Q&A: Even Tinier Tiny Figures, Line Breaks, and Won't Someone Think of The Children?

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, August 5, 2012

Welcome to Q&A! This week: Is the line taking a break? Not really. Another distribution question? What a stunner! What about shopping online? Well, that ain't bad. All this and more fun talking about pricing in this week's fantosmonious splendifferous and potentially boring column!

1. Adam, in [last] weeks q&a you mention the line is taking a hiaitis. I know this has been speculated about for some time, but this is the first time I've heard definite info. I obviously missed something. For those of us who hadn't heard the details, can you review what you know (or suspect)? Is this the end and it will be years before new stuff hits again, if ever? Is it likely a break of a year or two? Or is there a possibility that a lower volume of items may show up from time to time? I hope galactic hunter sticks around whatever the answer is!

The vintage line is taking an extended hiatus, or at least will be in a greatly reduced capacity. Droid Factory seems to be the focus for next year, and while we know there's at least one "proof card" coming with Jocasta Nu it is not yet known if Hasbro might find a way to sneak another figure or two out there. (My guess, probably not more than a couple.) You'll have plenty of Star Wars next year, to the point where you probably won't even want all of it.


2. I am still not sure I understand exactly what's been going on with the distribution of Hasbro product. I listened to the interview of the Hasbro reps at SDCC, and I have followed info. on the collecting boards. All of that seems to indicate that the vintage Phantom Menace wave didn't sell at all and/or didn't sell well enough to allow other waves to get through. My question(s) is(are)...will these subsequent waves actually show up at normal retail outlets? Were these waves produced in smaller quantities than the Phantom Menace wave?

I just farted and it smelled terrible.

The issue, as frequently stated here, is that product can back up. Target orders vintage figures. Target's computer says "Our store has too many of the 2012 vintage SKU, which is separate and therefore a different product from the 2010-2011 vintage SKU. Let's not order any more 2012 right now."

With casepacks as they are, and collectors as they are, you don't even realize you miss things. The wave 2 hit pretty well in numerous markets, but it was 5 new figures and 7 reruns-- so one collector swoops in and buys the new stuff, and to you, the unknowing latecomer, it looks like all the store ever got was wave 1, and you're never the wiser. Wave 3 was the same way. Hasbro has to reuse tooling and make a certain quantity to get an ROI on its development, but as you can see it causes aisles to clog with old stuff, and the poor store doesn't realize that there are even more new figures it should be getting-- it just knows that it has enough vintage and doesn't need more right now.

Basically what you're seeing is a war between beancounters, optimism on Hasbro's part on the success of Phantom Menace stuff, a clearly indifferent mass market, and so on. There's enough going on here where we can blame all sorts of people from fans to stores to manufacturers, so let's not bother.

Because you-- and most fans-- are hung up on finding things only at Toys R Us, Kmart, Walmart, and Target, you are stuck in this pattern. Your only hope is to get to be the lucky guy who finds the figures before the other guy, and then the remaining 7 (or whatever) figures from the case will rot for weeks. If you elect not to expand where you shop, or order online, don't get your hopes up too high. Kid lines sell through easily. Collector lines struggle. There's a reason for that, and that's why I implore toy companies to try to stop making prestige products for old jerks like us and make mass-appeal stuff that could be gobbled up by actual children. They're a valuable parasite resource in this hobby.

We don't know quantities. Hasbro will not share this, and if they do, it's highly confidential stuff that people would be knifed in their sleep for sharing. Subsequent waves' fate is unknown. I've seen all sorts of scenarios play out where some figures show up, some show up cheaply, and some don't show up at all. As some of it is confidential business stuffs, I'm not going to speculate too much but basically know that it's too early to tell what will or won't happen. It's going to need to show up or (hahaha) be announced by Hasbro first. I would suggest weighing your options of ordering online versus paying a collector SRP plus shipping plus tax should they show up in a region that is not yours, unless toy hunting is your preferred sport. You might get lucky. You might not. The relationship between Hasbro and mass market toy discount stores like the Marts and TRU has been weird, sometimes Hasbro will collect the dud figures and sometimes they won't.


3.I try to be as proactive as I can with collecting and hunt almost daily on my way into work or on the way home so I don't waist money on gas. I usually take Sunday/Monday morning to do a more extensive hunt tripling my range on my days off. Recently I thought about all the gas I seemingly waist on those two days as from spring through summer there isn't much. Seriuosly about two tanks of gas at least a month usually for nothing. Then I think I could have bought a case of figs online and saved myself the time had something to show in the end. I thought about shifting my purchases to buying online in the future and really hit the pavement in the holidays. I also usually fill holes when I go to conventions picking up pegwarmers and loose figs for $5 or less most of the time. (But once you pay for the gas and admission those deals don't seem so great as it would seem.) I'll also fill holes too when stuff hits clearance. All that said, from your feedback from others and your own habbits, do you have strategy you stick with to maximize what you spend to what you get? So am I nuts that buying stuff online and getting it delivered does not have the same rush as walking into a store and seeing new stuff on the pegs?

