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To understand The Vintage Collection’s present is to respect its history. If you’re relatively new to collecting, you’ve quickly figured out that The Vintage Collection is Hasbro’s most popular 3.75″ super-articulated basic figure line ever produced. And many collectors will tell that Hasbro no longer treats it with the tender loving care it deserves. (Opinions vary greatly on that sentiment.) However, lovers of this line became saddened when Hasbro temporarily retired the line in 2013 as it paved the way for The Black Series 6″ line. Collectors waited for a grueling half-decade before we saw the line’s return.
But thanks to a lot of whining and moaning, and a pro-TVC “bring it back” campaign led by Jedi Temple Archives and supported by our friends, Hasbro relented and brought the line back, albeit unsteadily, in April of 2018. We also harassed a lot of Hasbro people too. But the whining and mockery paid off because it did return when most others gave up on it. At 2017’s Star Wars Celebration Hasbro presentation, Joe Ninivaggi of Hasbro asked the audience from the panel table if I was still conscious after their announcement of TVC’s return!
It helps to know why The Vintage Collection pulls so strongly on the heartstrings of collectors. Yes, getting replicas of classic Kenner action figures is a huge selling point for the original Kenner generation, but the VOTC and VTSC lines also put a new perspective and expectation on all future action figures Hasbro would produce for us since. Super-articulated Star Wars action figures and classic Kenner-inspired packaging is a match made in Heaven.
This JTA Presents: The Pathway To The Vintage Collection Special Report intends to recount how The Vintage Collection came to be, why its predecessors laid a firm foundation for what we receive today, and how the future of the line will be impacted and what collectors’ expectations are for it in the future. Most importantly, please recount your experiences with the early VOTC and VTSC lines. Leave comments, stories, and other nuggets of information to help make this Special Report experience as robust as possible.
Also, as you read, please note the following bullet points as well:
August 6, 2020 is the 10th Anniversary of The Vintage Collection’s release.
It’s essential to appreciate The Vintage Collection’s ancestry to understand where we are today in the line. Simply put, without VOTC and VTSC, we would NOT have TVC. Early support of those lines gave Hasbro enough determination to launch the action figure line as the mainline.
From a housekeeping perspective, JTA updated all 24 galleries and rewrote all 24 reviews for each of the action figures that make up the VOTC/VTSC lines. We hope you revisit all of them at your leisure. We loaded them up with diorama pictures, comparison shots, and all-new visual guides. Most importantly, all of our galleries are free of anachronisms. If a figure wasn’t released alongside or before the VOTC/VTSC figure, you won’t find them in our galleries. There are a ton of links in this Special Report. Please take the time and click them all. We put a lot of energy into the new review pages.
This Special Report of the VOTC and VTSC lines also serves as a springboard for a near-future revisitation of The Vintage Collection, coming soon to JTA! A 10th Anniversary of the most fabulous action figure line of all time warrants a revisitation, wouldn’t you say? More to come!
August 6, 2020 marks the 10th Anniversary to the official street-dated launch of The Vintage Collection. Can you believe it’s been ten years since Hasbro released the line to eager Star Wars collectors? Of course, the line didn’t run for an entire decade, but it seems as if Hasbro is making up for lost time with the relaunched version of the line by getting us multiple desperately-needed action figures while re-releasing some of their greatest hits. Although August 6 is the official date stamp of The Vintage Collection, we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the Bounty Hunters 30th Anniversary Exclusive two-pack. It was first released as a convention exclusive on April 3, 2010, and later at Star Wars Celebration V on August 12, 2010 (nearly a week after the official street date of the new line). If you ask the original Hasbro team members, who oversaw the initial run of The Vintage Collection in 2010, they’d be the first to tell you that five waves of figures were the precursors to the line, effectively part of The Vintage Collection years before 2010. Three waves of VOTC figures and two waves of VTSC figures make up the five waves.
We imagine there aren’t too many collectors who forgot about the “vintage-styled” figures from The Original Trilogy Collection and The Saga Collection. Well, neither has Hasbro. And they consider them the earliest waves of The Vintage Collection line. There were significant and strategic plans in place to keep the Kenner-inspired figures going. But then support for the line hit its lowest in years during The Legacy Collection, and Legacy Collection runs through 2008-2010, and Hasbro decided to pull out of their pockets the last “Hail Mary” they had. And that was to make a vintage Kenner-inspired collection of Star Wars action figures the mainstream line, and no longer a sub-line. They hoped focusing a range of action figures in vintage packaging might brew new interest in the Star Wars brand. So, they developed the line and prepared it for release in August of 2010. Hasbro announced the first wave at 2010’s NY Toy Fair, and collectors had to wait until San Diego Comic-Don that years before they announced the second.
