Q&A: Star Wars Switcheroo, Deco, and Lost Toys

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, October 28, 2018

1. I am writing you because you probably know better than I do. Please see attachment ... at the time I bought these I thought they were mispackaged, so making them valuable at least in my mind (at this point I had not heard of people swapping out old figures for the new o e then returning them to the store). What are your thoughts?


This sort of thing has been around for a long time.

I started seeing this a bunch in the early 2000s - there's a little of it in Transformers, but there was a lot in Star Wars and G.I. Joe. Some monsters would buy a toy with tape sealing it, and then replace the toy with an older version of that character or a similarly sized product - in some cases, fully-painted customized figures from other lines. Some of the most brazen things I've seen are Transformers Alternators replaced with 1:24 scale Maisto cars, countless swap-outs for Joes, and a fully-customized 1983 Y-Wing Fighter repainted and stuffed into the 2004 Original Trilogy Collection Y-Wing box. It's also not unusual to see damaged, incomplete vintage toys replacing a new release. The employees at the store don't notice, don't care, or don't realize people do this kind of thing - and quite often, it goes back out to the shelf. If and when you point it out to them, they look at you like you're the crazy one.

I think people that do this are the worst. It's a unique form of shoplifting, and I can confirm people sometimes do this by mail, too. I don't love that people are stealing from stores, but I really hate that the toys get back on the shelves because in some cases, it's fairly understandable that a store employee wouldn't realize there was anything wrong - and some kid gets a busted toy for their birthday because their parents didn't scrutinize it either.

I've seen a lot less of this in recent years, although I can't tell you why. I remember stumbling on a trove of multiple figures during Power of the Jedi re-carded quite well, with the new releases replaced with customs largely built from The Corps! figures. The amount of time, money, materials, and effort exceeded $6.99 per figure - so I don't know why the heck anyone would bother. Obviously there's nothing anyone can do - it's like putting a Snickers bar in your pocket and running out the door, except at least there stores have plans for that sort of thing. Swap-out replacements are not something that you can easily train on as it's an obscure crime, and one that is likely to continue. I've even seen people swap out only the UPC on a toy - so they returned an old toy with a new toy's UPC on it. It's rotten. I've seen people put fake UPCs on LEGO sets to get them at lower prices. It's bizarre.



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2. I recently found the Walmart exclusive mimban stormtrooper and I noticed that the paint apps are almost unique to each figure. Is there any rhyme or reason to their paint applications?
--Delphia Morris

While it looks like there are very minor differences in the Black Series ones I saw, I don't know how intentional this is. I assume they're futzing with a new same-but-different painting technique. Hasbro had been discussing forms of this since at least 2000, as the original Power of the Jedi Sandtrooper was supposed to have the dirt baked-in to the plastic with some new, somewhat randomized manufacturing technique. It doesn't seem like this is that - but Hasbro has been contemplating infinite variations for army builders, and that's both maddening and liberating.




3. Question whatever happend to the funeral pyre vader figure? Think itll ever be released? They could do a boxed set Vader luke with torch ghpst of yoda and obiwan looking on! Also how bout a sarlacc to go with our barges!

For those that don't remember, the Darth Vader Funeral Pyre was a concept Hasbro showed around 2009 which included two as-of-then unreleased figures with a new accessory and a new base at what would have been a significantly higher price. It would have been a great way for a retailer to embrace losing money.

Like the variant Utai, it's one of those things that the current Hasbro team no doubt has completely forgotten as they replace new and old members, and you're probably never going to see it. Heck, if you did, it wouldn't be less than $50. I assume you're being serious, the ghost thing makes it seem like this could be a gag. I doubt we'll see the trio of them again, either. (A Spirit Yoda in color would be nice though, we've only ever gotten a clear blue one.) Hasbro has been doing "retail figure with special accessory" exclusives on and off since 2008 for San Diego Comic-Con, and I'd say I'm not crazy about them. For example, we got Darth Vader and a big Emperor Palpatine holographic image figure. It's kind of cool... but the Vader itself is of no real consequence, and it cost a lot more.

We got a Sarlacc pit around 2008 or 2009 as a Target exclusive - it was pretty neat. The included figure quality was a bit mixed, but the skiff was nice to see again. I would not anticipate this being released unless someone gets it as a retailer exclusive, which is certainly possible. There have been rumblings about what will accompany the barge next year, but it sounds like reruns are more likely than new things.



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So it took a while, but I got through Star Wars Resistance's first few episodes. I had a thing on it, but the crux of it was that I'm not getting into it so far. I won't say it's bad, I'm just not feeling it. What would have been a tragic lack of a toy line now feels like a smart decision, as other than the droid Bucket I can't say there's anything I'm itching to own as a toy right now. Maybe it'll get better - right now it seems well-cast, brightly colored, and largely lacking in consequence. I assume we'll have another couple of years here, which admittedly does not have me excited for this particular chunk of the Star Wars franchise. The Mandalorian, though. Well, I've got reasons to be excited there.

One of the more common questions in my inbox - speaking of, please send more questions to my inbox - is regarding the toy store thing. As you no doubt have heard, many stores are expanding their toy sections. KB Toys announced a comeback which, by all accounts, isn't happening at all. Geoffrey's Toy Box - a branded aisle powered by Toys R Us' creditors - was announced, but nothing about where or when has surfaced yet. Best Buy and Target are putting out big toy catalogs, with the latter expanding their selections a lot. Star Wars is generally not part of that expansion. There's just not much more stuff coming out this year, and there's a lot more competition for the remaining toy real estate in the world than there probably has been in any of our lifetimes.

The world is changing, and one thing that's been less obvious is a dramatic reduction in 3 3/4-inch product from anybody. Just this week our pal Jesse DeStasio launched an Action Figure of the Month Club with his own Glyos-compatible 3 3/4-inch figures (I have some, they're well made) and Hasbro's Marvel Gamerverse assortments of Ryu and Spider-Man and the like just aren't getting out there. Star Wars still drips out some newness here and there, but that size of figure is increasingly just for collectors. Sort of like 1:6 scale, 12-inch action figures - a popular format in the 1960s which faded in the 1970s, enjoyed a comeback thanks mostly to adults, and now exists primarily has a higher-cost, limited-interest product. History seems to be repeating itself.

I've been wallowing in my favorite old things like Game Boy cartridges and records, and it's increasingly a niche thing. You get your Tobu Tobu Girl and your King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and you pat yourself on the back for having a good year. I'm no saying toys have no future - nor am I saying physical media doesn't, I think things disappearing from streaming are going to be a wake-up call for media or piracy - but it's certainly feeling like those of us who cling fast to these things are also getting front row seats to their journey to obsolescence.

I can't tell you why, but there are some shining stars out there waiting for us to be discovered. It's just going to be a slightly less populated toy store, with fewer exciting things, in part because there simply aren't as many of us left to drive the market like we did 20 years ago. It's the end of radio.

--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.