Finally! A Toy Show Is Coming Back To The Home of Kenner!!!

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Are hand glued pieces indicative of any particular 'phase'?

I also think this should be a thread all it's own. I feel the discussion here will get 'lost' for future searches on this topic, which again i think is very interesting and historically important.
 
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I've seen hand-glued prototype parts made from production molds.

Regarding what was made at Kenner or not, I never heard even once that prototype figures were made by Kenner even at the Oakley facility. Thus the pieces made from the aluminum protomolds in the model shop (in the Kroger building) were it. That's what was meant by "internal first shot" because we used that term to denote figures molded at Kenner versus overseas. Most of the SW prototypes that were turning up in the 90's were hardcopies and first shots so when this new thing was found we didn't know how to classify it and called them "internal first shots".

However I will say for sure that we were told that the Vader case mold was run in the model shop so they had it there for some reason and it wasn't an aluminum mold. So there would have been some exceptions to this rule. I think the action figure stuff was done overseas while larger toys were molded at Oakley until they shut that facility down around the mid-80's or so. Not sure on that date.

-chris
 
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greedodidntshoot said:
I also think this should be a thread all it's own. I feel the discussion here will get 'lost' for future searches on this topic, which again i think is very interesting and historically important.
Nah man, this is Facebook style! Nobody will search for it anyway. Quit living in the past!

-chris
 
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Ok, thanks for posting that Chris. That helps. I was confused as to whether some first shots were created here or not. "here" as in Kenner or domestic. Especially the ones that have non-production details. I understand. Thanks, -Steve
 
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I've seen hand-glued prototype parts made from production molds.

Regarding what was made at Kenner or not, I never heard even once that prototype figures were made by Kenner even at the Oakley facility. Thus the pieces made from the aluminum protomolds in the model shop (in the Kroger building) were it. That's what was meant by "internal first shot" because we used that term to denote figures molded at Kenner versus overseas. Most of the SW prototypes that were turning up in the 90's were hardcopies and first shots so when this new thing was found we didn't know how to classify it and called them "internal first shots".

However I will say for sure that we were told that the Vader case mold was run in the model shop so they had it there for some reason and it wasn't an aluminum mold. So there would have been some exceptions to this rule. I think the action figure stuff was done overseas while larger toys were molded at Oakley until they shut that facility down around the mid-80's or so. Not sure on that date.

-chris

Ok, being glued vs sonic weld is not a sure tell of a non-production molded figure. What about non-hex foot holes? Am I correct in thinking that no holes or hand drilled non-hexigonal holes is indicative of a protomolded figure? I'm just looking for clarification on what all the distinctive differences being discussed can tell us when looking at different pieces. Todd's link to the early RF Fett was great in explaining the plastic differences - just wanting to know what else can help identify pieces that didnt come from production molds.
 
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I've seen hand-glued prototype parts made from production molds. Regarding what was made at Kenner or not, I never heard even once that prototype figures were made by Kenner even at the Oakley facility.
-chris
I've heard some guys say that non low yield injection molding took place in the US, and given the radical differences on the early SW stuff in particular, had always assumed this was the case. A lot of pieces don't look to be designed to be even close to production standard, with obvious differences. There's a power droid piece i have that's been widely referred to as a proto mold by various people, that doesn't look any different to other early SW first shots I have. These are made from non production plastic, with lower level detail, smaller size etc. They're not from allumium molds, they're something in between.

I think it's a different category of prototype, not sure what, but certainly not a vendor driven first shot I don't believe. Given the relative absence of early release SW (first 12) hard copies, it may be that they prototyped pieces differently at that time for photography and sales samples etc.
 
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Ok, being glued vs sonic weld is not a sure tell of a non-production molded figure. What about non-hex foot holes? Am I correct in thinking that no holes or hand drilled non-hexigonal holes is indicative of a protomolded figure? I'm just looking for clarification on what all the distinctive differences being discussed can tell us when looking at different pieces. Todd's link to the early RF Fett was great in explaining the plastic differences - just wanting to know what else can help identify pieces that didnt come from production molds.
Unfortunately, these things are not always so clear-cut.

Absence of sonic-welding (or presence of glue) does not indicate phase. Many regular first shots are not welded and/or are glued.

Absence of foot holes also does not indicate phase. While it is probably true that most (or even all) protomolded figures do not have molded foot holes, I've seen regular first shots without the foot holes. So you need to be careful there.

I can think of only two ways to spot a protomolded piece:

1) The quality of the plastic. Generally, the plastic will be notably different from that used on production figures. Sometimes the figure will even be shot all in one type of plastic (same color, composition, etc.), which is something you never see on production items, where the heads and limbs (PVC) differ substantially from the torsos (ABS). The quality of the plastic used sometimes bleeds over into detailing. Some protomolded figures look sort of crude. Then again, some look pretty good. It really varies. Unfortunately, you're only going to be capable of discerning this with experience. You must have seen a bunch of protomolded items and know what to look for in order to be able to pick them out. Same applies to picking out sculpts from wax casts. Experience is everything.

2) Construction. Some, but not all, protomolds are constructed like typical hardcopies. That is, the torso is one piece, and the limbs and head are affixed with pins. If you see a plastic figure constructed like that, it's almost certainly a protomold.
 
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Ron, I have the First Shot R2-D2 in hand. His prototype label is silk screen printed. I looked under a magnifying glass and light. The ink has depth and texture unlike a litho printed sticker. I am positive... The body is molded in a much more crème color plastic and the mold of the legs are different, such as, how they attach to the body and the definition of the feet. Anyways, just thought I'd pass the information on regarding the prototype label and how it was printed. Pretty neat. -Steve



 
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Unfortunately, these things are not always so clear-cut.

2) Construction. Some, but not all, protomolds are constructed like typical hardcopies. That is, the torso is one piece, and the limbs and head are affixed with pins. If you see a plastic figure constructed like that, it's almost certainly a protomold.
Ron, I've only seen the protomolded ROTJ figures (from 77 back release) constructed like this, were there are earlier pieces done this way? I agree that this definitely splits the wheat from the chaff though.

The confusing thing is, as you point out, it gets kind of blurry when figures are somewhere in between - when they have the hazy mold detail, different plastic (s) etc. A lot of the early SW pieces are like this.

That said, there are numerous early SW release first shots that are obviously vendor produced, mold test pieces, that almost entirely match production figures. If you compare the earth's R2 first shots to Steve's R2 first shot in this thread you can see the difference, as Steve pointed out to me in an email.

The earth's R2s are production in almost every way, while his has the cruder molded legs, non mass produced/different sticker etc.
 
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I see the differences. I'm just not seeing why they would indicate Steve's piece is a protomold and/or was made internally at Kenner. Doesn't look like any other protomolded figure I've ever seen. I really don't think it is.

It could very well have been made internally at Kenner. I'm not saying it wasn't. But what is the evidence for that? The differences alone?

Clearly, the tool that produced Steve's R2 and the material it was shot in are somewhat different from what was used for the production figures. That's ultimately more important to me than conjecture regarding where it was made.

Yes, I think that the pin-constructed protomolded pieces are largely for later Jedi figures. But I've also seen Jedi protomolds that are constructed in a more traditional manner. I don't think they had a set way of doing them.
 
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Yes, I think that the pin-constructed protomolded pieces are largely for later Jedi figures. But I've also seen Jedi protomolds that are constructed in a more traditional manner. I don't think they had a set way of doing them.
Definitely agree. I remember that one guy who had a couple of pieces on ebay back early 2000 was calling them hard copies, both versions - the pinned and unpinned. He was a Kenner designer from memory.

I was going from conversations with guys who are were adamant that there was injection molding done in the US, rather than just the differences though. The conversations are only anecdotal I realise, but it's something. I guess they could have confused the protomolding aluminium items with steel injection molded pieces, but the items being discussed at the time were injection molded, in steel molds, if that makes sense.
 
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Definitely agree. I remember that one guy who had a couple of pieces on ebay back early 2000 was calling them hard copies, both versions - the pinned and unpinned. He was a Kenner designer from memory.

I was going from conversations with guys who are were adamant that there was injection molding done in the US, rather than just the differences though. The conversations are only anecdotal I realise, but it's something. I guess they could have confused the protomolding aluminium items with steel injection molded pieces, but the items being discussed at the time were injection molded, in steel molds, if that makes sense.
Production injection molding was definitely done in the US, but I don't recall anyone every saying action figures were made here (certainly none are marked as such). They molded larger size items in the the US and later Mexico because of the cost savings in shipping. A figure shot in a production tool that hadn't been fully finished and polished could be the reasons for some of the differences we see in certain first shots.

