Q&A: Star Wars Secrets, Shortages, and Short Person Behavior

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, October 31, 2021

1. The recently released Target exclusive 3.75 Antoc Merrick's X-Wing Fighter seems very pricey at $105. I fear that China is milking this pandemic for all she's worth. Here we have a cool Rogue One ship with figure but no electronics included. Sure, things are much more expensive to produce and ship these days but damn really? I'm sure many fellow fans would love to add this ship to their Star Wars collection but now it's hard-to find. In the past, Target exclusives would be plentiful and sit on the shelf until they end up on clearance. I remain hopeful that more will become available for the holidays before paying way more on eBay. What are your thoughts on this and the overall scarcity of our favorite hobby?

It's hard to know until things shake out. For example, Hasbro had some spectacular Transformers exclusives in August that appeared and disappeared pretty quickly - and then were gone for about a month and change. Then they showed up again, and are sitting a bit - but fans flipping toys (or one of the toys from the set) did get pretty big mark-ups while Target was waiting for restocks. That's my guess what we'll see here - the first batch fly off the shelves, and more are likely to come later. At $105 I'd say don't panic as I don't assume Hasbro will underserve the market when a figure has a newly-tooled head.

Exclusives are increasingly unpredictable, but the good thing with Target in particular is that I'm seeing stores get more than one shipment of a lot of things. I'm still hunting for this one too, but I assume I'll see it on a shelf at least once. For all I know the restock is on a boat off the coast of the port of Los Angeles right now, and at $105 it's not exactly a good price for scalpers/flippers/hoarders.

Scarcity is nothing new. I've had to ban "distribution questions" from here now and again because I got sick of talking about it. Networked adults seeking toys will make items made near the market's level of interest disappear quickly. If there are (I'm making a number up here) 40,000 collectors and 39,000 figures, people on forums and Instagram and whatever will make short work of them. And some of those collectors will buy 2-3 of an item to sell, or for friends, or whatever.

Given production delays (even for second runs of things) I think you've got to give everything from this year a bit more time to settle before you need to be genuinely worried - minus the retro prototype exclusives, I'm guessing those are gone forever at this rate. I could be wrong - and I assume a lot of Q1 and Q2 2021 stuff is done for the time being - but stuff for the holiday season could potentially keep popping up. I keep seeing new shipments of Walmart Vintage Paploo and Endor Leia showing up - there's no reason to be completely hopeless.



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2. Why do you think Hasbro keeps saying figures are for kids, when evidence strongly suggests this might not be true (or even if it's partially true, kids are likely in the minority)? All evidence indicates they are deliberately feeding the adult collector, so it's so odd to keep hearing that they are for kids.
If Hasbro were to admit that figures are mainly marketed towards adults, do you think anything would change? Different character selections? Different prices? --Jeff

This is probably splitting hairs. (Jeff, my apologies for editing down your question a bit.)

I don't know that they are saying Star Wars figures are primarily for kids - there are lots of streams, interviews, and so forth and I certainly don't see them all. Mission Fleet is, as are many of the "Baby Yoda" toys, and so are a lot of the lightsabers. Action figures are largely bought by fans - some adults, some teens, and some kids - but my guess is the distribution isn't good enough that kids are likely to see the characters that would inspire them to start collecting one of the big three lines (or buying them as toys.) You can't get any major character from The Black Series or The Vintage Collection in a store - none of the movie poster characters from any of the films are available to be bought right now. You're very unlikely to get the main characters from any of the streaming series either ("main characters" defined as "appears on at least half of the episodes.") You want The Bad Batch? Too bad, unless you buy the kid line which has a set of them for pretty cheap. Maybe you'll find a Wrecker or Tech this quarter in The Black Series but I doubt it.

Hasbro's license is potentially to make toys for kids (or fans, or families) - they're not Hot Toys or Sideshow, or Diamond/Gentle Giant. In theory you can buy any figure from Hasbro and they're all age rated "Ages 4 and up." It's on the box. For all I know it's in the contract too.

Hasbro also does something incredibly weird - The Retro Collection. It's their cheapest collector figure, aimed squarely at adults, styled so kids (or people who had them as kids) may appreciate them, but they're still for kids ages 4 and up. Or 40 year olds. Per licensing, pretty much all these things have to be toys.

I don't think Hasbro will ever exit the toy space, mostly out of fear of lawsuits from confused buyers of figure-shaped things that look like toys expect them to be safe for kids. These things are age-rated for ages 4 and up because if an adult sees something that looks like an action figure and is priced like an action figure on the toy aisle of a store, that parent would probably expect that the colorful plastic person is appropriate for children. Hasbro probably has very little incentive to make many collector requests, like stiffer weapons (snappage more likely), pointier pointy bits (again, a danger), and I honestly don't think more articulation helps on some figures. Hasbro has done a pretty good job refining its figures to hide the joints and to look better in the process.

