By Chris Georgoulias
|One phrase that collectors should quickly become familiar with is "buyer beware". Sometimes collecting requires a bit of detective work in order to keep everyone on their toes. Among the multitudes of items that are available to collectors, there are some pieces that are not what they seem. What I'm talking about here are fraudulent items. One of the most popular forgeries in Star Wars collecting is the rocket firing Boba Fett. This is one of the highest priced toys available (or sometimes available) to collectors and where big money is concerned you can bet that there are many folks who want a piece of the action. It is the usual unavailability of this figure that causes high values to be placed on it. It is because of this unavailability that it becomes much simpler for an unscrupulous dealer to manufacture an item than to track one down for resale. On top of that, the profit margin is usually much greater as well.|
The biggest problem is that folks want to find them. So when something pops up, people go nuts without checking to make sure that the piece is legit. The first thing to remember about these figures is that they are prototypes meaning only some employees at Kenner ever had access to them and none were ever available to the public. With such a tight-knit collecting community it's usually easy for a seller to make a few calls and unload one of these figures without ever having to sell it publicly. Photos of this figure have been shown several times in Tomart's Action Figure Digest and in Steve Sansweet's book "Star Wars: From Concept to Screen to Collectible". Until another version was shown to exist, the most popular form of the Rocketfett was the unpainted, blue plastic figure with a backwards "L" shaped firing slot and no copyright markings on the legs. In recent years a version popped up (and was verified through independent sources) that was closer to the production figure. It looked exactly like the production figure but the slot was changed to a "J" shape. More information on this Rocketfett can be found in AFD #20.
I will discuss forgeries of the first type of figure since those seem more prevalent,
but some of these warnings can work on both versions. First off you must trust your
source. If the person can't give you a believable story about the figure's direct
connection with Kenner then you're probably better off not bothering with it. I'm going to
list key things that one should look for when they are determining the authenticity of one
of these figures. Customizing them myself has given me a lot of insight into what to be
|1) The obvious thing about these prototypes is the color. They are blue, not grey,
like the production figures. The color difference is apparent and a pretty good photo is
shown in the Sansweet book so it should be easy to compare. Some forgers don't worry about
the base plastic color matching so they go straight to trying to remove the painted
accents. This attempt at paint removal usually results in a muddy-looking figure. I've
tried in vain with several types of chemicals to successfully remove the paint and never
got anywhere close to having a nice result. Most of the paint on the arms and legs is
almost tattooed into the plastic and will not come completely out. Paint residue in the
crevices is another giveaway. If the figure looks anything but "virgin" then
it's probably a fake. Though I will note here that I have seen some originals that have
discolored over time (mainly the torso area) and there is a bit of a color difference from
the original blue. However, signs of paint removal and plastic discoloration should be
easily distinguishable from one another. In order to get a good color match I completely
repaint my figures with blue paint. One scratch on the chest will immediately let the
buyer know if the figure is real or fake. Scratching an original will not hurt it in any
way (it doesn't take much more than a fingernail to test it) so if your seller goes
ballistic because you've got a bit of paint under your nail you should count yourself
lucky that you avoided a sting. Plus you can raise an eyebrow at the seller and ponder his
quick explanation for what just happened. Though if the guy is selling them as
reproductions and you do this, you've probably bought yourself a figure. Remember though
that because these were prototypes (specifically they are "first shots" or
"test shots") many have been found with odd colored body parts or even
semi-molded parts (as in the case with the "handless" one shown in some Tomart
publications). Some Rocketfetts have shown up with handwritten numbers on them indicating
they were test specimens of some sorts, so if you see one don't let that worry you.
2) The backpack slot on the prototypes is very clean. Modified figures usually show some type of flaw that will help you spot them. Straight lines are a must. If you see a slot and it's crooked and doesn't look like it was molded that way then you are most likely looking at a fake. The slot shouldn't be much wider than the tab itself and the corners should be smooth and round. You can look down into the backpack and check for signs of machining or cutting. The originals do not have cut marks or scratches, they are very clean because they were molded that way. Tell-tale signs of a modification are usually pretty obvious on the inner part of the backpack. Remember that to make the conversion one must remove the missle, which has been sonic-welded into place, and then clean out the cavity in order to provide a smooth sliding surface. These kinds of modifications usually cannot be done without leaving behind some evidence of the process.
