The year was 1977 and a small toy company signed on to produce toys, coloring books, paint sets, and puzzles for a space adventure movie deemed to be "a little film to make a few bucks off of" as per one of the toy executives. The name of this company was Kenner and they had no clue what they were getting themselves into when they signed on to do the toy line for Star Wars.
Okay, I know what you are thinking, what is the problem? A toy company signed on to make toys for one of the biggest films of all time? That is the problem right there. It was a HUGE hit no one saw coming. No one ever thought this space movie would be as big as it was and Kenner was trying to catch up. With the Holiday season (the busiest of the year for the toy industry) on the horizon, Kenner had to do come up with something and what they came up with is one of the greatest toy marketing ideas ever produced. Normally, It takes over a year for a toy line of action figures to go from design to store shelves. So how can Kenner sell toys they didn't make yet? Well, they did!
They came up with the STAR WARS EARLY BIRD CERTIFICATE PACKAGE. Kenner talked toy stores into selling a cardboard envelope containing a cardboard character display, a "Star Wars Club card," stickers, and a mail-in coupon to receive your toy set.
Just imagine waking up Christmas morning and seeing this under the tree. At first you're happy you got something, but then you open it and see its just some papers. You fill it out, mail it Christmas morning, and wait and wait and wait.
The toys were shipped between February and July of the following year.
This idea was a crazy one that paid off big for Kenner and has now become a standard practice in the retail industry, the "pre-order."