In the waning days of 1996, Kenner did something shocking -- they released 8 new action figures, and within weeks, these action figures had their packaging completely changed! A batch of orange-tinted figures, which matched the entire line up to that point, got out of R5-D4, Jawas, Luke Skywalker in Stormtrooper Disguise, Momaw Nadon, Greedo, Death Star Gunner, Tusken Raider, and a Tatooine Stormtrooper. Hasbro decided to make the packaging green for 1997, and sure enough, they changed almost immediately. As you might have guessed, fans were paying $20 per figure in many cases to get them on the original orange cardbacks, for reasons that are difficult to explain to any rational human being -- but if you were there at the time, there was a definite genuine excitement behind these things.
Eventually, all the early 1995 and 1996 action figures save for a couple would transition to the new green look. Still, it was only those eight that commanded any serious interest on the secondary market and, again, this has since evaporated like so much blue milk on a sunny spring Tatooine afternoon.
4) Broken Hands
What does the 1996 Han Solo in Hoth Battle Gear have in common with the 1996 Tusken Raider action figure? Both were shipped with a design flaw -- each had a hand unable to grip a weapon. The Tusken Raider's hand was fused shut into a circle, making it hard to hold on to his staff weapon, the Gaffi Stick. Meanwhile, Han Solo in Hoth Battle Gear had a "broken" hand which was sculpted to look good, but totally unable to grip any accessories. Like "error" trading cards, these two figures did indeed go for a few extra bucks for a short period of time, and were viewed by some fans as Kenner's way of forcing them to buy more figures. Seriously. This is not a joke, people really believed that the Ohio-based toymaker was cranking out bum product and revisions so fans would buy more of them.
As seen in the picture, you can kind of force it-- if you push Han's hand right next to his leg, and cram the gun in there, he can kinda hold it. The retooled version actually can grip the gun, though, so that's the one to get. But as they're both worth about a buck, go ahead and get the set -- you're worth it.
3) The Incontinent Wampa
This one is a bit of an oddity in that it's a little tough to discern how much of it is fan imagination, factory variance, or an actual change. In 1997, Kenner cranked out some really cool, really big 12-inch action figure-scaled creatures like the Luke Skywalker vs. Wampa set sold as a Target store exclusive for a couple of years. What's really notable is that the big fluffy Wampa, while mostly white in the movie, has some yellow on him. Jokingly referred to as pee stains -- or at least, it's assumed that it may be a joke -- some of the earlier figures sported a little more yellow fur than others. Of course, some reported seeing fur in the later releases, but what matters is that this goober was really tough to get for a long time and you could stroll into a collectible toy show and expect to see a $200-$300 price tag on it, and this was a $50 item. This lasted for quite some time, and fans did put a slight premium on the figure if it had a little more yellow on his fuzzy person. Fans not yet squicked out may also wish to research a figure which fans referred to as "Money Shot Chewbacca," which we really can't discuss in the confines of this column.
C-3PO was only the 9th figure released in the modern line, but due to the insanity surrounding the first batch, he immediately became a major collectible for fans who weren't lucky enough to find him at retail. Because he appeared on the back of the packaging -- which is a great source of toy release information -- fans assumed he was out since Day 1. He wasn't -- and since he came out 2 months later than the rest of them, there was a huge built-in demand and fans were paying upwards of $20 for him. There's nothing special about it, there were no unique variations or packaging errors, it was just a case of what happens when Internet rumors get out of control. "My cousin had one," some people said, while others said "My store said it was recalled because of lead paint, that's why it's so hard to get." The logic in this is beyond ridiculous, as anyone that follows toy recalls can tell you that they don't merely slow down when toys are toxic, they send them back to the vendor and issue a massive government-aided recall campaign.
For whatever reason, this figure stayed valuable for months after its initial release thanks to some dealers buying them all up and a lot of fans simply not knowing any better. This very C-3PO would continue to ship for another two years, and eventually, he would get some packaging variants and a Japanese greenish tint variant of his very own. Still, it just goes to show that a little hype and a little knowledge can be a dangerous combination.
1) The Gloves of Boba Fett
While some figures had to rely on rumors or some other odd event to shoot up to some crazy level of interest, Boba Fett was and remains hot every time a new one comes out. In 1995, there were two different overlapping variations which fans were paint significantly for, seemingly because Kenner didn't make enough stuff to buy at the time. The very first releases of Boba Fett featured brown gloves with two half circles on the back of his hand. Later releases had a black circle. Guess which one started selling for $25-$30? As an added bonus, Kenner also changed up the packaging, and samples of the figure appeared on these slightly-altered cardback which featured a minor, almost invisible grammatical change.
14 years and dozens of Boba Fett figures later, this is more of a footnote or a curiosity than anything most collectors take serious interest in. If you meet anyone that has these variations, it's a safe bet they were part of the hype in 1995 and 1996 when Star Wars collecting was based on three movies, a couple of comics and books, and a lifetime of memories with no prequels in sight.