Variant Collecting 101 – Guest Collector: Tantive XI mod Steve P (aka cantina_patron)

I’m excited to welcome onto the blog yet another guest collector, this time my good friend and fellow Tantive XI moderator Steve P! Steve is a bit of a legend in the variant collecting world so I thought he would be the perfect candidate to write an article outlining exactly what variant collecting is. Variant collecting is often misunderstood and I can’t count the amount of times I’ve witnessed someone being criticised for “hoarding” figures when they are in fact all variations of a figure.

Massive thanks to Steve and to all of the variant hounds on the Tantive Team for putting this educative and entertaining article together. If you’d like to learn more about Steve, check out his profile on Tantive XI:

Steve’s Tantive XI profile

Take it away Steve!

VARIANT COLLECTING 101 – with Associate Professor cantina_patron (BA, M.A, PHD –  London School of the Identification and Collection of Variant Figures)

What is variant collecting?

Many collectors are happy to build a complete loose collection of the 105 characters & creatures released during the original toy production run from 1978 through to 1985. However, once the collecting bug has set in and a basic set has been built, some collectors maintain their interest by seeking out different versions / variants of each character.

So what is variant collecting? In broad terms it can be divided into:

‘Major’ variants –  involving significant changes in sculpt, materials used & paint application.

Well known examples include:

Han Solo (small & large head)

Jawa (vinyl or cloth cape)

Luke Jedi (head moulded in flesh colour plastic with painted hair or head moulded in hair colour plastic with painted face):

‘Minor’ variants –  e.g. small mould differences, differences in paint application and or colour used. It should be noted that figures produced by a single factory may have minor batch to batch variations in paint colour.

In recent years a lot of collectors have also been collecting COO (country of origin) stamp variants e.g. Hong Kong, Made In Hong Kong, China, Macau, Taiwan, Made In Taiwan, Japan, blank raised bar, no COO and COO scar.

For more information on COOs please follow this link to Tantive XI’s guide:

Tantive XI COO Guides

Any help filling in gaps would be appreciated!

When did variant collecting take off?

Personally, like many collectors I started looking for ‘major’ variants such as Obi-Wan with white and grey hair in the early 90s when I got back into collecting while completing my childhood collection. I am under the impression that serious loose variant collecting has increasingly grown over the last 10 years due to international collectors sharing knowledge and trading via the internet.

How has variant research benefited the vintage Star Wars community?

The research that has gone into variant collecting has helped confirm what factories produced the figures (in part or full), what cardbacks they appeared on & in which countries they were available. e.g. the infamous burgundy coat Bib Fortuna is exclusive to the former Lili Ledy factory in Mexico and was only available at retail in Mexico. The research that has been conducted & published by notable collectors on forums, Facebook & their own websites has been hugely valuable to the collecting community & has driven the current interest in variant collecting. However there are still gaps in our knowledge.

What are some of the rarest variants?

Some of the rarest & most desirable production variants include:

Kenner (US) Luke, Vader & Ben figures with double telescoping (DT) lightsabers;

Meccano  (France) Boba Fett, Luke Farmboy & Death Star Droid;

Lili Ledy (Mexico), Burgundy coat Bib Fortuna, removable rocket Boba Fett & Jawa removable hood;

Poch/PBP (Spain) Jawa, ‘toxic’ green limbed Bossk and 4-LOM;

Toltoys (Australia) unique Vinyl caped Jawa.

Figures produced by Top Toys (Argentina) and Glasslite (Brazil) are also highly desirable to many collectors.

Great care should be taken when purchasing high end variants as there are many fakes on the market, some are obvious but others can only be spotted by the trained eye. It is strongly recommended to do your research, ask questions, request detailed photos and to buy from reputable sources.

Why are some variants overrated?

Some of the most desirable and expensive variants aren’t actually that rare, but due to their desirability they command a premium on the secondary market. Prime examples include: the vinyl caped Jawa, blue Snaggletooth & Yak Face.

The vinyl caped Jawa & blue Snaggletooth are particularly desired by European collectors as the vinyl caped Jawa saw a very limited release here & the blue Snaggletooth was a US exclusive through the Sears Cantina Adventure set. Conversely Yak Face was relatively abundant in Europe, but not released in the U.S, so U.S collectors regard this figure in the same way that European collectors regard the vinyl caped Jawa & blue Snaggletooth.

Prior to the rise of eBay, forums and Facebook, these figures were considered rare outside of their country of origin. Today these three figures can be found available for sale online virtually any day of the week, whereas other variants such as some of the confirmed erarly Poch/PBP (still being researched) and Meccano figures may only be seen very occasionally.

Who are the most well-known variant collectors?

Some of the notable variant collectors who are well known and respected authorities in the collecting community include:

Wolff (Aslan Adam on Facebook);
Kenneth (Kenneth_B on the forums);
Marco (Dr Dengar on the forums)
Sergio (slolance4ever on the forums); and
Henrik (HWR on the forums).

These are just a few of the most well-known, there are many more.

As you can see from the above list,  a lot of  notable variant collectors are based in Europe. One explanation for this may be due to the fact that more variants were available here at retail. For example, in the UK we had figures packaged on Palitoy cards, US Kenner cards and Trilogo cards. The figures packaged on these cards were manufactured in the various Asian factories as well as Spain during the latter period of production.

