A prototype Star Wars action figure caused a stir recently when it sold for more than $110,000 at auction, but a leading toy expert says astute action figure collectors could see this coming from a galaxy far, far away.
“First, the toy was never released so there are very few in existence, maybe 10-15 total. Secondly, this is the highest-graded sample to hit the market,” said Mark Bellomo, one of the country’s leading toy experts and an authority on Star Wars action figures. “I’m happy to see one come up for sale.”
The rocket-firing Boba Fett action figure netted $112,926 in a July online event hosted by Hake’s Auctions, York, Pa. The 3-3/4-inch action figure was a prototype, which was expected to be released as part of Kenner’s licensed toy line for the 1980 release of the Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. The toy was displayed at the 1979 New York Toy Fair but was never mass-produced, Hake’s officials said.
While some speculate that the toy was pulled from the production line after being deemed a possible safety hazard for children, many Star Wars scholars believe it was more than likely pulled because of a production issue with the toy’s rocket-firing mechanism. Either way, the Boba Fett prototype went on to become one of the rarest of all Star Wars toys and is highly coveted in the collecting world.
The $112,926 sale set a new “world auction record” for the purchase of a Star Wars toy, Hake’s officials said, exceeding the old mark by more than $26,000.
While extraordinary, the Boba Fett prototype sale mirrors what is going on in the vintage action figure market in general over the last several years, Bellomo said. “All vintage pieces that make up what I consider the anchor toys – Star Wars, G.I. Joe, Transformers and He-Man – are obscenely expensive now.
“I thought this surge in values was unsustainable, but it’s been going on for two to three years now,” Bellomo said. “People are now saying, If I really want something I better bid all I can to get it because I may not see one come up for sale for some time.”
Bellomo, who has more than 100,000 action figures in his collection, and whose “The Ultimate Guide to Star Wars Action Figures, 1977-1985,” is considered the definitive reference on the toy line, expects the trend to continue.
“The days of buying even loose action figures cheaply are over,” Bellomo said. “Even common pieces are now valuable.”