Q&A: Star Wars Kenner Droids and Classic Collectibles

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, July 10, 2022

This week in Q&A - Chrome! How come we're not seeing much of it these days? Also kids these days, can they even collect? Well... maybe.

Be sure you send in your questions for next time. The mailbag is out of on-topic questions, so if you got some, send some in. Read on!

1. Do you know why we haven't gotten a Retro Collection R2-D2? Issues with the chrome for R2-D2 and C-3PO the reason?


Hasbro never made a definitive statement as to why we haven't gotten Retro Kenner-style R2-D2 (or for that matter, C-3PO) as far as I've seen or read. Rumors of not being able to do chrome on other figures has gone around, but I think this may have more to do with problems using the chrome process with PVC plastic - if you did it to the Vintage or Black Series figures, the flexible plastic would bend and the chrome would flake off. If you do it on ABS (like the originals,) the generally rigid plastic takes the chrome well. For those of you who have Kenner C-3PO, you'll noticed he has absolutely no "give" to him when compared to Darth Vader or a Jawa.

I have seen fans speculate that "chrome is toxic" but remember, a lot of fans out there are idiots. Back in 1995, a lot of online fans cited toxic chrome and silver paint as the then-scarce (and delayed) C-3PO and Speeder Bike were hard to find. Not recalled, mind you, just hard to find. We like to think we're smart as a group, but boy howdy can I show some examples to the contrary. If a toy is poison, there's usually a big product recall and people are encourage to send back toys for repairs or replacements. It never happened with Star Wars figures or vehicles. If it hasn't happened with toys already on the market, I would find it unlikely that this chrome business is true. But what is true that chrome elements on Hasbro toys are scarce these days. We had some shiny parts on some Micronauts figures a few years ago, and the occasional Transformers toy, but not much else. We still see some shiny metal bits from Hot Wheels over at Mattel.

R2-D2 and C-3PO get few toys lately, so I would assume that with 6-figure Retro Kenner waves Hasbro just had to make some tough cuts. I find it odd there are no Obi-Wan Kenobi (classic/prequel) or Darth Vader toys on-shelf right now as a "we're sorry there are no new show toys, but you can have these" option. The same thing happened with Boba Fett - but they managed to get a lot of classic characters out for The Force Awakens' launch in 2015. It's possible we might get them for Return of the Jedi, but I would not hold my breath at this point.

If Chrome is a no-go, another option is to do R2-D2 in 1980s Brazil style. the Glasslite release had a silver dome that wasn't chrome, and C-3PO was similarly gold but not chrome. Those figures are sought-after variants for the older collectors, so making them for the US market would probably be pretty welcome. It would also open the door for cartoon-stlye repaints and other droids in Kenner style.



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2. As someone born in 1977, I grew up with 2 hobbies, Star Wars & Baseball Card collecting with my dad. My obsession with Star Wars toy collecting peaked in 1983 and began to fade in 1985/1986 as toys disappeared from the shelves. At that time, my love of collecting baseball cards grew and continued till 1994/1995 as Star Wars toys were reintroduced to us all, when I switched back. However, one thing I always remember through the 80's and 90's was both of these items (Star Wars toys & Baseball cards were plentiful and readily available everywhere. From Stores like ChildWorld/Ames/Caldors/Bradlees/Toys R Us for toys to all types of stores for Baseball cards; they were plentiful and available here in Mass.

Fast forward to 2022, my passion for collecting Baseball cards has been reignited, partly due to the fact that in Mass., it is nearly impossible to find any Star Wars toys on the shelves at Walmart/Target. Online stores are great, but walking into a store and finding something is a feeling unbeat. So I picked up a ransom box of Topps Series 1 cards and it went from there. BUT, as this has grown over the last 2-3 months, I have learned it is not just toys, but these collectibles as well. Walmart/Target are restocked and in 24 hours, they are gone and empty for 7 days till refilled.

