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Popularity Of Star Wars Toylines

Ever since Hasbro introduced The Black Series in 2013 there has been much debate about the popularity of various Star Wars toylines. Is The Vintage Collection, despite its cancellation, still more popular? Is the revived Vintage Collection popular again? What about 5 POA figures? Or the Retro Collection? And then there is the question where we all are in the toyworld. How do the various Star Wars toylines compare to other things? Marvel Legends? Funko Pops? Or maybe even S.H.Figuarts? Now I have to say one thing here: this article is not about proving anything or to make anyone feel good or bad about what they collect. I merely try to find out how popular things are on Google. And of course there are some caveats. But I will get to that in more detail in the article. I think it might be interesting to see how various things are trending online. There certainly are some intriguing results. So click through for more info!

Vintage Star Wars Toys

The Empire Strikes Back vehicles and playsets from the golden days

If you hate charts and reading in general there is a summary at the end!

Now before I go on I need to reiterate once more that this is not about making anyone feel superior or inferior, this is not meant to instigate the scale war or to prove a point. The article tries to find out how popular various toylines are, nothing more, nothing less.

Let’s begin with the Google Trend for “The Vintage Collection”. Google knows (or claims to know) what TVC is, you can select it as a theme, which basically means Google will aggregate related searches and count them towards the Vintage Collection trend. So, in theory selecting The Vintage Collection as a theme should make sure that most of the searches on Google for it are collected here.

Star Wars Google Trend

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This is the trend just for The Vintage Collection. You can see when it was brought to market, in 2010, you can see how it trended much, much less in the years when it didn’t exist and you can also see how it rose back to more prominence with its return in 2018, to comparable levels actually. The peaks for the movies are small, no surprise, there were no Vintage Collection figures for the new movies when they were released. Interest never really faded completely.

When you look at the trend around the world, then TVC trended the most in the USA, no surprise, but also Australia and Western Europe, and virtually nothing at all anywhere else.

Then I added The Black Series to the trend data, to see how it compares to TVC on Google Trends.

Star Wars Google Trend

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TVC is now almost flatlining, barely visible anymore and the trend line for TBS clearly mirrors real life events, movie releases etc. You can also see, we discussed this in a previous article, how interest has been declining again. TBS is now more or less back to 2013/2014 levels. This is reflected in revenue numbers.

However, I was skeptical. While Hasbro always told fans that TBS is more popular and their “bread and butter”, I could not believe that TBS would wipe the floor that much with TVC. So maybe something odd is going on here. My first theory was that maybe Google doesn’t accurately aggregate “Star Wars Vintage Collection” searches. The problem here is that “Vintage” is a very, very generic term, widely used for all kinds of things “vintage” and what is even more problematic is, that “Star Wars Vintage” may not ONLY refer to modern day TVC figures but to actual vintage figures from 1978-1985. I tried various combinations with “TVC”, “Star Wars TVC” etc. Nothing. Google would say there’s insufficient data. So the idea that maybe most people search for “TVC” related items seems to be wrong. But what about “Star Wars Vintage”?

So I added a few terms to the comparison to see what results I would get!

Star Wars Google Trend

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I added “Star Wars Vintage”, “Star Wars Vintage Collection” and “Star Wars Black Series” as search terms, on top of the “Star Wars Vintage Collection” and “Star Wars The Black Series” themes. In theory the theme trends should catch something like “vintage collection Luke review” or “Black Series Vader”.

So what do we see?

We see that “Star Wars Vintage” has been an ongoing trend ever since 2004. Long before TVC came to market. In my opinion this tells us a few things.

a) interest in actual vintage figures (from the Kenner era) is an ongoing trend. A quick Google search (note: Google search results may vary based on region and stored info that Google has on you) shows that yes, “Star Wars Vintage” is often used synonymously for actual vintage figures from the OT era, but also sometimes for modern TVC.

b) I believe that separating interest in actual vintage figures and interest in TVC figures is something Google has issues with, because the two searches use basically the same words.

c) the search term trend for “star wars vintage collection” is more or less identical to “The Vintage Collection” theme search

Based on all that one might say that actual vintage (1978-1985) collectors may be somewhat more numerous than TVC collectors, but that there is probably a lot of overlap. And of course there’s also overlap between TBS and TVC collectors, many collectors collect both!

I narrowed the search down to the past two years, to see how things have been since mid 2017, which includes the release of The Last Jedi:

Star Wars Google Trend

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The trend for “Star Wars Vintage” is about 40% as strong as for The Black Series, The Vintage Collection barely registers. Which tells me that much of the trend for the TVC toyline is probably also visible in the “Star Wars Vintage” trend, even if that also includes searches that only focus on figures from 1977-1985.

The ongoing trend for “Star Wars Vintage” may also explain why Hasbro released the Retro collection in 2019. When interest in actual vintage figures is more or less always there, then it’s only logical to cater to these people as well, and not let eBay have all the money.

