Our friend and yours, Victoria, from Victoria’s Cantina, has put together a little op-ed about where we are as collectors, primarily with Hasbro. Click through for more.
Ode to a Golden Age
By Victoria B.
I have never written an obituary before. But every time I am asked about the golden years of Star Wars toy collecting, I feel as I have. Between 2006-2012, there were no new Star Wars films on the horizon. Coincidentally, these were also the golden years when Hasbro was doing it best. Ask any long-term collector what their favorite modern Hasbro Star Wars line is. You will get answers ranging from The Saga Collection to the 30th Anniversary Collection, to The Legacy Collection, The Clone Wars, and onto The Vintage Collection. All of these lines, generally marketed as children’s toy lines, were hits with adults. They flourished in a time when the biggest Star Wars media event was a multi-seasonal animated television show. Then late 2012 came. Disney acquired Lucasfilm in a deal that would forever change the face of Star Wars and, consequently, Star Wars toy collecting.
On February 7th, 2018, Hasbro released both their fourth quarter 2017 and year-end financial results. In their report, they cited what many collectors already knew to be true. Star Wars merchandise is struggling. Yes, it may still rank as the #1 global property in the toy industry, but at the current break-neck pace of at least one Star Wars film per year, how long will that hold? What can be done to alter course and prevent the line from going the way of Alderaan?
As part of their report, Hasbro stated that Star Wars on-shelf dates would be moved closer to film promotion and premiere. This is an obvious one. It has become evident that releasing a toy line on September 1st for a movie that does not release until December 17th is not good business. Sure, you may see an uptick at line launch, but that will be predictably followed by a crash that may not recover before or after the film release. This was especially evident during The Last Jedi product line. Remember, the general toy-buying public has a short memory. What they see on September 1st will be replaced by franchise films X, Y, and Z between September and December. We collectors, on the other hand, never forget – we just lose interest when we have too much time between product releases and feel as if our collecting interests are being ignored. After all, if people cannot swim with Hasbro, there are sunny beaches at LEGO, Funko, Bandai, Medicom, and Hot Toys.
Perhaps the greatest danger to Star Wars toy collecting is the amount of media being released. As a Star Wars fan, I love the idea of a Star Wars film each and every year. It gives me something extra to look forward to during the holidays or for the summer. However, I have to reconcile that enjoyment with the fact that too much of a good thing is not always a good thing. In this case, my favorite hobby is left by the wayside as Hasbro, and other toy companies move from focusing on one film to another. With Lucasfilm and Disney as their overlords, Hasbro cannot let their product lines ferment into a fine, super-articulated line of classic trilogy goodness peppered with a little prequel and The Clone Wars love. It is always The Force Awakens, Rogue One, The Last Jedi, Solo, Kenobi, Salacious Crumb’s Revenge, Snoke Better Off Dead, and the other eighty-five Star Wars films and television series scheduled from here to kingdom come.
So, what should Hasbro do? Well, we all know The Vintage Collection is coming. Many people clamored for its return. (I even heard something about a little petition that was created to bring it back.) Excuse the cliché phrase, but I do not believe this will be your father’s The Vintage Collection. Trust me – I have high hopes for this line and hope that it excels in unimaginable ways. But this is not 2010. There are two reasons that toy lines are not reordered by retailers. Firstly, retailers (both brick and mortar and e-commerce), have shorter attention spans and more competition with one another than ever before. If one lowers a price, the others are likely to drop their own prices as well. But this does not always happen as a result of competition. Sometimes, lines just do not do well. When there is too much product being produced by too many companies in too short of a timespan, people move on to other things.
Vintage packaging alone can get more long-term collectors into the stores and onto the websites, but it is a two-way street. Hasbro has to prop up The Vintage Collection to live up to its name. At San Diego Comic Con International 2017, Hasbro told me that part of the reason they brought back Vintage was to have the opportunity to do figures that would not normally appear in the 5POA/mainstream line. In theory, this is the best way to service all shades of collectors. Sure, some of us will buy everything anyway, but at least we can all be a little bit happier being offered the option that we prefer. Hasbro must work to ensure that this task is met without fail, as it is unlikely that the 5POA/mainstream line will ever deviate from the latest film releases as its primary focus. Additionally, Hasbro must persuade Disney to move away from big product launches at all. They should take a page from their own The Black Series 6-inch line, keeping 5POA/mainstream as an ongoing line so that retailers do not get into the habit of dumping it after Christmas. A steady line with one or two waves per film release is ideal. Change the packaging a little from time to time if need be… just make sure it is a steady line. Again, this is conditional upon Vintage being an ongoing line that services the prequel trilogy, classic trilogy, The Clone Wars, and Star Wars Rebels. There are many more factors at play, of course. And in truth, I feel as if the golden years will always be the golden years. Getting used to a 3.75-inch collecting life in which the best has already come will not be easy. But it does not have to be miserable either.
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