As you noted earlier, processes were in constant flux. Like any effective company, they were constantly experimenting to improve processes, so even within a given era there might be different processes being used. And then there are individuals who just preferred doing things a certain way.

Todd
 
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Definitely agree. I remember that one guy who had a couple of pieces on ebay back early 2000 was calling them hard copies, both versions - the pinned and unpinned. He was a Kenner designer from memory.
Yeah, wouldn't surprise me. They might well have called those things "hardcopies." They served some of the same functions as hardcopies, after all. Some of the vehicles that were brokered years ago were referred to as "hardcopies," but many of them were actually protomolded.

Collecting-wise at least, "hardcopy" means a cold-cast prototype as opposed to an injection-molded one.
 
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Just wanted to give this thread one more bump - the toy show stuff was awesome, but the discussion on the Protomolds and early shots was super interesting. Hoping someone has more to add on the topic.
 
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This was from the hotel meet-and-greet / sale the night before. Two ESB Chewies to compare them to one another. We found some neat differences including color variations, as well as some different trimming around the flaps. The one on the left was a salesman sample. Mine is on the right, and came from a private collection and where it originated is still a mystery.

 
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I think this might help make my point more clearly. Todd, definitely wasn't suggesting that figures were being made stateside, just that there was injection molding done for non production related purposes within the US either inside Kenner, or through one of their vendors.

I'd heard this from a couple of people over the past few years. That info gels with the often substantial molding, material and sculpt differences on some proto figures that have traditionally been lumped in with what I'd term mold test related first shots.

It's my belief that these were not simple mold test pieces. In the case of the SW series in particular, they appear to be early designs that were altered, or shot without the purpose of them contributing feedback on the production process - and were actually made from non production molds.

They often use non production materials - limbs can be made from exceptionally rubbery PVC, or even brittle ABS. None of these plastics were ever intended for production, particularly in light of what was ultimately used. Yet these pieces were shot in steel, rather than aluminium, molds.

Almost right across the board for the first 21, the differences in plastics and molding range from substantial to minor. The Tusken pictured below is one of the more extreme examples, and was noted some years ago. But it's not just the horns and feet that differ from the production toy, as previously mentioned. There's entirely different detail almost all over the figure - on the head in particular. The sculpt, not the mold, was reworked before release, and while not all of the early first shots saw that type of revision, I don't believe that this was just something that was caught late, but rather it indicates that the prototyping process altered as the line progressed - particularly for these first figures.

The type of plastic used on the head and limbs for this figure is a long way removed from the production toy. With other characters there are size differences that could be explained by different pressure etc, but given how common that is across the SW series for these early proto figures, I believe they were made that way intentionally, just to get an example of each figure into photography and the hands of marketing and salespeople.

I'm not saying that every Star Wars first shot is this type of prototype, because many of them are plainly mold related test pieces, and don't exhibit the characteristics mentioned above. But some are certainly different, and I don't think the term first shot adequately describes exactly what they are - particularly those shot from non production molds.

 
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How can one tell if something is shot in a steel mold vs one made from another medium? I understand the type of plastic used is indicative, but is there another way?
Also, feeding off of what Ben is suggesting, it would make sense that much of the early SW line would have been exposed to a variety of molding 'techniques' or 'experiments' as no other action figure line had ever been done quite like the SW line and I would suspect that the process in the early stages experienced quite a bit of trial as they smoothed out the process.
 
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I wanted to bump this thread since the next Cincinnati Toy Show is right around the corner. Those who came last time know how good of a time it was with a great turnout and some true treasures that showed up. Hope to see many of you again this year! It's October 18th and more info is available here: Cincinnati Show « CTS Promotions
 
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I'd say I'll be the one wearing a "Star Wars" t-shirt, but that didn't seem to narrow it down last time. Was one of six guys wearing a red "Millenium Falcon" shirt....
 
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Bump! For those who saw the recent update on TheSWCA, one of items posted was picked up at the show last year!
 
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15 for me! It was cool last year. Haven't seen so much original vintage on the card and in the box in 30 years! lots of other stuff from those days too. Hope the one seller still has Starbirds!
 
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I'm not seeing the link to purchase tickets. Or do the early birds just show up at the door at 8am and pay extra?
 
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