24 February 2021
The unique figure variations that can be found on card back designs of the original Star Wars figure series.
The so called “tri-logo” carded figures were released towards the end of the original Star Wars figure period. The triple logo design was first issued in 1984 and coincided with the release of the second wave of Return of the Jedi figures. This design was then subsequently used for re-issuing a number of the earlier Star Wars and Empire Strike Back characters, as well as the “Last 17” figures released in 1985. A slight difference for the last 17 figures is the card front had a barcode added.
The three logos used at the top of the card were in English, Spanish and French. It was a useful strategy as it allowed all domestically produced packaging in these countries to be consolidated into one template and series of production runs, making costs cheaper. It also allowed figures to be shipped all around Europe using the one standard design. By 1986 Tri Logo figures were in fact also being sold in the US, as huge numbers were shipped over from Europe to be sold in discount stores and large chains like Kay-Bee.
The first Tri Logo cards for Europe were printed in Macau and released initially to the French market. Subsequent print runs for the rest of Europe were made in Hong Kong.
What is noticeable about the cards is that they are slightly thinner than the earlier cards from Palitoy and Kenner. The bubbles that secured the figure to the card were also larger and slightly thinner. One bubble size pretty much suited all figures, although a smaller size was used for the smaller characters (R2D2, Yoda, Ugnaught etc) and an extra-large bubble was used for two characters (Gamorrean Guard and Amanaman). The figures bounced around quite freely inside the bubbles and the weapons were also loose inside, dispensing with the tape that used to hold weapons to the inside of the bubble.
The thinner cardstock and bubbles, internal movement of the figures and the fact that, by 1985 many of these Star Wars figures were being sold off in bargain bins rather than dedicated retail display stands, means that the average condition of ‘Tri Logos’ is somewhat poorer than other card fronts available. That’s not to say that mint condition examples can’t be found of course. Another positive is that the Tri Logo bubbles have not yellowed over time, like some of the later Return of the Jedi card front bubbles have, as they used a different type of plastic. And the cards themselves often have a nice glossy sheen to them that displays very nicely on good condition examples.
One of the best things about collecting this type of card is some of the unique character pictures that were used on the card fronts. The cards for Luke Bespin outfit, ATST driver, Tie Fighter Pilot, Lobot and Princess Leia Hoth outfit use a photo that is only found on Tri Logo cards. Other characters, whilst using the same basic photo, show it from a wider angle. For example; for Nikto and Klaatu Skiff Guard you can see nearly their whole body, rather than just from the waist up. Other cards use some unusual air brushing to change the design from the traditional Kenner cards, for example Rebel Commando is a brighter green outfit, At-At drivers chest equipment is air brushed out, and IG-88 has even had the whole background greyed out! The Hoth Rebel Commander uses a wider angle shot that actually allows you to see a second soldier, but the Stormtrooper is a closer shot only showing one trooper compared to the two you are used to seeing on a Kenner card. And some cards such as Lando Calrissian and Jawa have the standard photo reversed.
Kenner had introduced some new backing card photos to their line in late 83, early 84, updating the images for some of the longer running Star Wars and ESB characters. E.g. Boba Fett Tatooine Scene and Luke farmboy in the Falcon gunner’s seat. In nearly every instance the Tri Logo cards used this updated image, with the exception of Darth Vader and Leia Bespin outfit where for some reason they reverted to the older of the two images on offer.
A further difference that is noticeable on the Tri Logos is that they often use a different colour for the bubble background and name plate. So whereas you might be used to seeing Han in Endor trench coat on a red background, the Tri Logo has him on a green background. The Leia Bespin changed from a blue background to a red on Tri Logo. A quirky change which gives quite a different dynamic to the card.
No figures as such are unique to the Tri Logo cards, although among collecting circles a few characters have a recognised “Tri Logo” version, so named because the variation is most commonly found on the tri logo cards. The best known example is the Tri Logo Boba Fett, the paler blue plastic variant with a darker paint scheme and no country of origin stamp. Other examples include Dengar who is found with a darker more metallic purple body armour and Rebel Soldier can be found in a darker brown vest, this one mostly coming out of the PBP licensee factory in Spain.
Miscarded figures are more common on Tri Logo cards than any other card type. However, this was less through factory error and more through a need to use up excess figure stocks towards the end of the Star Wars run in 1985. So whilst figures were incorrect to the card back they were as close as could be managed with some logic to the mismatch, e.g. an outfit mismatch: Han Solo Star Wars (first 12) on a Han Bespin card; a droid mismatch: C3PO on a Zuckuss card; or an Ewok mismatch, Teebo on a Logray card; to name but a few examples.
The back of the cards are the same on all Tri Logos and the way it is presented is somewhat confusing. It says it multiple languages “Collect all 70”, shows 70 figures, but numbers them up to number 79, missing out numbers 22, 24, 25, 44 etc. It also doesn’t show any of the last 17 figures (bar Lumat and Paploo who are blacked out anyway) even though the “Last 17’s” are available on the card front. Lumat unusually is listed only as Ewok Warrior. Suggesting he’d not yet been named when the Tri Logo proof cards were designed.
Some of the characters not available, such as the Bespin Guards and the Cantina aliens, can be found on what collectors refer to us hybrid cards with regular ROTJ fronts but Tri Logo backs.
As for prices, Tri Logos cover the full spectrum really from some of the cheapest on the market to possibly the most expensive of any example! Partly due to condition and the fact there were so many left at the end of the line, you can pick up examples today for less than £50 if you hunt around and aren’t too condition conscious. Main characters can reach figures of £100+ and up to £200 or more if in decent condition. Due to rarity Jawa and Luke Hoth fetch premium prices. Yak Face and Boba Fett are at the top of the scale for sure, Yak Face pushing a four figure price, Boba Fett nearer to £5,000+. But the rarest and most expensive to acquire? That would be the minor ROTJ character General Madine. As a Tri Logo this character was only produced at the very start of the run in very small numbers and was only available in France (the early Made in Macau cards). Should you be able to find one of these at auction you would easily be looking at a five-figure price for an average condition example. One sold in the US a few years ago for over $20,000.
Tri Logos were for a long time scene as the poor relation to the Kenner and Palitoy carded figures, but as you can see, there are some real gems in the range for those collectors who love acquiring quirky packaging variations.