Sunday, April 10, 2011

My Thoughts On Star Wars Collecting: I

This is my first post in a series about Star Wars collecting. Here I will give my opinion about what is on the market now, mention things I look forward to being released in the future, and maybe talk some about my personal collection. But before I begin, I want to tell you a little about my self. There are many types of Star Wars collectors, ranging from kids who pick up a few Hasbro action figures to long time fans who have been acquiring merchandise since 1977. I feel like I fall in the middle. I first became a Star Wars fan as a preschooler during the hype up for the special edition re-releases in the mid 90s and was completely on board for the prequel run. The Phantom Menace was the first movie I saw in theaters, as a kid I enjoyed the prequels and was oblivious to their mixed reviews, and now as a teen I am a huge Clone Wars fan.

As far as my collecting history goes, I started with the Kenner Power of the Force 2 action figure line and the early Star Wars Lego sets. The first Star Wars item I ever owned was the mail-in Han Solo in Stormtrooper disguise Kenner figure. When one of my older cousins noticed I had begun collecting the Kenner line, he was kind enough to give me a handful of Vintage Kenner figures that he had gotten when he was a kid. Over the years I have continued to collect more Lego sets, 12-inch figures, and other miscellaneous items like Happy Meal toys and trading cards, but the Kenner/Hasbro line has become my main focus. As a kid I got my hands on a percentage of the special edition and prequel lines, but did not start collecting the majority of the Hasbro figures released until around 2007.

Now that you know a little about me, here are some notes I have on the current state of collecting...

The Current Hasbro Vintage Line

Through 2006, I rarely completed a Hasbro/Kenner line. But when Hasbro announced that each figure in their Thirtieth Anniversary Collection would include a collectible coin that could be added to a coin album, I was determined to complete the line. In 2008, I proudly placed my sixtieth coin in the book. Over that time I was also delighted with the innovative Comic Pack line that brought fantastic EU characters to plastic. But when Hasbro released the final two waves of the TAC line, I was disappointed that they did not include a coin. Therefore I only collected a few of those figures that caught my eye. However my completionist collecting was rejuvenated later that year by the Build-A-Droid pack-ins in the Legacy line. In an effort to "build" all of the droids I collected every basic figure from that line. But then in 2010 came the Vintage line.

I noticed that long time collectors were ecstatic about the return of the Vintage look for nostalgic reasons. But being a fan who grew up in the 90s and 2000s, I had no reason to feel this way. In fact many things about the Vintage line disappointed me. The basic figures included no pack-ins so I was not motivated to collect each and every figure, and to make matters worse the price went up a few dollars. The full holes that allowed the cards to hang on pegs also required me to remove several figures to get to one at the back of the peg. Because of all of these factors, plus the fact that I already owned many of the characters in the first few waves from previous lines, I have chosen to collect the Vintage line sparingly with only a handful of figures exciting me.

The Hasbro Clone Wars Line

This line is where my collecting lives at this time. I have acquired about 95% of the action figures and own several of the vehicles as well. The thing that excites me about the Clone Wars line is that each and every figure is both new to Star Wars and/or new to plastic. The endless variety of clones continues to entice me to expand my army, and the excellent sculpts of Jedi, Sith, and Bounty Hunters alike beg my attention. However I have had a few minor issues with this fantastic line. The first wave of 2010 was very difficult to find in my area, so I failed to acquire both the Hondo Ohnaka and Aayla Secura basic figures. But I was excited to learn that Ohnaka would be repacked in the first wave of 2011. It seems like all I see in stores these days are repacks anyway. There are countless Anakins and Obi-Wans swinging from the pegs. But oddly enough I have yet to see the Ohnaka repack. I understand that there needs to be "hero" characters in stores at all times for kids to buy, but as a collector, it's frustrating to have to track down rarer figures like Ohnaka.

Another thing that I find odd about the Clone Wars line is its lack of political characters. The TV series has been filled to the brim with political intrigue and machinations, so I find it hard to believe that Hasbro has not produced a single senator. The closest thing we have is a couple of Padme "adventure gear" figures and representative Jar Jar Binks! During its run the line has alternatively produced four astronomech droids! Do kids and collectors both really want R4 and R7 more than Satine Kryze and Bail Organa? I understand that the astromechs are technically repainted figures that are cheaper to produce, but I think the lack of political characters is a conspiracy! If the Clone Wars series is going to tie our brains in knots with political episodes, they should put their money where their mouth is and give us Hasbro "non-action" figures of Chuchi, Mothma, Palpatine, Bonteri, etc... and hey, they made a Sio Bibble in the Episode I line!

A Few Thoughts About Legos

When Lego enthusiasts ask me why I don't collect more of the Lego Star Wars line, I provide this simple example: the Lego AT-AT costs 20 dollars more than the Hasbro version! I simply feel that one gets more "bang for the buck" with Hasbro than with Lego. It has nothing to do with the quality of the Lego products. It's just that they are a little too expensive. I still pick up a set from time to time, but my main focus continues to be Hasbro.

One Lego product that I do plan to buy this year is the new video game Lego Star Wars III: the Clone Wars. However something troubles me about that. I noticed that the game will be released on every platform EXCEPT for PS2. As a long time PS2 owner who has bought many games, I feel slightly betrayed by both Lego and Sony for not making this happen. Last year Sony sold more PS2s than PS3s; so I understand that the only way they can force us to upgrade is to stop making PS2 games, but I payed $150 back in the day for a console that still works fine, and I'm unhappy that I can't use it to play one of the most anticipated games of 2011. I finally accepted the fact that I'll probably have to get the game for a handheld device, only to discover that the PSP demo wasn't released with the PS3 version. Needless to say I am a little frustrated with the whole situation. Maybe one day I'll get a PS3 or computer capable of PC gaming, but until then I'm a little miffed at Lego and Sony.

Overall I think the state of Star Wars collecting is very healthy, as the Hasbro brand alone is the number one selling brand in relevant demographics. And even though I feel there is room for improvement, I am excited about the present and the future. Stay tuned for further updates about my collection and commentary on the subject. I know Star Wars collecting is a varied field and many opinions abound; so feel free to comment if you have anything to say about or disagree with in this post.

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