Factory Errors and Discolouration

A variant is often mistaken for a factory error or discolouration, especially by individuals who are new to the hobby, or don’t take the time to do their research. A true variant is a figure whose appearance is that intended by the manufacturer. Therefore there are numerous confirmed examples for the same character, including MOC.

Factory errors come in many forms. Although they should not have made it through quality control they are pretty abundant. Common examples include:

Short shots / pours where the COO may appear to be very faint or completely absent. These can be mistaken for, or passed off by unscrupulous dealers, as pre-production items. The affected leg will usually have less definition of the other details and be shorter :

Odd limbs e.g. two right arms or two left legs :

Paint errors e.g. missing paint application, or overspray. As the figures are painted before assembly, missing paint usually only includes one colour and affects one part of the body :

Non sonic welded figures. Occasionally figures can be found that are non sonic welded (the process used to ‘glue’ the body together and hold the limbs in place). These figures have a torso which can be pulled apart allowing the component parts to be separated;

Please note that genuine non sonic welded figures have no signs of melting / damage to the internal seams or the pin and receiving hole of the torso. Unfortunately, some people try to pass off separated, poorly sonic welded figures as un sonic welded, so again care needs to be taken when purchasing these factory errors.

Example of a ‘forced apart’ sonic welded figure. Note the damage described above.

More detailed info can be read here:

Discolouration / degradation is the result of chemical changes in the plastic or paint e.g. the breakdown of pigments. Discolouration / degradation is most frequently caused by environmental factors such as ultraviolet light, humidity, gases & temperature. Many people mistakingly identify discoloured / degraded figures as a variant & can take some convincing of the truth. A classic example of this is the ‘green’ limbed Chewbacca. While the discolouration can look very uniform there are enough documented examples which are in the process of changing to demonstrate that they are not true variants, as seen here.

White plastics can turn pale yellow through to orange / brown. There is a growing trend among some collectors & dealers to chemically bleach these figures in order to increase their aesthetic appeal / value. However, it is not known what harmful long term effects this practice will have on the stability of the plastics. It has also been documented that this treatment only provides a ‘short term’ fix as some of the bleached figures have started to turn yellow again.

Paints can also degrade e.g. Pink can fade to cream or white due to the break down of the red pigments.

More information on discolouration / degradation can be found here:


Unfortunately there appears to be a divide between MOC collectors & loose variant collectors. If we can actively encourage more MOC collectors to identify what mould families their figures belong to & confirm the cardback & factory code (where applicable), it will be possible to establish with even more clarity when each variant was produced, its distribution and even where it was manufactured.

Collecting variants can be both fun & frustrating, but the basic full collection of 105 loose figures can be increased to several hundred. Let the chase begin!

Photo Credits: The Tantive XI team & Matthieu Barthelemy

ANNEX: Best internet resources

Here are some links to some of the best internet sources for researching variants:

Tantive XI:
Rebel Scum:
The Imperial Gunnery Forum:
Star Wars Forum UK:

There is also a lot of great information on the Facebook groups, but specific discussions can be hard to find. Forums are much easier to search.

Guest Collector – Mete Akin: Responsible and sound buying techniques

Hi guys,

I’m very happy to present yet another guest blogger onto VSWC: my friend Mete Akin (aka ‘Turkdlit’ on the forums); well-known in the collecting world for his awesome Uzay collection and for his love of bootlegs and prototypes.
Mete has written a set of excellent guidelines to buying responsibly in today’s market; an article that hopefully will not only encourage collectors to stay honest and respectful but also to get the most out of their vintage SW buying and selling experiences. I’m honoured that Mete chose to publish this article exclusively on VSWC blog.
Mete was actually the very first participant in the blog’s ‘collector snapshot’ segment so it is quite fitting. Rather than re-introduce the author, check out his quick-fire interview below:

Collector snapshot #1: Mete Akin aka ‘Turkdlit’

If you like bootlegs, follow the link to Mete’s great website focussing on Uzays:

One thing that is obvious about Mete is that he highly values ethics, dignity and respect in collecting; particularly when he comes to collector interactions in the marketplace. For those who were on Rebelscum, don’t forget that it was Mete who hounded Erik (aka ‘Bobafett34’) a couple of years ago (Erik was infamous for his incredibly poor buying and selling ethics) until he was FINALLY banned from Rebelscum after a string of offences. This thread (started by Rob) was memorable and was the main impetus towards Erik’s banning:

Erik called out – Rebelscum

Here’s the author with his childhood Bluestars


Mete is the perfect person to write an article on responsible trading.

We recommend that his article be read in conjunction with the previous VSWC publications on collecting ethics:

Guest Collector – Ross Barr and the ethics of flipping

Guest collector – Ian Cowley: The Hazards of Reproductions on Vintage Collecting

Ethics and business – are they reconcilable?

Just don’t buy it! How you can deflate the vintage Star Wars market

So here it is….. Enjoy!

