The Golden Grail CONSPIRACY!

by Bill Cable
on 2018-05-01, 07:07:29

One of the great long-time mysteries of Vintage collecting is "Why are there no examples of ESB45 RL C-3POs?" It was the debut cardback for Removable Limbs 3PO, as it was for R2-D2 with Sensorscope. The R2s are plentiful. As are Luke Hoth, AT-AT Commander, Cloud Car Pilot, and Black Bespin Guard. Only 3PO of the six that debuted on ESB45s was missing. Nobody knew why. The speculation was that there must have been some problem with the vac-metalizing of the 3PO that delayed his production. Image

That was the case until somebody (yours truly) noticed that the Peruvian Basa ESB45 C-3PO cardback looked like it was just a Kenner cardback with a little Basa sticker. This was from this tiny, blurry photo posted on the Star Wars Collectors Archive. Yeah, I'm still impressed with myself on that one. The cardback owner, Luis Gálvez, confirmed my suspicions. So then the new mystery became "Why have the ONLY examples of ESB45 RL C-3POs shown up in PERU??" That question is absolutely perplexing.

The discovery of The Golden Grail adds some new key evidence to assist with our speculation. The most interesting piece is that GIANT BLACK X on the bubble. I envision something like this:

  • The ESB45 C-3PO passes all preproduction checks, and a run of figures is produced for sign-off.
  • A few cases are shipped from the factory in Hong Kong to Kenner in Cincinnati for inspection.
  • Kenner discovers some critical flaw! (perhaps it's that the backpack isn't in a clear baggie, as required by some safety regulation)
  • Kenner picks up the phone and calls the factory. "Halt production of the ESB45 C-3PO immediately! And pull all the figures that have been produced so they can be recarded with the required clear baggie!"
  • Factory workers in Hong Kong mark the offending cards with a large black X on the bubble to ensure none are distributed accidentally.
  • Some random factory worker smuggles out a single example of an ESB45 3PO, puts it in a drawer, and forgets about it.
  • The cards are all scuttled, and the figures are re-carded onto ESB47 backs due to the delay.
  • Later, Kenner receives a call from Basa. "People are going nuts about Star Wars here in Peru. We need some toys to sell!" Kenner grabs some random cases out of their warehouse and ships them down to Basa. Included is the case they received of ESB45 3POs.
  • Many years later, one of the kids of that Hong Kong factory worker finds the ESB45 3PO in the drawer, and sells it to his local vintage toy shop. There it's found by a collector who thinks he can flip it for a few bucks, so he buys it and throws it up on eBay.

This is all rampant speculation, of course. But it does neatly tie up both mysteries. I reached out to one of my Vintage Kenner expert friends to ask if he'd heard of a factory ever marking packaging on items that were flagged to be pulled, and he hadn't. He said production would never get that far because of all the preproduction checks. That might be entirely accurate. I'm thinking these would have been pulled when the sign-off samples were rejected, after production had begun. But I'm far less knowledgeable than he, so I'm probably completely in the wrong.

So despite the new critical evidence provided by The Golden Grail, we're not going to unravel this mystery conclusively any time today. We may never know what nefarious forces were at play, denying C-3PO's proper release on his debut cardback. But we do know now that those forces ultimately failed, and at least one made it out of the factory!! is not affiliated with Lucasfilm Ltd. or any of its licensees... damn them to hell. Can't they see a golden opportunity when they see it? Buy us, you fools! You already own our souls and all our money... buy US!!! This site uses Google Analytics. It does not collect or share any additional user data.
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