Q&A: Edition Sizes of Star Wars Action Figures (Are Unknown), Joes, Movies

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, June 12, 2016

1. Has anyone ever been able to estimate how many of each 3 3/4-inch figure Hasbro/Kenner makes? Using POTF2 as an example, I assume main heros and villains were the highest produced. I would think troop building stormtroopers and jawas are slightly less and collector favorites like cantina figures are even more unique. I’m curious if they made the millions or hundreds of thousands?

Hearsay and rumors and unconfirmed reports are really all we have for the modern (1995-present) era, while some were indeed in the millions for the original vintage line.

In the 1990s it wasn't uncommon for action figure lines with a collector bent to pass 250,000 for the bigger ones - but Kenner (and now Hasbro) generally keep that under wraps. If memory serves a Tomart's Action Figure Digest estimated many early Power of the Force (1990s) figures and the Classic 4-pack in the six digit range, but where? That's uncertain.

Given how much stuff we're seeing now, we can probably make some really rough estimates - and they're big. In the USA alone, pretty much every store got a few cases of each wave. Looking at the big stores, there are about 600 US Toys R Us stores, 930 Kmarts, 1,200 Targets, and something like 3,800 Walmarts. Now, at a bare minimum, we can assume each one probably got 3-4 cases of most 3 3/4-inch waves for The Force Awakens. With 1-2 of each figure per case, and so many repeated figures, plus online accounts, on the low end estimates I'd wager we're looking at 100,000 for most in the USA alone - and some went through a lot more. This could also be wrong. (I don't think it is, at least for 3 3/4-inch non-exclusive.) Many Walmarts are drowning in some figures, and since some of them shipped in only one wave that must mean an even greater number were produced of some.

This is just a ballpark for movie years - given the casepacks, revisions, and quantities we see, I think it's a reasonable estimate. And with international too, it's probably even bigger... but not huge. China isn't a big fan of Hasbro's yet, and they also are not known for their Star Wars fandom. Europe typically gets a small number, and Canada in a good year gets about 10% of the US run on a toy line. Also there's the X-factor of Walgreens, who carried these figures and with 5,000 locations should have a lot - but stores don't always get a full case, so it's hard to really guess there. Also Entertainment Earth sells a lot. (A lot.)

It would not completely surprise me if some figures got made in the millions from the 1990s, considering a) how many were said to be floating around as of 1996 and 1997 that kept seeing production in 1998, b) how many of us have multiples of said figures, and c) how many were blown out for US $1 in 1999 and beyond. Due to bandwidth issues I assume exclusives are not always in the six digits, and I have absolutely zero transparency into the 6-inch line thus far. I assume it's lower, but that's just a hunch.  And these numbers are just guesses - having not personally visited every toy store in America, I don't know what actually got made.



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2. What was your favorite parts of The Force Awakens? How about your least favorite aspect of it? What is your excitement level for Episode 8? What is your excitement level for Rouge 1?

No one part of The Force Awakens stood out as particularly remarkable as a setpiece goes, but Kylo Ren, Finn, Poe, and Rey all brought a lot to the table as people. Kylo Ren as a fanboy villain with a temper is one of the things people will no doubt be referencing for years. Finn and Poe were fun, and Rey is entertaining as the new Luke. It missed the new surprises that the original trilogy offered us - there was no surprise den of aliens, or giant space station, because we saw it. Hopefully that means the next one will bring something new, because, well, we already like this stuff. It was a very fun and ultimately non-objectionable movie. If the next ones build on it, this one will probably age well. If not... well...

Despite the reshoot news, I'm generally excited for Rogue One. A line of toys and a movie designed to go alongside the original film is promising, not unlike the original Droids cartoon, so we can get more original Star Warsy stuff without being tied to the new movie. I like what I see so far, and the sad truth of the frequency of new movies is that they don't have to all be good - just good enough. Look at Captain America: Civil War. Was it good? Sure. Was it great? Probably not. Did you like it enough to see the next one? Probably. That's where we're going to be. I'm very excited to see the toys in my home, but I can't say I'm any more or less excited about the movie itself.

It'll be fun. I'm probably more interested in the action figures than the movie right now, because the figures will be with me every day and the movie, who knows.