So my question is: Is this the future of all collectibles? Will products like Star Wars and sports cards become something that are made in less quantity for the purpose of keeping the overall risk to companies low? Walking into Child World as a kid and seeing WALLS of Star Wars toys are gone....but even 1-2 pegs are hard to find. Same with sports cards....the come & go in less than 24 hours, meaning you need to order online, which is fine and I do for both BUT takes away the "hunt" feeling. Is this the future because of the world we live in OR has this been a thing for a long time and just has become more apparent over the last 2 years?


Today's adult - a 21 year old - was born in 2001, which means their childhood probably was heavy on Revenge of the Sith through 30th Anniversary Collection figures if they even bought any. (They probably had LEGO, though.) Given LEGO puts out a generally one-size-fits-all product, and Hasbro doesn't, action figures may ultimately just become a collectible for grown-ups unless some phenomenon reignites toys as something kids not only want, but can afford without asking mom and dad for an advance on their allowance. I don't think kids are looking to spend $15-$25 on an action figure as a regular thing in the same way you might have been able to weasel a dollar or two from mom and/or dad in the 1980s to squirrel away and buy a pack of cards or a random action figure.

One of the issues we're going to see in coming years is that new collectors may never have grown up with comics, cards, or action figures-as-toys as a part of their childhoods. Look at comic books - these things used to be a few cents, then a dollar, then a couple of dollars... and during that time they went from ubiquitous cheap paper things you'd see on newsstands to things tucked away in comic shops that no child is going to see, let alone buy. If Target and other stores take trading cards off shelves - or can't keep enough in stock - kids won't get them. Much of Hasbro's action figure output has shifted toward higher-priced collector-friendly releases, so "kid toys" are in shorter supply. If you grew up in the 1980s, pretty much all then-new trading cards, toys, and comic books were kid-friendly, cheap, and existed in a world without an opportunistic "flipper" secondary market. (I blame the Cabbage Patch.)

I can confirm toys coming and going in hours is nothing new. Back in the 2000s there was one time I checked the same Walmart three days in a row for Power of the Jedi figures, specifically Aurra Sing's wave. One day? No figures. Day two? At least a full case if not more. Day three? No figures. If you live in a moderately big town or city, thousands of people can pass through a store on a given day, some of whom may pop in during lunch or on a commute daily. If some of them flip stuff on eBay or buy things for friends, a single case of any toy won't last very long - especially with most assortments having two (or more likely, one) of each new character per carton.

Since newsstands are gone, trading cards are kept locked behind some counters, and toy stores are largely dead, I don't assume we'll see a big change any time soon. I don't want to say "adults ruined kid stuff," but we've seen comic books shift to adult material with high-grade premium paper and covers - and price points - with drastically dropping circulation. Trading cards got more impressive with better cardstock, but surging prices and incredibly fancy chase cards probably hurt at least some of the "well I'm in a store I'll buy a pack of cards" fun for a generation or two. I honestly have no idea what the future holds for toys - common wisdom is that screens ruined it, but I assume action figures were dying out when we were kids and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came along to say otherwise. Today there are precious few toys that are, adjusted for inflation, roughly what they cost during the 1980s. (Basically, they would need to be $10 or under in today's dollars.)

Since I am continuing to ramble, "the good old days" weren't always that good - I remember months of Toys R Us having pegs of nothing but Baxter Stockman and Man-Bat. Even in the 1980s I remember empty pegs for some action figure brands at Target. And who could forget the 1990s and early 2000s of chasing down not only Star Wars but The Simpsons, with pilfered Bionicle mask packs an aisle or two over? I think there was a slightly better day to get vehicles and playsets in the early 1980s, but whenever there were new action figure waves, at least from where I sat, there was no guarantee you'd ever get everything you want without making a few stops.

We're in an era where graded VHS tapes are starting to make noise as a prized collectible, so it's tough to say what future kids will find charming. But I hope it will be fun.





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Be sure you send in your questions for next time. The mailbag is out of on-topic questions, so if you got some, send some in.

