A Short History of Hallmark
In the 14th century, members of the London Goldsmith Hall began the process of signifying quality on their products with a unique symbol called a "hallmark". This is where Mr. Joyce C. Hall, founder of Hallmark Cards, got his company name. Not only did it represent the high quality of workmanship he strove to achieve, it even had his family name included.
In 1910, eighteen year old Joyce Hall began his company with just two shoeboxes of postcards (hence the name Shoebox Greetings) from his room at the YMCA in Kansas City. He was forced to move out of the YMCA after complaints of the large amount of mail his fledgling business produced, and established "Hall Brothers" with his brother Rollie in a rented office. After the demand for postcards dwindled, they created and printed their very own Christmas and Valentine cards. Soon their enterprise expanded into gift wrap, flat cards, ribbons, dance programs and cards for other occasions. The company continued to grow and in 1928, "Hallmark" was printed on the back of every card.
In 1932, Hallmark and Disney joined in a licencing agreement to print Disney characters on greeting cards; a first for both companies. This was the beginning of a special feature of Hallmark products as today they have licencing arrangements with seven of the top ten licensors in the entertainment field. One of these of course, is Star Wars.
Star Wars Keepsake Ornaments
Hallmark introduced the first Keepsake Ornaments in 1973 with six glass ball ornaments and 12 yarn figures which were dated and available for a limited time only. In fact, to retain the value of their ornaments, they are only sold at retail for one season, after which all leftover product is destroyed and dumped into a landfill. To date, Hallmark has produced more than 3,000 Keepsake Ornaments in over 100 different themes. According to Hallmark research, over 22 million households collect Christmas ornaments, and more than 50% collect Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments.
The Star Wars series of Keepsake Ornaments began in 1996 with the production of the Millennium Falcon dated ornament. The highly detailed ship was a "Magic" ornament; one that could be plugged into a miniature Christmas light socket to activate its blue lighted engines and light up the cockpit. The other offering that year was "The Vehicles of Star Wars", a miniature X-Wing, Imperial AT-AT and TIE fighter. Shortly after the release of this set, eagle-eyed Star Wars fans noted that the TIE Fighter was in fact hung upside-down; the two lasers on the front of the cockpit were supposed to be on the bottom, not the top of the ship. It is uncertain if this was corrected, and if it was, which version of the set is the rarer.
With the release of the Star Wars Special Editions and the resurgence of interest in all things Star Wars, Hallmark introduced four Keepsake Ornaments in 1997. Figures of Darth Vader (dated, posed on a platform), Yoda and Luke Bespin were joined by a miniature set of C-3PO and R2-D2. The Luke ornament has the distinction of being number one in the yearly "Star Wars Series" of collectible ornaments. The Darth Vader ornament also has voice and light. When plugged in, Vader's red saber glows as he delivers his famous line "The Force is with you, young Skywalker. But you are not a Jedi yet!"
1998 brought another set of four ornaments to the collection. They included Princess Leia (second in the Star Wars series), Boba Fett, and a dated X-Wing Starfighter (with red glowing lights from the back of the ship's four engine pods), as well as a set of three miniature Ewoks. The Boba Fett ornament has an error which has never been corrected. In comparison with the Kenner Boba Fett, one can see that the Mandalorian insignia on his left shoulder was painted upside down.
In 1999, all eyes in the Star Wars world turned to Episode One. Hallmark noted the occasion with two of its six ornaments that year. Along with Han Solo (third in the Star Wars series) and Chewbacca, Darth Vader's TIE Interceptor was produced as a "Magic" ornament (with a cockpit that lights up to reveal a silhouette of Vader and red glowing lights on the front of the ship). As well, we got a miniature set of the Max Rebo band (Max Rebo, Sy Snootles and Droopy McCool). The first The Phantom Menace ornaments were introduced; Queen Amidala and a Naboo Starfighter made the scene, bringing the tally to sixteen Star Wars themed ornaments in only four years.
The following year, four of the six new ornaments for 2000 were from Episode One. Obi-Wan Kenobi from A New Hope was fourth in the Star Wars series, and the classic Imperial Stormtrooper were produced along with Qui-Gon Jinn, Darth Maul, a lighted Gungan submarine and a set of three miniature Jedi Council members (Yoda, Saesee Tiin, and Ki-Adi-Mundi).
Five ornaments debuted in 2001, including a battery-operated beeping R2-D2 (fifth in the Star Wars series), Jar Jar Binks, Anakin Skywalker Podrace Pilot, the Naboo Royal Starship and a set of three miniature ships from the battle of Naboo.
In 2002 another six Keepsake Ornaments brought the Star Wars series total to 33. As well as a new box design, Hallmark began to enclose a "Christmas Memory Card" in every ornament. With a photo of the ornament on one side, and place to write "To: and From:" on the other, they were like miniature Christmas gift cards. Another version of Darth Vader (sixth in the Star Wars series), Luke Jedi Knight, and the second Death Star (with lights and sound) came from the original trilogy, while Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jango Fett and Slave 1 die cast metal ship were from Attack of the Clones. For the first time, no miniature ornaments were offered. When the Death Star is plugged into a miniature light socket, the space station glows with tiny specks of light. Pressing a small button activates the sound feature; the Emperor in all his glory taunting Luke: "As you can see my young Apprentice, your friends have failed. Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station! Fire at will Commander!" This is followed by the sound effect of the Death Star super laser firing.
Hallmark continued to produce a variety of characters and ships from both the classic and prequel movies in 2003. These included C-3PO (seventh in the Star Wars series), a battery-operated TIE fighter (with sounds of the TIE racing by, followed by battle sounds), Yoda Jedi Master, Padme Amidala and the return of the miniature ornaments with a set of two Clone Troopers. Again, the Memory Card was enclosed with each ornament.
This past year, four more Star Wars ornaments brings the Keepsake collection to a total of 42. Chewbacca with C-3PO are the latest and eighth in the Star Wars series. Along with them are an Attack of the Clones version of Anakin Skywalker, A New Hope Theatre One-Sheet light clip, and a voice and light Star Destroyer with miniature Tantive IV ship. When plugged into a light socket, the Destroyer lights up, and by pressing a small button on the ship's underside, we can hear Threepio and Artoo lament their predicament. Continuing the tradition, Hallmark enclosed a Memory Card in each of this year's ornaments as well.
So, if you collected these each year, do you really want to know the total investment you've made to date? Well, in US dollars, without tax, the collection of 42 ornaments in nine years totals over $ 700.
But we can't stop there. The holiday Keepsake Ornaments weren't the only Star Wars themed Hallmark products made. Miniature Star Wars lunchbox ornaments were also created, appearing at springtime. Beginning in 1998, a dated Star Wars tin lunchbox could be had for $12.95. With detailed images just like the vintage lunchbox, it can even open on hinges. In 2001, a The Empire Strikes Back mini lunchbox and thermos set, also made of tin and dated sold for $ 14.95. This lunchbox also opens, and the solid thermos can fit inside.
As well as ornaments, in 2000 Hallmark released a set of Star Wars tin lunchboxes in their "School Days'' line. These collectibles had the same detailing as actual vintage lunchboxes, only at 75% the size. Each version could open, was numbered, and came with a certificate of authenticity.
2005 marks the tenth anniversary of Hallmark Star Wars ornaments who knows what we will be offered; but it will certainly include new characters from Revenge of the Sith. What would you like to see? My personal wish is for a Christmas tree topper - perhaps Mr. Lucas' hands holding a lightsaber (like the cover of the novelization of Return of the Jedi). I guess we'll just have to wait and see!