Thursday, April 30, 2020

1993 Headhunter Stormtrooper - Around The Web

In the early 2000's, collectors hated 1993 and 1994 figures.  As such, dealers often had boxes and boxes of carded figures for a few bucks each.  Mostly, these were brightly colored characters that the collectors of the day loathed.  But, every now and again, you'd come across a stash of Headhunter Stormtroopers.  Around 2002 or so, the collecting community discovered this figure and began to accept that even 1993 had a few redeeming figures that were worthy to stand along the 1987 and earlier figures.  18 years later, this attitude seems almost foolhardy.  But, it took the Joe community a long time to break their staid habits.  Due to the figure's quality, there's a ton of content on him out there.  Here's the best of the 1993 Headhunter Stormtrooper from around the web.

Headhunter Stormtrooper Profile

Headhunter Stormtrooper by thevintagetoylife

Headhunter Stormtrooper by Scarrviper

Headhunter Stormtrooper by jogunwarrior

Headhunter Stormtrooper by Flatline

Headhunter Stormtrooper by djv

Headhunter Stormtrooper Video Review

Headhunter Stormtrooper at

Headhunter Stormtrooper at Joewiki

Headhunters at Icebreakers HQ

Headhunter Stormtrooper by fun_time_at_serpentors_lair

Headhunter Stormtrooper by thedustinmccoy

1993 Headhunter Stormtrooper, DEF, Headhunters, Mirage, Mega Marines 2002

1993 Headhunter Stormtrooper, DEF, Headhunters, Mirage, Mega Marines 2002

1993 Headhunter Stormtrooper, DEF, Headhunters, Mirage, Mega Marines 2002, Gristle, 1986 STUN

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

2020 Bespin Luke Skywalker - Retro Collection

In 2019, Hasbro shocked the Star Wars community with the announcement of 6 Kenner styled figure releases.  These figures looked like the vintage Kenner designs and had matching cardbacks.  They were a Target exclusive for retail sales that were marketed around Father's Day.  But, were also available to online dealers later in the year.  Initially, collectors were skeptical about them.  All of the tired arguments about having them "devaluing" vintage figures were thrown around.  But, when they were actually released, the retail stores sold out of them quickly and collectors generally loved them.  (Sure, there were gripes about the Retro sticker and the "weathering" of the cardbacks.)  Hasbro decided to follow up that success with 6 additional "Empire Strikes Back" themed figures for 2020.  This time, they are a Wal Mart exclusive.  With a bit of luck, I found the end cap containing the figures.  And, for the first time in 40 years, I acquired a Bespin Luke Skywalker figure.

I've told stories of my grandparents and their spoiling me before.  Of course, my memories of this figure also begin with them in the summer of 1980.  I spent a week or two at their home that year.  And, like always, my grandmother spoiled me rotten with daily trips to the various retail stores in Dayton, Ohio.  During these trips, I found many figures.  Lando stands out to me as I remember opening him beside the bed in my grandparent's room.  I found the Snow Trooper at a Best Store, too.  I'm not sure, though, when I found the Bespin Luke Skywalker.  It may have been with my grandparents.  Or, it may not have been.  My first remaining memory of the figure, though, pertains to another piece of my youth, the next door neighbors who lived by us at the time.

Growing up, our next door neighbors and my family were close.  They had two girls who were both older than I was.  One was three or four years my senior while the other was about 18 months older.  Growing up, we were inseparable.  Each morning, we'd meet up outside and play in one of our yards.  By the time G.I. Joe came out, though, the age difference was starting to show and I have no association of Joe to them other than the day they were playing their new "Purple Rain" album in the front yard when I was stuck inside, sick, with my new Zartan figure.  But, I have two, specific, memories of them with Star Wars figures, and the Luke Bespin figure is involved in both.

The first was in the summer of 1980, when I first owned this figure.  As he was my favorite, I tended to take him everywhere.  I was playing outside with him when the girls came out to ride bikes.  I decided to ride one of their bikes down the sidewalk.  The bike had a basket on the front.  So, I put my complete Luke into it, thinking it safe while I rode.  But, somehow, Luke's saber managed to slide under one of the weaves in the basket.  When I stopped riding, it was gone!  We all walked up and down the sidewalk until we found it.  Relieved that it was once again in my possession, I checked the basket to see how it managed to fit under one of the tight weaves.  There were just a few places where it did.  So, it was an incredible stroke of bad luck for the saber to fall out.  Fortunately, being rather young, I was only allowed to ride my bike a short distance.  So, there wasn't too much sidewalk to search to find the missing weapon.

