Tuesday, August 9, 2022

2005 Crimson Guard

In 2003, Hasbro showcased brand new Crimson Guard bodies that were supposed to debut on both the Agent Faces mail away figure as well as the Cobra Island Infiltrate set.  At the time, collectors were desperate for new, cheap Crimson Guards.  Despite the Infiltrate set's cancellation, collectors found Agent Faces enough of a acquisition to sate their desire for bigger and better armies.  In late 2004, Hasbro released Operation Crimson Sabotage: a boxed set of two vehicles that also included three new Crimson Guard figures.  This set was primed to explode on the secondary market.  But, just as it started to take off, rumors of a coming 2005 Crimson Guard set were confirmed.  Collectors backed off the Sabotage sets and geared up for the coming 6 pack.  And, it did not disappoint...too much.  Hasbro released a set with four Crimson Guard figures.  They included decent enough gear.  Hasbro even went so far as to break up Tomax and Xamot so that there were, technically, two sets and collectors could get more army builders for their money.  (Oddly, though, each set also included a Firefly which negated the savings on the Tomax/Xamot split....)  The figures themselves were repaints of the 2004 Crimson Guards and were replete with all the benefits and detriments of the existing figures.

As a figure, this Crimson Guard is OK.  Considering that vintage CG's at the time of this set's release were $20-$25 figures, collectors were fine with getting an inferior version since the cost per figure was under $3.50 each.  The figure's body and legs are fine.  But, the arms can be problematic.  The 1992 Duke arms were meant to have super weird and short sleeves.  On the CG, the design just looks a bit bizarre.  The arms also don't fit flush at the figure's side.  So, they flail out a bit and make the CG look like an overzealous body builder.  The bare heads are fine.  They are rather non-descript.  But, they work in that context.  As they are a 2000's era sculpt, they lack the details and personality of vintage designs.  But, it's a masked bad guy so the countenance doesn't require that much attention to distinct facial features.  With the helmet on, the figure's flesh colored neck is exposed...kind of ruining the overall aesthetic of the character.  Were the mask fully painted down the figure's neck, this would be solved and the appearance would be more in line with the 1985 figure.

The paint details on the figure are well done.  The cords on the figure's right arm are painted gold and the other insignia on the figure's chest have a burnished silver color.  The brighter silver from Agent Faces on these details are much better.  Each figure in this set uses the same head.  The figure has an odd red hair.  There are variant heads available in the Sabotage set.  And, even the Shadow Guard heads can be used to give the figs some diversity.  The Cobra logo is somewhat understated. The figure lacks the arm insignia from the Operation Crimson Sabotage figures.  But, features plenty of silver and black details that would have made mint figures impossible to find had it been a vintage figure.  CG's, in general, don't require too much paint.  Their red color is their calling card.  But, the vintage silver Cobra logo pops on the figure.  They faded yellow logo on these 2005 CG's lacks that distinctive flair.

Collector reaction to these figures was generally positive.  But, it was also understated.  In 2003, collectors were army builder obsessed.  In 2004, though, some of that desire started to sate.  By the time these figures showed up in 2005, Crimson Guard fatigue was setting in.  Collectors had ample opportunities to get similar figures in 2004.  So, the pent up demand that had met the Cobra Infantry no longer existed for the CGs.  Collectors liked the figures.  But, with their helmets on, the CG's lost some of their mystique.  Many collectors opted to leave the helmets off altogether since the figures looks good without it, too.  But, while many collectors of the era bought double digit Cobra Infantry sets, they reduced their purchase of the CG's.  Many collectors reported only two to four sets in their collections.  The fact that Hasbro released army building "Greenshits" as the Joe companion set to the CG's also sucked away a bit of the army building dollars.  But, the set really didn't offer anything that collectors couldn't get elsewhere.  And, quite a few collectors skipped the set and just picked up a spare Tomax/Xamot set from one of the army builders who was looking to recoup some costs.

The Crimson Guard figures all included accessories that were OK.  All four figures in the set included the same gear.  This was both helpful from an army standpoint but also frustrating in that there was no diversification among the figures.  What was odd, though, was that Hasbro outfitted the CG's in infantry style gear: gear that was far better suited to the 2004 Cobra Infantry set which had featured awful weapons.  Each figure got a black version of the 1991 Dusty's pack as well as the AR-15 inspired rifle that had debuted in the JvC series of figures.  This gear is nice and the rifles fit with the CG figures.  But, I've never figured out how "elite" troopers wearing bright red uniforms would have use for long term field mission gear.  The figures also included a removable helmet.  While neat in theory, the practical effects of the helmet is that the figure's head is overly large when wearing it and looks disproportional.  It would have been great had Hasbro resculpted the original CG head (they had already redone the body...) and used it on at least 2 of the guardsmen in the set.  While they were at it, redoing the original CG rifle seems like a small request.  And, I'd have gladly sacrificed the packs to get a better homage to the original rifle.  But, considering it was 2005, I'm glad the gear somewhat works for the figures as it was far better than what subsequent sets would see in terms of accessories.

