Star Wars

The Star Wars universe continues to grow… and this is certainly the case when it comes to auctions.

Star Wars poster

A British Quad film poster for ‘Star Wars’ from 1977 (pre-academy awards, Style C) with artwork by Tom Chantrell – £1300 at Gorringes in June 2019.

Unless you have been in a galaxy far, far away for quite some time, you cannot have failed to have heard of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Ewoks and Han Solo. The first of the epic films created by George Lucas was released in 1977 and its huge success (including the various sequels and prequals) has meant that it been part of the popular imagination ever since.

The enduring attraction of the films, books and video games is prominently reflected in the collectables market, especially when it comes to the highly sought after toys, posters and memorabilia. Demand from collectors who remember the film from their childhood has sent prices upward but the strong supply of material, thanks to the fact that most items were mass produced, means that there’s plenty to buy at affordable levels at auction too.

Toys and figures

Palitoy Star Wars Darth Vader

An original Palitoy ‘Star Wars’ Darth Vader figure (standard light sabre) with an unpunched card – £2200 at C&T Auctioneers in June 2020.

Star Wars toys have been incredibly popular and highly collectable since they first began to appear in the late 1970s. In fact both their design and packaging revolutionised the toy industry.

As with other sectors of the antiques market, from coins to classic cars, the rarity and condition of individual items plays a key role in inherent values. Some of the rarest, and therefore most expensive, Star Wars toys are less well known characters such as the elusive bounty hunter Boba Fett. Rare prototypes can also make huge amounts.

As well as rarity, figures need to come in their original box to be considered valuable and collectors prefer them to be unopened.

Background

Tens of thousands of Star Wars figures were sold in the 1970s and '80s as demand peaked as each film appeared. In the US, the original figures were manufactured by Kenner while its UK subsidiary Palitoy produced the toys for British consumers.

The original wave of Star Wars figures, which didn't hit the shelves until almost a year after the film opened, consisted of a dozen key characters from the first movie. Collectors refer to them as ‘12-back’ figures, coining the phrase from the original bubble packs that showed all 12 figures from the series on the card back.

Kenner original figure of Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2)

Figures from ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ series of toys tend to be more affordable compared to their earlier ‘Star Wars: a New Hope’ equivalents. This Kenner original figure of Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2) – in mint condition and with an unpunched card – made £520 at C&T Auctioneers in September 2020.

They sold in the thousands but were packaged in a way that encouraged the box to be immediately discarded and, anyway, few children thought to ‘collect’ them until a cult emerged later in the trilogy (the standard issues relating to The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi are therefore much easier to find and are significantly more affordable).

The rarest Star Wars figures are those from the very first wave of production that saw Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker holding telescopic lightsabres. These proved difficult to manufacture and broke easily, and were scrapped after only a few hundred figures had been sold. The Darth Vader version is the most highly prized of the trio and has a value of more than £3000.

However, plenty of ‘playworn’ figures emerge regularly at auction and be acquired for anything from £10-50.

Posters

The fact that each Star Wars film, including the various spin offs, has yielded various posters in different editions has engendered a vibrant collecting market. The highly recognisable style and use of fantastic imagery has given them a high and long-lasting appeal.

The earliest posters were designed in 1976, before the first Star Wars film appeared in 1977, and featured Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia before it was known what their characters would actually look like in the movie. By the time Tom Jung designed the first-released and highly sought after poster the figures had been updated as had the Star Wars logo.

Roger Kastel poster for The Empire Strikes Back

A US poster by Roger Kastel for ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ (‘style A’) – £1900 at Prop Store in November 2020.

The first British quad editions date from 1977 with artwork by brothers Tim & Greg Hildebrandt. However this poster was withdrawn and it was replaced by yet another version by the Tom Chantrell version which portrayed the actors more accurately.

While these early Star Wars posters can command sums that run into the thousands of pounds, posters for the later films which ran to larger editions can be bought for lower amounts.

The Roger Kastel poster for The Empire Strikes Back from 1983 for example is more affordable – it is affectionately called the ‘Gone With the Wind style’ poster as it depicts Harrison Ford is cradling Carrie Fisher in his arms (similar Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in the earlier blockbuster).

Memorabilia and props

Stormtrooper helmet

An official replica Stormtrooper helmet (full scale) signed in black by eleven members of the Star Wars cast including Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) and Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine). It sold for £480 at Ewbank’s in October 2019.

Other items that come up at auction that appeals to Star Wars fans include photographs, autographs and even costumes or props from the films themselves.

The latter have entered the market as some of the actors or people involved in the films’ production (or their relatives) have sold items from their collections.

Items such as storm trooper helmets, models for the scenery and original or replica lightsabers have emerged on the market and the sells for prices ranging from the hundred to the many thousands for those closest to what you’ve seen on screen.

Other themed items

Star Wars lego

We found this Lego set on Amazon for £649.99, the winning bidder got the same thing in a factory sealed box for £260 at East Bristol Auctions in October 2020, a smart buy ahead of Christmas, perhaps.

Plenty of other Star Wars items come up regularly at auction including Star Wars Lego, Star Wars games and cards, Star Wars magazines (you can acquire a stack of retro magazines for only a small amount of money) and much more. Few, if any, are rare so you can feed your fix for the force without spending a lot.

Look out for large boxes of old Star Wars collectables – it usually means someone has been having a clear-out and is happy to let go of all their old stuff for very little. You can pick up a vast array of items and the per unit cost is tiny.

If you see something you fancy, feel free to contact the auctioneer to ask them more about what is in any lot. They will be happy to help and send more photos.

What to do next

Decide how much you’d like to spend and use the search facility on thesaleroom.com to find Star Wars items coming up for sale.

You can filter your search by, among other things, price and by location of the auction house to narrow down your selection.

To research recent prices at auction to see how much different Star Wars items sold for you can also try out the Price Guide.

If you are new to bidding check out our guides to buying at auction – it’s easy once you know how.

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