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It seems to me that many of the Star Wars movies show Jedi dying in some way or another. Some are obviously destroyed in battle (Plo Koon, for example) but many aren't and are simply left with the deceased's effects. After the fall of the Jedi Order there should have been thousands of the things lying around.

What happens(ed) to the majority of the Jedi lightsabers that, for whatever reason, no longer have an owner and why are they viewed as so uncommon?

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    This is really broad. There are hundreds of dead Jedi and presumably hundreds of stories about what happened to their lightsabers. We know that the Emperor collected some of them to give to his scientists like Galen Erso and burnt others in a furnace. That has to account for quite a few. Other sources have them being collected by a Hutt and still others turning up in odd places. – Valorum Dec 18 '17 at 22:04
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    Unless the lightsaber was destroyed when its owner was killed, whoever finds it can keep it. Grievous made a sport of collecting the lightsabers of the Jedi he killed. – Null Dec 18 '17 at 22:05
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    I'm not sure what the question is. Clearly you know that lightsabers don't self-destruct since you cite Obi-Wan's death. – Null Dec 18 '17 at 22:08
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    @Anoplexian - I've done a pretty big edit to try to remove the chatter and make your question "pop" more. It's answerable if you take away all the sub-questions. – Valorum Dec 27 '17 at 15:51
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    Lightsabers are not just rare, they are also not very useful as a weapon to someone who is not a force user. Regular people are better off using a common blaster as a weapon. If you bring a lightsaber to a gunfight and you don't have the superhuman reflexes necessary to deflect blaster bolts and superhuman agility to close in on your enemy quickly, you will be gunned down. – Philipp Dec 28 '17 at 14:12
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As you can see from these panels from Darth Vader #001 - The Chosen One, it would appear that the Clone troopers who executed Order 66 collected a significant number of lightsabers from their fallen Jedi commanders and generals, turning them over to the Empire for disposal

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We also know from Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel that Krennic and the Empire took a considerable number of kyber crystals out of the lightsabers they gathered in order to further their weapons research. Krennic talks about having many of them to share around his various projects.

Lifting the lid, he spun the case so that Galen and Lyra could view the contents.
The objects in the case caught the light of the room and refracted it in shifting colors into their eyes.
Lyra’s hand went to her mouth. “Are those—”
“Kyber crystals,” Galen completed, as if struggling to articulate the words. “And many, many more where these came from,” Krennic said. “In fact, now that the Jedi have been…disbanded, the Empire has unrestricted access to worlds that for centuries were accessible only to the Order. Not just these small samples, but enormous crystals. Boulder-sized, I’m told. Even larger.”

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    Who's bright idea was it to toss unstable magic crystals and battery packs into a furnace? What did they think would happen? – DCOPTimDowd Dec 27 '17 at 18:27
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    I'm pretty sure those came with "don't dispose of in fire" labels somewhere on them. Of course no one reads them. – void_ptr Dec 27 '17 at 19:31
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    @DCOPTimDowd - It was going ok until they chucked in Yoda's. His had 900+ years of magical thingy in it. – Valorum Dec 27 '17 at 19:49
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This may seem like a cop-out, but this depends on the saber. Grievous collected the sabers of those he killed, so clearly they don't just self-destruct, but most of them are probably destroyed, lost, or scrapped for parts, and I'm sure there are some looters out there who have managed to get their hands on some.

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Nothing special

  • As mentioned in the previous answer, Grievous collected and used lightsabers of the Jedi he defeated.
  • Luke owned his father's lightsaber (given to him by Obi-Wan in ANH). Though Anakin was not dead, he was defeated by Obi-Wan after changing his force allegiance.
  • After Anakin Skywalker died (in RotJ), the same lightsaber was then

    used by Finn, then Rey in Episode 7 to nearly defeat Kylo Ren.

So, to conclude: lightsabers do not lose their power when their owner dies. Although each Jedi may have an affinity with a lightsaber they crafted themselves, they may use another lightsaber as a weapon. The Force is the real weapon, lightsaber is just a tool.

Update: The Jedi were rare even in the Republic era. There were less then ten thousand Jedi at most.

As Jedi became a myth (Following the Great Purge aka Order 66 and some years of Empire reign), the lightsabers could be around, lying there in a scrap pile of discarded shipware. Nobody, except a few, would recognize a lightsaber as such and know what is it capable of (in the right hands). A typical scavenger would consider it an antique item of unknown purpose, worth probably nothing.

During the Purge, the Jedi were scattered across the Galaxy, as shown in RotS. Their lightsabers are probably still around, lying near their decaying corpses or under debris. Someone also mentioned the new canon stories where lightsabers of killed Jedi were collected and destroyed for public amusement as part of anti-Jedi propaganda.

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    Those are all special cases. – Rogue Jedi Dec 19 '17 at 11:19
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    @RogueJedi what other cases are there, with canon proof? Do you mean that lightsabers have a will to self-destruct when their owner dies? I just imply that a lightsaber has no will of its own and can be lost or destroyed by natural causes (massive explosion, etc), or be used by someone else who finds or appropriates it from a deceased owner. – TimSparrow Dec 19 '17 at 12:20
  • Further examples: new Marvel Star Wars comic: working lightsabers in Grakkus the Hutt's collection, Dr Aphra Comics: Ordu Aspectu base has many working lightsabers from jedi who died there. The Darksaber throughout clone wars/rebels. Ahsoka reclaiming darksider lightsabers in novel, etc etc. – Jack Dec 20 '17 at 0:24
  • Also worth noting that many of the clone wars era lightsabers were probably destroyed by the empire. One of the new canon Darth Vader Comics (Darth Vader (2017) #1) shows a public event where a whole bunch of lightsabers are melted down in front of a crowd as part of the anti-jedi propaganda effort. – Jack Dec 20 '17 at 0:30
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    In a new canon novel - Luke comes across a lightsaber between ANH and Empire - he deconstructs it to learn about lightsabers - scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/114868/… – NKCampbell Dec 21 '17 at 17:57

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