Q&A: Media Socialists, Star Wars Droid Parts, Price Increases, and Storage

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, March 8, 2015

1. So we all saw the reports of (significant) price hikes for 3.75 Black Series at Targets in the past several days. I did not see them myself locally, so I can't confirm if this chain wide or not. Other chains don't seem to be matching these increases (yet). Further, there are at least eight Targets in my area, and one of them has consistently higher prices than the other seven, so stores must have some individual flexibility in pricing items. Are these reports simply outliers? Too many collecting sites have chosen to prefer "alarmist" stories over actually getting the facts, so I'm dubious of these reports. Given your "insider" knowledge of retail and wholesaling, are you aware of any reason why we would be seeing price hikes to the $15 level.

I can't speak for all retailers - some have sold toys at (or near) cost in the past for strategic reasons - but as you can see costs are going up at many stores on new stuff. There's not a whole heck of a lot you can do about it and we see this every few years (figures have bounced around from $5 to $8 from 1995 to 2010) and sometimes it's just because they want to charge more. In 2009 for the first G.I. Joe movie Hasbro indicated that the toy line underperformed due to their decision to charge more for the figures... and then kept charging more for the figures. Go figure. We saw something similar with Mattel's Justice League Unlimited line, where figures went from about $5 to about $10 without any added articulation, accessories, and upgrades. Playmates did the same with Star Trek near the end of their run. We saw a dramatic rise in G.I. Joe prices for the movie, Hasbro cited the increased prices as a reason for underperformance... and then kept the high prices anyway. It's possible their accountants came up with reasons to do this, or they forgot the lessons learned, or some other thing.

It's not unique to us, though. Kmart has an exclusive set of Transformers reissues - the Insecticons - for $79.99. This boxed set was $30ish when Toys R Us had it a few years ago. You can get the previous reissues on eBay at a lower price. We saw the exact same scenario with Star Wars in 2012 with the 3-D Phantom Menace line, in which we had $25 vehicles with fewer features and accessories than the 1999 originals for roughly half that on eBay. We also had the exact same Qui-Gon Jinn figure sold at a lower price with more accessories in the "Movie Heroes" line - with a display stand! - than the Vintage version with less stuff in it. There's a real issue as supply and demand goes, and depending on inventory levels some stores are going to get burned until they purge the stores of all the old stuff again. This hasn't really happened at many stores in 3 years.



PRE-ORDER TODAY - New Toys at Entertainment Earth!
Star Wars Black Series Emperor Palpatine 6-Inch Figure Star Wars The Black Series 6-Inch Action Figures Wave 8 Case Star Wars Black Series Commander Wolffe 3 3/4-Inch Figure Star Wars Black Series Commander Doom 3 3/4-Inch Figure Star Wars The Black Series 6-Inch Action Figures Wave 9 Case Star Wars Black Series 3 3/4-Inch Action Figures Wave 7 Case
Free U.S.A. Shipping - Spend $79+ on in-stock toys!


2. I was wondering if you could summarize all the Hasbro figures that are made with Build-a-Droid parts, especially those that were shipped as whole droids, not as bonus parts with another figure. I know VC-40 R5-D4 and DTF G8-R3 are... what else? (I've got a handle on what the Disney park Droid Factory figures involve, but feel free to talk about them too since I love them!)

Unfortunately, this would take hours and hours - and I'd probably forget some. So here are a few movie line droids you might've missed:
R2-MK (Disney park exclusive, pack-in with Mickey's Jedi Starfighter
Royal Starship Droids (2012 Walmart exclusive, R2-D2, R2-B1, R2-A1, R2-R9)
R5-G19 (The Black Series)
R5-D4 (Vintage version, also Vintage Droid Set 3-pack from Target)
R5-D8 (Porkins' Astromech droid from 2012 Yavin Pilots pack)

TC-70 (Amazon build-a-droid)
K-3PO (Target Legacy Hoth set)
As far as the ones that shipped in pieces, you can just go through your favorite photo gallery and look at all the Legacy Collection stuff. There's a bunch.




3. I keep reading praise online for NECA's commitment to communicating with its customers, but they've yet to respond to my six Tweets of the same unanswered question ("Hello, NECA! Of what material will the PR chibis be made? PVC? ABS? Will they be sofubi?"). I've apologized for spamming on the last two iterations of the tweet - Twitter won't permit word-for-word repeats, so each version is phrased differently - but it leaves me wondering: is this a function of volume? Or is it because I'm from overseas? In case this question is a bit too self-serving, I am looking forward to how you'll be able to spin a short essay on customer relations in the toy industry out of it - assuming what you've already said before about Hunter PR and Hasbro doesn't already cover all your thoughts on the matter. I really appreciate your insider's perspective on the toy industry, your approachable tone, your attention to detail, and your consistently good writing.

I'd be delighted if every action figure toy companies posted an ad for a "Social Media Snapple Lady" to answer fan questions on the Craigslist. And as someone who has answered thousands of the community's questions one, two, or three times a week since 1999 (and randomly since 1995), I can say that it's not always a day at the beach. Or if you see a day at the beach as something that should be fun that will on occasion cause you to get burned and sand in your shorts but is generally a good time then yes, it is a day at the beach. And as we're fond of writing in the baseless speculation community, "Your mileage may vary" when it comes to interactions with anyone, anywhere, ever. I might have a great time going to get the same hamburger at Lenny's every week for five straight years, whereas you may go there and get a milkshake that doesn't meet your standards once.

