YORK, Pa. – Hake’s, America’s first auction house specializing in pop culture memorabilia, is hoping to score a world-record trifecta with their Nov. 6-7 auction containing nearly 400 rare and high-grade Star Wars items. The auction lineup offers an unprecedented selection of Kenner prototypes and test shots; newly unearthed early production pieces, foreign and rare variants; multi-packs, store displays, and the piece de resistance: a Boba Fett J-slot rocket-firing prototype. The fully illustrated catalogs can be viewed on LiveAuctioneers.
The current world auction record for a Star Wars toy is $112,926, the price paid for the AFA 85 NM+ Boba Fett L-slot rocket-firing prototype that topped Hake’s July 11 sale. It handily exceeded the previous world record price for a Star Wars figure – $86,383 – which was set by an unpainted L-slot prototype graded AFA 85 that Hake’s sold in March 2018. The ultra-rare J-slot Boba Fett (above) entered in Hake’s Nov. 6-7 auction is expected to make $200,000-$500,000. If achieved, it will propel Star Wars collectibles into the same exclusive investment league as fine art and classic cars.
To understand why the Boba Fett J-slot rocket-firing prototype is so rare and important, it’s essential to know its history. Kenner’s Boba Fett prototype made its debut at the New York Toy Fair in 1979, but the design never made it into mass production due to concerns about the toy’s rocket-firing mechanism. For this reason, few prototypes ever made it into collectors’ hands.
The rocket-firing prototype is described either as an L-slot or J-slot type, referring to the shape of the firing mechanism on the figure’s back. The L-slot, which resembles a backward “L,” is the more commonly seen version. Quality issues arose with this variation when it was discovered that there wasn’t a tab to secure the mechanism when it was not firing. The J-slot design, with a slot shaped like a “J,” has a small catch to set the mechanism in a resting position when it is not in use.
The J-slot Boba Fett prototype offered by Hake’s is graded AFA 85+ NM+. The 3¾-inch figure is a fully painted engineering pilot with country of origin and copyright stamps, indicating it had reached the final phase of prototype development.
Originally, 80 to 100 Boba Fett prototypes were shipped to Kenner from Hong Kong for safety testing, and of those, approximately 24 to 26 examples of the J-slot variety are known to have survived. Several of the extant J-slots are in “rather rough condition,” according to Hake’s, due to their having undergone rigorous testing procedures that included heating, freezing, and more. Owing to the high-grade condition of Hake’s example, it is clear that the figure was not put through such harsh testing challenges. The only evidence that it went through any testing evaluations is the presence of indexing marks on the underside of the figure’s feet.
The Boba Fett figure is also the photo example that was used in Tomart’s Price Guide to Worldwide Star Wars Collectibles by Stephen J. Sansweet and T.N. Tumbusch, and Star Wars Vintage Action Figures: A Guide for Collectors by John Kellerman. Based on its inclusion in the Sansweet/Tumbusch book, it is likely that this is one of the first three J-slots discovered in the mid-1990s. Prior to that discovery, the J-slot variation was unknown to the hobby.
The graded prototype exhibits attractively in an AFA Archival case with their updated laser-cut casing style. The figure and rocket display separately, and the J-slot mechanism and spring are clearly visible. It also comes with a Collectible Investment Brokerage COA, a letter of provenance from noted Star Wars expert Brian Rachfal, and LOAs from both Kenner Reliability & Safety Technician John R. Howison (the figure’s original owner), and Tomart Publications (signed by Tumbusch).
Also destined to land in the winner’s circle is a newly discovered Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi 12 Back-A AFA 70 EX+ double-telescoping action figure on a blister card with a white footer. From Kenner’s 1978 Star Wars toy line, this coveted rarity is estimated at $75,000-$100,000.
From the same toy line and similarly estimated at $75,000-$100,000, a Darth Vader 12 Back-A AFA 75+ EX+/NM double-telescoping action figure is one of few carded examples known to exist. Both the Ben Kenobi and Darth Vader are accompanied by notarized CIB LOAs. A third double-telescoping figure from the legendary 1978 Kenner release, a Star Wars Luke Skywalker 12 Back-C AFA 80 NM example on an unpunched card, could reach the $10,000-$20,000 range.
AFA has graded only two examples of a Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back encapsulated 47 Back Walrus Man sample blister card containing a 4-inch white-caped action figure of Bib Fortuna. Graded AFA 80 NM, the card to be auctioned was used for sample purposes for Kenner’s 1984 ‘Star Wars: Return of the Jedi’ toy line because the Bib Fortuna “Jedi” card was not yet ready for use. Copyrighted 1982 Lucasfilm Ltd, it comes with a CIB LOA. Estimate: $50,000-$75,000
From an exciting recent discovery of early Star Wars pieces comes a Sand People 12-Back pre-production figure with no punch on the card and a yellow SKU stand. Graded AFA 75 EX+/NM, it is believed to be the earliest and only known carded Sand People sample. Its pre-sale estimate is $10,000-$20,000.
The auction boasts an enviable array of other rare and desirable collectibles from the Star Wars galaxy, including a Palitoy Return of the Jedi Boba Fett action figure, Tri-Logo 70 Back-B AFA 80+ NM, which is the highest-graded example of this variation. Estimate: $10,000-$20,000.