Vintage Kenner Star Wars Early Bird Certificate Package 1977
Star Wars Episode Four A New Hope, the epic space opera that launched one of the biggest premier media franchises in movie history, opened in theatres on May 25 1977 with a budget of $11 million.
Although the profound lasting influence of the Star Wars franchise upon the collective consciousness of Generation X, and nearly every generation since may never be accurately assessed, Episode Four’s runaway success at the box office certainly took many hard working people who were involved in A New Hopes production by surprise.
At the outset, some cast and crew members involved with its production considered the movie to be weird and a children's movie and were put off by some of the more fantastic elements of the plot introduced by writer director George Lucas.
The entire production was also plagued by bad luck and mishaps that forced Lucas to miss his planned Christmas 1976 release date. Moreover, since science fiction films were largely
uninspiring in terms of revenue, and critical acclaim, at that time, performing well initially, and then trailing off into box office oblivion, many people originally didn't believe in the possibility of a successful Star Wars. Not even toy companies believed in the property when Lucas originally shopped around.
When Lucas originally shopped around the license to produce toys, none of the major buyers pursued the film, only Kenner toys, a subsidiary at the time, of the Fortune 500 food processing company, General Mills, Inc showed any interest in it.
This is why there was a large capital stamp of GE, that represented the General Mills brand, emblazoned on every Star Wars toy’s proof of purchase sale.
However, following the film's premiere, Star Wars became a huge hit with movie goers, with lines of fans who viewed the film for a third, fourth or fifth time, wrapped around city blocks. As a result, phrases such as lightsaber, the Force and the Death Star entered the American lexicon.
Rumours of an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture were bandied about by critics, and Star Wars reached worldwide lifetime box office receipts of more than three quarters of a billion dollars. In spite of the runaway success of Star Wars, the aforementioned production delay didn't just affect the release of the movie, but Kenner toys faced a similar delay in getting their own products to retail.
Before the movie hit theatres, Kenner severely underestimated consumer demand for Star Wars merchandise and did not develop an action figure line quickly enough for a fourth quarter Christmas time 1977 release. so one of the company's executives, Bernard Loomis, a man responsible for some of the most important decisions in the toy industry, for many decades made a stunning decision to afford kids and collectors an opportunity to purchase Star Wars toys yet to come.
Kenner’s postponement yielded collectors the very first Star Wars related product, not an action figure, or posable creatures or even a deluxe playset but a sort of chipboard placeholder to placate rabid fans until toy factories finished production on the first assortment of the original 12 Star Wars action figures, which hit retail shelves in 1978.
This gift set became known as the Early Bird Certificate Package or the Early Bird Kit. Since Kenner had initially underestimated demand for Star Wars product, they had nothing at all ready for the Christmas 1977 season.
However, thankfully, Kenner executive Bernard Loomis, president of the Canada toy division, from 1970 to 1978, concocted a revolutionary idea. He became the brainchild of Canada's first brilliant action figure related offering, Early Bird Certificate Package, selling American children the promise of figures to come.
Kenner limited sales of the Early Bird Certificate Package to 500,000 units, and the 2 million figures in the gift certificate programme promoted the sale of a whopping 40 million figures the following year.
This Early Bird Certificate Package was solicited at retail for a limited time only, and was not sold after December 31, 1977, and have since original unused, sealed packages have become seriously sought after collectibles. Essentially, it was a slapdash giftset comprising entirely of colour printed paper and chipboard and was sold for $7.99 wuith a redemption certificate for the action figures. Before submitting the redemption certificate to Kenner, here is what this early bird kit consisted of.
1. the early bird certificate/redemption coupon good for four authentically detailed Star Wars action figures.
2. a colourful display stand for your Star Wars characters
3. a Star Wars Space Club membership card signed by Luke Skywalker
4. Four Star Wars stickers; May the Force Be With You, C3P0B and R2D2, and two Star Wars logos
5. a proof of purchase coupon.
The Early Bird Certificate Package display stand featured painted portrayals of the first 12 Star Wars characters, this was the exact same painted representation that was found on the original Star Wars 12 back packages and could be folded to construct a display stand for the first 12 figures.
The base, or stage, of the stand had 12 oval shaped holes that could be punched out so that when your four-Star Wars figures arrived via the mail you could display them. You also received a set of 12 white action figure foot pegs to encourage you to buy the remaining 8 of the 12 initial figures.
Kenna managed to ship every Early Bird Certificate Package by March of 1978. What you received when you got your redemption through in the post was;
* a white rectangular mailbox from Maple Plain Minnesota
* an R2D2 action figure mint in a baggy stamped made in Hong Kong in black lettering
* a Chewbacca action figure mint in a baggy stamped with made in Hong Kong and black lettering
* a Luke Skywalker action figure mint in a baggie with made in Hong Kong in black lettering
* a princess lair action figure mint in a baggie with made in Hong Kong in black lettering.
* You also received 12 wide foot pegs or plastic holders to attach the figures to the stand. Also, a white fragile vacuum formed plastic figure holder tray
* an early bird set premium offer of collector stand paper retention slip,
* a Welcome to the exciting world of Star Wars form
* a 1977 Star Wars cannot catalogue.
Please note: the baggies containing the four Early Bird Certificate Package figures were either taped or heat sealed. If taped, on almost every sample, the tape had become yellowed and brittle. So be careful when handling mint figures in a baggie.
Regardless of how the baggies are sealed there were four different types of stamps on them.
1. a horizontally stamp with made in Hong Kong in small white letters, roughly waist or chest high to the figure in the baggie either on the front or back.
2. a baggie with made in Hong Kong, stamped in small black letters running horizontally.
3. a baggie wih made in Hong Kong in small black lettering but running vertically, these baggies usually contained the Chewbacca figure and ran the length of the entire baggy.
4. on the backside stamped with the Kenner logo in blue lettering, this is usually is only found on the R2D2 figure.
The final figureless baggie contained the 12 white foot pegs for the early bird display stand had no lettering and was never tape sealed but always heat sealed
It should also be noted that some of the Luke Skywalker figures included in the Early Bird Certificate Package came with the double telescoping light sabre. This is very rare and hard to find and causes the value of this already rare set to jump in price by about $400 to $500 or more.
Since Early Bird Certificate Package sets are difficult to find the following is a determination of average values with a full mint sealed set with all the pieces and parts.
These sell for between $4,500.05 $1,000
Early Bird Certificate Package envelopes mint $2,650.02 $1,800
The first 12 figures were:
1. Luke Skywalker
3. Princess Leia of Organa
6. Darth Vader
8. Han Solo
9. Obi Wan Kenobi
10. Tuscan Raider
11. Jawa (with either the vinyl or plastic cape)
12. Star Destroyer Commander also known as the Death Squad Commander.