A regularly updated blog about my vintage Kenner Star Wars toy collection. Some stuff that I've recently acquired; some stuff that I've had since I was a kid. Some rare, some common, but all sharing the warmth, charm and character of the "first generation" of Star Wars toys - the ones we played with as kids in the late '70s and early '80s.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Tatooine Skiff Vehicle

People in collecting hobbies talk all the time about "Holy Grail" items... meaning the type of item that comes along extremely rarely, is usually very expensive, and is highly desirable as a centrepiece of a collection. This piece, for me, is a Grail item. The Tatooine Skiff was produced at the very tail end of the vintage era, was released only in "Power of the Force" packaging, is rare, is expensive, and (just look at it!) is amazingly cool.

I obtained this item is several transactions earlier this year. The vehicle was acquired from one dealer, an original spare part to replace a damaged bit of the vehicle from another person, the box from a third, and the original vintage Planetary Map from yet another!

The package design on this box is just wonderful. The play features are great, including retractable landing gear, movable thruster vanes, collapsing side rails, and of course the extending gangplank!

Great pic here of some figures on the Skiff. We can clearly see the "lateness of the hour" in terms of the vintage era from the inclusion of Barada, one of the last 17 POTF figures.

$14.97 pricetag... ha!!

Before we get to the ship itself, let's have a look at another inclusion with the toy - the Planetary Map. Interestingly, the Planetary Map wasn't referenced on the box as an inclusion, and probably made a nice surprise for the original purchaser who found it in the box.

The obverse of the Map has all sorts of interesting information about the planet Tatooine.

The reverse contains promotion for other toys in the later range, including the awesome Droids A-Wing Fighter!

And speaking of Droids... how about this strange description of the Skiff: "DROID DESERT SKIFF VEHICLE" (?)

Perhaps a Droids cartoon aficionado can weigh in as to whether the vehicle appeared in the cartoon, but we know that there was unproduced art for a Droids-branded box.

Here's the box photo...

... and my tableau. Barada is about to push Luke off the gangplank... 

Luke, for his part, looks around nonchalantly, waiting for his lightsaber to come flying towards him, no doubt.

A disarmed Chewbacca is guarded by Boba Fett while Weequay mans the controls of the Skiff.

"Now where's that lightsaber...?"

Luke takes a tumble as pictured on the box.

Followed by Boba Fett... unfortunately the railings aren't strong enough to support a "halfway down" shot like on the box.

Copyright info confirms this example as a 1984 PotF item as opposed to a reissue. Unfortunately the original vehicles were comprised of some very fragile parts - notably the side rails and landing gear struts. I believe that those parts on this ship have been replaced by identical parts from the reissue - not "reproduction" per se as the parts are from an identical toy, but not 1984 production.

Weequay demonstrates the operation of the Skiff's controls. Lever at the left of the picture operates the landing gear. Careful operation is a must as you can feel the delicate nature of the gears inside as you move the lever - yikes! Lever at right works the "drop-down" function on the gangplank.

Operator's eye view of the Skiff controls.

I also picked up a very nice laser-cut acrylic stand for the Skiff from an eBay seller. Great if you want to display the item as it saves stress on the landing gear.

Well there you have it. Grail acquired. I have to say it's great to finally have picked this one up. Not an insignificant investment either... although acquiring a toy, box, and insert separately usually costs more than buying them all together, I think I did OK with this transaction and didn't significantly overpay. The problem with the Skiff is that so few seem to have survived either in box or completely original. I'm happy with this one and it's satisfying to have added it to my modest collection. 

Friday, March 23, 2018

Appearance on The Vintage Rebellion Podcast

Last month I was contacted by the lads at The Vintage Rebellion podcast regarding a post I'd made on SWFUK about my Grubee's cup find. They kindly asked if I would like to talk about the cups on their podcast. Would I!!!

So episode 45 of the podcast has now come out and there I am, yakking away from 3:00 to about 3:10. It was great fun to speak with Si and Rich about the cup find and collecting in general. Top chaps and I hope to speak with you again soon.

And if you haven't checked out The Vintage Rebellion... you really need to do so. It's a great podcast and the hosts have some wonderful chemistry. It's very "British" in terms of presentation so if you like their sense of humour, you'll love it. The podcast is available from the usual places - iTunes, Podbean etc.

And might I also give a big thank-you to Si, Rich, Stu, Pete and (even) Jez for all of their hard work on this very entertaining show!

ps I've updated the cups post with some additional information received after posting the find on the forums. Cheers to super-collector Jonathan M. for that additional info!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

YPS Snowtrooper "Der Stormtrooper des Imperiums"

I didn't start off my collecting life playing the "variant game" but after completing a loose figure run, it's kind of inevitable that interest would increase in production variants like brown-haired Lukes, grey-haired Obi Wans, and turtlenecked Leia Bespins :-)

But one of the coolest variants around has to be the YPS Snowtrooper. This little fellow's story begins with "YPS", a German kid's magazine that included "gimmicks" (giveaways) poly-bagged with the book. Issue #510 from 1985 featured the "Stormtrooper des Imperiums" as the gimmick, with a comic story featuring him in the magazine itself.

Notice anything different? That's right... many of the SdIs came with a different weapon, from Palitoy's "Action Force", although the regular blue Snowtrooper rifle was packed with some instead.

Another difference was the cape. Note round holes as opposed to slits in the Kenner version.

Here's a clearer pic of the Action Force weapon.

COO on the YPS figure was scarred.

The Snowtrooper is already one of the awesomest Imperial figures in the range and the weapon found with the YPS variant makes it that much cooler. Very common in Germany but rarer elsewhere, they're still available on eBay but you can expect to pay a premium... but worth it!

