Double Telescoping, Rocket Launching, Solid Gold Collectibles: 13 Rare Star Wars Toys

expensive star wars toys

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

As the individual “Solo” movie hits theaters this week, we thought we’d take a look back at some of the most expensive and/or valuable collectibles from the movies. Folks are going to drop a ton of money on movie tickets, so why not also on toys?

In this rundown, we’re not at all suggesting that you can retire if you find one of these in your attic. Instead you’ll  more likely kicking yourself because 12-year-old you didn’t bother to collect them all and store them safely in 1977. And you certainly shouldn’t have buried them in the sandbox with all those fireworks. What was I thinking? So the prices are based on what someone paid or might be expected to pay for one of these rare Star Wars toys as opposed to those sky-high, unfulfilled asking prices on eBay.

Action Figures

star wars small head han soloSmall head Han Solo. Han Solo’s appeal comes from his roguish charm, dashing good looks, and well-proportioned head. Wait, what? The early version of the 1980 Empire Strikes Back Han Solo figure from Kenner had, well, a tiny head. He just didn’t look right. So they changed it to a bigger noggin that restored those perfect proportions to his handsome self.  Supposed value: Maybe $2,000-2,500 for a mint, carded version. But don’t get cocky, kid.

double telescoping darth vaderDouble Telescoping Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Luke Skywalker. Early action figures of these characters came with a retractable light saber. The main part hid in he arm and slid out, and then a thinner center piece slid out from there. Unfortunately, that thinner piece was prone to getting bendy, looking like the uninflated part of a balloon animal. Later models included a better saber solution. Supposed Value: Carded versions of these old ones can fall in the $2,000 range.

star wars rocket launching boba fett

Rocket Launching “21 Back” Boba FettIf that all sounds pretty specific, yeah. Very early versions of the “Empire Strikes Back” bounty hunter featured a back pack that could fire a plastic missile. Rumors of kids choking on the projectiles or shooting their eyes out led to that kind of toy disappearing. As for the packaging, Boba was number 21 out of 20 figures made at the time. Previous card backs showed a nice array of 20 different figures, but the card was hastily redesigned to squeeze in one more, making the whole back look unbalanced and odd. Supposed value: $2,500-3,000.

star wars yak faceYak FaceYou remember Yak Face, right? He was the lovable but feisty Yakora who… no, you don’t. No one remembers Yak Face. The history of which and how many action figures to produce from the original films is fascinating. At first, Kenner only did a few main characters, and they flew off the shelves so fast that they added a ton more. Then suddenly, after the third and seemingly final film, the craze was over (for the time being, anyway) and the last few were overkill. Yak Face was the last of the obscure first generation action figures. He was only released in Canada, the U.K., and Australia, so in the U.S., he’s hard to find. Supposed value: A carded one might fetch about $1,500.

kenner star wars jawaJawa with Vinyl CapeAnd of course, the most famous rare figure… Early versions of the Jawa figure had a brown vinyl cape, which was stiff and didn’t look right. So Kenner quickly replaced the cape with a cloth version and sold tons of those. Which means the vinyl version must be worth a fortune, even in played with condition, right? Well… Supposed value: Quite a few of them pop up online, so they aren’t exceedingly rare. In the package, about $1,500 to $3,000. Out of the package… basically worthless. The cape is easy to fake, as it was identical to Obi-Wan Kenobi’s cape, just shorter, so it needs to be in the package.

Comic Books

star wars marvle comic issue 1Marvel Star Wars Issue 1Of course that’s gotta be worth a fortune, right? In some cases, yes. Merchandising was surprisingly sparse when the original “Star Wars” hit theaters in 1977. But Marvel had been working on a comic book adaptation, and first issue sales were out of this galaxy. So it’s not that rare… unless you paid 35 cents for it. See, Marvel’s typical cover price for a comic book at the time was 30 cents, but they wanted to test the waters on a nickel price hike, so for just a few markets in the U.S., the cover said 35 cents. That variant is significantly rarer. Supposed value: Someone recently paid around $24,000 for a mint rare variant, as opposed to usual $1,250 or so for the common version. So that extra nickel was a good investment, even if it seemed like a ripoff at the time.

