In 1978 Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, Chewbacca And R2-D2 came out as toys, the first ever Star Wars action figures. The box also contained a diorama display stand, some stickers, and a Star Wars fan club membership card. But in 2017, Carl Cunningham committed one of the biggest scandals in the collectible toy world. And while it happened only 2 years ago and caused such a ruckus within its community, a lot of fans never heard of it. Before his scandal, Cunningham was a trusted name among collectors. What could he have done to lose so much? It started with fellow collector Zach Tann and a very rare, very sought after figure. And Cunningham’s secret to how he obtained his rare finds…
In February 2017, Zach Tann, 39 year old collector, unknowingly helped set motion to one of the biggest Star Wars scandals in history. On February 3rd of 2017 Tann received a text from his collecting comrade, Carl Cunningham. The text read: “I have a biggie. Are you sitting down?” Tann sat down trying to believe what he was reading. Cunningham had a purchase that could help Tann cement his membership in an exclusive Star Wars club. It was one of the rarest Star Wars collectibles. A failed prototype action figure from 1979, which would fetch at least 20,000 dollars on the open market. Rocket-shooting Boba Fett. Tann could scarcely believe it. He was going to own a Rocket Fett. Tann paid Cunningham the price he asked. However, Cunningham promised he’d give him his collectible once he returned from California.
Just a little over a week later, Tann got another message, this time it was a Facebook message from a friend.
The message was a link to a post made by Phillip Wise. Wise is a collector who had his Rocket Fett stolen. It also contained his plea: “If anybody should hear anything about a Fett like this floating around, please contact me.” The words hit Tann hard. Cunningham couldn’t have been the thief, right? “Your reputation will get destroyed if you scam somebody within the groups…it’s just not worth it,” Tann said to himself. Tann reached out to Wise and they were on the phone within the hour. Wise, on the advice of his local police department, made a list of suspects. Tann decided that he would confirm if it was someone on the list, but he wouldn’t give the name away otherwise. Tann did say that his seller was from Georgia. Wise’s lists contained one name from Georgia, Carl Cunningham. Admitting that Cunningham was selling to him devastated Tann.
As Tann talked to Wise, his suspicions ran far beyond just a Rocket Fett. What about all the other merchandise he had bought from him? Tann gave Wise the list of items he’d bought from Cunningham. Wise noticed quite a few were his. He also noticed that the large amount of items he sold meant he had probably stolen from someone else.
Cunningham was a reliable among collectors, cosplayers and droid builders. That is, before he was caught stealing and selling rare Star Wars collectibles.
was sentenced to one year in jail and three years of probation after he pleaded guilty to felony grand theft and admitted to stealing about $200,000 of Star Wars
memorabilia from Rancho Obi-Wan
. Rancho Obi-Wan
is a museum that contains the world’s largest privately-owned Star Wars
collection where Cunningham
volunteered and stole from.
Sounds like this story has a happy ending.
What do you think? Did you hear about this infamous Star Wars heist? Do you think Cunningham got what he deserved? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Facebook or Twitter!
Category: Featured, Nerd Culture, WTF?