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.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"Artoo Detoo! It Is You! It Is You!"

I recently posted an article on the Star Wars Action Display Stand featuring the original 12 figures from my childhood collection. Sadly, the decals on my Artoo units didn't survive that well - a combination of water-damage and scrapes from being plugged into square astromech droid socket on my home-built Lego X-Wing. So my Artoo unit on the display stand actually has a reproduction decal. Horrors!

I subsequently decided to find a new all-original solid-dome Artoo for my collection. I found a nice looking one on eBay for a reasonable price and it arrived yesterday, in time for an impromptu photo session with my old repro-decal Artoo and an all-original Sensorscope version.

Here's the new Artoo that just arrived. A bit of wear on the decal and some very slight discolouration - but that, to me, bespeaks the genuineness of the piece.

A couple scrapes on the back side but nothing too major. Finding a really minty solid-dome Artoo is tough, and $$$, but this one was a nice compromise between condition and cost.

Original Sensorscope version. Nice white decal here - but it seems to me that it's easier to find nice decals on SS Artoos than it is on solid-dome ones.

Back side of the Sensorscope Artoo. All of the examples in the photographs have the standard HK COO.

Repro decal (left) vs. original. Repro is whiter and has nice detail, but lacks the distinct patina and texture of the original 35-year-old sticker. hard to tell from this angle but the droid on the right has noticeably darker blue paint apps. I've read that this can be a feature of the "early-bird" pieces but I am a bit of a skeptic on that one... in any event there were so many EB figures produced I find it hard to ascribe any extra rarity value. A double-telescoping saber Ben Kenobi, it ain't ;-) 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Slave I - Boba Fett's Spaceship

So everybody knows that if bounty hunters are cool, and Boba Fett is the coolest bounty hunter, then Fett's ride has to be uber-super-cool. So what if it looks like a streetlight? Of course Kenner knew this well so in 1980, they produced a "Slave I" vehicle for their Star Wars mini-action figure line.

Packaging is awesome, one of the best designs yet, in my opinion. Notice anything funny about the name of the toy? Maybe not, but to me the ship was always Slave (numeral) "1" - it never occurred to me that Fett might prefer the Roman numeral. And it must be the Roman numeral, since nobody says "Slave Eye".

Box top shows how to place Fett in his cockpit and lock the wings.

There's even a handle on the bottom so kids could "fly" him around. Shades of Darth Vader's Star Destroyer, but on Fett's ship it makes much more sense.

As usual I've set up the scene as shown on the box front - the Cloud City landing pad where Han Solo, frozen in carbonite, is being loaded onto Fett's ship by a pair of Stormtroopers. Lobot and two Bespin guards (both mustachioed) hang around trying to be cool, but Fett out-cools everybody, doesn't he?

Unfortunately the decals on my ship are quite worn and flaking off, readily visible in this overhead shot.

As usual, administrative staff stand around...

...while Stormtroopers do the heavy lifting.

Fett and Lobot chat, completely ignoring the dude on his break who just want to say "hi".

"Turn it... no, turn it... turn it tall ways..."

Lift with your legs, not with your back. That's how workplace injuries happen!

"Well, if everyone's going to ignore me anyway, I'll just pop in for a quick look. Never seen the inside of a Firespray-31 before..."

The rear ramp, along with the Han-in-carbonite-block, is often lost from loose examples of the toy. The other detachable parts are the wings (which must be detached from the root pieces if the ship is to fit into the box) and the side door.

Okay, I know I went a bit off the rails with this post but if anybody's still reading, I hope you don't mind ;-)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hoth Ice Planet Adventure Playset (Kenner Canada)

In Canada, our Star Wars toys (even in the '80s) were required to embrace the bilingual wonderfulness that is our Canadian culture. This means that packaging and instructions are seen in both official languages, English and French. Fortunately for French kids, and unlike the Canadian Dagobah playset, the Hoth Ice Planet Adventure Set has French language in full colour on the box front, same as the English.

I found this example at a local antique store. As with many non-specialist vintage vendors, pricing there is somewhat random... asking $100 for a boxed Twin-Pod Cloud Car in average condition, for example. Fortunately this set was much more reasonable, I picked it up for $65 and it is complete down to the plastic pegs.

English language side of the box has same graphics as the French but has some unsightly tape on it. Display the French side...?

As usual the box top and bottom have some great play images.

Here's the playset in its glory. It includes the plastic base, cardboard backdrop with "manual elevator", and the plastic Radar Laser Cannon. Note that the latter is different from the Radar Laser Cannon sold on its own as an "action figure accessory." There are several significant differences, but the most obvious one from photos is that the dish on the playset version has a round bottom, whereas the accessory toy has a dish that's noticeably flat across the lower edge. As the playset is often found loose missing the cannon, it's good for collectors to know which version they are looking for when searching for a replacement.

