Forget action figures, vehicles, and playsets. Star Wars erasers were equally essential for young fans in the late '70s and early '80s.
In today's world, when communication is conducted largely by the tapping of a keyboard and the click of a mouse and deletions are executed by the pressing of the backspace button, excitement over erasers -- or rubbers, as we commonly call them here in the UK -- may seem odd. But back in the day, when rubbers were among the many cool branded items you could grab at a cheap price that had the characters and vehicles of Star Wars on them, they were an essential purchase. And importantly, they were a great way of showing your love of the movie to your fellow fans at school while pretending to focus on the teacher at the front of the class. We had pencil cases, pens, pencils, rulers, sharpeners, stationary sets, and more, but back in the days when fragrant erasers were still allowed to be sold in the UK, Star Wars erasers were an essential tool in one's school supplies pouch.
There were a plethora of Star Wars erasers available during the original trilogy years of 1977 to 1983, far too many to cover in their entirety here, so we'll take a glimpse into a handful of releases that came out between A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. As was customary at the time, releases for The Empire Strikes Back were far fewer in number than its predecessor and successor.
Here in the UK the original producers of Star Wars stationary were Helix. Established in 1887 under the name The Universal Woodworking Company Ltd., one of their earliest Star Wars releases was a series of eight flat erasers comprising of C-3PO, R2-D2, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Luke in his X-wing outfit, Princess Leia, and Grand Moff Tarkin. Hard to find in the 21st century, a complete set is pricey. One thing's for sure: these aren't erasers you'll be wanting to use in a hurry.
Helix also released a line of Star Wars pencil-top erasers, measuring 1.5 inches high and available in a variety of colors. They were often seen on shelves back in the day in a cool display box containing 14 erasers. I have fond memories of chewing the dome off my Artoo. (Don't judge me.)
Come 1982 and the double-bill year of Star Wars and Empire, H.C. Ford & Sons Ltd. of London produced this set of six perfumed erasers, each 1.5 inches long. A green Han Solo smelling of lime (not too hard to imagine right now given the recent release of The Star Wars and the green-gilled Han Solo) and an appealing orange-scented Chewbacca. A red aromatic apple C-3PO and R2-D2, a blue milk Luke Skywalker honking of mint, a strawberry-smelling pink Princess Leia, and finally the darkest of the bunch, a purple Darth Vader and Stormtrooper wafting of grape.
RETURN OF THE JEDI
With the arrival of Master Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back someone clearly thought there was enough rubber in 1980 and so our focus shifts forward to 1983 and the arrival of Return of the Jedi. There was a large amount of erasers released for Jedi, covering characters, pencil tops, stationary sets, and rubber records. Yep, you heard right, rubber records.
Coming your way again via H.C. Ford & Sons of London, this series of four erasers came in pink, yellow, grey, and blue, with each disc individually sealed. The pink and grey eraser sleeves showed Luke battling Darth Vader while the yellow and blue sleeves showed the classic painted image of George Lucas' hands holding a blue lightsaber, an image used extensively for Jedi-related merchandise even though there are no blue lightsabers in the movie. Indicative of the era, back when vinyl was still popular, 8-track was a recent memory, VHS had defeated BetaMax in the video wars, cassettes were king and the newly released CDs were gaining purchase, these are a really cool selection of erasers.
What better way to celebrate our aromatic agents of awesome than by celebrating HC Ford's second swathe of erasers, a six-eraser wave marking the arrival of Return of the Jedi. This time around we had a Yavin red apple smelling C-3PO and R2-D2, an orange-odored, tangerine-colored Chewbacca, a lime spice green Han Solo, a blue minty Gamorrean guard, a grape scented purple Vader and Stormtrooper, and a strawberry pink Paploo. Once again packed in plastic these were guaranteed to make any collection smell like a Zeltron.
We've seen character erasers, shaped erasers, and regular erasers. Now we've got a series of erasers that glow in the dark. Yes, in 1983 Butterfly Originals released a series of three erasers (Millennium Falcon, Darth Vader, and C-3PO) on a 5 x 7" headed card that glowed and were far too cool to ever use.
Butterfly Originals also released a series of collectible erasers which included Admiral Ackbar, Baby Ewoks, Bib Fortuna, Darth Vader, R2-D2, Gamorrean Guard, Jabba the Hutt, Max Rebo, Wicket, and Yoda. A veritable feast of excellent erasers.
So there we have a brief tour through the wondrous world of erasers that inhabited the Star Wars galaxy back in the day. While the prequel era also presented releases for the younger collectors, they didn't hold quite the magic that these earlier releases did. So just as we honor the magic of optical in a digital age, let's celebrate these collectible correctional classics.
Mark is a long-time contributor to Star Wars Insider, is the co-owner of Jedi News, contributes to the UK’s biggest free newspaper The Metro, and is the co-host of RebelForce Radio’s RADIO 1138 podcast.