Q&A: The End of Star Wars Vintage and Non-Kenner Kenner Figures

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, November 6, 2022

1. Do you think there is a 'natural' end point for the Vintage 3 3/4" figures? Is there a point where Hasbro says 'We have done all we can'?

No. I mean there's a long answer, but no.

Everything you enjoy for Star Wars today exists for the purposes of business. Not that it didn't before - but there is a bit less in the way of an auteur of sorts making movies, or movies/toy commercials (however you want to look at it) - today pretty much everything exists to further other ambitions of the conglomerate. Some companies have dubbed it "content to commerce," so you see an object or a character and you are often nearly immediately given the opportunity to spend money on it. You know that scene in Wall-E where people push a button to change the color of all their stuff? It's kind of like that.

The Vintage Collection is interesting because it's mutated into something kind of weird, and now, new figures are $17.99 each. Originally 3 3/4-inch action figures were cheap $2-$5 accessories to the intended product - $10-$50 vehicles and playsets. Now those are largely gone, so figures have slowly gotten more complex and expensive. New kids are born every year and as such, there's potentially an endless audience of new people who wouldn't mind picking up a Darth Vader figure, or a lightsaber, or whoever was on the new streaming show last night. I'd much rather go back to affordable (but good-looking) figures for kids to play with that I, too, buy.

The only end this line will get is likely to come when Disney says "you can't make it anymore," or when it doesn't make Hasbro a level of profit that they prefer - which used to be a joke, but we've got $18 3 3/4-inch figures now, and The Retro Collection Indiana Jones is $15. Someone is making money and probably too much money when you look at the competitive landscape.

I don't think fans can let it go until all the original figures are remade, and I assume they're going to skip the Fromms and Duloks. We've been getting the modern line since 1995 and we're only just now getting the Bespin Security Guard remakes with no whispers on Sim Aloo. Hasbro seems to be allergic to the original The Power of the Force collection at mass retail, so there will continue to be unmet demand. That means Hasbro could, at some point, switch to Coin Cards, reissue (or remake) literally everybody again, and charge you $2-$3 more for it and a lot of fans (myself included) would probably semi-begrudgingly happily buy the figures just to get a complete set of coins. I'd much prefer a 5-6-jointed figure with a coin for $10-$15, but that's me.

My guess is there will come a day that Hasbro looks at the entire line and says "we've done all we can with the original Kenner era," but that day is a ways off. We haven't had a new mold for EV-9D9 since 1997, Hasbro's Ewoks don't really match the look of the figures (or the cardback photos) of Kenner's old Ewoks, and they haven't played around much with things like "how many figures can we cram on the back," or the variant logos, or the variant cardback photos. There's a lot of potential to mine out of just changing the packaging for existing figures. I don't necessarily want to collect them all, but if you've put out Chewbacca a dozen times, why not switch the photo and make the logo say Return of the Jedi? Or The Force Awakens? Also we haven't had a new 3 3/4-inch super-articulated body for Chewbacca since 2005, so there's plenty of potential for new updates.

If the goal if your question is "When will this finally end?" I don't think it will unless fans decide they don't want to buy it anymore (and/or it's too expensive to produce at the current level of detail.) I would love to see them do a line that's 5-jointed figures on Vintage-style j-hook cardbacks for $10-$12 - but I'm not everybody. I just want to see a big fun line with lots of product that kids, if they want it, can afford.



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2. I was wondering what your thoughts were on the McFarlane Super Power lines at Walmart. At $10 for figures and $30 and under for vehicles this is a very affordable line and at least in my local Walmart they seem to be selling very well.

...also I hear they're going on clearance already, so good hunting/scanning at your Walmarts. My store had them with yellow "same price" clearance tags. Oh Walmart. Never change.

I love what I see and I hope it's a hit, but I haven't picked any up yet. At $10, they may well be the cheapest collector figure product on the market (even cheaper than Funko) and I love that they can do something that's so cheap people seem to pick it up without thinking twice. It makes these DC figures cheaper than Hasbro's retro guys and cheaper than much of the "kid" product from most manufacturers - it has a real chance of being a hit of people buy into it, and at that price, why wouldn't they? (Well, maybe because they have thousands of figures already.)

For a time Walmart seemed to run out and restock frequently here, which is kind of incredible - but they did a good job stacking the line with decent recognizable figures and collector weirdness, giving fans a compelling reason to start buying a lot. Unfortunately, the paint on Superman's face was splotchy and I wasn't crazy about how the cape looked - but at $10 I'll keep pawing through them to see if I can find a "good one." I'd love to know how it holds up. The painted faces are a neat idea, but molded-in-color is where you really maximize your retro charm.

From where I sit, the big question is if Hasbro, Mattel, or other companies will take notice - this is arguably not a premium product, but an excellent collector line that has the best value out there. I hope Hasbro makes a comparably priced Star Wars line - maybe cutting back on accessories or articulation a tiny bit - and get the price down to $10, rather than pushing it above $18. This most likely will not happen. McFarlane's 7-inch line is amazingly good for the price and cheaper than the competition, but people don't seem on board in a big way yet. I'd say it has less to do with quality than it being the umpteenth similarly-sized DC Comics line and switching and getting collecting whiplash is exhausting... but a new scale at the right price? That's a rare kind of offer, but not one that always lasts. Playmates did The Simpsons with "World of Springfield" for $4.99-$5.99 and fans went from ecstatic to worn out in a couple of years, but the line kept going. Around the same time Toy Biz did Spider-Man Classics which was the dry run for Marvel Legends, giving us a $4.99-$5.99 6-inch super-articulated action figure with a stand, and a full-size comic book, when Hasbro was charging us $6.99 for a Star Wars figure.

...and that is why I think there may be some wiggle room in pricing and features.





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And this is the week new pre-orders for regular The Vintage Collection went to $17.99. Is it worth it? I'm leaning toward "not really, but it's all we have right now." I'd very much like to see some deluxe figures, some regular figures, and some less-action figures because I don't know if my Vel Sartha needs more articulation than my 1-JAC. So many of these figures will be left carded, or opened and shelved, that I wouldn't mind seeing some figures with tons of articulation, and some with less, just to keep the average price down. There may be some fancy $21 figures, but there should also be some less-fancy $10 figures. R2-D2 hasn't proven that he gives us $18 worth of gear anymore, and I don't think Ewoks are improved with extra leg joints. (Arms, yes. Neck... probably not.)

I don't relish the possibility of Hasbro charging $18 for Ewok reissues.

The good news is the line continues, the bad news is that even with the cost of inflation, it's getting a little ridiculous. Super-articulated figures were $9.99 in 2010, adjusted for inflation that's about $13.61, but Hasbro is now charging $17.99. I would argue new sculpts are generally exceptionally good these days. But for reissues, it's hard to justify beyond "well, the original release is worth a lot on Amazon/eBay so it's cheaper than scalpers and/or collector shops."

I know I'm not everybody but I'd certainly love to see a more cost-effective, streamlined collection of toys. If Darth Vader didn't have swappable hands and was a smidgen cheaper, I'd be fine with that. Things can be merely good instead of exceptional, if the prices come down and stay down. If The Vintage Collection ever hit $19.99 I'd expect every single figure to be a brand-new sculpt and also the best dang figure I'd ever bought.

--Adam Pawlus

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