Star Wars Does New York:
Kenner Toy Fair Showrooms of the '70s and '80s
By Ron Salvatore
Traditionally, Toy Fair has been the yearly focus of the toy industry. Taking place each February in New York City, the event allows toy producers to congregate and showcase their wares for the upcoming year. Retailers come from all over the world to review these companies' showrooms, strike deals and place orders. Although, in this age of e-commerce and globally-influencial super retailers like Wal-Mart and Toys 'R' Us, the importance of Toy Fair is somewhat diminished, the event still serves as the promotional focus of the toy-producing year.
The images showcased in this gallery are pretty significant to the hobby of Star Wars toy collecting. They're some of the only images I've seen of Kenner's Star Wars Toy Fair showrooms of the late '70s and early '80s. "Big deal," you say? Well, these photos are important for a number of reasons. For one thing, the way in which Kenner's showrooms were decorated was often quite interesting. In most cases, the company ordered elaborate displays constructed, as well as dioramas, in order to present their lines in just the right way. And these were usually wonderful pieces of craftsmanship. For another thing, many of the hand-made signs and diorama pieces employed in these elaborate displays have entered the collector's market-- a fact which makes this group of photos a valuable research tool. On more than one occasion a piece of Toy Fair deritus has been identified and/or revaluated by reference to the images seen in this gallery. I need only refer you to the infamous carded Rocket Firing Boba Fett that surfaced in 1999 to prove my case. This piece was only verified as genuine when it was located in a photo of the 1979 Toy Fair gallery.
Lastly, I think it's important that collectors of vintage Kenner Star Wars merchandise be afforded the opportunity to see how these toys were marketed at the wholesale level. Sure, we all remember seeing Star Wars toys in our favorite retail stores as children, but most of us never paused to ponder how these same retail outlets acquired their merchandise. How did Kenner pitch a certain product to retailers? What particular toys did they emphasize the most at a given year's Toy Fair? Such questions can be partially answered by looking through these photos.
The below gallery is divided into five sections, corresponding to the Toy Fairs of 1978, '79, '80, '81 and '84. Looking at the photos of the showrooms from each of these years, I think a distinct progression can be observed regarding the size and complexity of the merchandise displays. You might even say that, as Kenner grew as a Star Wars licensee, they concurrently grew as a company; and this growth is reflected in the increasing lavishness of their Toy Fair presentations. Indeed, by the time of the Star Wars line's demise in the mid-1980s, Kenner had grown into perhaps the premier producer of action figures-- a status due in no small part to their experience with Star Wars.
So have fun taking this virtual tour of the Toy Fair showrooms of Kenner's past!
All images are from the collections of Todd Chamberlain, Chris Georgoulias and Ron Salvatore.
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