Q&A: Tauntauns, Droids, Vintage Packaging Variants, and More Spooky Stuff

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, October 30, 2011

This week: New Astromech Droids-- are they really new? How exclusive are the new Wal-Mart figures anyway? And just how many Darth Maul figures can you expect in 2012 so far? A bunch. Read more, or don't-- there's a pricing rant at the end! Oh, and Happy Halloween everybody!

1. Someone told me you enjoy this kind of question. How many different Star Wars figures are there? (not including repacks)

"Someone" sounds like a real jerk.

I do have a rough list-- the stuff from 2010-present is fuzzy-- with my tallies of what is or is not new, which may vary from your own opinion. Do new accessories make a figure new? How about head swaps? How different does a variant need to be to be "different"? Every collector has a unique definition, and while I don't think the 2011 carded Keyan Farlander is different enough from the 2008 Evolutions version, you may disagree. Clones get particularly tricky, as different plastic stocks, stripes, and other minor changes on a trooper could arguably constitute a new character.

My rough, conservative estimate as of today is that we have passed 1,800 and may be in the 1,900 range. This is 1995-present, including silver figures and all incarnations of Clone Wars.

At some point-- as soon as I give up on Figure of the Day-- I'll try to do a massive, multi-part feature focusing on year-by-year or segment-by-segment so we can get to the bottom of it, and I'll try to make it so you guys can check my work too. So right now it's a very big number, but for me to actually be sure-- and for you to be sure that I'm right-- I'm going to have to stop doing FOTD for a while. And right now I'm planning on calling it quits for FOTD around Toy Fair 2013 unless someone starts paying me to do it, because really, why the heck am I writing 2,000 of these for free when I could be doing something that isn't some sort of bizarre blogging stress test?


2. Quick question have you been able to figure amongst the 3 different lines, which has the best Darth Maul coming. Are any of them repacks? I cant tell by the pics at all?

It looks like there are at least 3 new Darth Mauls and they are-- wait for it-- all different enough to make you mad. The new Vintage one finally has ball-jointed elbows, plus a great new sculpt and a brand-new lightsaber. This is the first-ever Maul to have a plastic lightsaber with the flares on the blades, plus the first new non-removable blades lightsaber sculpt since the one you can separate from around 2000. I believe the only previous Maul to include flares on his blades was the 2002 concept version in the Saga line, as the 2005 Evolutions one just reused the 1999 lightsaber, but one of you will correct me below if I'm forgetting one.

One Movie Heroes figure seems to be based on the aforementioned 2002 figure with new deco, maybe. The official shot looks like it dropped the red lining of the concept robes while POSSIBLY resculpting a bit or two, while some samples just looked like repacks. So it's different enough to be considered "new" by my standards... new deco = new figure.

ANOTHER Movie Heroes version seems to be an entirely new sculpt with legs you can squeeze to get a saber-slashing action. This is in the second wave of "Movie Heroes."

While one was not on display, I expect a light-up lightsaber Darth Maul later this year, as well as two Clone Wars animated versions since he's coming back in a big way, or so it seems. (Screw you, spoiler-averse readers.) Others will be repackaged throughout the year, such as the Sith Speeder version.

Based on the tone of most of your (all readers') questions, my guess is you'll want the new Vintage TVC86 figure due at the end of January. Me, I want the light-up one, that has me excited.


3. I have a question regarding the Revenge [of the Jedi]-carded chase figures. From what I've gleaned from various sites it seems that the twelve full-size figures from the SDCC Death Star "Revenge Of The Jedi" set will be available at regular retail on both RETURN Of The Jedi cards as well as REVENGE Of the Jedi chase cards. But according to the listings at your day job (Entertainment Earth), I only see six figures coming on "Revenge" cards through Wave 9. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it looks like we'll be getting five Revenge cards in Wave 8: R2-D2 (VC 25), Rebel Commando (VC 26), Wicket (VC 27), Stormtrooper (VC 41) and Slave Leia (VC 64), with Revenge Leia and Stormtrooper again in Wave 8.1 and Wave 9 adding Revenge Ackbar (VC 22) plus Wicket again, with the balance of the figures in those waves being on "Return" cards or carry forwards on their respective cards. So what gives? Where are the other six "Revenge" carded figures? Have they been pushed back till 2012 or are they just mixed in Waves 8, 8.1 & 9, varying from case to case which come on Revenge cards and which are on Return cards?

When it comes to variants, especially at my place of work, they are not guaranteed. There are many reasons for this but this column is running long and it's boring and may result in name-dropping and I ain't gonna do that, so...

So what's the deal? There are 12 figures between the 3 cases (wave 8, 8 Revision 1, and 9) PLUS Return variants of numerous characters like Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and the Stormtrooper. All the figures have started shipping-- I've confirmed them in cases, and pulled (and opened) a black Endor Rebel myself. (My cases got mixed-up since I got them in the mail, otherwise I'd spell it out right here.)


4. So Hasbro has a Wal-Mart exclusive wave in January and then eight or more months later will release 4 of the 6 figures in the Vintage line, if I understand their release strategy correctly. To that I say, "WTF, Hasbro, WTMFingF?" Is there a more appropriate response?

