Vintage Toltoys Star Wars Action Figures – The $50k Auctions

Back in February of this year (2022), a collection of 6 vintage 1978 Toltoys Star Wars carded action figures sold on the local auction site Trade Me for a combined total of $52,350 in local currency.

These were rare collectibles with a distinct New Zealand story, making them both interesting and sought after. The 6 characters featured (Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, C-3PO, Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi, Han Solo, and Darth Vader) were all from the first wave of Star Wars figures that came out in 1978 all around the globe. The mini-action figures were all still sealed within their plastic bubbles, on cardbacks bearing the Toltoys logo and featuring imagery of the first wave of 12 action figures on the rear of the cards (i.e., “12-backs“). Toltoys (NZ) Ltd, the New Zealand subsidiary of Australian Toltoys Proprietary Ltd, manufactured and distributed a wide range of licensed and original toys, games and models in New Zealand over a period of a number of decades. Famous examples include the Toltoys cardboard Death Star playset, which many local fans cherished as kids, as well as all the early Star Wars action figures that came into the country.

The final prices fetched for these Star Wars action figures when the auctions closed on the evening of February 5th were:

  • Princess Leia: $6,050
  • Luke Skywalker: $8,150
  • C-3PO: $9,000
  • Darth Vader: $9,550
  • Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi: $9,600
  • Han Solo (small head variant): $10,000

As they drew to a close, the auctions themselves became a bit of a spectator sport among kiwi Star Wars collectors. The local current affairs show The Project even got in on the excitement, with coverage that broadcast on television and social media – in that news segment, they described the story behind the figures and the surprise the seller was experiencing as the bids climbed and climbed. The story became even more legendary when it became evident that the figures were almost thrown away. The previous owner of the figures was not a Star Wars collector – she discovered the toys in her late mother’s house when cleaning it out, and believes they would have been purchased as gifts for her brother, stored away, and then forgotten for the intervening decades. An auction house that was originally approached to help broker a sale declined, and on that basis, they came frighteningly close to being discarded before a friend of the owner offered to put them on Trade Me on her behalf. Having escaped those almost disastrous fates, these collectibles skyrocketed past their original sticker price of $2.99 each.

What makes Toltoys cards so interesting and sought after? Toltoys 12-back and 20-back cards (i.e., those that have images on the rear of the card showing the 12 or 20 available characters in the full figure set, depending on the time of the release) can be immediately recognised due to the blue Toltoys logo on a black background on the bottom right on the front of the card, beneath the character photo. Toltoys figures such as these were imported from Taiwan or Hong Kong into New Zealand, Australia, and to a lesser extent, Singapore. This smaller geographical distribution, compared to the original Kenner variants in the United States simply means that fewer of these cardbacks and carded figures were made and have survived to this point in time.

In some instances (Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, R2-D2, Princess Leia, Chewbacca), the logo is on a wide oval (these earlier 12-back figures were imported from Taiwan), while in others (Death Squad Commander, Sand People, Ben Kenobi, Stormtrooper, Han Solo, and C-3PO) the black background behind the logo fills the full width of the character photo (sourced from Hong Kong).

Unlike the US Kenner SW12A, SW12B, and SW12C cards, the rear of the Toltoys 12-back cardback does not advertise the Collector’s Action Stand. Consequently, the design on the rear of these cards has a lot more black space and the vehicle images are positioned at the bottom of the card. The early wave of cards, from Taiwan, had measurements in imperial units on the rear, and sometimes had erroneous spellings of Toltoys (misspelt as “Toltotys”) and even Australia (misspelt as “Austrlia”). The second wave of 12-backs, from Hong Kong had a mix of presentations for the figure measurements, including in inches, or either a transition form of figure measurements on the rear (stickers with metric measurements covering the imperial measurements), or versions that had the metric measurements printed directly.

Not all of the early cards sold in New Zealand had the Toltoys logo… there were also numbers of otherwise similar cards that came into the country bearing the standard Kenner logo – this mixture of product origins was necessary to meet demand. Toltoys however, as a toy brand in general, was well known in New Zealand in its heyday, and Star Wars products bearing that company name strike a particularly nostalgic chord amongst collectors who remember them from their childhood.

Check out all of the SWNZ coverage of the Toltoys history and range of Star Wars products here, and in the articles linked below.

Toltoys NZ Articles

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