I hear-- and I could be wrong-- Hasbro can't make a line work without retailers buying big. If Walmart tells Hasbro to take a hike, that's it, it's probably going to be over (or heavily retooled as a concept) soon. Online needs big box, and fans need online in many cases to fill in the gaps or, depending on where you live, get everything. Do you think I'm gonna find any Japanese stuff at Target? Nope!

As lame as this answer is-- and again, I sell toys online for a living-- your answer is probably math. Can you find these items? What's the time you spend, what's the gas price, and would you be going out anyway? I work in a home office so I try to get out around lunch just so I can see you other meatbags out there (and buy your toys before you see them). I look for toys pretty much any time I go somewhere and even though I order a lot of stuff online-- I still hunt for sport and usually leave it behind if I already have it. I see a lot. Ultimately you as a fan know what your expenses are and what your time is worth, and if things like unpunched, unmolested cardbacks mean anything to you. Target won't stock unpunched figures on the shelves, but oddly, some Toys R Us stores do in their dopey little security cases.

If you're willing to be patient and wait months (or years) to buy a collection, you'll probably ultimately do better than buying online or hunting-- and you'll get extras to sell. But do you want to wait a year, or two, or four? Do you trust Hasbro made a ton of something? We usually don't know, and with Star Wars I prefer not to guess. I've seen prices behave in all sorts of ways so I basically just go by one rule: is this good enough where I won't feel stupid if it goes up (or down) later?

...of course, when you order online from Entertainment Earth, Brian's Toys, Big Bad Toy Store, and the like you're also supporting small business in America. And really, that's what you should be doing. (Especially Entertainment Earth. Yes, I work there. I keep hearing from people who don't know this. I'm saying it here so you understand I'm not trying to hide this from you if you see this column as an ad or something.)


4. Reeeeeeaally great commentary on the prices of toys from your most recent Q&A. You are totally on point with your evaluation of the companies and that toys wound up becoming "collectibles". Comics, cards or whatever are all seemingly of some presitge format. Thinking back over the years is there a toy you got so excited about that you look at today and there is a far superior version that the original isn't so exciting anymore? Maybe a stormtrooper Han Solo you mailed away for? The Millenium Falcon from the mid 90s? The 12 inch Dewback and Sandtrooper? (The Sideshow version is insanity it's so cool!)

Stormtrooper Han Solo from 1995 is what caused me to take up writing about Star Wars toys on the internet. It's why you're here, indirectily. The 2009 version is technically better but figures with 14 points of articulation lack a certain charm and also have arms that are sometimes posed oddly. The same is true of 6-jointed figures, but I can forgive a cheap, old figure for being imperfect. Heck, that figure even has an interesting story-- it was supposed to have a double-grip Stormtrooper blaster, which Kenner developed (and had sacks of in their Ohio offices) but Kellogg's told them to remove because weapons were verboten in their promotional items. Who knew? By comparison, the 2009 Han Stormtrooper looked good, came out on time, had decent distribution, and is generally lacking in fun history from where I sit.

For higher prices, I expect a lot. For $5 (or 2 UPCs from Froot Loops) it's easy to just enjoy it. If Hasbro puts out a $100 Optimus Prime toy, it better damn well sizzle. For a $10 one, I just need it to be fun. It doesn't need to have metal or sidekick driver figures or moving fingers, and part of the problem I was getting at is collector expectations are both sky-high and unbeatable. Fans want $5 perfect figures... that era is over. Now it boils down to this: would you rather have a $10 (soon to be $11 or even $14) figure, or would you consider accepting the possibility of a $5 or $6 figure that reels it in a bit?

I like the ones that make the best toys. I want the kids that buy these not to feel like the toy sucks because it didn't fit in the seat like it should. If the newest ones are best, I'll like those. The newer ball-jointed leg Clone Troopers really do work better than the 2005 ones, but the square-jointed and unobstructed legs of the mid 1990s really do have a lot to offer fans in terms of actually WORKING.

