Star Wars Collecting: The Best and Worst of 2013

2013 Best and WorstLast year we posted that 2012 was one of the worst years in Star Wars collecting.  Apparently, we were wrong.

With the takeover of Lucasfilm by Disney, we had high hopes for what was in store this year.  We were still looking forward to the 3D theatrical releases of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith and felt comfortable that we’d be moving into season 6 of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  Instead, that was all cancelled and left us with a trilogy of Lego animated programs, collected under the title The Yoda Chronicles, as the only media presence for the year.

Those changes left several license holders in the lurch including Hasbro who scrambled to change their release plans and Lego who was left with a Clone Wars and prequel-heavy load of sets for the year.  Even the promised release of additional Vintage Collection figures never materialized.

Celebration Europe II was a highlight for the year as were the Star Wars Rebels sneak peeks shown at San Diego Comic-Con and New York Comic Con.  However, the never ending string of rumors about the upcoming Episode VII hasn’t really excited and we’re now at the end of 2013 with no announcement of a script or casting and a release date scheduled for December 2015 that will probably arrive much sooner than anyone expects.

With Toy Fair just about 2 months away, we can’t begin to guess what Hasbro will show off or how Sideshow and Gentle Giant will tackle this down year.  Lego is already showing Clone Wars and Prequel leaning releases and there doesn’t appear to be a playset in the mix for early in the year.  We won’t call 2013 the worst year in collecting because, at this point, we’re not sure where the bottom could be.  There were a few bright spots, as you can see below, but this list was the hardest yet to put together.

Best

Best Figure

None
While Hasbro did release a few interesting characters in the Black Series line, and we like the nostalgic feel of the 5 points of articulation (POA) Saga Legends figures, there were no standouts for us.  By our count there were only five new characters released for the entire year, two of which were retooled Ewoks in a Kmart exclusive, and none of them went the extra mile to stand above anything else Hasbro has released in recent memory.  Darth Plagueis came the closest mostly because he was a fan favorite we didn’t think had much chance of ever seeing a release.  It’s still our opinion that Hasbro mostly failed us in 2013.

Best Figure 12″

Tamashii Nations Perfect Model Chogokin C-3PO
No matter what new level Sideshow and Hot Toys take their 1:6 scale action figures to, they may never achieve what Tamashii Nations did with their C-3PO figure.  Made out of die-cast metal, he features light-up eyes, working pistons on his arms, individual “wires” across his torso, a half dozen interchangeable hands and just enough articulation to mimic nearly any pose you’ve seen C-3PO strike on screen.  The sculpt is one of the most movie accurate versions we’ve seen of any character to date, right down to his mismatched lower right leg and removable restraining bolt.  While the figure did ring in at $400, if you ever have the chance to see it in person we think you’ll be hard-pressed to say it wasn’t worth every penny.

Best Vehicle or Playset

None
Most of the vehicle releases in 2013 were simple repaints or very slight retools, or were from the new, smaller scaled Class II Attack Vehicles line.  The more interesting ships were relegated to exclusive status, coming in Vintage Collection packaging from either Toys-R-Us or Amazon, and were priced on the high end of the scale and ended up, in some cases, suffering from Hasbro quality control or shipping issues (see our worst list below).  The few vehicles that were offered at retail were not aimed at collectors, which we gladly accept, but were uninteresting and nothing more than smaller imitations of some of the excellent vehicles Hasbro had already been releasing over the past decade.

Best Other Toys

None
This category was a wash for us as well.  Hasbro didn’t put out anything we wanted to highlight, we already offered up Lego’s best and we were not putting Angry Birds on the list two years in a row, even though that section of Hasbro releases seemed to show the most life at retail this year.  Sideshow had such a short list of what could be considered toys, they didn’t qualify either.  There were a few cool things shown off during the year that haven’t materialized at retail yet that could have dropped into this slot but in the end, it was better to leave this category blank than force something in.

Best Lego

Ewok Village (10236)
In a year with multiple repeats of ships, and several sets backing the Yoda Chronicles series of Lego animated shows, the Ewok Village was the standout.  With 1990 elements it’s the 8th largest Star Wars build and contains the second largest assortment of minifigures with 17.  With the exception of the Death Star, this is the most detailed playset Lego has done for the Star Wars line with traps, slides, walkways, rotating trees, a bonfire to roast our heroes and even a floating chair for C-3PO to be worshiped on.  The large tree builds are exceptionally detailed and include the interiors of the huts which add to the adventure.  We’ve championed playsets in the Star Wars line and along with the Death Star and modular Jabba’s Palace, Lego has not disappointed.

