Star Wars Action figures & their appeal
Star Wars mechandise has always been very successful, the most popular by far has always been the action figures. Kenner picked up the licence for the action figures back in 1977 after other companies had declined the offer. It's likely that Kenner were clueless about the appeal those figures would have. Now, some 40 years later the figures are almost as popular as they were then. The main difference being that the collectors are now mostly adults.
Figures in vintage style packaging look the best because it's so retrotastic!
In the beginning
When Hasbro picked up the licence, they had no chance of releasing figures in time for the cinema release of Star Wars (or 'A new hope' as it's called now). They had little chance of getting any figures out in time for Christmas of 1977 either, so were likely to miss out on what would've been a great sales opportunity. What they decided to do instead was to sell an empty box containing a certificate enabling kids to redeem the first 12 figures during the first half of 1978; a long time to wait for a Christmas gift. Somehow it paid off, and those empty boxes sold exceptionally well.
The range of figures expanded with each movie release, ending with a range of 93 figures and dozens of vehicles. Popularity waned after the last of the original movies was released and by mid 1985 the figures were discontinued. The last 17 figures released hardly saw any time on shop shelves (and are now worth a fortune in the original packaging). Kids had moved on to collecting the new cool toys; Transformers, masters of the universe, MASK and Action Force (or GI Joe if you're American).
Star Wars figures were sold for pennies at car boot sales. I know my whole collection went for next to nothing, I kept hold of just my four favorite figures; Luke Skywalker X-wing pilot, Bobba Fett, C3PO & a Stormtrooper. Of course a few short years later and everyone who sold (or thrown out) collections that would have become worth a fortune would be kicking themselves. The age of the retro toy collector came about in the mid-90's.
Star wars as a collectible for adults
Princess Leia races against a pair of Imperial Scouts against the inexplicable backdrop of a Viper from Battelstar Galactica!
As an adult, the Star Wars movies still have great appeal; perhaps not as much as when I was a kid; it's impossible to appreciate the new movies in the same way as I did as a child. Adults are too embedded in the real world to have that sense of wonder and amazement. Sure, the trailer for 'The Force Awakens' when Han Solo says 'Chewie, we're home' brought a tear to my eye as it did for many others, but not because of Han Solo, it was because it took me back to being 5 years old again for a brief moment. As a friend said to me; 'the idea of watching Indiana Jones is never as great as actually watching it.' I would kind of agree- seen it too many times to quite capture the excitement each time, but the overall appeal doesn't fade because the memory of the original thrill remains.
I don't collect the original star wars figures. Honestly, I don't want to have to spend thousand of pounds re-buying what I got rid of for a few quid. So, instead I have spent thousands of pounds buying the new range of star wars figures. I wasn't tempted when Hasbro first released the 'power of the force' range in the mid 90's; the figures were over-muscled and looked stupid. They also cost about £5 each when the original figures were £1. However, the figures improved over time and by the late 90's they were pretty good, although the cost has steadily risen and new figures now cost between £10 and £13. I probably own about 400 carded/boxed figures and about another 500 loose as well as scores of vehicles; my favorite being the 3' long Millenium Falcon and my three (all slightly different) X-wing fighters (Luke's, Wedge's and Red leader's).
The pride of my collection. It lights up and makes cool sounds. It lives in the loft.
Why even collect this crap?
So why the appeal? The answer is easy enough; it's a connection to our youth. Back before mortgages, 40-hour working week, overtime, insurances and so on. There's something captivating about Star Wars. As a child the movies instantly transported me to this huge universe of a myriad of aliens, cool spaceships and epic adventures. There were many others which had a similar effect; Buck Rogers, Battlestar Galactica, Flash Gordon, Indiana Jones... but none had the appeal of Star Wars.
Most of it stays in packets, but I sometimes buy duplicates so I can open them, like this Mon Cal B-wing pilot.
Why collect figures to keep them in the packets? I ask myself this sometimes. I actually don't even really have room for them. They're not on display. They get shoved in a cupboard or put in the loft which is already pretty full of Star Wars collectibles. If I remove them from the boxes they are devalued. I kinda like how they look in the packets anyway; that was the main appeal as a kid- gawping at the huge range on offer in the shops. I could probably sell my collection and use the proceeds to buy a decent car or take my daughter on an epic vacation. At some point I probably will. I know I don't 'need' any of it, but as some of the stuff which I bought just a few years back is already worth a couple times what I paid for it, for now it's a good investment. Better than my actual monetary investments are doing that's for sure!
A collection I bought recently on sale in Smyths. A couple of duplicates in there to open up.
You can literally never have enough Stormtroopers.