Star Wars land merch on eBay: The rise of the lightsaber smuggler

On opening day at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge I stood in line for over an hour to build a $100 robot at Droid Depot. Meanwhile, the line for Savi’s workshop — where fans can create their own custom lightsabers for $200 — was even longer. Getting there was no small feat either. I had to book my trip months in advance, pay for a Disney hotel room, and then fly myself to Anaheim, California for opening day.

Visiting Galaxy’s Edge, especially in these early months, can be challenging and expensive. Perhaps that’s why eBay has become a popular destination for exclusive merchandise that you can only purchase inside Disney Parks.

eBay certainly isn’t concealing the situation. It sent out a public relations blast touting some interesting data. It says that on the park’s opening day fans executed more than 360,000 searches for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge related items. Two weeks after the park had opened, it was still seeing some 3,600 searches each day. The most popular items were, unsurprisingly, Disney’s famous collectible pins. That includes rare pins that were dated and only sold on opening day, only available to annual passholders, or only given to cast members (Disney Parks employees).

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge - Charlie manipulating the panels on a finished R2 droid
Disney Parks guests spend time picking off an assembly line of available parts while building their new robot friend at the Droid Depot inside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. R2-E2 was brought to life before my eyes by a cast member.
Photo: James Bareham/Polygon

But, eBay also said folks were shopping for custom items, including lightsabers and their accessories.

After receiving the email, I spent a good while searching around eBay myself. I was honestly surprised by what I found. Most sellers moving pins, for instance, were well-established in the pin trading and reselling community on the platform. Most of their items, including Disney Parks passholder exclusives and limited edition pins, are going for about $10 over retail price. So a $15.99 pin can be had for $24.99. Folks are free to bid on them, otherwise they can click the “buy now” button and snatch them up for just a bit more than they would have been able to inside the park.

But the gloves are off when it comes to custom lightsabers and droids. Sellers of those items are regularly asking for more than twice the listed price inside the park. Even screen accurate reproductions – essentially ready-to-wear replica lightsabers from Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities – are fetching enormous prices.

The rarity of the items sold inside the Disney Parks is just one of the many reasons to visit them, after all. The difficulty of acquiring exclusive merch isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. It presents an opportunity to make a park goer’s experience more unique. But some folks are clearly taking advantage of the situation. During Polygon’s visit we saw more than one group leaving with as much merchandise as they could carry, seemingly uninterested in the blue milk or the Millennium Falcon parked nearby.

Opening day at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was an opportunity for some guests to grab as much merch as they could carry.
Photo: James Bareham/Polygon

Exclusive merchandise is only produced in limited quantities. That’s sort of the point. When guests roll in to Disney Parks with the intention of stocking their eBay storefront, it literally takes away the opportunity for other guests to buy items during their visit to the parks. It also makes lines longer.

Scalping Disney Parks merchandise has been a problem for a while now. It got so bad last year that, according to the Orange County Register, Disney even revoked some passholders’ privileges. They still had to pay out the balance of their pass, but they weren’t allowed to actually visit the parks anymore because Disney caught them flipping merch for a profit.

I reached out to Disney Parks about the email I received from eBay, and about what I found when I visited the online auction site. They declined to comment on the situation.

I reached out to a number of sellers on eBay, and found one who was happy to talk to me. What attracted me to this particular eBay storefront was the fact that they aren’t actually selling existing lightsabers or droids. Instead, they’re selling made-to-order lightsabers and droids from inside the park. Their storefront includes what appear to be tourist pictures of Disney cast members explaining the variety of options available.

A sample of a listing from eBay for a customized lightsaber from Savi’s Workshop inside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
eBay

Essentially, this eBay seller isn’t trying to unload extra merchandise they’ve already bought. Instead, they’re offering a sort of personal shopping service.

What followed was one of the most bizarre telephone conversations that I’ve ever had.

When my phone rang, it was from a blocked number. The person on the other end of the line refused to give their name. In fact, they weren’t even the same person who actually owned the eBay account in question. They were merely an associate of that person. They also explained to me that they don’t go inside the park. Instead, they have someone else that does that work for them.

So, effectively, I was talking to a lightsaber middleman. A supplier. An illicit smuggler, if you will. Ironic, since that’s the same kind of theming the Disney uses for the experience of creating a lightsaber inside the park. When I pressed for more details about their operation, they eventually hung up on me.

I reached out to eBay about my experience on their platform, and to learn more about their interactions with Disney Parks concerning the resale of exclusive merchandise from inside Galaxy’s Edge. We’ll let you know when we hear back.

Source: Polygon.com

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