But let’s back up a bit. In the middle of the Star Wars “Saga” [Phase III] line, Lucasfilm announced that the Star Wars Original Trilogy was getting released on DVD in the Fall of that year. In a scramble, Hasbro had little time to work up a basic figure line, even though they had most of the first twelve figures ready to go. Hasbro took many old Star Wars action figures, repainted many of them, and produced a new basic figure line of 38 characters. The line contained many first-time releases, but most they rehashed. However, they reserved 12 ‘special’ individual figures for The “Vintage” Original Trilogy Collection line, also known as VOTC, for Kenner-inspired packaging, including the classic Kenner logo. The sub-line ignited a fiery new interest in Star Wars action figure collecting. While not all of the figures came super-articulated, Hasbro showed all collectors that they meant business when it came to screen-accuracy and quality action figures. And each successive wave got better and better.
The first wave of figures included Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi, Han Solo, and Princess Leia Organa. Luke Skywalker, also part of the wave, didn’t ship immediately, but the figure eventually arrived in a remix case after a very short delay. The first four figures have highs and lows. Han Solo, the standout figure of the quartet, still holds up well today. Hasbro approached Luke Skywalker in the right manner, but the figure’s shortness and its rat-like portrait make the figure feel obsolete in 2020. Sadly, Princess Leia Organa is the best modern interpretation of the 1978 SW Princess Leia Organa figure to date. While 50% of it holds up well, collectors are desperate to see Hasbro issue an all-new figure that we can call definitive. Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi quickly became the weakest figure of the first wave of VOTC figures. It has some saving graces, but between the thick outer robe, and the vice-squeezed head, Hasbro quickly updated the character in 2008’s The Legacy Collection not too long after this release. And the latter figure is a favorite today.
The Empire Strikes Back wave of VOTC figures took the line further, but not all that much. Collectors were most interested in Lando Calrissian. And we have to hand it to Hasbro that the figure still holds up incredibly well despite the swivel elbows. Hasbro incorporated a beautifully designed soft-goods cape with Lando Calrissian. It’s a shame Hasbro never upgraded this sculpt so we could place it in the “definitive” category. And as we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, it feels criminal we still don’t have a definitive version of the Lando yet. Collectors eagerly anticipated Darth Vader as well. But the figure also suffered from swivel elbows. You have to wonder why Hasbro didn’t bite the bullet and give both Lando Calrissian and Darth Vader super-articulation from head to toe. The drama would be over by now. See-Threepio (C-3PO) had potential, but Hasbro screwed up the figure’s head sculpt (it’s too narrow), and the figure never captured the hearts of Star Wars collectors. They also short packed the figure, creating unnecessary panic. Still, the figure came with a fantastic paint job, including vac-metallization. Yoda was another welcomed choice in the line, but collectors were having more fun with the figure in the basic figure line interacting with Luke Skywalker (OTC #01), and this version got lost in the other’s shadow.
The third and final wave of the VOTC concluded with Hasbro’s most significant efforts of the entire 12-figure lineup. Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2) (With Extension Arm) was technically the modern replacement for 1982’s ESB ARTOO-DETOO (R2-D2) figure, even though it came with a ROTJ-specific accessory. Unfortunately, it came with a vac-metalized dome instead of a “brushed nickel” one, but it was one of the best designs of an astromech droid for the Hasbro Star Wars line. Hasbro also wowed collectors with Boba Fett and Chewbacca. They based Boba Fett on the character’s appearance from Return Of The Jedi. It would quickly become a figure the Star Wars toy line would see over and over again. Hasbro disappointed collectors by not including the running change image of Boba Fett on the card art, specific to Return Of The Jedi. Chewbacca also overwhelmed collectors. Hasbro focused first on the character’s proper scale in 3.75”, and then they developed a likeness that favored Chewbacca from Return Of The Jedi, as well as most of The Empire Strikes Back. You can tell by Chewbacca’s “hairstyle.” Lastly, collectors hadn’t received a decent Stormtrooper from Hasbro in years. While imperfect, the new Stormtrooper took the character to a new place for collectors. And Hasbro utilized the heck out of the tooling for years after its release.
Hasbro then retired the “VOTC” line at the end of 2004. If you paid close enough attention to notice, they alternated another premium collector-focused line the years they didn’t do the “vintage Kenner” card backs. The Evolutions line was the other collector-focused line when the VOTC/VTSC lines weren’t running. (There was some overlap, however, getting closer to 2010.) No sooner did the VOTC line end that collectors were clamoring for more additions to the “vintage-styled” format. Hasbro never revealed what they were developing behind the scenes, but they did tell collectors that they were interested in continuing the premium collector format in some capacity for the future. Collectors would have to get through the entire 2005 Revenge Of The Sith line before Hasbro’s announcement of The Saga Collection going live in December 2005. The return to black and silver packaging, while keeping the diorama backgrounds of the basic The Original Trilogy Collection line, Hasbro knew TSC was the perfect medium to introduce more “vintage-styled” figures for the hardcore collecting community.
