Galactic Hunter.com's Star Wars Q&A with Adam Pawlus
July 23, 2007

 

1. I am a massive Star Wars fan from across the pond in the UK and , like a great many , am in my thirties and have amassed quite a big collection of 3" and 12" figures and vehicles. I originally started collecting the figures again after Revenge and thought they would make a nice investment for my young daughter in many years time to help put her through uni or whatever. My predicament is that I would love to display the collection out of it's packaging to fully appreciate it but dont want to see it's value drop loads by doing so. The simple answer I know would be to buy two of everything but as you are perhaps aware of over here, the cheapest figures cost the equivalent of $12 dollars, and that would equate to alot of money I haven't got. HELP!!!
--Steve

I can help-- but you'll need to actually listen to what I say here. I usually don't make a big deal about my opinions being the right ones, but I think in this case, doing so would be advantageous to you.

Paying $12 for a figure that you're planning on selling off later is a bad idea. Why? Well, if you watch eBay, most figures (after a year or two) tend to go down in value to less than their US MSRP, which is to say, under $7. When you sell off a big collection, sometimes you do so at a loss because there aren't many new collectors that want to drop thousands of dollars/pounds at once on hundreds of figures without some sort of discount. (I never buy a collection unless the price-per-piece is very low and I can consider, at the price, all the duplicates to be things I could afford to give/throw away.)

I have very low expectations for the interest-- let alone value-- in 2005+ era figures, not because they aren't neat, not because they aren't fun, but because the line has grown to the point where most collectors cannot and do not keep up with everything. New fans start fresh and go forward, generally because it's easy to do-- if you started with the 2007 collection, you could get your Lukes and Vaders and Hans and Bobas and be fine. Why is this important? Because Hasbro keeps certain characters in circulation and improves others, generally you'll notice that a lot of figures just aren't interesting to a lot of new collectors. Why pay $25 for a Revenge of the Sith Darth Vader when the same figure was repackaged in arguably far more interesting ways in 2006 and 2007? Or why pay $25 for any Darth Vader when there are some very nice ones available at retail for $6.99 in many parts of the USA? In short, collecting these things for a future return is probably going to not make you a lot of money. At least, with us nearing 1,000 figures, it doesn't seem too likely.

So I would say opening your figures and ignoring any issue of "value" is probably how you'll have the most fun with them. Sure, some figures do shoot up-- some variants do command premium pricing, and some figures are hard to get-- but if you look at the market today, and for figures from the past 12 years, can you really expect to make a profit on most of these figures? It doesn't seem that way.

2. more of a comment, but I'll try to ramble around to a question. I'm a fan of the concept of the "Vintage" line: high-end new figures on old style packaging, as a small line for a higher price point. The rubber has met the road less than evenly. That said, I'd continue to pick over the less than perfect offerings for the occasional stand-outs and the good enoughs, pretty much forever. Eventually I see the 4" line becoming as collector only as the Sideshow 12" line is today. The various small screen offerings will keep the pegs in big box stores for another 7 years maximum, but not even boy toy fare as iconic as Batman can survive without mass cultural support, and Batman has over half a century of marketing behind him, not to mention the comic, radio shows, TV shows, and movies; from darkly serious to cheesy camp. Heck he's even in the congressional record.

Anyhoo, I suppose my point is that eventually this line will scale back to a collector only line. When that happens I'm hoping a more successful version of the "Vintage" line is what we'll be ordering from Sideshow or whoever fills the void once the big "H" has given up the ghost. What do you think? Or is this too far down the line to even what if?
--Ben

Right now, it seems certain brands are almost guaranteed to be around forever. Hot Wheels, G.I. Joe, and Barbie, for example, have been sold for decades and haven't ever evaporated at US retail for more than a brief blip. Since 1989, it's been possible to find Batman figures in stores, Transformers have been available almost nonstop since 1984, and with a few brief draughts, the same could be said about Ninja Turtles. Heck, even Power Rangers has been around for 15 years without nary a sign of it going away.

As such, it stands to reason that Star Wars will be around for a while, but what does a "collector line" mean? Well, frankly, I think the high-end stuff will be the first to go. Sideshow and Gentle Giant turn out some much beloved product, but when collectors who are willing to snap up 5,000 piece editions go away, that's probably going to mean that the license is no longer viable for high-end items. (If you think this is unlikely, well, Master Replicas might be a fine example of what to happen when a segment is almost fully milked-- why renew it if there's not a lot of exciting ground left to cover to justify the expense?)

