Q&A: Star Wars 6-Inch Rereleases, Tape, and Single-Carded Figures

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, April 5, 2015

1. I realize this doesn't concern you, since you open all of your toys, but what is with Hasbro slapping three pieces of tape on their 3.75" TBS figures? I know bubbles separating from their cardbacks was a problem on the previous packaging, but surely that's been corrected by now? I open pretty much all my toys, but I DO have a policy of keeping at least one figure unopened from each major packaging design, and not being able to find a TBS figure without tape on it is a real problem for carded collectors. I did see a few without tape in the past, but the cardbacks or bubbles were damaged on all of them - in fact, I don't think I've ever seen a MOMC TBS figure at any store. Last night I happened upon some Rebels/Saga Legends figures in my Walmart (the shock still hasn't worn off!), and now THEY have tape on them! Will the tape ever go away? How are carded collectors supposed to find MOMC figures for their collections, if Hasbro is slapping tape all over the cards??? (I realize that if Hasbro is doing it, then in reality these could be considered mint), but the tape really detracts from the collectibility factor.) I would also assume that the tape will eventually "yellow" with time, and probably ruin the cardbacks.

Any comments on this?

For better or (mostly) worse, toy companies aren't generally concerned with things that collectors find to be vexing - like longevity. Things like yellowing bubbles, yellowing white and clear plastic, gold plastic syndrome, and vac metal flaking could well negatively impact dang near any collector. Tape has been vexing fans since the original line, as tape on vehicle boxes (if not properly stored - and sometimes if properly stored) will dry out and crack over the years. With some lines, like the recent action figures or the heavily, heavily taped-up backs of early Titanium Series packaging we're going to see some ugliness some day.

If companies continue to use plastics that are known to age and crack, the lack of fan outcry over things like tape probably won't cause a lot of changes. Hasbro's number one goal is to ensure that the product packaging stays intact to sell the figure to the consumer, it being pretty is less of a priority than the figure not falling open before it gets bought. The specific issue at the factory (I'm assuming it's at the factory here) is unknown and it's possible they're overreacting to Hasbro's complaint about the adhesive on early The Black Series 3 3/4-inch packaging where figures glide off their packaging without too much trouble. It's kind of fascinating given that in nearly 35 years this was never really a problem up until just recently, and as you may guess it's not something most manufacturers are going to have a lot to say about.

So where does this leave you? Well, on the collector lines I think you have an extremely valid complaint. And on the kid lines. I think it'll be tougher to get Hasbro to agree on the kid line part, but what do I know? I'd suggest writing letters and starting threads on this topic because depending on where you sit in this business, it may not be a problem. If Hasbro is finding the figures don't slide open and get damaged, lost, or stolen that's a big plus. If the tape doesn't negatively impact sales, to a manufacturer, there is no problem. I was bewildered to see the sudden appearance of tape on the sturdy Saga Legends cardbacks and am curious if this could be the new normal. I hope not, mostly because tape adds more material to the packaging, which adds more weight and costs, and I am sitting here hoping that Hasbro can really reduce its overall landfill footprint (and supplies footprint) in this era of cost-cutting and general concern about what may get used up or dumped into landfills. Green or no, you can't deny that using less tape means Hasbro has to spend less money on tape.



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2. Adam do you think Hasbro will ever re-release the 1st wave of TBS 6" Again? Have they ever done so with other lines? Collectors that started late will have a heavy price to pay if they don't make another run of wave 1.

In short: when something goes on clearance and you don't buy it, your chances of another cheap shot are probably gone.

Generally speaking Hasbro doesn't bring back 6-inch Marvel stuff without changes - the same is true with Mattel and others. Wave 1 of The Black Series 6-inch figures did well, but they lingered a bunch - until Wave 2 lingered worse. It was possible to order Darth Maul, X-Wing Luke, R2-D2, and the Sandtrooper for nearly a year and odds are Hasbro will be ensuring Sandtroopers will rotate in and out. I expect we'll see a redeco of R2-D2 in some form or another. Maul and Luke... I wouldn't bank on it.

