The Star Wars 12-Back figures consist of the original 12 vintage Star Wars action figures released by Kenner back in 1977. These card-backs therefore represent a unique and rare insight into them, at a fraction of the cost of the actual figures themselves.
Star Wars has been a phenomenal success which continues to grow even after 40 years and especially since the release of Star Wars VII The Force Awakens and with the upcoming Rogue One and Episode VIII movie due this is likely to continue for another 30 years!
This has had the knock on effect of pushing up the value of the original vintage Kenner Star Wars figure, particular the first 12-back figures.
It is these original, Kenner Vintage figures that have always been the main focus for collectors but as these become more and more scarce and prices becoming more expensive collector’s attention are turning to other things.
One of these are the figure card-backs. There has always been a niche of collectors who have tried to catalog and collect all of these and the different variations for several reasons.
Firstly, they represent a unique yet nostalgic representation of the vintage figures, also as many of the cards were thrown out once the figures had been removed many of them have become valuable within their own rights. Some more so than the figures that were attached to them.
For most collectors they also allow them to own a piece of the Star Wars history and nostalgia at a fraction of the cost of the vintage action figures, yet as time goes by I can see these becoming as collectible, if not more so, than many of the figures that were attached to them.
With this in mind I have, with the help of the credited sites below, put together this guide to the Vintage Star Wars card-backs. I hope you finf it useful, informative, helpful and entertaining.
I have certainly found it mind boggling, surprising, educational and eye-opening putting together. This guide also deals with mainly the Kenner card-backs although although many of the figures were released on Palitoy cards for the UK market, General Mills cards for Germany as well as a few other variations.
As well as this the cards, unlike the figures, were often changed and updated even when the figures on them stayed the same, it is this that has meant that some cards have become more valuable than the actual figures they came with.
Also, as a result, many would argue that these card backs therefore give a clearer history of the figures, their evolution and the whole Star Wars phenomenon
Of course, more simple is the fact that rarer figures generally mean more expensive cards. EV-9D9’s card, for example, has sold for more than 30 dollars on eBay. And that’s just the card — no figure, and not even the plastic bubble!
Of course, part of the fun of collecting these is in the childhood memories of checking the card backs for the figure we had, or more importantly didn’t have. Often these cards replaced the traditional Christmas present list as children would longingly hand other their card backs to their parents with the figures that they NEEDED, not WANTED but NEEDED, clearly marked!
Also for those of us who couldn’t afford to get them all, or even find them these card backs represented the next best thing to physically owning them.
In a similar way for the modern day collector and new collectors they represent a more affordable and easier way to hold a piece of this unique history for a fraction of the cost and they certainly represent a more achievable goal, although as I already said I can see that even these in the not too distant future will become as collectible as the actual figures have become, certainly as its popularity shows no signs of diminishing, in fact quite the reverse.
It’s amazing how many new young collectors and fans have joined the cohorts of the already established, older and more experienced collectors. In fact, over the last few months I’ve received an increasing number of emails, subscriptions and questions from collectors under the age of 15 asking about these vintage toys and how to go about collecting and acquiring them!
When collecting the card backs, or even the figures, you will often see the term Luke Skywalker 12-back or 21-back. These numbers refer to the images of the other figures in that series listed on the back of the cards.
So, the original Kenner 12-carback featured images of the first 12 figures released. The later 21-cardback feature the first 12 figures and the 9 figures released later as the series 2 figures, and so on. You then had the different regional variations and promotional variations.
Over the years a simple form of terminology has built up in or to catalog and index the different cards and their variations which generally consists of a number and a letter followed by the logo that was on the cards front.
The number represents the number of figures released, or pictured on the back of the card. The letter represents the different variations and promotions that appeared on each of these cards, with the lettering running in chronological order to the cards production.
Thus a 65A-ROTJ figure would have the Return of the Jedi Logo on it, 65 figures on the back and the pictures of the Ewoks have been blacked out. A 65B-ROTJ is the same as a 65A-ROTJ except that you can now see the Ewoks on the back of the card.
The original vintage Kenner card backs are the 12 card backs featuring the first 12 figures that were released. These are also, therefore the most popular and expensive but they still remain reasonably affordable for most collectors when compared to the price of the original 12 figures!
These cards also still have the text explaining the telescoping lightsaber feature for Luke, Obi-wan and Darth Vader although this feature was very early on discontinued.
Later a 20 and 21 card backs were issued with series 2 included and the 21 card back also included the Boba Fett mail-in promo that was withdrawn because its rocket firing feature was considered a safety issue after a child reportedly swallowed one.
Some of the Star Wars 20 card backs that were left over when the “The Empire Strikes Back” figures were released had stickers on the bottom half of the card back showing the 20 new figures making these the first “unofficial” 32 card backs.
These card backs can fetch as 40%+ more than the official TESB 32 card backs.
