My tiny weird Star Wars collection…


By Shawn Robare

Nostalgia is such a weird beast that pulls me in some very strange directions. When it comes to collecting and impulse buys I find that I am consistently picking up some very unconventional items like being drawn to collecting 80s stickers and sticker-collecting ephemera including hobby magazines and old photo albums that had been used to house vintage collections.  Then a few years later I was building a rather large collection of old “mom magazines” (stuff like Working Woman, Woman’s Day and McCalls) because I felt a strong urge to find pictures of old household products in advertisements and stuff.  And let me just say that I have found some pretty amazing advertisements in those magazines like this badass Return of the Jedi jungle gym play set!

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Lately my attention has been focused on old school supplies (vintage Pentel mechanical pencils, Trapper Keepers, and old school folders.)   At the end of the day what I’m really seeking is that gut-punch feeling I get when I see something that very strongly reminds me of my childhood.  Sure, vintage toys and releases of old cartoons and sitcoms on DVD are cool, but the smell of a specific kind of Trend scratch and sniff sticker or the sound the Velcro makes on a Trapper Keeper flap is so vivid and clear that it’s like stepping back in time.

So when I stumbled across a gentleman that was selling mint, in-package vintage Star Wars Return of the Jedi Oral-B toothbrushes and perfectly stored empty boxes of Star Wars Pepperidge Farms cookies I didn’t hesitate and immediately plunked down $30 to reclaim a few tiny pieces of my childhood that really should not exist anymore.  Before I forget, everyone hunting for vintage toys should totally check out @FarToys_Vintage for some great stuff!

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I’m pretty sure I’ve brought this up in the past, but it still dumbfounds and amazes me that some of this stuff is still bouncing around in people’s pop culture and ephemera collections.  I mean these two Star Wars Return of the Jedi cookie boxes are the definition of trash.  I mean thousands if not hundreds of thousands of these boxes were purchased by parents around the country (even world maybe?), the cookies were eaten, and then the boxes were unceremoniously thrown in the garbage.  Who in the hell had the presence of mind to think, “Hey, I should hold onto these because 30 years from now there will be a dude who will give me $20 for these two cookie boxes.”

Granted, I know that there is/was a craze for collecting anything Star Wars related and that makes the fact that these were carefully flattened and shelved for three decades a little easier to understand.  I mean, hell, I was so into the Tim Burton Batman flick that I distinctly remember filling a short comic book box with every scrap of Batman-related anything that I could get my hands on, up to and including a full sealed box of Batman cereal (the one shrink-wrapped with the creepy Batman coin bank.)  But even though I was a rabid collector that box only stayed in my collection for a few years before it eventually ended up in the trash.

batman-cerealSimilarly, who was buying up Oral-B Star Wars toothbrushes back in 1983 and storing them in their original packaging for posterity?  Now I don’t want to come across as mocking, because as this article points out I not only bought these 30 years later, but and very, very happy that they still exist.  I just can’t help wondering how I can even be in a position to buy these things.

Anyway, on to these miracle treasures that I’ve recently been able to reconnect with.  The first item that I stumbled across was the Oral-B toothbrush.  I can so distinctly remember the day my mom bought me one of these back in 1983.  I’d already seen the movie a couple of times in the theater and I was still practically begging her to take me back to see it again.  It was a rainy overcast day in central FL and I remember driving down a back road to a local Drug Emporium in my mom’s copper-colored Mazda 626.  Though I have no proof of this I would swear that I was wearing my awesome blue Empire Strikes Back Darth Vader iron-on T-shirt as I pretty much had Star Wars on the brain 24/7 that year.

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I remember walking into the store with my mom, feeling how weirdly slick the low-pile carpeting felt underneath my Buster Browns, and then making a b-line to an aisle that had a bunch of candy and toys.  As my mom went in the back to fill a prescription I was making my way up and down the aisles scanning the shelves for anything of interest when I stopped dead in my tracks in the toothpaste section. There on a set of pegs were a bunch of colorful slim boxes with a very family logo and bunch of characters that I practically thought were my real life friends (and enemies.)  Holy crap, there were Star Wars toothbrushes and I had to have one.  I hated brushing my teeth (what kid doesn’t?) and had recently gotten into the practice of counting to counting to 60 out loud in mushy toothpaste mouth to know exactly when I could stop scrubbing.  Immediately my mind started compiling all the reasons why a Luke Skywalker toothbrush would solve all of my (and my parent’s) frustration with at bedtime as I would now love brushing my teeth.

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I’m not sure exactly how eloquent I made the argument, but that day I went home with an awesome shiny red brush with my hero, Luke Skywalker, painted on the handle.  As a very predictable postscript to this story the toothbrush did absolutely nothing to enliven my brushing experience and I’m sure I was just as cranky every night at 9:00pm as I ever was.  Either way, that day in the Drug Emporium was burnt into my brain and when I saw a mint in box toothbrush pop up in my instagram feed I absolutely had to have it.  Now, the only question that remains, and it’s a question that’s subconsciously plagued me since that fateful day, why did the designer of this series choose red as the color of the packaging and brush?  Why wasn’t it green like his lightsaber in that third movie?  There was also a Darth Vader brush in the set.  Why wasn’t that one red?