I did own this toy as a kid, but unfortunately it was lost to the ages in a house move by my parents. I remember quite clearly when I got it... my father had been away on a trip and returned with some Star Wars stuff for me. He had been in the United States, so I guess I probably had the Kenner US version, but it's nice to get a "local" one for my current collection.

"This place is crawling with Snowtroopers, huh Chewie?" Han is standing on the "action feature". Swivel the lever and a trigger underneath trips the button that's underneath the trooper's left foot, and he goes tumbling to the ground.

Rebel soldiers are under attack by Stormtroopers in Hoth battle gear.

Elevator goes up and down to raise and lower figures to and from the body of the AT-AT.

Close-up of the action lever.

Reverse of the cardboard backdrop showing the elevator and AT-AT interior.

The playset comes with four plastic pegs that slot into the vehicle floor, allowing action figures to more easily stand upright. Obviously these were easily lost!

Underside of playset base, showing the action feature mechanism.

Copyright info look familiar? It should... you probably noticed that the Hoth Ice Planet Adventure Playset bears an uncomfortable resemblance to the Land of the Jawas Action Playset released in the Star Wars line... of course, the plastic bases are identical mouldings, differing only in the colour of the plastic used. Even the playsets' action features are identical, which creates some anachronisms... for example, the Jawa Sandcrawler had an elevator on its underside, but there didn't seem to be any such thing on an AT-AT. The Radar Laser Cannon is kinda cool if you don't have the accessory one but for play value, the AT-AT vehicle is far superior, of course at a price...

I'm glad to have added this back into my collection anyway, it's nice to have it again having had it as a kid.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Land of the Jawas Action Playset

One of the earliest playsets produced in 1978 was the iconic "Land of the Jawas" Action Playset, depicting the Jawa Sandcrawler where Threepio and Artoo were briefly incarcerated after being captured by the Jawas. Of course, this isn't the only toy version of the massive Jawa vehicle - there was a much more expensive radio-controlled Sandcrawler as well - but for kids of modest means this was likely to be the only Tatooine playset they would see during the Star Wars era, anyway.

Box end shows film scene of Jawas and figures arranged with the playset.

Box top with close-ups.

Here we go. Of course, the playset is composed of three main elements - the plastic base, the cardboard backdrop depicting the Sandcrawler, and the plastic escape pod in which Threepio and Artoo escaped the Blockade Runner.

The plastic base features a cave for Artoo to hide in, and of course the ubiquitous "action feature". Turn the lever and the Jawa rotates, tripping a trigger underneath the toy that snaps the small square under Artoo's right leg. If you've positioned the figure just right, it goes flying into the air!

Jawa menaces Threepio near the pod. It's big enough to fit two action figures, provided that they're friendly...

R5-D4 about to get sucked up into the belly of the Sandcrawler - or perhaps he's being brought out for sale? Too bad there isn't a vintage "Uncle Owen" figure, depriving kids of the opportunity to reenact the thrilling "droid purchase" scene!

Tusken Raider is nearby because, well, it's Tatooine, and there were only 21 figures released when the playset came out... and of those, only two were representative of Tatooine natives.

Who's that li'l fella peeking out of the cave? The notorious "vinyl cape Jawa"...! Unlike his much more common cloth-caped brethren, the vinyl cape Jawa is a rare bird indeed. The first release of the figure included the distinctive vinyl cape, which was criticized for being "cheap-looking" since the figure was half the size of the others in the line and sold for the same price. So the cape was changed early on to a "richer-looking" cloth. I've owned this figure since it was new and I have to admit to youthful disappointment with it, envying the cloth-caped Jawas owned by my friends. But I'm certainly glad I held onto him ;-)

The rear of the playset, showing the "manual elevator" which raises and lowers figures from the Sandcrawler.

Plastic pegs are included to fit the feet of action figures, allowing them to stand inside the body of the Sandcrawler.

It's a bit tricky getting figures in there, though, as the back of the backdrop is pretty high.

Copyright info on the bottom of the plastic base. Kenner was obviously an early proponent of the "reduce, reuse, recycle" philosophy, as we'll see in future posts. This plastic element was so expensive to make moldings for, it would be a shame to only use it in one playset... ;-)

Listen to the new SWCA Vintage Podcast!

Each month Skye and Steve present the Star Wars Collectors' Archive Vintage Podcast - the "'Chive Cast", where they discuss news and views from the world of vintage collecting. Since I've gotten back into collecting vintage I've been sure to listen, as it can be quite entertaining!

Anyway, if you're into vintage you should check it out too. Look for it on iTunes or at this link: Star Wars Vintage Pod

Number 37 just came out yesterday! I'm looking forward to listening to it this weekend.