With the recent introduction of thousands of new vintage Star Wars collectors, we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of transactions on both the vintage forums and in the Facebook groups. Not only has the volume of sales increased, but the value of these transactions has increased dramatically. For better or worse, we sometimes see the same item change hands rapidly, and often times at increasing cost with each exchange.
This has also led to an uptake in the number of “faux” collectors (not to be confused with “faux-cus” collectors). These are transient beings in the vintage world. As Phidias Barrios recently said about “faux” collectors – “they’re short timers that leave a destructive wake of inflated price bubbles that the collecting community has to deal with once they exit the hobby.” I couldn’t agree more.
It is no surprise then that many collectors, particularly newer ones, inquire what a fair market value is on something they are interested in. How does one know what fair market value is when the price of something jumps 50% from where it was just a few weeks ago? What if there are no recent sales of a particular item to gauge modern values?
There is no easy answer. Given current prices, today’s vintage SW market is new territory for everyone, and opinions on value are purely a speculative at times. There is one factor though which can help buyers make good decisions when completing a transaction – sound negotiating techniques. A good negotiator will work within budget limits, follow a few simple guidelines, and in the end the true value of an item becomes somewhat a moot point. We all know that euphoric feeling of getting a much needed piece at a good/fair price. The secondary, and perhaps more significant benefit, is that it helps keep the market in check.
Here are some observations I’ve made over the years as a buyer.
Disclaimer, these are just my opinions. I am by no means a dealer, I am a collector. My experience comes from spending countless summers in Turkey’s Bazaars, markets, and other areas where sellers view you as prey.
Step one – THINK
We all know the feeling of seeing something we like pop up for sale. Particularly on Facebook, you feel like you may have only 30 seconds to make a decision and pull the trigger on something that you want. This is where I think the majority of cases of buyer’s regret and overpaying comes from. Rash and poorly calculated decisions by a buyer can often lead to them backing out, leaving an unhappy seller and an over-inflated perception of market value.
Think for a moment how badly you want the piece. Think about what you can afford. Think about what you may think a fair price is….then take a moment to search the forums and eBay for old prices. Not only will you have reassurance that you’re not getting hosed, but you also avoid the disservice of stringing the seller along on a deal you may not second thoughts about later.
Be honest with yourself
This has served me very well when determining how much I want to spend. Ask yourself what your true intentions are if the item was to become your own. Is it going to be the centerpiece of your main focus for all of eternity? Or is it simply a well-priced piece that you will probably sell three months down the line to make a few bucks? If it’s the former, then negotiating should be the last thing on your mind, and you should be jumping on it with little thought. But if it’s just a good deal, or something you feel lukewarm about, then throwing out lower offers to see if the seller bites makes much more sense. Always consider that a piece you don’t care much for could be someone else’s grail – so don’t be a douche and snatch up everything that is just a “good price”. This contributes heavily to market inflation and leaves your collecting brothers disappointed.
Don’t be a smarty pants      
Acting like you’re the end-all be-all expert for a particular item you’re interested in has several detrimental effects:
  • First and most obviously – it makes you look conceited. Unless you’re Bill McBride or Joe Yglesias, there will always be someone out there more knowledgeable than you in a certain area of the hobby. Don’t cite AFA population reports or talk down someone else’s items beyond physical flaws. You should assume the seller has done their homework, and suggesting otherwise by offering up coercive information will be more likely to irritate than convince; and
  • Secondly, humans are much less likely to take advantage of someone who appears to be “inferior” or in doubt. Don’t get into a pissing match with your seller by trying to convince them you know better. People appreciate humility – use it to your advantage.
Ask specifics
Knowing details about condition goes beyond simply assessing the value of an item. Use defects to your advantage. Undisclosed spider veins, small bubble dents etc. may prove to be valuable ammunition for when you actually start negotiating on price. Obviously, you don’t want to talk the piece down too much and insult the seller; but invariably when they start listing the merits of the piece, you will at least have some negatives to counter and make a case for a better price.
Be friendly
How many of you have had a high-end piece for sale and a potential buyer sends you an offer – and nothing but the offer. The message simply consists of a dollar amount with a question mark. I find this is extremely irritating. If you want to buy something that is valuable, special and coveted, don’t dehumanize the process by making it a cold transaction made of numbers. I personally gravitate my sales to those who are genuinely respectful.
The Buyer’s Golden Rule – You can always walk away
The buyer’s golden rule was first introduced to me by my father when I was seven years old. I was feeling brave enough to negotiate for a backgammon set at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. He gave me a small amount of money and it was my goal to get what I wanted with just that amount. Before spending three hours at countless merchants trying to negotiate a reasonable price, he reminded me – you must always be willing to walk away. Buyers have a distinct advantage because they have the power to walk away at any moment. The moment you forget about this, or if you’re dealing with a true grail item that you must have at any cost, is the moment a seller has the upper hand.
Do your research, get the details, set your max willingness to pay, be courteous, and be ready to walk away at any moment. If you appreciate this sequence, you simply cannot lose.
The Seller’s Golden Rule – Never ever back out of a deal
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Seller’s Golden Rule – never back out once the handshake is done. Interestingly this is much more applicable to sellers than buyers. We’ve all been the victim of a buyer backing out of a deal, but there is much less sympathy for sellers who do this. Remember this is a relatively small community….wait, scratch that, a relatively small community which is extremely gossipy. The golden rule of negotiating as a seller is to always honor your deals – the alternative is to miss out on countless dollars in the long run, and be viewed negatively by the community.

