Q&A: Star Wars Metal Vehicles, Hasbro's Direction, and Old Classic Prototypes

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, March 6, 2016

1. I’m the owner of a toy store in Michigan and I had a customer come in with a really unique item. It’s the vintage Darth Vader carry case that’s been gold vac- metalized. He said his dad worked for Lionel in the 70s and 80s. Lionel was the parent company of MPC and Fundimensions who had some Star Wars products. Kenner released the Darth Vader case and was working on a new C-3P0 carry case for Empire Strikes Back. The early prototype work was done at this facility where the prototypes were being put in the dumpster after use. This one was literally fished from the dumpster by my customers father and given to him. I’d like to sell it for him and am looking for any other information to shed more light on it’s rarity and desirability.

While normally I dislike "I want to sell some stuff" questions, there's really only one ethical response when it comes to prototype toys like this, and that's to sell via auction. Kenner did (if memory serves) crank out about 100 test shots with gold, silver, mixes, and whatnot to see how a C-3PO case might fare for Return of the Jedi.

What I would suggest you do is throw it on eBay and see what the market dictates - be sure to include the story and any paper trail you may have, because it's tough to tell a really good forgery from a legit prototype for many of us (like me) who have never owned one of these pieces. You can find more about this piece in books like Star Wars: From Concept to Screen to Collectible (it's the cover model) or by using Google. There's really no reason to sell it any other way unless the seller has a price in mind, in which case he should just be selling it on his own on the forums or Craigslist or whatever.



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2. If you ran Hasbro, what changes would you make in the Star Wars line for the good of the fans?

I was originally going to skip this one, but I think it's worth addressing an ongoing disconnect in the fandom, namely that "the fandom" as many of us think of it isn't how the fandom actually is any more. A lot of adult fans are still stuck in the 1990s, where we see ourselves as a group of people who grew up on the original trilogy who carry on the flame of that era as the only true fans of the Force.

...and since then the line has diversified greatly with video game fans who are just as hardcore. And the prequels. And The Clone Wars kids who resulted in some super high secondary market prices for characters they wanted - it's not all old 1970s kids buying this stuff any more. And now we've got The Force Awakens fans, with yet another new strain of fandom. We're not homogenous. It's like when political insiders target a group of people with a similar skin color while ignoring the fact that there are dozens of cultures from disparate parts of the world who really aren't all the same. Star Wars has been around for 39 years, and there are multiple generations of fans now. We don't want all the same things. We're not one group with one voice. The last time we were a fairly uniform group was probably around 1997 or 1998.

Right now, we've got the same kinds of complaints we've been having. Adult old-school fans want vintage packaging - Hasbro will trot that back again when the line needs a shot in the arm. (It's doing very well right now.) Super articulated figures are mostly delegated to Walmart - not much you can do there. Chinese labor has resulted in prices going up, with raw materials adding to the bottom line. There was a huge cost increase when the big Millennium Falcon came out at Toys R Us, and it'd probably be twice that if Hasbro merely reissued it today. (I asked. Argue with Hasbro if you disagree.) Distribution of popular characters will never change - if something is hot, it will sell out. Hasbro will make more, and it will sell out again. It happened with Bumblebee in 2007 and it'll continue to happen in all lines as long as there are collectors and things remain popular. What most collectors seem to want "for the good of the fans" is a return to what we had in 2007-2012 - mostly vintage packaging, mostly super-articulated figures, and about 60% new (or new sculpt) figures.

While you may be sitting there wanting a fan poll for more classic aliens, tens of thousands of kids are wondering where the heck the season 1 Sabine that came out last year can be found. Or Ahsoka, star of cable and Netflix' The Clone Wars. And don't get me started on Rey. The original trilogy and prequel fans have had thousands of figures, and we'll still get more - some will surprise you - and I have no doubt cameos in new movies will yield new (but old) (but also new) aliens. It took Kenner 20 years to bring out Tarkin, and we're still going to have a lot of new stuff in the future. You just won't have it all right now, and Disney's intense interest in controlling the merchandising messaging will undoubtedly slow some things down a bit. If what you're hoping for is a return to the golden age of classic Star Wars, the only way that will happen is if one of the new films exists solely within those confines.

I'm happy to let Hasbro do what it's going to do for now - all I would ask of them is to make sure the market is meeting demand for figures and vehicles, and I hope that the new movies get to have their days in the sun. Revenge of the Sith got way too many refreshes, but The Force Awakens still has a lot of meat on its bones and many opportunities to make more new and interesting figures. Let's see what Hasbro does before yelling down their throat. (I'd love to see them drop the bum combiner accessories and cut the cost by a buck. I just want it cheaper and easier for more kids to get them. You people and me people are getting old and/or quitting, so I'd rather see the new generation have its fun.)




3. One thing I love to do is army and fleet build, Which is why I was so ecstatic when I learned that Titanium was coming back and Mattel was throwing their hat into the ring for small ships. Which now brings me to the problem(s)...

For Titanium I am wondering where vehicles such as the AT-AT and A-Wing are. In that wave I consider myself lucky enough to find 4 Imperial Shuttles, 2 Star Destroyers, and 2 Gunships. But now it seems like that wave has vanished. So now clogging up the rungs are the Ghost, the Inquisitor's Tie, and the FO Tie Fighters with the occasional Transport thrown in there. So please don't tell me that previous wave has come and gone already.

And for the Hot Wheels Star Ships line two things I have been desperately searching for are the single packaged Star Destroyer and the Mon Cal/Destroyer 2 pack, both of which are in the old blue and orange packaging. I know the 2 pack is up on Amazon which would suggest that it's out there somewhere. So bottom line, what gives? Where are these vehicles?

Well, you probably missed them. The AT-AT is part of wave 3 of Titanium (wave 4 has shipped), and some of these waves are pretty short-lived. They're not always one-and-done, but in more than a few cases Hasbro is - intentionally or otherwise - under-meeting demand on a lot of things that say "Black Series" on the box. So has the wave come and gone? Pretty much. It doesn't mean you won't see more - things sometimes come back, or get stuck in distribution, or just haven't been put out yet - but the entire point of this line is that Hasbro is trying to market it to you as a collectible, and that sometimes comes with less than fully desirable distribution methods.

Distribution is what it is - if someone has it online, and you want it, you should consider ordering it. I can't vouch for why your local stores don't have what you want, as we've been going through a lot of this since the 1990s. Actually, even the 1980s - just because a figure appeared on the cardbacks or in a Kenner catalog doesn't mean you're guaranteed to ever see one in person. If you weren't at the right store on the right day, you might miss out - and that hasn't changed. There's no guarantee the vehicles have come and gone - but based on the waves online and their stock statuses, you may have missed the boat. It doesn't mean they can't come back in a later wave either, and if history is any indication Hasbro will milk these molds for years to come. We're still getting Galoob molds two decades later - you very well may see a return of one or more of these molds because Hasbro isn't shy about keeping them functional and usable.




It was a rough week. I've got new and interesting illnesses, Nova the Guinea Pig has exited this mortal coil, I had a pretty intense business trip, and as I write this I'm coughing a lot more than I'd like to be. Also, the mailbag is pretty much out of questions that I think I want to answer, so if you have an inquiry that isn't about the toys you can't find please do send it in. I could probably write a better summation of the week but I'd be lying if I said I felt good, so I'm gonna go ahead and call it a column and if you guys really wanna help me out for next week, please send in questions early. I'd love to keep this going, or take a break, either way works just fine by me. I hope your week went a lot better than mine, and I hope also to get some more stuff for you on the front page if I can swing it.

--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.