Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Rarities - Alternate 2003 Army Builder Pack Viper and Alley Viper

A lot of alternate and unproduced figures came out of Asia in the early 2000's.  For a time, it seemed every single figure Hasbro took to retail had at least one Asian variant.  In time, though, this slowed down.  It might have been tighter factory controls.  Or, it may simply have been a function of Hasbro drastically reducing their product line and the diminished volume allowed for stronger quality control at the source.  But, well over 100 pre production and unproduced variant figures managed to make their way into collector hands in numbers large enough for them to be considered figure variants.  They were common and, for most part, pretty cheap to acquire. 

As 2003 came to a close, Hasbro found the Joe line was a huge retail success.  After a slow start to the year, they jam packed a huge amount of figures into the final 6 months.  These waves sold out to Hasbro's retail partners and Hasbro couldn't keep up with demand.  A special "army builder wave" of figures was even offered up so that collectors would have something just for them.  But, demand was so great at the "big 5 stores" that Hasbro ended up selling all of the wave to them: leaving online dealers out in the cold.  The most popular pack was a repainted Alley Viper/Viper release that people snatched up as soon as they found it.  The figures were decently colored and getting two army builders for $8 was enticing.  As the Asian figures began to leak out, though, alternate versions of these popular army builders were among them.

First up is the Alley Viper.  Ostensibly, this figure isn't much different from the production figure. The blue is a little brighter.  Unaccessorized, the figures are rather bland.  But, it's not hard to find Alley Viper gear from this era (there were a lot of them released) so if you can track down the figures, they aren't hard to get up to speed in terms of gear.

2003 Unproduced Viper, Alley Viper, Prototypes, Midnight Chinese


















The Viper figure, though, has some significant changes.  While the base colors are slightly brighter than the production figure, it is the black face mask that is the most striking difference.  Hasbro never released a Viper with a black faceplate and it is a powerful look for the figure.  In the right context, it could have been a very strong Viper repaint.

2003 Unproduced Viper, Alley Viper, Prototypes, Midnight Chinese

2003 Unproduced Viper, Alley Viper, Prototypes, Midnight Chinese















The Viper figures were fairly popular for a while and tended to fetch decent prices.  The Alley Vipers, though, did not fare as well.  Today, you still see the Vipers for sale, often for significant amounts.  But, the Alley Viper variant remains relatively obscure.

4 comments:

  1. I forgot about the reverse colors Viper.

    Not sure I knew about the Alley-Viper. Might be better without the retail's black camo. Hard to say. That Alley-Viper was a bit cheap with his unpainted gloves. It was hard to ruin the Alley-Viper, though, the had to come up with a new sculpt to do so.

    Some of the actual retail packs from that wave strangely wound up at Advance Auto Parts (made no sense at the time and still doesn't). I found a 4 packs in their display holder and bought them all with the holder.

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  2. I have one of those Vipers. Very cool and unusual take on the Cobra Viper.

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  3. This rendition of the viper, to Thomas' earlier point, is a very cool an usual take. I surely would've needed quite a few in this color scheme.

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  4. I think the Viper showed up in those colors in the Devil's Due comic at the time.

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