Guest Collector – Ross Barr: Have Some Flippin’ Etiquette; It’s Good for Your Soul (and the Hobby)

Hi guys,

Excited and proud to present my good friend Ross Barr onto the blog, this time not as an interviewee but as an author of a great article on the ethics of flipping. While the blog was not responsible for the article, I have to say that I 100 percent agree with it and the ‘flipping’ guidelines it proposes. I came up through the forums with Ross and have had the pleasure of seeing him put together a full Kenner run of MOCs and a great Han Solo focus. Not only does he have a great collection but he is also someone who is keen to stand up to practices he believes are harming the hobby (i.e. repros and u-grading). It’s not always easy being so outspoken about these issues in our hobby as you’re sure to cop criticism and abuse. So I for one, appreciate Ross’ drive and engagement. If you’d like to read more about Ross and his collecting habits, check out his previous interview with us:

Collector Interview #5: Carl, Gary and Ross from ‘Star Wars 12 Backs, 20/21 Backs, and Early Vintage Collectors Group’

Ross giving the thumbs up to good flipping etiquetteross3

Please note that Ross is merely suggesting guidelines by which the re-sale of collectibles can occur without us gouging our fellow collector and that the article is not actually intended to undermine flipping. Further, no-one is being forced to adhere to the guildelines he suggests. Whether you are a flipper or against the practice, I’m sure we mostly agree that poor flipping practices can really leave a bad taste in our mouths.

Here is Ross’ article below. Take it away Roscoe!

Have Some Flippin’ Etiquette; It’s Good for Your Soul (and the Hobby)

Flipping – buying an item and selling it thereafter (typically soon thereafter) – is as much a part of the vintage Star Wars collectible hobby as are trading items, selling a piece following an upgrade of that item, or any other buying and selling activity. In fact, flipping is a major part of other industries and economic markets, most notably the real estate and stock markets. Nevertheless, for whatever reason, labelling someone a “flipper” in our hobby tends to carry a negative connotation, whether fair or unfair. More likely than not, folks that have habitually flipped collectibles with no etiquette or little concern for their fellow collector have unfairly given a bad name to flipping, which, if done in a responsible and honest manner, may actually bring positive benefits to our hobby.

Did I say positive benefits from flipping? You’re damn right I did. The collectors that dumpster dove near Kenner’s facilities in the 1980s and/or have bought items directly from former Kenner employees and contractors from that period to the present have sourced collectibles that otherwise likely never would have made it into collector hands. These pioneers of our hobby provided some of these items to their fellow collectors by flipping them in the truest sense of the word. Had these early collectors not pounded the pavement, many rare prototypes and other items that we enjoy today may never have been known to our community. Similarly, folks that spend hours and hours of their time scouring flea markets, garage sales, antique malls, and similarly obscure locations to source vintage Star Wars action figure goodness are benefiting the hobby by getting those items into collector hands. And they’re flipping toys more often than McDonald’s flips burgers.

The profits made from flipping allow many collectors to subsidize their personal collections and obtain items that might have otherwise been out of their reach given their own personal financial limitations. If done in the right manner, most people view flipping as an acceptable way to help build a collection.

Flipping on eBay and other impersonal, fee-based marketplaces carries with it less expectation that the seller will flip in a manner that is respectful to others and responsible from the standpoint of the overall hobby. However, flipping within online vintage Star Wars collector forums and Facebook groups – each of which operates to many degrees like a community of friends that look out for one another – should be viewed more like a privilege that is provided to the flipper in exchange for a tacit agreement to act respectfully towards other collectors in the process.

In that regard, this article provides a non-exhaustive list of certain actions one should avoid if he or she wants to flip in a courteous and conscientious manner within our community. That is, below is a list of flipping “no nos.” Please keep in mind that this article is written from the perspective of collector flipping; those collectors that are in these markets as a hobby. The calculus is understandably different when a dealer – someone who buys and sells to make a living – is flipping. Dealers often times have overhead and other expenses that collectors don’t have, and the need to maximize their financial return on an item is greater for those reasons and also because that money provides for their livelihood and that of their family. With that said, many of the principles below apply equally to dealers and hobby participants alike. I will let you decide which ones do.

Without further ado, if you want to flip, then go ahead and flip, but in doing so you would be wise to heed the following advice:

Be honest about your intentions in sourcing an item you intend to flip.

If you are purchasing an item intending to flip it for a profit, don’t tell your seller that it’s for your “personal collection” or something similar. Many collectors will give a reasonable discount to their asking price if they believe that the item they are selling will be loved by the purchaser, fits that person’s collection, and will be retained in that person’s collection. Stating that you intend to keep a piece (when you really intend to flip it) in order to get a good deal on it and obtain as much room as possible for profit on the flip is dishonest and unfair.

If you can’t get the item you intend to flip at below market value, even if just slightly below market, then it’s probably not flip-worthy.

Whether due to increased transparency in the vintage Star Wars collectible markets on eBay and elsewhere, increased competition from newer collectors, or otherwise, it is more difficult than in the past for collectors to obtain below market deals on items. As a result, too many collectors are charging obscenely above market prices on items they are flipping because they are forced to pay market, or even worse above market, prices to source the items and need to overcharge on the back end in order to make a profit. Sometimes the best deal is the deal that isn’t done. Artificial market value increases brought about by serial flipping do no one any good.

Be mindful of reasonable market values in determining your asking price while also leaving room for some profit for yourself.

Consistent with the ideal of flipping only items that are sourced at below market prices, if you are going to flip consistently, you should strive to price items as reasonably as possible as often as possible. It is entirely feasible to harmonize the interest of making money on a flip with the ideal of not gouging your fellow collector. Our community is a small one, and one of its greatest attributes is the volume of folks that go above and beyond to help other collectors out. Those people rightfully are respected in the community and well liked. On the other hand, collectors that sell regularly for obscene prices aren’t view favorably; the logical implication of these selling practices is that those people don’t care if they gouge their fellow collectors solely to line their own pockets.

