The Star Wars toy packaging scandal

Star Wars Toy Packaging Scandal

Star Wars Toy Packaging ScandalIn the past year or so, Star Wars toy collectors have discovered that not all the so-called “MOC” (Mint On Card) action figures they were trading for thousands of dollars, were legitimate brand new original collectibles.

If you’re a Star Wars collector, this will be old news. But for those who hadn’t heard about it, it’s a sobering reminder of the pitfalls of placing high values on mint/sealed vintage toys. And it even made it onto UK TV.

So as a follow-up to an earlier article I wrote about the pros and cons of vintage toy packaging, check out this video about the Star Wars toy packaging scandal…


I’m not a Star Wars collector (although I do love the films). But after brushing over the topic of vintage toy packaging in an earlier article I wrote, where I talked about how the mania of toy packaging “mint-ness” affects the prices of vintage toys (from R/C cars to Star Wars figures to just about every vintage toy in the world), I thought a lot of you might be interested in a recent packaging scandal affecting Star Wars collectors…

In late 2013, news broke within the Star Wars collecting community that many of the mint, carded action figures they have been trading were not in fact mint items and, despite being sealed in packets, were not “factory sealed back in the 1980s” – but rather, sealed a lot more recently with a mere clothing iron. By some dude.

The scandal involves early, carded action figures from the 1970s and 1980s, which people had naturally assumed were factory sealed back in the day. Many of which now exchange hands for thousands of dollars.

Star Wars Toy Packaging Scandal

But when news broke that a lot of the blister-card packed figures had actually been “assembled” by toy sellers who had come into possession of loads of spare backing cards and loads of clear plastic bubbles, and were being filled with previously loose action figures, a scandal (naturally) erupted.

A few months ago, the issue was even featured in an episode of the BBC program “Fake Britain”. The clip below will pretty much explain the whole thing…


 
So by working out a way to “iron” the bubbles to cards, someone found a way to create a seemingly endless supply of MOC (Mint On Card) action figures.

To make matters worse, the toy grading companies like AFA (Action Figure Authority – http://www.toygrader.com) who have appointed themselves the world leaders in vintage action figure authenticity, appear to have completely missed the whole thing – leaving collectors to work it out themselves.

These grading services have been helping drive up the values of vintage toys in recent years by offering you the opportunity to have your toy graded and stored in a clear plastic box with a “rating” sticker on the front – all for a solid fee. Once graded and boxed, your item has a supposedly “official” measurement of quality to it, enhancing it’s value to other collectors.

But now it appears there are many graded Star Wars items out there that have been graded highly, despite being entirely re-carded. And the credibility of the AFA has fallen into question among many Star Wars collectors, as people have seen their collections halve in value – almost overnight.

The entire scandal is equal parts crazy (to the casual observer) and disappointing (to collectors). But it does nothing if not highlight the downsides to paying a bit too much for something that is supposedly mint-in-mint-packet, when things like packaging can be exploited for years like this without anyone noticing.

The more value you place on something as ephemeral as perfect packaging, the more risk there is that the value could be compromised in some way. And while the packaging scam isn’t the only thing in question here (as many of the supposedly mint action figures being repacked were not in fact brand new items themselves), it’s certainly a big part of the dollar value involved.

Now, many Star Wars collectors (if forum discussions are anything to go by) are expressing a desire to collect loose figures, or figures in old packets with “patina” or that have old store price stickers on them – simply because these tend to be the hallmarks of truly vintage pieces that truly sat on store shelves, back in the actual days of Star Wars.

As a fan of old toy packaging that shows it’s age and has a feel of “history” to it – I would totally agree with this approach.

For further reading about this, the scandal is commonly referred to as the “Toy Toni scandal”, and I recommend you read the following discussion threads:

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6 responses to “The Star Wars toy packaging scandal”

  1. misterjasonsmith says :

    My thumbs are famous!

    Good to see that this is still being talked about.

    Cheers Jason

    • rctoymemories says :

      Ha, thanks Jason. Sorry to highlight you like that. The article has indeed had about 10,000 visits in the past few days. Thanks to everyone for sharing it.

  2. M. Ballard says :

    I just recently uncovered one of my ’77 Star Wars figures still in the package while going thru boxes at my parents place. (recently moved into assisted living) I was going to send it to AFA but now I’m not sure I should. Is this going to affect values or grading?

    • rctoymemories says :

      I can’t speak for the broader effect on values. But my personal view is to avoid grading companies. I say this because, as a buyer, graded items are more of a turn-off than anything. As soon as I see something graded I just think “meh”. Not interested. I prefer to have items free to handle (even if they are unopened). Grading boxes just scream “price inflation” to me.

      Add to that, the fact that grading is no absolute guarantee of authenticity for buyers anyway, and I’m not sure why any collector should need to have an item graded. If you’re keeping the item – store it safely in your own box or display case. If it has a retro price sticker on it – leave it on there (this helps show authenticity). If you’re selling it – take great photos to show it’s condition in detail, and buyers will appreciate that far more than something they can’t really see inside a perspex box that has supposedly been assessed by a company.

      • M. Ballard says :

        I have the same feelings as you, but everyone says I’ll get more if it’s graded. I do plan on selling it, but not sure what will bring the best price. I’m not a collector or anything, but my mother was a pack-rat, bless her heart, and this item was just a lucky find. I had completely forgotten about it until it was unpacked. (been boxed up for 25+ years) Thanks for any advice as to the best way to go about selling this item.

      • rctoymemories says :

        Yes, it sounds like a really nice lucky find. And it may be true that it will fetch a higher price if graded – for now. But with the general negativity around grading among collectors, I wonder if this will last into the future? Will the average buyer still be impressed by the quasi-official notion of grading in years ahead? Or will they wisen-up? Cameras are improving all the time, even in phones. I still think that nice, close-up, high-res photos that show an item’s true condition (not hidden in a box), are worth more to any serious collector than a 3rd party grading. It just allows collectors to make up their own minds. But I certainly wish you all the best with it, whichever route you choose to go 🙂

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