Collecting Posts

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!

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!

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!

Collecting Versus Hoarding: It’s a Matter of Perspective

Musings By Joschik

Christian is one of the founders of the hobbyDB project. As much as he loves collecting diecast cars (among other things), he sometimes wonders if he takes his hobby just a bit too seriously.


They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. The perception of whether something has any value is often very personal. But in the case of collecting, people usually agree that certain items have some value. The difference is usually a matter of degrees and amount. In other words, when does a hobby move from “collecting” to “hoarding?’

collection closet

Is this closet a sign of collecting or hoarding? Depends on a lot of factors…

Consider the following criteria. None of these are hard and fast rules, but if you find yourself on the questionable end of most of these answers, it might be time to sell off a few collectibles.

How much of your collection is  on display? Some collections fit on a bookshelf, and some require a warehouse. If it’s all on display, does it take up most of your house? Is a lot of it in storage? Has a good chunk of your collection not seen the light of day in several years?

Some collectors, rather than being completists, will collect enough of their obsession to fill the allotted space, and then stop. For something like bobblehead dolls, a person might just collect only ones they are interested in. And when their shelves are full, they might dial back their efforts a bit. For diecast cars, many collectors will grab the entire documented set.

This question is really a double-edged sword… if you have a modest display but a vault of hidden goods, you might be over the top. On the other hand, if you have every single item out, to the exclusion of any other home decor, you might want to slow down a bit as well. There’s a healthy balance in there somewhere.

toy collecting

Is this “hoarding?” It’s a lot of stuff, but neatly organized, so probably not.

 

What kind of chaos lies underneath? It’s possible and plausible to have tens of thousands of toys in your collection with only a small percentage visible. But about that stuff in storage… how organized is it? Did you carefully stack and pack and wrap and protect each item? Are they in a climate controlled, water proof area? It’s not like you need to keep your collectibles in a hermetically sealed humidor, but if you just have dumpsters full of stuff randomly tossed in a big pile… yeah, that might be a sign of hoarding.

Do you find yourself buying items you don’t really want just to complete your collection? This can be a slippery slope. Many collectors started off just buying a few items that spoke to them, such as a model of the car they currently drive. Then finding out that the model is part of a series of a dozen cars, they go out and find the other eleven, even though they have no other emotional or historical connection. Is this necessarily unhealthy? Not really. But it begs the question of who’s in control of what you collect.

Did you take out a second mortgage to add to your collection? Did you have to buy a second home to store or display it? Unless you’re talking about large items such as cars, jukeboxes, or arcade games, when additional real estate gets involved, you might be headed into some unhealthy territory.

hoarding or collecting

“Hoarding?” Possibly, if this is the way the items are always displayed.

Do you even know what you have in your collection? Everyone has stared at an item on the store shelf and had a moment of doubt as to whether that one was already part of the collection. That’s normal. Once in a while.

Some sort of checklist is essential for any collection, especially when you get into hundreds or thousands of items. Or if many of them are in storage. (Shameless plug: hobbyDB can be a great resource for documenting your collection, including notes on what you paid, the condition, and the location of the item.) A checklist that you can peek at on your mobile device is really useful. A detailed inventory is also useful for insurance purposes and just in case someone else will be the executor of your estate some day (more at insureyourcollection.com).

Do you ever buy an item just so no one else can get their hands on it? There are many times you know you can fetch a good price for an item by selling or trading, so it makes sense to grab it if you see it. But if you’re just trying to corner the market on that item, maybe you’ve turned the corner towards hoarding.

Do you have extras of your extras? Some collectors like to have every model in a perfect package. And maybe one to display loose in a case. And maybe one or two to trade. And another in case the mint-in-package example gets dropped and a corner of the card is bent. And so on. At some point, this adds up more towards hoarding than collecting.

Do you have trouble parting with those extras in sales, for trade, or as gifts? That’s why you have eight copies of that one Star Wars figure, right? Right?

toy hoarding

We’re going to file this one in the “hoarding” column for sure.

Does your collection stray from its core? For example, if you collect Topper Johnny Lightning cars (1969-71), there are some items such as track sets that are a direct extension of those cars. Maybe you also gather advertisements, lunchboxes and whiskey decanters from that line that relate directly to the core of your collection. And perhaps you collect the reissues of those cars as well. These levels of devotion all sound like “collecting.” If you start acquiring unrelated things that only contain the word “Topper,” “Johnny,” or “Lightning” in the name, you might be trending towards hoarding.

