Q&A: Star Wars Solo, Secondary Market, and Expanded Universe Hubbub

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, September 23, 2018

1. I'm an older collector (late 40's) & loved the legacy comic book series 2-packs & build-a-droid 2-packs. Who do you suggest I email/write to start a campaign for a new 3.75" 2-pack series - maybe called Droid Sidekicks. The line could feature more obscure characters such as Dash Rendar & his droid sidekick Leebo. Some other suggestions include: Lando w/L3-37, Starkiller w/Proxy, Jawa w/new chrome style RA-7 droid. I think having more unusual droids (one's not necessarily covered by Disney's droid factory) would work better for the line & offer us hardcore collectors something outside of the box. I think many of us don't mind buying repacks of figures so long as a new or unusual (other) figure is included. Any thoughts or direction would be great...

Remember when I said to send in ideas that would result in disappointment a few weeks ago? Well, here we are.

Due to the markets in China - I don't mean our current political strife, just the cost of living/materials/wages going up - the chance of Hasbro doing weird, awesome two-packs has diminished greatly in recent years. I'm not sure what steered them away from the excellent "Mission Series" 2-packs we were getting, which largely had great sculpts and decent deco for ten bucks. They opted to keep simple figures, but add in features that drives the price up - sadly making 2-packs increasingly toxic at retail. (Character choice, repetition, and other factors were at work here.) So as it is, before we get to your choices, we're in a position of a deficit.

The other problem is what you want - classic "Legends" of the Expanded Universe. While we are getting L3-37 in the main line, it would be unlikely to bring her back in a 2-pack. Starkiller we'll probably never see again, nor Proxy, which came out in 2010 - it's a great figure and probably the only one you'll ever get. I'd love to see new droids and Jawas, but it seems unlikely we're going to see a lot of what you want. Chrome has been surprisingly scarce since about 2010, supposedly due to safety issues but I haven't heard too much specific as to what those issues were. I can say that a lot of chrome figures age poorly - my Millennium Mint Coin C-3PO from 1998 seems to be crackling, and numerous Transmetals-era toys from Beast Wars are experiencing chrome failure. It just cracks and flakes off with age and/or play.

Comic packs are something that seem to be over and done with - I think it was a brilliant idea that went unexploited. Hasbro could have replaced the ads in the comics with toy catalog pages, for example. Transformers briefly had comics with their deluxe toys from about 2013 to 2016, and Marvel has had comic packs for a while - but that format faltered and seemingly came to an end in recent years, too. Costs are a real issue here, and getting a $3-$4 comic with a couple of figures at a price fans want can be tough. Particularly when Hasbro wants to repack existing figures in some of those sets.

Normally I would suggest starting a forum post and seeing what traction it gets, but that would probably work best for a single character or a ship. For an entire line expression? I'd advise you to give up and just pick a droid or a figure you really want, and let Hasbro figure out the "how" part. I'd also suggest picking something that hasn't been done - I can't speak for everybody, but I know I'm not going to be a big fan of supporting new versions of toys I already have without some new twist.



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2. I saw your thoughts on the secondary market [recently], specifically about how inflated prices can be, and I had to see what you thought about buying habits these days. I've quit going to antique stores or those boutique shops / trade shops that sell older or used items because prices of Star Wars are not close to reasonable. I find Flea Markets where you can by ANYTHING for $1 or $2, but Star Wars is always $5 to $10 or more. Carded red and green POTF stuff on bent cards for $8-$10? Loose figures from 2006 Saga or even 2010 Legacy for $10? Even complete or on perfect cards those prices are a stretch (of course there are some harder to find than others).

With very little for a 3 3/4" articulation only collector, it's been time to fill in some holes, but eBay seems to be the only place where that's even remotely possible and even then with shipping costs it's rarely worthwhile. I see things circling on eBay going unbid and can't understand why someone would pay the eBay fee 5 times to sell a figure for $3 more than it's worth.

Frustrated doesn't begin to describe it. The question I guess is "do you see Star Wars going up in value? Staying the same? Going down? I'm a patient man, but it seems anything with Star Wars on it is seen as valuable and yet at retail lately you can't give this stuff away.

The market is a lot of fun - sometimes you can see parades of delusion, although sometimes you're seeing savvy sales people. I'd never pay $10 for a POTF2-era 1996 Yoda, but if you're a parent that just wants a Yoda for your kid and Hasbro has been bad at delivering the goods at retail for a few years? The parent might bite. A lot of adults I've chatted with typically just pay whatever Amazon (or the flea market) says, because it's usually a one-off, not a collection, and it's easier than doing the homework and research. Even when you point out the lower prices on eBay, or Craigslist, or buying a tiny collection and reaping the benefits, they don't care. I admit, I can't fault them on that last one.

I don't see what's in it for a lot of the eBay or Amazon sellers - when your fees are $1-$2 of the asking price, plus shipping, plus box/tape/gas, that $4.99 action figure you sell for $10 might be a break-even at the very best. You're probably going to lose money on it. I've heard of dealers taking the POTF2-era stuff to antique shows and struggling to sell figures for $1-$2, but it depends on the market. $10 is not exactly a bad price for a 20-year-old action figure with inflation factored in, unless you've got places to look where you can do better, and not everyone does.

