I was daydreaming at the office one recent afternoon when I started to notice all the "Star Wars" stuff I’ve got at my desk. Alongside representations of John McClane, Mal Reynolds and Kevin Costner as Robin Hood are: three Yodas (cute plush Yoda, figurine Yoda and Magic 8 Ball-type Yoda), one talking Yoda keychain, three flash drives (my favorite being the Han Solo which sleeps in a little “carbonite” case), one Ewok action figure (Wicket, I think), two different types of lightsaber, one Darth Vader talking pen that neither talks nor writes anymore and a 2012 mini calendar. At home I have a set of Star Wars linens from Pottery Barn.
The way I see it, there are three types of people who buy Star Wars stuff nowadays: There’s the obliging parent whose kid drags her through the aisles of Toys R Us so they can pick out a trinket from "The Clone Wars," the hardcore collector who spends most of his waking hours searching for That One Piece that might cost him much more than a week’s paycheck, and me – just a regular Star Wars fan who fondly remembers all the cool toys Mom and Dad threw away ages ago.
The first group shows up in force when there’s a new movie release or another cable TV season starts. The second and third groups fill the gap in between. Together we’ve spent $20 billion on "Star Wars" related merchandise since the franchise began, and there are no signs of slowing down.
According to Philip Wise of Rebelscum.com, the "Star Wars" collecting news site is busier than it’s ever been. “[The collectors] are all talking about what they got last week, what they’re getting today, what’s the value, what should I expect to pay for this,” Wise said. “And I see these transactions people talk about – tens of thousands of dollars.”
It all began back in 1977 with the release of the first film. “People wanted stuff from that movie from the start,” said Daniel Pickett of ActionFigureInsider.com. Pickett related the merchandising origin story that has become a well-known part of Star Wars lore: “The movie opened, every toy company had passed on it, with the exception of Kenner, which primarily had done a lot of board games and stuff.”
Kenner wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming demand. “When kids went out looking for the figures, none existed,” Pickett explained. “They literally sold a box with a certificate in it, saying, ‘We’re going to make figures and when we do, we’ll mail them to you.’ And so that’s what kids opened on Christmas morning in 1977.”
Thirty-five years later, Lucasfilm is still providing collectors new and exciting items to drool over. “They keep releasing new stuff,” said Pickett. “That one cantina band member or someone from Jabba’s palace or Imperial Soldier #13 -- and then they keep improving on all the main cast too. So [a collection] just never feels complete.”
Those poor people, always searching, yearning, coveting, never getting a moment’s rest. I’m glad I’m not one of them. I’m happy with my desk ornaments and retro linens and comfy Darth Vader t-shirts and Wookiee cookie cookbooks.
OK, there is just one more thing I want...
In The Comlink, "Star Wars" fan and MTV News producer Tami Katzoff explores the glory days of a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Whether you're Team Jedi or Team Sith, friend of Wookiees or wanted by bounty hunters, any and all "Star Wars" fans are welcome along for the ride.