A Collector's Guide To
By Todd DeMartino and Bill Wills
It's funny to watch all of the little niches that begin to pop up over time within any collectible community. Some are the result of a collector's desire to add a little variety and uniqueness to their collection by focusing on areas that aren’t as intensely competitive as some of the more mainstream segments. But online communities with large, active membership roles and a steady influx of new collectors may very well be the biggest factor in shaping collector tastes as they can dramatically increase the amount of exposure that these niche areas might not receive otherwise. Of course an increase in supply through venues like eBay certainly doesn’t hurt either. One such area in the vintage Star Wars toy hobby that has experienced growth over the past couple of years is Kenner baggie collecting.
Kenner baggies were available in the U.S. from a variety of sources, the very first being the Star Wars Early Bird Kit. But the majority of Kenner baggies were undoubtedly purchased in the over 90 different multi-packs that Kenner produced from 1978 through 1984 and sold through the catalogs of Sears, JC Penney, Montgomery Wards, Spiegel and Alden. These multi-packs ranged anywhere from 2 figures up to 16 figures in a single pack.
And once Kenner realized they could sell even more figures by pairing them with inexpensive plastic bases and/or cardboard backdrops, they began including bagged figures as a “bonus” in their Sears Cantina, Cloud City, Rebel Command Center, and Jabba’s Dungeon playsets. But perhaps the most familiar source of baggies was Kenner’s mail-away figure promotions that appeared on Star Wars, Empire and Jedi card fronts. The figures used in these promotions were Boba Fett, Bossk, 4-LOM, Admiral Ackbar, Nien Numb, Emperor, and Anakin.
By the time Jedi rolled around, the line was beginning to fade and Kenner probably overestimated demand for these promotions, which likely accounts for the overabundance of bagged Emperor, Admiral Ackbar and Nien Numb figures seen today. One source, albeit a small one, that often gets overlooked is the Special Offer store exclusives. Kenner would take an existing product (such as a boxed Tie Fighter for example), insert 1 or 2 bagged figures, and apply a large yellow sticker to one or both sides of the box with the words “Special Offer” and a picture of the bonus figure(s) that were included.
Bagged figures that made their way into one or more Special Offer boxed toys were Luke (Tatooine), Han Solo (small head), Darth Vader, Stormtrooper, C-3PO (original), R2-D2 (original), White Bespin Guard, Hoth Stormtrooper, Rebel Soldier, Boba Fett, Bossk, IG-88, Yoda, Bespin Luke, Rebel Commander, AT-AT Driver, 2-1B and AT-AT Commander. One figure of note is the small head Han that was included in the Special Offer X-Wing Fighter. This is believed to be the only known source for bagged small head Han’s since no examples have been located in multi-packs to date.
One source that remains a bit of a mystery is the solid pack case. These were 200-piece shipping cases that contained the same loose figure in a Kenner baggie.
The general consensus is that these figures were factory overstock and given the figures that have turned up in these cases, that is the most plausible explanation. These cases were almost certainly offered to retailers, but since most department stores and mass merchandisers typically didn’t sell loose figures at any point of purchase, it is conceivable that Kenner had other purposes or target markets in mind. The known solid pack case assortments are Removable Limbs C-3PO, Prune Face, B-Wing Pilot, and AT-ST Driver. It is likely that solid pack cases existed of Luke Bespin (brown hair), R2-D2 Sensorscope, Nikto, 8D8, Emperor and AT-AT Commander as well. These particular bagged figures were available in abundance through toy dealers, especially those that specialized in factory overstock, during the early to mid 90’s through magazines like Toy Shop and Tomart’s Action Figure Digest. It also wasn’t uncommon to find dealers at toy shows selling figures from these solid cases for a couple of dollars apiece. These solid pack cases account for the large supply of these figures seen on the market today. There are also credible stories of Kenner donating slews of bagged figures to local charities, hospitals, as well as Salvation Army thrift stores.
So what real purpose did baggies serve? Kenner employed factories all over the orient (Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Macau) as well as Mexico to produce Star Wars action figures. During various stages of the production process, samples were shipped back to Cincinnati for the designers and engineers to inspect. Baggies served a few different purposes. They were primarily a method of demarking where the figure was manufactured, but they were also an ideal way to keep the figure and their small accessories together as well as providing some measure of protection for the figure. When the decision was made to offer the Early Bird Kit and figure multi-packs, baggies were a perfect and inexpensive part of the packaging solution.
