40th Anniversary Of Star Wars: An Ode To Action Figures, Both Past And Present

Posted by May 25, 2017 Comment

1977 Star Wars Mylar Advance Poster
1977 Star Wars Mylar Advance Poster

Starting in 1978, Star Wars collecting and especially the action figures took over the toy industry. No matter how many versions and variants released of characters over the years, collectors will be there, money in hand to purchase them. From the original Kenner toy line in 1978, to the weird action-hero style of Power of the Force 2 in the 90’s, The Vintage Collection, and the current Black Series line from Hasbro, fans of all ages use the figures to unlock their imaginations and transport them away to a galaxy far, far away.

Kenner’s line especially was a cultural touchstone and to this day, collectors around the globe still purchase and trade these vintage toys at conventions, flea markets, garage sales, and increasingly in Facebook groups (seriously: there are A LOT of Star Wars Vintage Toy groups), for considerably more than they cost back in 1978. From revolutionizing the 3 3/4 inch figure to the playsets and vehicles, the Vintage Kenner line is the gold standard of toy collecting.

After that line ended, we got the “He-Man” figures in the Power of the Force 2 line after years of no figures being produced. These were not so great, but the line is actually pretty vast, and covered the films, novels, video games, the entire Expanded Universe was covered. This line is actually enjoying a bit of a renaissance, as fans come to appreciate not just the deep character selection, but the box sets and vehicles as well.

Maybe the biggest figure launch in history would have been the Episode 1 toy launch, with figures made in huge quantities and the hysteria reaching unparalleled heights. Midnight sales became huge then, and they have now returned to prominence the last couple years with the sequel trilogy as well. The figures themselves tried again to innovate as well, containing comm chips that, with the help of a separately sold reader, would speak dialogue from the film.

Form there, we would get various lines from Hasbro, who now has been producing Star Wars figures for over 20 years. Original Trilogy Collection, Clone Wars, The 30th Anniversary, Revenge of the Sith. All the modern lines had their charms. However, and fittingly I might add, the way to our Star Wars hearts always comes back to Kenner. So, Hasbro did what they probably always should have done and introduced The Vintage Collection line in 2010. This line of figures included modern, super-articulated action figures on vintage Kenner style cards was a huge success with collectors, and since it ended in 2013, the number one question on every collectors mind was: when is it coming back? hasbro finally gave in and announced at this past April’s Star Wars Celebration in Orlando it will be returning in 2018.

Which brings us to today, and the current Black Series line of figures. While they still offer 3 3/4 inch figures, this line introduced fans to a first: 6 inch Star Wars figures, the scale made popular by the Marvel Legends line. This is the number 1 selling action figure line on the market, with waves of figures selling out and commanding a fortune on the aftermarket. And now, to celebrate the 40th Anniversary, we are even getting 6 inch figures on vintage Kenner-style cards.

And that is the best part of collecting Star Wars: it always goes back to where it all started. They really captured something back then, and it speaks to how nostalgia is the biggest game in the Star Wars collectible universe.

(Last Updated May 25, 2017 6:18 pm )

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About Jeremy Konrad

Jeremy Konrad collects way too much stuff. He loves baseball, Funko Pops, Star Wars, and wrestling. He resides in the Upside Down, waiting for Hopper to rescue him. Follow him on Twitter @jeremyohio

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