The second memory occurred at least one year later.  By then, my Luke's lightsaber was long lost.  But, one afternoon, the girls came back from an outing with their parents.  They had each purchased one new Star Wars figure.  This was odd as they had never bought a figure before.  But, they had each chosen one for a present.  One of the figures was the Luke Bespin.  We went out to the sandbox in their backyard and built a huge tunnel system to use with the figures.  I was insanely jealous of their lightsaber as it was my most wanted accessory.  Within a couple of days, though, their interest in the figures faded away.  I asked if I could have their lightsaber.  But, they had lost theirs, too.  They said it might be in the sandbox.  I went out and dug through it a bit, but with no luck.  Over the next few days, I'd hop our back fence and sneak into their yard to dig in the sandbox a bit more.  I never found the saber and the yellow weapon with this 2020 figure is the first lightsaber of that color I've owned in almost 40 years.

I skipped over the first wave of Retro figures.  I thought they were neat.  But, none of the original figures really sparked that nostalgic flow.  While I had all of them growing up, I didn't feel the need to track the figures down.  I figured I might buy them if I saw them.  But, I never saw them.  With this second wave, though, more nostalgia did hit.  Originally, I wanted Boba Fett because...well...Boba Fett and Lando as I associated him with my grandmother.  Seeing this Bespin Luke, though, brought back the memories of my old neighbors.  We were inseparable for years.  But, as we got older, the age difference began to drift us apart.  Before that really asserted itself, though, they moved away in the summer of 1985.  Their parents would show up at our house from time to time when they were in town on business.  But, I only saw my friends once more in the summer of 1989.  There's a picture of that meeting somewhere in my mother's house.  The story doesn't have a happy ending as both girls ultimately found drugs, poverty, homelessness and even prison.  But, the memories of playing as kids is something I haven't often revisited.  This figure has brought back a rush of childhood events that I hadn't had occasion to remember in quite a while.

One of the reasons I wanted to talk about these Star Wars Retro Collection figures was because we've all seen the Wal Mart listings for a "Retro" series of G.I. Joe figures coming later this year.  We don't know if they will be full on reproductions of vintage Joes.  Or, if they'll be anniversary style figures in retro like packaging.  Either way, a large segment of the Joe world will be disappointed.  We know the price point on those is $13...which is more in line with a more modern figure style in vintage packaging like the Star Wars Vintage Collection.  However, vintage Joes would require 18 individual pieces as well as metal rivets and an o-ring to produce a figure.  The labor to construct it would be higher than a 5 points of articulation vintage Star Wars figure.  So, the price point really doesn't give us any clues.  At some level, I'm hopeful for vintage Joes.  But, Hasbro slammed the door shut pretty hard on classic Joe figures in the early 2010's.  Sure, things change.  But, I'd also like the figures to be anniversary style so I don't have to bother with them.  Regardless of which figure style they are, though, I hope that things like the Retro sticker and faux shelf wear are avoided since they are detrimental to the overall visual experience of the product.

As a kid, vintage Star Wars figures were amazing.  Kenner improved their sculpting as the years went on.  And, at the time of his release, this Luke Bespin was about the most amazing action figure you could get.  Gone were the crappy telescoping lightsabers.  This Luke had a saber that could be shared with others and it did not render his right hand unable to hold a blaster.  But, looking back at this figure now, it's a pretty sorry toy.  Star Wars figures were fun because we had nothing better.  G.I. Joe came along and it was better.  In 1983, it was a LOT better.  And, with the advent of Joe, I had no need for Star Wars toys.  One of the great legacies of the Joe line is the trove of knockoffs it inspired.  But, the overall quality of the G.I. Joe line in terms of construction, posability, accessories and vehicles simply overwhelmed all comers...Star Wars included.  One of the reasons that I've never really gone back to the vintage Star Wars line is because they were rendered obsolete by G.I. Joe.  What nostalgia I had for them was appeased in the 1995 and later Star Wars line that offered far better sculpting and, ultimately, super articulation.  This Bespin Luke is antiquated at best.  Seeing him now, I associate this figure with the crappy toys from the 1950's that my Dad would show me from time to time.  I couldn't understand how kids found those appealing.  Action figures have moved so far ahead of original figures that they are now that dated.  I guess that's good.  But, it was a stark revelation to me when I brought this guy home.

