Q&A: Star Wars Travel Tips, The Big Death Star, and Exclusive Headaches

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, October 23, 2016

1. I was curious if TRU will get a restock of the Hovertank Pilot. I missed out on him seeing I didn't go to the Midnight Madness thing. I was told our store only got 4 of them. Also why haven't these hit TRU.com yet? The concerned at TRU got cold feet with the Hovertank pilot because of the horrible roll out of the Snow Trooper Commander last year. Our TRU got those late and they still have them.

Thanks to it being a new mold, I'm not too worried - so far Hasbro has generally made large (LARGE) numbers of figures when new parts are involved in a retailer exclusive. From the sound of things, each store only got one or two cases on the Friday launch and I'm racking my brain to hear of any The Force Awakens exclusive figure I only saw drop once. Math would lead me to believe more are coming - and also your store may be in error. I believe I heard these came six per box, but as I have not held a carton in my hands I cannot confirm this.

I certainly can't easily find Snowtrooper Commanders locally as of this weekend, so maybe you're in a more fortunate region? Or I'm not going to the right Toys R Us stores? I'd say keep looking - I'm still hunting, as there is much left to hunt this year.



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2. Not sure if this fits the criteria for Q and A but I’m travelling from Australia to New York this week for a holiday and have been wondering whether there are any comic shops or toy store gems in the big city worth tracking down that you know about.

There hasn’t been much on the toy market recently that’s really hooked me in so I have been busy trying to expand my Star Wars collection and buying figures or characters that interest me from older lines like Legacy and TVC - it's actually been a lot of fun and I now have a very modest collection. The catch is that Australia is a really small market and outside of the odd item popping up on eBay, a lot of these older items are very hard to come by.

I’ve done plenty of research but haven’t really found much other than big brands like FAO Swartz or Forbidden Planet and I don’t think that I’ll have much luck there.

It's a long shot but if you have any tips or suggestions, it will be much appreciated.

I go to New York every February for Toy Fair, and the new toy hunting is progressively worse. Last year, the only toys I brought home were from the show - there wasn't much worth buying, other than some records from Brooklyn. And I do recommend Brooklyn - comic book shops are your best bet, as in the USA lots of older toys tend to build up there and rot for years, covered in dust, not selling. I can't verify what's good because I don't know what you want, or need, or what their current inventory levels may be but people speak wonders of the likes of Midtown Comics. FAO is gone. Toys R Us is gone. I usually make it out to Toy Tokyo but they generally don't have a lot of Star Wars from which to choose... but it's near Xi'an Famous Foods, which you simply must visit for a meal. I love it and make it a point to go out of my way to eat there. But seriously, do check out Toy Tokyo. (Or call them and see if they have what you want.)

Last year in my record hunt, I stumbled on a positively charming shop called PopFuzz which had a decent selection of toys, games, trading cards, and old records. Of the many stores I hit that afternoon and evening, this had the most interesting stuff in it. If you've never been to the USA for toy hunting before, it's worth the short detour on the subway to get to it. There are a great many similar shops in Brooklyn but this one was fun for me.

My unorthodox advice to you is to take advantage of a US shipping address - perhaps your hotel, or an office if you're traveling on business - and have toys from eBay, Amazon, Toy Anxiety (they do ship and have lots of old stuff and I have been buying from the owner since I was like 9 or 10), Brian's Toys, Entertainment Earth, Big Bad Toy Store, or any of those online shops delivered to you directly. The pricing is usually good, and this way your quarry can be waiting for you when you arrive. Check to see if where you're staying is cool with this - Amazon USA can usually deliver packages quite quickly, and that's probably a better, cheaper, faster, and more efficient way to get what you want than hunting after you've spend thousands of dollars on a plane ticket.

The people I meet from New York usually tell me it's not a great place to go hunting for toys, although most people tell me that about where ever it is that they live. When it comes to out of production stuff, it's all luck - if you're on the right track on the right day, you can score big. But I'm on the other end of the country, and haven't been there in eight months, so to you I say "best of luck!"




3. Adam, if you were given a directive from Hasbro to release a 3.75" scale Death Star playset, how and when would you have released it: a) 2007 for the 30th, as a series of modular pieces b) 1995 as a direct recycle of the original mold or c) 2010 in the era of the BMF as a USS Flagg-scale behemoth?

1979, which is when we got one. When Kenner was selling millions - millions - of each of its action figures, that's when you have market support for a playset. 1% of your customers don't buy a big playset. Even when Hasbro was doing its big ships from 2008-2012, the attach rate to action figures wasn't 1:1. And, really, it's unfair to compare any of these products to G.I. Joe's U.S.S. Flagg - that sucker's longer than I am tall, which isn't true of any Star Wars action figure-scaled toy. It's easy to forget, but there was probably nothing ever quite that large - there are big playsets out there, sure, but nothing in any other line even comes close to the Flagg's 7'6" frame.