There are a lot of reasons why people collect Kenner baggies. Created with function in mind, there’s not much to a Kenner baggie aesthetically speaking, so it’s doubtful many people collect them for their visual appeal. And while a few retailers sold individual bagged figures on clearance (Sears Surplus, Boscov’s, etc.), most collectors remember buying their figures on the card, so there’s little if any sentimentality associated with a baggie. However, since every figure through Return of the Jedi (including the Max Rebo Band members, Jabba the Hutt and Salacious Crumb) as well as Anakin, EV9-D9, Amanaman and Barada from the POTF line were available in Kenner baggies in the U.S., we suspect many collectors see them as a way to get a mint, complete figure at a fraction of the cost of a carded figure. They also take away the worry of getting reproduction accessories when buying a loose figure, which plagues today’s market. Kenner baggies also offer the character focus collector another avenue to further expand their run. For example, Tatooine Luke and Darth Vader can be found in 9 different baggie styles. Han Solo appears in 7 different baggie styles. Pictured below are all 6 versions in which Boba Fett can be found.
Finding out all the baggie styles a figure appeared in and then actually tracking them all down can be a real challenge. Considering that Kenner used 25 different baggie types during the 8 years that bagged figures were being produced, baggies have a lot to offer the variation collector. Tracking down the almost 300 possible figure/baggie combinations is a daunting task. But if you were to ask most baggie collectors why they collect, they’ll tell you that there’s just something about a mint figure in crisp, clean, factory sealed baggie. Once you buy your first, they can be very addictive.
For the most part, baggies are very affordable, although since AFA began grading loose figures and with un-circulated examples commanding such premiums on eBay, even more common baggies are now fetching record prices. With the exception of Cat IV’s and the insanely rare Cat V’s (which can get very pricey), most can be had for less than $50. Interestingly enough, there isn’t always a correlation between rarity and price. Some of the more popular characters like a Cat II Vader, Fett, and Ben are fairly common, yet because of increased demand, their prices can be equal to (or even higher in some cases) than some Cat III baggies, or even a very tough Cat IV baggie like a black Bespin Guard. One other factor that can increase or decrease the price is the baggie version. For example, most of the original 12 figures can be found in multi-packs all the way through ROTJ. However, any of the original 12 in the very early SW-b style tends to be more desirable and usually command a premium over their latter tape-sealed counterparts.
This feature was created to help collectors understand what was produced, when it was produced, and provide a rough estimate of rarity. As with anything that was mass-produced, it’s just about impossible to be definitive on anything as there are so many factors and unknowns in the production and distribution process, but history and enormous amounts of research definitely go a long way. Hopefully this feature will help collectors be better informed on what to look for and what to avoid. Lastly, we are focusing solely on baggies that were only available in the U.S. The foreign baggie market is another world entirely. If you have a bagged figure that is not known to exist or appears to contradict information contained within this feature, feel free to contact us
(Bill or Todd). Thanks and enjoy!
The purpose here is to identify all known styles and associate them with a release year. Listed below are all 25 (yes, twenty-five!) different baggie styles employed by Kenner from 1978 through 1984. This baggie style chart is based on several years of collective experience and this information has been reinforced by documenting the contents of sealed multi-packs from all years, so it should be considered comprehensive.
*** "MIHK" = Made in Hong Kong
|SW-a||1978||White horizontal “MIHK”||Tape||Crisp|
|SW-b||1978||Black vertical “MIHK”||Heat||Soft|
|SW-c||1978, 1979||Blue Kenner horizontal “General Mills-G”||Heat||Crisp|
|SW-d||1978, 1979||Black horizontal “MIHK”||Heat||Soft|
|SW-e||1979, 1980||Blue horizontal “MIHK”||Heat||Crisp|
|ESB-a||1980, 1981||Blue/Blue-Green Kenner horizontal rectangle with “MIHK”||Heat||Soft|
|ESB-b||1980, 1981||Blue & White Kenner horizontal rectangle with “MIHK”||Heat||Soft|
|ESB-c||1980-1984||Blue Kenner with “MIHK”||Tape||Crisp|
|ESB-d||1980-1984||Blue Kenner with “MIHK”||Heat||Crisp|
|ESB-e||1981||Blue Kenner vertical “General Mills-G”||Heat||Soft|
|ESB-f||1982, 1983||Blue Kenner vertical rectangle with “MIHK” to edge of rectangle||Heat||Soft|
|ESB-g||1982 - 1984||Blue Kenner vertical rectangle with “Made In China”||Heat||Soft|
|ESB-h||1982 - 1984||None||Heat||Soft|
|ROTJ-a||1983||Blue “Made in Taiwan”||Heat||Crisp|
|ROTJ-b||1983||Blue Kenner “Made in Taiwan”||Heat||Crisp|
|ROTJ-c||1983, 1984||Blue/Green Kenner with “MIHK”||Tape||Crisp|
|ROTJ-d||1983, 1984||Kenner vertical rectangle “Made In Macau”||Heat||Crisp|
|ROTJ-e||1983, 1984||Blue Kenner with “Made In Mexico”||Heat||Soft|
|ROTJ-f||1984||Blue Kenner vertical rectangle with “MIHK” outside edge of rectangle||Heat||Soft|
|ROTJ-g||1984||Black horizontal “Made In China”||Heat||Soft|
|ROTJ-h||1984||Blue Kenner “Made In Taiwan R.O.C.”||Heat||Crisp|
|ROTJ-i||1984||Blue Kenner horizontal rectangle with “Made In China”||Heat||Soft|
|ROTJ-j||1984||Black “MIHK” vertical||Heat||Soft|
|ROTJ-k||1984||None||Tan strapping tape||Soft - Plain large/square|
|POTF-a||1984||Blue Kenner horizontal rectangle with “MIHK”||Both tape and open||Soft|
|This baggie style was used exclusively for a Removable Limbs C-3PO that was handed out at Toy Fair in 1982.|
Baggie Rarity Category Descriptions
The purpose of the following Rarity Categories is to help collectors assess how difficult individual figures are to locate in a Kenner baggie. It is not meant to address the rarity level of a particular figure in a specific baggie style. For example, Darth Vader is relatively common, but Darth Vader in a SW-a style baggie is much more difficult to locate.
