Star Wars Collecting: The Best and Worst of 2014

2014 Best and WorstNow that the year is almost over, it’s time to take a look back at the Star Wars collecting hobby in 2014. Overall it was kind of a bleak year for collectors with Hasbro, Gentle Giant and Sideshow light on releases and what they did have were mostly remakes or, in Hasbro’s case, repacks and kitbashes while nearly all of Sideshow’s releases were Clone Trooper variations. Lego was heavy on the Revenge of the Sith product but did have some of the first Rebels products.

Disney stepped in with their own lines of electronic figures and die-cast ships, not to mention new plush, but it remains to be seen how they add to what the more traditional license holders have for the market. Mattel releasing the Hot Wheels character cars was a new twist but their upcoming movie vehicle line will probably be heavy on covering the ground Hasbro already laid down with the popular Titanium line.

Two of the most interesting announcements this year were Anovos picking up the Star Wars costuming license and 3D Systems purchasing Gentle Giant. Anovos is already working on some interesting costumes for 2015 and Gentle Giant just launched their new website, The3DStudio.com.

Looking ahead, we have a new movie coming at the end of 2015 and should expect a deluge of new product and new characters that aren’t tied to animation or comic properties. We have Celebration Anaheim coming in April which will most likely kick off the collecting season for 2015.  Until then, read on and take a look back at the Best and Worst of collecting 2014.

Best

Best Figure

Saga Legends Rebels by Hasbro
We decided not to narrow this down to one figure because they’re all worthy in their own way. The new 5 points of articulation (POA) figures were not popular when they debuted but the sculpting and poses have been well done and in some cases have overcome the lack of accessories and articulation. That’s true with the Rebels figures. The new animation style of the Disney XD show lends itself to figures with basic paint apps and Hasbro has done well with that. The character selection has been ok so far, with Ezra, Kanan, Zeb, and Chopper all making an appearance for our hero team while Kallus, the Inquisitor, and Stormtroopers have popped up on the Imperial side. We’re looking forward to Hera and Sabine to round out the crew of the Ghost and while we’re disappointed that the initial release of Sabine will not have a removable helmet, we’re hoping Hasbro won’t take long to correct that oversight.

Best Figure 12″

Probe Droid by Sideshow Collectibles
This 1:6 scale figure from The Empire Strikes Back takes the cake for best in 2014. From the articulated limbs to the lights and sound to the base that can be skinned to look like Hoth, this figure is just plain cool. When Sideshow releases their Hoth version of Han Solo it’s going to make for a fun display in your cabinet.
Jumbo Retro AT-AT Driver by Gentle Giant
Gentle Giant released one of our favorite classic characters as a Jumbo this year for San Diego Comic-Con. The figure and unique weapon turned out well with good paint apps and details that translated while being scaled up. He was also easy to pick up, even being online for several months after the show giving everyone interested the chance to add him to their collection.

Best Vehicle or Playset

None
We aren’t picking a vehicle again this year since Hasbro didn’t release anything new until the end of the year and even then, they don’t match up to the standards we’ve seen in the past. Three new Rebels vehicles, including Target exclusive releases, all have something going for them including the nicely sculpted AT-DP and the decently scaled TIE Advance Prototype but the Phantom is a basic vehicle that, like the Lego version, needs the Ghost to really be a playable toy.

Best Other Toys

Japanese Invasion
This year we had four new companies jump into the Star Wars licensing world with MediCom, Bandai, Kaiyodo and Herocross (Hong Kong) announcing figures in their MAFEX, Movie Realization, Revoltech and Hybrid Metal Figuration lines respectively. The figures from MediCom and Kaiyodo feature highly detailed and articulated figures while the Movie Realization figures offer a new Japanese Samurai take on our favorite characters. The Hybrid Metal Figuration releases from Herocross, while well articulated, are more stylized versions of the Star Wars characters but include swappable hands and die-cast parts which offer additional value for the price. With Hot Toys also announcing an ongoing line of Star Wars 1:6 and 1:4 scale figures, the future is very bright for those looking for higher end collectible toys.
Star Wars Command by Hasbro
This line of toys from Hasbro has taken a lot of shots online but we generally like the concept. Based on the classic green Army men, the Command figures mostly feature a single color and no articulation. Most of the vehicles are scaled close to the Titanium size with a few larger options, such as the Millennium Falcon and Star Destroyer. The sculpting on the small figures, about 2.5″ tall for the humans, is very detailed and we’ve seen custom painted versions that really show that aspect off. The entry level sets start around $5.99 and scale up to the $50 range for the Star Destroyer set. We’d prefer a “bucket” of figures, like you can find for the Army men, but we’re sure licensing doesn’t allow that. Still, if you’re looking for a fun toy to play with in the sandbox for a kid, these are a good option.

