Galactic Hunter.com's Star Wars Q&A with Adam Pawlus
May 3, 2010
1. Do you know what's Hasbro's position on the eBay early releases? Have they
sent 'cease & desist' letters? Condemn the practice? You're in the
know...so maybe you've heard something in the industry chatter?
There is obviously a market...more than one collector friend of mine has
used a particular eBay vendor to build up their Stormtrooper squads...and if
Hasbro isn't going to provide some collectors what they want, how miffed are
they that somebody across the world is doing it, and apparently getting some
nice coin out of it?
Hasbro used to have a pretty strict policy about "sneak peeks" which they tried to push pretty heavy on fan sites around 2003-- basically, they said if it wasn't on their official site, you shouldn't be talking about it. This meant if you saw it on eBay or an Asian message board, they didn't want it discussed. The different fan groups all treated it a little differently, with many (not all) Transformers sites seemingly wanting to try to comply while most Star Wars sites basically said "eh, we'll post what we want, thanks." Today Hasbro basically seems to look the other way or just doesn't discuss it, although some Asian sellers have up and vanished over the years-- why, we don't know.
Back in 2003 Hasbro said each and every early item was considered stolen property. This is quite an accusation, because as (generally speaking, I don't know Hasbro's business model specifically) American companies in China don't own a factory outright and frankly, who hasn't been able to bring home samples of their work with them for their kids or personal use? I'm really not sure what the actual real stance is, and I've bought a few early items on there-- particularly when an item shows up that hasn't been announced yet, if the price is right. (Teek, for example.) I hesitate to consider these "stolen prototypes" unless marked HFE or some such, or otherwise intentionally damaged as Hasbro tends to do that with their own early samples some times, but Hasbro very well might. It's hard to say if these are leftovers from the factory run-- after all, some factories have minimums to make and they may make that minimum if Hasbro wants to take delivery of them or not-- so really, it's tough to call this one because there's so much to consider. Since Hasbro probably either has a very strict stance on this still, or can't be blunt about it for various political reasons, odds are we won't know what the deal with those eBay figures are for a while.
...or if I misunderstood and you also meant people who break street dates, I'm all for that, and I personally would like to see them done away with.
2. i was reading all the hasbro Q and A's and one from Toy Ark has me scratching my head big time. to quote: "There are some things brewing though where we will use DVDs in conjuction with figures, but those details are under wraps" what could that mean? got any insider hints or speculations? i bought the beast wars toys when they had dvd's in them of certain episodes and now i get them at amoeba when i can. am really curious what dvd's hasbro would throw in for star wars.
A common popular media tie-in is what you basically described-- certain toys had bonus VHS tapes or DVDs with one or two episodes to push sales. Beast Wars (in the USA initial run, anyway) only had VHS tapes, and had DVDs with the 10th Anniversary range. But Armada had DVDs, as did Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Mattel even slapped VHS tapes on their Masters of the Universe toys, and Hasbro did do some lightsaber pack-ins. As to what this is? My guess is a figure with a bonus DVD episode of the show, nothing special. In a perfect world it might be an episode of Ewoks or Droids, or a documentary that is out of print, but I'd be shocked if it were anything but an episode of one of the many Clone Wars series.
3. In your opinion, do you think that one mega retailer, the largest in the world, has the power to kill a toy line if they choose not to offer it? If they had enough money to warrant their own exclusives, and they didn't sell well enough for their standards, and therefore not only limited their buy in on a second exclusive wave, but decided against renewing their purchase of the main line, do you think they could have caused a toy manufacturer to cancel all further waves? (OK, I will address the elephants in the room: Wal-Mart, comic packs, Hasbro.)
Generally speaking either Wal-Mart or Toys "R" Us have the power to kill some lines by not offering them. Of course, it's up to the manufacturer to decide if the loss of that much business is worth killing their R&D, but Wal-Mart is responsible for things like smaller casepack sizes and the creation of G.I. Joe: Sigma 6 as a higher price-point toy. Toys "R" Us helped kill (and then bring back) G.I. Joe in the 3 3/4-inch size in the 1990s.
I don't believe Wal-Mart specifically had anything to do with the death of the comic packs-- but if you look over the past year, Hasbro shipped something like 3 (or 5) new ones in 2009. That's pathetic. No matter the reasoning, Hasbro's actions show that either retail demand or their own preferences made sense to axe this one. It really doesn't matter why in the grand scheme of things, because if Hasbro tightened up, retail orders would go down, and if retail orders go down, Hasbro would likely cut back. Now, Hasbro has a lot of outlets to sell to, but Wal-Mart, Target, and Toys "R" Us make up a significant chunk of that. I don't have specific numbers but if you consider your shopping habits, I think 75% or more of Hasbro's dollars in the USA may well come from those 3 these days, especially since Kay-Bee is gone and Kmart is a weaker player than they used to be.
