The Story of... The galactic rise of Star Wars collectibles

You would have to be from another planet not to have seen Star Wars. And even those who have never sat through the antics of R2-D2, C-3P0 and myriad Wookiees will be aware of the impact of the films on popular culture, and the collectibles market.

Director George Lucas pulled a master stroke by obtaining the merchandising rights for the first film and subsequent releases from studio executives, who expected Star Wars to flop.

When Star Wars went big in 1977, Lucas changed movie collectibles forever. No film before had produced such a vast array of figures and other collectible tie-ins.

Toy manufacturer Kenner began making the official figures in 1977, which at 3.75 inches high were much smaller than traditional action figures. Their reduced size and subsequent price appealed greatly to children. The Star Wars figure phenomenon had begun.

George Lucas explains the beginnings of Star Wars merchandising

As with most collectible toys, those that retain their original packaging and have never been played with are the most desirable for investors.

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio knows this fact well. His pristine collection of Kenner-made Star Wars figures made thousands at Morphy Auctions in 2006, including a vinyl Jawa figure that achieved $4,500 and a Boba Fett and Princess Leia duo, which realised $4,000.

In 1978 Kenner also produced figures of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi with a telescoping lightsaber accessory. The lightsaber was notoriously easy to break and production quickly stopped after just a few hundred were manufactured, making these items highly prized by collectors. Such Darth Vader and Obi-Wan figures are especially rare and are widely estimated to be worth around $7,000.

Items from the production of the films are also highly desirable, such as the TIE Fighter which collides into Darth Vader's fighter in A New Hope.

The 18 by 14 inch model used for the sequence sold for $350,000 at a Profiles in History auction in 2008, well above its $200,000 estimate.

There are also possibilities for entry-level investors, such as a fibreglass Krayt Dragon bone from Episode VI.

Collectibles produced for the first three films, from 1977's A New Hope to 1981's Return of the Jedi, remain the most sought after among investors, but as time passes, memorabilia from the three 1999 to 2005 releases could well rise significantly in price.

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