The retirement of a toy line, as I'm told, is something like this. You go in to work on Monday, you're working on some new figure sculpt. Your cube mate is working on another figure, the guy down the hall is working on packaging, and your boss is looking at your work, seeing you're doing a great job. And on Thursday, someone comes in, lets you know it's all over, and now you're going to go work on Care Bears instead. There isn't usually a transition from massive super hit to tiny niche line, if the numbers dwindle, that's it-- it's over. It's not in Hasbro's best interests to do mid to high end figures in small production runs-- the cost for things like employees and electricity make it so they need to spend time and money on toy lines that they believe will make tons of sales.

I could see Star Wars being an exception to the rule where it might actually get a decent send off, where Hasbro says "OK, you know all those insane ideas you loyal fans have been asking for? Well, start saving, it's going to be a great year." But I think it's a safer bet that when the line gets to the point where we're looking at only we, the adult fans, as buyers, it's going to be over. But thankfully, kids are snapping up Saga Legends like nobody's business around LA and hopefully this is a sign that things are going to be OK for quite some time.

3. So there's a LOT of good stuff to choose from in 3 3/4 this year. AND there's a lot of good LEGO out there (Star Wars as well as Indy Jones next year!!). AND that Playmobil Roman stuff is creeping into view...

How do you budget? How do you cycle? Is it random what-I-see-I-get chaos or one week for one collecting habit and the next week for the next one? Or alternating months?

Does your wallet smell of burning plastic?

To feed my habit, I may have to resort to selling off the number of custom jobs/toys I've done (Like a F14 Skystriker done in a real Navy squadron's colors or the Space1999 Eagle turned assault dropship...). But that just feels... wrong. Thoughts?
--Tony

Well, honestly, I ended up in an industry at my day job that allows me to pick up a number of items at below retail, plus writing about toys for you guys at night helped to train me to look for the best clearance finds. I don't have a budget. I also have to make some cuts-- LEGO being a fine example. LEGO, 12-inch, busts, statues, these things I don't mess with beyond an occasional clearance find or a must-buy character. I might buy an Indy LEGO set in 2008, but I can't keep up with the Star Wars line and don't have enough hours in the week to enjoy it-- so I don't buy more.

Playmobil is a "gift" line-- as in, people like to buy it for me when my birthday comes around. I buy stuff too, but I tend to be picky/cheap. For example, the $1.99 Playmobil figures at Target, I'll buy most of those. When it comes time for the lines to hit clearance, I'll buy a lot of stuff. But usually, Playmobil only becomes interesting from about October to February-- which is, holiday season through Toy Fair-- and the rest of the year, not much happens in the USA. (And since I don't live in Germany, I can't keep up with the Nordsee food premiums and whatnot, so I just don't bother with those.) But the dinosaur line, that I want to get.

I try to keep my expenses reasonably low. With Hasbro Star Wars, that's a "money is no object" line-- at retail. I'll buy whatever Hasbro makes that I can get in the stores/online for MSRP. With everything else, my purchasing shifts depending on what looks like the most fun. Transformers this year, for example, I don't much like. (Robot Heroes, sure. Optimash Prime, yes. Movie stuff, no.) On the other hand G.I. Joe's anniversary line looked like a hoot-- and then I got the first 15 figures, and probably won't stick to it. Actually, if they don't make the articulation slightly better (at least so they can all sit), I'll probably cut it down to just select Cobra figures or drop it entirely. And Indy, well, I have to see it before I know I want it. On paper, I want it. But there are lots of lines you hear about, get all excited about, and then when you see them you have second thoughts.

Also, keep in mind, I'm a) in the industry, b) a fairly hardcore toy hunter (dozens of hits per week), and c) the kind of person who has been doing this for years and as such, I can let a lot of non-SW stuff slip through my fingers. When your collection reaches a certain size, you get a little pickier. Thankfully, the companies don't always deliver on what sounds awesome, and that helps me cut a lot of corners, or someone reinvents something so my purchases dwindle. Sigma 6 is a fine example-- I bought two 8-inch figures and a couple of the tiny guys. And I felt that was too much.

Selling customs is a great idea to make a buck, although I'm always scratching my head on how it works for copyright and such. If they're one-offs, frankly I don't think it's a problem. It's when you start making molds and mass producing the stuff where you should watch your back, but if someone wants a single figure of a Lister or an Captain Scarlet or whatever, why the heck not? I've had to dump some of my trading stash from time to time to raise some money for some purchases. (If a toy stays in the box for long enough, sometimes I just unload it. It's not like I'm missing out on anything after five years.)

