Guide to Vintage Star Wars collecting (for beginners)

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Not so long ago at a Kenner office not so far away... Star Wars toys were born.

Hello, I'm Fiddlestyx and welcome to my Guide to Vintage Star Wars collecting. This guide is meant to serve as a basic introduction to Star Wars vintage collecting. It includes links and information to help you along your journey to a galaxy far, far away.
Kenner's Star Wars toy line ran from 1977 to 1985.


Where should I start if I want to collect star wars toys?

The following four websites contain a wealth of information on the subject and are a great place to start learning.

The original Kenner 1977-1985 photo archive of Kenner Star Wars toys

Guide to identifying authentic figures, weapons and accessories

Introduction to COOs (Country of Origin)

The Star Wars Collectors Archive


Star Wars collecting Terminology:

When collecting Star Wars you will inevitably come across some abbreviations or terms that you may not recognize. Below is a list of common ones you should learn. Some are easy to figure out and others not so much.

Vintage - In the Star Wars collecting world, Vintage refers to items produced between 1977-85 and does not include stuff from the 1990s

ANH - A New Hope

ESB - Empire Strikes Back

ROTJ - Return of the Jedi

POTF - Power of the Force

MISB - Mint in Sealed Box

MOC - Mint on Card

MISB - Mint in Sealed Box

MIB - Mint in Box

NOS - New Old Stock

POP - Proof of Purchase

DT - Double Telescoping, this refers to the two piece light sabers for the action figures of Darth Vader, Obi Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker (These figures can go for a premium, thousands of dollars)

COO - Country of Origin, where the toy was made. Acceptable COOs:

Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, China, No COO

Wait, isn't Hong Kong in China? Yes, but it was under British control until the late 1990s.

Mexico can also be a COO, but this should only be seen on some toys. For example: card-backs, vehicles, preschool figures... It will not be on any of the 3 3/4 figures.

Card Back - This is the card that the figure was attached to.

Tri-Logo - Tri-Logo cards have logos in English, French and Spanish.

Early Bird - This was the first Kenner Star Wars action figure item. You can read all about it here.

First 12 - This refers to the first 12 characters produced.

Last 17 - This refers to the last 17 characters produced. The last 17 was the end of the line for Vintage Star Wars action figures and as such not as many of them were produced. This makes them a little more valuable than some of the other figures.

-Back - You may come across a term such as 12-Back or 20-Back. This is a way of identifying the card by referring to how many figures are displayed on the back of the card. When the figures first came out, there were only 12 different figures available for purchase. As they produced different figures, more became available and the backs were changed to reflect that. 12, 20, 21, 31, 32, 41, 45, 47, 48, 65, 77, 79, 92 and 93 are all the different backs you may find. You may also find suffixes with the number such as 12backC. The letter denotes a change in the card. This can be as simple as a sticker being added at the factory or a description being slightly changed. Suffixes go from A to H and Tri-Logo cards have a different suffix. This can all get confusing for someone just starting out, but this website can help.


Trademarks (Copyright, ©):

One of the following trademarks should be found on all vintage Star Wars toys in some form.

LFL - LucasFilm Limited

GMFGI - General Mills Fun Group Incorporated (General Mills was the owner of Kenner)

CPG - Consumer Product Group (only used on Boba Fett action figure)


Grading:

Who does it and what is it? Grading is done to give a toy a widely accepted grade that denotes what kind of condition a toy is in.

AFA - Action Figure Authority, a US company which grades toys.

UKG - UK Graders, a company based in the UK which grades toys. UKG is said to use a stricter grading process. So an AFA 90 may be a UKG 85, even though both figures appear identical.

Wait Fiddle, what do these numbers mean? Well, all toys are graded on scale, this scale looks at different aspects of a toy (like condition and paint) and assigns a number to it. Grading scales differ between modern and vintage toys and between graders. For more information check out Grading Scales

UGrade- Ah, the good old controversial UGrade. UGraded toys receive a number such as U90. UGrades are given to toys that, when graded, are removed from their original packaging, the U stands for Uncirculated. This is seen as destructive by many collectors.


Who made or distributed the Vintage Star Wars toys?

Kenner - A toy company based in Cincinnati, Ohio

Kenner Canada - Kenner's distributor for Canada

Glasslite - A toy company that manufactured Star Wars toys for the Brazilian Market

Lily Ledy - A toy company in Mexico that produced and distributed Star Wars toys.

Meccano - The French licensee for Kenner toys

Palitoy - a British toy company

PBP - a toy company that was created from the merger of three Spanish toy companies, Poch, Borras and Palouzie

Clipper - a company that distributed Star Wars Kenner toys in Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg

Harbert - a distributor in Italy

Takara - a toy company in Japan


How can I find out what a fair price is for a toy I would like to buy or sell?

Well there are several ways to do this.

eBay sold listings - You can do an eBay search and show only SOLD listing. This is a great way to see what a particular item is selling for. You can then use that information and arrive at an average price.

Ask on forums - There are many places Star Wars toys are bought and sold. Asking at one of these places allows you to pick the minds of other collectors and see what they think it is worth.

Price guides - Price guides are out there, but keep in mind prices are always fluctuating and a price guide can be obsolete really fast.


What is the best piece of advice you can give me?

Be patient! Take your time and do some research before you buy. There are plenty of people out there trying to scam you, but with patience and research you can do a lot to avoid that.


So, there it is. You should now have a strong foundation to build upon in your journey to a galaxy far, far away. There is a lot more out there to learn, but you should have a good start now.
Happy collecting and May the Force be with you... Always

If you have any question, suggestions or find an error, please contact me.

