Darth Vader is practically synonymous with Star Wars, and even non-fans can likely match the character with his name. Vader has been a staple of Star Wars toy lines, and LEGO Star Wars is no different with a total of 26 different variants released to date. For this reason we will be breaking this Mini Steps feature into two parts.
The first Darth Vader minifigure was introduced in 1999 as part of the initial launch. Like many other characters from that first year he required a new helmet mold which would later come to be known as the Type 1 helmet, but more on that later. This first version came with plain black legs and a uniquely printed torso. The head under the helmet was light gray and featured eyebrows and had scars on one side of his face. His look was completed with a black cape. This first version was released in five sets – 3340 Star Wars #1, 7150 TIE Fighter & Y-Wing, 7152 TIE Fighter & Y-Wing, 7200 Final Duel I, and 10123 Cloud City.
After the color swap in 2003/2004 the same figure was released in two more sets – 7262 TIE Fighter & Y-Wing and 10131 TIE Fighter Collection – but this time came with dark bluish gray torso printing and a light bluish gray head. With the 20th anniversary of LEGO Star Wars, a nearly identical version was released but included the 20th anniversary logo printed on the back. This figure was exclusive to 75261 Clone Scout Walker – 20th Anniversary Edition. A few years later a version with the same body and a plain black head was included in the 9001765 watch set.
Outside of the color swap the first change to Darth Vader came in 2005 when the head printing was redesigned. This version dropped the eyebrows and included scars on both sides of his face. The remaining parts stayed the same. A caped version came with 7264 Imperial Inspection and 6211 Imperial Star Destroyer while one without a cape was found in 7251 Darth Vader Transformation. That same year a light-up lightsaber version was included in 7263 TIE Fighter and the 2005 Toy Fair Nurnberg exclusive polybag.
The head was once again redesigned around 2008/2009 this time keeping the two sets of scars but reverting back to the inclusion of eyebrows. Some later copies of 7264 Imperial Inspection included this head on the same body as above.
After ten years of the same torso design it was time for a change. Known as the “Death Star torso” this version featured more accurate detailing of the life-support regulator seen on his chest. One version would be released with the non-eyebrowed head in the 852554 magnet set while the one with eyebrows was included in 10188 Death Star, 8017 Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter, and one of the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con exclusives. An identical design but coated with a chrome finish was another exclusive for 2009 coming in a polybag limited to 10,000 copies and the Toy Fair VIP Invite limited to 100 copies.
With all of the overlap you’re quickly seeing how complicated this has become for minifigure collectors, and we aren’t done yet! The Death Star torso was used with yet another new face print this time having pupils for the first time. This version was found in 7965 Millennium Falcon, 10212 Imperial Shuttle, 10221 Super Star Destroyer, and a variety of watch sets. This head was also used on the Celebration Medal version which was packed with The Empire Strikes Out DVD and the 2013 Toy Fair Exclusive. This version came with the Death Star torso that featured a medallion printed over it.
The last time this head would be used was on the first holiday-themed Darth Vader which was included in the 2014 Star Wars Advent Calendar. With presents printed along his belt and a red robe pattern printed on the torso and legs this version really adds a pop of color to the otherwise dark lineup. This is the only version to come with a cape in a color other than black.
The final two variants pull away from the rest of the pack. The first of these is the Anakin/Darth Vader minifigure that was released in 8096 Emperor Palpatine’s Shuttle. It features a burnt Anakin head and a torso with tattered robes and exposed skin. This version is interesting because LEGO still recognized him as Anakin, but the inclusion of the Vader helmet earned him the Darth name.
Serving as the transition towards the Type 2 Darth Vaders is the version included in 75055 Imperial Star Destroyer. The version was nearly a complete redesign from any of the prior versions. The torso was once again updated this time featuring enhanced detailing around the belt and life-support regulator. It was the first non-holiday version to come with printed legs. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it was the first fully suited Darth Vader that came with a flesh toned head. Tan was the selected color and the facial print had much more detailing than prior versions including being the first dual-sided Vader head.
Fifteen years of Darth Vaders in LEGO form gave us fourteen different variants which is fascinating for a character that has very few different looks. Stay tuned for Part Two that will cover the remaining variants!
As founding partner and the chief archivist, Kevin Downard maintains and curates the library catalog.
Getting in at the ground floor when the LEGO Star Wars theme first launched, Kevin has been collecting ever since. He is a self-proclaimed minifigure guru and has a passion for tracking down and cataloging every minifig variation – no matter how obscure. He has assisted Rebrickable and Bricklink in maintaining their set inventories, helped overhaul the rebelscum.com LEGO forum, and created the LSW Collector mobile app.