If you’re thinking about collecting or selling in the Star Wars action figure market there probably isn’t any one action figure that is as sought after than the 1978 Star Wars Darth Vader action figure. Well, except maybe the prototype Boba Fett.
The Darth Vader figure came out about a year after the movie Star Wars came out. Kids and adults back then scrambled to the toy stores to get anything Star Wars related but soon found themselves in a black hole of action figurelessness. Sure that’s not a real word but that’s how people felt. They were screaming for Star Wars toys and only a trickle of things came out such as a few action figures and of these the 1978 Darth Vader stood out. One of the two unique features is that it had a vinyl cloak and a double telescoping light saber (DTLS). That was cool but the line was discontinued after the light saber proved to be too fragile. Many of the light sabers not only broke but there were only a small number of them produced before Kenner changed the design. This all makes for one fine collectible because not only is the DTLS Darth Vader rare upon rare when mint in box, but it’s price is now in the high five figures. Yes, you can find this item going for $6,000 or more. Before you go running to list your Darth Vader on eBay to reap thousands of dollars keep in mind that Kenner only discontinued the double telescoping light saber and not Darth himself. So, there are plenty of non-double telescoping light saber Darth Vaders around and they are worth less then a 50 bucks loose. For a good overview of the light sabers used check out Imperial Gunnery.
Darth Vader was part of the original 12 figures released by Kenner and what collectors call the 12 Backs. He was not part of the 4 early bird figures that Kenner released first. Obi Wan Kenobi (Ben) and Luke Skywalker both had DTLS’s as well but since they were released earlier more of those figures were made with the DTLS. Because Darth Vader was released later and the decision to change the design was made shortly after his release there are far fewer Darth Vader DTLS versions in existence.
The Darth Vader 1978 action figure was the turning point for Star Wars collectibles. He was the bad guy and mysterious. He’d escaped the battle of the Death Star yet fans at the time still didn’t know his full origin. It wasn’t until years later that his true origin was revealed and that made this figure an even more popular and sought after collectible. It’s 3 ¾ inches tall and Kenner the company that manufactured it had no idea what they had created. Somewhere there’s some Kenner guy who is crying figuring if he’d stashed some of the original figures away he would be rich.