In over 4 years of podcasting by far the most common answer to “which action figure should Kenner have made?” the answer is Grand Moff Tarkin.
We may never know the real reason behind the decision as to Tarkin’s omission from the Kenner line. In the past I’ve heard plausible theories such as Peter Cushing’s refusal to sign off on his likeness, concerns about the popularity of the figure due to his lack of action in the movie and death on the Death Star, lack of time before The Empire Strikes Back‘s wave, and finally to Kenner believing that children would not want to play with an action figure which resembled an old man.
Over at The Star Wars Collectors’ Archive there is evidence to suggest that Kenner did consider releasing Tarkin both in 1977 and when the line was in decline in 1985 with a presentation page and another image in the line extension binder. Research on Rebelscum shows that Lucasfilm Ltd filed a trademark for the Tarkin Action Figure which is fascinating.
However, fans of Tarkin did have other options to collect and putting a full vintage Tarkin focus together can be fun. Here are the items you should check out (I’m disappointed to say that I forgot I owned many of these in my collection).
- Japanese Coke Bottle Tops
Many of the most popular, artistic, eclectic and quality vintage items were released in Japan. The Coca-Cola company launched a range of Star Wars bottle caps in 1978 with bottles of Coke, Sprite and five different flavours of Fanta. Tarkin could be found on 2 different designs which were Vader and Tarkin (pictured) and a Tarkin headshot. Finding both is fairly easy to do but to find them all with different variations (Fanta Apple is very tough) is a challenge.
2. UK Helix Eraser
Helix released an extremely popular range of Star Wars stationery items in the UK in 1977 and most children of the late 70s / early 80s had pencil cases, rules and other items depicting characters from A New Hope in their school bags. One of those characters is Grand Moff Tarkin who can be found on an eraser. Expect to pay a premium for a very good condition example.
3. The Star Wars Fan Club Pages
Children in the USA could receive a set of 12 fan club badges if they joined the Official Star Wars Fan Club. One of these badges was Grand Moff Tarkin. Be careful picking these up today as many fakes came onto the market in the 1990’s.
4. Burger King Glass
In 1977 across the USA, except for Massachusettes who had a ban on glass at the time, Star Wars Coca-Cola glasses were available from Burger King. One of these glasses features Darth Vader, a Stormtrooper and Grand Moff Tarkin. The text on the reverse reads
“A one-time Jedi Knight, the formidable Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader, draws his remarkable evil powers from the dark side of the “Force.” As the enforcer for Grand Moff Tarkin, the power-hungry governor of the outland regions, Vader uses his powers in an effort to crush the Rebellion against the Galactic Empire.”
It is possible that plastic versions of these glasses were made for the Massachusettes outlets but I’ve not seen an example of them other than for the Return of the Jedi line and they are extremely tough to track down.
5. Coca-Cola Tumblers
Coca-cola reigned supreme with Star Wars during the vintage years and there are two different glasses for you to track down. The first features Darth Vader, Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia (1977 release) whereas the second features Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin only (1979 release). The 1977 cup (often marked Koolee on the base) is tricky to find.
6. Wonderbread Trading Cards
Using the same head shot from the presentation slide mentioned above possibly the easiest and cheapest of all of the items is the Wonderbread card which was found in loaves of bread across the USA in 1977.
You should be able to pick one of these up for a couple of pounds on ebay most days of the week.
Collecting the full set of 16 is very easy and they are a great set of items to own. How often do you see a set of trading cards that don’t say Topps?
7. Topps Trading Cards
Using the US numbering system Tarkin can be found on cards 8 and 60 of the Blue Set
149 and 181 of the Yellow Set and 229 of the Green Set. All of these are easy to find in good condition and should be had for a few pounds.
8. Topps Stickers
In the USA Topps included stickers in their packs with Tarkin appearing on two of them. The first can be found with the Blue Set numbered 8, the second one numbered 28 was found with the later Yellow Set.
9. Posters and other Paraphernalia
I’m the first to hold my hands up and say that my knowledge of posters is woeful. There are posters related to the Coca-Cola promotions which feature Grand Moff Tarkin’s image such as this one and one for the Star Wars Theatrical Release but surely there must be more? Even some lobby cards?
Having a focus such as Grand Moff Tarkin is a really interesting and fun thing to do. It wouldn’t cost a lot, or take up much space, whilst also paying homage to one of the greatest actors ever to grace our screens.
Thanks to The Star Wars Collectors’ Archive, Grant Criddle, Rebelscum and many eBay sellers for the images and information.