Guide to Vintage Kenner Star Wars Action Figures

Editor's note: This is a collector's guide and checklist of vintage Star Wars action figures we published years ago. It is being reprinted here, and if you see any corrections or additions that must be made, click here to email us and let us know! Where possible, items are linked to online retailers offering it for sale.

Star Wars toys revolutionized movie merchandising in the 1970's and the toy industry as we know it. The action figures, accessories, and related items have become some of the most popular collectibles in the toy market. In fact, their popularity spurred toy maker Hasbro to begin making new figures in 1995, with no end in sight.

While many Star Wars fans continue to buy the new figures, the toys produced from 1978 through 1985, when the first three films hit theaters, occupy a special fascination for collectors. Known as the "Vintage Toys," they not only remain popular with collectors, they remain accessible to new collectors who have just discovered the line. Even though the toys are over 20 years old, you can sometimes still find them at garage sales and thrift stores. Comic book stores and toy dealers often sell them in excellent, and even unopened, condition.

KENNER TOYS

This guide will focus only on the major toys released by Kenner during the run of the first three films. The toymaker gained the rights to the line before the movie was released, but was not able to get the toys into stores until 1978, nearly a year after "Star Wars" was released. Among the toys created for the films were "mini" action figures (most about 3 and ¾ inches tall), ships and playsets to accompany them, and large 12 inch figures. New toys were released each year until 1985. A checklist for the toys made for each film follows. Figure lines based on the "Droids" and "Ewoks" cartoons of the 1980's are considered separate lines and will be covered in another article. Before you dive into collecting figures, however, an understanding of the terminology is needed.


CARDED, BOXED, AND LOOSE

While most vintage Star Wars toys found today are loose out of the package and have been played with, a small number can still be found unopened. Figures that have not been opened are called "CARDED" and unopened ships and playsets are called "BOXED." Often, collectors use the following abbreviations: MOC (Mint figure on the card), MOMC (Mint figure on a mint, undamaged card), MIP (Mint toy in the package) and MIMP (Mint toy in mint package). MOC and MIP usually mean the toy is mint, but the package may have some wear. Of course, mint toys in mint packages are worth a great deal more than "loose" toys. Figures on cards were packaged inside of a clear plastic "blister."

SAME FIGURE, DIFFERENT CARDS

When Kenner would make a certain character figure, the card it came packaged on often changed as new movies were released. The different card fronts are referred to by the title: There are "Star Wars" (SW) cards, "The Empire Strikes Back" (ESB) cards, and "Return of the Jedi" (ROTJ) cards. In 1985, Star Wars' popularity had gone down significantly, and Kenner issued figures under the title "Power of the Force" (POTF) to spark new interest. New figures issued under this card design are harder to find than others. Figures issued overseas and in Canada featured three languages on the card package, and are now known as Tri-Logo cards. Even though these were not sold in America, they still are sought after by collectors.

In addition, as new figures were released, the backs of the cards, which featured a photo "checklist" of sorts, changed as well. These are often known by the number of figures on the back. "12 Backs" feature the first twelve figures, and others include "24 Backs," "48 Backs," "77 Backs," and so on.

STAR WARS TOYS (1978-1979)

Since Kenner did not expect the blockbuster response to Star Wars, it was not ready to release toys early enough to meet demand. By Christmas of 1977, there was a huge call for Star Wars toys, so Kenner sold "The Early Bird Kit," which was a display stand for the action figures and a gift certificate good for the first four figures to be released (Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and R2D2). Kids had to send in the gift certificate in early 1978 to receive the figures by mail. While the kit only featured artwork of what the figures would look like, it did fill the need to provide some kind of Star Wars gift.

Eventually, figures, creatures, ships, and playsets hit stores in 1978. One playset, the "Cantina Adventure" set, was sold only in Sears and came with figures, including one not available separately on a card: a character named "Snaggletooth." The figure, based on a character seen in the movie, wore a blue outfit and stood as tall as any other character. Unfortunately, the figure was made based on a few pictures before the first film was released. It was discovered that "Snaggletooth" was very short and wore a red outfit. The figure was quickly corrected to a new "short" height and new color, but the original "Blue Snaggletooth" is now very rare and one of the most sought after of all the vintage figures. The Han Solo figure was initially released with a head that seemed too small. It was quickly replaced by a "large head" version that was more in proportion.

