Merchandise based on movies has been around just about as long as movies have been around, but no franchise has been more closely tied with its merchandising line than Star Wars.
When the first film came out in the summer of 1977, creator George Lucas went to Hawaii, bracing for it to bomb with audiences and with critics. Instead, it created the template for the modern-day blockbuster, and demand for Star Wars toys was so overwhelming that Kenner Toys had to send customers an ‘IOU’ that Christmas, promising the actual toys would be available the following year.
Since then, the Star Wars merchandise line has been a cornerstone for the franchise’s massive fanbase. As the sprawling space opera continues to saturate mediums including TV shows, comic books, animation, and theme park experiences, the supply is there to try and keep up with the consumers’ demands. All the while, older and rarer merchandise continues to skyrocket in value on the aftermarket.
In honor of Star Wars day, also known as May the Fourth, here’s a look back at some of the priciest merchandise that’s been sold.
Star Wars #1, 35¢ Variant: $5,000
Following the massive success of the film, Marvel Comics got in on the Star Wars game — and also used it as a means to try out a price increase. Back in 1977, comics cost 30 cents, but they were looking to raise them to 35 cents, and Star Wars #1 was one of the comics selected to test the waters. Only about 1,500 versions of the 35-cent variant exist and can fetch around $5,000 to $6,000.
A background character who can be spotted lurking in the shadows of Jabba’s palace in Return of the Jedi, the character was slated for release in 1985, two years after the movie’s initial debut. However, sales for Star Wars figures began to lag for the first time, and their target demo became more interested in Transformers and GI Joes.
As a result, the figure was only available for retail overseas and never released in the U.S. It took in more than $10,000 at an auction back in April as part of a larger lot of figures, roughly 2000X its original purchase price.
‘Revenge of the Jedi’ Poster: $16,246
While in pre-production, the working title for the 1983 conclusion to the original Star Wars saga was Revenge of the Jedi. However, Lucas later thought that the act of vengeance wasn’t very Jedi-like, so it was changed to ‘Return. ‘
Just not before a handful of early marketing materials made it into circulation, and most of it was recalled. A few tidbits remain, including the Revenge of the Jedi poster, one of which went for more than $16,000.
Vinyl-Caped Jawa: $27,000
Initially launched as part of the initial ’78 release, the Jawa came with a smaller version of the vinyl cape that also adorned the Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader from the same line. It was soon after revised to a pullover cloth robe by Kenner, and it’s believed only six of the original model remain in circulation.
With the rise of 3D printing, the original vinyl cape is able to be reproduced, flooding the market with potential fakes. Granted, it’s more difficult to forge an unopened toy, and one new-on-card example sold in the UK for just over $27,000 back in 2017.
‘The Empire Strikes Back’ Roger Kastel Concept Poster: $27,995
Based on the classic poster from Gone with the Wind, artist Roger Kastel’s original concept was filled with characters and a vibrant color scheme. The studio thought it was too cluttered, and muted the color scheme as well as removed multiple elements, including Boba Fett. There are thought to be about 10 that remain and have sold for nearly $28,000 in the recent past.
Double-Telescoping Figures: $25,000 – $76,000
Another example of an early release that was later revised, the Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Darth Vader figures all came with a telescopic lightsaber in their right arms. Initially, the figures were planned to have a second, smaller extension from that. The plan was nixed, and few made it into rotation.
The Luke, which was included in the very first early-bird ‘IOU’ collection, is the most common, but still pulled in $25,000 back in 2015. There’s an ongoing debate on whether the Obi-Wan or the Darth Vader are harder to find, but Vader sold for $68,000 while the Obi-Wan went for $76,000 at an auction in 2018.
Boba Fett Prototype: $204,435
The holy grail for Star Wars super-collectors, the Boba Fett figure was originally planned to come with a spring-loaded firing rocket out of his jet pack back in 1980. However, due to safety concerns over a similarly-designed toy that was going on at rival toy company Mattel (and rival franchise Battlestar Galactica), the plan was abandoned and was released with a rocket that was molded to the figure itself.
The figure’s near-mythological status comes from the fact that the plan was changed before it formally went into production, which means only a handful of prototypes exist in various stages of completion. Back in March, one of these prototypes set a new record for Star Wars merchandise, fetching more than $200,000 at an auction.
More From GOBankingRates