As today is May the 4th (International Star Wars day for those who didn't know) It seemed only right that we should introduce our toy specialist Kayleigh Davies who is by her own admission still a big kid at heart! Kayleigh shares how she got interested in collecting with a love of the weird and wonderful and also how she first started in the Auctioneering world. We also find out her favourite finds and also the piece that would make not only her day but her year!
As a child I was never happier than when visiting museums with my family, with many happy days spent amongst the fantastic steam collection at the old Birmingham Museum of Science, the wonderful taxidermy creations of Walter Potter at the Jamaica Inn and anywhere we could find an old fashioned penny arcade. Growing up on a deprived council estate though, it was beyond my wildest dreams that I might one day get to hold such fantastic objects in my own hands.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school, and with the best suggestion from the career computer programme being ‘florist’ I decided to volunteer at the Citizens Advice Bureau to get a taste for that type of work and ended up working there as a debt specialist and financial capability educator. Despite my deep passion for the finer points of the Consumer Credit Act (honest!) after ten years I realised I was no longer happy and it was time for a change, but to what I didn’t know.
When I saw a job advertised for a trainee cataloguer at an auction house I was excited but unsure if I’d be the sort of person they were looking for, but I applied hoping that enthusiasm would make up for my lack of experience and was thrilled when I was invited for an interview. When I walked into the building I was surrounded by cabinets packed with all sorts of toys, and was shown around to see staff busily cataloguing and photographing and I suddenly knew this was what I had always wanted to do. I got the job and one of my first tasks was sorting through a large collection of Star Wars toys, a steep learning curve but absolute heaven! I worked my way up to become a Valuer and Auctioneer, handling many thousands of toys, and eventually ended up running the department.
Though toys are my real passion, I also love antiques and collectables of all kinds and I wanted the chance to deal with a wider range of objects. When the opportunity arose to join Fieldings I grabbed it! Now all sorts of weird and wonderful objects pass over my desk and every day I still pinch myself, I feel unbelievably lucky to work with an amazing team in the best job in the world!
Kayleigh has been an auctioneer for eight years now and its her love of toys that excites her the most! From train sets to diecast, Star Wars to Sindy its those childhood memories that keeps Kayleigh learning and loving her job! We all have that one thing that sparks our passion and for Kayleigh it was the day she got every auctioneer’s dream call, the chance to value and then sell the whole contents of a toy museum! The highlights of the collection are too numerous to mention but included a penny arcade like those I loved as a child, and of course they all needed testing!
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.....
Kayleigh also loves her action figures and has an incredible knowledge of Star Wars toys! Star Wars has won millions of fans since it first hit movie screens four decades ago. Following Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm, a whole new generation has fallen in love with the fictional universe. This market is now absolutely huge with collectors around the world. The love of Star Wars is as great today as when the original films were first released and the marketing giant that is Disney has ensured that this franchise will be popular for generations to come.
As a result fans of the Star Wars films are desperate to own merchandise from the early films. When the first films came out, toy collecting wasn’t really a thing and the films' success came as a surprise to many. This resulted in limited production as demand was higher than supply, which today is a surefire way to make prices skyrocket. Nowadays, Disney are aware of the demand and make sure their production matches it.
Star Wars premiered in the USA in 1977 and the licence to produce the toys was acquired by Kenner. The company were unable to build sufficient stock for Christmas of that year so they instead produced an ‘Early Bird Certificate Package’, an envelope that amongst other things included a certificate that, when posted to Kenner, guaranteed that the first four action figures would be sent to the buyer as soon as they were available. Beginning in February 1978 excited children received Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, R2-D2 and Chewbacca. Kenner, and Palitoy in the UK, continued to produce Star Wars toys until 1985 producing over 100 assorted 3 ¾” action figures, as well as vehicles, various playsets, and other toys including 12” figures.
Some of the rarer and more valuable Star Wars action figures include variants, such as the earliest versions of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker with a double telescoping lightsaber, which was changed to a single telescoping lightsaber and a Jawa with a vinyl cape, as opposed to the more commonly found cloth cape. The Palitoy version of the Death Star, very different from Kenner’s plastic version, is highly desirable as the fragile toy did not always stand up to enthusiastic battles!
Though they were often found in bargain bins in 1980s, the last 17 figures to be released are now popular with collectors, particularly Yak Face, the final figure of the vintage Star Wars line.
The original three-inch plastic figures of Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and other Star Wars characters were just £1.50 in newsagents in 1977-78 when the first film hit cinema screens in the UK, but can now sell for thousands of pounds depending on factors such as rarity and condition with the highest prices reserved for those most sought after figures unopened and still 'carded' with all their original packaging! Vintage Star Wars toys do not always need to be in their original packaging to be valuable, though of course unopened items always attract a premium. Weapons and accessories contribute hugely to the price of loose toys, as small items like blasters were easily lost.
Only last year a prototype J-slot Rocket Firing Boba Fett fetched an eye watering $157,500! Now we may have just been talking alien to you but trust me, there will be someone in your family who knows exactly what that means!
Kayleigh also has a deep rooted love of bootleg toys! These are toys manufactured by lesser firms copying famous models from the leading licenced manufacturers.They are often poor quailty, or can even be constructed from parts of previously unpopular toys! The fun part is that they often play around with the names for example Robert Cop (instead of Robocop), then there Mr Rock (a space man with an uncanny likeness to Mr Spock from Star Trek) and not forgetting Souperman! I'm sure he can save the world with a can of Cream of Tomato!
Kayleigh has recently completed her MA in Antiques and her final dissertation was on this very specialist area of collecting and was titled 'Unlicensed Toys: Do they deserve a place in the Decorative Arts movement?'. It won't come as a surprise to you all to know that not only did Kayleigh pass, she got a distinction and we're all very proud of her!
Kayleigh loves these bootleg toys, and dreams of stumbling upon a Speclatron Dethlor in a mixed box of action figures. Speclatron was a range of knock-off Masters of the Universe toys all with the bizarre feature of clear chests filled with floating glitter, with Dethlor being the Skeletor type figure. It’s a holy grail for collectors! Today these figures can fetch serious money amongst collectors! Only recently a loose and broken Mr Rock (remember Mr Spock but by another name) fetched $1000 online and if you are lucky enough to owjn a Speclatron Dethlor.....well the last one of those fetched £800!
Do you own any rare toys that you'd like Kayleigh to look at for you? Like many of us our childhood toys are still in cupboards in our childhood bedrooms or stashed in carboard boxes up in our lofts! What better time than now to start digging back through those old boxes to see what we've had hidden away for years! And maybe, just maybe you can make Kayleighs day with a rare bootleg find of her dreams! So get up those lofts and see whats hidden away.....there could be a small fortune up there!
Oh and finally......May the 4th be with you!
Posted on 4 May 2020