WOLF REVIEW. 27th September 2020
After one has collected every possible variation will these be the next big thing?
Interesting and factual information may be provided, but our review aims to deliver insight from the perspective of a WOLF Architect.
Is discolouration a variation of the future?
By the early 1990s the Star Wars franchise was nearly dead and Star Wars toys were literally making their way into tips Worldwide. George Lucas then announced a new prequel trilogy and suddenly the force awakened. Original Star Wars toys that were not even 20 years old were called vintage and appreciated in value by the day. Initially a complete set of figures meant having one of every character, but that quickly extended to having variations such as orange/brown snake Yoda’s and Brown/Yellow haired Luke’s for example. A complete set comprised of roughly a hundred figures and was relatively simple to achieve. Those were the days before Google and eBay, and having a full set of figures was quite satisfying. We didn’t give much thought to anything that was not Kenner related so brands like Lili Ledy, Palitoy, Poch, PBP, etc were not essential or even interesting. Certainly no one gave much thought to the small COO markings on the back of most figures’ legs.
How naïve we were to assume that Star Wars collectors would be satisfied with a hundred figures on display. As the internet brought collectors closer together it became apparent that the number of variations out there is vast, particularly for those interested in every different COO stamp.
When it comes to variations, our opinion is that the differences should be visually noticeable at arms length. A difference in stamp at the back of the leg might excite some but for us that’s not worthy of discussion or display. With all vintage figures now in their forties and heading towards being half a century old, the process of aging is often unavoidable and we are witnessing new phenomena that weren’t previously known. In some instances, a new genuine variation is discovered, but in most cases the difference is a result of aging and not an actual factory variation.
Recently we saw an original 1977 Princess Leia figure being sold as a “Rose Limbed” variation because her limbs were literally pink in colour. Pink limbs are quite common and we have even seen a sealed-on card figure with pink limbs. Having known this figure since 1977 we can assure with confidence that Leia never left factory with pink limbs. Quality control did exist and although errors did escape factories, all 1977 Leia’s had white limbs. The pink limbs are a result of natural discoloration and is also commonly found in storm trooper figures made from the same plastics. The pink or purple phenomena is just one of many examples whereby a figure is being labelled as a variation when in fact it has just aged.
As time goes on and the plastics in these figures continue to age, we are going to see more and more differences in colours and possibly even textures. This had us thinking about how collectors might continue to satisfy their appetite for unique or obscure variants. What will serious collectors do when their Lili Ledy and PBP collections are complete? Die-hard fans will seek out test-shots and prototypes, while others will find satisfaction with factory errors. Could discoloured figures be the next big thing?
In October 2020 we wrote about discoloured figures, a curiosity that was and continues to gain in popularity. Their physical differences can be quite striking and not always a result of neglect or physical abuse. Some of these figures may even have tight limbs but because they weren’t sealed away for decades have been allowed to age. We actually quite like them and can imagine them forming a part of the “Complete” collection of the future. Having said that, it’s still important to recognise that most of them are not variations in the true sense of the word. This article seeks to provide some clarity between what is a variation and what is simply a result of old age.
In alphabetical order we have identified the most common “Variations versus Discoloration” situations we know of. Note that we do not claim to be absolute experts or scientists. This information is our opinion only and based on our own research. Please feel free to write into us with further information or new discoveries.
“You’re all infected…stay away!”
21B medical droids tends to have rather dark and slightly greenish limbs when they discolour.
Anakin with the dark or brown top is not a variation. By lifting his arm you can tell that it’s a result of aging. Anakin as a figure is nearing 40 years of age, and we are likely to se more of these figures with dark tops.
Early Ben Kenobi and Jawa figures both seemed to have limbs made out of the same soft type plastics. Their limbs desaturate with age and particularly when exposed to UV light. Some limbs went quite green while others just seemed to desaturate into a dull brown.
You can see here how the cape has shielded some of the leg from discoloration.
Originally most collectors only recognized two main variants being the Taiwan and Hong Kong versions. A third variant was then recognized as the light or grey limbed variant. The lighter limbed versions often come with some mottling or inconsistent blotch marks which suggests a result of aging. Lighter/grey limbed versions look cool and truer to the movie character and this has often made him worth more than the regular versions.
Darker limbs exist in various shades from dark grey to ones that look almost purple. These are definitely a result of aging.
“Brother, those are some old looking pants you’ve got on?”
The light limbed Fett (left) is most likely a result of aging but has become recognised widely as a variation to collect. The dark limbed Fett (right), is definitely a result of aging and presently less desirable. Both are rather cool and you can see the difference in colour by comparing to the torso which is still quite blue.
These three figures have been paint stripped and reveal the extent and varying kinds of discolouration on Boba Fett figures.
C-3PO is meant to be gold but often time the figures are painted in a rather pale shade of Gold. Sometimes its a result of less gold in the paint and sometimes its a result of fading. Very Gold figures are very rare, but even more rare is the silver variation. These did leave the factory silver and were a result of of the gold paint simply running out on the day.
Chewbacca with Green limbs
Chewbacca with green limbs was one of the earliest figures to be labelled as a variant. The early batches that came with the green weapon is considered rare and these figures tend to have a lot of limb discolouration. Some limbs went quite green while others just seemed to desaturate into a dull brown.
“Chewbacca’s limbs either go green (Left most figure), or desaturate and darken (right most figure)”
Chewbacca with Metallic pouch
Also known as Chewbacca with “Iridescent pouch”, this figure is often considered as rare and therefore more valuable than the standard figure. The metallic finish is noticeable and rather attractive but, in our view, this is not a variation. The metallic finish comes off quite easily with a gentle clean. Therefore, be very careful when cleaning this figure.