These Retro figures will be an interesting collectible as time goes on.  If Hasbro were to continue releasing 6 figures per year, they could milk a decade and a half just remaking the classic Kenner line.  But, I doubt that will happen.  At some point, the line will suffer from a lack of major characters and the vintage nostalgia train will run out.  We don't really know how many of these were made.  Wal Mart's initial stocking was a pre-packaged end cap with 4 to 6 sets of figures included.  There are over 5,000 Wal Mart stores in the US.  So, that's 20,000 - 30,000 of each figure just assuming every Wal Mart gets one end cap.  (They won't, though.)  Target never restocked their 2019 offerings after Father's Day of that year.  But, online vendors did get stock and additional figures showed up in Europe in 2020.  Wal Mart's online orders haven't shipped yet, either.  So, it's likely we'll see these again in some form...whether additional Wal Mart stockings on standard retail shelves, online or as part of some other release in the future.

In the pandemic where few people are shopping, my local Wal Mart sold out of these in less than 2 days.  (And, it's a Wal Mart where collectibles often hang around for a while.)  So, there's huge demand for these figures. For me, key releases will be must buys...provided I don't have to jump through hoops to get them.  I'd love a Luke Jedi or even an Amanaman.  But, I'm past my days of having great in interest in vintage Star Wars figures.  Figures like this Luke Bespin that have associated memories are great.  (I'd probably have tracked down an Obi Wan Kenobi had it been part of Wave 1 for this reason.)  But, vintage Star Wars figures are still easy to find.  Even carded figures collect dust at every collectible shop in town.  But, few mint and complete figures can be had with a cardback for $10.  So, the Retro figures maintain that appeal.  For me, this is a fun product that hearkens back to childhood and the time of the original releases.  So, it's worth it.  Within a few weeks, we'll know more about the retro G.I. Joes and will see if they spark the fire.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

20th Anniversary - Key Moments 2002 Shock Viper

In the latter part of 2001, information appeared that showed a planned fifth wave of retail figures for the A Real American Hero Collection that had adorned toy shelves since 2000.  But, these toys were not to be.  Wave II of the series had stagnated at retail, leading to lower production on Wave III and Wave IV being dumped to overstock and discount retail outlets.  The fifth wave was cancelled and vintage Joe collectors were being shepherded into the JvC figure style that would replace vintage Joe repaints in 2002.

But, a funny thing happened on the way to the fair.  As the figures in Wave V were relatively far along, Hasbro decided to offer the wave to only online Joe dealers.  Such a thing seems normal today.  But, in 2002, this was outright novel.  At that point, no line had seen an internet exclusive.  So, Hasbro's handling of the final wave of the ARAHC was ground-breaking.  Dealers appeared to line up to buy the figures and even did pre-orders.  Collectors warmed up and, on the night of February 15th, 2002, they swarmed the website to order sets from the only dealer who was selling the figure packs individually.

The reality of Wave V is that only two dealers actually ordered them from Hasbro.  Entertainment Earth and were the only sellers who got their stock direct.  Several smaller G.I. Joe dealers bought bulk cases from EE and resold them.  This makes these figures among the rarest "retail" figures Hasbro ever produced.  It's unlikely there were even 5,000 of each figure made.  This has lead to figures that are somewhat hard to find today.  Of the 8 figures in the wave, though, only two have really found any staying power in the community.  And, they were sold together.

Serpentor is the most famous figure from the wave.  I'd argue that the 2002 Serpentor is the best version of the character that's available.  But, the Shock Viper isn't far behind.  Based on the then obscure Ice Cream Soldier mold, the Shock Viper was decently colored and featured a nice cadre of weapons.  As is was mostly impossible for early collectors to have more than 6 of them, the figure morphed into both a character that collectors justified in smaller numbers and one that was overly desirable.

In the ensuing years after his release, the Shock Viper always remained the most popular figure from this wave.  He was never easy to find.  But, carded and loose versions weren't bank-breaking.  In recent years, though, that has started to change.  Both Serpentor and the Shock Viper have gotten substantially more expensive.  And, to this day, it's exceedingly rare to see armies of Shock Vipers in the collecting community.

For me, though, this wave represented the beginning of the end.  Hasbro had moved on from vintage Joes in 2002 and the vintage figures never again saw Hasbro's focus.  At the same time, the collecting community was beginning to mature.  The community aspect of collecting waned and collectors turned more competitive in their pursuits of larger armies or rarer items.  In 2001, it was still possible to conduct trades that were measured in the wants of the parties involved.  After 2002, the dollar value of a trade was usually the only consideration.  This was inevitable as the core Joe collector group aged, got better jobs and began to stratify.  We see the results of that today.  Looking back at this Shock Viper, though, reminds me of a simpler time when the hobby was more innocent and even a bit more fun.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

1992 Destro

Over Christmas break in 1992, I had a job working in the deli of a local grocery store.  I worked every day but Sunday as the three and half weeks I had off were my only chance to replenish my bank account until summer vacation.  As a rule, I didn't spend any of my earnings as they were more valuable back at school.  However, one lunch hour, I decided to take a trip to Toys R Us.  I don't really know what prompted me to do so.  But, I decided that I was going to look at the G.I. Joe figures and, likely, buy a few.  At that point, I had purchased exactly three figures since 1987. (Hardball, Tiger Force Roadblock and the Night Viper.)  I was actively buying the comic, though, so I had a sense of some of the new characters.  But, it wasn't enough to really give me a plan of which figures I wanted to find.

