Star Wars nerds and collectors alike are familiar with the tale of the famed “Early Bird Certificate Package.” Kenner, the manufacturer of Star Wars toys in 1977, was blindsided by the popularity of the first film and didn’t have any action figures that would be on shelves in time for the bustling holiday season. So, they essentially sold well-packaged I.O.U.s in the form of boxes that promised posable miniature versions of heroes like Han Solo, Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi – so kids would have a box to open on Christmas morning, even if the toys wouldn’t arrive ‘til next year.
The “Early Bird Certificate Package” is one of the mint condition items that will be auctioned off on December 11 by Sotheby’s and NIGO, marking the luxury auctioneer’s first auction dedicated to Star Wars collectibles. Dubbed “Return of the NIGO,” the sale will feature over 600 action figures and assorted ephemera from all over the famed galaxy far, far away.
James Gallo, owner of Toy and Comic Heaven, serves as a consultant on the sale, and estimates the value of the collection as a whole is “about a quarter of a million dollars.” Some of the most valuable pieces include a 1978 Luke Skywalker action figure with a rare double-telescoping lightsaber, supposedly one of 30 in the world. Its estimated value is $12,000-$18,000. Meanwhile, a tri-lingual logo figure of obscure Star Wars character General Crix Madine from 1983 – one of 12 known examples – is estimated around $10,000-$15,000.
“There are almost 400 different figures in the ‘70s Kenner line,” says Gallo, and the original line holds most nostalgic value for serious Star Wars collectors. For the more casual fan, there are a plethora of collaborations currently available in time for the new film Star Wars: The Force Awakens, premiering December 18.
NIGO is no stranger to Star Wars collabs either, while he admits to always being inspired by the epic saga, his former label A Bathing Ape has paired its Baby Milo mascot with Star Wars characters before, and more recently, Uniqlo’s T line – where NIGO serves as creative director – released a series of collaborative artist tees depicting characters from the Star Wars universe. “It’s become part of everyday life,” adds Gallo. “You can find Star Wars on everything from clothing to food products.”
The downside of Star Wars’ current popularity? The new merchandise likely won’t be as valuable as the stuff from the ‘70s. Blame it on the current state of consumer culture and the evolution of Star Wars from a surprising blockbuster to viable marketing juggernaut.
“For the most part, the stuff is so mass-produced now that very little of it really increases or maintains a lot of high-end value,” says Gallo. “I don’t think you’ll ever see any type of values like you have on the original line.”
Sotheby’s “Return of the NIGO” Star Wars sale starts December 11 at Sotheby’s.
- Words: Jian DeLeon
- Photographer: Thomas Welch