Jon Gray remembers his first action figures well from the original 1977 “Star Wars: A New Hope.” His mom, Liisa, returned from a trip and brought him the first set of figures such as C-3PO and Chewbacca.
“I have 95 percent of what they made back in the day of what they call vintage in my mom’s house, but I don’t collect it because it’s out-of-this world expensive,” he said.
“With the new movies, interest has gone up and so has price.”
With the latest release of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” this month, Gray’s interest — along with the rest of the world’s — is piqued again as films and new merchandise are planned to come out annually.
Gray, who saw a showing of it Dec. 15, said “Rogue One” was “fantastically fun.”
Before the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2015, his wife Janet and sons Jaxson, 12, and Jamison, 10, decorated their home in “Star Wars” for Christmas.
This year it was more subtle, but as a collector he’s been on the hunt for “Rogue One” toys, too.
“I theoretically buy one new action figure to own [in box] and one to show but I ran out of space awhile ago,” Gray said. “I’m a completionist.”
Gray has boxes of boxed figures throughout his home including in a full attic.
He grew up in Port Angeles and lived in Seattle for a while before moving to Sequim in 2005 to help run Angeles Furniture with his father, Jack Gray. It’s been in their family since 1919.
Gray said he used to do toy runs where he’d seek out new shipments of toys coming onto shelves at department stores where it’d be a battle at times to find the right figures.
He remains a member of a collectors club in the Seattle area but does most of his shopping online now. Gray said he has to hunt down some exclusive figures in specific stores and events unless he wants to pay more on auction sites.
Collecting has changed a lot, he said, especially with Disney, which owns “Star Wars,” doing more marketing more frequently.
“They [Kenner/Hasbro] used to do more products five to 10 years ago, which was the golden age of the modern age because there was way more product then,” Gray said.
They articulated the figures more then, too.
For the “Force Awakens,” he estimates there were about 50 figures and there are about 4,000 in the modern era since the mid-1990s, which includes “Rogue One.”
“Now they release movie figures more quickly because movies are coming out every year, so it’s not as hard to collect,” Gray said. “It’s more seasonal and easier to find more products.”
Gray’s favorite “Star Wars” film is “The Empire Strikes Back” saying it “just blew me away seeing the snow speeders on the screen at the Port Angeles Drive-In.”
While he grew up with the original films, he has no qualms admitting he enjoyed the “Star Wars” prequels episodes I through III (1999-2005) that are polarizing among many fans.
His family seems to be on board as fans of the franchise, too.
“I don’t push it on them,” Gray said of his boys.
“They know more about Middle Earth and ‘Lord of the Rings’ than most kids and ‘Star Wars’ by default.”
Janet said she’s seen all the Marvel and Transformers movies and while “Star Wars” might not be her “cup of tea, with three males in the house it’s much easier to embrace it than fight it.”
She’s accepting of her husband’s hobby and jokes she’s OK with him having all of Western Washington’s Target’s numbers programmed in his phone.
Following the release of “Rogue One,” Gray’s next “Star Wars” venture will be to the “Star Wars Celebration,” a fan convention for the franchise April 13-16 in Orlando, Fla. He’s gone to every U.S. one except the first in Denver.
Looking further down the line, his and Janet’s dream would be to build a new home but for Jon that would include a man cave large enough to display his open figures.
Janet said she’s OK with it so long as it didn’t look like a Walmart toy display of toy boxes.