3. I've seen on Facebook from hisstank.com that hasbro is planning to make another set of g.i. joe figures for toys r us and entertainment earth. First, thank you for another year, and I am excited to see what figures will be on sale this winter. If hasbro combines m.a.s.k., micronauts, rom the space knight, visionaries, g.i. joe and transformers into a single cinematic universe, what do you think would be the best scale for the figures? The 2.5 inch scale is the most affordable for younger collectors, but if the articulation is limited to 5 to 10 points like visionaries, the 3.75 scale can be made affordable too. What are your thoughts?

What? Entertainment Earth exclusive shared Joes? How would I, a lowly employee of said company, say anything about that? (Answer: I can't, but what may well be the final G.I. Joe Con is this weekend in Colorado.  I do anticipate news.)

Engaging younger collectors today seems like a fool's errand, mostly because the synergy of the 1980s is gone. That may sound like a dumb buzzword, but Hasbro and Mattel and Kenner and Playmates were ruthless - in some cases, they financed some or most of the syndicated cartoon shows to advertise the toys to kids 5 days a week when most markets had fewer channels than a clumsy shop teacher has fingers. There were laws against advertising for a toy of a show during a show - so Hasbro and Marvel advertised a comic book during the show instead, which was brilliant. And awful. And brilliant. These shows ran 5 days a week, and sometimes on Saturdays, so kids - who are predisposed to repetition in their media consumption anyway - would watch a million episodes, and reruns, and come out the other end being superfans who know more about Rodimus Prime than they do their own family. On top of that, we saw rich licensing campaigns - there were "It's Fun to Save with Skeletor" banks, Battle Beasts Backpacks, Ewoks Valentines, Transformers glow-in-the-dark pajamas, and the whole bit. It was ubiquitous, beyond escape - if you were a young boy or girl in the 1980s you got a lot of marketing drilled in to you between TV, school, and your lunch box. This declined significantly, and while some of it still exists the big toy companies (who aren't Playmates or LEGO) seem to have forgotten numerous best practices. Star Wars Rebels is on, but there's not a lot of available product for it - if it's selling for a premium on Amazon, you're as a manufacturer may be msising an opportunity.

Hasbro's crossover orgy with IDW (and possibly movies) Revolution incorporates Action Man, Transformers, G.I. Joe, M.A.S.K., Micronauts, and ROM in a single book. I do not believe it will go anywhere outside, maybe, some convention exclusives. Maybe the movies will, but don't forget Hasbro had plans for Stretch Armstrong and Monopoly movies for years, and we never got those. So while today you may sit there hoping G.I. Joe has a big comeback, remember that the last time Hasbro really pushed it on all fronts - pre-movie - may have been the early 1990s. Generations of kids grew up with little influence from America's movable fighting man, so it - and the rest - are all basically brand new. Hasbro is mining their rich intellectual property library, but right now the programming of the current generation of parents is more valuable than any comic and probably any movie.

This is a really long way of saying "scale may be irrelevant." Hasbro can (and has) made $5.99 3 3/4-inch figures when they want to recently - if they simplify the packaging a tiny bit and leave out the bonus accessories, they can have a product that sells at an impulse price point. In movie years, they frequently do the opposite - with G.I. Joe movies, they even said in their earnings report that they would have had better sales if they didn't jack up the price. They even found this out for Episode I - the higher price makes a figure a souvenir, not a genuine plaything nor a start of a collection.

The 2 1/2-inch line popularized by Marvel is seemingly doing OK, but not as well as the 12-inch Titans. If I were Hasbro I'd take a cue from the comics and build everything around Transformers as it's the biggest non-Nerf line they have going. If you follow Transformers Generations you know that the current batch of cars due any day now have tiny robot pilots, about 1 1/2-inch tall. I think they should keep that scale - M.A.S.K. may have originally been a 2 3/4-inch scale line, but that may be too big for modern standards and prices. Making it scaled to the current, almost Micro-scale Transformers Titan Masters (Headmasters/Nebulans/etc.) would mean you can actually make a figure-with-vehicle line for less, which means you can also have the toys play with one another. If you want Optimus Prime to fight Cobra, now you can - make a $10-$15 HISS tank that doesn't transform, but is small enough so Cobra Commander might be scaled to work with Starscream and Megatron.

