Q&A: Star Wars Card Sadness and Guns

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, October 29, 2023

1. Given Hasbro does lightsaber and helmet replicas. Why no blaster replicas?

Guns are a dicey issue in the United States, but in a lot of countries you're just not going to be selling them at all. Back in the 1970s according to Steve Sansweet's Star Wars: From Concept to Screen to Collectible - a must-read for fans of the original trilogy - George Lucas went to Kenner and saw the toys. There were no guns. The Kenner people said they'd get him some guns, and indeed they did - we'd see a couple of Stormtrooper blasters and Han Solo's blaster, plus a blaster carry case and a Biker Scout pistol. There were also a few lightsabers, but overall it was low on roleplay. Today, kid roleplay and premium roleply - helmets and lightsabers, especially lightsabers - are probably more important than action figures for the business. Everybody wants at least one. And 30 or 40 years ago, the same was true with toy guns as well as prop replicas.

Guns have been increasingly problematic. I don't care what your politics are, because this is more about business - you can't sell a Transformers Megatron toy with a gun mode in the USA, and there was some hubbub about not being able to sell a Star Trek original series Phaser in some states, so some products got dropped a few years ago. Things can change, and it's worth noting that Hasbro's NERF toys are among their best-sellers and one of their top brands with older kids. There's a lot of push and pull, but one thing is consistent: thou shall not sell realistic toy guns. This is not unique to Hasbro or Disney properties, unless it's pretty fanciful you're not going to see a lot of mass-produced licensed gun toys ever again. Things might change in 30 or 40 years again as politics or how we treat firearms change, but it strikes me as unlikely that you'll ever see original or prequel trilogy guns in their proper colors ever again. (Outside of bootlegs on Etsy, that is.)

Hasbro's Nerf LMTD program had some high-end blasters for collectors, but Boba Fett's rifle was in wacky colors and the Star Trek phaser was almost unrecognizable. Nobody wants to run afoul of any gun laws, but more importantly nobody wants a kid (or anybody) to be mistaken for a bad actor with a gun that results in someone's death. Depending on your age, things change - as a kid I had a Larami squirt gun that looked pretty realistic before the company switched over to Super Soakers, which held more water and were a little less frightening. I've talked to people roughly my age with kids who are nervous about toy guns, mostly due to how some people can't tell a toy gun from a real gun. For that reason, it's a pretty safe bet Hasbro, Disney, and Lucasfilm don't want to be named as a defendant in a case where a kid has a black Han Solo blaster replica they swiped from dad and was waving it around in the driveway when someone thought it was a real loaded gun.

I find the coloring issue silly - it's easy to paint a toy gun black, or to take a real gun and paint it orange - but I'm not a lawmaker. A Discord group I watch showed toy aisles in other countries and there are indeed realistic toy guns being sold in some parts of the world. But not here, and not licensed.



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2. Maybe a bit off topic, but... What ever happen to Star Wars WideVision trading card sets?
--Dan (same Dan)

Topps has been bought and sold a few times, and the business model for trading cards has changed dramatically. There are still Widevision cards, sold direct-to-consumer, in teeny sets made in small quantities. It's not like a pack of cards for a few bucks is a thing anymore. Now single cards from Ahsoka are $20 on eBay.

Now you an go to Topps.com and a lot of cards are eight bucks each - or under $4 per card if you buy 20 of the same card. And some of those cards are $20. I don't get it, I won't pay it, but I'm not that audience either - I want something fun and cheap to collect, not something where I pay a premium price where flipping is a big part of the product's appeal.

I'm not seeing Topps Star Wars product in stores anymore, so I assume the premium placed on card real estate, higher prices, and the fact kids aren't buying it (and it's priced too high for kids, a vicious cycle) keeps a lot of products out of the market. It's where I have been assuming toys are going for a while.

Cards have been out of reach for kids for a while - I remember being pretty young when the premium Star Wars Galaxy set hit, and wow did I love those cards. I've still got mine, and they were glossy on both sides and generally featured gorgeous layouts, awesome artwork, and were better than classic chipboard but also much more expensive. The old-school cheap chipboard cards printed in the millions just aren't a thing anymore, and 9 cards for $2 seems pretty unlikely in this day and age too. It's a shame, those were some pretty gorgeous cards. At least some of the old base card sets are pretty cheap on eBay! I really ought to go back and finish the prequels...





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With word on toy companies wanting to do more with less, we're seeing some of that with this week's big Star Wars pre-orders being what seems to be a repack (or maybe slight deco change) of The Vintage Collection Cassian Andor (third release of a cheap figure you can buy right now) and The Black Series Paz Vizsla, depending on how you want to count it, it's the fifth release of the Heavy Infantry Mandalorian mold. I assume orders are going to be low, because you can also get most versions of that figure fairly cheaply compared to the new release. Unless there's some licensor-mandated product direction here, it doesn't seem like they're going out of their way to avoid the future of the clearance rack.

But hey, Ross is still doing well - Mission Fleet Boba Fett's Starship for $9.99, some The Vintage Collection figures at or under $5, there are entertaining purchases to be had for those who didn't previously pull the trigger. Future announcements, depending on how you want to look at it, are a mixed bag - a set inspired by The Last Command brings you what seems to be Luke, Luuke, Joruus, and Mara Jade for your 6-inch line. That one sounds expensive but might be awesome. A 6-inch Clone Trooper vs. Battle Droid 2-pack is... look, it's bland. I certainly don't need more Battle Droids, although the tan ones do command a premium price still. But that doesn't mean I'd pick a better product - it looks like Amazon has the Droids deco 6-inch Boba Fett for $24.99 which seems like a steal. I never saw this one in stores or on clearance, but you can get one on eBay for less than retail price.

From where I sit the most exciting thing to inject excitement into any of the figure scales would be an increase in playsets or vehicles. I like having a reason to buy figures, or a place to put the figures I have - admittedly, the 6-inch vehicles sort of went over a cliff. It would be cool to see some sort of themed display solution or an imaginative playscape of some sort, but I guess enough people just leave them in the box where the return on investment might not be there.

Lightsabers and roleplay toys like helmets continue to perform well, and were something Kenner really dropped the ball on back in the old days. It's good that the figures we're getting (when we get new ones) tend to be pretty great, even though the rising prices make it a lot harder to grit one's teeth and pay the price with so many things going on markdown relatively quickly. The 6-inch Luke with Grogu set getting marked down almost immediately stung a bit, and that doesn't seem too unique to Star Wars. There may well be more collector stuff in all action brands than ever before, and I assume this means people are finally hitting a point where they say "You know what? I'm good."

As to what I think Hasbro or anyone should do more of? Themed waves. "4-8 random figures" is fine but when you go to the store - or open the box in the mail - with a whole slate of figures that are made for one another, it's just a lot more rewarding than "this guy goes on this shelf, this girl goes on this other shelf, and I guess this droid goes in the back with the other similar droids." Things seemed to go well until we got away from themed waves around The Vintage Collection just around 12 years ago, then it got messy.

--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.



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