1997 was one of the best years to be a Star Wars fan. With the Special Edition trilogy hitting theaters and the prequels still on the horizon, there was just so much to do — and to look forward to!
And then, of course, was that deal with the potato chips…
If you were into Star Wars in the late ‘90s, you gotta remember this. At the peak of Frito-Lay’s partnership with our beloved franchise, specially marked bags of Lay’s potato chips gave us the chance to catch Obi-Wan Kenobi’s ghost.
“The Spirit of Obi-Wan” still ranks as one of the most famous toys from the “Power of the Force 2” era, which began in 1995 and marked the long-awaited return of Star Wars action figures to toy stores. Available for $1.99 and two proofs-of-purchase from Lay’s, this blue beauty was only obtainable by mail. (A close cousin would eventually be sold in stores as part of a “Jedi Spirits” three-pack, but that wasn’t until 1998.)
There was history, here. The original Kenner action figure line — the one that began in 1978 — was famous for its mail-away offers. Certainly many of us older collectors remember living by our mailboxes in the early ‘80s, waiting for that blasted Emperor to arrive.
If the Star Wars toys of the ‘90s were at least halfway meant to capitalize on older fans’ nostalgia, offering a mail-away exclusive was a perfect move. We weren’t just remembering what it was like to be a kid — we were getting a whole second act!
After waiting up to three months (Ugh!), your figure would finally arrive. Sealed in a plastic baggie and stuffed into a plain white box, it was exactly how the Star Wars mail-away figures from more than 10 years prior were distributed.
(I shouldn’t need to mention this, but yes, the figure was based on Obi-Wan as he was seen after death. You know — the guy who still needed to dodge branches on Dagobah even though he was a see-through ghost.)
Fans have long seemed split on this figure, but personally, I love it. The Spirit of Obi-Wan resembled the “human” Obi-Wan figure that was already in stores, but traded points of articulation for a body composed entirely of Sparkle Crest toothpaste.
We’ve certainly seen more unique and extravagant Star Wars figures in the years since, but by 1996 standards, this one may have well been made of sapphire.
It was one of our first clues that the all-new collection of Star Wars toys came with limitless potential. That Hasbro would leave no stones left unturned. Action figures that were previously exclusive to fans’ dream lists were now legit possibilities. Fast forward 20 years, and it’s hard to name even a single Star Wars character that doesn’t have an action figure. (If I’m exaggerating, it’s only slightly.)
Collectors being collectors, many of us didn’t stop at ordering one. In fact, many ordered dozens, reasoning that such an odd and limited figure would only appreciate in value. (A fool’s errand, because while the figure typically costs more than $2 nowadays, it doesn’t cost much more, and waiting 20 years to make an extra dollar sounds like the kind of thing that’d be invalided by inflation, anyway.)
But man, what a thrill this was. The anticipation was worth more than the figure! Just knowing that a semi-opaque Obi-Wan Kenobi was slowly crawling toward our mailboxes made gloomy days brighter. Two bucks was peanuts for that kind of therapy, and the fact that it came with an ironclad excuse to eat big bags of potato chips was just the gravy, baby.