By Amar Shah
Robert Mruczek saw it three times in a row.
"The movie just captivated us," Mruczek says. "It was like nothing else we had ever seen up to that point in time."
He was 13. The year was 1977. Mruczek went with his dad, another friend, and his friend’s father to the famous Loews Astor Plaza in New York City to see it. The film was a space cowboy adventure featuring a giant creature called a Wookiee, a flinty pilot who could make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, a rebellious princess with famous hair buns, and a moisture farmer from Tatooine.
Like most people, Mruczek had no idea Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope would capture his imagination for years to come, especially regarding card collecting.
As a kid, his dad bought Mruczek “Man on the Moon” trading cards, where he and his friends would try to build puzzles using the images on the back, which were designed to form a larger image when put together. But when he finally earned his allowance, Mruczek would go to the local candy store to see the colorful boxes of Topps Star Wars cards.
"I found out that it was 15 cents a pack," Mruczek says. "So I could buy several boxes a week at that point. And I got so into it. I didn't care that I had a full set. I just couldn't get enough."
Mruczek's favorite character was Han Solo.
"He's a bit of a rogue," Mruczek says. "He kind of does what he wants to do."
And his favorite card was #31, featuring Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Ben Kenobi, and Chewbacca staring as they approach the Death Star.
Mruczek collected cards until 1987 when the inevitable chapter turned, as it did for many of us fellow collectors: he had to get a job. Working became his priority.
But like The Empire Strikes Back, collecting life provided Mruczek with a sequel.
In 2005, as Revenge of the Sith played in theaters, Mruczek found comfort in collecting. His beloved cat, Rusty, had passed away, and Mruczek needed an outlet. Seeking solace, he rekindled his love for trading cards.
As he occasionally browsed eBay, he learned about graded cards. He started to rebuild his Star Wars set card by card.
In 2015, he bought a fellow collector's collection of 220 1977 Topps Star Wars PSA 9 cards for $2,200. Along the way, he also picked up several PSA 10s. It took him three years of aggressively upgrading and strategically acquiring, but he eventually amassed a set that has become ranked #5 on the PSA Set Registry. This includes the top six cards (the key cards in the set, including the Luke Skywalker #1 card), all graded PSA 10.
"That was a very momentous occasion for me," Mruczek says. "Because I think only three collectors have achieved that level of success."
Star Wars was entering a new era of filmmaking with additional films and shows like The Mandalorian. Prices for cards began to skyrocket. For Mruczek, it was bittersweet. He realizes the time has come to bid farewell to his collection.
"It's a sad parting of ways," Mruczek says. "But a bit of a necessary one for me, and I've come to accept that."
REA will feature his entire collection as part of its Summer 2023 Catalog Auction that runs from July 24 to August 13. All 68 of the cards in Mruczek’s collection graded PSA 10 will be available individually, while the remaining 262 of 330 cards will be available as a near-complete set in one lot.
Mruczek says that REA's passion for the hobby and attention to detail drew him in.
"It seemed to me that it would be the perfect venue to auction off the set," he says. "I'll be personally ecstatic to see that it will be listed in REA’s Summer Auction catalog. I look forward to how this sale can complement some of the other registry owners' sets and bring them a similar feeling of accomplishment and appreciation."
For Mruczek, this is the way.
Amar Shah is a multiple Emmy-winning writer and producer who has written for ESPN.com, NFL.com, The Wall Street Journal, The Orlando Sentinel, Sports Illustrated for Kids, Slam Magazine and The Washington Post. In the 90s, Amar was a teen sports reporter and got to hang out with the Chicago Bulls during their golden era. He even landed on the cover for Sports Illustrated for Kids with Shaquille O’Neal. His debut novel "The Hoop Con" comes out on February 6, 2024 with Scholastic. You can preorder here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-hoop-con-amar-shah/1143287376?ean=9781338840315