By the way, the value of later issues drops rapidly, as print runs increased and more people bought and saved them. The cover price would stay at 30 cents until issue 5, when it finally made the hyperspace leap to 35 cents.

Lunchboxes

star wars r2d2 lunchboxR2-D2 LunchboxEveryone remembers the classic 1977 lunchbox with the X-Wing Fighter on one side and the Land Speeder on the other. And those are sort of valuable at $500 or more for a nice one. But there’s a much rarer Star Wars lunchbox. The shape of R2-D2 is easy to adapt for many purposes including soft drink displays and mailboxes. It’s kind of an odd choice for a lunchbox, however, which may be why this one is so rare. King-Seeley (aka Thermos) made a dozen or so preproduction models in 1977, but it never made it to stores. Supposed value: If you find one with the label, you might pay around $3,000 for it.

Lego Items

star wars lego millennium falconMillennium FalconLego has made several versions of Han Solo’s ship including a tiny 92 piece Microfighter as well as the new Kessel Run version, which clocks in at 1,414 pieces. But in 2015, Lego unleashed the 7,541 piece Ultimate Collectors Series Falcon, priced at around $800, and selling in the aftermarket for more like $1,200. The detail is astonishing and the ship is huge, scaled properly to a Minifig being 6 feet tall. Supposed value: It has sold out out a couple of times and has been reintroduced, so you should be able to find one at close to retail price if you’re patient.

Speaking of Minifigs…

star wars bronze c-3poLimited Edition C-3POAt the 2007 San Diego Comic Con, Lego held a drawing for a rare C-3PO Minifig, the special limited edition bronze edition. As in, made of solid bronze. As in, limited to exactly ONE. No word on who won that figure, but hopefully it has been cherished either in a highly protected throne space on a climate controlled shelf, or by letting a kid enjoy playing with it. Supposed value: Priceless, really.

star wars boba fett minifigLimited Edition Boba FettNot to be outdone, in 2010, Lego released a special all-white plastic Boba Fett Minifig, limited to 10,000 pieces. And a pair of solid gold ones and a pair of sterling silver ones. There are exactly two complete sets of these in existence. Supposed value: Since there are twice as many as the C-3PO model, then, half of priceless?

star wars george lucas minifigGeorge Lucas PrototypeUnlike Stan Lee or Alfred Hitchcock, Lucas isn’t known for making cameo appearances in his movies. But a Minifig version of him appeared in some of the Lego animated Star Wars projects. Lego designed a figure, complete with clapboard, and produced a few, but it was never released to the public. Supposed value: One recently sold for nearly $5,000 on eBay in 2013.

As with any of these lists, take the values with a grain of salt. But if you do get a chance to snag that vinyl cape Jawa for under a grand, use any force necessary to grab it!

If these items are a bit out of your collecting budget, check out the Star Wars stuff on the hobbyDB Marketplace! And if you have any other rare, valuable Star Wars toys, let us know in the comments!

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From Sketch to Blister Card: How Prototypes Shape a Matchbox Model

Rob Romash

Rob Romash, former Matchbox modeler, has a large collection of preproduction models.

We recently met Rob Romash, who has worked in the design department for several companies including Mattel, and got to talking about the design process. For over 20 years (with various companies), Romash has been part of the team that makes the 3D prototypes of toys. He did just that for most every Matchbox car of the early 2000s.

matchbox prototype police car

Some of the many steps towards the creation of a diecast car.

So we asked him how a diecast car goes from an idea to finished model on the pegs. How a bill becomes a law, so to speak.

It all starts with sketches, of course (as photos if the model is based on literal interpretation of a real car). Steve Moye was the lead designer during Romash’s tenure, and they collaborated on countless models. Once those are refined and agreed upon, the Master Modelmaker (Romash’s official title at Mattel)  figure out how big the vehicle will be.