4. Do you think Hasbro will ever fix the belt on the [super articulated III-41] Episode 3 Clone Troopers [as well as the figures that have come out based on the mold]? I was surprised to see that the belt was right side up on the Episode 2 Clone Troopers and yet at the same time upside down on the Episode 3 Clone Troopers. It's odd that there is a difference seeing as they're both currently in production.
--Johnny

I hacked about half of this one off for length.

Well, the body sculpts are completely different, so it's like saying it seems odd that Luke Skywalker (Ceremonial) came with the wrong lightsaber when the Tatooine one was fine-- they're unrelated in the eyes of Hasbro's massive Chinese manufacturing cities.

The change probably hasn't been made because you, the fan(s), make no such demands. Since 2005, I've heard from maybe three collectors who cared enough about this issue to write me. I've mentioned it here and there, but nobody ever made a stink about it, nobody asked about it in the biweekly Hasbro Q&A sessions, and so forth. I'm not saying "nobody cares, nyah," but it seems that it's an issue nobody cares enough to make it a talking point with the ongoing Hasbro/fan dialogue. While it is unfortunate that I own lots of figures with upside-down belts, this glitch hasn't hurt sales. So Hasbro probably has no incentive to fix it until the tooling wears down for good.

5. How DARE you suggest that the Vintage line be nixed and incorporated into the regular line at a lower price point. Who died and made YOU God? Who do you think you are, Rick McCallum? I don't know by what authority you operate this Mickey Mouse little Q & A thing-a-mabob that you scribble every week, but you really need to give yourself a checkup from the neck-up if you think ANY of us, the purchasing public, go along with your vicious attack on what has been the best idea Hasbro/Kenner has had since the actual vintage line itself.

I know you "get off" on this little power-podium you have through galactic hunter, with your condescending answers and self-righteous attitudes about articulation, but let me tell you something, BOY-- yea, VOTC Obi Wan may have truly sucked in terms of a figure, but that isn't the point. Here's the point: I'm a 35 year old man that hasn't TOUCHED a real woman without money changing hands since I was in high school, and I personally resent you attacking something that hearkens back to a simpler time of my life when I was too young to have true sexual desire and was completely satisfied by playing with little dolls. How dare you try to take that away from me, knowing that I cannot get a date. You make me sick.

Otherwise, keep up the good work!
--Quint

Thanks, Quint! I will keep up the good work!

6. In relation to the waist on the McQuarrie Boba Fett - I just tied one of those little elastic bands around the waist peg, put the torso back on and it worked like a charm. I left that elastic that was already around the torso as well. As for the drooping flame - could that be a humidity issue?
--Mike

While I've had no real problems with McFett's waist, well, obviously I'm not everybody. I don't like having to use rubber bands to keep a children's toy from falling to pieces, so hopefully future runs (and future figures) will not have a similar problem.

As far as the flames go, I don't think it's humidity so much as it is heat and gravity. I haven't tested this to confirm it, but I'm pretty sure if you displayed the figure in the freezer with the flame out, it wouldn't sag so much-- cold temperatures keep plastic extra rigid, and Hasbro's "rubbery" plastic becomes solid when properly chilled. Problem is, we're sane people, and storing toys in the freezer is not what sane people do. Come the holiday season, though, odds are you'll be able to display figures and see less sagging-- but it's probably still going to sag a little due to gravity.

7. I read that you had a hand in the selection of the Astromechs for the Entertainment Earth exclusive a few years ago and likely have a bit of knowledge with regards to that matter. My question is: What Astromechs were paired with which pilot in Red Squadron at the battle of Yavin? I've never found a complete list and neither starwars.com nor the Star Wars wiki have contained such knowledge.
--Gabriel

I got this one a while ago and didn't want to take the week it'd take to answer it, but I'm thinking the best thing to do is to link you to this article because, frankly, there seems to be sufficient debate on the topic that it's hard to tell. While it would be fun to come up with some sort of definitive droid database showing all astromechs from the whole saga, this sort of thing is currently outside my time allowance. (8 columns per week + day job + collection + wife + friends + convention coverage = AAAAGGGGHHH.) If anyone out there has a link to such a feature that can answer this question fully, please share!

