Mannheim staff sergeant can’t get enough ‘Star Wars’
MANNHEIM, Germany — Long ago, in a country far, far away, Luis Olmo-Jimenez began collecting “Star Wars” figures — a force that is still with him.
A staff sergeant assigned as a corrections officer with the 9th Military Police Detachment, Olmo-Jimenez, 38, spends his days at the Army’s jail in Mannheim. On his time, he’s expanding his empire of “Star Wars” gear, a collection he estimates to be worth between $13,000 and $15,000.
“Anytime I had money, I’d buy one,” he said.
In 1977, when he was 12, he and his schoolmates each paid $1.75 and packed into a 150-seat theater in his hometown of Barceloneta, Puerto Rico, to watch George Lucas’ sci-fi adventure — complete with Spanish subtitles. It apparently changed his life.
“It was the best movie they had that year,” Olmo-Jimenez said. “The whole thing was fantasy — no cruel reality.”
During a shopping trip in nearby Arecibo, his father popped into Woolworth’s and came out with Darth Vader, Olmo-Jimenez’s first action figure. That Christmas, he received an electric racetrack with X-Wing and Tie fighters rather than slot cars. Every time he earned money, he’d buy a new figure, which at the time cost about $1.50.
Some of his early collection did not survive the imagination of boys growing up in countryside.
“We used to take sand and gasoline and burn the bad guys,” Olmo-Jimenez said.
But his collecting continued through high school. When he entered the University of Puerto Rico to study horticulture, he had roughly 70 figures.
It was in 1991, when “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” were released in a packaged video collection, that Olmo-Jimenez began to collect seriously. By 1994, he was serving as an Army supply clerk in Fort Hood, Texas, where he’d spend free time at malls, yard sales, comic book shops and clearance stores.
“I didn’t know what I was doing. I would just see things ‘Star Wars’ and buy them,” Olmo said.
He had everything from “Star Wars” toothbrushes and ties to cereal boxes and TV guides. A friend suggested he take it more seriously, so he bought a buyer’s guide.
Now, he can rattle off prices for hundreds of “Star Wars” products. He’s on e-Bay regularly. He can spot the fakes and knows when he’s caught a deal on something rare.
His most expensive figure is one of his smallest, a 1977 Jawa character with an original plastic cape valued at $450. His favorites are the Luke Skywalker Stormtrooper and the 12-inch Boba Fett doll.
He’s already collecting figures from the upcoming “Star Wars” installment. He’s also looking for other collectors who are members of the military overseas.
At home, in Benjamin Franklin Village housing area, the toys are a hobby that he keeps to himself, said his wife, Megan. She bought him a curio that holds 115 of the original 117 figures. The rest is stored in boxes.
“I asked him why he doesn’t share,” she said. “It’s like his private thing.”
When she leaves the house, he breaks out his collectibles. Sometimes when she’s away, he sneaks in a “Star Wars” film.
When he got the toys out, Olmo-Jimenez opened up about his passion for all things “Star Wars.”
“I still play, but not like a kid would,” he said. “But I pull them out.”