If Hasbro ever decided to make a $50 figure that is just the most perfect miniature you ever did see, I'd probably lose interest. I'm a toy person. I want to buy toys. Some people want statues. A lot of people would probably be very happy with a perfect pre-posed 4-inch statue if not for the fact they've told themselves that articulation is super important. If you don't open these things, and if you don't have vehicles or playsets, articulation may not be so important. I could see Hasbro doing "collectible figures" with zero articulation to fill out playsets some day, but probably not for a while. Before you complain, think about it - wouldn't 3 3/4-inch scale perfectly posed dueling Darth Vader potentially be a better addition to a Death Star Hanger playset (if one ever got made) than trying to pose him just-so with 30 joints? Probably. But I really liked that 7-inch Unleashed figure line... those things would be stunning in a standard smaller figure size.




3. Hasbro seems to have very tight corporate security for Star Wars toys. After rumors of code-named products, the Retro Prototype Stormtrooper was revealed for pre-order, with Targets getting them within a month.

Given the long time from design, production, packaging, and shipping, you'd think along the way some sneaky employee would snap a few pics and upload them to collector sites.

But we don't see that. What's Hasbro's secret?


Hasbro has never said, but I have a guess - and it's three fold.

One, marketing. If they don't do any marketing until the container is about due to land in the USA, it's possible there are no pictures to leak out. Two, do factory workers know enough to care? With Transformers there's a definite black market of stolen toys being sold to Youtubers to review - seemingly few people in Asia give a rip about Star Wars. Look at the box office takes. It's easy to keep a secret if nobody cares.

Three, It's possible Hasbro has learned a lot of lessons on Transformers or other brands that apply to Disney IP, and also Disney has been said to have to pre-approve factories for their licensed production. I wouldn't be at all surprised if those workers were similarly vetted to avoid anything getting out. The mouse is very good at keeping some secrets and it's even easier now that they give us pre-orders nine months out. There's little to leak yet.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if the sheer ridiculousness of the scope of Star Wars may make it harder for people to identify what's new, what's a reissue, and so on. Hasbro reuses a lot of parts with old copyright dates in the legs - it's not obvious what constitutes "new" sometimes. Also a lot of fans have a bad memory - you might, and not even know it. I've told fellow collectors about items from a couple years ago and they asked when they're coming out. There's so much stuff, some people just forget - they see it, buy it, stash it in a box at home, and never think about it again. At some point they're going to go through storage spaces and be very surprised. The same may be true of factory people - when you see your 50th Stormtrooper, it may not be obvious that this one is new enough to warrant caring.



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Did you know Hasbro announced a The Black Series Bib Fortuna this week? Multiple new items were announced in several email blasts and streams, and I write up lists of them in the all-text Adam's Star Wars Newsletter. Yes, just like I did in the 1990s. Check it out so you can catch up on the newest releases - this went up last week so it has pretty much everything revealed in September and October.

Did you catch Star Trek Prodigy? It's a surprisingly good riff on Star Wars. Sure, you get Janeway and a Kazon and all, but there's a robot enforcer that looks like a Sith General Grievous and a robed alien interpreter that looks like she stumbled off the sketchpad for Knights of the Old Republic. (It also has an extremely tedious first half, but gets better when it ramps up.) It's a kid show - don't get me wrong - but you could see how young fans of a galaxy far, far away might love it if they were subscribed to Paramount+ so they could see it. It's extremely colorful and seems to take design cues from all over the place, in spots looking something like The Clone Wars at its best infused with the current flavor of every CG show for kids I seem to see trailers for on Netflix. It's not going to change anybody's life, but I'd be more likely to rewatch this than Star Wars Resistance.

Most of the show takes place in some penal mining colony that is arguably the least Star Trek locale we've been shown, with a more expansive cast of aliens that aren't limited by the budgets of time in the make-up chair. Other than a couple of familiar Trek species, the episode largely exists as its own thing until the series' ship shows up. I'd be curious to see if Star Wars can do that - we got a taste of that sort of thing in Star Wars Visions, to varying degrees of success. With Eternals expanding the Marvel movie deal without as advertised special guest stars, it's kind of refreshing to see these stories try to do something mostly new. Or new-adjacent. (Having said that, I like the other shows better.)

Last year, Star Trek brought out Lower Decks which does the comedy thing that we ended up never getting from Star Wars Detours, which apparently exists on a digital shelf somewhere and hopefully won't get lost to media rot and time. Despite seemingly selling its programming to a built-in and hungry fanbase almost exclusively, it seems to be doing well enough to financially support a streaming platform.

For those keeping track, Disney+ has a Boba Fett "special" or "documentary" in a few weeks to tee up the debut of The Book of Boba Fett next month. And, presumably some toys, but there are no plans to have massive on-shelf launches like a Force Friday or anything. --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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