Card backs available under the "Star Wars" card front include "12 Backs," "20 Backs," and "21 Backs." "20 Back" cards featured a mail-in offer: kids could send in proofs of purchase from card backs to get a new character featured in the upcoming "Star Wars" sequel, "The Empire Strikes Back." The figure, named Boba Fett, was supposed to feature a rocket that would shoot out of his backpack, but because of child safety concerns, that was changed. When the figure was released, the rocket was glued into the backpack.

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK TOYS (1980-1982)

When "The Empire Strikes Back" was released in 1980, Kenner was ready, with 26 new figures. Among the action figure mail-in promotions offered on Empire cards were bounty hunter characters 4-LOM and Bossk, then a "sneak preview" figure from the next Star Wars film named Admiral Ackbar. The next film was listed on cards as "Revenge of the Jedi" but the title was later changed to "Return of the Jedi." A "survival kit" mail-in promotion was also offered. "21 Backs," "31 Backs," "32 Backs," "41 Backs," "45 Backs," "47 Backs," and "48 Backs" were used on "Empire" cards.

RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983-1984)

Interest in "Star Wars" was red-hot by the opening of "Return of the Jedi" in May 1983, and kids hit toy stores on opening day to get the new characters released with the film. The Ewok characters from the film were so secret that Kenner "blacked out" the figures on the backs of cards shipped in time for opening day in case some figures slipped out and spoiled the surprise. Anakin Skywalker, The Emperor, and Nien Numb figure mail-in offers were featured on "Jedi" cards. Backs include "48 Backs," "65 Backs," "77 Backs," and "79 Backs."

POWER OF THE FORCE (1985)

In an effort to jump start interest in Star Wars figures again, Kenner changed the card front design, added a coin with the figure's likeness, and put out 15 new figures. A number of older figures were also released in the new packaging. The card front only featured one card back, the "92 Back." Sales did not go well, and the line was canceled later that year. "Power of the Force" figures are now among the hardest to find of all vintage figures. One figure, Yak Face, was not sold in the United States; it was sold in Canada and overseas. A separate toy line for the "Droids" and "Ewoks" cartoons followed, but quickly fizzled. It would be 1995 before new Star Wars figures were made.

KENNER "STAR WARS" TOYS CHECKLIST

Toys in each category are listed under the film during which they were first released.

MINI FIGURES (3 ¾" scale)

"Star Wars" 
Luke Skywalker 
Princess Leia 
Chewbacca 
R2-D2 
Han Solo (small head) 
Han Solo (large head) 
C-3P0 
Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi 
Boba Fett 
Darth Vader 
Death Squad Commander (name later changed to Star Destroyer Commander) 
Death Star Droid 
Greedo 
Hammerhead 
Jawa (rare vinyl cape) 
Jawa (common cloth cape) 
Luke Skywalker X-Wing Pilot 
Power Droid 
Sand People 
R5-D4 
Snaggletooth (blue version available only in Sears Cantina Adventure set) 
Snaggletooth (small red version available in Cantina set and on cards) 
Stormtrooper 
Walrus Man

"Empire Strikes Back" 
2-1B 
4-LOM 
AT-AT Commander 
AT-AT Driver 
Bespin Security Guard (black) 
Bespin Security Guard (white) 
Bossk 
C-3PO with Removable Limbs 
Cloud Car Pilot 
Dengar 
FX-7 
Han Solo (Bespin Outfit) 
Han Solo (Hoth Outfit) 
IG-88 
Imperial Commander 
Imperial Stormtrooper (Hoth) 
Imperial TIE Fighter Pilot 
Lando Calrissian (with teeth showing) 
Lando Calrissian (without teeth showing) 
Lobot 
Luke Skywalker (Bespin Outfit) 
Luke Skywalker (Hoth Outfit) 
Princess Leia (Hoth Outfit) 
Princess Leia (Bespin Outfit) 
R2-D2 with sensorscope 
Rebel Commander 
Rebel Soldier (Hoth) 
Ugnaught 
Yoda (brown snake) 










Yoda (orange snake) 
Zuckuss

"Return of the Jedi" 
8-D8 
Admiral Ackbar 
AT-ST Driver 
B-Wing Pilot 
Bib Fortuna 
Biker Scout 
Chief Chirpa 
Emperor 
Emperor's Royal Guard 
Gamorrean Guard 
General Madine 
Han Solo (Endor Trench Coat) 
Klaatu 
Klaatu (Skiff Guard) 
Lando Calrissian (Skiff Guard Disguise) 
Logray 
Luke Skywalker (Jedi Knight) 
Lumat 
Nien Numb 
Nikto 
Paploo 
Princess Leia (Boushh Disguise) 
Princess Leia (Combat Poncho) 
Prune Face 
Rancor Keeper 
Rebel Commando 
Ree Yees 
Squid Head 
Sy Snootles and the Rebo Band (Max Rebo & Droopy McCool) - sold as a three-pack 
Teebo 
Weequay 
Wicket W. Warrick

