Collecting world rocked by discovery of rare, early Star Wars toys still packed in original Kenner factory shipping cartons
Trove sat quietly in Chicago-area home for several decades, its owner unaware of the true value before contacting Morphy Auctions, where toys will be auctioned on Feb. 1
DENVER, Pa. – Just when Star Wars collectors thought they had seen it all, along came The Morphy Find. That’s the name that has been given to a recently unveiled trove of rare, high-condition Star Wars toys that sat undisturbed in original Kenner shipping cartons, largely forgotten, since the 1970s/’80s.
The collection surfaced as most legendary discoveries do – unexpectedly. Its pristine contents had been stored in a closet, out of sight and out of mind, by an Illinois gentleman who is a collector of antique coin-op machines.
Although he had never bought from or sold through Morphy Auctions, the toys’ owner was a longtime friend of Morphy’s CEO, Tom Tolworthy. The two had known each other for 35+ years through their mutual interest in antique coin-op machines, but until last spring, the subject of Star Wars toys had never once come up.
“I had known the consignor since 1985, when I lived in the Chicago area. We would always see each other at the region’s big coin-op show,” Tolworthy said. “Our conversations were always about coin-ops and vending machines. I never knew he had these Star Wars figures. He never spoke of them until last April, when he stopped by our booth at the coin-op show to say hello.”
During their conversation, Tolworthy asked his friend if he was ready to sell his vending machine collection. “He told me that was something his daughter would do, once he had passed, but then he mentioned that he was thinking of selling his children’s Star Wars action figure collection and asked if that was something we would do,” Tolworthy said
Initially, Tolworthy thought his friend was referring to a few of his kids’ playthings, so he asked about the condition and quantity. He was shocked when his friend replied that there were more than 400 figures, still in the original Kenner factory shipping boxes.
“I asked why he had purchased so many. He explained that his kids were into the Star Wars movies at the time and that he had purchased the figures in multiple numbers – one to play with and the rest to put away. Obviously, he had exceptional foresight,” Tolworthy said.
When photos of the toys were shared with Tommy Sage Jr, who heads Morphy’s Toys & Trains division, it became immediately clear that the company had landed perhaps the most important Star Wars consignment ever. Sage excitedly texted Morphy’s founder and president, Dan Morphy, with the message, “Go get the stuff!”
Sage said that on the day the consignment arrived at the gallery, he was expecting two or three cartons to arrive. Instead, there were approximately a dozen. “It was like Christmas morning. With each carton that I opened, I was more and more stunned. For example, I didn’t know Kenner had ever shipped cases exclusively containing all eight Yodas, but there was a carton containing 24 of them – three of each type of Yoda.”
Another surprise, Sage said, was that there was a carton of 24 figures that included eight Boba Fetts, eight Jawas, and eight Darth Vaders. “Usually, it’s the other way around and there are eight characters represented in a carton, three of each character,” Sage explained.
“The best pieces are the double-telescoping Luke Skywalkers, which were only available in Kenner’s Early Bird packs. There’s another first issue, a Death Commander, that was pulled because the manufacturer decided the word ‘Death’ was unsuitable for kids,” Sage said. “Out of all of the figures, only a few have store price stickers, which means the consignor had to have placed a special order. After receiving the figures, he never removed them from the cartons. He opened the cartons, looked inside, then stored them away in a dry, climate-controlled place, which preserved them. Everything about this collection is astonishing.”
Dan Morphy recalled, “When I first heard of the collection, I really didn’t believe it could be what it is, but after picking it up, I realized it was even more special than I originally had thought.” After a discussion with Sage – who is a postwar toy expert but not a Star Wars specialist – Morphy set out to find a top-notch Star Wars expert to catalog the toys. Via social media, he found senior IT leader and lifelong Star Wars fan Chuck Lang.
“I posted some photos on Facebook and immediately started getting enquiries,” Morphy said. “Chuck was one of about a dozen guys who reached out, offering to help with the collection.”
Lang picked up the story: “Quite randomly, I had seen Dan’s social media post with pictures of what they’d found, and I was overwhelmed. I contacted Dan and, about a week later, visited the gallery. Dan showed me around, then said, ‘Get to work.’”
What Lang encountered was astounding to him – all carded figures, mostly spanning the lines Kenner produced from 1977 through 1985 for the films Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Power of the Force. “They’re original, never removed from the cards, and many are in mint condition. They’re the real deal, and very impressive,” Lang said.
Highlights include many of the original 12 Back figures, plus 20 Backs and 21 Backs, all in extremely nice condition. “Out of that group there are multiple examples of carded Boba Fetts with 21B card backs, which are just beautiful; and multiples of the double-telescoping Luke Skywalker,” Lang said. “The term ‘double-telescoping’ refers to a rare variation Luke Skywalker figure’s lightsaber, which slides out of the right arm and has a small tip that further telescopes from the main part of the lightsaber. Standard Luke figures have a single-telescoping action only. There are eight carded 12 Back Luke figures in the auction, and at least five of them are double telescoping.”
“All of the first 21 figures are there, on Star Wars cards – Princess Leia, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, C-3PO, R5-D4, Boba Fett, and many others,” Lang said. “Beyond the volume, the quality is just amazing across all the lines.” Other familiar names in the auction lineup include Jawa, Sand People, Hammerhead, Death Star Droid, Death Squad Commander, Walrusman, Greedo, Snaggletooth, and many, many others.
Lang concluded: “This is a once in a lifetime find. We’re a number of years out from when the original Star Wars movies were released, and to find so many figures of this quality all at once, untouched and in a non-collector’s hands, is just amazing.”
The Morphy Find, an absolutely fresh-to-the-market collection of early Star Wars toys, will be auctioned by Morphy Auctions on Wednesday, February 1, 2023. The session is enhanced by 148 select Star Wars action and display figures, packs, sets, cases, accessories and playsets from additional consignors. Some of those particular figures are packaged/carded, some are graded, and all are worthy of joining The Morphy Find as part of an exciting auction event that Star Wars collectors won’t soon forget.