The TIE Bomber is the rarest of the die cast line and few survive still sealed in their boxes today. The TIE Bomber was only released in the US in relatively small numbers, and it is thought that its minor role in the Empire Strikes Back led to poor sales and the cancellation of production in 1981.
Original photo art (# 0463E) used with permission of Kim D M Simmons / the man who shot Luke Skywalker.
The TIE Bomber was at a larger scale than all bar the die cast Land Speeder and oddly was piloted by an Imperial Stormtrooper in Hoth gear. The early prototypes of the TIE Bomber were grey, with a change to white occurring later in the design process.
Photos used with permission of Kim D M Simmons / the man who shot Luke Skywalker
Both the production and prototype bombers were very detailed - even having red and green painted rear lights. Like the TIE and Darth Vader TIE it had removable plastic wings as its action feature. A 'dropping bomb' like the Y-Wing would have made a great feature.
The TIE Bomber was released a significant time after the other Series 2 ships and only retailed in the ESB11B box.
There is much debate over whether the TIE Bomber was only released as a test run of 75,000 in stores around Kenner's headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio. However, good evidence for sales of the bomber in a range of stores across numerous states indicates a wider market than that expected for a test run or store exclusive.
Perhaps the legend of the Bomber is a result of it being the only ship released in the ESB11B box - the other larger sized die cast ships were released in updated Star Wars packing for the Empire Strikes Back release.
It seems most likely that the Bomber was not sold in any lesser numbers than any of the other large sized Series 2 die cast ships. If anything the earlier released Series 2 ships seem to be rarer on ESB packaging than the TIE Bomber. Significantly Kenner featured the Bomber on all the later die cast packaging, which would appear counterproductive if the Bomber was not on general sale at the time.
Photo used with permission of Kim D M Simmons / the man who shot Luke Skywalker