Dengar was originally only known in purple paint, but over the years we’ve come to see ones with various shades of grey and green. All colours apart from purple is a result of age in our opinion. Interestingly the grey version is more accurate to the real movie character so collectors seek this one out. Green paint is considered rarer and often occurs only on the front chest plate. Even more rare is when the green extends to all plates.
“Is this the missing link? This figure where he still has one purple leg is possibly evidence to the purple changing to grey”
FX7 has been seen and sold as a rare gold variant, however this is a result of aging and not a factory variant.
Aging is evidenced here with half his head silver while the other half is yellowing to look like gold.
The green hammerhead is unique but definitely a result of age and discoloration. We’ve seen ones where half his body is green, with the other half looking normal.
Unsatisfied with Captain Solo already having a significant variation with head sizes, collectors have sought to label some with pale hands or faces as variants. Certainly, the factory may have added less colour into their paints on that day, but we believe in most cases the hands and faces have simply faded.
This figure suggests fading with his right hand being noticeably lighter than his left hand.
Han Solo- Bespin
This figure has been seen with difference in leg colours. The lighter coloured legs have occasionally been labelled as “Golden legs”. We don’t believe this to be a true variation but rather a result of exposure to UV light.
The dark legs shown on the left most figure is the Lili Ledy figure, who also has a rather different face mold.
The figure on the right demonstrated a transition from original colour to golden on his left leg.
Leia- with metallic hair
Also known as “Iridescent hair”, this figure is often considered rare and therefore more valuable than a standard figure. The metallic finish is noticeable and rather attractive but, in our view, this is not a variation. The metallic finish comes off quite easily with a gentle clean. Therefore, be very careful when cleaning this figure.
Leia Hoth- with dark face
Leia Hoth has increasingly been seen with a darker face but this is not a factory variant. It is a result of natural aging and some can be considerably dark.
In this figure on the right with dark face, you can see that the arms and legs are also starting to darken.
As with the Ben Kenobi the early Jawa’s tend to discolour. But interestingly the discolouration seems to always be in spots and uneven. Collectors seem to have identified this as being unique to the vinyl caped Jawa’s and in particular the Australian Toltoys version that had a darker cape. In fact some will even argue that if a Toltoys vinyl caped Jawa does not have a mottled body, it either means that the original figure or cape was swapped out.
Logray has been seen with many different colours when it comes to his stripes. The most striking colour is purple but this is almost always together with the a more yellowed torso which suggests clearly that it’s a result of aging.
Discoloured Logray next to well preserved Logray
Discolouration can vary from one body part to another as can be seen from the torso in this figure to his right leg, different again to the left leg.
Sun Tanning is commonly seen on Logray and Chief Chirpa figures that have been exposed to UV while still wearing their hoods.
Luke Jedi knight
Luke Jedi knight is most commonly seen in his correct to movie grey robes but he does exist with lighter shades of brown. Some have suggested that the lighter browns are a result of fading with age but the consistency of colour in the ones we’ve seen suggest that it was always a different colour to begin with. Probably the most rare and unique is the orange coloured robe.
Jedi don’t wear orange robes?
Lighter boots and head scarf make this figure seem quite different but it’s purely a result of exposure to sunlight.
Whether he has darker limbs or greenish boots it’s always a result of aging and not a factory variation.
Max Rebo is strange enough as an elephant like alien wearing a diaper, but he’s even more weird without his blue colouring. This figure is commonly found with lighter limbs as true-blue figures are becoming increasingly rare. Sometimes the fading only occurs on his upper body because most of his life was probably spent sitting inside his piano.
The one in the middle is actually a Lili Ledy figure and those seem to darken more in the torso.
The amount of discolouration is often obvious when you lift his arms of move his head.
When it comes to Ree Yees it seems to be all about his boots. Initially he was collected as the Hong Kong and Taiwan variants with the Taiwan version being slightly rarer. This version was identified as having darker boots although his body was also a little deeper in tone. More recently it’s been discovered that the Taiwan figures also have greenish boots. The greener the more valuable and sought after. We don’t think this could be a factory variant but also don’t recall seeing any like that back in the early days.
Don’t let them fool you. Whether with yellowed torsos or pink limbs they are not variations.
So this is not exactly a character, but the Brown Taun Taun is starting to appear globally and we think its a good idea to make clear that it’s not a variation but a result of discoloration, though he does look kind of cool.
Since the early days the Ugnaught has been identified has having either a blue or violet apron. However, we have always been a little suspicious about this because we’ve seen aprons with both colours, even back in the early days. Could it be that the blue ones simply discolour into the violet ones?
The edges of this apron show a deeper tone.
Values in discoloured figures vary from figure to figure. A rare last 17 figure is probably devalued with discoloration whereas a more common figure could be considered curious and unique. Good examples of green or grey Dangar figures fetch higher prices than non-discoloured figures. The green limbed Chewbacca and Hammerheads are also known to be worth more than their non-faded cousins.
It’s a relatively small and controversial market which makes the sale of such figures rather hit and miss. In most cases a discoloured figure is worth less, especially if the figure is well worn from years of play.
With figures aging in the large numbers it’s easy to label them as variations, but it is important to recognise the difference between a factory variation and differences due to natural aging.
The information in this review is intended for informational or educational purposes to provide readers an understanding of how something may be seen from a certain design perspective. In this case it is from the view point of WOLF DESIGNS. As design is subjective this review should only be considered as an independent opinion. Information further to being of an opinion is provided to the best of our knowledge based on our own research at the time of doing the review. We cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies or inconsistencies and reserve the right to change or update any content as appropriate.
The final responsibility of the design resides with the original manufacturer.