Part of the danger in toy collecting is that some of it is like a pyramid scheme. If you get in on the ground floor, you can sometimes make (or lose) money - but if you believe in it, you can be covered for later. Usually there's a collapse (if Hasbro discontinues the format I expect all figures to drop in a year or two) but right now we know it's going through at least the end of 2015, thanks to some awesome leaks. But depending on where you lived, you had months of chances to get these. And to order them online for $10-$13 each, shipped, on Amazon during Christmas of 2013. It would not be in Hasbro's best interest to rerun them again, but it wouldn't stun me if they turned up in new formats later. (Cut-apartable Maul, ESB or even ROTJ Pilot Luke, damaged R2-D2, etc.)

Funko did some low-end "Vault" reissues lately with Pop! Vinyl Greedo, Jedi Luke, and Slave Leia, which is more or less doing what you're asking. The boxes changed, but that's about all. Hasbro isn't known for doing this, although some characters get brought back because it is smart business. You can't expect fans to invest in a line without a shot at Darth Vader or Boba Fett, so if they don't get rereleased we can probably expect more new versions later.




3. Hey Adam, You are awesome. Please print my question. You are really awesome, but seriously... Please use your insider knowledge and simply explain where all of the single-carded Rebels/SL figures are. Some sites are saying the figures are cancelled or out of stock. Previously, Hasbro blamed the backup at the ports, but in the last couple of days has said that all of the figures they have shown will make it to retail before TFA. What happened to the first wave of single carded Rebels figures? A splattering of figures hit around Christmas time, but not nearly the amount that comprise a usual first wave for Hasbro Star Wars. And now, some later waves are showing up. Hasbro said at ToyFair that there were plenty of Chopper droids to fulfill the demand. If that is the case (no pun intended) where are they? Why can't Entertainment Earth order them? Why are they listed as out of stock everywhere? What does Hasbro mean when they say at ToyFair that they "are trying to get them to retail"? Are they trapped in those containers on the dock? Did vendors place orders, then cancel them? And, if things were clogged at the docks, then why have we been able to get the Rebels two-packs steadily? Also, how does a chain like Walgreens keep getting new 6 inch figures, while Toys R Us sits on peg warmers from the first two waves? Distribution of toys is not rocket science, so why can't Hasbro do it? The worst part is that the Hasbro reps can't truthfully explain why their product isn't showing up at retail. From the consumer's standpoint, it appears that they don't care about their own business model or plan. Even though the 5-POA figures are not that good, people would still like to purchase them. Why won't Hasbro take our money?

Feel free to read between the lines here. A number of online shops have discontinued these items, or say they're no longer available. Hasbro just squirted a bunch of product through its warehouses, with months and months and months of backorders finally getting filled for the Top Three accounts. That means product could be tied up in distribution centers for these big chains, slowly working its way to stores. If you go outside to more than one neighborhood, you will see many waves of figures (maybe not complete) at those big box stores.

However, these turn over quickly - I hit the same stores multiple times in a week and sure enough, a dozen figures today can turn into zero figures in two days. Stuff sells fast.

Hasbro is in something of a Star Wars sell-down period, thanks to the new movie and its other movies. As we've seen year after year, Hasbro now owns the toys of summer. This is good because Hasbro can release a lot of figures and line its pockets. This is bad, because there's no real competition in this space. Hasbro owns action figures, and Hasbro's biggest competition is Hasbro. Or LEGO really. Hasbro invested in Avengers: Age of Ultron and it is going to put its marketing dollars into that rather than Star Wars or Transformers, because that's where the Eye of Sauron: Pop Culture Edition will focus in a few weeks. Why try to work hard to sell kids toys from a cartoon that's on deep cable hiatus when you can work less hard and sell tons of shields, gloves, dinosaurs, and masks from what will no doubt be the biggest movies of the year? (Yes, probably bigger than Star Wars, of the last two prequels are any indicator.)

I still see some of these figures making the rounds - the question is, where are they? I don't know, and Hasbro probably doesn't have full visibility if they're sitting in a Walmart distribution center. I see stuff at Kmarts and all sorts of weird places - Disney Stores, too. They may have made a ton of them, but they may not have all shipped. Then again I think Hasbro said the same thing about the Ponda Baba Vintage Wave of 2011... that didn't work out so good.

Sometimes these waves show up at Tuesday Morning later thanks to allocation issues that are not on the radar of Hasbro's marketing or development teams. Some items go straight to clearance, and we won't know for sure if that's the case here until later this year or possibly even next year. Just keep pounding the pavement, check anywhere that might stock toys when you're out, and don't be afraid to give up and "overpay" to some extent. $8 is the new $6, so if you see a $8-$10 Chopper at the mall just cave in already.




