A couple of years ago I found myself on a roll scoring interesting finds from local sellers looking to unload vintage Star Wars toys from their storage. As is always the case in these situations you get some gems and you get stuff that’s seen better days (hey, nothing that’s vintage and Star Wars is junk, right?).
After a few of these encounters I found myself with four Darth Vader’s Tie Fighters from 1978. Three were in overall straight condition and one was just barely limping by, begging for either a noble burial or the breath of new life. Well after a good cleaning the path was clear: I would take the sucker apart and hit it inside and out with some matte black spray enamel.
The results are at least partially seen in the photo above.
Buying Notes on Vintage Darth Vader
A nice vintage Darth Vader action figure is pretty much the alpha and omega of any collection. This is true for the beginner and advanced collector alike. A classic toy reaching back to 1978, the vintage Darth Vader has spun countless revisions and imitations but really has never been improved upon.
So I can’t blame you for thinking about picking one up. But because this item is so popular, it can be rough seas acquiring a good (and authentic) example for a reasonable price. Let’s go over some of the main points to consider before pulling the trigger on a vintage Darth Vader.
Once you’re on board at eBay the first thing you’ll notice is that the key words “Darth Vader” are used and abused ad nauseum to get your attention to buy other stuff. Don’t be discouraged and whatever you do don’t be distracted or tricked into buying something else. Your eyes will quickly learn to ignore all of the nonsense and aim strictly for the vintage gold. The links I’ve provided already do it to some extent, but you may also want to play around with the search engine’s advanced function on eBay to filter out the unhelpful stuff. Be especially aware of the new Hasbro toys labelled as “Vintage Collection”, “Original Trilogy”, etc. Their packaging is cleverly retro and aims to steer the newcomer off course.
Important to keep in mind with the vintage Darth Vader is that you’ve got two accessories to contend with: the vinyl cape and the light saber. Both were easily lost and/or damaged by their original owners so it’s common to see reproductions in the marketplace being passed off as original. There are excellent resources to read through at the Imperial Gunnery forum that will help you avoid pitfalls. Read them carefully. Go here for the light saber and here for the cape. This is also a good time to correlate a seller’s claims of authenticity with their feedback score. Have they sold a ton of toys? Do they score 100% with their buyers? If not, you can think twice about believing their claims. Don’t forget to double check the photos closely. Does the cape look torn anywhere? Do the arm-holes look distressed or sharp? How about that saber tip. Does it look straight and strong or does it like a toddler might have chomped on it for a snack once or twice?
As much as any other vintage figure, Darth Vader was a character that saw heavy play at the hands of us grubby kids in the 70s and 80s. If it’s not mentioned in the auction be sure to ask the seller in a message if the figure’s limbs and head are loose or stiff. Let the loose limbed Vaders go to the diorama builders. You want the guy that’s as close to package fresh as possible. The vintage Darth Vader had very little paint applied by Kenner so not much to worry about there. And chances are if you’re buying a figure with loose limbs there won’t be paint loss.
Feel free to add any thoughts in the comments and drop me a line if you run into any trouble!