The exact scale of a model car is up to several factors. Some companies like Wiking, make all their cars to a specific scale, such as their 1/87 models. A more common approach, like Hot Wheels and Matchbox take, is to make all the vehicles similar in overall size. Even though collectors refer to their main offerings as “1/64 scale” very few models from these will actually be exactly 1/64. Many will be larger or smaller. So a VW Beetle might be about as big as a Mack truck. As the model nears a certain size, available wheel options are often the factor that will decide if a model needs to go up or down a bit in scale.

At Matchbox, the process began with a “Butterboard” model carved from soft yellow foam. At this stage, the overall shape is represented minus any detail. In addition to wheel size, the vechicle must also fit existing packaging parameters.

matchbox prototype police car butterboard

This is the “Butterboard” size study, carved from soft foam for the 2001 Matchbox Police Car.

In some cases, the design of a real car must be tweaked proportionally to fit these requirements. “Selective compression” involves removing or reducing portions of a design in such a way that most people won’t notice. Romash’s collection includes a pair of Volkswagen Bulli (a modern VW bus concept) carvings that show an accurately scaled model that was too big, and a slightly compressed one that fit Matchbox paramaters. This scaling has to be done just right so as not to offend the licensing department at Volkswagen.

matchbox prototype vw buiil

The longer version of the VW Bulli concept is more accurate, but the final design had to be compressed lengthwise a bit to fit packaging requirements.

 

matchbox prototype police car detail

Here’s a second “Butterboard” model, more detailed, painted gray, and with detail notes written on it. This is an unusual step, and not a lot of prototypes like this exist.

Traditionally, the first design study would be carved out of wood. When Romash was in the Mattel Mt. Laurel modelshop the preferred material for master patterns was an Acetate that had the properties for very detailed carving and the ability to revise the model without noticing. At times some models were modified on the fly during the sculpt process.  “It comes in giant monoliths like 2001: A Space Odyssey,” ( I had a great impression routine of the waking monkey from  the film when a block came in !) he said. “It’s simple. You just start carving away everything that doesn’t look like a car, and you’re done.”

matchbox prototype police car acetate

This is a pattern made from a mold based on the original carving. This would be cleaned up a bit, and in some cases additional details might be fabricated from other materials and glued on, but it’s essentially a single piece from which all future molds would be made.

For most small models, the prototype was usually carved at double size (so about 1/32 scale) to include more detail. Then a pantograph machine was used to make a smaller version (here’s a neat video that shows a pantagraph in action at Matchbox in the early ’60s. It’s the big machine at the 0:59 mark.) For most models, there may be a double sized buck in existence, but not for any of his.

Romash always did his carvings closer to the final, smaller size, allowing for a tiny bit of shrinkage from carving to first test mold . “If you give me a bunch of photos and a block of material, I can carve just about anything.” Romash also eschewed precise measuring tools, prefering to naturally eyeball the carving instead. His results speak for themselves. “I also created my own custom scribing and sculpting tools from carbide blanks to suit my style of building—a lot of 3M carbide sandpaper also came into play.”

“Moye’s sketches had a look and a feel,” according to Romash.  That’s what I went with, at least for the non-licensed models he designed, which was the larger part of the collection per year.”

You’ll notice the bodies on most of the prototypes are a single piece with solid windows and no consideration given to the chassis yet. Once the test casting is approved, it is sent to the factory overseas. As that point, additional designers will carefully remove the windows from the mold, and create a separate molds for those. Same for things like the grill or other details that will not be included with the main casting. Opening doors, hoods, and tailgates also must be taken into consideration here.

matchbox prototype police car resin

Here’s the first “Test Casting” of the design. Notice how everything including windows is a single piece.

Additional chassis details, as well as logos, trademarks, and other information are added as well. Depending on the brand, scale, and budget, the chassis may have a lot or very little detail In some cases, the engine, tailpipes, and other undercarriage details are kind of generic. As long as they line up where they’re supposed to for the design, it’s good enough. Also, at this time, the bits for attaching the axles to the chassis are figured out.