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The whole ad campaign for these was pretty awesome considering they were just cheap toothbrushes.  There were posters produced, as well as activity books and even an official plaque-fighting club that you could join!

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Moving on to the second nostalgia gut punch.  About a week after I picked up the toothbrush from Faraway Toys on instagram, he blew me away again by offering up a set of two Pepperidge Farms Star Wars Return of the Jedi cookie boxes.  Holy hell did I ever eat my weight in these as a kid.  If memory serves they weren’t even that good, but anything edible and shaped like Chewbacca, Admiral Ackbar, and Luke Skywalker was a favorite.  These came in three varieties, Peanut Butter, Vanilla, and Chocolate (the latter being offered exclusively in the “dark side” villain character shapes.)  Though I remember the dry, crumbly cookies coming in a foil bag inside these boxes, I don’t really have any specific memories of eating them.  I just know that I did because I can recall almost every aspect of these boxes that I undoubtedly poured over while munching on the cookies.  I was always a food container reader, something that I continue to this day.

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No matter how these things ended up surviving, I can’t thank @FarToys_Vintage enough for allowing me to reconnect with some very obscure treasures from my past.

What’s your favorite weird tiny nostalgic collection?

  • Great post Shawn.

    I find that most of the stuff I have any interest in picking up these days fall into the weird category. Packaging from stuff I remember as a kid always triggers my nostalgia. And I’m with you on school supplies. I’m always in search of anything Yikes! made in the 90s, but it rarely ever pops up on eBay.

    Probably the thing I’ve had the most fun collecting over the past 2-3 years though is vintage kids books and coloring books. I started looking through the racks at Goodwill and I was blown away at how many cool 80s/90s (and older) books I was finding in great condition. Who keeps a Dark Crystal coloring book in mint condition for twenty-some years and then just donates it to Goodwill? I don’t know, but I’m glad people like that are around.

    • Whoa, who does do that?! Very cool that you snagged that. I have a bunch of 80s coloring books. Hmmmm, now I’m getting an idea…

      • DUSTINDUSTRIES

        I have an extensive Gum and Candy collection from my travels dating back to atleast 2003 and recently pick out some of the best Fossils and Auctioned them on Ebay. They have been stored in a Large styrofoam container for over 10 years and there was nothing available online, not even a wrapper on Ebay available to get an idea on price.

        • First off, good luck on the auctions! I’ve never seen those Slurpee gum packages, what year did those come out?

          • DUSTINDUSTRIES

            I have a vague memory of buying them in 2003 at a 711 in downtown Vancouver Canada. They are unopened, listed them separately and and they Sold for my asking price plus shipping and I need to send them to TX.

          • Gotcha, the early 2000s was a time when I lived very far from 7-Elevens. I just now moved back into an area that has them. Still my favorite piece from my 7-Eleven collection are the lenticular sticker Rock Coins from the 80s that used to come on the bottom of Slurpee cups in a false bottom…

          • DUSTINDUSTRIES

            Part of my Gum collection.

          • Those Lifesavers minis remind me of the LS Holes. Very cool.

    • DUSTINDUSTRIES

      As for the Dark Crystal coloring book, I also had a Dark Crystal Movie book I parted with last year along with Mad Max Thunderdome, E.T. and a BMX Bandits movie book adaptations. If you hold on this stuff for 15-20 years then you look up prices on Ebay and they are selling for a few bucks with free shipping, then you either keep storing them, give them away or throw them in the garbage.

      I am in the process of culling almost all my Hoarding/Collectables, except some Core items in my collection and restricting any more purchases. There are certain Nostalgia items I regularly search for and If they become available I will add to my collection due to rarity. I collect Widget The World Watcher items oddly enough. I have Nostalgia for the show from the early 90s. There are very few collectible items available and no DVD release.

      • I notice stuff like that, brands and things that have very little merch, tend to have some of the most small but rabid fanbases. That’s basically how I feel about the Monster Squad.
        And I hear ya on culling and concentrating. I think it’s a natural progression for most collectors. At some point as we age we have to refine or drown in our own collections…

  • Dex

    I remember the cookies being delicious! But then, I was a tween at the time so what the hell did I know?

    Oh man, that poster is a gut punch memory. I had a whole cardboard store pack of those, had to be at least 20 or 30 posters in it. IIRC, it went in front a a floor display and you got one with purchase. I lost it to a flood a couple years after moving into our current house. Not that I was doing anything with them but I definitely would have sent one your way to go with your toothbrushes.

    • I may be misremembering, or remembering my mom’s thoughts on the cookies. I just remember eating a lot of them and my folks not really wanting to buy them.

      That sucks about the posters, well the whole flooding incident. Having just bought my first house I’m dreading the first home disaster… :/

      • Dex

        It was brutal because we had no idea it was even a possibility. We had stacks of cardboard boxes on the floor. We had to toss a bunch of stuff after that. I mean, it was mostly just stuff that we’d collected over the years that was only going to sit in boxes anyway but it’s still tough when the choice is taken out of your hands.
        Welcome to the world of home ownership where “it’s always something” is a way of ilfe!

        • Yeah, It’s only been a month and though we haven’t had any disasters, there has already been plenty of “Wow, we need to fix that?!” moments already. Sigh. It’s worth it though.