UK Fan Experience: UK Smelly Rubbers and Pencil Toppers
Back in the heady days of the original trilogy, while young kids at school looked out of the window and wished they were in the cantina, or blasting at AT-AT’s in a snowspeeder, there was always a peach-smelling Star Wars eraser to remind us that the galaxy far, far away wasn’t actually that far away at all.
Kicking off in 1977, the first Star Wars erasers were released by the now near legendary company Helix. Launching the range with a series of 8 flat erasers, the set comprised of C-3PO, R2-D2, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Luke in his X-Wing outfit, Princess Leia and Grand Moff Tarkin. Fast-forward to the modern era and via the design and concept skills of three prominent Star Wars fans Grant Criddle, Craig Spivey and artist Mark Daniels, these sets are making a comeback with the full force of Helix behind them. Keep your eyes out for some amazing looking sets which will both revisit and expand those classic sets of the 70’s and 80’s.
Helix also released a series of much-loved pencil top erasers, adding a Star Wars spin to the tops of chewed pencils everywhere. R2, Chewbacca, Vader, Stormtrooper, every side of the war was catered for and only added to what was an ever-swelling wave of product arriving for this ground-breaking movie. In years to come other characters would appear as pencil top erasers and pencil toppers including Luke X-wing pilot, Master Yoda and a plethora of characters from Return of the Jedi. Run through to the modern era and a number of pencil top erasers have just been released for Rogue One. These sets are going nowhere anytime soon, and any collector hoping to nab every set available is in for a busy time of it, as there are LOADS out there.
The year prior to the release of the crazily-anticipated Return of the Jedi saw another batch of releases. This time, H.C. Ford & Sons Ltd of London released an attractive set of plastic encased smelly rubbers including Chewbacca, Han Solo, C-3PO, R2-D2, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Darth Vader. What better way to celebrate the release of the double-bill and key kids up for Jedi than that?
1983 saw a wave of product that not only dwarfed the comparatively small output of The Empire Strikes Back, in an age where sequels were not expected to do anywhere near as well as their predecessors, but also surpassed that of the 1977 original. Return of the Jedi was a movie monster, taking more money at the box office than Empire and only just falling short of Star Wars and the all-time box office champ E.T. Well-aware that – for now – this was the end of the saga onscreen as George Lucas turned his attentions to building Lucasfilm, Skywalker Ranch and other projects, the fans bought product in droves.
With the eraser sets being so popular, H.C. Ford carried on through Jedi and released a number of ranges including a series of 4 record-style erasers. These were individually sealed and came in pink, yellow, grey and blue and featured either Vader battling Luke or the classic image of George Lucas’ hands holding the lightsabre. These days, with vinyl making a strong comeback, these sets are more relevant and desirable than ever.
H.C. Ford expanded their range of plastic encased smelly rubbers with a second wave for Return of the Jedi. This time around kids and collectors could grab C-3PO and R2-D2, Chewbacca, Han Solo, Gamorrean guard, Vader and Stormtrooper and Paploo. As with the 1982 sets, these look great, give off a great aroma and (true fact) Wicket used them as smelling salts to rouse Princess Leia after she came off her speeder bike on Endor.*
H.C. Ford weren’t the only company to be releasing erasers. Ever expanding the brand and the licence, Lucasfilm gave Butterfly Originals the chance to release sets and they brought out a very cool looking set comprising of Millennium Falcon, Darth Vader and C-3PO on a 5” x 7” card. The company also released a set of figurine style erasers including Admiral Ackbar, Baby Ewoks, Bib Fortuna, Darth Vader, R2-D2, Gamorrean Guard, Jabba the Hutt, Max Rebo, Wicket and Yoda.
Spinning on from the original trilogy, a vast wave of releases came through the prequels and especially the two animated series Star Wars The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. Today, erasers from The Force Awakens and Rogue One are still on shelves, but if you fancy a vintage fix then head on the events like Farthest From or Star Wars Fan Fun Day here in the UK, any of the many collectors fairs in the States or good old reliable Ebay. There is plenty of great product out there to grab.
*This is not a true fact.
Mark is a long-time contributor to Star Wars Insider, has written for Lightsabre, Admiral Motti and Jedi News, contributes to Geeky Monkey magazine, The Official Star Trek Magazine, The Metro and Build The Millennium Falcon and is the co-host of RADIO 1138 and Take Cover podcasts. When he’s not talking or writing about Star Wars he can usually be found sleeping, where he’ll most likely be dreaming about Star Wars.