I can't tell you why someone would want to sell stuff on eBay for super cheap - and I don't expect a lot to change. The mintiest of the mint vintage figures have gotten more expensive, but a lot of the others aren't too far from what they were going for in the 1990s around the time the relaunch line happened. The unlimited supply of mint perfect 1990s figures makes it hard for things to be worth more than retail, and I'm kind of glad about that - an era of fans learned a lesson about hoarding and speculating, supply met demand and demand was fake. The downside is Hasbro's line today may be a bit more realistic, because nobody is buying 30 of each figure to hoard as a retirement gambit. We'll get fewer figures, and some of the insanity of the 1990s won't return again.

The basic rule of thumb is that things people don't buy get to be more expensive. Things people open get more expensive. This is why some old LEGO sets, NES games, model kits, records, and the like got expensive - unmolested specimens are exceedingly rare. This is not true of action figures, where most recent items are intentionally kept sealed and perfect until the owner dies or runs out of space. There are places where the market balances out, but the endless supply of mint old stuff is doing wonders to depress new versions of old toys - a few years ago we got reissues of Episode I vehicle that cost more than the 1999 originals. Why even bother?

(...I know the reason but you know, I'm being general here.)




3. If Hasbro is making more than a dozen [3 3/4-inch] figures from Solo, then the toys have been selling quite well, right? Hope this is good news. Another question, now that Toys’R’Us is gone, what retailer will pick up the Star Wars action figures in abundance like Toys’R’Us? I love going out and shopping with my children and only once in a while I shop on-line.

The figures you see today were most likely designed 12-18 months ago - and so far it seems they're actually going to make it to stores at large. This is good! In a rush, with the wind at your back and the approval fairy running at full speed, maybe you can get out a redeco in six to nine months. I don't know how well Solo is truly doing because sometimes Hasbro will hold a wave back from retail - and this is a new phenomenon. There are waves that got made and didn't ship to Target, Walmart, or Toys R Us in recent years - and I couldn't tell you why. I can only tell you that it wasn't your imagination. Hasbro planned ahead and supported its plans, which we haven't seen them do fully since 2015. This is good news.

It is unlikely that any retailer is going to go full-bore Star Wars until there's another era of decline. Hasbro hasn't stopped to let demand pick up in a while, although I do wonder if they focused on a mix of characters from older movies, how it would do. We haven't seen a lot from the prequels in a while, nor has there been a wave focusing on an original trilogy film in ages. Those sometimes do well, but sometimes not - there's so much Star Wars it's hard for the fan to know what to buy, since Hasbro is trying to cover all the bases. It's not unlike Star Trek as the 1990s wore on - going from 2 toy-supported shows with maybe 200 episodes between them to 4 shows spanning nearly 700 - plus movies - did little to help the fan focus. "I like Star Trek" used to mean Picard or Kirk. And by the time the license ended, it also meant Janeway and Sisko, plus countless other characters and variations in scale. Hasbro probably can't support "Star Wars" for this very reason - the cultural notion of what it is, what it actually is, and what certain fan factions want are very separate things. Fans aren't even good at properly articulating what they want sometimes, with "everything" or "anything on a vintage package" resulting in people saying things like "OK, sounds good" when neither party probably developed a full and proper understanding of what people actually meant.

The era of 3 3/4-inch being king is long over. It ran supreme for Star Wars from about 1995 to 2010-ish - we still get good stuff, but the bonkers, super-articulated, comic/novel/game-weirdness is an era that will not return. I'm crossing my fingers that there will be a surge of support for it, but with 1:6 scale figures, 1:12 scale figures, LEGO, busts, statues, and so much more? People have too many choices, and a Hasbro divided against itself cannot stand. They have resources going in to multiple scales and while it's great you and your kids love this stuff, you're going to need many thousands more kids to get involved to be truly interested. It's possible a nostalgia line after a long break could do this, but even then you're probably going to revisit things you already own.



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While everybody has a take on what someone should be doing with Star Wars, the deafening silence from Disney regarding the release date for anything past 2019 has lead to a lot of speculation. Disney CEO Bob Iger finally talked about the elephant in the room this week, which confirmed what you knew - that there's too darned much of it. (I'd also toss in that some of the lesser entries like Solo and Rebels were poorly promoted with little lead time and follow-through, but that's me.) What this means for us is, possibly, things are going to be interesting depending on who all has the license after Hasbro does or does not renew it for 2020. Right now, we don't know - and we won't know until a press release gets out announcing a new licensee, most likely, as Hasbro doesn't always trumpet its renewals.

It's good news because it changes up the marketing calendar - you may have noticed that unlike the prequel era, the Disney era pumps the brakes on new stuff in the months leading up to a new movie. This means we don't even get new classic stuff in most brands, and it also means the new movie's lifespan begins about 2 months before the theatrical release and ends about 10 minutes after home video. Solo has some legs, unlike the previous three films, and I assume it's no coincidence that the next movie toy line launch is over a year away. They've got some space to fill, so it would seem the only reason to pull an item is because it's an exclusive with no home - unlike last time when we saw things pulled because there was a new movie on the horizon.

This won't mean you'll see any big change of plans for 2019, but it could mean 2020 might be a trove of fan favorites if the opportunity exists. Even if (big if) it's Hasbro's last year, with no other new movie filming planned they could see it in their hearts to finally make the 1984 Power of the Force Imperial Dignitary which Kenner/Hasbro has not done in the modern line yet, nor the mustached Bespin Security Guard, nor the 1979 Lars Family Power Droid - and we can get into the weeds on Cantina Aliens and Ewoks too.

Before anyone poo-poos a slowdown, I ask you this - how many of you Sail Barge buyers have cleared a space for it yet?

--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.