But we can do more to examine the idea of “Star Wars Vintage” and “TVC” overlap. Back in 2018 Hasbro introduced Haslab. A basic assumption would be that most TVC collectors would certainly have much interest in Jabba’s Sail Barge. And maybe even most vintage collectors who don’t collect modern Star Wars figures and focus on the original Kenner era. The Barge can be used with both kinds of figures. So the Barge may be something worth looking into! Therefore I looked at the Google Trend for the past 24 months.

Star Wars Google Trend

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Haslab, as it turns out, is also a somewhat larger medical company in India, you don’t see it here, but Haslab is always (somewhat) trending on Google, let’s call that noise, but it’s only a very small trend. What we can see here is that the actual Hasbro Haslab campaign trended on Google exactly when it was first announced by Hasbro. I also searched for Khetanna and Jabba’s Sail Barge, however, the Haslab trend is MUCH larger than for any of those other searches, the trend for Khetanna etc correlates with Haslab, but is only a small fraction of the Haslab trend, you would not see their trend lines here, so I omitted them.

What can we see? The Haslab trend peaks quickly, fades away again, as expected. It was a one time event (for now). But you can also see that when Haslab trended, it trended about as much as the more or less constant “Star Wars Vintage” trend. And about three times as much as TVC.

Still not satisfied I now examined YouTube trends. YouTube has been around since 2008 and maybe YouTube searches will give us some more insight. Also, YouTube has one huge advantage over examining Google Search trends: YouTube shows you the number of clicks for each video, you can actually see how popular a video or topic is, and you can use that to correlate it with the trend for something on YouTube!

Star Wars YouTube Trend

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However, the YouTube trend for both TVC and TBS is more or less identical to the Google Search trend, TVC is almost flatlining here, when compared to TBS.

Then I added various other searches to the mix, to see how things would be now:

Star Wars YouTube Trend

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As with the Google Search Trend “Star Wars TVC” does not exist, not trending at all. “Star Wars Vintage” trends about as much as “black series review”. However, as it turns out, “black series review” also points to various AMG Mercedes “Black Series” car videos. “Star Wars Black Series” is the more accurate search trend here.

I also tried a number of other searches, I will not show them here, they all more or less yield the same results.

So what is happening on YouTube?

  • “Star Wars Vintage” points to a lot of videos about people showing off their Star Wars collections, it also points to a lot of videos about actual vintage (1977-1985) figures.
  • Views and clicks for actual TVC related action figure videos (on YouTube these are usually reviews) are much lower than for Black Series related action figure reviews. A Black Series action figure review can get a few ten thousand clicks, 20k-50k or so. A typical TVC related figure review gets 1k-3k views maybe. A few things get more clicks, The Assault Tank for example. I did find one TVC review with 12k views for “Darth Malgus” from 7 years ago by SithLord229, who seems to have retired from Star Wars action figure reviews altogether (he used to be one of the go to channels for Star Wars figure reviews).

So what can we say? Either TVC collectors are not as numerous as TBS collectors, maybe something like 10-50% of TBS collectors (if we also consider Star Wars Vintage here, which often refers only to actual vintage figures, however). Or TVC collectors, unlike TBS collectors, don’t use YouTube as much and don’t search for TVC related things on Google.

All things considered it’s most likely that TVC collectors are not as numerous as TBS collectors. HOWEVER, this says nothing at all about revenue for each toyline. It is important to point that out! It may well be that a typical TVC collector spends a lot more money on the hobby than a typical TBS collector. There’s also the “Star Wars Vintage” market on ebay etc and it’s apparent that there’s ongoing and actually NOT fading interest in actual vintage figures. So while TVC collectors are maybe only 10%-50% (at best) of TBS collectors, revenue for each toyline may not be as far apart. But there is zero data for that from Hasbro, so any discussion about that is moot.

And to end this article I also looked at toy trends for other franchises and manufacturers, to see where Star Wars is, in the grand scheme of things:

Star Wars Google Trend

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Hot Toys is dominating Google Search. I was skeptical. But then I also examined the YouTube trend and performed a YouTube search and yes. People, while they may not buy Hot Toys figures, have a huge, colossal interest in Hot Toys figures. Some Hot Toys figure reviews on YouTube have 19 million (!) views. A simple unboxing video of an Iron Man figure has 430k views. In short: people LOVE Hot Toys, even if they may not be able to afford them! So this is important here, the trend lines here do NOT actually tell you that one or the other line makes more money, it merely tells how much interest there is.

And as you can see Marvel Legends (purple line) dipped a lot in populartiy when Hasbro took over from Toybiz. Marvel Legends was in the doldrums for quite a while, only to rise to ever increasing popularity along with the MCU. They are now eclipsing Star Wars toys.

And while Star Wars toys (The Black Series) peaked more than Marvel Legends for TFA and much less so for RO, it simply cannot keep up. S.H.Figuarts is on the rise as well, and is trending a lot more than The Black Series. S.H.Figuarts has a wide range of figures, Star Wars, Marvel, Dragonball Z, Kamen Rider etc. It is trending the most in Japan, which is no surprise, but it’s also trending a lot everywhere else.