After a few fantastic basic figure waves in The Saga Collection, Hasbro revealed six new VTSC figures were coming (five at retail, and one through an exclusive mail-away option via the Ultimate Galactic Hunt program) at 2006’s NY Toy Fair International. A range of characters from A New Hope and Return Of The Jedi made up the selection, and collectors would finally get a long-awaited update to the Biker Scout. (It ended being the most prominent army builder figure since 2003’s Clone Wars Clone Trooper figure!) Hasbro also included a decent update to Han Solo (In Trench Coat), so the Biker Scout would have a formidable foe in this collection. The remaining three figures included Greedo, Luke Skywalker: X-Wing Pilot, and Sand People. Greedo was another incredible update in the line. Many felt that we didn’t need to see another Greedo so soon in the action figure line, but this version is still definitive by today’s standards, even if there are aesthetic issues with the soft-goods vest. Luke Skywalker: X-Wing Pilot was another decent update. The body came fully super-articulated, but the head sculpt, based on the VOTC Luke Skywalker, still suffered from looking too rodent-like. Sand People was a nice-looking figure, but the swivel elbows made it difficult to pose. Hasbro reused this figure multiple times as well in future multipacks and basic figure lines.
George Lucas (In Stormtrooper Disguise) was the mail-away promotional figure from the 2006 Ultimate Galactic Hunt. Although Hasbro utilized the 1999 POTF2 [FB/CT] Stormtrooper figure to build this one, they had to tool an all-new portrait for director George Lucas. Amazingly, Hasbro captured the spirit and likeness of George Lucas incredibly well. And like other figures in the line, the head sculpt holds up so well today. Placed on a Star Wars Stormtrooper card back, it’s ironically the only way you can get a modern card back of this character based on A New Hope. Hasbro released the Stormtrooper throughout The Vintage Collection multiple times, first on a The Empire Strikes Back card, then a Return Of The Jedi/Revenge Of The Jedi card, and lastly, an all-new figure on a Rogue One card. Many collectors are still waiting for Hasbro to give us a definitive Stormtrooper on a Star Wars card. But will it ever happen?
Hasbro released a second wave of “Vintage” The Saga Collection figures almost a year to the day. At 2007’s NY International Toy Fair, eagle-eyed collectors noticed that they were still in packaging reflecting The Saga Collection. Hasbro claimed that all six figures would receive the new 30 (77-07) logo and packaging, but that never came to pass. The Saga Collection logo still worked, because it ran concurrently with the 30 (77-07) line for the first couple of months of 2007 anyway. (If you recall, the Walmart exclusive wave of TSC basic figures came out in 2007, as well as the last couple of general release basic figure waves.) The final wave of VTSC figures focused on The Empire Strikes Back. The sole figure that didn’t was Princess Leia Organa (In Combat Poncho). It wasn’t a perfect interpretation of General Organa, but Hasbro faithfully recreated the same aesthetics of the famous 1984 Return Of The Jedi Princess Leia Organa (In Combat Poncho) version. It’s been aging for years now, and in 2020, it’s time for an all-new figure.
The rest of the figures are excellent, however. Bossk (Bounty Hunter) and IG-88 (Bounty Hunter) are two of Hasbro’s most impressive takes on the bounty hunters, and they’ll never need a revisit again. They’re both loaded with articulation. Bossk (Bounty Hunter) is a perfect design. And IG-88 (Bounty Hunter) has a proper scale and hidden joints that you appreciate the more you play with the figure. Luke Skywalker (Bespin Fatigues) and Han Solo (Hoth Outfit) are also admirable modern efforts of the classic action figures from 1980. But the figures didn’t look much like the on-screen characters (Luke Skywalker) or imitate the vintage Kenner figure faithfully (Han Solo). Regardless of their imperfections, Luke Skywalker (Bespin Fatigues) and Han Solo (Hoth Outfit) were the best figures of those characters as of 2007. Perhaps the most significant addition to the VTSC line was the Imperial Stormtrooper (Hoth Battle Gear) figure. Unfortunately, it came with a removable helmet showing a clone trooper head sculpt underneath, but it was a fantastic take on the “coolest” Imperials soldiers in the Star Wars saga. Loaded with articulation and possessing a paint job to make fanboys and fangirls cry, the modern take of the Snowtrooper is a figure still respected by longtime Star Wars collectors. It also possesses the unique designation of the ONLT VTSC figure that shipped in a solid case pack. Hasbro learned their lesson with the Biker Scout!
