Coming soon after Christopher Knowles at The Secret Sun blog announced he was calling it a day – shame! – I am happy to sustain a little flame of synchromysticism. I refer to the cosmic coincidence of George Lucas hawking Lucasfilms to Walt Disney, and me deciding to flog my Star Wars toys.
Lucas’s sale has attracted a lot of attention because… well, lots of reasons. It’s a huge amount of cash in anyone’s currency, it’s one of the most profitable film companies ever, it’s had a massive cultural impact. More than anything, though, it seems a final line in an increasingly dog-eared double-entry book for Lucas’s film work. Opinion is, as usual with Star Wars-related issues, divided, between people who see the sale as another cash-in exercise, and those who seem genuinely interested in seeing the future development of the characters under the careful tutelage of the Mouse. And there are probably fifty shades of Hoth-white arguments betwixt the twain. Lucas’s original contract with Fox gave him ‘total control and 40% of the merchandising’, so it’s not like he needs any more money. For what it’s worth, I think the sale is a chance for Lucas to shed himself of this Dagobahan swamp rock, so he can stop tinkering with it and get on with something else.
I know how he feels. I’ve been carrying this Darth Vader case and figures round for over 30 years. Not actually, you understand – it’s been in the loft at my parents’ house for most of that time. This is a metaphor of some sort, I’m sure. I just got the feeling that it was time to get rid. But it’s hard work. Sentiment is powerful. Sometimes, you outgrow your clothes but you know you won’t throw them away. I’ve definitely been considering it, anyway. The eBay blurb might run something along these lines:
‘This is a Darth Vader carrying case containing 30 Star Wars figures (full details to follow), in good condition, with most of the original accessories. There is a Scout Walker and a Rebel Troop Transport, both boxed.’
My sales pitch falls short, my bunco huckstering sticks in the craw. I mean, look at this stuff. They’re not ‘valuable antiques’. They are late 20th century plastic toys. And they are hardly even nearly in the coveted ‘original packaging’. With the exception of the battered boxes housing the Rebel Transport and the Scout Walker, there is no cardboard backing. Yet there’s some sort of resonance. I have seen fewer items sold for daft money at car boot sales. People continue to want to buy the figures, adults, I mean, looking as if they have struck the mother lode. Why do people want this stuff? It has to be more than just the objects.
The exhaustive Star Wars Collectors Archive suggests that while ‘decent’ the Vader head has no real financial value (“less than spit”) owing to its commonness. Drily, they suggest that possession was actually mandated by law in some places in West Virginia. It’s not just the prevalence. As any fule kno, for toys to have true collectable appeal, they must be box fresh. But, but, who would take the trouble to purchase a toy and then NEVER PLAY WITH IT? I am reminded of the fat collector in Toy Story 2.
In fact, I got side-tracked taking photos of the figures for this potential sale, imagining I was taking snaps of successful bands for Smash Hits or something.
Some fun procrastinatory titting about, during which a possible answer to this fisco-emotional conundrum occurred to me. Reading through some of the comments on different boards around the webs after Lucas’s fire sale confirmed the original thought. Disney are buying 30-odd years of goodwill, fan heritage and a lot of geek love. What I might be selling… while to the casual observer this might be yet another online loft emptying exercise, a virtual yard sale of common or garden tat, one has to look closer.
The wonder of MY collection, I realised, its Unique Selling Point, is that the lucky purchaser would know that they not only find themselves in receipt of some figures, a holder, a couple of vehicles. The lot also includes a galaxy of playtime memories. Unending games of attack, peril and last-minute rescue. There are tales of countless stand-offs between unlikely alliances of rogue droids, Rebels, Ewoks, alien beings and deserting Stormtroopers. There are flights of fancy to incongruous new worlds – frantic journeys in the pockets of shorts, raincoats, when it was imperative that Han Solo go along on the school trip.
There are weird tales of wormholes transporting these tiny figures from another time to medieval Lego castles, beach holidays, back garden lawns, where terror and redemption lurked behind the crenellations, in the short grass or beneath the imposing might of the Imperial Plastic Sand Bucket (TM).
There are endless youthful re-interpretations of sub-plots: giggling interruptions of soppy stuff with a farting Wookie. Later, countless, patient hours spent waiting for Han Solo to emerge from the freezer, encased not in Carbonite but ice blocks in Tupperware, to be defrosted by Leia-Boussh on the draining board, the magic thaw of a kitchen sink romance.
Socio-pyschoanalyst and occasional The Mortal Bath contributor Anna Logie writes:
“Readers may view this sale as a potential re appropriation, freeing the ‘Head of Vader’, a symbolic act representing perhaps the liberation of the mind of George Lucas, these ideas, characters from a galaxy far, far away, made material and ranked and filed within it. He (Lucas/Vader) personifies the creative, intuitive spiritual mind constrained by the progress of artistic revisionism and commerce – Prometheus re-bound eternally by commerce and compulsive modification. Within the plastic storage case of the head, too, is concealed a profound truth. The conflicting/complementary aspects of ‘positive’ (rebel/Jedi) and ‘negative’ (Empire/dark side) can work together in the service of play, yet not while ‘in storage’, or only in the service of commerce. Only when the head is ‘broken open’ can the original creative urge be released.”
Perhaps this is also true. The collection as an emblem of the imagination of youth, of the triumph of the urge to play, of the joy of re-creation. “Collectors of Star Wars memorabilia” such as the SWCA may deem this artefact simply not unique enough. It should be clear, however, that to a collector of deeper meaning, a connoisseur of souls, of dreams, of memory, it is truly a prize beyond worth.
Do I hear £2.9bn?