Q&A: Star Wars Exclusive Drops, Collector Engagement, and Warped Senses of Cardbacks

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, August 2, 2020

1. I've been really appreciating Hasbro's recent efforts to more actively engage with collectors, and it seems like they're really trying to give us some great figures ( and now actual PLAYSETS!!! :D:D:D ) even though the toy market has changed drastically in the past decades and the Star Wars franchise has continued to expand, both to the delight of some long-term fans and the dismay of others. I realize this is a difficult fan-base to please as fans all have different ideas of what the best (and worst) of Star Wars actually is. I'm 38 now, and I've "been in this fight since I was 6 years old" (literally) from the first time I saw Return of the Jedi on VHS and learned that there was a universe of toys that I had JUST missed in stores by about 2 years. Overall, I have continued to love the entire Star Wars franchise, or have learned to love parts of it (the prequels) over time. There are still 3.75" figure/vehicle/playset offerings that I have wanted to see for most of my life, but I don't feel Hasbro owes it to me to make them, and so I'm still quite happy as long as I'm getting something new in that line from Hasbro each year.

SO, here's my question: Why do you think there are SO MANY negative/mean collectors ("fans") on social media and online forums who are not really lobbying for what they want, but rather just complaining quite disrespectfully (I'd call it verbal violence myself honestly) about everything they hate about Hasbro and their toy offerings. I feel like if they hate it so much, why not save a TON of money and just quit collecting Hasbro Star Wars toys. Have adult men who collect toys (no judgment, it's a HUGE part of my life too) always been this 2-year-old whiney, or is this something new? I love collecting, but I hate seeing all the immature negativity.

There's a pattern I've noticed - usually when fans of a toy line that used to be #1 see their beloved series fade from glory, they get angry. For the most part we Star Wars fans have been a consistent, baseline level of cranky from the word "go" (hard-to-find figures will do that to you for 25 years), but when G.I. Joe would return and then fade away, those forums got similarly mad - but mostly at other brands. Masters of the Universe fans love you or hate you, and with some of the slings and arrows they've had to deal with during their revivals, you can see why they also bite the hands that make them toys. Instant sell-outs, the occasional bum accessory and incorrectly assembled figure, and there's the whole shipping thing.

Star Wars has mostly been the top dog, although I would argue the collective Marvel has taken over. We've seen Star Wars carefully split by its own ambition with competing scales and competing formats within the same scale. When you only have one size of action figure, the 3 3/4-inch The Power of the Force collection of the 1990s supposedly was doing 250,000-ish or more units per figure on many characters. (I have never been able to confirm this - but if true, those are pretty enviable numbers and not out of line with what Playmates did with its numbered Star Trek lines early on.)

As time went on things like the prequels, or Expanded Universe, or fans growing up would result in some sales to decline a bit - or increase, depending on the product or the year. The Mandalorian brought back hungry fans but offered them little to buy - and when that happens, fans want to vent. In the 1990s, we saw a lot of this when Kenner didn't predict what the demand would be for a movie that hadn't been in theaters for over a decade - we complained, as a community we spread conspiracies and disinformations about recalls and lead paint that were never true, and of course we behaved poorly in places. What also struck me was how we went completely bananas tracking every last variation we could find - this fell by the wayside after the first prequel, but it was certainly the kind of thing that happens when fans have way more interest than things to go buy.

This is a long way of me getting to this - when toy collectors are bored or feeling neglected, they lash out. I've seen it happen in countless lines, especially as lines are (unknowingly) ending. It's not uncommon for the end of a brand to be reissues, repaints, and otherwise recycled product either - so by the time things get to the end, there are fans who were ready to let go. And if you've read my Q&A articles dating back to the 1990s, people have been writing in, ready for it to end and declaring Star Wars collecting dead, almost since the beginning. And yet here we are, with this week being the 25th anniversary of my writing about the then-new Kenner relaunch.  So yeah, we tend to do nothing but complain when we have a chance to be heard.  Myself included.



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2. I've seen many of the Retro [The Empire Strikes back 2020 reissue] figures with very warped cards out of the box. Were [Target's 2019 Star Wars Retro collection] cards this bad? Did Hasbro use thinner cardstock for this wave? How does the warping even happen?

While I don't have any of my cardbacks handy for the 2019 line, the 2020 figure cardbacks feel about the same - but tend to be more mangled. It's possible that it is thinner, but it's also Walmart, and Walmart's exclusives aren't usually packed as nicely from their online warehouses and tend to make it to shelves in less-than-mint condition for much of what they offer. (And sometimes people are rougher with the product on Walmart shelves, at least from what I've seen.) Almost any exclusive I get from Walmart or Walmart.com comes pre-worn or is damaged en route, even if it comes from a friend who was kind enough to pick them up at his local store in another state. This is what we buy Star Cases for.