Many of the collectors that end up being harmed by these exorbitant prices are newbies that aren’t familiar with fair market values or don’t know how to research them (and these high, above market values eventually become their skewed reality) or longer term collectors that can’t be bothered to do price research. Of course, the former deserves more sympathy than the latter.

Similarly, many flippers source mint or near mint ungraded items, submit them for third party grading, and then charge very high mark ups as compared to what they paid to source the item. Of course, the market is responsible for dictating whether an AFA 85 piece is worth, for example, double an AFA 80 example of the same piece, and these flippers are simply operating within the confines of those markets. Still, if more folks asked themselves whether they really should be entitled to charge a 50%, 100%, or higher mark up on a graded piece versus that same piece ungraded simply because they paid $40 to get the item graded (when they really did nothing to add value to the item or otherwise increase its displayability), our hobby would be a much better place and collectors would likely be less resistant to third party grading services.

Wait until you get the item in hand before you flip it.

Too many collectors are, for reasons unbeknownst to me, so eager to flip an item that they will list the item for sale before they receive it from their source. In some extreme cases, I have seen flippers list an item the same day that they found it. People have a right to sell anything once it is their property, but it is frankly distasteful to sell a piece promptly after someone else sells it to you. If the flipper advertises his or her sale of the item on the same forum from which it was sourced, that’s obviously even poorer etiquette. Perhaps most importantly, one should wait until they have received an item before flipping it since a lot can happen to that item in transit on its way to the flipper.

Take your own pictures of the item when it is in hand to use to advertise your sale.

As discussed above, a lot can happen in transit. On that basis, if a flipper uses its seller’s pictures to flip the item before the item is in hand and the item ends up being damaged in transit on the way to the flipper – which happens more than it should – the second purchaser has now paid for an item in lesser condition than the flipper advertised it to be. That likely will create an awkward situation among the flipper and his buyer as they will be left to negotiate a discount to the sale price to account for the non-disclosed damage or will be forced to cancel the transaction. Frankly, given that just about everyone has a digital camera on their mobile phone, using the original seller’s pictures to sell the item is about as lazy as it gets. And certainly don’t use those pictures to flip unless you have the seller’s permission to do so!

Pack the items cycling in and out of your hands as well as humanly possible to protect them in transit.

Vintage collectibles, most notably mint on card figures, were not intended to be shipped numerous times over a 35-year period. We all have seen too many vintage items damaged in transit – bubbles torn off the card, figures popping through bubbles, vintage boxed items crushed, etc. With more buying and selling comes more shipments of those items, which correspondingly brings more risk of damage. If you are going to be a flipper, that’s fine. Just please make sure you take extra special care to properly pack all the items cycling in and out of your hands.

Be aware of the forum you use to sell the item.

If you purchase an item on a particular web-based forum, Facebook collecting group, etc., it is generally poor form to list the same item immediately for sale at the same forum at a higher price. At the end of the day, it’s most certainly optics to say that if, for example, you buy something on SWFUK it’s better to then to flip the same item on eBay or elsewhere rather than on SWFUK, but really it does just look better. There is an element of optics to all of this. With that said, the number of forums on which collectors sell items is very limited, so more likely than not your seller is going to see that you are flipping the item he or she sold you regardless whether you sell it on a different forum from which you purchased it or not. But if you weren’t dishonest about your intentions in your original purchase, your seller will have less reason to squawk.


Hopefully I have covered most of it, but if I have inadvertently omitted some additional tips people should heed in order to flip in a well-mannered and responsible fashion, please let me or others know. This article was intended to start a dialogue, and encourage people to think a bit more about how they buy and sell in our hobby, how those practices may affect others, and how ultimately the competing interests of profit making and being respectful to others in the hobby may easily be harmonized.

Guest collector – James Kenneison: How do we define ‘vintage’?

Hi guys,

I’m very happy to present another guest collector onto the blog, fellow Aussie James Kenneison – known as ‘Aussie James’ on the boards and a popular moderator on the TIG forum (The Imperial Gunnery Forum) and of the Facebook groups Australian Star Wars Collectors. Vintage only (18+), which he admins alongside Josh Akerman, Nick Johnston and myself, and the Toltoys Collector 18+ group.

Our last guest collector ( was a roaring success and am pretty sure this will also be a popular article; albeit a much shorter one. James is an extremely well liked collector and is an absolute bottomless well of knowledge, which he is always happy to share with others. While he is friendly (but not always!) and helpful, he is also not the type of guy you’d mess with and is quick to shut down trouble makers. He does though admit that he can be pretty blunt with people sometimes. Thanks to James for taking his time to write the below as it really is a pertinent topic.

Here he is with his beautiful boy:


And some of his awesome collection!


James’ article is pretty brief and I recruited his assistance as a response to the endless arguments that modern Star Wars toys should be considered ‘vintage’ because some of them are almost 20 years old (such as the POTF2 line which Hasbro released in 1995). Not only this, but modern toys are often described as ‘vintage’ in eBay sales. I think it’s important to clarify the definition of vintage in SW collecting, not only to educate newer collectors but also to allow buyers to not to mistakenly purchase a modern toy.