The best time could be "right now." Well, maybe late November or early December - even January. Rogue One has a Death Star in it - and it's not destroyed at the end of the movie. We're also on the cusp of a home video release, as well as the 40th anniversary of the original film. If this isn't the best period of Death Star Awareness - with it being on posters, in movies, as the central talking point of the movie, as part of a marketing campaign, and the central location of the bad guys in three of eight theatrical movies. Of course, given the state of Chinese (and now Vietnamese) manufacturing for these toys, I don't know exactly how it would turn out or what it would look like as a 2016 toy. It would probably be smart to hire IKEA's flat-pack people to come up with something and see if Hasbro could execute it.

From where I'm sitting, though, I'd say the big Death Star is something fans can do. If you look at the old Kenner playsets, very few are movie-accurate. I don't even know what an accurate Death Star layout would look like - LEGO makes it up as they go, and most of the sets could be fudged.

You know where I'm going with this.

There's absolutely no reason a fan-made "space station" playset can't exist. We're seeing bits and pieces of this - as long as you don't go anywhere near the trademarks owned by Disney, any idiot could start a toy company and make a "Space Station Playset." There's nothing in the trash compactor - save maybe for the Dianoga - that couldn't be made by another company as long as they stay away from branding. "Space Hallway," "Space Conference Room," and other elements could be produced as well, especially if they had minor changes from the film - which, given that you've never seen all four walls of most rooms in that movie, you would have to do.

The old Hoth playsets that everybody loved are a pastiche of Hothy bits compressed to fit into a box. The Death Star Space Station playset was a cheap mix of panels, girders, and cardboard that came together to make something that fans accept looks like the Death Star - but it really, really doesn't look like the Death Star. Jabba's Dungeon? Nope. Ewok Village? ...OK, that looks a bit like what we saw on-camera. But if you sold it in another box, under another brand name, would anyone notice? (No they wouldn't - because it was sold as the Robin Hood Prince of Thieves Sherwood Forest Playset.)




So I got a bunch of new stuff in the mail lately - it's the season - including the 2-packs for Rogue One. What's interesting here - particularly because the topic comes up a bunch - are that the 2-packs are Made in Vietnam. Hasbro's been making its Transformers toys there for a few years, and the results are generally positive - tolerances are good, engineering is good, and the overall quality of the paint has - if you ask me - improved. Looking at the Rogue One 2-packs, what's particularly interesting is that it seems that while the new movie figures could have used a "skirt" piece, they instead opted for the traditional t-crotch. I appreciate this - it's better for vehicle piloting. I assume it's also slightly cheaper.

Right now the buzz is feeling good for the upcoming movie, and the interesting thing from where I sit is getting a quick overview of what seems to be selling. Specifically, the Rebels stuff seems to suddenly be doing better and I'm finding that the new Rogue One Stormtroopers seem to be selling out just as fast as Sabine Wren. And I've not seen a Leia (Rebels) in the wild yet, but I am starting to see Chirrut Imwe and other wave 2 characters. I'm wondering if this means that Army Building is making a comeback now that you can buy Stormtroopers for $7-$8 instead of $10-$12 again, or if people just see it and go "oh hey classic figure I'll buy one." I expect Darth Vader to sell well for pretty much those reasons.

In addition to my Big Figure Display project (slowed by a bad shoulder, resuming shortly) I've been trying to make sure my Titanium Series vehicle collection was up to snuff - variants and weird exclusives make it a tough nut to complete. For example, there's a gold X-Wing - two versions of it, but most people only know about the Celebration III one. (I've got the other one.) Also, Galoob put out a number of die-cast metal vehicles in the 1990s that would become Titanium Series ships later - many with altered deco or variant stands - but a surprising number of people don't have those. If you did miss some of them, I advise you to look at eBay and look at the prices of lots. Single vehicles cost almost as much as groups of 4 or more - I just got the last 4 Episode I ships I needed this last week for (considering inflation) below their original prices. I also kept up as the original line dwindled a few years ago - if you didn't, uh, don't look at the prices of the last few waves. It's not uncommon for a single vehicle to cost more than an entire case did at the time. Very few vehicles from Galoob never returned to Titanium Series, but the Bongo remained unproduced - but many of the other ones did make it out. So Hasbro, if you're reading - that Gungan Sub got tooled, that's a free lunch if you decide to release it. The Gian Speeder was produced, but never came out in Titanium Series packaging. Just throwing that out there - it's cheap if you people want one, and it's a quality vehicle.

If you guys are amenable to Patreon (I, uh, may need help funding the site in the near future) I might be able to do some sort of vehicle of the week feature or some such. Hey, I've been writing toys for 21 years, I figure I'm probably allowed to ask for a buck from the seven of you who still read my stuff. You are also allowed to say "go screw," which is why I love you all so much.

Oh, and Shin Godzilla is in (some) theaters now. If you have an interest in such things, I can say I enjoyed it as much as I was angered by the not-Mike and not-Joel audience. You know what I'm talking about. Dang kids. Good movie, though.

--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.