Introducing The Golden Grail

by Bill Cable
on 2018-04-30, 08:52:19

Hello loyal readers! Are you ready for the most earth-shaking, history-redefining Vintage Star Wars discovery of the last 10 years? Well you better be! Because here it is:

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This is the first ever confirmed example of a U.S. Kenner production ESB45 C-3PO with Removable Limbs. And this is NOT A JOKE! I call it The Golden Grail. Up unitl April 9th, 2018, when this item appeared on eBay, the ESB45 3PO was believed not to exist by everyone. Heck - up until I published this article and shared it on social media, only the seller, the four bidders on this auction, and a tiny handful of confidants I shared this with knew different. And the other three bidders had NO CLUE what they were bidding on.

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So why is this new Kenner MOC figure significant? Well, a bit of history... When I began my C-3PO collecting focus back in 1999, with the goal of picking up 3PO on each different Vintage cardback, the ESB45 was already known not to be common. It was highly sought by debut cardback collectors in particular. No stone was left unturned in the quest to find one. By Star Wars Celebration II in 2002, it was essentially accepted not to exist. That belief was so solid that I was over-the-moon elated to pick up two ESB45 proof cards, as proofs were the only known examples of the Display Arena offer on a 3PO cardback (even though as proofs go, they were pretty common).

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Prior to this arriving on eBay, the only two examples of a U.S. Kenner production ESB45 3PO existed in the form of open cardbacks, which were purchased in Peru and distributed by the Basa company. The cardbacks are straight standard Kenner, and the bubbles were removed by the kids who bought them (I'm friends with one of them). They have a small Basa sticker on the upper-left corner. And nobody know why the only ESB45 3POs ever to turn up turned up in Peru. Complete mystery. All we can do is speculate.

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That this figure did not exist was a given in the hobby. Settled science, so to speak. It was so thoroughly understood not to be that everyone stopped looking for one. Even when stuff like the SW21-back Stormtrooper was discovered, people still wouldn't go so far as to speculate that an ESB45 3PO might also exist. If not one cardback had popped up after 10 years of people searching relentlessly for one, then it must not be out there. They must have all been shipped to Peru for whatever reason. And all the MOCs were lost to children opening and playing with them. Lost to history. I myself moved on to searching (still fruitlessly) for a ROTJ 3PO with Anakin sticker as my ultimate offer grail.

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Now we know definitively that everyone, myself included, was wrong. This rewrites the history books, folks! Everyone out there who thought they had a complete debut cardback run, with Removable Limbs C-3PO on an ESB47 card - those collections are now incomplete. Everyone out there who put together a full run of ESB45 cards will soon know they're missing a key piece. The Basa cardback, heretofore the absolute pinnacle of RL C-3PO collectibles, has been supplanted!

The eBay seller purchased this figure a while back at a Hong Kong vintage toy shop. I asked if he had any others hoping maybe this was a factory overstock find of some sort, and he did not. This is it.

This is my greatest achievement in Vintage collecting. Nineteen years of daily eBay searches have paid off, and paid off in a big way! I am absolutely flabbergasted that this auction went completely under the radar. Nobody posted to Facebook asking, "Has anybody seen this before?" That was my greatest fear. On top of that, I know quite a few 3PO focus collectors, and not one of them must have noticed this. That's just inexplicable! It's a miracle. I was prepared to gut my Vintage MOC collection to pay for this figure, and I ended up winning it for next to nothing. It's as if the Force was with me.

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With this discovery, the hunt for ESB45 MOC 3POs is renewed! Until another pops up, I own the only one in the world. And that is unbelievably awesome.





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