I can't speak for how NECA does their thing on social media. Different companies do different things, and I freely admit that if someone keeps sending me the same question to this Q&A column I'm less likely to give it a response unless it came with something like "my email was acting up and I apologize if you got this twice." Each company has a different social media strategy, and Hasbro's isn't the same as NECA or Funko. Duane Reed is hugely popular for a drug store on Twitter and I would also argue (from where I sit) not worthwhile but then again, it's not like I have a compelling reason to follow a drug store on social media. As toy companies go I'm pretty pleased with what I see coming out of NECA's twitter account but I have no real concept of their percentage of questions answered or anything like that, mostly because it sounds like a lot of work to research it and my speculating on their social media company policies probably isn't going to help anyone. If a company feels that Social Media is PR, PR is about getting a company's message out. Very few firms really do a bang-up job answering 100% of all of our questions.

Some companies just don't want to get into the nuts and bolts in manufacturing stuff (trade secrets?), and generally speaking there would be no reason for articles like this one if companies were more active at answering questions or fostering a community. Funko does a pretty nice job really making sure their hardcore fans feel loved (seriously, I went to their party in San Diego last year and oh my goodness you've never seen anything like it), and smaller companies usually do as well be virtue of the fact there aren't as many people looking over their shoulder... but some things, companies just don't necessarily want to share. It's possible NECA's Twitter person doesn't know yet, or doesn't feel like addressing it for one reason or another. I don't think anyone on Twitter really pays attention to where the person is posting from - I certainly have no concept of where the asker lives unless the question is phrased like "I live in the UK why can't I get a toy here?" Usually it's just "Why can't I find a toy?" and I assume everyone is American by default, because pretty much everyone I meet is American. So it could be volume, but I'd still have to say you'd have to ask NECA. Generally speaking they're pretty good at replying to people and giving generally straightforward answers, even if the answers aren't what fans always want to hear (i.e., "No we're not going to make that.") If you really want an answer to your question, I'd suggest sending a paper letter to show you're serious. That or if you sent a tweet repeatedly and it is being ignored, given the nature of your questions, it's entirely possible they just don't want to share that information for some reason. I really don't know.




I was going to write about the finale of Star Wars Rebels - and by that I mean, I did - but I read it and I didn't care for what I had to say. I'm also currently surrounded by a small mountain of empty Combiner Wars and Rebels packages from a recent mailing from work, plus a new box of Glyos stuff that should've been here earlier in the week but is the first (and if memory serves, only) box the post office has lost or delayed to me in quite some time. This stuff will probably be here for a while because I was just finishing up some assembly of my third Ikea Deltof which I bought about a month ago when everybody was distracted by some football thing with the shark halftime show. Most people, I think, buy furniture with some notion of how it will be used but so far I haven't ever done that despite having a desperate need to figure out how to store and display a very large number of very small plastic men. (Right now they're holding some higher-end Transformers, 6-inch Black Series, and the Rebels line from 2014.)

I've been goofing with the cabinets - where they are, what goes in them - and I'm still trying to figure out if this might be a good direction for The Nightmare Project, which is of course getting every Star Wars figure out and visible from 1995 to the present. I've got a few ideas of how to pull this off but the very real and unpleasant reality that is dust is starting to feel like a problem, which is why I'm trying this out as a possibility. The real problem seems to be maximizing the space, which involves squeezing between two and three thousand figures into a series of small cabinets without having to spring for too much extra pricey hardware. I'm beginning to feel this is not possible - what I really need is some sort of shelf insert with tiers or risers which does not seem to be an off-the-shelf purchase. This sort of thing really does highlight why you might want to focus on Hot Toys, Sideshow, or Gentle Giant - or better yet, collect something else entirely. How the hell do you make this work? Or do you?

Currently Plan B includes custom-cut wooden risers which I've been goofing with as well, but the problem there is how to best keep them free of dust and potential cobwebs. These are things nobody tells you in 1995 when your only frame of reference for "big action figure lines" cap out at 100 or 200 figures - and let's be honest, that's nothing anyone really needs to worry about. You can display a line of that size with little problem. It's when it gets into ridiculous territory over 20 years that you eventually realize that, yes, you made an error in figuring out just how much crap you can fit into decent display without appearing disgusting.

Also, this particular display option is doing a fine job reenforcing my beliefs that action figures with limited leg articulation seem to be more stable. The Mission Series/Saga Legends guys stay standing, no problem. Black Series guys fell over and caused problems while I was punching out the previous paragraph, meaning I had to go into the bowels of the basement to fix that again. Blergh. Doll stands, people, Hasbro needs to include doll stands.

Oh, and speaking of, some new stuff is showing up thanks to the not-a-strike being over. So Figure of the Day is back this week, and I strongly suggest resuming your toy hunts - I'm seeing waves 1 and 2 of Rebels stuff reappear, plus at Entertainment Earth (where I work) we got wave 3 and just sold through that first shipment. (Mine didn't show up yet, but they're due soon and will be in FOTD accordingly.) This could ignite interest, it could result in stuff glutting up shelves fast, but whatever you feel the case may be it's a good time to start making whatever rounds you may make if you aren't already ordering stuff online. I saw some interesting stuff over the weekend.

--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.



This Video Limits our Liability - Watch It
It's a Thing You Can Watch