Fiddle


Sources *

The Imperial Gunnery -

Rebelscum.com: Home Page

Wookieepedia, the Star Wars Wiki

Trilogo.info

Kenner History

The Star Wars Collectors Archive
 
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Handy guide for the uninformed, nice of you.

Isn't GMFG General Mills Food Group, though?
 
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Handy guide for the uninformed, nice of you.

Isn't GMFG General Mills Food Group, though?
General Mills Fun Group Incorporated is a a subsidiary of General Mills, Inc.
There are/were a lot of subsidiaries under General Mills, Inc., General Mills Food Group being one of those.

Thanks for the kind words. Hopefully it will help those just starting out. I figured with Ep. VII trailer coming out and the movie next year, there may be a lot of new collectors coming.
 
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Interesting glossary. Why would you say that "NOS" is believed to be a marketing tactic? I don't see the term being used very often, certainly not as often as MOC, MISB or just MIB (which you should include I think).

You may also want to include the "-back" as a terminology reference - e.g. 12-back, 20-back etc. as new collectors may not realize that this is a reference to the number of figures pictured on a particular MOC cardback. Not to mention the "a", "b", "c" suffixes that denote particular offers or stickers on the cardback or front.

Also, "vintage" meaning "produced between 1977-85 and does not include stuff from the 1990s!!" ;-)

Cheers

d.
 
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A good starter for those new to the hobby. Besides the previous post, I'd also add a couple of small, nitpicky things.

For the reference sites, you should add the Archive. It has a wealth of information on all kinds of collectibles way beyond just the standard figures.

The Star Wars Collectors Archive

Speaking of the links, I'd amend the Imperial Gunnery link to include the word "authentic". The way it reads, it's just a reference guide for weapons, but it's main selling point is its exhaustive look at reproductions.

Very minor, but you might want to include Kenner Canada in your distributor list. They were based in Toronto in the vintage era (at one point they moved to Longueil, Quebec before they shut down), and the packaging differed by being the same as US cards except for bilingual English and French languages. There were some other differences too, but that's mostly the fine stuff, like a Canadian 12-back c is WAY different than a US 12-back c.

Final point, and the most minor of all. DT is usually defined as Double Telescoping, not Dual. It might confuse a true newbie who reads "double" most of the time, and is unsure if that's the same thing.


Otherwise, like I said, nice effort.

Ian
 
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You might also want to add:

COO: Mexico ("MIM"), France, Spain and UK.
Backs: 92 (Power of the force /"POTF" line) and 93 (POTF Yak Face)
Cardback variations: depending on the back they go from A to H... There is a different letter code specific to the tri-logo line too!

You learn something new every day with vintage SW collecting!

-Matth
 
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You might also want to add:

COO: Mexico ("MIM"), France, Spain and UK.
Backs: 92 (Power of the force /"POTF" line) and 93 (POTF Yak Face)
Cardback variations: depending on the back they go from A to H... There is a different letter code specific to the tri-logo line too!

You learn something new every day with vintage SW collecting!

-Matth
MIM only refers to where the card back was made, not the figure. Correct? I don't want to get too in-depth with this guide, because discovery is half the fun.
 
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No it refers to the country where the item (figure, vehicle...) was produced.
You're right Matth, but that is not reflected on the figure markings. I think the Fiddler is only making this for beginners with the idea of identifying what they can see on the figures themselves.

Ian
 
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You're right Matth, but that is not reflected on the figure markings. I think the Fiddler is only making this for beginners with the idea of identifying what they can see on the figures themselves.

Ian
Hey Ian,

Technically you're right if we're talking about loose items only. However I thought the OP was also refering to MOC and MIB items as well.

-Matth
 
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Ok, I spent last night reading about Mexico COO. It's all very indirect. From what I can tell, Mexico appears on card-backs, vehicles, pre-school figures, etc. It doesn't actually appear on any 3 3/4 figure. When people are talking about COOs they are generally referring to loose figures. Distributors are usually used to identify sealed items.

However, in the pursuit of learning. How can you identify a COO (the stamp on an item) if it is sealed?

Also, I added a note about Mexico to the original post. Is it correct? I am not above making mistakes and don't want to give out misinformation.
 
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For what its worth, I didn't know what the hell a 'COO' was until a couple days ago. :oops:

I kept wondering "Coo? What do the cries of doves have to do with Star Wars toys, or British held Hong Kong for that matter?!"
 
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Don't worry, it took me forever to figure out what POP meant. Which is the reason I put this guide together.
 
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Ok, I spent last night reading about Mexico COO. It's all very indirect. From what I can tell, Mexico appears on card-backs, vehicles, pre-school figures, etc. It doesn't actually appear on any 3 3/4 figure. When people are talking about COOs they are generally referring to loose figures. Distributors are usually used to identify sealed items.

However, in the pursuit of learning. How can you identify a COO (the stamp on an item) if it is sealed?

Also, I added a note about Mexico to the original post. Is it correct? I am not above making mistakes and don't want to give out misinformation.
If you consider the COO as being a marking on a figure or a vehicle then yes you are technically correct.

Now, COO means Country Of Origin and it is not only referred to as a marking that you can see on the leg of a figure or on a vehicle, but also as the country where the item was produced. Many Mexican Lili Ledy figures have no COO marking but still they are considered as MIM or as having Mexico as COO.

Note that some vehicles have a COO marked on a sticker applied on them; that is the case of some Mexican ones as well as French ones (e.g. made in Macao sticker on the Meccano radio controlled R2-D2).

-Matth
 
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On an obsessive compulsive level, this is all very interesting to me. How many countries were Star Wars figures being made in, I wonder?

These days, its one stamp to rule them all: 'Made in China'. :\
 
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