This famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) little figure was released to stores as part of the first group of twelve action figures made for the Kenner Star Wars line in 1978. The Jawa was first released sporting a vinyl cape as shown here, and this particular carded version has seen a substantial increase in value on the collector's market since its first release.
Since the Jawa was the smallest figure in the line, and since all of the action figures cost the same price at retail back in 1978 (approximately $2.99 Canadian (or roughly $1.99 American)), Kenner executives believed that consumers would perceive more value for their money by adding a sewn cloth cape to the Jawa in place of the vinyl cape.
The good people at Kenner believed that consumers might feel they were paying too much for such a diminutive character, so to enhance its perceived value, a richer-looking cloth cape took the place of the "cheaper"-looking vinyl cape. So, after sitting only approximately six months on toy store shelves, the vinyl caped Jawa was phased out to make room for the cloth caped Jawa. The Canadian version of the vinyl caped Jawa was released on both CSW12A and CSW12B 12-backs. The CSW12A cardback is pictured above.
Unfortunately, with the increased rarity of the vinyl caped Jawa (VC Jawa or plastic cape Jawa as it is sometimes referred to), many fake carded and loose versions of this figure have made their way to the collector's market by shady individuals looking to make a quick profit from unsuspecting collectors. The most common stunt used in the creation of fake carded versions is to use the bubble from the regular, cloth caped Jawas (see "The Action Figure Bubble" below for more on real vinyl caped Jawa action figure bubbles). Here are a few things to look for on authentic carded and loose vinyl caped Jawas when purchasing or authenticating a supposedly real specimen:
Features of an Authentic Vinyl Caped Jawa Action Figure:
Many carded and loose vinyl caped Jawas have found their way onto the collector's market over the years. Following are several distinct features to look for when purchasing or authenticating a legitimate vinyl caped Jawa:
The Action Figure Bubble: Real vinyl caped Jawas only came with one type of bubble which is shown here, on the far left and centre. The reader will notice that the bubble is very flat, and is "fitted" to the height dimensions of the Jawa figure itself.
There is very little room between the Jawa figure's head and the top of the bubble. Subsequent releases of the cloth caped Jawa on 12-back cards and beyond sport different bubble versions in different designs with significantly more headroom for the Jawa action figure.
The cloth caped Jawa bubble is shown near left. Notice how the bubble juts out at the top, then contours around the cloth caped Jawa. These larger bubbles were made in order to accommodate the larger displacement of the cloth caped Jawa figure. There is also a steeper angle to the 'T' stem on the cloth caped Jawa bubbles.
The Placement of the Action Figure Bubble: As stated above, the Jawa action figure fits very tightly in the authentic bubble. As a result, if factory sealed properly, the top portion of the legitimate vinyl caped Jawa's bubble will be sealed to the card on the silver "racetrack" border of the action figure's background as seen here. The bottom of the bubble must be sealed at the bottom edge of the card in order for this to be true.
The odd factory error where a bubble may have been sealed higher (or lower) on the card than usual may have occurred throughout production, but the vast majority, if not all of the authentic vinyl caped Jawas in existence today have this feature. Since later releases of the Jawa with cloth capes had larger bubbles, their bubbles are sealed above the silver racetrack border on the picture of the Jawa movie character itself.
Size of the Jawa's Eyes: Another characteristic of an authentic, factory-sealed carded vinyl caped Jawa is the size of the Jawa's eyes.
The paint masks used at the factories to paint the Jawas' eyes changed over time. The early, Star Wars-release Jawas had larger, close-set eyes as seen in the image on the far left.
The paint masks changed later in the line so that the Jawas' eyes appeared smaller, and set further apart as seen in the image here; near left. When scrutinizing a carded vinyl caped Jawa, pay close attention to the size of the eyes. To date, there are no known carded examples of an authentic vinyl caped Jawa with the small, wide-set eyes.