8. There is a Darth Vader TIE Fighter scheduled for this summer...is this a new/modified mold (as rumored) or is it just pretty much a straight repack?
--Mark

Repack. Hasbro has started using illustrations on their packages, which you'll see with Darth Maul's Sith Infiltrator and the V-Wing-- neither of these are the toys, they're digital models of some sort. This has been extended to Mace Windu's Jedi Starfighter (and other repackaged Starfighters) as well as the Darth Vader TIE Fighter. While it's possible there could be deco changes, a collector received an advance sample a while ago and it was just the 2006 ship in a new box.

Although I'm sure a grey repaint is under consideration for the future.

9. I love playsets. I had a number when I was a kid and they played a major role in how I played with my toys. Now I'm an adult and I really wish I had some nice playsets in my collection. All I have is the Death Star chasm but I love the thing. I've given serious thought to start collecting Zizzle's Pirates of the Caribbean figures just for the playsets, even though I'm not a fan of the source material. I was a poor student during most of the modern Star Wars toyline so I wouldn't mind if they even re-released a few items. I'd also be happy just with something small like Zizzle's Singapore playset. Why can't Hasbro do something in line with the $20 vehicles like you suggested in your last column? I think that'd be a great idea. It wouldn't cost much or take up too much space at retail. I'm getting desperate here so I'm more likely to buy something I normally wouldn't buy otherwise.
--Anthony

Well, Zizzle's Pirates line is pretty much DOA-- it's seeing clearance, so I wouldn't necessarily advise you to get any of it unless you do so at 75% off at Target. Those items were made because Zizzle seems to be trying to ape all major toy price points, basically to make sure there's a $6 toy for $6 toy fans and a $60 toy for $60 toy fans. The downside is that the line didn't exactly do well, from the look of things.

Hasbro has repeatedly indicated they have no intention of bringing back old playsets or doing new molds for playsets. There are other alternatives, cheaper ones, which I am bugging them about regularly, but let's face facts: Hasbro's $20 playsets suck. In the modern line, we've got a Death Star Detention Block (which I actually liked), a Death Star Chasm (which wasn't so hot), a Hoth playset (which would be cool if it wasn't so small), an Endor playset (actually not bad but nobody bought it), Cloud City (not so hot), the two EpI sets (meh), the Geonosis Arena (very nice), and Mustafar (again, meh.) Of those, the smaller ones generally pack in action features that most fans wince at, and with sales being poor, it isn't in their best interests to invest tens of thousands of dollars to develop an item that won't be a big seller. Vehicles are selling well today, and it's possible in a few years, Hasbro might find a format to make a $20 playset work. (They can: it's called pack a good exclusive figure with it and make a tamper-proof box. Fans will pay $20 to get a figure.)

Sadly, the playset as a toy is more or less dead right now. If it isn't a doll house, parents and kids aren't buying into it.

10. I looked through the past few official Hasbro as well a syour Q&A's and I didn't see this answered...is there any chance Hasbro will be releasing packs of figure stands by movie? I bought two sets and I'm already out of New Hope stands, not to mention the fact that I'll need a lot more than 4 Expanded Universe stands. Also it would be nice to see more stickers since the Airborne trooper didn't get one.
--Marc

Hasbro said "no plans" last I heard, but I hope that they get some plans-- I, too, want more sticker sheets to cover the whole modern line. Here's hoping next year, we see them available in single-logo configurations and with more stickers to pick from. It's a great product and with zero changes to tooling, Hasbro could reconfigure them to convince me to buy dozens of packs of them.

FIN

I'll be at Comic-Con this weekend, meaning next week's column is pretty much written-- so now SDCC Q&A until later. (Hey, you want a weekly column delivered on time like clockwork, you gotta do 'em early.) So fair warning. You should see some coverage on the site, as you know we're a little short staffed, so it's pretty much at the whims of my not sleeping while I'm there. (Would you believe my employers pay for me to go, and then have the audacity to expect me to work? I can't. [This is, of course, a joke.])

Slow week for Star Wars, but a great week for Bomberman fans. If you haven't played Bomberman Live for the Xbox 360, you should. Mrs. Q&A got to try it and she actually likes it, and she has weird taste in games. Also stayed up playing with some friends online, and I gotta say, I'd flip out if they made a supremely decent three-or-more player Star Wars game. Especially if it was like Aegis Wing but sucked less.

I still need to get some boxes out and a thank you note to some very patient people out there. I'm going to go pass out now and hope these things get done ASAP. See you next mission!

Got questions? I bet you do. Email me with "Q&A" somewhere in the subject line and hopefully I'll get to yours in the next column!

Click here to read the previous installment of Galactic Hunter Q&A!









 
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