Thursday, December 07, 2023

Wishing for a Sears Christmas Catalog

File this one under "the good old days."

Way back, almost fifty years ago, as the holiday season neared, department store giant Sears mailed out a mammoth Christmas catalog or “Wish Book.”  This was a hugely fat inventory of everything it sold, from appliances and clothes to toys galore.  

One of the Wish Books, the catalog from the year 1979, when I was about to be 10 years old -- was illustrated with the tag-line “Where America Shops For Value.”

Forget value, I just wanted outer space toys to play with.

The 1979 Sears Wishbook Catalog had ‘em too. 

From Page 613 thru 620 in that catalog, there was everything a 1970s space-kid could possibly desire: toys from Mego’s Micronauts, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Star Wars, and my favorite, Star Trek too. 

There were models, play-sets, toy action figures…the works.  I remember leafing through the pages, seeing one incredible toy after the other.

And the great thing about Sears was that it not only offered toys you could find elsewhere, in their stores, it also offered exclusive toys, like the Star Wars knock-off play-set called “The Star Fortress” (seen on page 617).  

I’ve covered this toy before on the blog, but the giant fold-out space base has a position of honor in my home office to this day.  

Look at the picture below -- it features Buck Rogers ships and characters on and around the Star Fortress, and thus suggests a whole new, exciting adventure for those characters.  For me, at age 10, that was an irresistible thing to imagine.

Another Sears exclusive from the same era (although it may have been first sold in 1978…) was the Star Wars “The Cantina Adventure Set” (not to be confused with the Creature Cantina).  

The legend in the catalog read “If you stop at this cantina, watch out for strangers.”  And it came with four of the strangest strangers (in action. figure form) you could imagine.

This diorama of the exterior of the Mos Eisely drinking hole came with four new Kenner action figures that were unavailable elsewhere: Greedo, Hammerhead, Walrus Man, and Blue Snaggletooth. The Blue Snaggletooth has become a highly-prized collectible, so much so that collectors pay hundreds of dollars for an original, and even purchase custom reproductions.

Without me knowing, my Mom ordered me the Cantina Adventure Set, and I loved it.  I must have played with it for days, weeks, months...

I kept it intact until about seven or eight years ago when the diorama base finally ripped. But it’s the item I remember most from the catalog.  

After I received the toy in the mail, I would play adventures with Sheriff Snaggletooth and Deputy Hammerhead. They’d drive the land speeder around Mos Eisely, catching the gangsters Greedo and Walrus Man.

Back in the 1970s I loved coming home from school and finding in the mail either the next week’s issue of TV Guide (so I could see if Star Trek or Space:1999 was playing), but it was a day of absolute delight and toy nirvana when the Sears Wish Book arrived.

I still remember the feel and scent of the Wish Book catalog's pages.  It was the scent of anticipation, and imagination, you might say.

I remember poring over those toy pages too, imagining adventures with Buck Rogers, the Micronauts, the Cantina, and that Space Fortress.

Today, E-Bay gives us the chance to find these lost treasures and relive the past (often at a steep price), but there was just something special about that catalog showing up in your mailbox after school....

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