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From dolls to helmets, rare Star Wars memorabilia on sale
[NEW YORK] A Luke Skywalker doll for US$18,000, a Darth Vader helmet or a cuddly Yoda for US$100: Star Wars fans will dig deep to splash their cash on some of the rarest merchandise on the planet.
More than 600 items will go on sale in an online auction organised by Sotheby's and eBay on December 11 - one week before the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh movie in arguably the world's biggest film franchise.
The space epics have grossed billions of dollars at the box office worldwide since the first film came out in 1977 and spawned a pop culture phenomenon, drawing legions of hardcore fans.
All of the items in the auction come from the private collection of Japanese designer and creative entrepreneur Nigo, who started collecting toys and figures decades ago at just six years old.
Bids are expected across the globe when the three-hour auction goes live at 10.00am, says James Gallo, Sotheby's consultant and owner of store Toy And Comics Heaven. "It's a really large assortment of stuff. It's an impressive auction both in rarity and scope of items," he told AFP.
Sotheby's, set up in 18th century London and best known for selling fine art masterpieces, called in Gallo to value the collection, which he spent a week and a half sorting through.
From the United States, to Russia, China and Saudi Arabia, "Star Wars" has a fan base spanning generations. The films' psychology has even found its way onto university syllabuses.
"It's by far the strongest franchise," agreed Mr Gallo. "It's been around longer than most, it's merchandised more than most... There isn't much that can compare."
A Luke Skywalker doll, which would have been sold in 1978 as a children's toy, goes on sale at the auction with an estimated value of US$12,000 to US$18,000.
The figurine, with a rare two-piece telescoping lightsaber, was quickly withdrawn from the market "due to the propensity for the lightsaber to snap off," Sotheby's said.
Never removed from the packaging, itself in pristine condition, it is one of only 20 confirmed examples of the doll, the auction house said.
"The very high end of the market is like that," Mr Gallo explained.
"When you're talking about something that there's 20 or 30 known in the world and there's however many millions of 'Star Wars' fans, when you put it in that perspective, it's quite rare." Neither is there any chance that someone paying that kind of money is going to pop the doll out and play with it.
"That would not be a good idea," said Mr Gallo, unamused. Instead it is much more likely to go on display.
"It's up to each individual how they enjoy the items they have. It's just like anything else, whether it be fine art or sports collectibles - it's kind of all the same thing," he said.
The most expensive items are two complete sets of Power Of The Force coins, valued at US$25,000-35,000 and which were available only by special request from the manufacturer Kenner.
Highlights go on display Friday in a private exhibition at The Conde Nast Gallery at One World Trade Centre in New York.
Mr Gallo says he is tempted to bid on a couple of items himself, but that his favourite is a 1.06m hairy Chewbacca from Canada valued at US$3,000 to US$5,000.
"It's a really neat item," said the Pennsylvania-based aficionado. "It's a rare item to find."