There were two types of promotional cards also issued on the 12-back cards. The first was for an Action Figure Collector's Stand, but there were also two variations of this offer, one offering the stand for 2 Proofs of Purchases and $2.00 and the other adding that it could be received free for 12 Proofs of Purchase.
The second promotion was for the infamous and now legendary Free Rocket Firing Boba Fett mail-in figure. Despite the fact that officially these were NEVER distributed it does seem that some were sent out before its withdrawal and there are some prototypes and salesman’s samples rumored to be available but very few have ever turned up for sale on the secondary market and when they do, be ready to mortgage your house!
There was a third promo which started with the Star Wars line but continued through to The Empire Strikes Back line. This was for the Free Secret Star Wars Figure which was revealed on the later ESB card to be a Bossk figure.
The first Empire Strikes Back card backs were the same as the Star Wars 21 card backs but with the new ESB logo. This card has become one of the most sought after among collectors, although not the rarest, and therefore often commands a price of 50% or more than the others.
The Empire Strikes Back line saw a series of card back variations, mainly due to its long run at retail and the constant addition of new figures. As a result, there are 31-, 32-, 41-, 45-, 47-, and 48-card backs. Many of these cards also had variations on the toys and playsets shown at the bottom of the card.
As with the earlier Star Wars line the Empire Strikes Back line also featured several promotions. The 41-back cards featured a Action Figure Survival Kit promo which was for a package of several accessories for the action figures.
The 45-backs featured a Star Wars Display Arena and the 47-backs offered a free mail-in 4-Lom figure.
By the time The Return of the Jedi, or Revenge of the Jedi as it was originally entitled until George Lucas decided that revenge wasn’t a Jedi trait or emotion, was released Star Wars popularity was starting to wane both at the cinema/movie theatres and at retail.
There were four variations of the ROTJ card backs starting with the 48-back card. The others were 65-, 77-, and 79-backs.
As with TESB cards the initial 48-back card is the hardest to find as it was only a transitional card between the TESB and ROTJ lines so was only in production for a short time before new figures were added and a new card issued. However, it still doesn’t reach the kind of prices that TESB cards can, generally fetching 20-30% more than the other ROTJ cards.
On the 65-back card two of the Ewok figures were initially blacked out, rumour has it that George Lucas wanted to keep the Ewoks a secret, so he insisted that Kenner not reveal them as these cards were available before the movie’s theatrical release.
The ROTJ cards also featured a number of promotions, one of the most significant being the mail-in Admiral Ackbar Figure which was marketed as a Revenge of the Jedi offer before its name was changed to Return of the Jedi.
There were three other free mail-in offers on the ROTJ cards. A Nien Nunb Figure on the 48 backs, an Emperor on the 65D card backs and an Anakin Skywalker on the 65-backs through the end of the European Trilogo 79-backs.
There were also a number of pre-production Revenge of the Jedi proof/prototype cards produced before its name change, however none of these were ever released with carded figures or available from retailers.
Despite this it seems likely there are between 1500-2500 of each of these 50 cards available. It is believe that no-one of these cards is rarer than the other and that an equal number of each was produced, which would be logical of course. However, due to the popularity of some characters over others some of them do tend to be harder to find than others. Also this factor probably means than more of the popular characters’ cards have been obtained and released onto the secondary market whereas many of the lesser characters’ cards are probably languishing in some warehouse, attic or basement awaiting discovering and forgotten about. An example of this may be the The Rebel Commander which seems to be the last card needed by several collectors. However, this is just conjecture on my part as to why this may be.
There is an excellent guide to these cards on http://theswca.com/ which has been compiled by Chris Georgoulias.
As with the figures and due to its much lower production run and availability these card backs are the most sought after and therefore generally the most expensive.
There was only one card issued for this line, the 92A-back card.
In Europe Trilogo card backs were used for many of the figures. These cards were identical to ROTJ and POTF US released cards but with the text in three languages.
Oddly, to my mind, these actually fetch a much lower price than there US counterparts. I find this rather unusual as I would have thought the fact that they had three languages on the cards would make them rather unique and more appealing. However, I guess many collectors probably consider them akin to re-prints and not originals therefore making them less desirable than the US Kenner cards.
There were a few variations of these cards worth noting also as there was a 79-back card produced that featured the blacked out Ewoks as on the US Kenner 65A-back card.
As mentioned earlier, there were many foreign franchisees
and affiliates of Kenner who produced the figures on card backs that featured
regional text variations such as Takara (Japan), Meccano (Mexico), and Palitoy
(England). Most of these card backs had very little difference to the original
Kenner cards other than the language change, however there were a few that had
major difference that are worth mentioning.
This guide is by no means a fully comprehensive list of all the cards and variations that are available but it represents the basic information you require to start collecting the cards and obtaining a full collection of the different cards available for each of the figures.
However, if you want to go one step further and collect all the variations and promotional cards also are four sites I can highly recommend. The first three deal with mainly the Kenner and US released cards while the fourth is an excellent source for information on the UK Palitoy cards and European cards.