Toys R Us initially ordered ~25,000 units of their ARAH style Joe sets.  However, slow sales on the Tiger Force and Python Patrol set got them to reduce the orders to ~20,000 units per set starting in 2004.  Again, though, the Joe sets sold slowly and they were further reduced to ~16,000 units before the end of the year.  The Cobras, though, remained at the 20,000 set level.  So, we know that there were 20,000 Crimson Guard sets produced.  What we're not 100% sure of, though, is if Hasbro produced 20,000 of both the Tomax set and the Xamot set.  Or, if they produced 20,000 total sets.  Based on the shelves at the time and the availability of figures today, it seems far more likely that there were just the 20,000 total sets made: 10,000 sets for each twin.  But, with 4 Crimson Guards per set, that's still 80,000 Crimson Guards that were produced and is why the figure remains relatively available and affordable even in the 2022 marketplace.

Hasbro got almost all they could from this Crimson Guard remake.  It was released as Faces in 2003, Crimson Guards in 2004 and 2005 and as the Crimson Shadow Guard in the late summer of 2005.  Despite these four uses, though, three were in nearly identical red and the fourth featured six figures all in black.  Hasbro missed the totally obvious and easy blue repaint.  Had the Firefly in the Crimson Guard set been replaced with a blue CG, it would not have lingered at retail for months.  But, Hasbro wasn't able to get decent Cobra Trooper/Officer repaints to collectors and failed with the CG's as well.  In the early 2010's, factory custom makers redid the 1985 Crimson Guard and finally filled in some of the coloring gaps.  But, these figures saw lower production runs and aren't really all that common any more.  Fortunately, new CG runs were released in 2021 and many colors have become much more available.

In 2005, the Joe world had considerably slowed.  And, as such, the Crimson Guards lingered at retail.  You could still find sets well into the summer of that year.  Online sets, though, sold out relatively quickly.  Collectors liked the figures.  But, the general malaise of the collecting world combined with the earlier releases of Faces and Operation Crimson Sabotage helped temper demand and keep the CG's as very attainable for quite a while.  These days, Tomax, Xamot and even Firefly are relatively desirable and command a premium.  But, individual CG figures do not.  However, here's what I wrote in 2017 when I started this profile:

While boxed sets fetch around $40 and the dealers will get around $10 for a mint and complete figure, the Crimson Guards sell for under $5 each when left to the open market.  

Even in the rapidly cooling collectible market of 2022, though, these figures are a lot more expensive.  Loose, mint and complete Crimson Guards sell in the $11-$13 range depending upon buying them in lots or individually.  Boxed sets run around $100.  Dealers tend to get around $20, though, for the same figure.  But, those prices are falling and you're seeing many of them starting to sit at that level.  

There are so many options for figures like this and there are better Crimson Guards available.  So, that leaves these figures rather undesirable and something that the modern collector can still army build on a budget.  There's not many figures left like that.  But, you can find them.  Personally, I'd wait out the market a bit before paying $13 for a sample.  But, you never know which figures will stand tall against the dropping prices and hold up.  The main thing is that this figures are OK.  If you can find 2021 factory customs for similar or lower prices, they're probably a better option.

2005 Crimson Guard, Toys R Us Exclusive, 2004, Operation Crimson Sabotage, Hiss Tank, ASP

2005 Crimson Guard, Toys R Us Exclusive, 2004, Operation Crimson Sabotage, Hiss Tank, ASP

2005 Crimson Guard, Toys R Us Exclusive

2005 Crimson Guard, 2004 Operation Crimson Sabotage, Tomax, Xamot, Firefly, Hiss Tank, ASP


  1. Definitely inferior but good for actually playing with them.

    1985 CG is display only!

  2. Arms not being flush with their sides, or being able to raise straight up in the air, is a major pet peeve of mine. Also dislike when a masked/helmeted character suddenly has a removeable helmet and is now some guy. Throws the imagination out of the window.

  3. You're right about missing out on the blue color scheme. Black Major's 'Cobalt' Guardsmen are beautiful next to their red counterparts.

  4. The Joe market is so dependent on the number of items currently on offer it's hilarious.

  5. The old non-turning head Hasbro-can't-be-bothered. They stopped being able to make new ball jointed heads for vintage style after 2001 or something. Bash Crossfire or Surefire away, but at least their necks were done right.

    And related to Surefire, I'm still wondering why they didn't use Shock Wave V3's entire arm.

    That said, I don't hate them, but they are worse than the should be due to baffling bad decisions.