'Why I wish I hadn't sold my Star Wars toys'
When Star Wars was first released, many children were soon hooked on the toys. Richard Fenton-Smith started collecting them as a child but eventually sold them - something he regrets now.
1977 was a big year for me. I turned five and not only got to play Joseph in the school nativity play but also got to wear a red, white and blue top hat at the school tea party celebrating the Queen's Silver Jubilee.
Then, in the December, Star Wars was released.
As was the case for many boys (and some girls) my age, it became an obsession. School playtime was spent swapping Star Wars bubble gum cards and weekends were for re-enacting your favourite scene with an ever-increasing toy collection.
And I had a lot of Star Wars toys, a collection that grew and grew with every film release. I had the Cantina Adventure Set. I had the Rebel Transporter. I had armies of figures.
Collecting Star Wars toys could get a bit competitive but there was nothing like that feeling of casually pulling out a new droid when friends came over to play. They were fickle times, too, with kids you didn't really know suddenly becoming friendly when word got out that you had the new Hoth Wampa with spring-loaded arms - perfect for battering the life out of Luke Skywalker (but only the Luke Skywalker figure in Hoth Battle Gear, because using your Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker was just weird).
I had an encyclopaedic knowledge of every Star Wars toy on the market and a long list of "wants", planning out all the birthday and Christmas presents I was going to beg for, for years to come.
Star Wars toys were my life… and then I sold them. I sold them to buy a ZX Spectrum computer (the 48k model).
I am not alone in having made this awful decision. My brother-in-law did the same, as did friends. We all regret it. In fact, the topic comes up in conversation quite a bit. It's made worse when you're in the company of that one friend who smugly informs you that they still have all theirs, in the original boxes. Mine were in their boxes, too.
First and foremost, they were and still are cool.
Second, maybe there's a tiny bit of me which has that hipster mentality of being able to say that I was there first.
And then third, collecting Star Wars toys was hard work. There was no Amazon. There was no eBay. Instead me and my friends trudged around the same circuit of toy shops - in my case Zodiac Toys in Woolwich, Nuxley Toys in Welling, and various local branches of Woolworths. All gone.
Having spent weeks saving pocket money and coveting the list of figures found on the boxes of previous purchases, expectations were always high come Saturday morning's excursion to the local shops. This was the day I would find that elusive figure of Princess Leia in her Bespin Gown (though more often than not I only found a bucket full of Darth Vaders and Chewbaccas).
The must-have Star Wars toys were so hard to find that I remember finally getting my 1980 Christmas present of a Millennium Falcon three months late, in March, because my dad couldn't find one anywhere.
So it makes it all the more strange that I would give them up so easily. It wasn't my parents fault - they didn't make me sell them. I clearly remember my dad asking me: "Are you sure you want to sell them? Are you really sure?" He had been through a similar trauma when his mother got rid of his Dinky toys.
But I was going to get a ZX Spectrum and Frank Bruno's Boxing and Chuckie Egg. And while I did get a lot out of that computer (which I did not sell and still own) it's not the same as having my Star Wars toys.
For years, people would tell me "they're worth a fortune now". Fortunately, that's not quite the case. Some items might creep into triple figures, but the early US ones are worth more than the European versions.
Over the years, I have contemplated re-instating my collection, but have held off because whatever I picked up on eBay would not truly be mine. I did shell out nearly £300 on a Lego Death Star, though - which remains unbuilt to this day.
The sadness of surrendering such a big part of my childhood has come to the fore again with the release of Episode VII - something I didn't really feel when George Lucas rebooted the franchise with The Phantom Menace back in 1999.
I remain indifferent about that second trilogy, and to this day have still not watched Revenge of the Sith. Although, for the record, I am not one of those miserabilists who claims George Lucas "ruined" Star Wars.
Yet, when I watched the first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I got strangely emotional. This was the Star Wars I remembered from my childhood and it summoned up all the excitement I felt when I was five and watching it for the first time.
Seeing shops stacked floor to ceiling with toys from the new film, a little bit of me is envious of those children who are about to discover Star Wars for the first time (even though the internet has perhaps taken the joy out of collecting).
For parents, though, I will say one thing - if your child suddenly wants to get rid of a set of toys they've obsessively collected, don't let them. Keep them. Hide them if you must. Because one day they will want them back.
The man who didn't sell them - Tracey Hamilton
Like most kids, I was totally blown away by Star Wars. For me, the toys were a natural extension of the film and when they showed up on store shelves I was hooked.
By the time The Empire Strikes Back hit the big screen, my passion for Star Wars toys was in full swing and I was buying everything I could afford.
When Return of the Jedi came out, I no longer played with the toys. However, I still picked up the action figures in hopes of completing a full set. My interest died out about the time the Power of the Force line was released, and it wasn't until the arrival of Kenner's new Star Wars figures in 1995 that I found my passion for collecting again.
Not only did I begin buying the new Star Wars toys, but I also pulled my vintage figures out of storage and immediately completed the set. I then gravitated towards the vintage figures in their original packaging.
The first one I purchased was a 12 back [i.e. from the first release of 12 figures] C-3PO. I've always loved the character, and the picture on the front of the card of him standing in the Death Star control room never fails to take me right back.
After completing my carded set, I got into pre-production materials, prototypes and eventually props.
Besides making great friends with fellow collectors in the hobby, one of the most thrilling things for me was being able to experience the prequels and accompanying toys with my son Luke (now 20).
Since I began collecting seriously over 20 years ago, I've always preferred a clean, museum type quality of display with a focus on the original 3 3/4ins figures both loose and in the package.
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