This Boba Fett Figure Is Now the Most Valuable Vintage Toy in the World – Smithsonian Magazine

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Created in 1979, the rare missile-firing figurine has become a “mythic icon” among collectors
Sarah Kuta
Daily Correspondent
In 1979, American toy company Kenner made a Boba Fett action figure that could fire missiles from its backpack. The hand-painted bounty hunter was supposed to be a giveaway for fans who’d purchased at least four other Star Wars action figures. But before the product debuted, executives decided to remove the launching mechanism, which they realized could be a potential choking hazard.
Kids never got to launch Boba Fett’s rocket. But a few savvy Kenner employees saved some of the prototypes and took them home. Now, one of those rare Boba Fett figurines has become the world’s most valuable vintage toy. Heritage Auctions announced the sale earlier this week.
The 3.75-inch-tall action figure sold for $525,000, surpassing the previous record holder for the most valuable vintage toy: a one-of-a-kind Barbie doll wearing a diamond necklace that sold for $302,500 in 2010. Jewelry designer Stefano Canturi worked on the Barbie for six months.
“She didn’t complain, she always was ready for me,” he told WNYC’s Femi Oke at the time. “I even had to poke her a few times with a sharp object and she did not complain one bit.”
The recently sold Boba Fett also beat out the most expensive Star Wars action figure ever sold: an unpainted rocket-firing Boba Fett figure that brought in $236,000 in June 2022.
“The rocket-firing Boba Fett action figure long ago became such a mythic icon that people worldwide know about it even if they don’t collect anything at all,” says Joe Maddalena, executive vice president at Heritage Auctions, in a statement. “We knew this one had a chance to enter the record books, and it was thrilling to see it become the most valuable toy in the world.”
The auction house did not reveal the buyer. The toy had most recently belonged to collector Justin Kerns, who once owned nine rocket-firing Boba Fetts known to enthusiasts as “The Nine Holy Grails in a Row.”
All of the surviving examples of the toy are likely the prototypes saved by employees. According to the lot listing, “All others are believed destroyed with none (despite urban legends) ever getting distributed to the public.”
Created by George Lucas, the first Star Wars film came out in 1977. Hoping to capitalize on the movie’s popularity, toy makers began rolling out new product lines. One of those companies was Kenner, which created a lineup of small action figures.
“The whole point of making them small was that a kid would want to have all of them,” said Jacob Miles, a former Kenner engineer who worked on the Star Wars toys, in a Heritage Auctions video.
To help drive sales, the company’s marketing department devised a promotion: If kids mailed in four proof-of-purchase seals from any Star Wars action figure, the company would send them a Boba Fett figure for free.
When designing the new figure, the engineering team decided to add a rocket-launch backpack that could fire a small missile. Other toymakers were already releasing similar products: Mattel, for instance, made a “Battlestar Galactica” toy that fired a plastic missile.
Mattel’s toy, however, began making headlines for causing projectile injuries. At least one child died after choking on the missile. Kenner’s executives took note and decided to redesign their Boba Fett toy to remove the launcher.
“Obviously, when ‘Battlestar Galactica’ had their issues, we immediately just shut it down and destroyed everything,” said Miles.
Ultimately, the company sent out a safer version of the figurine with its “plastic missiles sonically welded in place,” according to the auction house. Since Kenner had advertised the rocket launcher, it included a note in the packaging, which explained that the launcher had “been removed from the product for safety reasons.”
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Sarah Kuta | READ MORE
Sarah Kuta is a writer and editor based in Longmont, Colorado. She covers history, science, travel, food and beverage, sustainability, economics and other topics.
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