Or in this case the Star Wars figures. This has been on my want list for a very long time and I finally got one and a steal of a deal. Here is the story behind this piece. Kenner Toys got the Star Wars license to make the toys roughly a month before the movie was released in theaters. There was no way to get the toys out in time, so they did a few things like puzzles and repackaged a few of their earlier toys and slapped the Star Wars name on them to hold people over. By the Christmas season of 1977 they still did not have any toys ready, so the President of Kenner Toys, Bernie Loomis, decided to sell this “empty box” known as the Early Bird Certificate Package. It was a way to remind people that the toys were coming and it also provided a way for kids to still have something Star Wars under the Christmas tree that year.
Early Bird Kit From Kenner CatalogFor roughly $12 you got a cardboard stage, some detachable cards, and a sheet of stickers. Pretty exciting huh? Now comes the best part though. Also included in the package was a form to mail away for the first 4 Star Wars figures as soon as they were ready and receive them before they were in stores. The kits were sealed up very tight, so it is really hard to find an open one without any damage to the opening flap. This was done to prevent people from being able to steal the form out of the kits in the stores.
According to the Steve Sansweet Book, Star Wars: From Concept to Screen to Collectible, 600,000 of the envelopes were sent out to stores and about half of them sold. The rest would have been sent back to Kenner after December. Even though only half of the enevelopes sold, it was still considered to be a successful promotion as it kept the idea of Star Wars toys in the public mind and when the figures were finally released, retailers couldn’t keep them in stock.
Okay so here is where the good deal I got comes into effect. 🙂 This one showed up on ebay a few days ago with a buy it now of $65.00. An envelope and stand in this condition will normally sell for $160-$200, so without even thinking about it, I clicked the buy it now button. The nice thing is that it also included another playset cardboard display. I should get roughly $30-$50 by flipping it, so when you take that into account, I basically got a vintage early bird envelope for the original 1977, $13 retail price in 2010. The other nice thing is that it came with the mail away form for the mail away display stand in unused form and the original toy booklet. Collectors pay a pretty penny just for these pieces of paperwork. The booklet features pictures of the actors rather than the toys like later booklets. These two pieces of paper weren’t included in the envelope, but with the set of figures when they arrived in the mail. I hope to add the followup figure set sometime in the future.
Below are some pictures of the Kit I bought, the followup figure mailer from another collection, and the original 1977 commercial. Also, here is a link to a video of Steve Sansweet talking about the Early Bird Kit and showing the one in his personal collection.