Whoa, Boba Fett! The 'Holy Grail' of 'Star Wars' memorabilia is up for auction

Whoa, Boba Fett! The 'Holy Grail' of 'Star Wars' memorabilia is up for auction

For Star Wars fans, it might seem inconceivable and somewhat ironic to see Boba Fett encased in glass, frozen in a carbonite-like prison that's similar to the one he stuck Han Solo in.

It's equally far-fetched that a piece of 3.75-inch plastic could very well sell for more than $250,000 in two weeks.

"Many people would describe this as the Holy Grail of 'Star Wars' toys," says Kelly McClain of Hake's Auctions in York, Pennsylvania.

The action figure McClain is referencing is the 1979 Boba Fett J-slot rocket firing prototype – a legendary find for "Star Wars" fans and collectors alike.

What makes this figure so valuable?

The 3.75'' Boba Fett J-slot rocket-firing prototype is up for sale at Hake's Auctions in York. Hake's consignment manager Kelly McClain describes the figurine as the
The 3.75'' Boba Fett J-slot rocket-firing prototype is up for sale at Hake's Auctions in York. Hake's consignment manager Kelly McClain describes the figurine as the

With fewer than than 30 figurines in existence, Boba Fett is already a rare item. However, this bounty hunter is very much in a league of his own, having remained an integral part of "Star Wars" folklore, prompting theories and fandom over the last 40 years.

The rocket-firing Boba Fett figurine was the final portion of a prototype, developed by the Cincinnati-based Kenner toys, the lone developer of "Star Wars" action figures at the time.

This particular one – and many Gen Xers are well aware of its existence – was offered in part of a rebate promotion.

On the back of Kenner's "Star Wars" merchandise was a proof-of-purchase form consumers could mail back and receive the rocket-firing figurine.

At the time, "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" had not been released, and Boba Fett's origin was still very much a mystery for fans.

Who is Boba Fett?

Consumers who sent in their proof-of-purchase rebate would receive a Boba Fett figurine with this insert from Cincinnatti-based Kenner toys explaining the character's backstory. In 1979, Kenner pulled the Boba Fett  J-slot rocket firing backpack prototype due to a potential chocking hazard. The action figure was replaced with a Boba Fett and solid, non-mechanical backpack. The J-slot prototype is up for auction at Hake's in York; the toy is expected to sell for close to $250,000.

A leaflet teasing Boba Fett as a "fearsome, intergalactic bounty hunter" and acknowledging his first appearance as the protagonist in the 1978 made-for-TV movie "A Wookie Holiday" (a lesser-known film in Star Wars canon, and rightly so) was the point of reference for the character.

But before the toy shipped, the rocket-firing backpack was deemed a choking hazard and dangerous for children. So, the Mandalorian and his spring-loaded backpack never made it to the shelves. (Boba Fett figures were still made, but the rocket backpack was solid and without any firing mechanism.)

And with the continuation of the "Star Wars" saga on the big screen and launch of spin-off franchises such as the "the Mandalorian" on streaming service Disney+, the interest in collector items has been reignited.

"Ten years ago, you could've bought this for $25,000," says McClain. "There was a moment before the new movies came out ... where people thought the market was dead."

With the release of the prequels in 1999, interest in "Star Wars" began to ramp up. It has only been recently that the infamous Boba Fett figurine has picked up steam.

Previous sales of similar figures

In 2017, Hake's sold a Boba Fett L-slot rocket-firing backpack prototype for around $86,000, and last July, another L-slot figurine was sold for $112,926. Both were records for "Star Wars" figurines at the auction house.

The L-slot backpack was the predecessor to the J-slot prototype. After the prototype was discontinued, Kenner allowed employees to keep the action figures, McClain says.

The figure for auction has had three owners: Kenner employee John R. Howison, then Tom Tumbusch of Tomart Publications and lastly well-known Star Wars collector Brian Rachfal.

Currently, the J-slot Bobba Fett figurine is already breaking records with a bid of more than $120,000. McClain expects the action figure could break Hake's all-time record of $569,273.61, which is held by Detective Comics #27 – the first appearance of Batman.

"We've seen this before (in) comics and cards, something exists and there are collectors and then one price hits and then people pay attention," Hake's president Alex Winter says.

Bidding for the Boba Fett prototype closes on Nov. 7. The figurine is item 1815 and part of Hake's Auctions #228, which features more than 300 "Star Wars" toys and memorabilia.

This article originally appeared on York Daily Record: 'Star Wars': Boba Fett action figure set for record-breaking sale