In 1978, almost a year after the release of the first Star Wars motion picture, the toy world suddenly found itself deep in the throws of Star Wars madness. With Kenner's release of the first wave of 3 3/4" action figures based on the movie, kids everywhere clamored to complete their collections. Unbeknownst to Kenner at the time, the now-priceless action figures would change the world of action figures for the next 30 years and beyond.
Today, the original figures are sought after by collectors all over the world, some fetching prices in the thousands.
1. "Telescoping Lightsaber" Darth Vader, 1978
When the first wave of Star Wars "Early Bird" action figure sets began arriving on the market in 1978, the original Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker figures came with a telescoping lightsaber accessory. The small plastic weapon of the Jedi Knight would rise out from the hollow arm of each figure, then a thinner piece would further rise out. This proved difficult to manufacture and broke easily, so it was abandoned in the next wave of figures to reach stores, replacing the telescoping lightsaber with a single-piece version. It's been said that only a few hundred versions of these figures were ever made and the Darth Vader version of this figure is the most highly prized.
Average Market Value: $6,000
2. Vinyl Cape Jawa, 1978
When the original Jawa action figures hit store shelves, they were outfitted with a thin vinyl cape similar to the capes found on Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi. However, with the second wave of Jawa figures, the vinyl cape was replaced with a sewn cloth robe and stayed that way from then on. The story goes that Kenner felt that buyers would feel cheated because the figure was half the size of any other figure, yet still selling for the same price. Their solution was to add the cloth robe in order to help the buyers feel they were getting their money's worth.
Average Market Value: $2,000
3. Rocket Firing Boba Fett, 1980
Star Wars collectors have been debating this figure's very existence for decades. The story goes that in 1980, Kenner released the first wave of Empire Strikes Back action figures, which included the original Boba Fett figure that came with a missile that fired from his back. Later, Kenner worried about the safety of the tiny projectile and re-released the figure with the missile permanently glued into the figure's backpack. Kenner officially denies that they ever released a missile-firing version of the figure, but a few have surfaced in auctions and in the collectible market, and many collectors have paid hefty sums for one.
Average Market Value: $1,000 - $2,000
4. Yak Face, 1985
1985 saw the official cancellation of Kenner's Star Wars action figure line. When the line was given the ax, there was one last figure, Yak Face, that had gone through production but was never distributed to toy stores. In order to recoup some of their production loses, Kenner, instead of destroying the overstock, chose to simply send the figures to outlets in Europe and Canada, thus poor Yak Face never saw retail in the States. Years later, as the Star Wars collectible market continued to grow, Yak Face action figures began to make their way into collectors hands. But the figure remains extremely rare, fueling rumors that Kenner did indeed destroy most of the overstock figures back in 1985.
Average Market Value: $1,000
5. Blue Snaggletooth, 1978
Another figure featured in the Early Bird sets released in 1978 was Snaggletooth. The story goes that when the Kenner toy designers were making the prototype figures, the only visual resource they had for the character Snaggletooth was a grainy, black-and-white photograph of the character's head. With so little to go on, the Kenner employees did their best and just made up the rest, making a figure of a blue suited, average human height creature from a character that actually wore red and was about 3 feet tall. The figure was quickly scrapped and never seen again, making it possibly the rarest Star Wars action figure on the market.
Average Market Value: $400