Best Lego

UCS Sandcrawler (75059)
The new Sandcrawler is a UCS upgrade to the 2005 set. It has 3296 pieces and 14 minifigures which includes 5 buildable droids. It has working treads and cranes, opening panels, parts bins and a sled for the Jawas. There are only 4 Jawas with the set and an argument could be made that there should be one or two more for the price, which is $299.99. However, it’s an impressive set with a nice mix of Technic and system parts. It’s large and has plenty of play features which makes it worth the price.

Best Busts and Statues

Mara Jade Bishoujo ARTFX Statue by Kotobukiya
Mara is the second Star Wars release in Koto’s Bishoujo line and she’s a home run. The anime style is both cute and sexy which is the main goal of the Bishoujo line. But don’t think that Mara has lost any of her attitude, she comes with two different lightsabers, a cloak and goggles which can be changed to alter how you display her. Even the base gives you the option to show her loyalty either to the Rebels or the Empire. Mara is a fan favorite character and this vinyl statue is an excellent representation of her.

Best Non-Toy Collectible

Her Universe Jewelry
Her Universe has been offering jewelry for a couple of years but this year Ashley Eckstein’s company launched two new themes based around R2-D2 and Darth Vader. Both collections feature new earrings, pendant necklaces and bracelets featuring two of the most popular characters from the Star Wars universe. The price point is a little higher than the previous offerings of charms and earrings, but the quality has also been raised with pearls and Swarovski crystals making appearances on select items. Along with the ongoing clothing collections, Ashley is keeping the women of the hobby stocked with swag that some of us guys are jealous of!

Best Exclusive

itty bittys by Hallmark
Hallmark’s new line of itty bittys, small, stylized plush characters, expanded to include Star Wars characters in 2014 and they helped kick the line off with two exclusives at San Diego and New York Comic Cons. The set of two, a Bantha and Tusken Raider, retailed for $20 and sold alongside their exclusive Wampa ornament. For convention exclusives they were relatively easy to obtain and the cuteness factor, especially the Bantha, made them a fun new addition to many collections.

Best Events

Star Wars Rebels
After the cancellation of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, many fans thought that Lucasfilm and Disney were making a mistake. And while we did receive The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions this year, to wrap up season 6 of that show, the new Disney XD show, Rebels, has been a decent replacement. The characters and story are still building but the initial concept has been well received. The animation differs from The Clone Wars but the cues that it takes from Ralph McQuarrie’s concept artwork allows it to still feel like Star wars. We’re also happy that even though the show initially airs on Disney XD, a station a lot of basic cable packages don’t include, Disney has been running repeats later in the week on the other channels in their family. We hope that continues.

Worst

Worst Figure

The Black Series Cantina Showdown by Hasbro
This Toys-R-Us exclusive is a straight repack of the 6″ Black Series Han Solo and Greedo figures. And while the set added a cardboard table and chairs to recreate the scene from A New Hope, it’s still a really lazy attempt at selling two figures who have been peg warmers all year. The upside, Toys-R-Us didn’t mark up the set so it was an affordable way to pick up both figures at once. 

Worst Figure 12″

Lack of Variety
Sideshow shipped 15 1:6 scale figures this year, including three 2-packs, with seven releases being Clone Troopers and three being Battle Droids. Of the five remaining releases, two were variants of previously released characters; Darth Vader and Boba Fett (in his “prototype” outfit). That left three unique releases for 2014 with Darth Malgus, General Grievous and the Probe Droid. While we loved the Probe Droid and Grievous is well done, Malgus is basically a Vader knockoff. There are Luke, Han, R2-D2 and C-3PO figures in the pipeline along with a Scout Trooper and his ride, but 2014 wasn’t a banner year for variety. The announcement that Hot Toys will be doing Star Wars figures going forward is a mixed blessing; they’ve already announced Chewbacca (who Sideshow shied away from) but the rest include Han Solo, Darth Vader, Stormtroopers and Obi-Wan Kenobi, all of which have already been done by Sideshow and even Hasbro.
Jumbo Retro Wampa by Gentle Giant
Gentle Giant’s 12″ scale retro Jumbo figure of the Wampa was arguably overpriced at $399 and once he arrived, in Kenner style box, not only did a lot of customers have damaged packaging but the figure itself was undersized from the prototypes we’d seen. The Kenner figure has a bulky torso that was slimmed out on Gentle Giant’s final product and didn’t hold true to be an upsized version of the classic release. With Jakks Pacific doing retail vinyl releases at this size, or larger with their 31″ figures, for under $30 the value just doesn’t feel like it’s there.

Worst Vehicle or Playset

Heroes Series X-Wing by Hasbro
When this was announced at Toy Fair there was some buzz for it but that quickly faded for many collectors. While the price isn’t terrible, $39.99, the lack of an opening cockpit or wings and the open package that showed peeling stickers did nothing to attract buyers. The wings were the worst part, since it really doesn’t look like an “X” wing without the iconic open wings. At least the large Millennium Falcon released later in the year fared better in that it didn’t need opening wings to actually look like what it was. We’ve read reports of both of the vehicles selling around the country but they aren’t doing well locally. It’s our hope that this type of release will be done after this year and that either Hasbro will release playable vehicles in 2015, especially for the new film, or skip them altogether and concentrate on something else.

