Q&A: Star Wars Vehicles, SDCC, Exclusive Planet, HasLab II Revealed

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, July 14, 2019

1. I've read a rumor about an upcoming X-Wing release, presumably Luke's, and presumably for The Vintage Collection. I would think it would probably be the same mold as the Biggs X-Wing that was sold at Toys R Us several years ago, but that's just an assumption. I have not heard if it will include a Luke and/or R2-D2 figure. If you were to choose the "best" R2-D2 figure to use with this X-Wing, which one do you think is the best for the job? (I would personally prefer a "clean" R2-D2 figure for it.)

Rumors are fun! And so is Comic-Con, which has a Hasbro Star Wars panel happening July 19. Will we see a lot? I really don't know - the bizarre secrecy seems to be backfiring as the Disney era continues and these things go from being the toast of the town to something people kind of ignore. There is no confirmed X-Wing, but we did get a few TIE Fighters lest year, so let's have fun and speculate. It's good to fill space. So what might we see if Hasbro ever did another X-Wing?

We are in an era where "sure things" are less of a sure thing - 10 years ago I would assume every new toy vehicle would likely be a reissue, because that would be the easiest route. And then they started having labor and material prices skyrocket, so we saw redesigned, smaller vehicles. I was really quite taken with the Solo Force Link 2.0 TIE Fighter, which was a blast in so many ways, but we haven't seen a lot of new Original Trilogy molds since the Disney buyout.

Assuming the tooling is good, and Hasbro has an outlet to sell it at the modern pricing required to make such a beast, that old non-electronic FX X-Wing mold is probably the way to go. The current crop at Hasbro is very keen on old mold use, and I assume until the next hike in factory wages we would be most likely to see things that exist and already work before anything new. Although I would be delighted to see Hasbro bring back the 1978-size mold with a functioning astromech droid socket for once!



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2. What do you think the impact to the hobby would be if exclusives simply went away? Imagine a world where everyone had an equal opportunity to buy every item produced by Hasbro, period. I'm talking Sail Barge approach, where anyone who threw down would be guaranteed to get it. Would this be Star Wars collector Utopia or would it kill demand and interest in the hobby?

20 years ago, I would have considered the end of exclusives to have been great. During the Power of the Force era of the 1990s, we saw tons of 12-inch figures come out and scalped to high heaven. A $50 Tauntaun would show up for $250-$300 at a toy show or online auction, because back then exclusives were frequently produced in quantities lower than the main line. Some items would get second (and third) runs before pricing would level out, and some people just stopped caring about over time.

Since late 2005, I'd say exclusives are usually easier to get. Comic-Con being the exception, but generally speaking even those pesky Walmart exclusives would show up on clearance somewhere else, or on Walmart.com, or be findable later. There are always exceptions depending on location and whatnot. And sometimes it takes a while for the items to end up online.

I think Hasbro would be thrilled if the line was all exclusives. The store has to agree to a quantity, and will generally always take that entire quantity. It's real support - you don't have to worry about a dud being manufactured and stores simply not needing to reorder. It has tremendous advantages to go the exclusive route provided the numbers produced make sense for the market, and that's not always the case. (See: Target's Force Link exclusives.)

Of course, that's for collectors - the clued-in class who checks fan sites every week would likely be on cloud nine. Fans seeking a souvenir or kids would be left out, and that's where a lot of the money is these days. (I assume that group will be moving on before the Ides of March.) Masters of the Universe Classics was sold on Matty Collector as an "all-in" subscription that also left out a few items - it's hard to make anything perfect.

There are absolute advantages to exclusivity, but you need to capture new customers or your line dies. Without impulse purchases, the customer base stagnates. Everybody buying figures to the reportedly large and unsubstantiated tune of 250,000 per figure in the 1990s won't stick around forever. Eventually people grow up, decide to move on, or just get sick and tired of whatever the thing they want is not being made. I'm sure someone could do very well by trying a MattyCollector-style program where you could buy an entire wave in a case, but keep in mind that Hasbro's bread is buttered on the 6-inch side these days when it comes to action figures. The 3 3/4-inch line has been not exactly a fan darling in years, mostly due to character selection getting less and less fresh and the aforementioned fans growing out of it. It's just not fun to collect when you can buy a year's worth of figures and nobody seems to go together especially well.





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Come See Me Present New Toys at SDCC 2019!

San Diego Comic-Con is this week! Will you see lots of exciting new reveals from Rise of the Skywalker, the movie whose title you can't remember and keep saying Episode IX instead? Probably not!

HasLab announced its next exclusive - a Cookie Monster Photo Puppet! This is a pretty big deal - and I know you're not happy about it. But read on.

HasLab was never intended to be all Star Wars, or necessarily all crowd funding. There are lots of teams with lots of ideas for the unusual "store," and Star Wars was fortunate enough to be the first one. With G.I. Joe, Marvel, and Transformers alone, there has been a lot of speculation as to what could be next. As Hasbro is a promotions-driven toy company and not a collector-driven one, these things serve a variety of purposes including broadening the market, delivering holy grails, getting media coverage, and exploring product types we don't see very often. It's experimental - "lab" is right there in the name.

Master Replicas made some Muppets as Photo Puppets about a decade ago - Kermit, Gonzo, and Animal. Kermit saw about 2,500 units - not far off from Cookie Monster's 3,000 target and also from an era where high-end stuff was a lot more unusual - while Gonzo wound up on closeout. The prices were significantly higher than what Hasbro is asking, and some of the pieces were a little more complex. The current secondary market prices on those tend to be quite high at $500 or more. Believe it or not there is an enthusiastic adult collector market for Muppet stuff with very little product aimed at that audience. With the 50th anniversary of Sesame Street, just be glad it's Cookie Monster and not Elmo.

Toys aren't for everybody. Not everything is for us, not everything is for the kids, and not everything is for anybody. This might make it - it might not! I didn't think the Sail Barge would make it as we neared the final weeks, and then all of a sudden it smashed the goal. Attempts to make collector-grade Sesame Street stuff have frequently fallen flat, with concepts rejected by the licensor (it breaks the heart) or going unmade due to bankruptcies. Hasbro is doing something many have tried and all have failed. It's a toy based on a show for preschoolers, marketed squarely at rich adults. I completely understand why everyone is upset it's not a Death Star, but have a little perspective - a $300 preschool character for adult collectors may well the ballsiest thing anybody has done for the world of licensed collectibles in quite some time.

--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, and we're down to 2 questions per week until we get overloaded with questions to re-expand back to 3 or more.



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