Q&A: Star Wars Pricing Again and Pre-Order Stuff

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, February 5, 2023

1. Adam, there’s been a lot of heated debate lately in the TVC collecting community over the so-called Boba Fett Tax, and the seemingly inexplicable rationale for how his costs necessitate a premium price, while similarly complex figures (counting total pieces, accessories, and complex paint apps)…what are the cheapest figures to produce, in your estimation?

I reckon it’s stormtroopers and clones just for the paint apps (black and white).

P.S. Next year is the 20th anniversary of my beloved votc Han Solo; still standing the test of time! Which figures do you think have aged best over the last two decades?
-- Derek

The "Boba Fett Tax" seems to be Hasbro, uh, extracting value from its assets. We've seen Amazon Carbonized figures for $69.99 when they were both previously sold as $19.99 each sans metallic paint, we've seen this new Spider-Man figure at a $10 upcharge with no build-a-figure and no fancy accessory. Hasbro seems to be seeing what it can get/get away with, and as long as it keeps selling any company is going to keep doing it. It pushed me out of collecting them all after decades. I'll pony up an extra buck or two for retro or for cool vehicles or robots, but that's about as far as I'm willing to go. It's just not interesting enough to pay for re-repaints at a premium - Boba Fett is not unique to this phenomenon.

We also saw Retro Boba Fett at regular price, and Mission Series Boba Fett figures at more-or-less regular prices relative to his vehicle/accessory pack-ins. Heck, we've seen him sell for regular prices for years - this just seems to be a test. Funko exclusives are also getting more expensive, and generally most Hasbro exclusives are higher than regularly priced comparable items - even retro figures. I don't like it, but they sell as shareholders demand value, so this is going to keep happening.

What is cheapest to produce? I've been trying to figure that out myself - it seems like Hasbro employs unique accounting that makes it tough to figure that out. I would assume most astromech droids are pretty cheap due to low parts count, and the Kenner guys are probably a bargain - but the savings aren't passed along to us. We have found they can produce a $4 3 3/4-inch figure but generally choose to not do so - presumably because it would hurt their "collector" business - but they could probably crank out a $5 Stormtrooper with a blaster molded to the fist if they elected to do so. Spider-Man at that link is molded in blue and red - there's no blue or red paint there. A Stormtrooper could be designed similarly, Playmobil has been doing this for years. Most figures' brown Playmobil eyes are molded insets, and not painted.

As far as who stands up to the test of time? Some of the later-era Power of the Force figures from the 1990s are good, like the Gamorrean Guard. I like a lot of the original Kenner guys because they zigged rather than zagged, giving us something that's wrong... but because Walrus Man is wrong, he looks precisely like he should. The old FX-7 - despite being off-model - is also really good.   Charm goes a long way, you can always refine production techniques to make things increasingly true-to-life, but the alchemy at work in Kenner's class of 1979 may never be repeated.



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2. How do pre-orders work? For example, does Hasbro say to Entertainment Earth or Big Bad Toy Store that we have a new wave of Star Wars 3 & 3/4th coming out, how many cases do you commit to? Does EE or BBTS pre-order for 6 months and then tell Hasbro they will take 200 cases? Does this dictate how many cases will get made or does Haebro already know they are making 1000 cases and does not matter how many are pre-sold?

Here's a cop-out for you - it's complicated. There are so many things going in the Hasbro/Retailer industrial complex with lots of moving parts that can impact who gets what, or when, or how, that it would still not provide a consistent answer from year to year, or possibly from buyer to buyer. There are a lot of moving parts from forecasting to early commits to allocations that I can say I've been in this business long enough to say that I can't even give you the clearest picture that would make you happy. There are parts of this that I don't even have full visibility on, and I would have to nudge you to ask Hasbro how much of a peek behind the curtain they're willing to share because I have no idea what is or isn't going to be proprietary information, and given the lead times of recent waves I actually don't know if Hasbro readjusts numbers based on demand.

At one point I was told the hope is that they don't overproduce - and as you have seen in stores, it's hard to predict who will or won't be a hit sometimes, and sometimes the "wrong" wave gets a little too much love, and so on and so forth. But I would defer to Hasbro to explain this more, or you can ask me again once I retire and/or am rich and quit.

Some items do go back for additional runs, but that's not super common as you can see by the pre-orders, availability, and prices of some older figures. Fan making a fuss over what got missed helps a bunch in this sense, but lately I don't feel a lot is getting shorted. If anything, I'm kind of concerned we're going to see a massive flood of sealed-box stuff showing up at second-hand collector shops in a few years when people realize they bought a lot that they don't actually care about that got thrown in a box and into a storage unit. (I'm looking at you, Repaint Exclusives Galore 2020-present.)

