Q&A: Why No Star Wars Classic New Retro and Syngery Problems

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, January 22, 2023

1. Has Hasbro given any reason why they are not making more Kenner versions of Original Trilogy characters? Tarkin and Snowspeeder Luke were excellent additions, but everything since has been from recent media. We're overdue for a Retro Cantina Band, at the least.

Retro is something Hasbro has been weirdly mum about - I'm curious if it's dictated by the licensor, or if they just don't see it as worth playing up. Tarkin was one of the most exciting figures I've ever got from them, and I wonder why they won't do many more unless it remains an "in case of emergency, break glass" initiative of some sort. I assume there's not a ton of money in it given the size and pricing, but also, if you could buy a $10 Blue Snaggletooth all of a sudden I'm sure a lot of people would want it.

We do know that Hasbro favors higher-dollar product. The Black Series at $25 or more a figure gets a little more love, and scuttlebutt has it original trilogy stuff tends to do better than everything else. There are exceptions to the rule, for example there seem to be a fair amount of Lando figures piling up around town (which may say something about the town), but I am kind of stunned they haven't yet given us the Cantina Band or Dr. Evazan. An off-model Dr. Evazan would be fantastic, and the band is arguably one of the most recognizable non-speaking groups in the entire movie series.

I assume if it were more profitable (in terms of units, or dollars) we'd see a lot more of it. Last year we got under 20 figures (not including prototype variants) and that was a pretty spectacular year. Hopefully we'll get a few all-new waves this year, in addition to the sextets from Star Wars and Return of the Jedi plus at least two The Empire Strikes Back from Amazon. And the prototype Lukes are shipping. I hope they're not waiting for the 50th anniversary of Star Wars to give us the Cantina Band or a Sandtrooper or a Rebel Fleet Trooper, but I'm still worried they'll just axe the segment entirely because it's not as many dollars as their other, decreasingly exciting products.



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2. I've been collecting 3 3/4" plastic space people since 1978. Having started as a "Collect Them All!" kid only to become a completist during the prequel trilogy, I've narrowed my focus to the OT and OT-adjacent SKUs. Problem is, I'm still running out of room.

Kids these days seem far more interested in what's on the screen than what's in their hand. The tactile aspect of collecting seems to be waning. And let's face it; with the switch to plastic-free packaging, huffing a freshly-opened action figure isn't the aromatic rush it once was.

All this to ask: Are NFTs the future of action figure collecting? Because the more I look at these little ABS/PVC figurines, the more they seem like vinyl records. Sure, they fill a niche but it's an increasingly expensive one, taking up actual real estate, and catering to a waning, nostalgic market. I'm not sure what the Spotify version of these toys looks like but it feels like NFTs.

NFTs will most likely not have a long-term impact on figure collecting. I see it as its own thing right now, in a space that is likely to find more new adopters until other applications can be found for them. "I have a picture of a figure I can sell" appeals to some people, but not others. If NFTs can be tied to the ownership of digital goods - say, a digital music album or game, so you could transfer ownership of it to someone else - that could be something. Assuming NFTs survive to the future, what we're seeing now is probably the very worst interpretation of what this technology can be used for - it's the Atari 2600 version of something that could grow into something much more impressive.

I like vinyl records and listen to them, and play game cartridges, but I like that kind of stuff. I have a connection to it. NFTs just seem like a way to spend money and not have much to show for it, or play with, at least for now. Once you lose the connection to what you loved as a kid, you probably don't need to keep collecting it for very long. We'll never get enough of the original trilogy if we grew up with it - but a lot of us feel pretty good about our prequel, sequel, and video game collections as-is. Once the NFT is a thing you can own and play and then sell to someone else, there might be a lot more to build on, but I think it will not be a world in which I am a participant.

No one, least of all Hasbro, expected the Star Wars line to run over four decades with thousands of figures. When I decided I was going to "collect them all!" the cardback had just over 90 figures on it and there were two cartoon lines with under a dozen each. And that seemed reasonable. With Hasbro cranking out more similar-yet-different figures in various scales including an increasingly exhausting number of trooper repaints, there are really only a couple of options: expand your storage capacity, or cut back/quit.

I assume kids are over action figures, but also the landscape of the toy world is pretty dire. If you want Batman, you can get Batman. If you want Spider-Man... maybe you can find Spider-Man. If you want Star Wars, you have about zero chance of finding Luke, Anakin, Vader, Boba Fett, or Mando in a store near you unless someone has an unsold exclusive on hand. You might see TMNT figures but you won't necessarily see the green teens.

I'm sure a big part of the problem with action figure collecting is that the "collector stuff" increasingly samey, increasingly expensive, and the "new" stuff is frequently a riff on the old stuff. Also, I don't think anyone did the math of what decades of figures and vehicles would cost when you have some really big years (like 2006 and 2007) that had more figures in circulation (including new production of old figures in new packaging) than the original Kenner line during its whole run.

Is there a secret to getting back on course? I would say yes - fewer items per year, spread out more often. Too much stuff clusters together and I get burned out - but 2-4 figures 4-8 times per year, I think would get people hungry and excited. Once you get 3-4 cases of Black Series waves the same month, you really find out how much you do (or don't) like something in a hurry.





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Too much new stuff, not enough new stuff, the only thing it seems we can agree on is that there's probably too much stuff "nobody" wants... but to date, most of the Carbonized figures seem to have sold pretty well, so we may wind up being incorrect there.

I hope you're all staying warm during the winter slow toy season. As a reminder, The Bad Batch is running, Toy Fair got punted to September, and there's not a whole heck of a lot of new stuff expected in the coming weeks. I've been spending time digging out a lot of old toy creatures and 3 3/4-inch figures for research purposes, and if that amounts to anything you'll be first - well, maybe 10th - to know.

March is just around the corner and so far it seems there's no big initiative for The Mandalorian to launch with new toys on-shelf like we used to see for the movies. This seems like a missed opportunity, and after having missed the boat two and a half times, and then some counting the other shows, this is probably going to just be how things are until it's time to do another movie. With Avatar 3 set for 2024, I'm not super hopeful it'll be any time soon unless it winds up being the "grand finale" to the Mando-verse streaming shows.

Of course, it's not all bad news. This means you have some more time to save some money for whatever is coming later, which I am hoping is "more Kenner dudes" but will probably be "more comic characters you don't remember and/or have never seen," thanks to the ease of making stuff from the trooper tooling library. Or you could just pre-order the wrestling Greedo figure instead. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tempted - this is a delightfully daffy idea, but $70.00 for soft vinyl is a little much for me personally. (If he wants to do it in PVC, for PVC prices, I'm totally on board.)

However your year is going, I hope you're having fun and collecting the kind of stuff that makes you happiest - whatever it is. See you next 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.



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