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Vintage Star Wars die cast toys


Catalogues sent to toy retailers across the globe are another great source of vintage Star Wars die cast images. The following article is by regular contributor to the site, and collector of vintage catalogues and die cast - Justin Lea.


The 1979 dealer catalogue is an excellent example of Kenner's marketing to retailers for each line they produced. Series 1 and 2 are advertised beautifully over two pages highlighting each spacecraft against a glimmering starry back drop.

Kenner also gave retailers the option to display their die cast merchandise. The series 2 header and the extremely rare series 2 bin is also shown in the 1979 catalogue. 

Kenner marketed “BATTLE READY ADVENTURE” for the series 1 line while “MORE FINELY DETAILED COLLECTOR’S REPLICAS” was used for the series 2 line.

The series 2 images included a mock up of the Millennium Falcon shadow box with an unproduced blue background, and aimed directly at collectors and their display shelves.

1980 trade catalogue

The 1980 dealer catalog was the debut for the Empire Strikes Back toy line from Kenner and a great year for the die cast line with 3 full pages dedicated to the “Finely detailed replicas”.

The first page advertised the series 1 vehicles similarly to the previous years catalogue, with the exception of the Empire branded card backs shown in a second issue store display bin.

The store display photography shows all 4 of the series 1 craft branded ESB card backs yet only the X-Wing and Tie Fighter ever made it to stores with the Empire Strikes Back logo.

The second page promotes the series 2 vehicles with the addition of the “NEW”  TIE Bomber. The TIE Bomber pictured is a dark grey prototype that was subsequently changed to white for final production, as were the images of the grey bomber on the box art.

The TIE Bomber is the only spacecraft in the line to have a picture of the actual toy on the main front card/box display while the others had either images direct from the movie or hand drawn artwork.

The third page in the 1980 Kenner dealer catalogue debuts the series 3 vehicles that included the Snow Speeder, Slave 1 and the Twin Pod Cloud Car. Kim Simmons' photography on the page is clear, sharp and even highlights the hand painted Snowspeeder guns with flaking paint.

Each ship is featured on a mock-up cardback, giving a glimpse of the early artwork and what might have been. The Snowspeeder and Slave 1 cardbacks are very close to the final product, whereas the Cloud Car was completely changed.

1981 trade catalogue

The 1981 catalog features a two page spread of previously used images to promote the second year and ultimately end of the Empire Strikes Back die cast line.

The major standout on these pages are the ESB branded cards that still advertised the Darth Vader TIE and Land Speeder as available on ESB cards; packaging that never made it to stores.


Prototype images of the Series 1 ships can be seen in the 1978 Toltoys Trade catalogue, with the TIE fighter apparently created with die cast wings rather than the plastic production versions and Luke and C3PO absent from the Land speeder. The 1980 Toltoys Trade catalogue also features prototype vehicles, and it can be speculated that final photographs were produced so close to the production deadline of the US catalogues that they could not be made available for trade magazines produced further afield.

Image courtesy of the SWCA

The 1980 Toltoys catalogue below was issued to toy dealers in Australia and New Zealand. The die cast pages feature the Series 1, 2 and 3 ships, and interestingly the images used for the Series 2 and 3 ships are all of protoypes. The Millennium Falcon, Y-Wing and Imperial Cruiser are the images featured on the back of the SW7 boxes - despite the toys having been in production for at least a year.

The Series 3 ships were not yet on general release although the Snow Speeder is very close to the production toy. The 'Bi-Pod ship' represents the Twin Pod Cloud Car, and clearly both this and Slave 1 are at a very early stage in their design.

The text states that the Slave 1 has 'removable wings' and the Bi-Pod ship an 'opening canopy.' Neither of these features made it into production.


The 1919-1979 Diamond Jubilee Palitoy trade catalogue celebrated 60 years of the Palitoy company.

The catalogue featured the series 1 and 2 die cast space ships, with Darth Vader's TIE Fighter and the larger space ships all labelled as "NEW".

The main points of interest are the continual confusion over which way up TIEs are meant to go and how to spell Millennium.

Trade prices for the die cast line feature in the Palitoy catalogue. At £1.39 for the Wave 1 ships they were almost twice the 68p fee for the carded 3 and 3/4" figures that featured in the same catalogue. The smaller ships came in boxes of 24, whilst the larger ships in boxes of 18.

1970s price stickers tell us that the Wave 1 ships retailed in stores from anywhere between £1.98 and £2.64 and the Wave 2 ships retailed for up to £3.80. Trade mark up can be seen to be between 40% and 90% for Wave 1 and over 100% for the Wave 2 ships in Taylor and McKenna stores!

This trade invoice from Miro Meccano shows a La Voulte-sur-Rhone shop order for six X-Wings (Chasseur X), six TIE Fighters (Chasseur TIE) and six Land Speeders (Aeroglisseur). There is a bulk discount of 2% on the usual 18 Franc price, which is roughly equivalent to £1.80 in 1981, and more in line with the larger ship price in the UK.

The invoice also demonstrates that Star Wars carded ships were still being manufactured in France in 1981, one year after the release of The Empire Strikes Back.


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