Some manufacturers produce items that are indeed made for one run and that's all - but that sort of information isn't necessarily shared. When things were numbered, limited editions it was a lot easier to figure out, but it seems this kind of thing is increasingly bad to share. If your factory makes an item limited to 10,000 numbered pieces, and other customers of that factory are being told the minimum run is 20,000 pieces, that's going to cause some strife. Also, people might start doing the math and figure out how big the market is for certain things - there's a lot the public doesn't know and much of that.





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It's February! For years, that meant it was time to get ready to go to New York for Toy Fair. To remind the kids at home, it's now scheduled for September 2023. After SDCC and CES recently-ish had lower turnout, it's entirely possible that these events are going the way of the dodo. We recently found out Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo will not be attending E3 and it seems the big brands can make their own gravity while the small brands can save tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars by not buying dozens of hotel rooms for their staffs. There will always be an audience for smaller conventions, but I am unsure if Toy Fair is necessary or not. It's great to have a bunch of in-person meetings (and press events) in one place, but also it's a relic of a pre-Internet era where people would go to a show to write orders for the year. Now it's mostly a showcase and a place to do meetings - all of which can be done online. Admittedly, it's not as much fun, but you save tons of money and possibly weeks of man-hours. Having said that, I do like the idea of being anywhere but here at some point in the future.

It's a good week for retro fans, if you saw the front page. The Healey Made Raider (Bulloch) figures are available and surprisingly still in stock, and there was a mighty big The Book of Boba Fett reveal of a whopping eight Kenner-style figures. With aliens! It's a good mix, and while it might be not the most exciting batch fans of obscure things want, it's certainly good enough to be interesting and, more importantly, should sell. Cad Bane! Krrsantan! And they're all under $15 each! That's a lot to like.

Fans of 3 3/4-inch stuff in general will probably be a little groan-y, but at least we're getting Mando's N1 Starfighter for The Vintage Collection. That's a win - it should sell well, too, as long as people still have an appetite for some things that aren't cheap. I hope it can fit the retro figures.

Overall it seemed an typical week for Star Wars reveals. It's not like we're rolling in waves of excitement, but at least Hasbro has a big enough variety platter that there will be at least one or two good things for fans of most ages. You won't like everything, but hopefully, you'll like something. I can still complain that Hasbro drops the ball on new old guys - I love that we're getting all-new characters, but we've received a grand total of two new original trilogy-era characters since the line kicked off. I love Tarkin. I'm fine with Snowspeeder Luke. But it's a shame that, so far, we've seen no new Return of the Jedi aliens or anything new since 2020. From Hasbro. I guess The Next 17 and Stan Solo are going to be raking in the money from that weirdly underserved market. I'm not asking for a lot here - but one or two official new original trilogy figures every other year would be nice.

If you'll turn your attention to the colons of retail, there have been some interesting new arrivals. Check out Ross or Tuesday Morning or TJ Maxx or Marshall's or whatever you got to see some Jurassic toys, action figures, former Amazon exclusives from Hasbro, and all kinds of stuff. It's worth toy hunting, is what I'm saying.

Anyway, back to the drawing board for me to go work on some things. Send in your questions for next time! Also check out GameStop for all the exclusives you skipped, as many are on sale if they're sitting on any. I decided to just let them be since I'm kind of trooper-ed out, as I think I've reached a point where spending $28ish on a figure for a review that I won't actually treasure has got to stop.

--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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Random thoughts: I really

Random thoughts:

I really don't think there's a market for $4 Star Wars figures like that dollar store Spider-Man with two paint apps.

Every other manufacturer is offering 5POA figures of less expensive licenses for twice what Hasbro's MSRP has been for Star Wars Retro.

Simply popping a head onto an action figure takes twice as long as it used to thanks to the barbell in the neck, making assembly take that much longer. Throw in the increasing price of labor and then compare Retro Boba Fett to TVC Boba Fett.

You wouldn't buy 4-inch

You wouldn't buy 4-inch Stormtroopers that have similar or better articulation of the $5 6-inch ones at Five Below? I sure would.

Spin Master has almost super-articulated DC/Batman 4" figures for $7 each. (No wrists, no ankles, but you get more accessories.) Mattel delivered humans in Jurassic World for about the same price - there are even $15 ones with a big, articulated dinosaur figure in them. And they're surprisingly good - I don't know the full deal with licensing (or what Hasbro needs to make to make their people happy), but it's not exactly apples and oranges. Super7 and Plastic Meatball do low-run collector figures for adults for $15-$20. Spin Master and Mattel do high-run figures with roughly 17 joints each, for kids, with accessories for around $7. It's not the exact same thing, but the possibility exists.