On June 12 last year, a Star Wars 1978 Double Telescoping Luke Skywalker production action figure was sold at LCG Auctions, New Orleans for a whopping $100,252. It was super rare in some respects. For one, it was a 12-back. This refers to the background map depicting all 12 Star Wars action figures released by Kenner in 1977.
he early versions of Luke Skywalker featured a “double telescoping” lightsaber that was quickly recognized as fiddly, fragile, and expensive to manufacture. Production ceased when the design was simplified, catapulting the “double telescoping” lightsaber models into the collectible category.
The final issue was the condition, which the Action Figure Authority (AFA) rating system rated as “AFA 90” or “near new/like new condition”. To the untrained eye it would have appeared perfect.
Aside from the sheer insanity of paying $100,000 for a small plastic toy, this is considered a milestone price previously only reached by prototypes. On June 2, a prototype Boba Fett L-Slot Rocket action figure was sold at a Star Wars Special Event Auction hosted by Hake’s Auctions, Pennsylvania for a world record $236,000. The figure was a prototype for the Boba Fett character in Kenner’s 1979 Star Wars toy line.
In the same auction, a pirated Hungarian copy of Boba Fett, AFA 50 Q-VG, sold for $20,768 (approx. €20,700). According to the auction catalogue: “While the Turkish Uzay Star Wars figures are probably the most well-known bootleg figures, the 1987 series of 10 Hungarian figures is just as coveted.”
As in every field of collecting, a few exceptional pieces make the headlines. The broader world of action figures is much more accessible. “The original Kenner toys from the 1970s and 1980s are going to be beyond a lot of people’s budgets,” says Kim Mooney, owner of Uncanny Collectibles.
“But Star Wars and Masters of the Universe toys have been reissued a million times, so finding the missing piece is easy enough, it just might not be the original series from the first edition.”
New releases are almost identical to the toys of the 1980s, even down to the packaging. Masters of the Universe action figures have an interesting history. The American animated series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983-1985) was the first syndicated show to be based on a toy. The original action figure was released by Mattel in 1982.
In the comparative innocence of the 1980s, the popular series was controversial on two counts. First, He-Man actually punched people, and second, it was produced in the context of marketing toys to children. Collectors in this genre tend to be male, in their 30s or early 40s, and usually have at least one child.
The action figures often remind them of their childhood. “Those were the times when people were at their happiest — no stress, no worries — they just couldn’t afford the toys back then,” explains Kim Mooney. “Now that they have adult money, they can grab some epic feel-good memories and keep them in a place in their house where they can look at them and feel happy again.”
“Some of them have a shed full of toys. During lockdown, their kids got a peek in the door, so now a whole generation of kids is starting to rally.”
Collectors range from in-the-box collectors, who can invest in specially designed glass cases with lighting, to those who prefer to take their figure out of the box and pose it. Some even buy two copies and keep one in the box.
Original Masters of the Universe action figures from the 1980s are very valuable. “You can practically name your prize,” says Mooney. “But only if they’re in their original packaging and that packaging is in like-new condition. Many of those we see are in terrible condition! There is no professional grading service in Ireland or the EU, so people don’t realize that a crease in the packaging or a label in the wrong place will deter collectors.” Asking prices on E-Bay, which are often grossly inflated, can also give people a false sense of worth.
However, there are many ways to collect. “There is a really vibrant community of Masters of the Universe collectors in Ireland. Some of them use 3D printers to modify their figures, hand paint them and create their own dioramas.” See www.uncannycollectibles.com
In the sales rooms
A tostal was a precursor to festivals in Ireland, intended to celebrate Irish life and attract tourists. It was established in 1953 and ran in various locations around the country until 1958 (Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim was the only city to continue this tradition). Posters for the 1950s festivals are rare. In 2011, a 1953 An Tóstal poster, a color lithograph designed by Guus Melai and printed in England, surpassed its estimate of €100 and sold at Whyte’s for €1,550.
Another poster by An Tóstal (Lot 121: Estimate €150-200) will be auctioned in Adam’s The John Rogers Vintage Poster Collection, which ends online on Wednesday 27th July stylized image of a harpist, promoting ‘Pomp – Sport – Music – exhibitions – theatre”. It is undated but designed by Melai, a Dutch graphic designer who was brought to Ireland to help develop and promote the burgeoning tourism industry.
The poster was printed in Dublin by Ormond Printing Co. Other original Melai posters in the auction include ‘Ireland Invites You’ (lot 233: estimate 100-150 euros), a tourist lithograph showing an Aran Islander in traditional dress weaving a Críos. All the posters in the auction belonged to the former owner of Gallery 29, which sold original vintage posters in Dublin. See adams.ie.
The current Irish art online auction at Morgan O’Driscoll runs until Tuesday 2nd August and closes between 6.30pm and 9.50pm. It features works by artists such as Colin Middleton, Letitia Marion Hamilton, Mr. Brainwash, Sean Scully, Mary Swanzy, Barrie Cooke, Mainie Jellet and Cecil Maguire. The viewing takes place in Skibbereen between 28 July and 2 August. The sale will coincide with an Off the Wall online art auction, with bidding ending Monday 8th August. Please refer morganodriscoll.com.
Faster and deadlier than the T-Rex, the Gorgosaurus lived in North America about 77 million years ago. A complete fossilized skeleton of the dinosaur, nearly 10 feet tall and 22 feet long, will go under the hammer on July 28 at Sotheby’s, New York. It is estimated at 5 to 8 million dollars. The fossil was discovered in Montana in 2018 and is believed to be in remarkable condition. See sotheybys.com.