This is what James had to say.

How do we define ‘vintage’?

There seems to be some confusion about what ‘vintage star wars’ means. It is a term that has been adopted by the Star Wars community & ‘vintage’ is NOT to be confused with any definition of the word that you may normally find. It has nothing to do with wine, it is not an age, rather in Star Wars term, it refers to the toys that were made between 1977-1985. Some of these toys include figures, playsets vehicles, and accessories.

These are fairy lights:


They are not light bulbs stuck up a mythical winged creature’s butt and there is no point arguing about it, the same way we cannot argue that vintage Star Wars does not refer to collectable toys pre 1985.

There are though some foreign SW toy lines that were produced a little bit after this time but are still considered vintage. such as the Brazilian Glasslite line.

The above definition of vintage will never change and POTF2 will never be vintage, no matter how old they become. Don’t debate which bounty hunter is 4LOM vs Zuckuss, how to break an egg or whether modern will be vintage…

Guest Collector: Gary Borbidge and his huge Kenner Prototype find!

Hi guys,

I’m very happy to have Gary Borbidge (aka ‘Greedodidntshoot’ on Rebelscum) appear on the blog to present his massive Kenner find from early 2014. Gary did actually outline this haul previously on Rebelscum but he was generous enough to update it exclusively for the Vintage Star Wars Collectors blog. A lot of our readers are not on Rebelscum so I’m sure they have not yet had the chance to read the details of Gary’s amazing score from a former Kenner employee.

I have to admit I was feeling a little bit emotional after reading Gary’s story. What a great story! This to me is what collecting is all about. Gary was obviously excited about the great pieces he had picked up but you can also feel how honoured he was to have had the chance to hang out with someone so intrinsically linked to the history of Star Wars toys. Lovely touch too that Gary’s father was a part of this epic journey.

Well enough from me, I’ll let Gary take it from here.

2014 Kenner Find by Gary Borbridge

Like most collectors, I’ve spent countless hours scrolling through vintage Star Wars auctions on eBay. From time to time you score a nice piece at a good price, or stumble upon an auction for something special that seems to go unnoticed by others. This is my story of an eBay originated buy that ultimately lead to the highlight of my collecting career. Some of you may have read my thread on RebelScum explaining this story, but if not – enjoy.

I have been collecting vintage Star Wars on and off since the late 90s and mainly supported my collecting (habit) by buying and selling and keeping a few pieces in-between to build my collection. One day in January of 2014 I was checking out some newly listed auctions on eBay and came across a few auctions for some carded figures that were in average shape.  The seller was actively listing the items, so I sent a message to the seller inquiring what other items he/she was going to have for sale. I received a response that they had a few more carded figures, some loose figures and some 12” figures. I asked if the seller could send me some pictures of the items they had not listed yet and received a response containing a few pictures. Among the items was a vinyl Star wars case that contained an assortment of loose figures. Among the figures were four Blue Snaggletooths…. What??? I thought to myself.  Two of the snags looked to be in excellent condition and the other two looked a bit rough. So I expressed interest and ultimately worked out a deal to buy the case of figures.


Fast forward a few days to the day when the package arrived in the mail. As I’m going over the figures, I notice that six of them: two Blue Snags, two Walrusmen, a Greedo and a Hammerhead didn’t have any copyright stamps. I had no idea at the time, as I had never owned any pre-production pieces and my knowledge in that area of collecting was basically zero, but what they turned out to be were painted first shots. This was confirmed by some very knowledgeable and respected collectors on Rebelscum.


Needless to say, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe it, this stuff just doesn’t happen! Then it hit me, wait….where did the guy get these? These were basically prototypes. You didn’t go out to the Kiddie City and buy these back in the day, they had to come from Kenner, from in-house Kenner. So I contacted the seller again and discovered that when he was a kid, his uncle had come to the house one Christmas with a box full of Star Wars toys. I then found out to my amazement that his uncle used to work for Kenner. The communication continued with the seller and he ultimately told me his uncle’s name and some limited information about what he was currently doing in life. Chris Georgoulias  (a well known collector and major contributor to confirmed the uncle to be a former Kenner worker. Chris also provided me with some early guidance from his years of experience in tracking down and approaching former Kenner employees, which was a huge help in getting me started on the next phase of this story.

With his uncle’s name and some limited info, I hit the internet and started researching. Without much trouble I located an e-mail address and telephone number for the uncle and emailed him explaining my contact with his nephew and expressing interest in his time days at Kenner. Send………The email was away….

I didn’t really know what to expect. For the most part, I honestly didn’t think I would even get a response. I checked my emails about twenty-five times hoping for a reply. Days went by and nothing. Then one afternoon, there it was – a reply. It was brief, stating that he was sorry that he had not replied sooner. His wife has been hospitalised but he was happy to tell me about Kenner and he promised to write more soon. I thanked him for taking the time to answer me and said I was looking forward to talking with him.

The following day I checked my emails and there was a whole string of emails from him containing several attachments. Pictures. I clicked on the photo attachments and they were all of vintage star wars toys that he explained he had “saved.” MOCs, ESB 3-Packs, figure cases, diecast vehicles, baggies, electronic games, loose figures…. The closer I looked, the more excited I became. I could tell there were numerous other pre-production pieces and some very cool production pieces in the lot. I couldn’t believe it!

