Note: Brian Semling of Brian’s Toys was a guest on The Collectors Show on August 18, 2014. You can go back and listen to the interview with Brian at http://www.webtalkradio.net or iTunes.
The “Brian’s Toys 12 Back Set Index” reflects the retail value of the original 12 Star Wars action figures in near mint to mint condition. The original total retail value of these 12 toys was $24.00, or $2.00 per action figure in 1978 and has grown to a retail value of $26,000.00 in 2014.
The first 12 Star Wars characters to be released as action figures were Ben Kenobi, C-3PO, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, Death Squad Commander, Han Solo, Jawa, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, R2-D2, Sand People, and Stormtrooper. They are referred to as “12 Backs” because their packaging shows these first 12 figures pictured on the back of the cardboard packaging. These figures are valuable because they are rare, sought after by avid collectors, and in pristine condition, which includes the original packaging. While we are aware that market prices fluctuate and the value of many collectibles will never return a profit of this size, big gains are possible for knowledgeable collectors.
Collect What You Love
Owner, Brian Semling, was an avid Star Wars collector before he went into business in 1994. He has leveraged his knowledge about collecting Star Wars Action Figures into the largest such business of its kind, with over $5 million in business in 2013. “Most people collect Star Wars Action Figures because they love the characters and the movies and those are absolutely the right reasons to collect,” Brian has said. “But the potential for profits from a collection like this is certainly noteworthy and possible for collectors and news that we wanted to share.”
Owning old or even well preserved action figures is not enough. To assess and protect the condition of vintage action figures, Brian’s Toys turns to “Action Figure Authority” who is the recognized leader in the field of grading toys, to act as a reliable third party expert who could give an unbiased assessment of the item’s condition. Upon grading the collection, Action Figure Authority encased the toys in a museum quality tamper-proof acrylic case. On their 100-point scale, Action Figure Authority assigns each item an overall condition.
For the index, Brian’s Toys chose a condition level of overall AFA (Action Figure Authority) 85, with sub-grades of the card, bubble, and figure of 85 as well.* An AFA 85 figure with an unpunched card is very clean and an acceptable condition to almost any collector. However, while overall AFA 95’s and 100’s do not generally exist, overall AFA 90’s do exist and the value of the 12 Back figures in AFA 90 condition is approximately double the value of an AFA 85. Also, we have chosen the 12 standard release figures, not including more valuable variants like the Jawa with the plastic “vinyl” cape versus the more common cloth cape. The index reflects 12 figures that a collector in 1978 could have obtained with relative ease and applies a reasonably high condition standard. The value of the index climbs 100-300% from the standard index if one assumes an extraordinary condition of AFA 90 along with rarer early release versions of the packaging.
Assessing Value and Historical Trends
The Brian’s Toys 12 Back Set Index reflects retail pricing for the year indicated in AFA 85 unpunched condition. The value of this set had reached $2,025.00 by October 1995. By January 2000, this set had climbed to $5600.00. In April 2005 the 12 Back Set had ascended to $12,200.00. After a leveling off in value after the Great Recession, the set has more recently raced ahead to a value in September 2014 of $26,000.00. The individual figures ranged from $100.00 for a C-3PO to $400.00 for a Han Solo in 1995 to $1,500.00 for a Death Squad Commander to $3,500.00 for a Luke Skywalker in 2014. The variant Vinyl Cape Jawa, not included in the Brian’s Toys 12 Back Set Index, has climbed from $2.00 in 1978 to $4000.00 in 2000 to $12,000.00 in 2014.
The chart above illustrates the rise in value of the original “Brian’s Toys 12 Back Set Index” to reflect the retail value of the original 12 Star Wars action figures for toys in near mint to mint condition. The values from 1978 to 2014 have increased an average of 108,233%. Individual figure value increases are detailed in the second chart. For the years 2000 and prior, a grade condition of C-9+ was used to determine the index value. After 2000, an AFA overall grade of 85 was used.
Brian’s Toys 12 Back Set Index tracks the value of the original 12 Star Wars action figures over time. The first design of the card back (above) featured all 12 original Star Wars action figures, thus resulting in the term “12 back”.
Each figure is still factory sealed in its original packaging, and has been encased in an acrylic display case to be graded and preserved. All 12 are seen here.
* The prices in this article reflect an overall condition grade of 85 from AFA, with sub-grades of the card, bubble, and figure of 85. Also, the values indicated assume the packaging has no price stickers and is unpunched, meaning the hole used to display the item is still intact.. Finally, the values used for Brian’s Toys 12 Back Set Index are for the more common 12 Back-B or 12 Back-C. 12 Back-A figures will typically be valued 40-60% higher than 12 Back-B and 12 Back-C figures.
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