Netflix's 'The Toys That Made Us' to feature local Star Wars toy collection

Sheila Vilvens
Cincinnati Enquirer
Brothers Ryan, left, and Sean Lehmkuhl have been collecting Star Wars memorabilia since they were kids. They now have one of the largest collections in Ohio, with more than 7,000 items. And it continues to grow.

A rocket firing Boba Fett prototype action figure is one of the rare collectible Star Wars toys to elude brothers Sean and Ryan Lehmkuhl.

"Those would have only come from this area," Sean Lehmkuhl said referencing Cincinnati and the Kenner Co.

The toy, by all accounts, is one of several holy grails for Star Wars toy collectors. 
The prototype came with a missile that fired from Boba Fett's back, Lehmkuhl said. Due to the choking hazard posed by the tiny projectiles, the toy was released with the missile permanently glued to the figure's backpack, he said.

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Lehmkuhl said he has a standing offer for this collectible.

"I will pay well or go to a car dealership to buy a new car of (a seller's) choice or pay for them and a significant other to take a round trip vacation to Bora Bora," he said.

Even without this toy, the collection amassed by the Lehmkuhls is impressive including upwards of 7,000 unique items, Sean Lehmkuhl estimated. It's also the largest collection in Ohio, he said.

The action figure of Luke Skywalker is unique because the lightsaber retracts. The Kenner Company made all the Star Wars toys when the movie debuted in 1977. They soon found the lightsaber broke too easily so it became fixed on later toys.

Other Star Wars toy enthusiasts will have the chance to see this private collection when it's featured on the upcoming Netflix docuseries “The Toys That Made Us.”  Appropriately, the episode featuring the collection focuses on Star Wars toy collecting. The episode airs Dec. 22, not long after the Dec. 15 nationwide release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

Sean Lehmkuhl shares how he and Ryan got started collecting Star Wars toys, talks about the Netflix show, and offers suggestions for other collectors.

When, where and how did you get hooked on collecting Star Wars toys?

Collecting for us was more of a conscious decision, as our parents collected antique toys and other historical items all throughout our childhood. Many memories growing up consisted of toy shows and auctions with my father.

Growing up in Cincinnati, I had access to Kenner Star Wars toys before ever seeing the movies. When the movies were re-released in 1995, my brother and I started to focus on collecting Star Wars items. 

A large replica of Yoda seems to look over the Star Wars collection of brothers Ryan and Sean Lehmkuhl, who have amassed a large Star Wars collection.

Do you have a space dedicated to your Star Wars toy collection and how do you display them?

We have about 800 square feet of space dedicated to the collection, so we have to be focused on how to display the items due to rather small space housing thousands of unique items.

Much of the collection is housed like a library, where one can peruse the area and pull out the piece they wish to examine further. Since we keep one of every item, we look to add rare variations, prototype and Kenner employee items, and upgrade the condition of items in our collection as we come across better examples of the toy.

Do you still add items to this collection?

We still add items to our collection, but not as often as we did a few years ago. We have most of the production items made in '77 to '85 so our focus has shifted to prototypes, Kenner employee memorabilia and other niche focus items that may be a little outside of what a standard vintage Star Wars collection would chase. At this point, we even buy Kenner employee business cards since it’s a new exciting thing to try to chase down.

These are some of the molds used to make the Yoda hand puppet.

How about Netflix, how did this all come about?

In regards to being filmed for the new Netflix docuseries, the producer was actually a member of a private Facebook group I'm a part of and reached out to me to see if he could see our collection while he was in town filming former Kenner employees for an episode on Star Wars toys. It was interesting.

A film crew came to Ohio, microphoned my brother and me and asked us questions about several pieces in our collection, many of which were early conceptual items as well as extremely rare and unique items not found anywhere else, such as an original Yoda wax sculpt.

A pencil drawing of Darth Vader by Kenner Company artists.

For others who have collections or want to be collectors - any tips or advice?

My advice for others who collect would be to focus first on the items that mean the most to you personally. Star Wars was the most licensed film franchise of all time, so trying to "collect it all" is a daunting task. Start small and let your collection and tastes grow organically. Also, purchase only what you can afford and don't over-extend yourself financially.

What are maybe the top must-haves (in your opinion) for Star Wars collectors?

If someone would like to collect, I don't think there is necessarily any "must-haves" since individual taste and budgets can vary widely, but I feel for nostalgia-sake I would recommend:

  • The First 12 Star Wars action figures released.
  • The original trilogy, unedited and where Han still shoots first.
  • An original Land Speeder, Tie Fighter and/or Millennium Falcon vehicle.

To connect with Sean and Ryan Lehmkuhl call, 513-500-4209, or visit,