The 1977 Topps Star Wars #207 C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) Error card is probably the second most infamous card in the hobby (next to the 1989 Fleer Bill Ripken FF Error). But Topps felt the card was a bit too inappropriate and airbrushed the “appendage” out in a later printing of the green-bordered 4th series set.
For years, the official story had been that a piece of Anthony Daniels’ costume fell off as the picture was taken, but the rumor was always that a Topps artist snuck one in.
In 2007 the Star Wars official site said, “It appears that the extra appendage is not the work of an artist, but rather a trick of timing and light. The untouched archive photo shows the image just as it appears on the card. The current theory is that at the exact instant the photo was snapped, a piece fell off the Threepio costume, and just happened to line up in such a way as to suggest a bawdy image. The original contact sheets from the photo-shoot attests to this. They are not retouched in any way, yet still contain the same image. Whatever the real explanation is, the ”mischievous airbrush artist” scenario simply doesn’t fit.”
Gary Gerani, in his book Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series: Volume One (2015), wrote that apparently, someone on set strapped a long metallic appendage to the droid’s lower half. However, he said the team was releasing new (unplanned) series of Star Wars cards as fast as possible (since the movie kept doing so well), no one noticed the gaff, and it went out to the public in packs.
Despite Gerani’s explanation, in the fall of 2019, Anthony Daniels wrote about what happened in a little more detail. He said it was the oil bath’s fault. Daniels explained that the costume’s pants, at the time, were made of two pieces of thin plastic, front and back, that were attached with gold-colored tape. The oil dissolved the tape and the pants came apart, leading to a bulging crease as he was lifted out of the bath. Daniels said Lucasfilm verified to him that an employee took the photo with the crease and accentuated it.
Now, no matter how the card made it to market, the belief is Topps printed the airbrushed version in lower numbers.
PSA’s population report isn’t the best guide in determining the print runs because an error card is worth grading in almost any condition; that’s not necessarily true for airbrushed copies.
Regardless, you can see that over 1000 error cards exist in the pop report, while the corrected version has a total population of under 400. However, the error is much tougher to find with good centering or PSA 9/10 worthy condition. Only 5 PSA 10s of the error exist, while the correct version has 12 10s despite the smaller overall population.
Despite Gerani’s belief that the airbrushed version is the more valuable print because of its scarcity, the error generates a significant premium over the corrected version because demand for the error card is through the roof.
The last PSA 10 error sold for almost $5k in May 2020, while the previous corrected PSA 10 sold for $234 in July 2018. The last PSA 9 error sold for $1350 in July 2021 (but around $600 in November 2020 before the hobby spike). The last corrected PSA 9 sold for $260 in January 2022 (but was as high as $400 in December 2021). PSA 8 errors have sold as recently as March 2022 for $260 (>$400 in December 2021) compared to closer to $125 for the last corrected PSA 8 in August 2022.
Also, Daniels won’t sign the error card; if you see one, it’s a fake. PSA shows he has signed nine error cards in its PSA/DNA population report. There are a few on eBay listed for $750.
Beyond conventional singles, there are a few more interesting collectibles related to the C-3PO error for the master collector.
First, in its Fall 2018 auction, Robert Edwards Auctions sold an unissued blank-backed proof for $540.
Next, you can find uncut sheets with the error card. The following example is listed on eBay for a little under $10k.
And finally, if you want to pull a C-3PO card from a pack, here are the unopened items you will need to get your hands on.
Two 4th Series BBCE Authenticated wax boxes have sold on eBay recently, one for $1426 in June 2022 and the other for $1795 in July 2022. PSA-graded wax packs are pretty common as they have graded 274 of them. PSA 7 graded packs usually sell for between $80 and $110, and PSA 8 graded packs will probably cost you closer to $200.
Since the 330-card 1977 Topps Star Wars set has become much more popular in recent years as the hobby has boomed and as Disney has released new Star Wars movies and shows, the C-3PO error has grown (so to speak) even more popular and expensive, too. While we may not ever know, with 100% certainty, how the C-3PO error card came to be, it’s a card that might bring you a little chuckle. And if you’re a big Star Wars fan, boxes, packs, and uncut sheets make solid additions to a master collection. Happy collecting!