Do you collect variants that are not readily distinguishable from other versions without a microscope? If the UPC code on the back of the package is the only difference from one variant to another, most collectors would not bother calling that a difference. Obsession to detail can be fun, but at some point, it can border on insanity.

Collecting is fun, we get it. That’s why everyone at hobbyDB is a collector of some sort of thing or another. And we’re not judging anyone. We’re just suggesting exercising a smidge of moderation and responsibility. Not too much, of course. That could be also become obsessive.

Do you have any other insights that help distinguish between collecting versus hoarding? Let us know in the comments!

Making the Grade: The Ins and Outs of Collectibles Grading Services

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

The condition of a collectible is one of the most hotly debated and important factors in determining its value. What constitutes “Mint” versus “near mint” and everything below is a matter of opinion, but your opinion might be vastly influenced by whether you are buying or selling. What one person considers “mint” may have many very tiny, but still important imperfections that would upset a buyer who paid full price. Of course, you may also want to have high-ticket items in your collection graded for insurance purposes.

skating judgesThe tough part comes with newer items that are designated as collectible right from the factory. Collectors should expect a perfect item in these cases, but even in a perfect world, a tiny bit of wear and imperfection is normal. How much and what kind of wear is the sticking point.

Collectibles grading services can take some of the opinion out of the mix by attaching their unbiased expert opinion to an item.

We did a recent article outlining some of the terms people use to list specifiic imperfections on packaging, but that’s only part of the package in grading. An honest accounting of flaws big or little is crucial for the buyer to determine how much they are willing to spend. For high end items such as vintage comic books or extremely rare variants of action figures or diecast cars, it can make sense to have a professional grading service chime in with their opinion.

In most cases, you will need to send the item to the company, so there is a tiny bit of risk, although the packages should be insured both ways. Some companies may offer on the spot appraisals as well, even setting up at collector conventions and such.

Authenticity is part of the game in collectible appraisals. For an item that is no longer sealed, there’s all kind of possibility for fraud, including faked variants, repairs, or reproduction elements. Some grading services won’t offer grades on such things because the company’s reputation is on the line with each assessment they perform. With a grade from a reputable service and a price guide in hand, a collector should have a good sense of an item’s value.

grading diecast

CGA offers several different grading services including diecast.

CGA, Collectible Grading Authority, is one of the most prominent services in the business. CGA actually has four separate divisions, for grading Action figures, collectible dolls, video game equipment, and diecast. For each of these services, you ship the item to them, insured, and they will grade it in the flesh.

As you may have figured out, this is not free, so this kind of service is not for $5 Hot Wheels cars or $10 action figures. CGA does offer different types of authentication and grading, such as for new items that are easily documented, or vintage items that may have some provenance. CGA can also assess hand-buillt prototypes, pre-production loose toys, and other oddities.

grey flannel auctions grading

Grey Flannel Auctions offers a free valuation service for sports memorabilia.

For vintage sports equipment and uniforms, Grey Flannel Auctions offers an interesting new service. GFA  is a leading consignment auction house for such items and have earned a reputation for their honest assessment of items up for sale. They recently teamed up with Uni-Watch.com, a daily blog about sports uniforms, to offer an appraisal service for sports memorabilia. It’s not technically a grading service, but instead an overall assessment of the value in their expert opinion. Sports gear is a collectible corner where wear and tear and repairs can actually make a game-used item more interesting and/or valuable if it’s an important piece. Best of all, there’s no charge or obligation, although if the item is perceived to be worth less than $250, they will not do an appraisal. You can learn more here.

grading comics

CGC, Certified Guaranty Company can grade your vintage comics or magazines.

For other specific collectibles, there are dedicated services available (if we are missing a service let us know and we will add it!).

Autographs

 

Coins

Comic Books


Stamps
(Where “F,” Fine, outranks “A,” Average!)


Toys


Trading Cards

 

https://www.psacard.com

In each case, you’ll want to do some research to make sure these companies have a reputation for honest respected grading, and also for taking care of your valuable collectibles while in their possessions. In other words, make sure your grading service makes the grade as well.

If you’ve used any another collectibles grading companies, let us know in the comments.