Hasbro really bought in to 3 3/4-inch figures from 2007 (or so) to about 2010 in a very big way. We got Marvel, G.I. Joe, Indiana Jones, and Star Wars all at once, all basically compatible, and it was awesome. It also was very finite. Joe wasn't designed to bring in kids, it was just (arguably) the finest take on 1980s Joes and a godsend to toy collectors. Indiana Jones had its issues - many issues - not the least of which was there were iffy paint jobs and not enough fans to support an ongoing line, nor enough good characters to keep it going for much longer. Marvel is Marvel.

Given Micronauts are Micro, it'd be neat to see them kept small. I'd love to see vehicles and playsets based on real-world items, like the 1999 Microman line had soda and ramen-based items. And, of course, the Microstation (Playstation) playset. Keep it small, make it an adjunct to Transformers, and I'll buy into it. At 3 3/4-inch, I'd buy some. But another thing you simply must remember - it's not the 1980s or 1990s. Hasbro's competing with Hasbro has hurt our beloved lines because Hasbro has to launch a new movie every few months (or weeks) so they can't have as many waves as they used to, in some cases, seemingly for contractual reasons. I personally do not believe Hasbro is capable of supporting that many brands at once unless it got rolled back to 1980s levels - maybe 9-20 new figures per year, maybe 6 new vehicles per year, and minimal collector support. There's just not enough shelf space, and frankly, Hasbro would only be competing against themselves at this point. Part of TMNT's ongoing success is Playmates' laserlike focus to develop, maintain, and support its one and only cash cow.

Hasbro can afford to downplay Joe and not bat an eye, because Spider-Man. Star Wars. Transformers. Iron Man. Captain America. Jurassic World. Any one of those could keep an average to small toy company going with collectors for years - but for Hasbro, they have to think about the next big thing that's just weeks away. I'd love to think that this whole shared universe thing is a new golden age, but I think that's probably behind us. Hasbro has too many collections to maintain, and I doubt something like Micronauts (if it gets a successful movie) will have two consecutive big years, in part because does anybody under 40 even remember owning these? And wasn't ROM the toy a flop? And I loved M.A.S.K. as a kid - a lot - I mailed in for and wore the stopwatch - but I doubt anyone under 30 knows what that is unless they were a toy collector. Hasbro has a lot of work to do to reactivate the old fans, but more importantly, they need to find a new way to redo what happened in the 1980s. Transformers were unavoidable - if they can't do that with these other brands, odds are nothing will last more than a year. If that.   I'm really excited to see how this all plays out, but Hasbro is ultimately a promotions-based toy company.   Will they really spend the money on 21st century marketing and aggressive licensing to make these can't-miss must-have items for kids, teens, and collectors?




Another week, another relative lack of Star Wars toy chatter. Comic-Con is, of course, still just around the corner and we're more than a little behind for most toy announcements. However, last year the Star Wars items - specifically all of The Force Awakens Stormtrooper items - weren't revealed until the first week of July. With that in mind, we've still got some time to wait. Other Hasbro items seem to be running behind schedule compared to previous years, and word out of Power-Con is that there are no plans for a Masters of the Universe Classics item at SDCC, but the first (and possibly last) ThunderCats exclusive will bring you WilyKat and WilyKit. And the rumor - and it is only a rumor - is that this may be the last year for many of Matty's subscription lines. We shall see. It's a unique shift which makes some people happy and gives others hives. I like the idea - but if I can't get everything without fear being involved, it's not a good subscription. But I do appreciate how it got some toys made that, let's be honest, wouldn't have existed otherwise. Seriously, nobody was probably really pushing for Sweet Bee or Ceratus without a quasi-blind, all-in business model. (But we got Filmation Trap Jaw, and that's awesome.)

For those who keep track of such things, the ongoing - yes, ongoing - The Outer Space Men line just jolted awake after a two year nap. Onell Design sold the first new release since roughly February 2014, a new Diversus Orbitron figure. If you missed the drop, don't worry - it's too late and it's long gone. Weapons from other OSM figures were packaged with a Noboto Protoclone figure - so if you're in to such things, uh, hey - at least you've got something going on while Disney and Hasbro and Lucasfilm are content to let Star Wars go a few months without a new wave. Or a new episode of the TV show. Or new software. But you've got comics.

What else... the mailbag could use some stuffing. I just drove for over two hours and need to go to bed.

--Adam Pawlus

Got questions? Email me with Q&A in the subject line now! I'll answer your questions as soon as time (or facts) permit.