NEW YORK • A Luke Skywalker doll for US$18,000 (S$25,374), 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 at an online auction organised by Sotheby's and eBay on Dec 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 put up for auction come from the private collection of Japanese designer and entrepreneur Nigo, 44, who started collecting toys decades ago at age six.
Bids are expected across the globe when the three-hour auction goes live at 10am local time (1am on Dec 12 Singapore time), says James Gallo, Sotheby's consultant and owner of the store Toy and Comics Heaven. "It's an impressive auction both in rarity and scope of items," he said.
Sotheby's called in Gallo to value the collection, which he spent a week and a half sorting through.
A Luke Skywalker doll, which would have been sold in 1978 as a children's toy, goes on sale with an estimated value of US$12,000 to US$18,000. The figurine, with a rare two-piece telescoping light- saber, was quickly withdrawn from the market "due to the propensity for the lightsaber to snap off", Sotheby's said.
The doll was never removed from the packaging, which is in pristine condition, and is one of only 20 confirmed examples of the figurine, the auction house said.
"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," Gallo explained.
"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," he said.
The most expensive items are two complete sets of Power of the Force coins, valued at US$25,000 to US$35,000 and which were available only by special request from the manufacturer Kenner.
Highlights go on display today in a private exhibition at The Conde Nast Gallery at One World Trade Center in New York.
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 rare item to find."