The comic pack line seems kind of like any other line that ran out of steam at retail before all the development on them was used up-- so it seems there are many opportunities to get these into the marketplace, although not necessarily at the Big Three. The line seems to do well with new product, but we saw a huge glut. If you ask me-- and nobody really often does-- the problem came from Hasbro's management of the SKU. These shipped in assortment 87503 since 2007, and to give you a comparison, the basic Star Wars figures have had two different SKUs since 2007 (30th Anniversary was one, Build-A-Droid Legacy was another, and if you want to count the tail-end, The Saga Collection was a third.) By not discontinuing the old SKU, flushing out the old product, and bringing in the new product in a new SKU (like they do for pretty much everything else), a lot of old inventory got backed up. And the 2008 Summer comic pack inventory was the worst offender-- here in Los Angeles I can get you all the Xizor/Leias and Thrawn/Karrdes you could want. Which is a shame, because Thrawn should have sold well.
4. I just had a question about two figures which are supposed to have different head swaps, the BAD Hoth trooper was supposed to eventually have a beardless version with a different hat. Did the second one ever hit stores? Same question with the BAD Imperial Scanning Crew Trooper. Which one is the first one was the first one? I have several of the trooper which came with accessory that has two little boxes on the top. I think the other one had a rolling box which opens. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Keep up the good work!
The second version of the Hoth Rebel Trooper (clean-shaven) and the Imperial Scanning Crew Trooper (new head, different boxes) will never come out on Legacy cards. Unless you find some Hasbro mock-up, it's a fake. These figures may find a release in another format-- specifically, an exclusive gift set or Battle Pack-- but will never be found on The Legacy Collection packaging on your retailer's shelves.
5. In the recent past Hasbro sold a single-carded generic imperial officer figure, packaged with his hands held behind his back. As I recall it came in several flavors, and I'm wondering if the variants sported different head sculpts or if their hair was just painted different colors.
Can you tell me how many variants there were of this single figure, and what wave (Saga Legends, etc) it appeared?
This figure came out in multiple waves. How many? Enough that I'm not going to go look it up.
The first release was Power of the Jedi at the end of 2001. The other head variants (smaller head, brown hair and lower brim hat, blonde hair) came out in the Saga 2002 packaging with the first wave of 2003. (Hasbro mixed the final 2002 and first 2003 numbers in the same assortment-- which is now unheard of.)
For Saga Legends, all three head sculpts were rereleased but with one notable change-- the 2001 Power of the Jedi head was packaged with blue eyes instead of brown ones. Other than that, all the releases are basically the same once you take them out of their packaging. So: six different carded variations total, four different loose figures total.
So, moving. I spent a good part of the last month packing up toys as this was not an expected move. The "vacation" last week? That's because I had to move a chunk of my collection ahead of me. (I'm still keeping my same day job. I'm just going to be working from somewhere else. Big operation, you see.) Actually, I wrote this column the day of the move after far too many hours of moving thanks to some very helpful people out there... none of which read this column I'm fairly sure. Remember kids: true love is helping someone move their toy collection and storing it on their behalf. If she won't do that for you, dump her ass now. (I also went on a toy run after the move to get the new Toys "R" Us Force Unleashed exclusives. Which is probably the opposite of true love and more like some reverse "Giving Tree" crap.)
Helpful moving tips to the loose toy collector:
- Paper lunch bags are a great way to store small toys and vehicles with all accessories in a handy way.
- That trading stash you've been hoarding? Burn it.
- However many boxes you think you need? Double it.
I last moved my entire collection in 2005, which is the year where Hasbro went from making a modest (and I dare say decent) flow of product to four consecutive years of totally obscene rates of releases. Counting all Battle Packs and gift sets, Hasbro topped 200 figures in a few of those years. In case you haven't been keeping track, we've had like 4 Gunships, 4 ARC 170 Fighters, a big Millennium Falcon, an AT-AT, 2 big X-Wings, 5 (or more?) big wing TIE Fighters, a Turbo Tank, an AT-TE, and a bunch of other stuff. And you guys keep complaining to me that we don't get enough vehicles. FEH I say. If you haven't had to move anything or have ample storage space, sure, maybe it's slow. But try lifting and boxing all of it up, and tell me that you still think there aren't enough of these things. And it looks like at least two more are likely on the way this year.
How are you doing, anyway? I need to go throw up or something. See you next week!
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!
Follow me on Twitter! You could have read this yesterday!