What's a Star BirdThe Star Bird was a cool electronic toy from the late 1970s. It was a contemporary of Big Trak and Rom the Space Knight. (Perhaps you've heard of Rom? If not, pick approximately every other entry in this blog since I started it in 2008.) In fact, Bing McCoy – the man that created the Rom concept – was also the mind behind this toy.
Mounted on the front are twin "lasers" that one can fire by pressing a button. The true gimmick, however, is the engine sound. It responds to the angle you hold the ship. Point it down and you're coming in for a landing. Point it up and you're taking off. Hold it straight and, um, you maintain altitude.
The patent for the toy looks amazingly close to the final product, so perhaps McCoy and his partners also came up with the other cool feature. You can take pieces off and reconfigure it! Pop the front off and engine out, reconnect, and you've got a fighter. The two tail fins come off as drone fighters. Slide the outer hull off the front and you've got a sleeker cockpit underneath. Eject the laser turret and its an escape pod. Oh, just go look at the instructions.
Sadly, one of the local comic book stores – in fact, the newest – was closing. Of course, Hit Comics opening less than half a mile from the biggest comic store in town, The Deep, probably wasn't a great idea to begin with. The owner had actually been doing collectible shows for a while before opening the shop and will continue to do so now that it's closed. He specializes in comic books and Star Wars toys and memorbilia, but has other collectibles, too. So when I saw on Facebook that the store was having a going out of business sale, I went to check it out.
I found a few comics to buy, but nothing I'd really been looking for. I had to talk myself out of buying a complete set of 7 Guys of Justice because I'd have wound up with far more duplicates than I would have filled in missing issues. It wasn't until I was checking out I spotted the Star Bird box behind the counter. GASP!
Two things were at play in my mind. First, it was invented by the same team that invented Rom. Second, my best friend in elementary school had one and I never did. (You'll probably never read this, but hi, Cody!) So I ask if I can see it. I haven't held a Star Bird in decades.
As you can see, the box is not in great shape. It was once sealed in packing tape which has since been removed, leaving those lovely brown marks. And some of the corners have come apart.
Inside I'm surprised to find what looks like a complete Star Bird. It even has the little gun for the turret that everybody – including, if I recall correctly, my best friend – lost. Wow! No instructions, but that's no big deal. Okay, how much? Twenty bucks. Amazingly, I talk myself out of whipping out my debit card and buying it. It's just a hunk of plastic. It'll just sit on a shelf forever. That money is more wisely spent on necessities than this.
That was Wednesday. Thursday I can see in my bank account the bonus from work pending as a deposit for Friday. Holy cow! It's a lot, lot, lot more than I expected. Guess where I'm going back to on Friday?
I do zero research on prices ahead of time. After years of dealing in classic video games of that era, I know a good deal when I see it. What I want to know is whether it's really complete or not, so I check on what pieces it's supposed to come with. When I go back on Friday, it's still there! I determine it is truly complete, so now it's mine!
I considered it, but didn't check the battery compartment before buying. There I failed because it turns out the 9-volt battery connector is torn up. I'm pretty confident I can replace it, though, I just haven't had time yet. I'm hoping that once that's done, I'll have a fully functional toy.
Post-purchase research on ebay confirms I got a great deal. I also discover that all the stickers are present and placed in the right spots, according to the instructions. The "Dock" sticker on the back of the ship's head is mauled and one sticker on the front has shifted at some point, but overall it's good. And my younger kids were impressed just looking at it when I brought it home. Can't wait to fix it and show them the electronics in action. But I want to keep from losing that little gun for the turret, so I'm afraid they're not going to get unrestricted access to it.