“Interiors are usually the least detailed part of most cars,” Romash said. “Unless it’s a convertible. I didn’t do a lot of interiors, but when I had the chance, it was fun!”

matchbox prototype taxi

In some cases, a painted prototype might be used for promotional purposes, such as the Taxi on this poster featuring the new releases.

The next step is to create a Silicone mold for samples. Then a “First Shot,” wihch is a resin casting of the pattern model. These usually have some flashing and other imperfections, so they are sorted and smoothed out. At this time, the designer’s color schemes were implemented, and sometimes a prototype of a paint master was done. After the paint is agreed upon then more resin castings are done for sales or Toy fairs and other marketing materials. It may also be hand painted to give an even better idea of the final product. (Glenn Hubing, a good friend of Romash, was one of the painters for thise models. We hope to feature him in an article soon as well!)

matchbox prototype police car final

And here it is, the production version of the 2001 Matchbox Police Car.

Once all of that is worked out, final mold is made, usually with 10 of the same body (a “Ten-up” as it’s called in the industry). and production begins.

It’s all simple, really…

  • Sketch
  • Color rendering
  • 2:1 model (Romash skipped this step, saving weeks per project)
  • 1:1 model
  • Silocone mold
  • Resin test casting
  • Paint study
  • (Then the body is sent to the production facility)
  • Separate components
  • Technical drawings
  • Test mold
  • First white metal shot
  • Refinement
  • New multi-car molds
  • Production

Much of this process has been disappearing over the past few years, however. As 3D printers become more precise, companies are first perfecting designs on screen and then having the printer spit out a more or less perfect replica. While it may be more precise, not to mention cost and time-efficient, a lot of the romance of the design process is lost.

In fact, Hot Wheels debuted the new VW Rockster as a “prototype” of sorts, assembling a limited edition of actual 3-d printed models on cards to sell. (If you produce replicas of a prototype for market, doesn’t that make it a production model?) It’s too early to see if the replica/prototype (Replitype? Reprotoica? Reprototype?) will catch on.

“When I was at Mattel, the model came first always, as the human hand can do things you can’t do on the screen. It’s also why pretty much every major car company today still relies on full size clay models for their final shapes before turning it into 3D data,” he said. “The art of the human hand does come into play.”

matchbox prototype police car

With 3D printing, prototypes like the ones Romash owns (and is offering for sale) are becoming a thing of the past from most companies.

 

—–

You can buy some of these prototypes in Robert’s store

If you want to own the real McCoy, you’re in luck… all the models you’ve seen in the article and dozens more, as well as sketches and technical drawings are for sale on hobbyDB. “I thought it would be great to pass some of these on to collectors who will really appreciate owning a bit of diecast history,” Romash said.

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Do Reissued Hot Wheels Affect The Collecting Experience?

hot wheels anniversaries

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

With Hot Wheels celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018, collectors have a wide range of ways to join in on the fun. Mattel is releasing a huge slate of special models in various series during the year, including some original Redline designs that haven’t been produced in a long time.

Some original models, like the Twin Mill, have more or less been in production the for entire half century. Others, like the Classic ’55 Nomad, pop up every few years, sometimes as limited editions, sometimes as mainline cars. A few castings like the Snake and Mongoose funny cars have only been dusted off a few times for big occasions. And some, like the Custom Volkswagen, haven’t been reproduced since the 1960s.

hot wheels 50th originals

The 50th Anniversary “Originals” are a mix of Redline and later castings.

For the 50th, there is a set called the “The Originals Collection.” The castings feature the ’68 Cougar, Volkswagen Beetle, ’67 Camaro, Custom ’67 Mustang, and Hemi Barracuda, with packaging that evokes a combination of the the original flame job and the Spoilers. But the cars aren’t repops of the original Redlines. On the other hand, the RLC releases this year have brought out some extremely rare reissued Hot Wheels castings that are much truer to the real deal.

