With The Force Awakens opening in less than two weeks, my thoughts of late have turned to three of my favorite movies: Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. They have been with me since childhood, but my primary experiences with those stories growing up were usually not with the actual films.
I was about 15 before my family indulged in a VCR, eventually enabling me to experience the Star Wars trilogy whenever I wanted. Until then, my viewings of those movies were limited to the fleeting experiences of seeing them in a theater, on occasional network TV airings, or at the house of a friend fortunate enough to have a VCR.
By the end of my first Star Wars toy phase in 1986, I had amassed 25 of the 94 figures released in the United States. I also had several playsets and vehicles, including my ultimate prize – the “Battle Damaged” X-Wing Fighter, though I never actually applied the “damage” stickers to Luke Skywalker’s spacecraft.
Today, what remains of these toys is still locked away somewhere in Mom’s Attic of Childhood Treasures. Someday, I will form an expedition and see what wonders I can rediscover there.
My inner 8-year-old finally won a long battle in October of last year, and I decided to start collecting the original Kenner figures. For both economic and tactile reasons, I chose to collect loose figures (i.e., already opened/used). My goal over the next few years is to collect all of the figures from that era, including their original weapons and accessories.
In 1983, Santa gave me my favorite action figure of all — the Jedi Knight version of Luke. Rather than wait for Santa and his elves this time, Jedi Luke was one of the first figures I bought in my new Star Wars toy phase.
As you might expect, Star Wars toys were big parts of several Christmas mornings in my childhood. Last Christmas, I relived some of that as an adult because my father-in-law gave me an incredible display case that he crafted to house my slowly growing collection.
I was touched by the gift, but I also have to give him credit for simply acknowledging that his daughter is married to an overgrown 8-year-old – rather than telling me to put away childish things.
Pictured below is the beautiful display case as well as my current collection. The case was inspired by a design on Kevin Fodor’s Projects site.
While I am certainly no Kenner toy expert, I have found a number of extremely useful websites that have helped me when researching the hobby in general as well as specific figures:
- Star Wars – Vintage Kenner Toys from the Seventies and Eighties
- Star Wars Vintage Action Figure Variation Guide
- Vintage Star Wars Collecting Forum
- Rebelscum Vintage Collecting Forum
- The Imperial Gunnery
- The Imperial Gunnery Forum
- Variant Villain: Guides to Loose 3 3/4″ Vintage Star Wars Figures
- The Star Wars Collectors Archive
- Star Wars ’77 – ’80 Collector’s Blog: Kenner
I have also enjoyed flipping through two related books – almost the equivalent of department store Christmas catalogs when I was a kid:
- The Ultimate Guide to Vintage Star Wars Action Figures – 1977-1985 by Mark Bellomo (2014)
- Star Wars: The Action Figure Archive by Stephen J. Sansweet with Josh Ling (1999)
I recently acquired the 33rd piece in my new collection, Yoda. Though I have accumulated about a third of the basic Kenner figures in just over a year, it will probably be another three to four years before I finish, as my progress has slowed in recent months.
Much of the fun is in the hunt – finding just the right figure – so I would not want to complete the collection . . . or my extended childhood . . . too soon anyway.