I don't understand the strategy, but it seems Hasbro has been kind enough to give fans the heads-up that everybody new but Ric Olie and G8-R3 should be hitting Vintage. Seeing how a few products have fallen off the production schedule, though, I'm probably still going to buy the Wal-Mart versions anyway because I don't want to risk missing them and I like display stands. Aren't you glad they let you know vintage repacks are coming, rather than buy them and then be surprised later and/or infuriated that you wasted $60 figures on the "wrong" packaging for your collection's tastes? I'd rather have more information than none, and they're going to do what they want or need to do.

It's bizarre, but my guess is this is to appease the eat-beast that is Wal-Mart. They want to order a ton of exclusive product, and sometimes "exclusive" means "exclusive window of release" or "exclusive packaging." (See: Transformers Energon's Megatron in 2004.) The way I see it, at least now you have options-- and it's not like Hasbro is playing games to trick fans, they're really up-front about it for those of us who care (or don't) about packaging.


5. Can you tell from the images released, whether either the "Naboo Starship Astromech" 4 pack and Pod Racer 5 pack feature strictly repaints? Are different sculpts used for any of the droids? Is it just my eye or do some of the 5 pod racers look like they are painted different colors than the versions that are sitting on my shelf at home?

I have personally confirmed with my own grubby hands that Hasbro was awesome with the Naboo Astromech set and they are all build-a-droid molds. So they're all technically new, which is exciting, as I was worried bored they were R4-G9s again. So that set, you will want to buy. And by "you," I mean "me."

The Pod Racers appear to be rereleases or possibly repaints-- as my figures were not with me in my pocket, I can't be sure of the details, plus my Pod Racers are spread across dozens of boxes in my basement now. So as this new set goes, they are not new molds. The only thing Hasbro confirmed was "new" were their flags which, if you ask me, may not be worth the purchase. If the deco is different, though, it might be worth picking up. For the average loose collector, though, it really boils down to if you need every last paint variant or if you can be happy with what you had in your collection and were probably ignoring since 2001.



A couple of weeks back I scored Target's new exclusives, which are priced in-- at best-- a confusing way. Since the Landspeeder and Tauntaun are from an assortment, retail law basically demands they be priced the same, which is a sensible thing we're all more or less used to at any store we decide not to call a scalper. (That's why Target doesn't charge you more money for the more desirable figures.)

What's legitimately confusing is how an individual vintage-boxed Tauntaun launches the same day as a gift set featuring a redeco of the beast plus two additional action figures, all for $24.99. Many collectors (like myself) just shrug and buy it, as the Landspeeder is a pretty good deal at $24.99 considering the last issue included a figure back in 2002 and was somewhere around that. It's just that the gift set with the Tauntaun is not compatible with a single Tauntaun at the same exact price. It's unlikely, but possible it's an error as well-- a Spider-Man 3 exclusive set at Target including Spidey and the Sandman sold for $19.99 (expensive!) but when it hit clearance, the "original price" dropped to $12.99, hinting that someone, somewhere, at some point, priced the item incorrectly.

Some of you have asked why Tauntaun pricing could be so extreme between items, and I'm going to point back to what I said a lot in 2004 and 2005-- suckers are born every minute, there are many of us in this hobby, and a fancy box is a way to add "value" to an otherwise bland or cheap product. The very best example was Target's "Premium Exclusive Figure Program" which borrowed the clear, plastic Star Cases from the 2004-2007 Vintage line concept and applied it to repaints (or retools) of $5-$7 figures. You got a case with a retail value of (at best) $1 and Target charged you $13 for the figure, and in some cases the molds were very old, or the figures had fewer accessories than their cheaper, non-exclusive counterparts.

When you get right down to it, it's less about sensible business practices than it is about money. Target doesn't seem to play a lot of games with its toy pricing, and wholesale prices of products (in particular, exclusive products) tend to be a closely guarded secret. Having said that, if Target has two items from the same vendor (Hasbro) at the exact same retail price, it's a safe bet that it's because Hasbro charged them the same price for the items on a wholesale level. I don't have paperwork to back this up, just hunches-- I'm also fairly confident those "premium figures" came with a premium price to Target as well, as I'm willing to bet Target's merchandisers don't scrutinize collectible toys in the same way we do.

So in short, it's a pretty safe bet the vintage vehicles cost more because Hasbro believes they're worth it, which means we are expected to believe they're worth it. Given the rising cost of plastic and labor, it's hard to argue that the new Tauntaun isn't worth at least 2.5 carded Vintage figures, and is priced accordingly. It's also hard to argue against fans' willingness to overpay for vintage-packaged products, as we've seen them do repeatedly over the years. In this case, we're basically paying a premium for the box, but I would suggest you do what I do and hang on to your receipts. Remember, you've got 90 days to bring it back to the store for a price adjustment in case of a sale. (Or possible clearance.)

As always, vote with your dollars. (That's why I waited for the sale on the Toys R Us Death Star Trench set this year.) $24.99 for the Landspeeder is, if you ask me, reasonable. $17 for the Tauntaun would've been fine, and $25 wouldn't sting if there weren't a better alternative literally right next to it on the endcap. Anecdotal evidence claims fans are favoring the vintage packaging, proving collectors will pay more to get less if the box is nice, which is exactly what I've been saying was the entire point behind "vintage" since about 2004.

--Adam Pawlus

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