These special editions are, of course collectible in their own right, but how do they affect the value of the original models? Let’s look back at another major milestone where Hot Wheels did something similar.

hot wheels deora

It’s easy to tell the reproduction from the original, but does their existence still hurt the values of Redlines?

In 1993, Hot Wheels celebrated their 25th anniversary by reissuing some of the old Redline designs with retro packaging. Even folks who hadn’t thought about the brand since they were kids were instantly transported back when they saw Otto Kuhni’s orange and red cards with the sleek, shiny cars and the collector buttons. The repops were different enough from the old ones that they couldn’t be passed off as an old model… the cards had additional graphics (and bar codes of course), the cars didn’t copy the multi-piece wheel constructions of the originals, and the buttons were plastic instead of stamped metal. But the overall effect hit a very nostalgic mark. The followed it up the next year with “Vintage Series II,” similarly packaged, but not anniversary related. The response was enormous, and universally loved. Well, maybe not universally… some people had gripes, as it turned out.

So what was the effect of those releases on collecting?

  • Collectors with less money to spend could get reasonable facsimiles of old favorites at a reasonable price, making them happy.
  • Collectors of vintage originals might have seen a little bit of the cache of their collection disappear (just a bit).
  • Some vintage toy dealers were upset that a cheaper alternative was potentially lowering costs of the originals.
  • Hardcore collectors now had to find all the new versions of the models as well.

Of course, those 25th Anniversary cars are now 25 years old themselves. Remember, this was in the days before the internet really kicked off, so no hobbyDB, no eBay, no message boards, Facebook rants, Twitter storms, or badly Photoshopped rumors. These cars were available in toy stores first hand, or at flea markets or collectibles shops afterwards. Also, there was no way to gauge the price that folks were actually paying aside from what you found in the wild.

hot wheels vintage rally case

Casual collectors can make a case for anniversary repops. (Can you spot the one original car?)

Their values haven’t moved much in the past quarter century from when they first sold in the stores, partly because collectors were already becoming aware of the value of keeping their items in pristine condition (and since so many did just that, there’s an abundance of mint examples out there).  In fact many other models produced at the same time as these are much more valuable today.

Certain models in the 50th Anniversary releases have already shot up in value, at least for now. What happens over time is less predictable. The initial hype of “gotta have it” eventually stabilizes towards more reasonable prices with time. Or the prices shoot up as collectors realize the cars are harder to find than they expected, and they should have grabbed one when they had the chance. Short of owning a time machine, these reissues are the best chance for many collectors to get their hands on some of these early models without paying too much of a ransom.

What are your thoughts on Hot Wheels reproducing or reissuing older castings? Let us know in the comments!

Comments (7 Comments)
Samuel Ace

I love the reproductions of the hotwheels car's that Mattel is doing this year for they're 50th anniversary thumbs up.

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Join the hobbyDB Justice League – Become a Contributor

As we know, data makes the hobbyDB world go round! With more than 350,000 entries, hobbyDB is the largest collectibles database in the world and depends on collectors like you to keep it up to date. Our database is bigger than ever, but we know that all this data means nothing if it’s inaccurate!

With nearly 45,000 Hot Wheels models and 14,000 Funko figures (in both cases we now cover more than 99% of what these two brands have ever produced), our Curation Team was starting to encounter an increasing number of duplicates and asked us to do about this. So we’re putting new tools in place to ensure the database maintains top notch quality.

DC Superheroes

Going forward, the ability to add and edit content on hobbyDB will go only to users who have shown they add quality data. These users will be called “Contributors” and will have the superpowers to add new items to the catalog, including creating items from scratch or adding variants. As these collectors have special powers and as by now the Curators have developed some guidelines, we do ask folks to go through a training before being given the ability to add items to the database.

The good news is becoming a contributor is simple. All you have to do is follow the three easy steps below, and you’ll be on your way to adding to our collectibles database in no time…

Become a Contributor here

Once the questionnaire is submitted, one of hobbyDB’s Champions or team members will review your answers and come back to you within two business days. If everything checks out, you’ll be given the power to add items to the database right away! If we feel you aren’t quite ready, not to worry, we’ll schedule a private training session with you to ensure you’re a database master in no time.