Worst Other Toys

Battle on Endor
On the face of it, $100 for the large AT-ST and eight figures doesn’t sound like a bad deal, and we suppose parents and gift givers may be happy to see it on shelves at Toys-R-Us, but most collectors are going to be passing on this set. Although there are two “new” Ewoks in the set (incorrectly named) everything else is a repack (with a few paint updates) to figures most of us already own. It’s also unfortunate that the Leia figure doesn’t include her poncho or helmet accessories which would be accurate for this part of the Endor battle. 

Worst Lego

The Ghost (75053) and The Phantom (75048)
These are the first two Rebels sets from Lego and while the overall builds mimic the ships from the animated series, they aren’t the best Lego designs we’ve seen. The main shortcoming is that they belong together and if you only have one or the other, the play value is diminished. The Ghost has 929 pieces and the Phantom has 234, ringing in at $89.99 and $24.99 respectively. Toys-R-Us did sell a Super Pack of the two together for $109.99 but most shoppers will find them separately. Without the Phantom, the Ghost has a large docking bay at the back that’s empty and has no real play value without the add-on. There are spring loaded shooters, opening panels and four minifigures but, again, you need the Phantom to round out the crew with Ezra and Chopper (but we’re still missing Sabine). The Phantom is a tight build but doesn’t offer a lot of play value with it’s opening wings and hidden storage compartment. The Phantom also sports a spring loaded shooter but it feels tacked on and not integrated into the build. Even the docking of the Phantom is sketchy with a fold-up panel on the Ghost and a single point of connection. It may not be ideal for “swooshing.”

Worst Busts and Statues

McQuarrie Concept Luke Skywalker Mini Bust by Gentle Giant
Luke makes the list not because he wasn’t well sculpted, not due to price, and not because he was an exclusive. He makes the list for the 500 piece edition size. All of the previous McQuarrie Concept releases have been over 1,000 with 2013’s C-3PO being the previous lowest at 1,008. Darth Vader from 2010, the companion piece to Luke, was 2,500 pieces. There was no reason given that we saw and the only speculation is that Gentle Giant were disappointed in the C-3PO sales. Still, the low edition size caused a scramble of pre-orders and a run at the show and drove up secondary market prices to unaffordable heights leaving many McQuarrie fans with a hole in their collection for no real explainable reason.
Selection
This wasn’t a good year for busts and statues in general. Gentle Giant only had five mini bust releases and four statues between their maquette and regular statue lines. Sideshow had three Premium Format releases and they were all troopers. Although both companies have quite a few items in the pipeline, delays pushed some out of 2014 and generally left the year pretty slow.

Worst Non-Toy Collectible

Topps Return of the Jedi 3D Widevision
It’s starting to look like we’re picking on Topps, but the fact is their sets are getting more expensive, harder to complete and less fun with each release. The Return of the Jedi Widevision set was highly anticipated as a way to finish off the collection that already includes A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back but rather than release the expensive cards in hobby boxes, Topps sold a limited to 2,000 pieces set directly from their website. Each Han in Carbonite themed box included the full 44 card base set and two chase cards for $99.99. The upside is that the cards were very well done and the scenes picked for the cards represented the story well. Topps also recently released a themed binder for the set which is a nice touch. Unfortunately for Topps, we feel we’ll be here again next year after the release of the Masterwork set.

Worst Exclusive

McQuarrie Concept Luke Skywalker Mini Bust by Gentle Giant
Yes, we’re double dipping on bashing this release. That’s how disrespected we feel over the 500 piece edition size for one of the most anticipated releases since Gentle Giant started the McQuarrie Concept line. It was compounded by the extremely poor online store that requires every order to be hand-touched by employees to be processed. That meant that people couldn’t order a Premier Guild membership on the fly and then get in an order for the bust. It took our PGM registration three days to process and by then the bust was long gone. We’ve seen others that ended up in the same boat.

Worst Events

Retail Presence
Hasbro had a dismal presence at retail this year with many Walmart stores not carrying the 4″ Black Series figures at all and many more didn’t even start carrying Saga Legends and Mission series figures until the late 3rd or 4th quarter of the year. Target has adopted a new model for distribution where instead of sending full cases to many stores, they break them at distribution and send figures to stores one, two or maybe three at a time. We’ve seen two Yoda figures and a Luke Hoth show up and once they sell through, have two Starkiller figures appear. And even though the pegs are empty, the local Target hasn’t had a new shipment of Saga Legends in several months, the pegs were empty for Christmas shoppers. A backlog of 6″ Black Series has stifled their distribution and even the exclusive wave of Rebels vehicles didn’t show up until the week of December 15. Some of the issues fall on the retail stores and some on the ports on the west coast, and we’re sure manufacturing in China has a hand in it. But when retail stores such as Target have altered their entire distribution method for Star Wars toys, it’s the customers and collectors who suffer.

Related Posts