Welcome to Q&A! Let's talk Vintage Retro Figures because that's on everybody's mind thanks to Super 7. Let's also talk Super Shogun Boba Fett while we're at it. And let's talk about Supporting the Toys that Matter - is it better to be cheap, or help a wave 2 come to pass? All this and more await you in July's final and mildly off-topic Q&A! Send in your questions for next week, and kindly read on.
1. I have a non-Hasbro related Star Wars question that pertains to Super 7's Boba Fett Jumbo Machinder that is supposedly forthcoming. I know Super 7 is busy with the retro Alien line going, but do you know anything about when our favorite bounty hunter might be released since he has been teased for over 3 years now ever since the Stormtrooper was released?
I have an official non-answer for you - I talked with Super 7 at Comic-Con and was told there's still no definitive date on the Jumbo Super Shogun Boba Fett. (Although that ALIEN stuff was pretty awesome.)
2. Is the Vintage Slave I based on the Clone Wars version that was released a few years ago or is it based on the old Kenner mold?
It is indeed based on The Clone Wars mold, meaning it's pretty big. Not gargantuan, but certainly significantly bigger than the Kenner-era mold.
It's notable in that it has two different compartments to store a Carbonite block, seating for three in the canopy, and a pretty decent (but not huge) cargo area for your figures to hang out. The one thing I hoped it would have is some sort of rack on which to hang a rocket pack, but that doesn't look like it's in the cards just yet. (Confidential to Hasbro: weapons storage is always welcome in any vehicle of any size.)
3. I'm still wondering about the Lone Ranger action figures, the 3.75 figures seem to be MIA (and only one store has the 7 inch versions that I found at TRU but just one location). I was pretty sure the movie wouldn't be a big hit (and I have no plans to see it) but I was hoping to buy the action figures. None of the brick and mortar or the e-tailers seem to have them in stock. Any clue what's going on with them?
These were shown at Comic-Con with updated release dates - NECA has them slated for November, so that's probably when the DVD/Blu-Ray will hit as well. Obviously things can change, but right now expect them near the end of the year. I'd also suggest jumping on them because NECA seems to be getting a lot better about figuring out how many of a figure the market wants, and not overshipping anything.
4. I did some research and found that the Zica Toys Six Million Dollar Man figures and the Super7 Alien figures are going to be sold for just under $20 apiece. I want the figures but $20 is waaay beyond what I think they are worth. I was going to have to talk myself into buying them when I thought (or hoped) they would be asking $10 each. How long will I have to wait before those prices come down?
Well, that's the rub, inn't it? These are limited interest items, put out by small companies that do not enjoy the luxury of the economy of scale Hasbro provides. A run might be 3,000-5,000 figures instead of 30,000 or more figures - and smaller companies also do not enjoy the luxury of massive amounts of Fisher-Price, Playskool, and other manufacturing business to negotiate prices down. The little guys have to pay more and like it, or just go without. As such, you're going to have to pay more and like it, or just go without.
If what you're getting at is "I don't want to pay full price and support the things I like," well, obviously you can always wait until next year to see how the market shakes out. In the early 2000s a clearance sale on this kind of item was inevitable but today, it's more likely the item will just dry up or you'll never even see it at a store in the first place. If Zica and Super 7 are wrong and these items don't do well, it's possible either the manufacturer or the retailer will have to eat their investment so you can save a few bucks. As I work at an online toy store, I'd really rather you pay for the items you like, so I can keep my job, and continue to write this column for you every week without anyone cutting me a check to do so.
I spoke with Super 7 at Comic-Con about ALIEN at length and I was told that the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. I have no idea how many of their exclusive "prototype" set was made, but it sold out on Preview Night before I could get mine - to me, this means $20 per figure is probably a fair price and the item will have little to no problems selling. Nobody has ever produced a 3 3/4-inch toy figure in the USA for Ash, Kane, or Dallas, so there's definitely a lot of built-in demand plus actual faux nostalgia based on seeing these in toy magazines nearly 20 years ago. No other company had the foresight to make these, and as such we have to reward those who had the foresight to make it happen. And maybe Hasbro will see it and try something similar with one of their licenses, perhaps a major science fiction franchise, because why the heck not.
I have not had the pleasure of speaking with Zica Toys just yet, but I have hopes their figures will do well. I wish them big success for trying something truly out-there and I'll probably order a set of them, too. (And five years from now, someone will probably ask me when we can stop getting all these "damn Kenner tribute figures." Let's sit back and see. It's coming, you know it is.)
5. Do you think that online shopping is the way this hobby is going? It seems that everything you want is really online and not at your favorite retail outlet, unless you're lucky enough to have a pop culture/comic store in your neck of the woods you can visit. I really do like to find things in the wild, but there really isn't a lot out there unless you can find specialty stores or stores that shouldn't have stuff but for some reason do, and not always at that.
