R2-D2 & Early Bird Mailer

The Early Bird Certificate Package was the first Kenner Star Wars action figure item. It was also one of the great marketing coups in the history of toy retailing.

You see, although Kenner had signed on to produce Star Wars toys prior to the film's release in May 1977, they were blindsided (as was everyone else) by its massive popularity. They must have initially planned on making fairly easy-to-produce, low-investment Star Wars items, such as puzzles, coloring books and paint sets.

But a hit this big (and there really never had been one bigger) all but demanded an action figure line. However, it takes close to a year to develop a line of plastic toys: they have to be designed, sculpted and tested. Most importantly of all, steel molds need to be created, and that takes time, not to mention money. So, in mid-1977, as Star Wars sold out theaters across the country, Kenner found themselves in a bind. On the one hand, they were sitting pretty as a license-holder for the biggest hit in movie history. On the other hand, they they had no proper toys to release. Even if they worked around the clock developing them, they wouldn't be ready for the all-important Christmas season.

How does a scrappy mid-western toy company solve the problem? It pulls a fast one, of course. It tells its retailers that they're going to sell what is essentially an empty box. Moreover, it convinces them that parents will go for the idea; that they will, in the absence of Star Wars action figures, settle for the mere promise of Star Wars action figures and place the Early Bird Certificate Package under their Christmas trees.

Did it work? Of course. In fact, it's a testament to the sheer force of Star Wars' popularity that this empty box was such a success. For Christmas of 1977, thousands of children received a cardboard envelope in which was packed a pointless display stand (pointless since there were no figures to display on it), a gimmicky Star Wars "Club Card," a few anemic stickers, and something that sounded more like a coupon for a small town breakfast joint than the ticket to Toy Nirvana-- the Early Bird Certificate itself.

The idea behind the Certificate was that kids could fill it out with their names and addresses, mail it in and wait. Months later, their set of the first four Star Wars action figures would arrive along with the plastic pegs that allowed them to be affixed to the once pointless cardboard display stand. The figures included in this set were Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, R2-D2 and Chewbacca. Although they were all sold individually later on, the special four-figure set was available only as a mail-away (for more information on the Early Bird figure set, click here).

Due to its importance within the Star Wars line, as well as it's awesome graphics, the Early Bird Certificate Package has long been popular with collectors. Unfortunately, collecting the item presents a problem, as most examples were seriously disfigured when they were ripped open on Christmas morning (and trust me, most kids really did rip them open). For this reason, sealed examples can today sell for several hundred dollars. But a sealed envelope, while it looks nice, also prevents one from enjoying the rather attractive contents. It's a dilemma that each collector must figure out on his or her own.

It should be noted that virtually all opened Early Bird Certificate Packages are lacking one important component-- the certificate. Most were mailed away and never seen again.

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  • Our Philosophy

    Lets face it, anyone growing up in the 80's knows it was a great time for collecting items from the world of science fiction and iconic superheroes. To this day, I don't think they will ever make greater heroes than the likes of Optimus Prime, Luke Skywalker, He-Man, Captain Kirk or Snake Eyes. This 80's influx of iconic characters led me to become the toy collector I am today.

    Being a big kid at heart, I created www.cullercollectibles.com site to do what I love doing. First and foremost, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and secondly, helping people find the cool item they had when they were a kid. I'm also more than happy to help the avid collector looking for that final piece of their collection. Some of my pieces are professionally graded, cleaned and cased by the Action Figure Authority. This assures a collector that everything purchased has been 100% authenticated by trained toy graders. Buyers can be confident there are no fakes in this collection. I can assure you all my items have a significant amount of time and money invested in them. So you can rest assured they are all quality collectibles.

    If I don't have the item you are looking for, I will do my best to find it at the price you can afford. Please feel free to contact me and I'll see what I can do for you. I am also always buying classic toys as well, feel free to email me if you would like to sell your collection. I am a Christian and practice what I preach, Luke 6:31. If you are not satisfied with your purchase, please return your item for a full refund. Once the item has been received and examined, you will receive your refund in full.

    As a Christian I am also open to any theological questions you'd like to discuss, or if you'd like to find out how to know Jesus Christ by repenting and putting your trust in Him.

  • What is AFA Grading?

    Gold Level The AFA Gold level consists of the grades 100, 95, and 90. When an items condition warrants classification within this level, the smallest of flaws are judged and taken into account to determine the exact grade received. The select few items which receive these grades are among the highest quality in existence. A very small percentage of items submitted to AFA receive a Gold level grade. An items flaws must be very minor, subtle, and can often be difficult to identify with the naked eye. A collector who is extremely condition sensitive should be satisfied with the condition of a Gold level item in the vast majority of instances.

    Silver Level The AFA Silver level consists of the grades 85, 80, and 75. Items which receive grades within this level range from having small flaws to having relatively significant flaws. Silver level grades represent a much larger range of condition than Gold level grades. The highest grade within this level, an 85, could most often be described as being near case fresh, with the lowest grade within this level, a 75, being somewhat shelf worn but still relatively nice. As a general rule, an item which receives the grade of 85 is a fantastic display piece and can often be right on the edge of Gold level condition. The term 'case fresh' is certainly justifiable, as the average item pulled from a sealed case would grade an 85 due to small flaws which occur when items are packaged or shipped from the factory. An item which receives the grade of 80 represents a nice example with minor to moderate flaws apparent upon close inspection. As a generalization, the average item which has spent time on a store shelf being moved around prior to purchase, but has otherwise been handled with relative care over the years may score an 80. The lowest Silver level grade is a 75 which represents an item with significant flaws which are much more evident than flaws visible on items which receive higher Silver level grades. An item which receives the grade of 75 will most often have significant wear, an inner blister crack, or other moderate to significant wear, but should be free of major flaws which would immediately draw the eye to them at first glance. For most high grade collectors, an 85 will be satisfactory. For most discriminating collectors, an 80 will be satisfactory. A 75 will most often be satisfactory to those who are not overly concerned with light stresses, blister imperfections, and other flaws which do not likely jump out at first glance like the flaws displayed by Bronze level items.

    Bronze Level The AFA Bronze level consists of the grades 70 and below. Items which receive these grades typically have damage ranging from simply noticeable upon first glance to extremely significant. Packaging may have significant stressing or creasing and a blister or window may be crushed or cracked. The Bronze level covers the largest range of conditions and the scope of flaws will range considerably. Condition for Bronze level items is determined by how many 'major flaws are present and how severe each flaw is. Bronze level items may have major flaws such as a torn off or cut-out POP or other large paper tears. Bronze level items may not be satisfactory to condition sensitive collectors.

  • Vintage Star Wars

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