The second wave of “Vintage” The Saga Collection figures were the official 2007 figures, and then Hasbro wanted to reserve 2008 as the year for a return of the Evolutions line. Remember, Hasbro was diligent only to include one premium collector line during any calendar year. Hasbro planned for the next four years (2009 through 2012) to continue to deliver the “vintage-styled” Kenner figure line. But the Star Wars collector base began to shrink throughout the year, and by the end of 2007/early 2008, Hasbro knew they had to flip the script. There were some issues on both ends. Collectors were used to paying $4.99 for action figures, and the 30 (77-07) line’s $6.99 per figure was a bit much, especially with how many figures they released in the year. And Hasbro appeared to be scraping the bottom of the barrel for some characters. A three-second outfit of Lando Calrissian is an excellent thing for a hardcore collector, but how will that appeal to a casual collector or fan? Also, back then, collectors typically lost their comfort level in a toy line once the action figures exceeded $5.99. It becomes a sink or swim. Things changed, and to cost the budget out, Star Wars action figures and related products skyrocketed in price in 2008 with the launch of The Legacy Collection (which transitioned to the Legacy Collection for 2009 and 2010).
To help make things more favorable for collectors, Hasbro introduced the Build A Droid concept as a pack-in premium. But the community was divided on this addition too. Not everyone buys “all” of the figures from a wave, so completing droids would ultimately be impossible for some collectors. Also, no matter what Hasbro includes with your basic figure line, the bottom line is that collectors would pay over $8.00 a figure with tax, which was a shock to the system. Unfortunately, interest was waning in the Star Wars basic figure line. The fact that collectors bowed out during a period of Hasbro’s highest quality action figures to date is something to boggle the line. But as the collector base shrunk, Hasbro felt the pressure to change things up to reignite interest in the line hopefully. They turned the collecting community upside down when they announced that the “vintage-styled’ Kenner figures would become mainline under a new range of figures called The Vintage Collection. And as you know, they set the launch for August 6, 2010. And as they say, the rest is history.
Because The Vintage Collection became mainline, Hasbro scrapped the “VOTC/VTSC” sub-line plans for 2009 through 2012. Most of the figures planned for the sub-line between 2009 and 2012 have already seen release, whether they were squeezed into the Legacy Collection line of 2009/2010 or found themselves right at home in The Vintage Collection. Princess Leia (Hoth), Han Solo (Bespin), Gamorrean Guard, General Lando Calrissian, Dengar, and Weequay are examples of figures planned for the VOTC/VTSCsub-line but eventually released in The Vintage Collection. Hasbro planned additional mail-away offers. “Rumors” abounded that Anakin Skywalker and Yak Face from 1985 The Power Of The Force line would make ideal mail-away candidates and a Blue Snaggletooth mail-away promotion from the wave for one of the years that included the standard “red” Snaggletooth character. For the record, we’ll probably never see mail-away figures again. Many long-awaited updates for beloved characters like Death Star Droid, Squid Head, Barada, and Amanaman were in Hasbro’s parking too for consideration. To date, we’re still waiting for them. Hopefully, with Hasbro’s recommitment to the “Kenner 96,” they’ll make them priorities again soon.
The Disney Star Wars takeover has thrown a wrench into many of Hasbro’s plans for The Vintage Collection. There are directives to focus on the new Star Wars Entertainment. While that’s great for some characters, it’s debilitating for the line with other characters, specifically those from the Sequel Trilogy. Hasbro is hearing and seeing the demand for 3.75” super-articulated action figures in “vintage-styled” packaging. Collectors are still campaigning for the line’s health and proper treatment by Hasbro.
As long as the throng of supporters remains vocal and resolute in their support of The Vintage Collection, anything is still possible. So many landmark events have transpired: Two HasLab projects are from The Vintage Collection. Hasbro branched out into playsets and years and years of telling us no. Hasbro is once again learning the considerable importance of aliens and background characters getting slots into the case assortments. And most importantly, retail, mostly smaller online shops and not so much big-box brick and mortar, are seeing the passion and drive for a line that collectors love to purchase and add into their displays at home.
The sky is truly the limit for The Vintage Collection. Be a proud collector of the line, and don’t forget its ancestry. If it weren’t for those 24 figures from 2004-2007, Hasbro might not have ever fully realized how important a line like them resonates with collectors. It’s challenging to remain imperturbable when Hasbro forsakes so many things in TVC that they provide for The Black Series 6” line, but don’t lose the victory, because we can win this battle together.
Please be sure to leave your comments, thoughts, experiences, feelings, and passion in the comments of this Special Report. Let anything with regards to The Vintage Collection be known because Hasbro is watching.
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