Our friend Lukasz of the Polish fan site www.starwars.pl wrote to let us know that he has just translated (to English) a fantastic article by Kuba Turkiewicz detailing the history of Polish Star Wars collecting in a piece titled "Let's Collect Polish Star Wars Memorabilia!" See below for the intro and click here for the full article.
"The history of Star Wars items collecting began in 1976 at the San Diego convention. That is where the first T-shirts, badges and posters with the "Star Wars" logo appeared. Then came the time for the novelization and comics and finally after the premiere of the movie the most popular Star Wars product - Kenner figures - appeared.
The avalanche of various collectible cards, stamps, clothes, personal hygiene items, utensils, masks and even furniture with Star Wars motifs was a direct, and natural, consequence of the sudden awakening of the collective imagination of the people who were charmed by the world created by George Lucas. In the US and other countries, where the healthy rules of free market prevailed, fans were granted almost unlimited access to such collectibles and toys. However, the situation behind the Iron Curtain remained largely unknown. But it wasn't as bad as it could seem.
Countries like Poland or Hungary found themselves under Soviet influence, where every interest in the "decadent art of the bourgeois West" was met with severe hostility and the free press was non-existent. However, even here people experienced a huge explosion of interest in the movie and the phenomena connected with it. Unfortunately, not all of these phenomena arrived in Poland unchanged: we were, among other things, deprived of the pleasure of collecting the licensed items. On the whole, merchandise from the West was not available on the Polish market. As far as foreign goods were concerned, little more than Chinese pencil cases and scented erasers were available.
There were, of course, Pewex shops, in which some of the foreign products were available for dollars, but the range of products was rather limited. As far as toys are concerned, it was virtually reduced to the Matchbox cars exclusively.
Still, economic isolation had its good sides, at least from the point of view of a cunning craftsman or the modern collector. Pity or delight?
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Poland was not bound by any international agreements concerning copyrights, and therefore the production of items - according to the local law -was legal. Still, the technology used by the Polish manufacturers was rather primitive, as sophisticated machinery was not accessible during that period. As a result, the Polish fans received a set of collectibles, the quality of which was rather low. Some of them were pitiful even according to contemporary standards, while with other items the fans were speechless with delight. Today, thirty years later, all of these collectibles awake very warm feelings.
They are a testament of an era past, when Star Wars fans cunningly evaded all obstacles put in front of them by Chance and found fulfilment in their passion. They also bring back the nostalgic atmosphere of the days, when - with naive joy - we were discovering the world of the galaxy far, far away.
After many years of studying the Polish Star Wars history, I can attempt to compile a list of 11 categories, which contain Polish collectibles manufactured before 1989: