Q&A: Vintage, Vintage, Vintage

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, January 16, 2011

You're not happy with new vintage action figures you're seeing-- what else is new? You love Gentle Giant's giant 12-inch figures and have questions-- good for you! We have some answers. You're also wanting to know if Hasbro might do variant vintage cardbacks. Geez, it's all about vintage now isn't it? Read on and send in your questions!

1. Collectors all over the web are screamin about Hasbro half-hearted attempt at a Yavin Ceremony Han as seen in Wave 5. They basically took the LC Han from the ANH wave (with that God awful head) and put a medal around his neck. In the film, Han was wearing a button up shirt, so collectors are unhappy with this mistake. May question is, is this a "floater" type figure from Hasbro? Did Hasbro decide to do this figure to see if there was real demand for a more accurate Yavin Han?

When Hasbro puts out a figure, generally speaking, the intent is that it sell and do well and hopefully not cause demand for another version-- with the exception of a few key characters like Darth Vader, I don't think they usually sit around saying "We'll do this Luke again in 2 years." Sometimes a figure doesn't turn out quite as well, or it gets a weak reception, and THAT helps to fast-track a new version.

Hasbro has dragged their feet on Ceremonial Han for years, this being the first real 3 3/4-inch release of the figure. (The closest we've had to one are the bonus medals included with General Dodonna in 2004.) I'm assuming Hasbro thought there would be more excitement in releasing what basically amounted to a general, normal Star Wars Han Solo with a bonus medal but, as you say, fans probably are going to kick the dirt on this one while buying it, ensuring Hasbro will likely promise another one a few months down the road.

...of course, Hasbro mentioned another, better Bespin Han Solo back as early as 2007 when the torture rack version came out and here we are in 2011 with only Sandstorm, Hoth Jacket, and Stormtrooper figures to show. So who knows? It's obvious to you and me that it's the wrong torso, but Wave 5 seems to be a repaint/retool wave, so the most logical answer to your question is that they were cutting costs and a) assuming we wouldn't notice or b) didn't notice the detail of Han's shirt themselves when going through approvals. (I guess there's also c) referencing the original 1970s 12-inch Kenner figure but that seems less likely-- he had the unbuttoned shirt/medal combination, too.)

2. I love the new Gentle Giants Vintage 12 inch Star Wars figures.I was able to get the Stormtrooper and Boba Fett from their site.I was wondering if they have plans to do a Death Squad Commander.Have you heard anything about one coming out?

While no dates or specifics have been given, a lot of buzz of "the original 12" was heard around the Gentle Giant booth at the conventions this year. (I was surprised I didn't see an R2-D2 or C-3PO there, those are two I'd like to buy.) They seem to be getting through these pretty quickly, so I would actually expect to see something next month at New York Toy Fair. Oh, I'll be there, but I don't know if Gentle Giant will have a big presence or not just yet-- but I'll go looking. (Heck, it's my job.)

3. I did some recent research I found the GI Joe Collectors Club, how come there is no Star Wars Collectors Club? This would clearly be a good outlet for figure variations, exclusives and troop builders.

I see the clubs as a real mixed blessing-- basically, it's a cover charge to buy very high-quality, collector-friendly repaints with tiny runs (high hundreds or under 2,000 pieces) at very high prices. Figure runs this low are not something you want for Star Wars.

If what you're really asking is "why doesn't some benevolent organization make unlimited supplies of troopers available," well, that never happens. The Joe and TF club stores are treated pretty much like any other online retailer in that they can order and sell things, but they don't have better access to rare or popular figures-- these things are only sold by the assortment. (Hasbro Toy Shop is in the same boat-- they don't get too much special treatment, but there are some perks like exclusives here and there.)

Let me throw this question back at you-- are club exclusives something you would really want? Before you say yes, I suggest checking out the prices on the Transformers and G.I. Joe collector's club items. I've bought some from both over the past few years and they aren't cheap. The 15-figure set of convention figures from the G.I. Joe con is $305 this year for a box of trooper repaints, a few hero repaints, and a couple of new heads-- that's $20.33 per figure, for a $6.99 figure, some of which were even slated to be part of the main line. Now I'm glad they're seeing release rather than going to oblivion, but it's also possible (although increasingly unlikely) these could have been retail or Comic-Con exclusives too. I admire what the clubs have done, but I also know that if I want that weird and cool G2-style Classics Ramjet, it's going to cost me at least fifty bucks-- for a repaint of a $10 mold from 2007. Because the runs are low, and because I want it, it's worth it-- but because you, my readers, would never stop complaining about it, I'd rather not see it happen.

To use a Star Wars-themed example, the concept General Grievous figure-- which I believe was the last 100%-new sculpt exclusive the Fan Club's shop got-- that was about $17. $17, for a figure that would have been $7 at retail. I'll buy the figures where they show up, but if it were up to me I'd want to keep prices down to about an average of $10/figure if I can help it for most exclusives.

While I love the G.I. Joe club exclusive Adventure Team 3 3/4-inch figures-- I joined the club specifically to buy them-- the magazine is really lacking and the prices may be too high given how rich a selection of cheap toys are available at retail for Star Wars. For example, about 14 new carded basic Joes were released by Hasbro in 2010. 14. Not a typo. The club exclusive boxed set (including duplicate troopers) had 15, plus there were bonus sets you could buy at the show-- Joe is a starving market, and starving markets can often support higher prices. Star Wars had a slow year, but that slow year yielded dozens of figures across 3 basic figure assortments, and that's not including the many vehicles and exclusives, either.

While a collector's club could be an interesting business-- charge $40 a year for a magazine that reminds you how great the abundant, free news you don't have to pay for online which is written by dozens of hard-working fans and expenses and travel are paid out of pocket-- I'm curious if fans would jump at the prospect. If a unique repaint figure were offered with a magazine for $40 a year, I'd buy it. If there were a really spiffy boxed set with, for example, a bunch of red Stormtroopers and Lumiya fighting new and faceless Rebel forces? OK, I'd throw down $305 for those 15 figures. But it might also mean traveling to the conventions-- the Joe and Transformers clubs only sell the convention boxed set as a pre-order, if you want the bonus vehicle packs or bonus toys you have to go to the show to buy them, or pray they don't sell out at the show.

In short, I don't begrudge the Transformers or G.I. Joe clubs for what they do-- it's a great business model for them, and we get some genuinely spectacular, limited-edition toys as a result. But it's like Matty Collector-- I admire what they're doing, but please, please don't apply it to Star Wars. I've bought thousands of action figures for Star Wars and any time one costs more than a basic figure, I get irate-- a special repaint isn't any more special than what I bought at Target for eight bucks. I like things how they are, no one figure costs me an arm and a leg and with options like buying cases online or buying at retail, I can usually get what I want for a fair price.

It could happen-- it might happen. I'm hoping for the sake of my wallet that if it does happen, it's at the end of the run and done in a year where there's little other product being released to compete for my spare toy income.

4. Is Hasbro ever going to mix it up with the cardbacks. Going retro is cool, but has there been any talk of alternative photos for the cardbacks.


Yes-- but it seems to be mostly as corrections and not variations so far. Luke Skywalker (Jedi, Wave 3) has had a variant photo surface which may be making it into assortments later this year. The only other variant photo which has surfaced is Yoda, meaning that the initially revealed Return of the Jedi is the rare variation that may never make it out to the collector's market.

While I personally would love to see variant photos and logos, I am not a package variation collector. However, if I saw a Darth Vader on a "Star Wars" card with a different (or even the same) photo, I'd be inclined to get one. It's much less exciting to see figures at retail on packaging that isn't from their debut movie.

5. Is the Sears Cantina set ever going to be revisited? When I was a kid, my friend and I would search the pegs looking for the "other" snaggletooth. Never dawned on us that it was actually "Inside the Cantina..."

The Sears Snaggletooth-- the blue one-- saw production as an action figure by Hasbro around 2004, as-- and I find this funny-- a Kmart exclusive. (Kmart is now owned by Sears, you see. Or Sears appears on the receipts.) Anyway.

There will likely never be another proper Cantina playset-- there are Cantina sections which started coming out in 2002 and continued through 2004 in various forms, but there's not much call for a big playset inside Hasbro or from toy buyers. ("Toy buyers" meaning "people at various companies who have my day job" and not "collectors.") So in that sense, I think the only Cantina Adventure Set you're likely to see will be cardboard ones, just like the original, if Hasbro ever decides to change its Battle Pack packaging to also sport those nifty fold-out cardboard dioramas. Personally I think those things would be better if they were more figure- than vehicle-friendly, but that's me.

But how about the figures? Well, Kenner is in vogue right now. Gentle Giant is making a giant Blue Snaggletooth statue as well as huge replicas of various original figures. Hasbro brought back the "Kenner" name and packaging. It stands to reason that eventually they're going to want to start touching on more of the Kenner low-level holy grail retail releases, which would include the likes of the Blue Snaggletooth and, presumably, Yak Face. Since Hasbro's been pretty slow on Cantina figures-- if you check your notes, you'll note that we haven't had a new one since October 2009-- I'm not hopeful that we'll see something as awesome as a carded Blue Snaggletooth at retail. However, Comic-Con is a great time to put out something weird, so here's hoping they go for releasing him as a (hopefully) modestly priced convention or retailer exclusive if he doesn't make the cut for the basic assortment.


As evidenced by the lack of Star Wars-specific content in "FIN" in the past few weeks, you might assume things are slow. You would be correct. So I'm going to use this to flog the other things I write because while I love Star Wars, I can't stand to write thousands of articles about just one thing. (Before you you comment about me whining, write 1,000 articles about something, and get back to me. Variety is good.)

I started digging into my own toy box last year to do 16bit.com Figure of the Day, which is effectively like the Star Wars Figure of the Day but about other stuff. It's pretty inconsistent in terms of focus, but 3 3/4-inch figure fans may want to take note of Outer Space Men and G.I. Joe figures for your parts-swiping needs. There are some figures worth picking up for customizing or outfitting your other figures.

I was also inspired to start contacting and interviewing some of my favorite bands from the late 1990s and 2000s, in part so that their other fans would have something new to read, and also because there's an unreleased second album by the Pulsars out there and I'm just as nutty about unreleased songs as I am about unreleased toys. I'll mention stuff here again as it goes up because while I know very few of you care about what kind of junk I'm digging up, the four or five of you who listen to any of these groups should be pretty happy with what's coming up so far. (I've already got a ton of info on one band, a review of a never-released CD EP, and an interview with a record label. I'm pretty proud of what you can get done just by asking politely.) So do any of you know the dude behind Luxo Champ?

We're a month out from Toy Fair. I will be there in both a reporting and a toy buyer capacity, so heck if I know if you'll see me out there. If you see someone complaining about being cold and demanding to go to "Two Boots" pizza for dinner, that'll be me.

--Adam Pawlus

Got questions? I bet you do. Email me with Q&A in the subject line.

Yeah, I would actually like

Yeah, I would actually like to see Vader, C-3PO, and the new Stormtrooper repackaged with the original "Star Wars" design. Especially since the 2004 versions were on ESB/ROTJ cards too.