Best Busts and Statues

Sideshow Mythos Line
Sideshow’s Premium Format line had some excellent entries in 2013 but we chose to pick the whole Mythos line.  All of the entries are stylized takes on heroes and villains we’re familiar with; Obi-Wan, Darth Maul, Darth Vader, Boba Fett and the Gamorrean Executioner Lomrokk.  The statues have incredible detail and excellent facial likenesses, especially Obi-Wan which includes portraits depicting both a younger Sir Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor.  Vader’s unmasked reflection on the Sith Lord that he’s become and Fett’s cool bounty hunter are personal favorites.  So many companies tackle these same characters over and over, it’s always fun to see something unique and Sideshow managed that in spades with this line.

Best Non-Toy Collectible

“The Bounty Hunter Code: From the Files of Boba Fett”
The creators of “The Jedi Path” and “Book of Sith” returned in 2013 to tell a new in-universe tale, this time following bounty hunters with “The Bounty Hunter Code: From the Files of Boba Fett.”  The hardcover manual comes housed in an electronic case emblazoned with the Mandalorian symbol.  The set includes Boba Fett’s arms permit, captain’s license, Slave I operating license and Kamino saberdart plus a few more surprises.  The set even requires a data card (included) to open the case.  As with the previous books, “notes” can be found inside the manual this time from well-known bounty hunter Aurra Sing and the pirate Hondo Ohnaka.  

Best Exclusive

Death Star Scanning Crew & Imperial Scanning Crew
These KMart 2-packs follow last year’s excellent AT-ST Crew and Ewok sets and not only give us 4 army builders, they also allowed Hasbro to complete the Scanning Crew accessory they’ve been promising for several years now.  The figures are all solid, if not outstanding, versions of their respective characters and mostly include the best current versions of their appropriate weaponry.  The price point also helps land them on the Best list; regularly priced at $15.99 for two figures and decent sized accessory, they’re a much better bargain than anything single carded on the market today.  It didn’t hurt that KMart almost immediately upon release dropped the price to $11.99 and left it there for about a month.

Best Events

Her Universe Year of the Fangirl
Ashley Eckstein’s Her Universe has done an amazing job of catering to the female fans of properties such as Star Wars, Doctor Who, Star Trek and The Walking Dead with licensed apparel and jewelry .  In 2013 Ashley chose to shine the spotlight on these fans through her Year of the Fangirl program.  Each day a new fangirl was chosen from the submissions received via her website.  Alongside Year of the Fangirl, Ashley also partnered with Ellen Connell to offer the Ask Ellen column where girls could ask for advice about topics surrounding them and their fandoms.  Ashley has participated in several anti-bullying panels at events such as San Diego Comic-Con and New York Comic Con and continues her work to empower female geeks and fangirls.

Worst

Worst Figure

Mara Jade
The last time Hasbro ran their Fans’ Choice poll, Mara Jade Skywalker in her Jedi outfit won.  When the figure was finally shown off by Hasbro we found that we’d be getting the same Emperor’s Hand version, in the black jumpsuit, that was offered on two previous occasions, and not the Jedi outfit voted up.  Making the figure worse, she has some of the most ridiculously sculpted hair we’ve ever seen on an action figure by Hasbro.  Compounding the odd hair sculpt is that it can be assembled with slight position variations that create a very unattractive look on an otherwise decent head sculpt.  We also believe this is the first Fans’ Choice figure that wasn’t released in packaging indicating that distinction.  Maybe even Hasbro realized this wasn’t the figure fans actually chose?

Worst Figure 12″

Bossk
There are a lot of things to like about Bossk; the head, arm and leg sculpts are nicely detailed, his accessories work well and he looks very accurate to his appearance in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.  However, the overall design had it’s issues.  This is one of the few releases we’ve reviewed and we laid out our problems with the uniform and its fragility, how fiddly the hoses are and that we believed Sideshow missed an opportunity to include a premium stand.  Still, Sideshow’s “worst” is often better than the “best” efforts from other companies.

Worst Vehicle or Playset

Republic Gunship
The problems with the Slave I were possibly more severe than with the Republic Gunship, but there were problems with this also.  We ordered ours online and when it was delivered we found the factory tape cut on one end and re-taped.  We’re uncertain if this happened at the factory or afterwards, but we opened it to make sure it was complete.  It was, but we also noticed a lot of pieces rattling around in the box.  That turned out to be due to an accessory bag that was not sealed, allowing the bombs and missiles to roll around loose in the packaging.  There was no tape or residue on the bag so, again, we’re uncertain if it was a factory oversight that the bag wasn’t taped or if something else occurred.  The fact this release, figures and gun pods notwithstanding, was $120 didn’t help its case.

