The Comprehensive Guide to Kenner's American Special Offers
By Steve York

In an effort to appeal to department stores carrying Kenner Star Wars products, Kenner offered a series of department store exclusive offers on exisiting products. Kenner's "Department Store Program" appealed to stores with offers that could not be obtained anywhere else. Department stores like J.C. Penny offered these pieces on store shelves as counterparts to exclusive figures in their mail catalogs to provide products and offers toy stores like Toys R Us and large-retailers like Wal-Mart did not. In all 26 different Special Offer pieces were released (Not including the unproduced Empire Strikes Back Display Stand.) Though not part of the department store Special Offer program, two version of the Darth Vader Carrying Case with three figures were released, with IG-88, Boba Fett and Bossk  and Luke Bespin, Yoda and Vader in 1981.

Special Offers were sold from 1978 to 1982 and were included on a number of different Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back and Micro Collection products. Vehicles and playsets included either action figures from newly released waves of figures, cardboard play setting backdrops, or exclusive items of extra play value like extra slides for Kenner's "Give-A-Show" projector (Showing pictures from the other lines of themed "Give-A-Show" projector slides) or an Obstacle Course for use with Kenner's popular Remote Control R2-D2. The Star Wars Display Stand, originally offered as a mail-away piece on 1978 release 12 backs was also released in a box for sale on store shelves in 1979 through the Department Store Program. An Empire Strikes Back version including six figures from the new line of Empire Strikes Back figures was to be released but eventually did not see production. A small number of theses exist as prototype, salesman samples and catalog photography pieces.

Existing packaging was modified with large red and yellow stickers mentioning the pieces included inside as well as the product numbers. These stickers were usally placed on the front corners of the boxes. This modificiation was done at the factory as factory tape is usually found over the Special Offer decal that was used to seal the box. The figures included inside were found in plain Kenner factory bags, typically clear cellophane bags with the Kenner logo and "Made in Hong Kong" stamped in blue lettering on them. The backdrops included with the Vader's TIE Fighter and Slave I are identical but were cut different to accomodate the thiner size of the Slave I box. The backdrops included with the Micro Collection pieces were also similar to those used on the 1982 Display Arena offered as a mail-in premium on Empire Strikes Back 45 Backs.

Between years of pieces being released in Special Offer packaging, some changes were made to the stickers affixed to the box. The 1982 release Slave 1 features a sticker with slightly different text than the 1981 release and is usually found on the side of the package rather than the front corner. The second series of Mini-Rigs in 1982 picturing five pieces on the side flap featured the sticker applied to the inner flap of the box over the pictures of the vehicles rather than the larger front panel of the box on 1981 "3-Back" releases. Slight differences concerning the picture of the figure and the text can be found between the 1981 3-Back and 1982 5-Back releases.

Special Offer pieces were released in limited quantites and the number surviving today is very small. In some cases the numbers of particular pieces known is in the single digits. The first release Special Offers, the Landspeeder, TIE Fighter and X-Wing, are some of the easier to locate.  Empire Strikes Back release pieces are much rarer; the first wave of Mini-Rigs is typically easier to find than the second series while the Hoth Ice Planet, Snowspeeder and Cloud Car are the tougher pieces in the series along with the Remote Control R2-D2. While the Vader case with Luke, Yoda and Vader is relatively easier to find, the Bounty Hunter case is one of the rarest production pieces in the vintage line. The Micro Collection TIE Fighter and X-Wing are the easiest Special Offers to locate and can be found with a little effort.

Kenner Canada also released a large number of Special Offers for the Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back line through Sears and Consumer Distributing from 1979-1984, usually pairing figures with unsold stock at discount prices. While Star Wars release pieces included square yellow and red stickers mentioning the figures included in French and English, Empire Strikes Back pieces utilized very plain white or yellow labels. Unlike their American Kenner counterparts, these stickers did not picture the "Special" products contained. Though not pictured and discussed in this feature, close to twenty different pieces were released including the Millennium Falcon with Chewbacca and Han Solo in an Empire Strikes Back box, chipboard Death Star (Similar to the Palitoy release) with two Stormtroopers and the infamous Creature Cantina which included a Yoda figure and a picture of everyone's favorite Jedi.

Besides the vehicles, playsets and other products seen below, the Action Figure 3 Packs released from 1978 to 1982 were also released through the Department Store Program.

The original catalogs from the Department Store Program are featured on the Archive. The catalogs from 1979 to 1983 (which included the unproduced Return of the Jedi three packs) can be found in the Kenner Catalog Photography page.
Figures/Accessories Included

Star Wars Releases

X-Wing Fighter


Luke Skywalker and Han Solo 1978

Imperial TIE Fighter


Darth Vader and Imperial Stormtrooper 1978
Landspeeder  C-3PO and R2-D2 1978
Star Wars Action Display Stand None-Originally a Mail Away Offer  1979
Darth Vader's TIE Fighter Battle Scene Playset Backdrop 1979
Remote Control R2-D2 Adventure Obstacle Course 1979
Give-A-Show Projector (Star Wars Box)  16 Additional Slides 1979
Y-Wing Fighter  In-Flight Space Attack Battle Scene Backdrop   1979
Imperial Cruiser Outpost Command Battle Scene Backdrop   1979
Millennium Falcon  Hyper Space Battle Scene Backdrop  1979
Empire Strikes Back Releases
Twin Pod Cloud Car Bespin Security Guard (White)  1980
Hoth Ice Planet Adventure Set Imperial Stormtrooper (Hoth Battle Gear)  1980
Rebel Armored Snowspeeder Rebel Soldier  1980
Give-A-Show Projector (Empire Box) 16 Additional Slides 1980
Slave 1 "SLAVE 1 Complete with Action Play Setting As Shown" Action Play Setting   1981
Slave 1 "SLAVE 1 Spaceship Complete with Action Play Setting As Shown"  Action Play Setting   1982          No Picture Available

Empire Strikes Back Action Display Stand-UNPRODUCED
Bossk, FX-7, Leia Bespin, Luke Bespin, Lando  Calrissian and  Hoth Stormtrooper 1980
Darth Vader Collector's Case 
(32 Figures on Back) 
Boba Fett, IG-88 and Bossk 1980
Darth Vader Collector's Case
(41 Figures on Back) 
Bespin Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and Yoda 1981
MLC-3 (3 Back) "Includes REBEL COMMANDER Action Figure"  Rebel Commander 1981
MLC-3 (5 Back)  "Includes REBEL COMMANDER Action Figure"  Rebel Commander 1982               No Picture Available
MTV-7 (3 Back) "Includes AT-AT DRIVER Action Figure"  AT-AT Driver 1981               No Picture Available

MTV-7 (5 Back) "Includes AT-AT DRIVER Action Figure" 
AT-AT Driver 1982
PDT-8 (3 Back) "Includes 2-1B Action Figure" 2-1B 1981
PDT-8 (5 Back) "Includes TOO-ONE BEE (2-1B) Action Figure"  2-1B 1982             No Picture Available
INT-4 (5 Back)  AT-AT Commander 1982                 No Picture Available
CAP-2 (5 Back)  Bossk 1982                 No Picture Available
Micro Collection Releases
X-Wing Fighter   Authentic Two-Sided Movie Backdrop 1982
Imperial TIE Fighter  Authentic Two-Sided Movie Backdrop 1982

Steve York (