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KAI RYSSDAL: It’s been kind of a weird week here in Los Angeles. Walking around downtown, every now and then you’d run into a guy in what looked like a white plastic suit of armor. Or a big, furry costume. Turns out they are just some of the people who’ve spent a total of $14 billion for Star Wars merchandise since the first movie came out 30 years ago this week.
They’re in town for an anniversary convention. So we sent Marketplace’s Jeff Tyler to check it out.
JEFF TYLER: Jay Wise came all the way from South Bend, Ind. He’d invested a couple hundred bucks in his Luke Skywalker outfit. And his spending didn’t stop there.
JAY WISE: Just today, which has only been a few hours, probably just under $300.
Martin Garcia spent almost 200 bucks on a costume for his 5-year-old. And he’s getting off cheap.
MARTIN GARCIA: On average, your costumes are going to run anywhere from $200 up to about $1,200 for the more elaborate ones.
He says the real money is in the collectables — action figures that once retailed for $2 or $3.
GARCIA: Some of those figures can run up to about $1,200 to $1,500.
You can buy video games and trading cards. You can even pay for autographs from the film’s stars.
BRYN ASBURY: Carrie Fisher is the most expensive — $35. Most of them are around $20.
That’s Bryn Asbury from Keokuk, Iowa — dressed up like Princess Leia with money to burn.
TYLER: Do you have any sense of how much you plan to spend this weekend?
ASBURY: Probably, roughly, in the $2,000 to $3,000 range.
That might sound like a lot. Unless you’re bidding on Dan Melson’s 24-track master tape for the original Star Wars score, complete with John Williams speaking to the orchestra. He’ll only reveal a ballpark estimate of the bids he’s gotten so far.
DAN MELSON: Metaphorically speaking, it’s a Lexus. I don’t want to say a hardcore number. But it’s a Lexus. A nice Lexus.
But it’s not all frivolous. One group, called the 501st Legion, dresses up like Darth Vader’s storm troopers to raise money for charities.
STORM TROOPER: I know we’ve done some events where they’ve raised over a million dollars in one evening.
Worried about what the folks at work might think, that guy didn’t want to give his name.
STORM TROOPER: It is the most unique arrangement in all of licensing because we are, for all intents and purposes, walking, talking copyright violations. But, provided that we are doing it for the benefit of the community — we don’t take funds personally, because we don’t earn money for this — they let us go ahead and do that.
So, if you’ve got 700 bucks to spend on a storm trooper outfit, you’re welcome over on the dark side.
In Los Angeles, I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.
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