Day 5: Star Wars Figures, the Original 12

The original 12, not the apostles mind you, but more importantly the 3.75″ Star Wars figures released in 1978 that ushered in a new institution in toy franschises and arguably one of the earliest signs of the immense consumer-driven fan culture that would form around Star Wars for the next 30+ years.

The first wave of action figures are easy to decipher if you have the right box. Check out the back of an original Sandpeople box which lists the original 12, as well as the accessory vehicles like the Tie Fighter, X-wing, and Land Speeder, not to mention the Collector’s Action Stand that were being sold in the early days of the Star Wars merchandising franschise.


The original 12:
Han Solo
Han Solo
Obi Wan Kenobi
Image of 12 OBi Wan Kenobi
Luke Skywalker
Luke Skywalker
Princess Leia
Princess Leia
Darth Vader
Darth Vader
Death Star Commander
Death Squad Commander

And while writing this post I found out all kinds of wild stuff about the collector culture around these original 12 figures, namely that there is a vinyl coated Jawa that is rare and worth a lot of money. But more than that, the most rare figures are the Vaders, Kenobis, and Sywalkers with what is called a “Double Telescoping Lightsaber” —an early design for the light saber that made it look like it was a solid stem before you opened it up by pushing down the lever in the arm.  Anyway, there are only 3 known Vaders and Kenobis that are “carded” (or in the box sealed) known to exist with the double telescoping, and about 15 Sywalkers, which makes them extremely rare and probably a large forutune. But, while that is fascinating in some ways, it’s not really my thing.  I always wanted to be a collector, and while I have a collector’s instinct, I don’t have the fastidious mentality for it.  Anything of value I get, like all the Weebles sets I bought a number of years back, I ultimately allow to be destroyed in some way. So, suffice to say, I had all the original twelve figures, and while I bought the Death Squad Commander for the Death Star playset, I never really knew why he was one of the original 12, he always seemed oddly out-of-place.

But, more than any other figure, the Sandpeople figures were, and remain, my single favorite action figure of all time. You see, when I saw Star Wars for the first time in 1977, the film kinda stopped for me after Luke is searching for R2D2 and gets attacked by the Sandpeople.  I was so blown away by that scene (see it here on YouTube, and I have also embedded it below)  that the rest of the movie just seemed a blur.  I couldn’t get the Sandpeople out of my mind, they were like nothing I’d ever seen before. As I mentioned somewhere else on this blog, when I actually got home from seeing Star Wars for the first time, I tried to actually make Sandpeople action figures before I knew what that was.  I used tracing paper on piece of cardboard to try and draw him, it sucked—but I refused to stop until I finally created the form of a figure.  And still to this day, that Sandperson figure with the crazy vinyl coat (that was particular to the orginal 12), bad ass gaderffii, and scary looking mug still remains the ultimate in Star Wars mythology for me. Long live the Sandpeople.



Image credit:

The single most powerful scene in Star Wars when I first saw it in 1977:

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9 Responses to Day 5: Star Wars Figures, the Original 12

  1. Wait…there were 12 apostles?

    I had (and still have) Darth Vader, a storm trooper, C3PO, R2D2 and Chewbacca. Mom never saw the movie and didn’t get the humans were key characters, but I didn’t really care. I had Darth Vader, and he was super boss.

    Later, Boba Fett became my favorite. I figured he was sort of like Iron Man – I presumed be could survive in space in just his armor.

  2. Cole says:

    I had 11 of the original 12 — never did bother with a death squad commander. I also had the original vehicles they display on that early box. What I would really love to do is see and feel if my muscle memory of the originals is true … I recall them being such higher quality than the ones my little boy is playing with today. The ones today can move each joint in 360 degrees, but come apart easily. It also seems like there are several series of figures that are of different quality levels — I got Max a Darth Vader for Christmas from a hobby shop online and it is noticeably of better quality. The Vader still kicks ass as an action figure.

    I’ve loved every minute of the toy posts. Happy New Year!

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  4. rowan_peter says:

    Sorry about being late to the Stars Wars toy party. The only Stars Wars toys I grew up with were a Landspeeder and a Star Wars book and cassette. You know those read-along books? The book and cassette combination with fun-filled experience in music and story adventure featuring:
    word for word narration
    dramatic character dialogue
    authentic sound effects
    musical background.

    I still have them both.

  5. Reverend says:


    You still have the Landspeeder? Hmm, hen I finally make it to Melbourne I’m gonna bring my Luke, Obi_Wan, R2-D2, C3PO, and Tuscan Raider figures so we can play some Star Wars while I’m there :0 I wish I saved the Landspeeder, alas it is long, long gone. What’s more, I want to see the that book, you have a picture?

  6. rowan_peter says:

    Playtime? Sure! I’m warmin’ up the Landspeeder right now!
    Here’s a quick photo of the front and back of the 24 page read-along book I mentioned. I couldn’t find the cassette tape. I guess it didn’t make the archive.

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  8. daveA says:

    Makes me wish I had kept my Jawa. He was one of the rarer vinyl coated ones.
    Jawa’s were rarer than hens teeth in the UK back then. I ended up getting mine in France.
    Of course while I knew the rarity of the Jawa figure back then due to the difficulty in getting one here, I never had any idea as to just how rare it was and is now. I was just a kid back then. I was just happy it completed the first set.

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