Review: The Ultimate Guide to Vintage Star Wars Action Figures 1977-1985 by Mark Bellomo

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The cover alone instantly sends me back to the first time I encountered Star Wars figures at the local Sears in 1978. I went home with C-3PO on that fateful day. I brought it to school a few days later for Show and Tell, where my teacher was lost on the intrigue of this thing I called an “action figure”. Of course this was the same teacher that gave me a puzzled look when I said I wanted a “Matchbox” for Christmas, wondering why a 6 year-old would want stick matches…

The Ultimate Guide to Vintage Star Wars Action Figures 1977-1985 is the latest book by author and toy historian Mark Bellomo. Clocking in at 271 pages and featuring full-color photography throughout, the book is well-suited for enthusiasts of all kinds; from hardcore collectors of the brand, to those needing a comprehensive “parts guide”, to potential collectors wanting to get a sense of what the classic Kenner toy line encompassed, to those just looking to relive their childhood for awhile.

After a brief introduction, the book jumps right into the 3 3/4″ scale action figures. A standard entry will usually take up a full page, though some figures with a more involved history will have a two-page spread. Each composite-style entry includes a vibrant and clear picture of the figure with any and all accessories (guns, sabers, capes, staffs, etc.), description of the figure and character (gleaned from official canon and expanded universe material), and often a “mugshot” with a quote by, or about, the character. Boba Fett seems to have the longest single entry (at 3 pages) due to the infamous story of the canceled “rocket firing” backpack feature.

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If a particular figure has known variants, such as a color difference or mold change, additional pictures of those versions are also provided. This includes weapon variants as well. Finally, each figure entry includes a mini price guide for loose and carded specimens. Kudos to Mark for not “padding out” his book by having an entire price guide section that comprises half the page count, something I see all too often in publications of this nature!

Figures are generally shown in order of release, or at least in the proper “waves” (12 back wave, 21 back wave, etc.). There’s a break between movies that briefly touches on the impact the line was having at the time, a transcription of the opening crawl from each film, and interesting tidbits such as the retail price of figures as each movie was poised to come out.

It should be noted that while there are a few photos of carded/Mint in Package (MIP) figures scattered throughout it, this book is meant to spotlight loose/complete examples of the toys. While a book focusing on Mint in Package Star Wars figures certainly has merit, it would work better as a separate entity in my opinion.

That being said, one of the more pleasant surprises for me was to see select figures displayed with their “mail-away” packaging! I have very fond memories of characters such as Boba Fett, Bossk, the Emperor, and Nien Nunb arriving in those white compact boxes of joy (after “patiently” allowing 6 to 8 weeks for delivery). The way I ripped mine open as a kid, I’m surprised any have survived to this day!

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After covering every figure made during the original trilogy of movies, the book goes on to spotlight the follow-up lines based on the Saturday morning cartoons Droids and Ewoks. Though not nearly as historically significant as the original line, this section still interested me because I (like most kids at the time) had drifted away from Star Wars at that point, thus my knowledge of these figures was limited.

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The book then shifts gears to highlight the 12″ scale Star Wars figures that were produced from 1978 to 1980. I was elated to see these included! These figures often don’t get the same attention as their 3 3/4″ counterparts, but I’ve always found them to be remarkable toys. 12″ scale Boba Fett was particularly impressive with above-average poseability, numerous accessories, and cool features such as the ziplining backpack and range finder scope. It’s a shame the line ended so prematurely!

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But wait, there’s more! Though the book is billed as a guide to Star Wars action figures, the last third of the book thoroughly covers the accompanying vehicles, playsets, creatures, and carrying cases of the Kenner line! This section follows the same format as the figures, but with many of the vehicles and playsets covering multiple pages due to larger photos and because of the amount of accessories included. This section is actually my favorite of the whole book, because while much of info in the figure entries is about the characters themselves, most of the info in this section is about the vehicles and playsets in more of a toy context.

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I’m no expert on Star Wars by any means, but I know enough to say this book covers virtually every aspect of the toy line that was my “first love” as a child. And despite working in so much history and info, it never feels like a chore to read, partly due to its composite-style page format which is very easy on the eyes. It’s fun to read in order, and just as much fun to flip to a random page and dig in. There are plenty of surprises in the book that I haven’t even touched on, but I’ll leave those for the reader to discover!

The Ultimate Guide to Vintage Star Wars Figures 1977-1985 can be found at finer book stores everywhere, and online at places such as Amazon. We want to thank Mark Bellomo and Krause Publications for sending us a copy of this book for review!