A lot has changed in our world since we were introduced to the ‘Star Wars’ franchise
back in 1977, but one look at the entertainment and collectibles industries proves time hasn’t altered the public’s fascination with Star Wars.
While the world eagerly awaits the arrival of the film ‘Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens’ in 2015, there is no shortage of ‘Star Wars’ related influence to satisfy the need for The Force. One of those influences is the recently released book, “The Ultimate Guide to Vintage Star Wars Action Figures, 1977-1985.” Written by one of the most knowledgeable toy experts on the planet, Mark Bellomo, this book is unlike any Star Wars guide you’ve come across. It is a smart and engaging combination of essential action figure information (including detailed photographs you’ll likely not tire of any time soon) and captivating ‘Star Wars’ history — including memorable quotes uttered by a variety of characters.
Word on the Street: Reader’s Review
*Editor’s Note: The following review of this book comes courtesy of Eric Bradley, editor of Antique Trader Antiques & Collectibles 2015 Price Guide and author of Mantiques: A Manly Guide to Cool Stuff and Picker’s Pocket Guide — SIGNS.
“There are pages in “The Ultimate Guide to Vintage Star Wars Action Figures,” Mark Bellomo’s latest magnum reference devoted to the most successful toy liscensing franchise of all time, that make you want to reach up and pull the figure right into your lap. The generous photos and abundant details take you right back to your bedroom floor.
The book spans my childhood sweet spot, 1977-1985, and the golden age of Kenner Star Wars toys. My brother and I were enamored by the early Star Wars movies and like Jabba himself, our attention quickly shifted into how we could get a Han Solo of our very own. I still remember ripping the figures free from their bubble and using the cards to line the inside of my toy box. More than 30 years later, two new generations of collectors are now paying large sums for those first cards, not to mention the figures themselves. To think we spent hours burying these toys in mud traps and lashing them to saplings with fern fronds to create elaborate, pint-sized war zones!
Bellomo understands how we played with these toys, and his appreciation of their history and what they mean to Generation X comes through in every page. The values are important (a mint on card R2D2 now costs as much as an iPad mini!) but the values are not the only reason people buy and sell these characters nearly 40 years later. I’m not at all surprised: Bellomo is one of the toy hobby’s most notable experts in the history of action figures, particularly GI Joe, which he has written about extensively for the last 20 years.
In “Ultimate Star Wars,” each figure is presented with big, bold color photos and often accompanied by stills from their films. Giant photos. Oversized photos. Each character appears as large as we remembered them to be in our sandboxes and backpacks. The photos are accompanied by richly-detailed histories of each character. It’s a rare win when a book places a toy line in context of the feature film so accurately and completely. This is truly a “collector’s guide” in the most technical term – it takes you by the hand and shows you six ways from Sunday why each character is important, why it’s coveted by collectors, and how much each figure is worth on today’s market in varying degrees of condition and completeness.
It should be noted that not many of the figures are shown in their original packaging. This book focuses on the figures themselves and only the toys made by Kenner. I don’t see that as a drawback for two reasons. First, filling a book with nothing but carded figures has been done before. To death, actually. Second, I like seeing the details that appealed to me as a kid. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for examples of original packaging you won’t find much here.
Most of all, Bellomo deserves applause for assembling a book that includes full and complete chapters on vehicles, playsets and creatures. Although we did not have them in our collection (we were after quantity, not quality at the time) a few of our friends did. Seeing these vintage Star Wars toys after 30 years was like hearing a long forgotten, but favorite old song. The nostalgia is strong with this book.”
The book is divided into action figures and accessories (creatures, playsets and vehicles). It is further divided by movie and and then by year of release of the figures or
accessories. For example, if you happen to have a Princess Lei decked out in a Hoth Outfit, you’ll find that action figure’s particulars in the Empire Strikes Back section, under the 1980 Second Wave.
Throughout this fascinating book, author Mark Bellomo fuses the tales and development of this evolving franchise with the expanding line of action figures and accessories. For example, in the chapter devoted to ‘The Return of the Jedi’ Bellomo writes:
“In Return of the Jedi, the final chapter of the original Star Wars trilogy (Episodes IV-VI), children of the 1980s witnessed the conclusion of the most significant cultural touchstone of Generation X. Most importantly, patient Star Wars aficionados finally had the chance to observe Darth Vader’s true face: that of former Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker. Realizing that the Emperor’s right-hand man, Darth Vader, is not beyond redemption—thanks to the faith and encouragement of his son, Luke Skywalker— placed an entirely new importance and added depth to the series: Anakin is indeed the”Chosen One” of the ancient Jedi prophecy.
“Although a few select “Ewok bashers” crawled out of the woodwork to criticize this tribal community of teddy-bears, we must remember that Return of the Jedi was released during a time of contentment for Star Wars fans; a time long before George Lucas made some curious choices that would haunt even the staunchest, most stalwart sci-fi devotees for more than a decade.
Regardless of how pundits and zealots received the new Star Wars trilogy of “prequels” (Episodes I-III), it’s worth noting the astronomical amount of money that rabid Star Wars collectors dump into “modern” (1995-present) and “vintage” (1978-1985) product. The current market
for vintage Star Wars toys is truly obscene: highgrade, investment-quality items are selling for five times what they were a few decades ago.
“Return of the Jedi provided enthusiasts of the space opera with an epic conclusion to Lucas’ original three-part story arc. Beginning in preproduction, the movie’s initial title was Revenge of the Jedi—and some Kenner boxes, cardbacks, promotional material, etc. was manufactured with the latter title proudly stamped on the packaging. Deemed too sinister of a descriptor to use when referring to the gallant, chivalrous Jedi Order, the word “revenge” was therefore switched to the decidedly less-vindictive “return,” since a honorable Jedi Knight would not pursue vengeance.”
If you’re a longtime fan of Star Wars, or if you can fondly recall the first time you heard the now famous phrase…”In a galaxy far, far away…” or have an interest in Star Wars that falls somewhere in between, this book is for you. To learn more about this one-of-a-kind Star Wars guide, visit our online store KrauseBooks.com.