Image credit: Comic Vine - Game Spot

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Rebel Armored Snowspeeder

Once again we visit the freezing ice planet of Hoth as an analogue for the freezing ice city of Winnipeg... this time to examine the very cool Rebel Armored Snowspeeder. My example comes in the first-issued pink box as opposed to the later (and rarer) blue one. That box also featured a different front photo, showcasing 2-1B, Rebel Commander, R2-D2 with Sensorscope, and a Tauntaun in addition to a single Rebel Soldier. The Snowspeeder was only ever available in ESB-branded packaging, of course.

The box notes the Snowspeeder as being a "space vehicle" which seems a bit off-message in terms of movie screen usage. However...

...the Snowspeeder has to be one of the greatest vehicles in the whole Original Trilogy. First of all, it's flown by Luke so you know it's going to get shown off to advantage. Second, it incorporates a unique and unexpected weapon in the form of the harpoon and cable, which Luke uses (improbably) to bring down a massive Imperial AT-AT Walker. And lastly, it just looks super-cool.

The harpoon description and pictures do take up a lot of real estate on the box, which isn't surprising considering how it really grabbed the imagination as a play feature.

Has anyone not tried to bring down the family dog or cat with the harpoon and cable???

Room for two action figures in the cockpit. Great if you have two Luke X-Wings, you can pretend one is Dack :-)  Nifty switch on the bottom of the ship raises and lowers the landing gear as well.

Setting up the tableau from the box front only requires three Rebel Soldiers plus the heroes and droids. Piece of cake for most kids back in the day I'm sure.

Luke flings open the canopy.

This is the downside of only five points of articulation - sitting in the pilot's seat, Luke looks like a cadaver laid out on a slab instead of a crackerjack pilot used to bullseye-ing womp rats in Beggar's Canyon...

Great looking ship! Light and sound feature are unfortunately defunct on my example, but the lighting track is visible on the laser cannon barrels.

Detail shot of the harpoon and cable. Make sure that if you buy a loose Snowspeeder, it includes the harpoon as it can be a devil to find loose.

Here's how the thing works - just unclip the harpoon from the mount. String/cable was noted in advertising materials to be "two feet" long.

Copyright info is stamped on the bottom of the ship.

Another great looking ship from the Kenner designers. Lots of play potential in this one too - could the Snowspeeder actually fly off into space, as the box blurb indicates? And certainly the 'speeder could have application in all kinds of environments other than the ice planet. A super toy!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Imperial Attack Base

With temperatures here in Winnipeg hovering around -25C it seems like a great time to showcase another of the fantastic Hoth-themed playsets from The Empire Strikes Back. This time it's the turn of the Imperial Attack Base.

I always wondered why the playset was called the "Imperial Attack Base" when it would have made so much more sense to theme it as a "Rebel Snow Bunker" or something like that. The Rebels were the guys who dug all those trenches around their base, set up defence turrets, etc. so why wouldn't Kenner have brought this toy out as part of the Rebel defences? All we saw of the Imperials in the Hoth assault was giant walkers and snowtroopers flooding into Echo Base. It didn't seem like the Imperials would have had the time or inclination to set up "Attack Bases" with a certain Dark Lord so eager to Force-choke anybody who didn't step to it with sufficient alacrity. But Imperial Attack Base it is, nonetheless...

Lots of play features in this set. Action levers, land mine, snow bridge, command post and cannon!

Box sides illustrate some play scenarios...

The dreaded "Laser machine gun"! (sic)

"Heavy Laser", sure. "Laser Cannon", makes sense. But "Laser machine gun"???

And here we see a snowtrooper about to step on a land mine presumably laid by his own side, in their own Attack Base. No wonder the Rebels all escaped Hoth...

Blow the roof off that bridge!

Cool production still of a snowtrooper with a tri-pod laser cannon.

Now on to the fun part, setting up the tableaux! Here we re-create the box front with Vader and his snowtrooper squad preparing to repel the Rebel cavalry led by Han and Chewie.

"Laser machine gun" brought into action.

"Pretend you detonate the snow bridge!"

Box side photo - two snowtroopers about to beat a retreat in the face of the Rebel assault???

Command post blows sky-high.

Some close-up shots of the toy's details. Just some great sculpting apparent in the snow textures here.

The business end of the LMG.

Defending the Base.

Vader stands out a bit against the snow, no? Maybe a white cape would have been a better choice, just this once.

Detail of the snow bridge.

The command post. Note two roof pieces that fit on top.

Assembled toy.

The toy with all of its component parts: base, command post structure and two roof pieces, snow wall, two-part snow bridge, Laser machine gun. You'll find that many loose Attack Bases are missing one or more of these pieces - the roof parts to the command post can be especially tough to find.

Copyright info on the bottom of the base. Note reference to "Lucas Film Ltd" and "Rev 10". Unlike parts like the bases from the Land of the Jawas playset, the Creature Cantina playset, and the Droid Factory, though, the Attack Base parts were not re-used in other released toys.

Handy instructions for assembling and using the action features on your Attack Base :-)

The Imperial Attack Base has to be one of the most feature-packed playsets released in the ESB wave and I'm happy to have a complete one in nice shape. I still think it a shame that the movie connection wasn't made stronger by branding this as a "Rebel Defence Base" or similar, though - just imagine how cool the box art might have been. By this time the Kenner packaging designers were losing their inhibitions about limiting illustrations to collections that kids might realistically have had - witness the five snowtroopers, four Rebel soldiers and two Tauntauns here. How cool would it have been to see a box front with swarms of attacking snowtroopers and an AT-AT or AT-ST or two!