21st Century Star Wars Collectibles
Guest post by Ron Burg
Since 1977, the Kenner Company and later Hasbro have created line after line of hundreds of Star Wars collectible figures and statues for fans of all ages. Throughout the years, technological advances, as well as collector desires, helped their creations evolve. Almost forty years later as the latest film approaches, the Star Wars fandom is perhaps larger than ever. This century has only seen more and more Star Wars merchandise growth and timeless pieces for any collector to add to their shelves!
The Early 2000s: Attack of the Articulation Issue
Since the action figures were first created, one of the biggest issues that collectors had with them was their lack of articulation ability. The earliest action figures from the 70s could only move at the hips, shoulders and neck, and some, like the Stormtrooper, lacked even the neck functionality. Over the years, they got slightly better, but still underwhelmed fans in comparison to other figures on the market.
Finally, in 2004, Hasbro decided to tackle this issue and created the first highly articulated figure in the Star Wars lines, a Clone Trooper. It was so popular that it is still sold today in updated packaging.
Refurbished “Vintage” Figures
In 2004, Hasbro continued with their increased articulation creations by releasing their first wave of updated “vintage” action figures. They came in the same packages as their original versions, but were much more detailed and articulated, which was a huge positive for fans and collectors.
As Star Wars figures were still selling off the shelves at the end of 2004, excitement was increasing for the release of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith the following spring. As Hasbro had done several times in the past, they released four preview figures – General Grievous, Tion Medon, R4-G9, and a Wookie Warrior – to get fans excited and still attracted to their line of collectibles. Additionally, they released a statue of Anakin Skywalker’s Episode III Jedi Starfighter from the upcoming film. Fans were more excited than ever for the movie to come.
Stores nationwide were trying to capitalize on the Star Wars phenomenon and, just as they had done for Episode I, Toys R’ Us held a special midnight event on April 2, 2005 for collectors to be the first to purchase items from the Revenge of the Sith line. This newest line featured an entirely new style of packaging as well as the well-received increased articulation, details, and sculpting of the figures.
In 2006, Hasbro continued to expand on their creations, and their newest action figures from the Sith line as well as a 2006 Expanded Universe collection included display stands and hologram features. They were constantly on the search for new ways to keep collectors purchasing.
Hasbro Reaches Out to Fans
With no more films being released in the known future, Hasbro decided to reach out to fans to see what they would want to be re-released. They voted on the fan site rebelscum.com for the 2007 Saga Legends line for 10 of the 28 figures from the entire collection. The company did the same thing a year later.
30th Anniversary Collection
As the 30th Anniversary of the 1977 film approached, Hasbro took advantage of the ever-growing popularity of the movie and released another line of figures just for the celebration. They were, again, super articulated versions of previous character figurines, and each included a collector coin. These sold at a higher price, $10, than all previous action figures. Essential to long-time collectors, this anniversary line included the only action figure ever produced from the 1978 Star Wars Anniversary Special, a holiday version of Boba Fett.
Hasbro continued the anniversary collection through the following year, but changed the figures to no longer include collector coins, and to come instead with display cases.
With four proofs of purchase, $7, and a form from the 2008 30th anniversary collection, fans could mail away for a preview figure, Captain Rex, from the upcoming TV series, The Clone Wars.
Star Wars Comes to TV & Midnight Madness Ensues
In 2008, an animated TV series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, was to begin, and Toys R’ Us hosted yet again another midnight event on July 26, 2008. For the first time ever, Star Wars figures were being released in an animated style line to match their TV counterparts.
At the same time, another line of very realistic figurines, The Legacy Collection, was released. This collection included a new feature, “Build A Droid.” With each figure purchase, fans would also receive different pieces of action figures of droids. They could collect them and connect them in whatever ways they wanted.
The Decline of Action Figure Popularity
By the 2010s, the popularity of action figures all around was on the decline. Younger generations were opting for more interactive toys, and manufacturing costs were increasing with the rising price of oil. This made the heavily detailed figures no longer profitable. Hasbro made a significant change in their product line and began for the first time ever selling Star Wars figures in the 6” scale known as “The Black Series.” They doubled their prices to $20-25 and aimed their merchandise on the massive collector fan base that Star Wars already had.
The Star Wars Universe Today
In 2012, it was announced that Disney was to purchase the Star Wars license for $4 billion. With this acquisition came plans for Episode VII: The Force Awakens. This would, of course, also bring new merchandise and collectibles. As they had so many times in the past, fans were able to interact with and get to know the film before its release through figures and other toys. The increased technological capabilities have opened new doors for incredibly articulated life-like characters, spaceships, and vehicles. Some of the most popular action figures in 2015 have been 48” – almost life-sized interactive characters for less than $100.
Star Wars is undoubtedly one of the most well-received action figure collections ever, and nearly forty years later fans are just as excited about the releases as they were when Star Wars initially became an overnight sensation