We continued to correspond over the next few weeks, chatting about all kinds of things, including his time at “Kenners” (as he called it). During the weeks that we talked back and forth, he was mostly writing me from his wife’s hospital bedside. The recipient of a pair of new lungs, she was fighting through complication after complication. As our communications continued, he told me how much he enjoyed having someone to talk with, someone to take his mind off of the pain that his wife was going through. It felt good to be able to do that for him and I really enjoyed learning about his time working at “Kenners”. He was just out of college in 1978 and took a job with Kenner in their Product Integrity Labs; which was responsible for testing toy safety and reliability. He explained his job to me as “playing with toys to make sure there were no safety issues and to determine how reliable they would be under varying conditions.” He worked at Kenner until mid-1980 when he left to take another job.

I shared all of the toy pictures and play – by – play with my buddy, Steve Dwyer (‘the_dark_artist’ on Rebelscum), and we gushed over them for weeks. Steve’s encouragement and knowledge with identifying several of the pieces in the lot was invaluable to me and having someone to share the experience with as it was happening was really cool. At times he seemed more excited than I was!

Fast forward several weeks and his wife’s recovery was going well and she had progressed enough to come home. We had discussed me purchasing his toys on and off over the weeks that we had been talking and shortly after arriving home with his wife, we came to a deal. The next thing I knew, I was making arrangements to drive out to Ohio. When I told my dad that I was going to be driving out to buy a bunch of Star Wars toys, he offered to be my co-pilot and make the trip with me (that is after he told me I was nuts).  Having my dad with me was awesome. With my job, wife, kids and the thousand other obligations in life, I rarely get to spend one on one time with him. It was so fitting to have him along with me as he was the person that introduced me to Star Wars a long time ago in a childhood far far away… The long ride from Philadelphia to rural northern Ohio gave us a lot of time to spend together.

So on Sunday March 16, 2014 Dad and I were on our way. When we finally arrived at our destination, we were greeted at the door by a tiny woman with a brand new set of lungs. A very sweet woman who welcomed us in and asked how we liked our steak cooked. We were then directed out to a horse barn where we met the man that I had been corresponding with for weeks. We shook hands, I met the horses and we returned to the house for a delicious home cooked steak dinner, followed by a spread of Kenner goodness covering the dining room table.


Some of the highlights of the purchase include 10 figural first shots, two die cast first shots, several carded and loose marked product integrity test samples, several engineering pilots (EPs), 40 bagged figures, three series one ESB 3-packs and 28 carded figures.

This photo is of the 10 first shots in the lot:

first shots

The items in the second picture are marked test pieces (EPs):

test samples

The final photos are of Boba Fett, a transition piece from the rocket firing mechanism to the standard Fett. I think the Fett is one of the coolest pieces in the whole find. It represents the transition of one of the most iconic pieces in the vintage Star Wars toy.

boba fett fett bCK

We spent the rest of the evening talking about “Kenners” over pints of Guinness and games of pool in his basement. It was like hanging out with an old friend. Truly Amazing!

This is a picture of my new friend and I and the toys that I purchased from him. The entire experience was unreal, a once in a collecting-lifetime thing.

gary 4

Guest collector – Ian Cowley: The Hazards of Reproductions on Vintage Collecting

Hi all,

I recently approached one of my friends on the Rebelscum forum, Ian Cowley – resident head kicker and anti u-grade and repro crusader, and asked him to write an article on a subject that is very important to him – the negative effects of reproduction items on our beloved hobby. Well he told me that back in 2010 he had actually written an article on that exact subject and he has kindly allowed me to reproduce it here (no pun intended!). It’s a great read and the core of its message maintains its relevance today. The unfortunate reality is that repros and those who manufacture them continue to damage vintage collecting.

Ian can be a scary character at times, particularly when confronted with cocky newcomers or uninformed advocates of the u-grade and repros. But you would struggle to find someone who loves the hobby more than Ian and he is easily one of the nicest individuals I’ve met on the forums. He is often the first to answer a newbie question (many of mine in the past!) and is well loved by those who know him.

This article is quite timely for my current situation as I just bought a SW figure lot from the classifieds here in The Netherlands and a couple of the weapons ended up being reproductions.

Well here is Ian’s excellent article. I hope you enjoy it and if you are a supporter of repros, I hope you change your view after reading it!

The Hazards of Reproductions on Vintage Collecting by Ian Cowley

I will do my best to summarize the issues concerning repros. I am well aware that there are people here who can better articulate some of these hazards, or who may consider things I may overlook. If anybody wants to add to this, or even replace it with a better one, I welcome it.

First of all, I am going to include a couple of excellent resources that can help identify reproductions.

Jawa Armory
The Imperial Gunnery

The following is going to be fairly long. If you are not going to read the entire post, this is a quick summary.

  • Reproductions are defined, and how they differentiate from bootlegs;
  • Repros have the potential to cheat collectors out of large amounts of money;
  • Every repro purchased, even small common items, fuels the demand for more and helps the creators perfect the quality;
  • ALL repros will eventually and inevitably return to the marketplace if not destroyed;
  • Concerns about authenticity have led to third party authentication services, which have artificially inflated vintage prices; and
  • Ongoing concerns have caused many long time expert collectors to exit the hobby, which depletes us of invaluable resources.