I know a lot of fans were sour on The Book of Boba Fett, but what's funny is that I'd be head-over-heels in love with it had it been given a decent toy line. White Speed Suit Boba Fett isn't super compelling on screen, but would make for an exciting Retro figure. The same is true with almost the entire cast - they all look like they would be a lot of fun to play with, or pose, or fight with. As toys go, I can't think of a single droid, alien, or cyborg I wouldn't want as a $10-$12 Kenner-style figure. Especially with wacky small vehicles, which it seems we aren't going to get any time soon.

Back in the day, we got about 12 new figures per year - and that's what we're getting this year of Hasbro ships the Obi-Wan Kenobi wave. I'm still hungry for more The Mandalorian retro figures, but The Book of Boba Fett is packed to the gills with amazing character actors (Stephen Root! Danny Trejo! Amy Sedaris!) that would drive me to buy action figures regardless of my love of Star Wars. I have a Mobius from Loki just because I get such a kick out of Owen Wilson in just about everything. Werner Herzog sits in my to-open pile because he's never not a delight. (Note to Hasbro: Kenner Herzog, please and thank you.)

It would be fantastic to see some more fully-realized theme waves, or really, any line with a definitive line-up of characters so you could, indeed, "collect them all." The increasingly wrongly named Hasnotalent posted an impressive gallery of his own homegrown Mandoverse action figures that cut to the core of what I find boring about Star Wars figures today - there's no cohesion anymore. It's a very big, very shallow line with no depth. There's no weirdness (other than that awesome NED-B with wrench) - what Hasnotalent has done is crank out what would be an absolute dream line of popular characters that, I assume, might sell well among the older collector fans and kids that adored the show. And from what I'm hearing, kids love these new shows just as much as we loved our VHS copies of the original trilogy back in the day.

My The Book of Boba Fett Retro Collection Wish List
Boba Fett (new pants and removable helmet) - Obligatory. Bonus points for deluxe set with throne and Bacta tank.
Fennec Shand - she needs to exist to hang out in Jabba the Hutt's Action Playset from 1983. If I could only get one more Mando-era Kenner figure, it would probably be her. Unless Vlix makes an appearance.
Garsa Fwip - She was an awesome bar owner and it's horrible she probably won't make too many more appearances. Give her a figure, cowards.
Krrsantan - This wold just be awesome and probably sell like hotcakes.
Lortha Peel - Jimmy James? Jimmy James. Also Milton, Bill, Buck, K'Vada, and Fuches, among dozens of others.
Rancor Keeper (Danny Trejo) - Look, movie dorks are going to want him. It's Machete, but not.
Tusken Chief - awesome, you'll love it.
Tusken Warrior (black, long hair) - Again, awesome.

Most waves now seem to be such a weird mix of characters that I assume no matter your scale, no matter your preference, it feels like a slow-drip of your favorite things. I'd happily give up classic trilogy for a while (indeed, all movie-based figures) if Hasbro could just focus on a single new series for a whole wave or two. It's nice we're getting Ewok Dress Leia as a 6-inch figure, but I'd be just as happy or happier with a random new weirdo from the Kenobi show in that slot. My scale-of-choice has been 3 3/4-inch and lately, very specifically, The Retro Collection, but any one scale they want to make as the go-to would be great. LEGO seems to have nailed it, but I don't collect LEGO anymore - so hey Hasbro, if you want to put out boxed sets of retro guys or whatever to charge a higher price point, I'd be game for 2- or 4-packs.

It really goes back to the whole "themed wave" thing, which we sort of, kind of are getting a bit with Obi-Wan Kenobi in the 6-inch line. It's a lot more satisfying to get figures that go together if you're going to start a collection, rather than 1-2 figures per movie/show per year over several years. If I had to wait a decade to put together R2-D2 and C-3PO as a kid, I doubt I'd have started asking for toys as presents - but those two are rarely on-shelf at the same time any more.

--Adam Pawlus

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