ESB and ROTJ Hilts (click to enlarge)
STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK "THE FORCE" LIGHTSABER
HEAR "THE FORCE"!
Traditional weapon of the JEDI KNIGHTS and used by LUKE SKYWALKER against DARTH VADER. "THE FORCE" LIGHTSABER has a long, sturdy plastic shaft and highly detailed base. Create different sounds by moving "THE FORCE" LIGHTSABER at various speeds. Slow movement produces a low howl, while swinging "THE FORCE" LIGHTSABER causes a high wind-swept sound. No batteries needed. Ages 4 and up.
Source: 1982 Kenner Toy Fair Catalog
A vast improvement over their inept, easily damaged Inflatable Lightsaber of the late '70s, Kenner's "The Force" Lightsaber debuted in 1980. It came in two different colors: a red Darth Vader model and a yellow model, which I assume was meant to represent Luke Skywalker's weapon. Not only was the newer toy sturdier than its predecessor, it was a lot more fun, mostly because it was designed to emit a wide range of humming noises as it was swung and air was made to rush through its hollow shaft. These noises sounded only marginally like those heard in the Star Wars films, but it saved all of us from constantly having to making goofy noises with our mouths while we engaged in our mock battles.
"The Force" Lightsaber was immensely popular and was issued in five consecutive years, 1980 through 1984. In 1983, the yellow model was replaced with a green one in order to conform to the color of Luke's new saber, as seen in Return of the Jedi. The sticker adorning the hilt was also updated to include the ROTJ logo.
During the time it was available in stores, "The Force" Lightsaber shipped inside a colorful display unit, which served to both hold and advertise the item at retail. In 1984, Kenner offered retailers a version of the toy that came with a cardboard sheath attached to its hilt. These scanty packages incorporated a punch hole, so that the sabers they were attached to could be hung on store pegs. Today, the packaged versions are pretty tough to find.
Loose examples of "The Force" Lightsaber are fairly easy to locate, though they remain popular with collectors. The yellow version seems to be the scarcest. Still, pristine examples of any color variation command a premium as the mock combat these toys were used in tended to leave them dented and bruised with whitish stress marks.
In 1985, "The Force" Lightsaber was finally dethroned as Kenner's reigning Jedi weapon toy. It was in this year that Kenner released their quite odd (and pretty rare) Droids Lightsaber.
First Issued: 1980 (red or yellow, with ESB hilt)
Re-issues: 1983 (red or green, with ROTJ hilt); 1984 (red or green, in ROTJ package)
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