Kenner's Micro Collection line of toys was both revolutionary and short-lived. Whereas today, nearly every major toy line has a micro-scale division, in 1982, when the Micro Collection was introduced, it received a rather tepid response at retail, and was cancelled after only one year. The Micro Collection playsets were based on key action sequences from Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. Each set came with a varying number of posed metal figures, as well as a sort of plastic stage, which served as a miniature "environment" in which kids could play out their favorite Star Wars moments.
The figures' lack of posability is often cited as a key factor in the demise of the line; but this is a somewhat simplistic explanation for why the Micro Collection never really took off. By 1982, the ESB line was fast drawing to a close; more importantly, kids' interests were increasingly being drawn away from Star Wars towards competing action figure brands, such as Masters of the Universe and the 33/4" incarnation of G.I. Joe. It was simply a poor time to introduce such an extensive and unfamiliar product line. Had it been launched more conservatively, and amidst the rush of hype surrounding the 1983 release of Return of the Jedi, the Micro Collection might have fared much better. But as it turned out, the line was cancelled, and Star Wars collectors had to wait until 1994, the year that Galoob introduced their popular line of Star Wars Micro Machines, before they could again buy micro-scale toy products.
In all, 70 die-cast metal figures were released, each coming as part of either a retail playset or the one mail-away premium attached to the line, the so-called "Build Your Armies" figure set. However, 10 additional figures were prototyped by Kenner in preparation for a 1983 release, and these reached a stage of development comparable to that of the standard production figures. Planned for the never-released Hoth Bacta Chamber and Bespin Torture Chamber playsets, these figures are quite difficult to find, and, by far, are the most expensive Micro figures available. It is indeed quite a challenge to find all 10.
Two plastic pieces exist as well, which can reasonably be considered "figures," and thus parts of the Micro figure set. These are 1) a gray probe droid from the Hoth Wampa Cave set, and 2) a black pouch from the unproduced Bespin Torture Chamber, which was intended to allow the set's Chewbacca figure to hold a dismembered C-3PO on its back.
One other rather anamolous Micro Collection figure deserves mention in these paragraphs, for it too exists in production-scale, metal form. This is the alternate sculpting of Luke, posed lunging with his saber, from the Bespin Gantry (258-002). The figure is, in fact, the earliest production test for the Micro Collection figure line. It was made by an outside vendor, and was likely sent back to Kenner as a sample of sorts, intended to represent the process that would eventually be used to produce the figures released to stores. Surprisingly, the figure is relatively common, and can be found readily for a fair price. It is identified by its odd quality of sculpting and its total lack of a number on the bottom of its base.
Speaking of numbers, any collector seeking out Micro Collection figures should familiarize himself with their system of numbering. Every Micro figure bears a 6-digit code, which is stamped onto the bottom of its base (or elsewhere on the figure if it does not have a base). The 3-digit prefix of this code refers to the playset to which each figure belongs, while the 3-digit suffix identifies the figure itself. The system makes for a convenient checklist, allowing collectors to determine exactly which figures they still need, and aiding in identification, particularly where similar-looking figures (Hoth Stormtroopers, for instance) are concerned.
For the benefit of easy reference, the 3-digit prefixes for the playsets are as follows:
008 - "Build Your Armies" Mail-Away Set (6 figures)
116 - Bespin Torture Chamber (6 figures + pouch)
153 - Hoth Bacta Chamber (4 figures)
256 - Bespin Control Room (4 figures)
258 - Bespin Gantry (4 figures)
261 - Snowspeeder (2 figures)
269 - Hoth Wampa Cave (4 figures + probe droid)
270 - TIE Fighter (1 figure)
283 - X-Wing Fighter (1 figure)
460 - Bespin Freeze Chamber (8 figures)
463 - Hoth Turret Defense (6 figures)
517 - Death Star Trash Compactor (8 figures)
583 - Death Star Escape (6 figures)
668 - Hoth Generator Attack (6 figures)
692 - Hoth Ion Cannon (8 figures)
733 - Millennium Falcon (6 figures)
The figures on the following charts are unpainted--they are either "first shots," produced to test the production molds and then sent back to Kenner for approval, or (more likely) excess stock, left unfinished when the line was cancelled and subsequently sold into the collector's market. The figures that shipped with the playsets, of course, were fully-painted. And indeed, the figures that collectors most often choose to pursue are these fully-painted production versions. However, collecting painted figures presents its own challenge--it is quite difficult finding painted Micro figures that have not at some point been seriously chipped or abraded. But whether its the painted, the unpainted, or both that you choose to collect, Micro Collection figures remain fairly easy to find, and they can still be had cheaply: most can be found with little difficulty for under $5 each.
The images on this chart were drawn from the collections of myself, Ron Salvatore, and Rob Amantea, the foremost collector of Micro Collection figures in the known universe. For information on Micro Collection prototypes, see the Archive's extensive gallery on the subject.
Death Star World
"Build Your Armies" Mail-Away Set
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