I guess we should start with a definition of a repro as it applies to vintage Star Wars. Opinions on this will differ, but I would imagine the broadest definition would be any product custom made that replaces or substitutes anything produced and released by Kenner or its international subsidiaries at retail during the years of 1977 to 1989 in its Star Wars brand, and is intended to replicate said product. This definition excludes bootlegs, which differ in a couple of ways. Bootlegs were available at retail in most cases, and in any event, may resemble authentic vintage product but were never made with the intent of being a substitution for any licensed product.

For some collectors, repros are a relatively easy and inexpensive way to complete a loose collection that is missing (or has damaged) accessories, decals, and/or other miscellaneous parts. It also provides a method of storing loose figures in reproduction cardbacks to mimic the way in which they were originally sold at retail.

Surely this must be a good thing to be able to finally give that Tusken Raider a gaffi stick after all these years, and to have that rush of nostalgia seeing Luke Skywalker as he appeared all those years ago on the pegs of the local Toys R Us? They certainly display nicer, so what could possibly be the harm?

As it turns out, these repros which in all likelihood were originally created with the best intentions, have fueled a thriving underground market in which collectors are being ripped off by unscrupulous sellers, which threatens the integrity of the hobby as a whole.

Sure, there is little damage from a repro Bespin blaster that completes your beat up Lobot, but as the methods of replicating these accessories has improved, it has opened up an opportunity to make some big money under the right conditions. That Lobot is nothing in the big picture, aside from the fact that someone who has paid money for an authentic Kenner produced item has instead received something different that only copies what he wanted. But what about the person looking to get an authentic carded DT Ben Kenobi? Now we are talking about an item that sells for tens of thousands of dollars. In this example, authenticity suddenly becomes a major factor, as no one would pay that kind of money for a fake item.

The DT Ben example is an extreme one, but it highlights the issues surrounding the dangers of repros. Far more affordable are vinyl caped Jawas, DT Lukes, Luke Stormtrooper Helmets, etc. These are the items that most collectors can afford, yet are still relatively pricey if you are paying full market value for an item that is a counterfeit. Carded figures command a premium over loose figures, and the exact same dangers apply. As repros are made of higher and higher quality, and resemble authentic items more and more closely, it is becoming a challenge even for the seasoned collector to distinguish the fake from the authentic. Scam artists are making a LOT of money by duping collectors into believing they are purchasing authentic items that are not. The more repros they sell, the more they make, and the more they make, the better they perfect their craft of reproducing near exact replicas.

Many collectors who knowingly buy these repro items do so believing that they are causing no harm, as the items are locked away in their personal collections. The truth is, this is an incorrect assumption. Not even the most diehard collector will own their items forever. Notwithstanding what happens to inherited or the unfortunate stolen collections, the fact is the vast majority of collectors who maintain they are in it forever will eventually move on and sell. This can be either a change in interest, or an unexpected financial downturn could necessitate it. There is also the probability that most people upgrade their collections, and it is always possible a repro item will mistakenly be sold or traded off. Any time a repro item leaves your hands, it is unknown what future owners will do with them, which means there is always the potential for a future scam.

The residual effect of this unethical market is the introduction of authenticating services such as that which AFA provides. While it is debatable that AFA provides a needed standardized system of grading that eliminates a separate issue (incorrectly described conditions), it is the authentication service that is directly fueled by the very existence of repros. If authenticity wasn’t a concern (ie. repros did not exist), this service would not exist. Being a business, they charge a fee to authenticate items, which is an additional cost on top of every single vintage purchase a collector wants to make sure contains no repros. This has made a quick and easy way for a collector to forego educating themselves on identifying repros, as they just pay for authenticity. Many collectors pay a ridiculous premium for pre-authenticated toys. As a further issue, some people have seen the opportunity for profit here as well, and purposely buy non-graded top condition toys, have them graded, then sell at inflated prices for the sole purpose of making profit.

The irony here is that repros have caused a bigger problem out of what they were created to solve – the cost of authentic product.

Throughout all of this, long time collectors who have spent countless hours learning how to authenticate their own items, and who have spent untold dollars on building their collections, now watch as newer collectors increasingly find no need to educate themselves, and fill their collections with items that are not authentic. Furthermore, those still trying to complete collections the old fashioned way are facing an uphill battle as repros flood the market and sellers knowingly (and sometimes unknowingly) try to pass off repros as real. More than a few of these incredibly knowledgeable collectors have withdrawn from the hobby as a result, which does nothing but deplete valuable sources of information from the hobby, not just in the toys themselves, but the history behind them as well.

There are still many long time collectors who try to maintain the integrity of the hobby, who will not settle for anything less than authentic items to consider a collection to be truly ‘vintage’. However, the continued use of repros continues to fuel a market that produces them, leading to unscrupulous sellers, fraud, and inflated prices for authentic items.

So what is the solution? As long as a market exists, there is no way to eliminate repros. The only thing that can be done is for ethical producers of repros to make some sort of identifying characteristic on their items. This can be a unique marking, or a significant difference in the repro item (ex. a noticeable change in an accessory’s color may be an idea). Anything that can easily be seen by even a novice collector would help prevent the scams that occur on a daily basis. Unfortunately, as long as there is money to be made from near perfect replicas, this is not likely to happen any time soon.

I can only hope that this post can enlighten even a few of those that feel that a few repro purchases here and there do not harm the hobby. It’s a cumulative effect for sure, but everyone who purchases a single reproduction item is adding their contribution to this mess that threatens the integrity of the hobby which we all hold so dear to our hearts.