Original Tie Fighter Photo

Die-Cast Metal Star Wars Ships

As most retro toy collectors know, 1977 was a pretty scarce year for Star Wars Toys. It wasn’t until the year following the film’s release that toy production began ramping up. Along with the introduction of the saga’s 3 3/4″ action figure line and accompanying vehicles, Kenner also released four Die-cast vehicles as well: the X-Wing Fighter, the TIE Fighter, Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter, and the Landspeeder.

(Photo from RonsRescuedTreasures.com)

Each ship came in a plastic bubble attached to a card, not unlike Kenner’s action figures. None of the ships (especially when compared to the later releases) are to scale. Each of the toys had (unintentionally) removable parts, many of which have gone missing over the years. It’s not uncommon to find loose X-Wing and TIE Fighters missing their cockpits. Landspeeders came apart in layers. First the windshields came off, followed by Luke and C-3P0, followed by the speeder’s seats and eventually the rear middle jet engine.

(Photo from the Star Wars Collectors Archive)

Based on the initial success of the line in 1978, four additional die-cast metal ships were released in 1979: The Millennium Falcon, the Y-Wing Fighter, the Imperial Cruiser, and the TIE Bomber. Again, none of these vehicles were to any scale (the Imperial Cruiser is roughly the same length as Luke’s Landspeeder), but they were all pretty cool to own nonetheless. Each of these four ships suffered from the same problem as the previous year’s toys; while the die-cast metal ship hulls proved to be virtually indestructible, the tiny added-on bits of plastic tended to disappear relatively quickly. Show me a Falcon with its radar dish still attached or Imperial Cruiser that still has its detachable Blockade Runner and I’ll show you a kid that didn’t play with his toys very often.

Along with the Empire, Kenner struck back with three more releases in the line: the Twin Pod Cloud Car, the Slave I, and the Snowspeeder. The Twin Pod Cloud Car is probably the easiest to find complete in the wild as it only has one moving part (the landing gear) which is actually pretty difficult to dislodge from the ship itself.

As a kid, these ships were just the right size to slip into a backpack and take to school or stick into a back pocket on the way over to a friend’s house. I vividly remember riding my bike with one hand while holding the die-cast X-Wing out in front of me with the other hand, pretending it was flying. (My generation’s version of “texting while driving,” perhaps.)

Loose die-cast ships missing parts can often be picked up for $5-$10, while complete ships can run you upwards of $20-$50, depending on the ship. All bets are off for carded ships, which often go for hundreds of dollars.

Dead Klytus Action Figure

I have run across a lot of weird action figures throughout the years, but this is one of the weirdest.

Meet Klytus (on the right), Ming the Merciless’ metal-faced right hand man in the 1980 classic, Flash Gordon. Klytus is a loyal servant who helps Ming make the lives of everyone around him miserable. Toward the end of the movie in a battle against Prince Barin and Flash Gordon, Klytus is pushed on to a platform full of spikes where he is impaled and dies. When he dies, his eyes bug out and his tongue hangs out. Like this:

This is the “Dead Klytus” action figure from the recent line of Flash Gordon figures.

I’ve bought a lot of dumb figures in my life. Next to my desk I have a tiny bobble head Burger King standing next to a knock-off Hulk Hogan thumb wrestler leaning up against a generic Minotaur with a giant handlebar mustache. Let he who does not own an Ugnaught cast the first stone, right? I can’t imagine ever, ever needing a “Dead Klytus” action figure.

Which is exactly why I bought it. ALL HAIL MING!

Randy Rhodes: 30 Years Gone

Earlier this week (March 19th) marked the 30th anniversary of Randy Rhodes’ death.

At the age of 16, Randy Rhodes formed the band Quiet Riot with his friend, Kelly Garni. Four years later in 1979, Ozzy Osbourne (having recently split from Black Sabbath) began auditioning guitar players for his new solo band. According to legend, Osbourne offered Rhodes the job after hearing him tune his guitar and play a few warm-up practice riffs. Ozzy and Randy recorded on two studio albums together, Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman. Rhodes’ most famous riff was probably the lick from Crazy Train, although it was his intricate work on songs like Dee, Goodbye to Romance, and Mr. Crowley that really set him apart from his contemporaries.

In 1982 while on tour, Randy got into a small plane piloted by the touring bus driver (Andrew Aycock), along with the band’s hairdresser and seamstress, Rachel Youngblood. While buzzing the band’s tour bus, Aycock accidentally clipped the bus, hurling the plane into a tree and causing it to explode. Both the pilot and the passengers, including Rhodes, were killed instantly.

Randy Rhodes’ stylish mix of classical guitar mixed with hard rock changed the face of rock music forever and influenced a generation (now two) of budding guitarists. Randy Rhodes died at the age of 25, long before the world had a chance to experiences his full potential.


Typewriter Toys

A walk through any toy store will reveal dozens of toy computers, laptops, cell phones and even tables. Back in the day though, we had toy typewriters.


Two things struck me when I ran across this toy in a local antique mall last weekend: the fact that it’s a typewriter, and the fact that it’s made of metal and covered with sharp edges. The thought of selling a children’s toy today made out of metal and covered with sharp edges seems foreign to us, but back in the day it was actually pretty normal.

I thought about picking this up before I saw the price tag, at which point I realized I could probably buy at least 50 used typewriters for the same amount of money.