I know I make arguments like this a lot, but in the last month it's pretty important to point out that while things are not perfect, they're pretty good.

Hasbro's major diversification gambit resulted in multiple pillars to its male action toy collector strategy. Sure, Joe's gone for now, but compared to the early 2000s we've seen Transformers really take off and Marvel do a bunch of really interesting and I would argue higher quality offerings than at Toy Biz. (Variety, well, that's debatable.) Because of this Hasbro doesn't have the laser-focus of 1999, 2002, and 2005 because one movie was not expected to rule most of summer if not the entire year. Such expectations in today's market are a little unrealistic. Stores, fans, and everybody else is pretty aware that we live in a strange new nerd-friendly world where pop culture collectibles have changed and so has the audience. And so has the manufacturing.

We've had a pretty solid year for Hasbro Star Wars on paper. While no 3 3/4-inch The Black Series figures have shipped, we've had 2 6-inch figures, 1 new 6-inch deluxe figure (my Tauntaun is en route from Entertainment Earth), 6 "digital" boxed sets, 13 Saga Legends figures, 1 new vehicle, and 11 Mission Series 2-packs (10 have at least 1 new figure in them.) Admittedly that's not a movie line, but for a franchise that's basically on lockdown and only on deep cable - with several of its media tie-ins being delayed or shuttered completely - that ain't bad. We still have another dozen or so 3 3/4-inch figures and a decent smattering of 6-inch figures, but it looks like the simpler toys are more or less done until the new movie, barring a surprise reveal. Given the drought that was 2013, this is great. Compared to 1999, 2002, or 2005, this is still pretty great - remember, we got less than a dozen new figures the first quarter of those years and very few (if any) new vehicles. I may be wrong but I think other than a couple of late-running exclusives in 2002, they were all dry until the new movie lines hit. Heck, the vehicle segment has been historically poor until Hasbro really started doing a good job in 2006 and 2007, giving us as many (if not more) vehicles than some of the movie years. Especially 2002. Man, that was a crappy year for vehicles.

In addition to this, we've had multiple waves of Marvel Legends since the new year. Hasbro has released 2 full Transformers combiner teams, 2 Leader-class Megatrons, and a bunch of little dudes in addition to a kid's line that seems to be doing adequately, all after a movie year. There's a whole Avengers movie toy line on sale today, plus Jurassic World pre-orders kicked off last week for an on-shelf date in May and a real on-shelf leak date at Walmart or Toys R Us probably in about one to three weeks. (I'm just keeping it real, folks.) right now.

While we don't live in the world of 2005 where Toy Biz, Mattel, Hasbro, Jakks, McFarlane Toys, and other companies were offering a more diverse portfolio of more brands we do live in an era where LEGO has embraced licensing and Star Wars does damn well for a franchise of its age. It's 38 years old. At 38, Star Trek was winding down with Enterprise. At 38, G.I. Joe 12-inch was dying yet again with the 3 3/4-inch line enjoying one of its brief renaissances as Spy Troops. At 38, Atari's vitality was a joke. At 38, Batman was... having his butt handed to him by Star Wars. At 38, Star Wars is still popular, about to see the first of six or more movies, has a TV show on the air, and is still performing pretty well on the toy aisles for a transitional phase. You can't go to the store and buy Star Trek today, nobody even seems to remember Avatar these days, and yet over the weekend I saw toys from all six Star Wars movies plus both of the most recent TV shows. That's not a ton of stuff, but having a boxed set out for each movie and a smattering of single figures is more than you can say for Star Trek's nearly 800 hours of entertainment. (Speaking of which, I'd kill for another revival line for Star Trek like Playmates did.)

It's important to remember that toy collecting is a precious thing, where fads come and go and things usually end and die. Star Wars is arguably the greatest licensed sci-fi toy franchise of all time and probably always will be, just because the market conditions of 1977 that allowed this series to flourish will probably never, ever be repeated again. We live in an era with so many options that we see things like the end of the importance of broadcast networks and the continued decline of any one particular music act, so seeing Star Wars hang on - even if it's not #1 at the box office - is a genuinely impressive feat. Given we all grew up, and moved out, and kept buying all this crap filling up our homes I cannot with a straight face say that things, right now, aren't pretty good for collectors. It's certainly better than it was for the first seven or eight months of 2013... and much of 2014.

--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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