Anyone want to leave a comment with their experiences?




3. What's your take on Target's big reveal Tuesday [July 21] of the Galaxy's Edge Star Wars items?

Me, I had absolutely NO IDEA they were getting any exclusive, when it would be, or what it would be.

I watch about 5 collecting websites and facebook groups daily for news, and heard about it AFTER they all sold out, and fans were griping about it.

Seems the good thing to do would have been for Target to tease "Hey, check our website July 21 at 9 AM for some BIG Star Wars exclusive reveals and preorders!"

Instead, we got "Hey, wouldn't it be nice to have a new Millennium Falcon, and some new Black Series figures? Great! You just missed out!"

Is this what we have to look forward to from now on?

It is what it is. It's weird - but I'm not worried yet. In a normal year, things get released at weird times and sometimes we stumble over them months later. I lucked into a peg of Carbonized Mando figures in January, for example. The rumor of the exclusives had been popping around but nothing about the timing of it.

This is partially speculation - some stores (and manufacturers) want to dictate a thrill of the hunt online - I don't like this, myself. I prefer timed drops online, and random drops in stores because people always game the system when it comes to "street dates." (I got my Skywarp and Thundercracker early, for example.) In this case, demand was created for things that may or may not have been popular. A $400 reissue of an existing toy is now newsworthy and exciting instead of painfully expensive. That's an interesting change of the story and it may prove to be good marketing. "You missed it" generally changes the conversation to "Eh, who cares" to "I have to get one!!!" We're going to see a lot of experimentation as stores try to figure out what will sell more without foot traffic and marketing people try to defend their positions as being valid.

And supposedly there are many more. When it comes to the red Captain Cardinal, I expect it will sell OK - but "theme park guy" during a pandemic might not be a huge hit. The big, $400 Falcon is something I'm watching with considerable interest - it looks cool, it has neat stuff in the box, but it's also $400. If Hasbro cut the run size, it'll be a hit and sell through quickly. It remains to be seen if they did that - if it shows up in select stores, I would expect it to sit around for a few weeks and maybe even hit clearance. The AT-ACT lasted a month, the BB-8 Playset a couple of months, and then the markdowns come. There are only so many people willing to spend that kind of money along with groceries and batteries and sundries.

I wouldn't be worried yet - we don't know the scope of this. Is it a super-duper-low-run debut outside the theme park since they're closed? Is it just a strange Target exclusive to drum up publicity for a theme park nobody will visit this year? I have no idea.

Not announcing pre-orders is usually the norm, and even announced pre-order launches don't always go smoothly. (I've had 2 items canceled from my early-morning orders from Walmart a few weeks ago. Check your orders, kids.) I assume we're going to all have a crack at these in the future, so again, I'm not worried yet. And if I do miss out on the $400 Falcon, completism is over and I'm going to stop buying a bunch of crap. (Heck, I'm still missing some gold Walmart 2-packs.) It's sort of the same as it ever was, except we can't go to the stores every day, or more than once a day. Given the amount of retail therapy a lot of fans are doing, I assume some of these items will pop up for sale later - possibly at a fair price - as fans' space fills up and/or priorities change.



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Oh hey, August 1 was my 25th anniversary of writing about Star Wars toys on the Internet. I started an email newsletter on August 1, 1995, to get the word out about the Froot Loops Mail-in Han Solo Stormtrooper disguise, which was a rumor floating around that nobody was able to confirm. (Not even Kellogg's.) And then it just kind of evolved into an ongoing thing, and since then I've worked on a few web sites and magazines and other things. Now it's a bit less... it's less. But after thousands of figures and hundreds of vehicles - and another 8 movies and 5 or so TV series and hundreds of comic books and novels, it's gone from a thing you could conceivably keep track of to something that nobody is going to be able to fully absorb. Maybe you can do all the fiction, maybe you can do all the toys, but not everything. (So hey if you like it maybe pledge $1 on that Patreon link up there.)

But more importantly - for those of you who have been here since I started writing a newsletter via email on AOL and Primenet, thank you. For those of you who read my stuff in the AOL HoloCroN and Auction Universe, and the early Entertainment Earth catalog and site, and Go Figure! Magazine, Fandom Menace, Rebelscum, Yakface.com, 16bit.com, Star Wars Galaxy Collector, ToyFare, and whichever parts of my resume I am forgetting - seriously, thank you. The eyeballs help, and whenever you tell your pals about anything I (or any of us) does, it helps a lot.

I'd say "Now here's to another 25 years!" but I don't think I can be as cool as a Steve Sansweet, like, ever... but hey, I can still ramble here until my attention span wanes or someone stops me from being able to host the site. So here's to 25 more awkward, unedited years of rambling that hopefully don't bum you out too much.

--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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