Kelly McClain, Consignment Manager, Hake’s Auctions

Kelly McClain serves as consignment manager of Hake’s Auctions. In their latest auction, Hake’s offers the much-coveted Boba Fett J-slot rocket-firing prototype, a toy on the wish list of Star Wars and pop-culture collectors the world over. Here, McClain tells Toy Tales how Hake’s came to auction the item and explains why the demand for pop culture collectibles has changed over time.

Tell us about Hake’s Auctions.

Hake’s Auctions was founded by Ted Hake in 1967. Ted is a collector of pin-backed political campaign buttons and he turned his hobby into a business. The business grew to include other types of pin-backed buttons; some comic-book and Disney characters. In the years after starting the business, he began to included related toys in the auctions and became the first American auction house focused on pop-culture collectibles. 

In 2004, as Ted looked to step down as the owner, he talked with Steve Geppi – owner of Diamond International Galleries – about taking over the business. Steve purchased the company and Ted is still involved in the business. Steve has helped us grow our catalogue size and improve the quality of items we offer. The company has grown significantly.

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Please share the story of how Hake’s came to auction the rare Star Wars Boba Fett J-slot rocket-firing prototype.

In 2017 we started to auction the Star Wars collection of Russell Branton. Among Branton’s collection of 400 to 500 pieces were a number of Boba Fett action figure variants. We sold one of them for $86,000 US. Our relationship with Branton raised our profile among Star Wars collectors. We met one collector at a Star Wars Celebration event who had a similar-grade Boba Fett figure. It auctioned for $112,000 US. We now have the Boba Fett J-slot rocket-firing prototype in our latest auction. It includes the rocket and is painted in the colour scheme that made it to production. The firing rocket was deemed unsafe so it didn’t go into production. The market is strong for this type of Star Wars collectible.

To date, this is our largest and most impressive Star Wars auction. There are nearly 400 lots of items from the first production runs, up to the mid-1980s toys with value points from a couple of hundred dollars to objects worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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What other memorable items have you auctioned at Hake’s?

With Star Wars collectibles, we’ve auctioned all three double-telescoping lightsaber figures: Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Obi-Wan Kenobi. We’ve also had all 16 variants of the action figure three-pack sets. Just to see all of them in one space was incredible.

We’ve had Detective Comics #27 featuring the first appearance of Batman (then known as The Bat-Man) in a comic book. It published in May 1939 and sold in 2018 for over $569,000 US. There have also been some beautiful concert and movie posters come through. Many of the items we auction are of historical significance. One of my favourite things about being at Hake’s Auctions is the research and history discovered when items come to us. Many of the political items are powerful and important, such as John Brown banners and items related to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Our current auction offers Star Wars three-pack sets and original comic art that depicts a scene from the first Star Wars movie. We have one of the rarest Captain Action costumes of the Spider-Man franchise from 1967. Disney is one of our oldest auction categories; we have one of the best examples I have ever seen of the Mickey Mouse organ grinder Hurdy Gurdy wind-up toy from the 1930s. The owner bought it and put it away on a shelf. It has never been used and is a museum-quality specimen.

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How has the collectible market changed in recent years?

We’ve always seen changes based on nostalgia, so as generations change we see that influence at Hake’s. There used to be high demand for 1930s and ‘4os cowboy items from Hopalong Cassidy and Butch Cassidy. Today, the demand is high for action figures, comics, and sports cards. As an example, demand for items increases significantly when a movie based on the comic-book characters is announced. The value of Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy collectibles went up ten times with the announcement of the first movie. Movies really impact what people collect.

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What can collectors look forward to seeing in the coming months from Hake’s?

We are working on an auction that ends in March 2020. It features another impressive collection of Star Wars items, including prototypes. The auction will also have key comics and political items. I can’t get too specific about what will be included. The next two months are really important for the upcoming auction as it grows from a blank slate and gains momentum.

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Visit the Hake’s Auction website to learn more about their current and upcoming auctions.