Returning to a Childhood Long, Long Ago with Kenner Star Wars Action Figures

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.

What really kept me going as a fan, though, were Star Wars books, soundtracks, and Kenner‘s spectacular toy line that ran from 1977 through 1985.

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.

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My all-time favorite action figure – Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight

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.

My Kenner Star Wars action figure collection, as of December 9, 2015

My Kenner Star Wars action figure collection, as of December 9, 2015

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:

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)
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The most recent addition to my collection – Yoda

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.

6 thoughts on “Returning to a Childhood Long, Long Ago with Kenner Star Wars Action Figures

  1. WOW! Love your Kenner ‘Star Wars’ collection…….but I must admit to loving the beautiful gift from your Father-in Law….. even a tad more!! Great post! Have a Merry Christmas too! Clementine

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    • I must admit the same, Clementine! It has actually made me slightly more selective about which figures I purchase, because now the collection has to live up to the grandeur of the case! Merry Christmas to you as well.

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  2. Great display case and congrats on taking those steps into the collecting world! You should definitely go look for your old toys in the attic too. Like many others, I sold my action figures when I became a teenager and now just have a few childhood books left.

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    • Thanks! Yes, I definitely need to get up there someday soon.

      I have a couple of the “Last 17” figures, including Artoo with pop-up lightsaber, that I’d really rather not pay exorbitant prices to buy again when I already have them. I don’t mind rebuying the less expensive, easier to find figures.

      I have given away some of my Star Wars items to younger fans over the years (a kind of “pay it forward” because someone did that for me at one point), but I believe most of the vintage toys should be there.

      I’m just not a big fan of crawling around in attics, so I have been putting it off. Dust, spiders, ick!

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