|Figure Release Number||Character||Rarity Category||Img|
|1||Luke Skywalker - DT Saber||IV|
|1a||Luke Skywalker - Regular Saber||III|
|1b||Luke Skywalker - Brown Hair||IV|
|4||Chewbacca - Green Crossbow||III|
|4a||Chewbacca - Black Crossbow||II|
|5a||C-3PO - Removable Limbs||I|
|8||Ben Kenobi - White Hair||III|
|8a||Ben Kenobi - Gray Hair||II|
|9||Han Solo - Small Head||V|
|9a||Han Solo - Large Head||II|
|12||Death Squad Commander||III|
|15||Snaggletooth - Blue||III|
|15a||Snaggletooth - Red||II|
|17||Luke Skywalker X-Wing Pilot||II|
|19||Death Star Droid||IV|
|22a||Leia Bespin - Turtle Neck||V|
|24||Imperial Stormtrooper Hoth||II|
|25||Rebel Soldier Hoth||II|
|28||Luke Bespin - Yellow Hair||III|
|28a||Luke Bespin - Brown Hair||II|
|29||Han Solo Hoth||II|
|30||Lando Calrissian - No Teeth||II||30a||Lando Calrissian - Teeth||II||31||Bespin Security Guard - White||III||32||Yoda - Orange Snake||III||32a||Yoda - Brown Snake||II||33||Ugnaught||II||34||Dengar||II||35||Han Solo Bespin||III||36||Lobot||II||37||Leia Hoth||III||38||Rebel Commander||II||39||AT-AT Driver||II||40||Imperial Commander||II||41||2-1B||II||42||Luke Hoth||II||43||AT-AT Commander||I||44||Cloud Car Pilot||IV||45||Bespin Security Guard - Black||IV||46||Imperial Tie Fighter Pilot||III||47||Zuckuss||II||48||4-LOM||II||49||Admiral Ackbar||I||50||Luke Jedi Knight - Blue Saber||IV||50a||Luke Jedi Knight - Green Saber||II||51||Leia Boushh Disguise||II||52||Gamorrean Guard||II||53||Emperors Royal Guard||II||54||Chief Chirpa||III||55||Logray||III||55a||Logray - No COO||II||56||Klaatu||III||57||Rebel Commando||III||58||Weequay||III||59||Squid Head||II||60||General Madine -Gray Hair||II||60a||General Madine - Green Hair||II||61||Bib Fortuna||II||62||Ree Yees||III||63||Biker Scout - Long Mask||III||64||Lando Calrissian Skiff Guard Disguise||II||65||Nien Numb||I||66||Nikto||II||67||8D8||II||68||Leia Combat Poncho||III||69||Wicket W. Warrick||II||70||The Emperor||I||71||B-Wing Pilot||I||72||Klaatu Skiff Guard||III||73||Han Solo Trench Coat - Plain Lapels||III||73a||Han Solo Trench Coat - Camo Lapels||I||74||Teebo||III||75||Prune Face||I||76||AT-ST Driver||I||77||Rancor Keeper||II||78||Lumat||IV||79||Paploo||IV||80||Amanaman||II||81||Barada||II||82||Anakin Skywalker||II||83||EV9-D9||III||NA||Jabba The Hutt||I||NA||Salacious Crumb||1||NA||Max Rebo||1||NA||Droopy McCool||IV||NA||Sy Snootles||IV|
|NA||Luke Hoth first shot||VI|
As with anything of value, if there’s money to be made by creating fakes, you can be guaranteed that some unscrupulous individuals are putting their skills to the test. Unfortunately, Kenner baggies are no exception. In recent years, we’ve seen many reseals hit the market and there’s no small supply of willing takers. The best defense against this is an educated collector, so what follows is a list of things to consider when determining if a baggie is legitimate. It is by no means exhaustive or definitive. It’s simply intended as a guideline to help the collector build a body of evidence to either confirm or refute the legitimacy of a questionable Kenner bagged Star Wars figure. And as with any mass-produced item, there are always exceptions. But if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
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John J. Alvarez (email@example.com)