Looking at 2011-2012, the answer is "probably." Hasbro can still redeem themselves with improved distribution with their major brick-and-mortar partners, or by reducing their output. Fewer products mean less competition for peg space, if Hasbro puts out 16 figures in a year rather than 60, odds are you'll be able to find them all - nothing else will be there to get in the way. The difficulty of finding new product tends to have a direct relationship with Hasbro producing more variety, and I would not be at all surprised if sales do not increase. Hasbro may be doing more work than is necessary for the return, Nintendo discovered this in the 1990s on the Nintendo 64. Producing dozens of games did not yield more unit sales than a handful of games, so they decided to make fewer, better games instead. It worked. Hasbro will probably be on this track within the next year if they aren't on it already, as we're seeing with the not-quite-feast that was Comic-Con's announcements.
Based on how little was shown, I bet you'll find a lot in the wilds of retail. I also hope you order online to support those of us that work in this business, but hey, that's your call and we all buy things in the manner which suits us best. (I rarely set foot in comic/collector shops minus Toy Anxiety in Phoenix, go say hi and ask for Dan.)
Hasbro product was tough to get over the last couple of years for a variety of reasons - confused employees not realizing "new" vs. "old" vintage, product piling up, assortments that were not conducive to re-ordering, and of course Lucasfilm changing course all made things challenging. I assume we'll be in some sort of "course correction" mode until the new TV show starts late in 2014 and we get a fresh start with, I assume, tons and tons of new stuff.
We're seeing Amazon push Hasbro pre-orders - this is unusual for them - and it remains to be seen if they stick with this or if they lose interest in a few months. For "collector" stuff, yeah, you're going to see more online because some lines will never be sold at Target. For "kid" stuff - and I really would rather everything be kid stuff - odds are it'll be everywhere. It's like bread or soup, sometimes people just need to go to a store to buy a toy and they can't wait a few days for delivery. We're also seeing more lines developed specifically for an online customer base - Masters of the Universe Classics from Mattel, Mordles (of Rocks & Bugs & Things) from ToyFinity, and ZoloWorld's Realm of the Underworld are just some of the figures that you'll probably never hold in your hand unless you buy them online. And I've had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with people behind two of three of those, and all I can say is they're very nice people and here's to more success.
So! New stuff is hitting. I haven't seen any 6-inch Black Series figures out there yet, but it seems Anakin Skywalker is the winner of the least-popular 3 3/4-inch figure award already. I also have to say that it's the least attractive, most boring, and worst - most invisible packaging out there. It fades into the background in a sea of Maul cardbacks and Vintage cards, many of which remain unsold at Target and Toys R Us. Much like Vintage 2012, I would anticipate wave 3 or 4 to be where people are going to need to start ordering online unless these early waves are short-shipped. And even then, the bland cardbacks could be an interesting variable in the sense that since they all look alike, maybe people will be less likely to rifle through them all? We'll see, I suppose. I appreciate the lack of excess plastic and cardboard - these are tiny cardbacks - but they're just so... meh. Usually I don't much care as I'm basically railing against what will eventually end up in my recycle bin, but this was the first round of cardbacks that felt sort of off-putting. It's a toy, it shouldn't look like an executive office ornament.
The Mission Series and Saga Legends packaging looks attractive, colorful, and inviting. The figures are nice, too, so I have high hopes for the future of these things... even though it does sort of look like 2005 all over again. Hey, at least 2005 looked cool, right?
Waves 2 of The Black Series went up for pre-order this week and they're due around October/November, meaning after you catch up in August, you've got September off. And good for you. The whole traffic jam of releases is not unique to Star Wars, as Transformers fans will note that Deluxe Generations toys had their last new wave in December before 9 new guys just hit in the last month. (There were 13 total Generations Deluxe toys in 2012.) They're really spreading these thin.
At one point, Hasbro was trying to get new Star Wars product out roughly every 30-45 days, and did a pretty good job keeping fans engaged in 2006 and 2007. In 2008, the schedule was a little more erratic before going pretty off the rails in 2010. It's really easy to not pay attention to this line, so hopefully in 2013 we'll see regular releases that are spread out enough to keep people looking and interested. With a new movie on the horizon and a new TV show theoretically next year, the worst thing that can happen is that people will get bored.
My advice? Focus on the Saga Legends/Mission series and/or Black Series 6-inch first. That would be the most interesting at this phase. (I'm still waiting for my 6-inch Black Series, but I've got my fingers crossed!)
Got questions? Email me with Q&A in the subject line now! I'll answer your questions as soon as time (or facts) permit.