Not every Star Wars fan has a fortune available to them to build a collection of vintage Star Wars figures. If you should wish to do so, there is a strong likelihood that you originally had a collection of these toys in your youth, and they were probably given away during the familiar loft clearout some years ago! There is no need to worry, as you can still build a respectable collection of vintage Star Wars figures. Sadly, it won't be as simple as picking up your favourite figures from the local store the way you used to when you were a child.
A great starting point is the 'Star Wars Vintage Action Figures Book' by John Kellerman. It really is a great reference manual on the subject with superb colour illustrations of every vintage Star Wars figure ever made by Kenner. This book in itself can be a little difficult to come by but it is well worth persevering with trying to find a copy. Between 1978 and 1985, Kenner made Star Wars action figures and toys to a very high standard. All your favourite characters are in the collection, such as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Darth Vader. There are also a number of rarities such as Yak Face, Barada and an Imperial Gunner.
You will probably have some idea of what exactly you want to collect. Many collectors are happy with loose, unpackaged figures in mint condition. A full collection of figures unpackaged can usually be achieved relatively quickly, budget limitations allowing. The complete collection of figures numbers around 115, depending on whether you count a number of variations. Most have weapons or accessories. You will see many loose figures with paint wear, due to their age and the fact that they were well used and loved toys. Items with wear usually sell for a lot less than mint condition items.
Some collectors prefer to collect 'carded' figures, which are figures still sealed in a plastic bubble on their original card. As you can imagine, a carded figure will generally be worth a lot more than a loose figure. In recent years people have re-carded figures (sealing a loose figure back into packaging), which can make it difficult for a beginner to differentiate between which are original carded figures and which have been re-carded. Original carded Star Wars figures have survived the 1970's and 80's in varying states. Sadly many of the plastic bubbles that the figures were encased in on the card have yellowed slightly over the years, so serious collectors look for crystal clear packaging with no dents, cracks or crushing to the plastic bubble. Bearing in mind that the packaging was only intended last for a very short period of time and was not too substantial, it is amazing how many have survived intact.
Vintage Star Wars figures can be found from several sources. The most common are Ebay and collectors fairs. Prices are likely to be higher at specialist Star Wars events or conventions. Bargains can be found online if you are willing to spend time trying to find them. Prices always vary but the best condition items always command a significantly higher price than those with flaws.
Building a collection of vintage Star Wars figures can take a lot of time and money, but can also be very rewarding.