Internal Kenner First Shot Prototype w Mushroom Tip DT Saber
This is one of the earliest, and rarest 4" prototype
Darth Vader figures to ever surface. Originally found in 1994, along with an Obi-Wan companion piece, at the time this was one of only two known First Shot Darth Vader prototypes to exist. It has been featured in numerous magazines and various sites across the internet. This is also the very figure which was used in early Kenner photography, and is featured in several catalouges and store displays.
Needless to say, this is one of the most high profile early Star Wars pieces to ever hit the market. It was the focus of a well popularized auction in Toy Shop in 1998 and has been in private collections since.
The most remarkable feature on this figure is the
prototype Mushroom-Tip DoubleTelescoping Lightsaber. This was a very, very early feature found on prototype DT sabers, which served as an aid to help extend, or grasp the inner, telescoping section of the saber itself. These are highly fragile, and it isn't hard to see why this feature was dropped from further development. To date, there is only one M.T. Darth Vader's known to exist, with possibly a second example.
The figure itself is a true First Shot, which was hand assembled, painted and altered by Kenner. First shots were usually built in-house from low yield molds, and would be created for a variety of reasons. This Vader and the Obi Wan were obviously created for photography or displays, as each figure was hand painted and detailed. As with any First Shot, it lacks any markings, or copyright information. This example has several features which are not found on production figures.
The cape is hand cut for the figure and is made from a different type of plastic found on production figures. It is notable in this case to mention that the
One of the original Kenner display photographs
(click to enlarge)
The original Toy Shop article featuring these figures
(click to enlarge)
This is a close up pic comparison showing a production figure vs. a first shot (click to enlarge)
A lot of non-collectors, and other people might ask "well, I can see what this is, but why is this so special to you ? Why does anyone care ?" - All collectors have a truly special piece, or something they consider a "grail" type item. This represents both for me.
I consider this to be truly special in regards to the history of the piece. This is one of the earliest known pre-production Darth Vader figures known to exist, and was used in ALL the early Kenner photography to promote the line. So when you are looking at a SW-era catalouge or display, and you see a Darth Vader figure, this is the very same figure. It's analogous to seeing a famous poster or store display you remember, and having the chance to actually own the very figure that inspired you to buy the toy. It is nothing more or less than the embodiment of my collecting career, and passion for Darth Vader.
This would also certainly qualify as a "grail" item for any collector. In terms of rarity, on a scale of 1-10, this would be a 15. 10 is usually reserved for a one of a kind item, and this piece wasn't even known to exist, or have survived over the years, so the initial discovery in the early 90's was shocking to say the least. In terms of my personal collecting "grails", I wanted to put together a set of all the known PROTOTYPE Double Telescoping lightsabers, and this was the last one I needed to complete the run. Considering there are less than 20-30 known production examples, finding a single prototype can be quite a challenge ... so you can do the math. Needless to say, it took a long time (15+ years) and a fair amount of patience. You can see the complete run on the "Gallery" page