Star Wars Google TrendAnd in walks Funko Pop! …. It is what it is, Funko Pop! is sweeping the floor with everything else. Now, the trend line does not necessarily tell us that Funko Pop! makes that much more money. But in 2018 Funko made about $648 million. Hasbro Star Wars made about $160 million. That’s four times as much.

When it comes to popularity Funko seems to be the king of the hill at the moment. Various Funko Pop! exclusive figures go for more than $1k, $2k or even much more than that on eBay, sold listings.

And finally, a look at the past two and a half years. You can see that Funko Pop Star Wars is barely trending on average. We know that Funko Pop Star Wars accounts for about 2.2% of Funko Pop! revenue. Funko doesn’t have that one license that dominates everything else. That being said interest for Funko Pop Marvel now even eclipses interest for The Black Series for the first time ever in recent weeks. S.H.Figuarts Star Wars is barely visible here. But I used an English language search term here, something that most Japanese will not use, most likely, but it should reflect overall interest for SHF Star Wars as import figures. As expected it’s a tiny niche, when compare to TBS.

Star Wars Toys Google Trends

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Another thing: I also looked at Google trends for individual action figures. While I could find trends for various Black Series figures I found almost nothing at all for any TVC related figures. Most of the time Google would report that there is insufficient data.

There is also no trend data at all for anything related to “5POA” on Google. I did find a trend for “Force Link”. And the “Retro Collection ” almost had as much interest as “Vintage Star Wars” when it was released a short while ago and about as much as Force Link when it was at its peak. It’s not unreasonable to assume that both Force Link and the Retro Collection appeal to a substantial subset of TVC/Vintage collectors.

Star Wars Toys Google Trend

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I tried two search terms for Force Link, “Hasbro Force Link” and “Star Wars Force Link”.  Interest in Force Link eclipsed interest in TVC (or what Google thinks TVC is), but never reaches the trend for “Star Wars Vintage”.

The “Retro Collection” seems to be as popular as The Last Jedi Force Link figures, based on Google Trend data and almost reached “Star Wars Vintage”, which could mean that most Vintage collectors at least wanted to learn more about the modern day Kenner action figures replicas by Hasbro. 

Summary:

  • Interest in actual Star Wars vintage toys (1978-1985) is more or less constant (on Google)
  • Google Trends probably doesn’t accurately measure interest for The Vintage Collection, because it doesn’t seem to count “Star Wars Vintage” towards the results, which can refer to both modern TVC and Kenner era figures. So while the trend for TVC, when compared to TBS is miniscule, this is most likely not really all that accurate. Many (not all!) Vintage collectors (by that I mean 1977-1985) probably also have an interest in TVC (but again, not all!)
  • Interest for Haslab and “Star Wars Vintage” was about the same, which tells us that yes, probably most Vintage Collectors wanted to know about the Khetanna and Haslab (not all of them backed a Barge, of course) and that there is serious overlap between Vintage and TVC collectors (and that Google gets confused by this)
  • The Black Series has, at least based on Google Trends, much more collectors than TVC, something between 2x – 10x as many. It’s probably closer to 2x-4x as many. Hasbro always said The Black Series is more popular and their “bread and butter”. The Google Trend seems to support that idea
  • The Retro Collection trended about as much as Force Link back in 2017
  • Trends for YouTube videos mirror the Google Search trends. TVC related videos only get a fraction of the views of TBS related videos, on average
  • Star Wars is being eclipsed by S.H.Figuarts, Marvel Legends, Hot Toys and even Figma (I didn’t include the chart with Figma) when it comes to online interest. YouTube numbers support that, Hot Toys videos can get close to 20 million views. TBS (figure reviews) peaks at about 50k or so, Marvel Legends exceeds 100k clicks quite a few times, even Figuarts can get more than 100k views. Funko Pop! dominates everything at the moment, online at least. Funko’s revenue reflects that
  • We Star Wars Collectors are no longer king of the toy hill. Other brands are either more popular or make more money. But everyone can be happy!

To wrap things up: toy collecting is not a contest. So even if Marvel Legends or Figuarts is more popular overall, it only means that in this day and age everyone can be happy. There is something for everyone. Marvel fans can be happy, fans of cute vinyl figures can be happy, fans of Dragonball Z figures can be happy, fans of Overwatch and Fortnite figures can be happy, fans of expensive lifelike larger scale figures can be happy and even Star Wars collectors can be happy.

The very tentative estimate about how many TVC collectors there are in relation to TBS collectors may tell us why Hasbro do what they do. But it’s also interesting to see that interest in actual vintage Star Wars toys has never declined all that much and is more or less stable. Hasbro seemed to have got the memo when they released the Retro Collection and made the Khetanna.

So what do you think? Any surprises for you? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

 

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