As Star Wars was hitting theaters in 1977, Kenner was preparing to launch one of the largest toy lines to ever hit the market. Since they were only given months to prepare toys before the movie’s debut, they could not immediately offer action figures. However, they managed to avoid catastrophe by offering one of the first pre-order deals ever, the Early Bird Certificate Program. Months later, in 1978, Kenner’s Star Wars action figures successfully hit the market.
Their gamble with the Early Bird Certificates made their new toy line a huge success. Kenner quickly became the industry leader as their 3 ¾” Star Wars action figures became the most influential toy line of the era. Thus, Kenner made around $100 million from their sale of Star Wars toys in 1978 alone. With both the movie and the toys raking in profits, both were ready to introduce new characters and expand on the story.
Unlike the previous movie, Kenner was now cemented as the manufacturer of Star Wars toys. So, they received support from George Lucas and his team as they prepared the 1980 sequel film, The Empire Strikes Back. With knowledge of upcoming characters and vehicles, they had over a year to plan to release the next series of toys.
Along with the extended development time, Star Wars fans learned of toys as they were in production. Thus, they also learned what they lost out on when one of the most infamous toy prototypes lost a key feature.
Who is Boba Fett?
Unlike most characters from the original trilogy, Boba Fett was not introduced in one of the theatrical releases. Instead, he briefly appeared in 1978’s Star Wars Holiday Special. While most of the special was in live-action, Boba Fett’s introduction to the franchise was an animated segment.
He then preceded to prominently appear in The Empire Strikes Back, where he was one of the bounty hunters hired by Darth Vader to track down Han, Leia, and their companions. Boba Fett stood out with his armor and silent demeanor. Moreover, he was the only bounty hunter to successfully trail the Millenium Falcon and report their location, Cloud City, to Vader.
After receiving his payment from Vader, Han Solo encased in Carbonite, Boba Fett left Cloud City and eventually claimed the bounty from Jabba the Hutt. Thus, Boba Fett once again appeared in the final film of the trilogy, The Return of the Jedi. As a man loyal to the Hutt, he supported the gangster and tried to protect him from Luke and Han’s friends.
Despite being pushed off the skiff and falling into the Sarlac pit, Boba Feett managed to survive. Thus, his adventures continued in comics and other media. Likewise, his fanbase remained strong. The love for the character inspired George Lucas to expand on Boba Fett’s background within the prequel films.
The infamous rocket-firing Boba Fett Prototype
The action Figure was designed as part of a mail-in campaign that ran in 1979. However, like most toys, Kenner began development for this toy well before the planned release date. As early as 1978, Kenner knew that they would be creating a Boba Fett toy. So, they began work on the galactic bounty hunter, preparing to give him a spring-loaded missile projectile.
Kenner prepared an L-shaped firing mechanism for Boba Fett’s rocket as it moved through the design process. Thus, while the plastic trigger was nested in the short end of the L, the projectile would remain locked. However, moving the trigger to the right into the vertical groove allowed the rocket to fire. Thus, Boba Fett could attack enemies with a small, one-inch rocket projectile from his back.
Kenner fully planned to release the action figure with the firing projectile. Thus, they developed several prototypes as they prepared the toy for the market. Most of these prototypes were grey, unpainted copies that simulated what the final product would be like. The only color on these prototypes was the small, red rocket.
However, there have been some prototypes that have popped up with some color applied. The color on these prototypes was present on the chest, belts, wrist guards, knees, and helmet. As these examples have been certified by companies like the Collectible Investment Brokerage, the paint was applied by Kenner and not a collector.
Why the rocket-firing Boba Fett Star Wars toy was never sent to retailers
Not long after Star Wars became a phenomenon, most companies jumped at the chance to create space-themed franchises and toys. Mattel was no different when they signed on to create the Battlestar Galactica Toys. Unfortunately, this selection of toys contained a fatal flaw, their projectiles were choking hazards to young children.
After several children were injured or died thanks to these projectiles, Mattel faced multiple legal troubles. Thus, one of their first actions was to recall all of their spring-loaded projectile toys that were on the market. However, not even the recall kept the cases against them out of court.
Noticing the public backlash, many other companies quickly moved to remove any firing projectiles from their action figures. Kenner was no different in this respect. Unfortunately, that meant that the Boba Fett action figure that they had nearly completed was no longer fit for sale. So, they returned to the drawing board to remove the projectile from the design.
Since the rocket-firing Boba Fett was well-known and advertised before it was canceled, many thought that it had hit retailers before Kenner recalled the design. So, many fans grew up with rumors that someone had bought this action figure. Unfortunately, none of these rumors were ever true.
Still, fans later received the chance to own the notorious rocket-firing Boba Fett. As with most toy lines, former employees and others related to Kenner have released prototypes to the public. Thus, collectors have the chance to obtain one of these toys, if they have the opportunity and the funds.
The Rocket-Firing Boba Fett Prototype sold for a record high in 2022
The value of Star Wars toys has been building over the decades. Likewise, the legacy of the rocket-firing Boba Fett has made it one of the most sought-after collectibles of all time. Unsurprisingly, these factors have led to this unreleased toy becoming the record-setting, most valuable Star Wars collectible.
In June of 2022, Hakes hosted a Star-Wars-only auction with the Boba Fett prototype as the star attraction. When the auction was finalized, the prototype sold for $236,000. Helping it achieve this record-setting price was the fact that it had an AFA grade of 80+ NM. It also had a letter of authenticity from the Collectible Investment Brokerage.
This auction also featured many other rare Star Wars collectibles. For instance, there was an AFA-rated 80 NV Jawa with a vinyl cape that sold for $40,877. They also hosted a Hungarian bootleg toy of Boba Fett which sold for $20,768. Moreover, the auction featured the Early Bird Mailer Kit with an AFA grade of 80 NM. This set wound up selling for $15,576.