"Power of the Force" 
A-Wing Pilot 
Amanaman 
Anakin Skywalker 
Barada 
EV-9D9 
Han Solo in Carbonite 
Imperial Dignitary 
Imperial Gunner 
Lando Calrissian (General) 
Luke Skywalker (Stormtrooper Disguise) 
Luke Skywalker (Battle Poncho) 
R2-D2 with pop-up lightsaber 
Romba 
Warok 
Yak Face

12" LARGE FIGURES

"Star Wars" 
Ben "Obi-Wan" Kenobi 
Boba Fett 
C-3PO 
Chewbacca 
Darth Vader 
Han Solo 
Jawa 
Luke Skywalker 
Princess Leia Organa 
R2-D2 
Stormtrooper

"Empire Strikes Back" 
IG-88

CREATURES

"Star Wars" 
Dewback

"Empire Strikes Back" 
Tauntaun (solid belly) 
Tauntaun (open belly, so figure can fit inside) 
Wampa

"Return of the Jedi" 
Rancor Monster

PLAYSETS

"Star Wars" 
Cantina Adventure Set (Sears only) 
Creature Cantina (different version available everywhere) 
Death Star Playset 
Droid Factory 
Land of the Jawas

"Empire Strikes Back" 
Cloud City Playset (Sears only) 
Dagobah 
Darth Vader's Star Destroyer 
Hoth Ice Planet 
Imperial Attack Base 
Rebel Command Center (Sears only) 
Turret and Probot

"Return of the Jedi" 
Ewok Village 
Jabba the Hutt Dungeon (Sears only; 1983 gray version includes Klaatu, Nikto, and 8D8 figures) 
Jabba the Hutt Dungeon (Sears only; 1984 tan version includes EV-9D9, Amanaman, and Barada figures) 
Jabba the Hutt Action Playset (includes Jabba figure and base)

SHIPS

"Star Wars" 
Millennium Falcon 
TIE Fighter 
Darth Vader's TIE Fighter 
X-Wing 
Landspeeder 
"Sonic Controlled" Land Speeder (only at J.C. Penney) 
Jawa Sandcrawler 
Imperial Troop Transport (later changed to Imperial Cruiser)

"Empire Strikes Back" 
AST-5 mini rig 
AT-AT 
CAP-2 mini rig 
INT-4 mini rig 
MLC-3 mini rig 
MTV-7 mini rig 
PDT-8 mini rig 
Rebel Transport 
Scout Walker 
Slave 1 
Snowspeeder 
Twin Pod Cloud Car 
X-wing Battle Damaged

"Return of the Jedi" 
B-Wing Fighter 
Endor Forest Ranger 
Imperial Shuttle 
ISP-6 mini rig 
Speeder Bike 
TIE Fighter (Battle Damaged) 
TIE Interceptor 
Y-Wing

"Power of the Force" 
Ewok Battle Wagon 
Imperial Sniper mini rig 
One Man Sand Skimmer mini rig 
Security Scout mini rig 
Tatooine Skiff

ACCESSORIES

"Star Wars" 
Early Bird Kit 
12 Figure Action Display Stand 
Vinyl Carrying Case (Star Wars art)

"Empire Strikes Back" 
Darth Vader Carrying Case 
Display Arena 
Hoth Survival Pack 
Radar Laser Cannon 
Tri-Pod Laser Cannon 
Vehicle Maintenance Energizer 
Vinyl Carrying Case (Empire Art)

"Return of the Jedi" 
C-3PO Figure Carrying Case 
Chewbacca Bandolier Strap 
Ewok Catapult 
Laser Rifle

Victor Medina is a freelance writer based in Dallas. He is the editor of several websites, and his writing credits include The Dallas Morning News, Yahoo News, Cinelinx.com and SportsIllustrated.com. He has served as a Dallas County election judge and on the Board of Directors of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. You can follow him on his blog, VictorMedina.com or on Twitter at @mrvictormedina. He can be reached by email at vic@victormedina.com.

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