In the year 1977, the toy company Kenner had a problem. They had signed on to produce toys for a science fiction movie that had come out that year featuring a cast of mostly unknowns with a few big name British actors thrown in to try and bring the movie some credibility. While they had planned to make some toys based on the movie, what they hadn’t expected was that particular movie, known as Star Wars, to become the biggest pop cultural phenomenon in the world almost overnight. What was supposed to be a relatively small project suddenly became the company’s number one priority, and it was already too late.
In the toy business, no time of the year is more important than Christmas. No matter what, Kenner had to have Star Wars ready for Christmas time, given that it would undoubtedly be the most in-demand property of the year and the explosion in popularity that the movie had received. The only problem is that it takes about a year to get a line of action figures from conception, through development, through testing all the way to store shelves. Even if everybody worked around the clock, there was no way that Kenner would have Star Wars action figures on the shelf in time for Christmas.
While it may have seemed like Kenner was about to miss out on one of the biggest potential days in toy sales history, they figured out a way to try and work around the seemingly impossible obstacle of not having enough time. Enter the Star Wars Early Bird Certificate Package. Instead of children receiving toys (since there were no toys for them to get at the time), children would wake up Christmas morning to find what amounted to an empty box under the tree. The box contained a cardboard display featuring some of the most famous Star Wars characters, as well as a few stickers and a Star Wars membership club card. Most importantly, there was a certificate kids could fill out and put in the mail in order to receive the “Early Bird” set of four action figures when it was finally ready. The action figures in the set consisted of Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, and R2-D2.
Today, only a few of the Early Bird Certificate Packages are left. Most of them were discarded after the actual toys finally arrived in the mail months later. Others simply deteriorated over time as a piece of cardboard, and some stickers aren’t something that’s meant to survive decades. Still, interest in the Early Bird Certificate Package has grown since it is technically the very first piece of Star Wars toy merchandise ever created. Those Star Wars fans who kept their Early Bird Certificate Package in good condition now have a piece of memorabilia that is more in demand than the toys it was promising.
Of course, almost every Early Bird Certificate Package you might find today is incomplete. Virtually every single copy of this unique item is missing the most important part: the certificate. While some people saved the Early Bird Certificate Package, pretty much nobody saved the certificate. That was mailed off to get the toys that the package was promising, meaning that while this has become an exciting collector’s item over the years, it is pretty much never in its complete form.
But for those who did send off the certificate to get the toys, if you kept that original line of toys, those are still pretty valuable today as well.