This new program is just the first step in a series of improvements we have planned to increase data quality. Let us know if you have any ideas or feedback in the comments below!

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Elva is Newest/Oldest Official Archive on hobbyDB

elva gt160 modelsElva, a British Sports and Racing Car manufacturer, is the latest Official Archive to appear on hobbyDB.  This Archive is a little different, though, as the company’s last car was produced almost fifty years ago. But the Elva name lives on under the tutelage of Roger Dunbar (a.k.a.. ElvaRacingRoger), who is currently reviving the name for a new production car. He also happens to be the Curator of the brand on hobbyDB.

If you’re not familiar with Elva, that’s understandable. And unfortunate, as Elva made a series of relatively inexpensive race cars as well as production models of small, fast, sports cars. The name comes from Elle Va, French for “she goes.” Their early sports racing cars were seen on circuits on both sides of the pond, used for hill climbs and budget-minded racing series such as Formula Junior. Faster is usually better, so Elva race cars were found mingling with Lotus, Cooper and all the other serious manufacturers of the period.  The cars were continually upgraded and used a number of power units including Coventry Climax, Ford, Cosworth, DKW, Porsche, BMW, the V8 grunt from Buick and Chevrolet to make lightweight race winning cars. The cars are still raced around the world, often still bringing home trophies.

elva service truck

Roger Dunbar drives the Elva Service Truck to historic races and other events to fly the flag.

There was enough early success on the track to create their first road car, the sporty 1958 Courier roadster. It was essentially a front mid engine car using MGA ‘B-Series’ engines combined with swoopy, gorgeous fiberglas coachwork.  Development of the sports racing cars continued during the 1960s, New models included the beautiful GT160 coupe that attracted much attention but due to competition rules changing, just three prototypes were built.

elva headerDunbar’s history with Elva is extensive. He has been with the company since 1970s, and in 1986, formed the Company Elva Racing to provide specialist parts and undertake vintage restorations and race preparation. “This involved in particular the marque’s sports racing cars and the Courier models on both sides of the Atlantic,” he said. “Elva Racing Models was just an extension of the intense interest in the marque.”

elva gt160 coupe

The Archive features information on the real cars, as well as various scale models. Many of the cars are made by Axel’R with cooperation from Dunbar. “We’ve commissioned various 1/43rd models of the GT160, Elva-Porsche, and Elva-BMW sports racers in different formats.” He said. As for what cars to expect for future scale offerings, Dunbar says “Whatever will attract interest and that we haven’t covered yet.  However there has to be an Elva connection.”

elva mclaren kitsIn the 1960s, slot car manufacturers produced a number of excellent kits of the McLaren-Elva series. Monogram, Tamiya, and AMT also offered some of their cars in 1/24 scale kit form.

As for Dunbar’s favorite full size vehicle, his answer is kind of tricky… “It’s the lovely old 1947 Elva Engineering van, which is a Morris Commercial type PV,” he said. So, not a sports car, but an exact replica of the support van for the original company. It can often be seen at Goodwood and other events. “I commissioned a stunning 1/43rd scale model of the full size van. We also have the Ford E83W pickup. Both of these vehicles represent the original workhorses used by Elva Engineering in the late 1950’s.” Of the more sporty cars, he would choose the Elva GT160.

elva truck models

There is a surprisingly bulky award winning book detailing the history of the company available via David Bull Publishing entitled “Elva: The Cars, The People, The History” by Janos Wimpffen.

While the new Elva road/track car is close to being announced (and perhaps a model of it will be appropriate sometime) it’s nice to know there are faithfully produced models of the previous era available and maybe others on the way. “I have worked with various very talented model makers based in the UK and Europe who have skillfully produced excellent models on our behalf,” said Dunbar. “I’m always happy to hear from people who have an interest in Elva.”

Have you ever owned an Elva car? Big fan of the marque? Let us know in the comments!

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