Neil Kleid at catches up with Ira Friedman, a man who has been deeply connected to the saga since its earliest days, most prominently at Topps in New York but also at the official Star Wars Fan Club, Bantha Tracks.

As vice president of licensing and publishing at the Topps Company for almost 30 years, boxes of samples and (of course) hundreds of trading cards have obscured Friedman’s desk, covering his coffee table and the windowsills looking out onto Bridge Street amid dozens of contracts. Visitors to Ira’s office cast their eye on oddball collectibles, curious about the pedigree of each knickknack, doll, statue, and paperweight.

But despite the various brands Friedman has shepherded through the halls of One Whitehall Street, evolving them from contract to card sheet for Topps — the venerated, 75-year-old publisher of sports and entertainment collectibles — a glance around his office makes it clear to visitors that one franchise holds a special place in Friedman’s heart: Star Wars. 

Topps and Lucasfilm have been collaborating on Star Wars trading cards for 40 years, navigating the hyperspace lanes of the collectibles industry like smuggler and Wookiee co-pilot since their first, classic blue-bordered set in 1977.