I showed this picture to a coworker once and he replied, “That looks like your kind of store!” Then I had to tell him that this was not a store, but rather inside my house. I couldn’t tell if he was impressed by this or simply thought I was insane. Probably a little of both.
In the mid-90s, after having been dormant for over a decade, the Star Wars machinery began to turn once again. Return of the Jedi, the final film of the original trilogy, was released in 1983 just as I was wrapping up fourth grade. By 1995, when Kenner (now owned by Hasbro) introduced their new Power of the Force line of action figures and toys, I was a big boy, earning big boy money.
I goal (I assume) of the Power of the Force line was to reintroduce Star Wars to the masses. We didn’t know it at the time, but Lucasfilm had started working on special editions of the original films, which were released in theaters in 1997. In a way, I think the line succeeded — it got fans like me who grew up with Star Wars excited about the franchise again. What I’m not sure it did was introduce Star Wars to the next generation. To my son, Star Wars is just a movie that came out twenty-five years before he was born. To guys like me, walking into Walmart and digging through shelves to find the one figure I needed brought back nostalgic memories from when I was a kid. My kids didn’t have the nostalgic connection to the franchise the way I did, and didn’t get into Star Wars until they saw the newer trilogy of films.
When the first wave of Power of the Force figures were released, I drove all over town hitting every Toys R Us, Walmart, and K-Mart toy aisle trying to track them all down. By the time I had them all, I learned that there were variations in some of the figures, and I decided I had to have all of these, too. By the time I had all of those, Kenner began releasing new figures on green cards. What good is a collection of all the red carded figures if you don’t have all the green ones too, amirite? Then came the purple ones, and the deluxe ones, and… you get the picture. By the time Kenner/Hasbro began releasing figures for 1999’s The Phantom Menace, the walls in my computer room looked like this:
Two years later in 2001, something happened — my son Mason was born. Now I won’t falsely claim that having kids stopped all of my Star Wars collecting, but it definitely changed it. Suddenly I had less disposable income and less room to display all of these things. When we moved, every one of these figures came down off the wall and went into storage bins, where they lived for almost another decade.
In our current home, I’m very fortunate to have enough room to display the fruits of all of my kooky collecting habits. While brainstorming what I should do with all these Power of the Force figures I’ve picked up over the years, I decided a store-like display complete with pegs and pegboard would be a fun thing to put together.
The display is six figures wide, seven figures tall, and each peg is five figures deep, for a total of just over 200 figures. People have asked if each peg contains the same five figures — no, they’re all different. People have also asked if I rotate the figures around, and I do, but very rarely. The most I do is walk by the wall, dig through a peg I can easily reach, and move a different figure to the front.
Some people ask me about money — what all the figures cost, and what they’re worth. When they were originally released in stores, the figures were $5.99 each. I paid $10 each for some of them at local comic book stores, and paid more than that for some of the hard to find ones. I also bought a lot of them after they went on sale. Some of them have $4.99 price tags on them from Walmart and some of them have $3.99 price tags. The blue Attack of the Clones figures on the top row I bought in a large 4/$10 sale at Kay-Bee Toys. If you pluck an average of $5/figure, the wall cost me around $1,000 (over eight years). Their value today is anyone’s guess. A local Star Wars store is currently selling them for $50/each, but I haven’t seen any of them sell for anywhere near that price. I’d sell the entire collection for $5/each, not because I don’t like them, but because I don’t love them.
With my vintage toys, I also have vintage memories — memories of playing Star Wars with my friends or by myself, recreating adventures from the films or making completely new ones. These figures bring back different memories of a time when I didn’t have enough to do with my money or my free time. By the time I quit buying carded figures, I had almost come to resent them and what they stood for — not the films, but corporate greed. As I saw the same figures being released multiple times with different accessories or packaging (to lure collectors like me to buy the same figures time and time again), I started to see some of this for what it was.