Worst Other Toys

Legacy Collection Droid Factory
When Hasbro cancelled the Legacy Collection Droid Factory line and replaced it with The Black Series, the two new build-a-droid figures we were losing were of more concern than the carded action figures.  Hasbro promised to find a way to release FA-4 and TC-70 and their solution was an exclusive 6-pack of figures from Amazon.com.  Complete with Legacy Collection Droid Factory packaging, and coming in a white mailer box, the set was priced at $60.  The carded figures were the as-yet-unreleased army builders from what would have been the first wave of Legacy Collection when it was going to be released to retail.  Hasbro was unfazed that most collectors didn’t want the army builders, just the new build-a-droids.  Many collectors passed.  Until Amazon dropped the price to $14.99 for the set.  Dropping the retail price of a new item 75% in the weeks leading up to Christmas seems to say a lot about the success of this set.

Worst Lego

Yoda Chronicles Holocron Chamber
Lego is known for offering limed exclusives to Toy Fair attendees and selling limited edition sets at conventions, but the Holocron Chamber set is an exception.  This 400 piece set was only available to news outlets on Lego’s mailing list and it was sent out to promote their Times Square event on May 29, 2013 where they unveiled the largest Lego model ever, a life-sized X-Wing fighter.  The set also promoted the Lego animated series The Yoda Chronicles which aired on Cartoon Network, in 3 parts, over the course of the year.  The small playset is a retail-level build with minifigures and, in our opinion, could have been released to all stores if not reserved as a limited Shop@Home offering.  While we’re happy to see Lego promote their products and events, we felt they went too far with this extremely limited offering.

Worst Busts and Statues

General Veers (Regular Edition)
When Gentle Giant announced General Veers in 2011 they said they’d release a Premier Guild exclusive Deluxe bust featuring him in both his Imperial Officer and Armored AT-AT Commander attire while a regular edition would be offered of Veers only in his AT-AT Commander uniform.  Photos and descriptions of the regular edition were solicited right up until January when the bust finally shipped and customers found that Gentle Giant had completely changed the release and was only offering Veers in his Imperial Officer uniform.  No real apology was ever offered, no acceptable explanation of when or why this was changed was given and, apparently, they never even updated their retail partners who continued to advertise the AT-AT Commander version until the last.  In our opinion, this is the shining example of every questionable and shady trick Gentle Giant has pulled in its 11 year history with the Star Wars license.

Worst Non-Toy Collectible

Topps Star Wars Galactic Files 2, Jedi Legacy and Illustrated
It seemed almost like a cop-out to put Galactic Files 2 on the list after we picked the first series for this same honor last year.  I guess the lesson is if it’s broke, double down?  Galactic Files 2 suffers the same problems as the first set; an overly large number of base cards, insane levels of chases and expensive buy-in to order boxes.  Jedi Legacy ended up being rather boring, introduced true relic cards that were too scarce even with 2 hits per box and brought a redemption chase to the mix.  Illustrated isn’t actually that bad but the redemption chase appeared here as well and if you truly wanted every chase and promo card, you needed to pony up for two sets of the Star Wars Radio Drama, newly released by HighBridge Audio in two flavors each with a unique Topps card.  Sorry Topps, but that was three swings and misses this year.  The already announced 2014 Chrome Perspectives set just sounds like a wallet drainer… See you here again next year, Topps?

Worst Exclusive

Slave I
The biggest problem that people will remember from this Amazon exclusive release were the shipping problems.  However, that was, in our opinion, a minor inconvenience.  The more pressing concern was over the quality control of the actual product.  There were widespread reports of people receiving ships packed with two identical wings, there are obvious left and right sides, and our own example was missing one of the bombs.  Using Hasbro’s new, larger design for this vehicle should have made it the best release of the year.  Instead it was bogged down by multiple problems attributed to both Hasbro and Amazon.

Worst Events

Cancellation of Star Wars: The Clone Wars
While season 5 of The Clone Wars was winding down in March, Lucasfilm made the official announcement that there would be no season 6.  There was speculation that the Disney purchase of Lucasfilm meant we’d see the cartoon continue on Disney XD but they declined to do that.  Instead, they put Dave Filoni on their new show, Star Wars Rebels, and prepared to close up shop.  Even though season 5 is now on DVD and Blu-ray, and it’s been announced that the un-aired episodes of the final season will be released in 2014, the show has been greatly missed during the current television season.  Season 5 was arguably the best we had seen from the production crew, seven Daytime Emmy nominations backs that up, and was set up for what could have been an incredible season 6.

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