Ah, the 3.75″ Star Wars figures. For many, they represent the cornerstone of their collections, their introduction to collecting, and maybe even their youth. If you want a history lesson on the origins of the figures, and to see why they’re so important to so many fans, check out the Star Wars episode of Netflix’s The Toys That Made Us.
Warning: what follows is a personal narrative. If you just want to get to the collector resources (which is totally fine, I won’t be offended!) skip the next three paragraphs.
I’m going to jump ahead to 1995. In ’95 I was liked Star Wars, but I was not a *huge* fan. I was getting hardcore into comics at this time, so I spent a lot of time in comic shops and reading Wizard Magazine. These were my avenues to more and more Star Wars exposure, which culminated in straight up obsession following the release of Kenner’s “Power of the Force” figures (which marked Star Wars’ big return to toy aisles after nearly a ten year break). I hunted across town for these figures (C-3PO and Lando were particularly tricky to find), began checking out Star Wars books from my local library, and purchased the THX VHS set later that year.
The “thrill of the hunt” became very real, and an excuse to ride my bike to the local drugstore two or three times a week to check the pegs. From this point on, I was a Star Wars figure collector. I was there the day the Episode I figures released, and bought every single one with money from my first real job. I went to Walmarts at 1:00 AM to have first (or second, I often wasn’t the only one there) dibs on the new figures being unboxed and put on the pegs.
This behavior continued throughout the prequel era, and I filled bookshelves with these characters that populated my favorite universe. Until 2007, when I decided to move to Japan. My parents had recently divorced, my dad moved out, and my (somewhat unwieldy) collections of comics, retro video games, and Star Wars figures were not really something either of my parents wanted taking up space in their homes. So I had a choice, to either rent a storage unit or sell them. I convinced my mom to keep my comics in her basement, but I sold my video game and Star Wars collections. Fast forward to 2015, when I’m back living in the United States, married, have a decent-paying job, and The Force Awakens is about to drop and I am insanely hyped. I decide to start collecting again. I dabble in the 6″ Black Series figures, but within a year I’m back on the 3.75″ers. What follows is some advice for getting into, or returning to, collecting these figures, based on my recent experiences.
Where to start?
- Your local store. From Kroger to Walgreens to Target, you can pretty much get Star Wars figures anywhere that sells toys. What you’ll find on the pegs will likely be limited to figures from the most recent movie. A really great time to shop for recent figures is a couple of weeks before the marketing push for the next film begins. For the major films, there is often a “Force Friday” (or equivalent) when a ton of product is released. Stores want to make space for all the new, so merchandise from the last film is typically marked down a ton. There’s a metaphor on consumerism in here somewhere.
- Your local toy/comic shop. YMMV on this one, but if your local shops are anything like mine, they have a treasure trove of “bargain bin” figures for 5 bucks or less (expect to find lots of Power of the Force and Episode I figures).
- Online. With a few exceptions, buying single figures online should be your last resort. After shipping costs, I rarely find better deals online than at my local shops. However, searching eBay for “star wars figure lot” can occasionally score you a bundle of figures at a great per-figure rate. I’ve never messed with Craigslist for figures, but that may be an option as well.
OK so what do I do with these things?
- You can keep them in their packages. This isn’t really my style, so I don’t have any tips on displaying packaged figs.
- Take them out of the package and display them. Heck yeah! Some figures don’t stand up super well on their own, so I prefer to use clear stands. I’ve had pretty good luck with these for “modern” figures (pre-1984 figures require a different type of stand).
- Figure out a shelving situation! Your mileage may vary here, but I’m a huge fan of Ikea’s Detolf glass cabinets.
Here’s a picture of my current display setup:
Additional collecting resources:
- The Ultimate Action Figure Collection book. Steve Sansweet wrote the book on Star Wars collecting, both figuratively and literally. The steward of Rancho Obi-Wan wrote this literal book in 2012 showcasing 35 years of Star Wars figures. Take a peek at the pretty photographs and decide what would look great on your shelf!
- Websites (and their forums): Yakface and Rebel Scum
- Podcast: Toy Run
I hope you found something useful here! Feel free to share more resources in the comments below, especially if you think they would benefit fellow collectors! And if you have a collection, we’d love to see it! Post pics here in the comments, or Tweet us @blockaderun!