|3) The missles on the unpainted originals were unique as they had only 4 ribs along the length. The J-Slot variety of the Rocketfett used an 8 rib version which is also the version that was used on the production figures. The 4 rib missles are extremely rare and many owners of the unpainted Rocketfetts either do not own this missle or have reproduction missles. Aside from the number of ribs, the missles on all Fetts are the same diameter, length, and general shape as the missle we are all familiar with. If you ever see a missle that does not look like it ever went with a Boba Fett then you know something wrong is going on. Several forgeries have been spotted that have missles that are a completely different design. Even though the missles are sonic-welded in place, some can be removed from figures without great signs of tampering. There is one difference in the production missle, however, and it is the fact that these missles have a small, protruding tab at the bottom which helped hold it into the backpack. Careful removal of this tab can be done (it usually breaks off when the missle is pried out though) but meticulous inspection usually can determine where it was once attached. This is assuming the sonic-weld job was unsatisfactory and the missle was barely attached, otherwise it shows great signs of removal. If you see a missle that shows damage then be aware that it's most likely from a production figure and certainly not from a prototype. The missle tab actually fits into a short inner slot in the backpack. Most production figures show the opposing "dimple" on the outside of the backpack where this slot is. It's almost the last remainder of the original design. The other remainder is the slider guide which is nothing more than a plastic plate and part of the torso interior. You can see this guide if you look down into the backpack on any Fett figure.||
4 sided and 8 sided missles
4) The firing mechanism consists only of a spring and a part I call the "slider". The slider is a small cylinder about the same diameter as the missle and has a small "nipple" coming out of the bottom. This nipple keeps the spring in place as it's being compressed. The silver spring sits freely in the backpack and only has a few coils. The spring can be easily removed thru the slot of the prototypes. The missle does not shoot far. On mine (and many) custom Rocketfetts a ink pen spring is used which provides a fairly long range of flight for the missle. If the Rocketfett you are looking at shoots farther than 1-2 feet, vertically, then it's probably not authentic. The slider also has a tab that protrudes out of its side and rides in the backpack slot. This is used to actuate the slider and also lock it in place for firing. The slider is made out of red plastic (like the missle) and is one piece. In order to get a slider in a custom Rocketfett one must either make it out of two parts (separating the cylinder and the tab) or open up the figure. If the seams on a figure's torso look anything but factory bonded or if the slider looks to be made from two parts, then you're looking at a fake. The slider had to be in place before the torso could be sonic-welded. A rebonded seam is a dead giveaway for a fake. The sliders on the J-slot Rocketfett have a tab that is extremely narrow, thin, and very fragile which makes successful duplication rather difficult. There have been cases of white missles and sliders on some Rocketfetts but the origin of these is questionable and, as of yet, unproven. Another interesting thing about the slider is that it has a dimple on top and has edges and corners that are rounded. Most fake Rocketfetts have square edges. Make sure that the slider looks like a clean molding. Anything less is unacceptable. Certainly, there were no figures made that had a button-actuated firing mechanism (as shown in the mail away offers) so one made this way is definitely custom.
5) Last, but not least, are the copyright markings on the legs. I know of only one case where there is an unpainted Rocketfett that has the lettering on the legs. However, this figure is cast in the same grey plastic as the production figures (and the J-slot Rocketfetts) which indicates it was made later in the run. The J-slot Rocketfetts look identical to the production figures in both color and form (except for the firing feature of course) and determining the authenticity of this type is hard. Evidence of copyright removal is definitely a sign of forgery. If you are looking at an unpainted Rocketfett with copyrights on the legs then there's a 98% chance that it is fake and you should look for some of the other signs of modifications to prove that.
As always, compare what you see with published photos. This is your number one way to make sure that what you are buying is authentic. Most of the fake ones thus far are made to resemble the unpainted version, though the similarities of the J-slot type to the production figures may change that in the future. Common sense plays an important role as well. If you can't determine how your seller ever got the figure in the first place then just walk away. Rumors persist, but not a single Rocketfett has ever surfaced from someone who "got one in the mail" so absolutely don't fall for that story. Do not let your desire to find this figure outweigh your own reasoning skills. Always approach a Rocketfett from the aspect that it is fake and then prove that it meets all the criteria of being legitimate before you get excited about it. Remember that these things are extremely rare. There may be 100 total in existence, though only around 30 are accounted for and known to be in collector's hands right now. Just coming across one should make you suspicious. As always, buyer beware.