2008's Millennium Falcon is an impressive toy, but only the 1978 version was designed with pure figure compatibility as a driving force. 1995 and 2004 cut corners. 2008 suffers from figures that were not designed with sitting in mind, plus the holsters and satchels get in the way. I think Hasbro has largely done a magnificent job on upgrading Clone Trooper figures, the new AT-AT is super cool (the rubber neck scares me), and the new AT-ST is absolutely better than the one made in the 1980s as a collector goes. I was perfectly happy with the old one, though, and I think a $20 price point is better than a $40 one for all parties involved.

I really don't care about "better" without taking in cost considerations. An impressive $5 figure will always be more delightful than a jaw-dropping $200 one. For $200, I expect the world-- for $5, I don't need many bells and whistles. I probably had more fun with my $5 POTF2 Darth Vader as a toy than the new 2012 Vintage one. (Hey, 1995 Vader can sit easily! Sometimes authenticity should be fudged to make a better toy.) If what I wanted was the best and most authentic representation of a Star Wars character where money was no object, I'd be going with Sideshow or Medicom or Gentle Giant as my driving force, and not Hasbro.


5. Are those [SDCC 2012 announcements] all the character debuts for 2012? I suppose the R5-D8 in the TRU pilots pack is new. And some of the Ewoks are new as well (Kneesa et al.)

That's pretty good. How do you feel about $25 Jocasta? It seems too high.

Ask not if Jocasta costs too much at $25. Ask what it cost Hasbro to delivery it. I've been told (and have seen) multipacks can be cheaper to produce because you can fit more toys into a box, but I will say this: vote with your dollars. I'll be ordering Jocasta. If it was a super-deluxe tricked-out Clone Trooper I probably wouldn't be that interested.

A few years ago Hasbro showed a $40ish Darth Vader Funeral Pyre with Luke Skywalker and I found that far more insulting. $25 for a "only fans will want this" item with a new character... it's expensive, but if this is a one-off, we'll live. With new characters, especially if announced and released during a slow period, it shouldn't be too hard to get many collectors to bite. I don't think there's a lot of juice to be squeezed from the hardcore one-of-everything club anymore, though... without making items available to a wider audience (read: kids) we're probably just going to see the line decline more. For those of you about to write me a nasty letter, Jocasta is better than the Pyre because I don't own a Jocasta figure and the 2009 Pyre had two figures which were similar if not identical to 2 standard retail figures plus a couple of accessories. I'll take a new character to reissues with new accessories any day.

As to the remaining 2012 debuts? We don't know. Celebration VI is just around the corner and expectations are middling. I anticipate "2013" wave 1 for Clone Wars plus at least a few more exclusives. It's possible we've seen everything, but Hasbro held back some sexy stuff in 2010, like the Jango Fett Slave I and the third wave of Vintage. If we don't see more 2012 product in Orlando, I'll be disappointed, and there's always a glimmer of a chance 2013 stuff could hit at the end of 2012. It has happened in other years.



I had this whole thing continuing about cheap toys but I found the extreme "con" side to the whole "simpler, cheaper" toys argument today. There's a toy line called Squinkies which, for all intents and purposes, are what Hasbro aped to give us Fighter Pods. They are tiny. Here's the funny thing: they're now tinier. "Zinkies" are as much an eye exam as they are a toy line, as a pack of mostly unpainted figures is $10 and you get 36 of the things. I think they're about half as high as a Fighter Pods figure, and if this tells you anything, the manufacturer includes a magnifying glass in the package.

That's balls, man.

"Hey, we're making a figure that's so small you can't even see it. But don't worry, you can see it with this bonus accessory! $10 please."

I'm all for developing cheaper toys in an effort to bring down costs to the customer, but when you have a toy that seems has no function beyond serving as a choking hazard or as a thing you can snort seems a bit preposterous to me. Having said that, I just set the Universe in order to make these a prized collectible years into the future, because anything this small will be eaten by the vacuum cleaner if it's fortunate enough to pass the mom and dad test at the store.

It's interesting, definitely, but it's not quite where I like to see toys going. Hasbro's 2 for $3 Fighter Pods aren't terrible, and Jakks Pacific's 3 for $4/12 for $10 SLUG Zombies figure line (now hitting a Target near you) is particularly interesting if you're old enough to remember Mattel's M.U.S.C.L.E. figures. Look 'em up, trust me, 1980s pop culture fans are going to find a lot to like in these even if you don't think you like zombie toys.

So yes-- the big toy store resets are starting now. Target stores are usually the most orderly so your stores should have the new stuff for Fall about now. Toys R Us is rolling out new stuff as it comes in, and Walmart... is Walmart.

So who lives near Disney Hollywood Studios and wants to make a quick c-note as a droid mule?

--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.

Me too!

I just farted too, and it wilted my salad.