The Jawa Action Figure's Cape: Perhaps most importantly, the authentic vinyl caped Jawa's cape has several distinct features to be aware of, especially when purchasing or authenticating a loose vinyl caped Jawa:
Cape Texture: Legitimate capes from the vinyl caped Jawa have a distinct texture on one side of the cape. If you scrape your finger against the textured side, it will make a faint "zipping" sound. The textured side has a cross-hatch pattern on it. The other side of the cape is very smooth. The image to the left shows the textured, cross-hatch pattern (magnified 7 times the normal size)
Click on the audio controller below to hear the sound of scratching the textured side of an authentic vinyl Jawa cape. (70K WAV file - Please adjust your volume accordingly)
Click on the audio controller below to hear the sound of scratching the smooth side of an authentic vinyl Jawa cape by contrast. (70K WAV file - Please adjust your volume accordingly)
The material used to make the fake vinyl capes of the same hue will not make the exact sounds, or the pitch will be slightly off. Take note that the Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi capes will make the exact same sounds as authentic Jawa capes as they are made of the same material. Please read the remainder of this article to familiarize yourself on how to differentiate a Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi cape from a Jawa cape.
Cape Colour: The colour of the cape is extremely close to that of the Jawa figure itself.
Many of the fake loose and carded vinyl caped Jawas have hand-cut Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi capes on them, which are of a darker reddish-brown colour that come closer to the colour of the Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi plastic action figure.
Some fake vinyl Jawa capes come close to the colour of an authentic vinyl Jawa cape, but are not of the same pliability, thickness or rigidity (see "Cape Material" discussion below).
The image to the left shows the distinct colour differences between the Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi capes and the authentic vinyl Jawa capes. Take note that the colour of authentic Jawa capes come very close to matching the same colour of the Jawa action figure itself.
One exception to this is the Toltoys Jawa that was sold in Australia and New Zealand. The capes on the Toltoys Jawas are substantially darker than those released elsewhere.
Cape Armhole Size: The armholes in authentic vinyl capes fit tightly around the arms of the Jawa figure.
Many of the fakes circulating these days have larger armholes since they were either hand cut or a handheld hole punch was used to create the holes.
The image to the left shows how tightly authentic vinyl capes fit to the Jawa figure's arms.
Cape Fit: Authentic capes will also rest tightly to the Jawa's back. The distance around the back of the Jawa figure from arm to arm is very short so the armholes in the cape are spaced accordingly.
In many cases, the fake handmade/handpunched capes do not have the correct spacing due to human error, so the capes often fit very loose on the figure. Authentic capes also rest approximately 4mm or 1/4inch from the ground when worn by the figure. The cape has a straight cut at the top and pointed corners at the bottom. In some rare cases, homemade vinyl capes have been made to fit too tightly, creating a stress gap/split in the armholes.
Cape Material: The material used in the creation of authentic vinyl caped Jawas is made of very pliable material.
The fake capes that are currently circulating that closely match authentic vinyl Jawa capes in terms of colour are very rigid and do not fold easily like authentic capes do.
Authentic vinyl capes are of the same thickness and consistency as the Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi, Darth Vader, Sand People and Lando Calrissian (etc.) capes.
Jawa Gun: There has been much discussion over what gun was originally released with carded Vinyl Cape Jawas in 1978.
Evidence has shown that both versions of the original, black (or dark green) Jawa gun (shown at left) with or without the side knob/button were released with the figure. The Jawa gun that was bluer in colour (shown at right) was never released with the Vinyl Cape Jawa.
The gun was placed loose (ie: not taped) inside the bubble on the Star Wars release vinyl cape Jawas. The unique Toltoys ESB vinyl cape Jawa guns were taped inside their bubbles.
Country of Origin (COO) Stamp: The country of origin (COO) stamp appears on the vinyl caped Jawa's left leg. Authentic vinyl caped Jawas should have the 'Hong Kong' stamp as shown here at left.
Of special note are the 20-back square carded Meccano (France) vinyl caped Jawas. A plethora of vinyl caped Jawas have emerged since the early 1990's on this card. It is generally agreed that every vinyl caped Jawa on this particular card is FAKE. The only authentic vinyl caped Jawa to be released in France on a Meccano card came on the rectangular 12-backs, which are rarely seen. The vast majority of authentic vinyl caped Jawas come on American 12-backs as well as Canadian 12-backs, of which there are very few.
Here are some other carded examples of vinyl caped Jawas from around the world (L-R: Kenner USA, Meccano (France), Palitoy (UK) and Toltoys (Australia and New Zealand)):