The Phantom Menace

There was great excitement among Star War fans when the Phantom Menace was released in 1999, more than 20 years after the first Star Wars film. Now there was a new hero, a young lad destined to become Darth Vader. This was a prequel and Luke, Leia and Han were not yet thought of. Instead there were characters like the fearsome Darth Maul with a scarlet and black face and devil type-horns. Qui-Gon Jinn, the Jedi Master and a beautiful handmaiden called Padme Naberrie and Queen Amidala were the stars of this movie.

The toys from Phantom Menace soon ousted the memorabilia from the previous trilogy. The shops were filled with mugs, books, rucksacks, pencil cases, sweet tins and mousemats bearing pictures of Darth Maul, Anakin Skywalker, Queen Amidala, Qui-Gon Jin and, most of all, Jar Jar Binks. Jar Jar was everywhere; for a while he seemed to be the ‘in’ figure from the film, the crazy character kids would go for. That’s what the manufacturers had hoped and they were completely wrong. Darth Maul turned out to be the hit and when the first wave of action figures arrived, it soon transpired that there were not enough to meet the demand.

These action figures were brilliant because they could talk, an innovation which was made possible by a battery operated device called a ‘Commtalk Reader’ which resembled a mobile phone.  This gadget cost caround £20 and came with a demonstration chip plus a chain to hold extra chips as they were acquired.  Each four inch tall action figure was packaged with a transparent oblong chip containing several phrases from the film.  The chip had a small peg onto which the figure fitted, and when the chip was placed over the reader it was activated, making it sound as though the figure was speaking.  Several chip messages could be stored, so that characters could interact and each chip had a hologram of the character it featured.  Two buttons on the reader made lightsaber and blaster sounds. Continue reading “The Phantom Menace”

Star Wars

The price of a piece of Star Wars memorabilia can be doubled if the original box, instructions, decal slips and associated paraphernalia are all included. If the item has never been removed from the box it could be very valuable indeed.

While the majority of Star Wars memorabilia collectors are quite happy if the box has been opened, or even if it is missing altogether, the serious Star Wars collector will demand absolute perfection and is prepared to pay fantastic sums for figures and toys in Grade A shop condition. The box has to be as mint and perfect as the toy inside.

Star Wars action figures (and Return of the Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back) were packaged on a colourful card measuring nine inches by six inches, with the figure enclosed in an oblong transparent blister to the left of the card, and a movie still of the character to the right.  The reverse of the card had illustrations of all the characters so far available, plus a check list.  Often, adverts for various new items of Star Wars merchandise were shown at the bottom.  Collectors refer to the cards by the number of characters listed; the earliest (and hardest to find) is a 12-back.  Next came the 20-pack, another desirable card.  The adverts on these early cards are interesting, the 20-back, for example, lists such goodies as the Land of the Jawas Sand Crawler, the Patrol Dewback, the Droid Factory and the Creature Cantina, all of which are now fairly rare models.  The Cantina was made from cardboard and is now very difficult to find in good condition. Continue reading “Star Wars”