Published: March 29, 2022
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Hake’s Auction
YORK, PENN. – On March 16, Hake’s set a new world auction record with the sale of a Kenner Star Wars Boba Fett rocket-firing prototype action figure, a “unicorn” collectible described as Version 2 J-slot prototype, made in 1979. Attracting 27 bids before closing at $204,435, it was won by an online bidder in California. Record-setting prices in the online auction of pop culture rarities were myriad, and the Boba Fett “J-slot” rocket-firing prototype action figure was just the beginning. Conceived by Kenner in 1979, it was designed with a J-shape triggering mechanism on its back for firing off rockets. As sometimes happens, the toy never made it to the production stage due to safety concerns – ensuring its rarity.
“Bidding on the figure remained static at just under $100,000 until right before the initial 20-minute clock ran out at 9 pm. At that point, two bidders started going back and forth with their bids, waiting each time until the renewed clock had almost run out of time,” said Alex Winter, president of Hake’s Auctions. “The competition was still going strong two-and-a-half hours later. I think each of the bidders might have been hoping the other would fall asleep. But they went at it strategically, and we were more than happy to wait as long as it took to get a record-setting result like that.”
The previous auction record for a Star Wars prototype action figure was set in 2019 with Hake’s $185,850 sale of a Boba Fett prototype graded AFA 85+ near mint. The grading is a significant detail to note, since the current example sold was in AFA 50 very good condition but still topped the previous record by more than $18,500.
Winter commented, “This auction achieved $3.2 million and was our third straight Premier auction to break the existing house record. The sale was led by the most coveted Star Wars figure of them all, a Boba Fett rocket-firing prototype. The fact that [the Boba Fett rocket-firing prototype] sold for so much more than the previously offered prototype, whose condition was graded much higher, shows the current strength of the vintage Star Wars toy market and just how fast it has risen over the last few years.”
Hake’s also set a record with the sale of a Cox/FDR campaign button at $185,850, a political button of a type that has not been seen in the open marketplace for 40 years. This price far exceeded the $70,092 previous auction record for a pinback of any type, which was set by Hake’s with the sale of a Babe Ruth 1915 American League Champions button in June 2021.
“There were pieces in this auction that may never appear for public sale again in some bidders’ lifetimes,” said Winter. “They’re items that are either unique in the dictionary sense of the word or so rare that they would likely become the prized jewel of a collection and remain there. A perfect example was the auction opener, a political button of a type that has not been seen in the open marketplace for 40 years.”
At just 1¼ inches, a Harding and Coolidge jugate button matching the Cox and Roosevelt example depicting 1920s other major presidential and vice-presidential candidates, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge also brought a big price – $51,920 against a $5/10,000 estimate. Ex-Joe Brown collection, Hake’s was unable to find a like example offered in commerce after searching through nearly 20 years of past auction records.
Star Wars collectibles dominated the top ranks in the sale’s second day. There were 300 lots of Star Wars items in the sale, and together they grossed $1.2 million – the highest amount ever achieved by a Star Wars section in any of Hake’s sales. Several individual world auction records were set.
In addition to the Boba Fett prototype, another rare entry setting a record was a Canadian-issue Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back three-pack containing 3¾-inch action figures of Stormtrooper (Hoth Battle Gear/Snowtrooper), AT-AT Driver and Cloud Car Pilot from Kenner’s 1981 series. AFA-graded 75 QY EX+/NM (archival case), it leapt from its high $20,000 estimate to sell for $42,834. “Even the most advanced collections don’t have this piece,” Winter noted.
Original comic art included several pieces of investment-grade art secured by Hake’s. The Incredible Hulk was the central figure in an original pen and ink cover art for Incredible Hulk #283 comic book, published by Marvel in May 1983. The talent behind this action-packed image was the duo of Ed Hannigan (art) and Al Milgrom (inks). Other Avengers shown in the scene included Wasp, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau) and She-Hulk. With penciled notations and a Marvel copyright ink stamp on verso, this ink board came to auction with a $10/20,000 estimate, but did better, finishing at $33,315.
More than tripling its high estimate at $18,500 was Hasbro’s 1982 “A Real American Hero,” an AFA-graded 80 NM (archival case) Series 2/20 back blister card containing a 3¾-inch-tall action figure of Commando Snake Eyes. A straight-arm version of the same figure, AFA-graded 85 NM+ (archival case) in a Series 1/9 back blister card, reached the midpoint of its estimate range at $15,575.
Of the many artists represented in the vintage music posters section, Johnny Cash claimed top honors. A rare and colorful poster promoting a 1960 Toronto concert featuring Cash and the Tennessee Two, with Bill Munroe (sic.) and the Blue Grass Boys as the opening act, peaked at $11,160 against a $2/5,000 estimate.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For information, www.hakes.com, 866-404-9800 (toll-free) or 717-434-1600.
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