The 1994 Shipwreck figure is one of the true gems of the vintage line. He is a perfect blend of mold, colors, accessories and character. Granted, Shipwreck as a SEAL is a bit far-fetched and the figure is very environmentally specific. But, neither should take away from Hasbro accomplished in the line's last vintage year. In 1998, the mold was repainted for the TRU exclusive sets. This figure offered a black base color, but was highlighted in the odd choice of turquoise. The figure is vastly different from the 1994 version, but it is certainly not better. Keeping with the 4 year anniversary theme, Hasbro released the figure again in 2002. But, astonishingly, they released it a grey and black color that is extremely close in design to the 1994 figure but, again, certainly not better than it.
In late 2000, Joe returned to retail as a full born, non exclusive product. The reaction was extremely positive and the Joe Renaissance began. But, Hasbro was quick to bungle a good thing. Wave II of the A Real American Hero Collection was overproduced and overshipped. It saturated the marketplace in January and February of 2001 as pegwarmers of Major Bludd and the Rock Viper and Big Ben and Whiteout backed up on the pegs of any store that stocked them. The result was that Wave III was produced in smaller numbers and quickly disappeared from retail after only a few months of shipping. By this time, the line was in trouble as the Wave III's had not helped sell down the Wave II figures. Wave IV was ordered in small quantities by the major retailers and most of it ended up parsed out to discount stores and toy liquidators. Retailers lost such faith in the line that the final wave was cancelled so that Hasbro could retool the line for a "modern" relaunch.
Fortunately, Hasbro had some innovative minds at the time who were somewhat engaged with the online community. So, rather than scrap Wave V altogether, Hasbro bundled it as an Internet only product that was available to online toy dealers. This seems quaint today. But, a major toy company producing a short run of figures to sell to a fledgling online dealer network was rather novel in 2002. The results were interesting. On the night of February 15, 2002 as the figures first went on sale, the sites selling the figures were bogged down with orders. Hundreds of collectors sat at their computers and hoped their orders were successfully processed and they would get their figure in due time. Sets were limited in number so that army builders would not snatch up all the Shock Vipers. Most collectors were able to get 1 to 3 sets with little difficulty. A few online dealers sold only cases and saw their unsold stock sell out when the dealers who sold individual packs sold through their allotment in one weekend. Quickly, the price of all the packs in the set exploded on the secondary market. Even the Joes were selling for three to four times the original retail price. SmallJoes.com was able to get a second order of the figures into Hasbro before the cut off date, though. As such, many collectors who missed out or who wanted more of the figures were offered another chance when their second order arrived. This helped sate the demand and drove prices down...especially on the Joe packs as those did not sell out for many weeks after the second order was offered.
For a time, though, all the figures in Wave V held a mystique about them. There were likely only between 3,000 and 5,000 of each figure produced...an incredibly small number that put these figures on par with the 2002 Convention Crimson Vipers in terms of rarity. But, like all hot toys, the marked eventually moved on to the next big thing. Within just 2 years or so, these figures were largely forgotten and the Joe sets would sell for below retail at online auction. Today, the Tomax and Xamot and Serpentor/Shock Viper sets will sell for a premium. If the right collectors are after them and the right dealer is selling them, individual Joe figures can go as high as $20 or so. But, for the most part, the Joes, including Shipwreck aren't much more than "commons" that generate little collector interest.
The one thing Hasbro did right with the Wave V Internet wave was they included all the original accessories from the molds used to create the figures. As such, this Shipwreck includes multiple rifles, his airmask, flippers and a knife. He is fully accessorized to take on any Eels without hesitation. Having the correct accessories makes all the difference with a figure like this. While Hasbro placed less emphasis on matching figures with accessories as the vintage line wore on, they still maintained it to an extent. Shipwreck's rifles are carry-forwards from other figures. But, they make sense for a SEAL. The flippers and airmask, though, make the figure. Having them completes this figure and keeps him closer to the vintage legacy. After this wave, Hasbro really lost interest in properly pairing ARAH style figure repaints with decent accessories. And, their releases and sales suffered for it.
In my collection, the 1994 Shipwreck figure is still one of my favorites. I wanted to like this version as much, but just don't. In 2002, my plan was to army this figure. However, after I had 2 in my hands, I lost interest. While the lighter grey with paint wipes is OK, it's not as good as the 1994. So, my army building was only focused on the 1994 figure. Really, the only thing this figure is good for are memories of the early days of online Joe collecting. When this figure was released, I was home on a Friday night, refreshing my browser on a dial up Internet connection. Collectors were using email as their means of communication with each other: confirming their orders were processed, expressing frustration at how Hasbro handled the wave, etc. It was a much different time for collectors and Joe in general. Much has changed in the 11 years since that night. But, it was the time in the collecting world that I enjoyed the most. So, this version of Shipwreck is good for that reminiscing. But, as a toy, I'd still rather have the '94.
Despite the low production run, this Shipwreck is still rather cheap...when you can find them. They don't appear for sale with the frequency of the 1994's, but are still around the same price. For the hassle it would take to find this figure versus getting a pristine or even carded version of the 1994, I'd go with the 1994. This Shipwreck offers nothing that the original use of the mold does not. And, the original is in a better color scheme. Really, this figure personifies the repaint era. It was a time of great promise that simply went unfulfilled. Hasbro could have done something different with this great mold. But, they didn't. As such, it is very much a figure the modern collector can pass by without losing anything from their collection.