo’ cards. Tri-logo refers to late release figures where the cardbacks had the Star Wars logo in three different languages on the front of the card.

Again I would suggest starting at the bottom end of the market and pick up cards that are referred to as ‘beaters’. These are figures where the cardback maybe creased or torn, or the bubble (or blister) that the figure sits in is cracked, crushed or yellowed with age. These cards still have lots of charm and character to them, and cost a fraction of the price of mint carded figures. You can expect to pay under $20 for figures on ROTJ cards. As an example I recently picked up a ROTJ Ewok Chief Chirpa on a pretty nice card for £9 from a flea market.

As well as action figures and ships there are many other Star Wars items that you can look into collecting. Other favorites include Topps trading cards, Marvel comics, pencil toppers, erasers, or badges. Once you get started collecting vintage Star Wars you will soon find out how much merchandise has been produced over the years. There really is something for everyone.

So don’t be put off thinking vintage Star Wars toy collecting is all about high price items. Collecting Star Wars is cheaper than you think and there is something for every kind of budget.

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