Released in 1979, the original Millennium Falcon toy was the pride and joy of Kenner, the company lucky enough to carry the Star Wars toy franchise. This was the first ever successful toy line launched off the back of a major movie, and the Millennium Falcon remains one of Kenner’s most iconic items.
The highest offers for an original Millennium Falcon toy today on eBay are around $3,000, while the latest completed sales range from $300-$700. A treasured vintage item, Kenner’s Millennium Falcon toy has a fascinating story in Star Wars history.Credit: Archive Photos/Getty Images
When 1977’s Star Wars became an astonishing smash success, the toy company tasked with the film’s merchandising – Kenner – went into overdrive.
Kenner was never the first choice to produce Star Wars toys. Instead, the Mego Corporation was preferred. This famed toy company was known for its successful superhero action figure range, as well as the Micronauts characters.
But Star Wars’ marketing director Charles Lippincott drove a hard bargain, and Kenner was the only company to accept his licensing terms.
Kenner Products had previously offered up the Bubble-Matic bubble-blowing gun and other 50s and 60s classics like the Easy-Bake Oven and the Spirograph. The rights to Star Wars action figures and playsets marked a huge turning point for the brand.
After Star Wars came out in cinemas, Kenner wasn’t yet ready for the merchandise demand from fans. A board game, colouring book and jigsaws were all that Kenner had to offer at the time. That Christmas, the company resorted to selling empty boxes with Star Wars toy certificate inside, redeemable once the toys were released.
But even this controversial move didn’t satiate demand. “Even though we envisioned the certificates as being placed under the tree and not opened until December 25th, we’ve gotten a lot of them sent back to us already,” said John Beck, a Kenner representative, back in 1977. “Adults seem interested in having the figurines for themselves too. We’ve had a 26-year-old engineering student calling us and asking how soon they’ll be ready.”
Bernard Loomis, Kenner’s president, defended the speed of progress. He told the Washington Post that his staff were “artists”, noting: “You can’t tell Michaelangelo to hurry up and paint the ceiling.”
Sure enough, when Kenner’s Star Wars action figures reached the market, they were immensely popular. Kenner earned about $100 million from the first year of sales, with about 40 million toys sold. These included 12 action figures and, later, 115 characters and vehicles.
Even Steven Spielberg was a fan of the Kenner figures: they can be spotted in his movies Poltergeist and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Kenner would go on to win the rights for the Batman and Jurassic Park toylines.
The crowning glory of the 1979 Kenner Star Wars toy range was the Millennium Falcon. A highly detailed model of Han Solo’s ship, it included smuggling compartment, a gaming table and the ball with which Luke trains. The toy emitted a battle alert sound, powered by battery. Complete versions of the toy are so rare today due to all the fragile components it contained.
The toy had its highs and lows, with a crash in 1984 forcing factory staff to destroy thousands of new Falcons. It changed packaging in 1980 with the release of The Empire Strikes Back, and again in 1983 (the toy saw its final re-issue as Return of the Jedi went on release that year). But the full-sized toy itself remained mostly unchanged. A Micro Collection version of the ship was released by Kenner in 1982.
Today, an original Millennium Falcon is worth around $300-700 according to online auction sites, though complete models are scarce. One seller of a complete set, who set their asking price at $2,999.99, described their 1978 item: “This Falcon is absolutely stunning in its presentation and as complete as they come, featuring the original box, pair of cardboard inserts, complete un-used sticker sheet, factory sealed training ball, and crisp instruction sheet.”
“This is the whitest, most unaged original Falcon we’ve ever encountered, with no bleaching or modification to the original tint of the plastic,” they added. “Stickers have never been applied!”
Even the Micro version has sold for $700, from a home in Japan. Describing their 1982 vintage Star Wars Micro Collection Millennium Falcon, the seller wrote: “Great condition for its age, was only admired, never played with. Original box, sticker sheet, mini action figures, and instruction pamphlet included – box shows some typical signs of shelf life.”