When I got to Toys R Us, the holiday crush of shoppers was significant.  More impressive, though, was the wall of Joe figures that greeted me in the action figure aisle.  Joe was still a retail force in 1992 and there were more figures than I could review stocked on the shelves.  There were multiple years as well as tons of, often higher priced, sub sets.  I pulled down a few figures and looked at the cardbacks to see if there was anything that interested me.  A few figures stood out.  Some, like the Headhunter, I simply could not find.  Others, like General Flagg, were very interesting and warranted purchase.  There was a figure, though, that surprised me: a new version of Destro.  This figure was very much like the classic 1983 version I had grown up with.  But, he was more detailed, newer and included a weapon that seemed more imposing than his paltry pistol from the Eighties.  So, with Destro, General Flagg and Bulletproof in hand, I went to checkout and promptly was greeted by a friend with whom I had been in business with in high school.  He had owned a sports card store and I had rented large amounts of space from him to sell my wares.  The store had closed and he was now a cashier at TRU.  He laughed at my purchases.  But, in the end. those toys are now worth more than any of the sports cards I had at the time.  So, I guess it's OK.  But, it was another moment at the Toys R Us where I ran into someone I knew when trying to buy some collectible.

When I got home and opened the figures, Destro didn't disappoint.  He was the large, over-sized villain from the comic.  He seemed like a comic book exaggeration of the figure I had grown up with.  And, that was a good thing.  The massive collar, heavily exposed chest and huge necklace were like the original character on steroids.  The red and black base also hearkened back to the original.  In short, this figure didn't take too many chances and is easily recognizable as Destro to anyone who grew up with the original.  The main detriment is that the figure's chrome head is painted instead of vac-metallized like the 1983.  Hasbro would fix this mistake in 1997.  But, the duller head kind of works and gives the figure more personality since you can see his eyes instead of chrome where his eyes should be.  The figure features two shades of red on the body.  So, he has more paint applications than you'd think upon viewing him.  But, the 1992 series in general was starting to skimp on paint applications in a cost saving move.  And, there's not a ton going on with the figure's painted details.

Destro's gear isn't bad.  Ostensibly, he just includes a large pistol.  The weapon, though, was what heavily sold me on this figure.  Again, the pistol seemed like an upgrade to his original weapon which always seemed too small for the massive 1983 sculpt.  As with many vintage figures, I only associate this weapon with this 1992 Destro figure and can not use it with any other figure...which was a real problem in the early 2000's as Hasbro started including it with many of their repaints.  In addition to the pistol, Destro included a spring loaded disk launcher.  This could hold a few disks and shoot them at incoming Joes.  As spring loaded weapons go, it's not bad.  The table is reminiscent of Scrap Iron's weapon from 1984, though bulkier and sturdier.  The table reappeared in 1997, too and is a solid addition to the Destro character.  The 1983 Destro's backpack was one of the great pieces of gear from the early years of the line.  So, it was a bit disappointing for Hasbro to not attempt to update it in some way.  But, for 1992, this guy's gear isn't bad.

Destro was portrayed in the comic as a villain with scruples.  He had honor and would view his opponents through the lens of shared respect.  At the time, I viewed this as depth of Destro's character.  But, in more recent times, I see this as Destro's greatest flaw.  His respect for those of opposing ideologies was not born of strength, but of weakness.  Destro was weak willed in that he let his desire for money override his moral compass.  He could stomach evil customers if they had the cash to pay for Destro's wares.  In this, Destro was able to sleep at night since it was "just business".  But, the reality is that Destro was the worst kind of evil as he could justify any behavior in the pursuit of bigger weapons sales.  This has left me cold to the Destro character.  But, I do now see him as more of a threat to Cobra Commander as Destro is the type of person who has no loyalty and, really, no honor.  His motives are profit and that Destro's pursuit of it justifies any behavior or action on Destro's part.  And, that is, truly, the most dangerous man in the world.

Time has largely ruined this mold.  After the figure's appearance by Hasbro in 1992, it was then repackaged in Chinese packaging in 1994.  Large quantities of these figures remain available today.  In 1997, Hasbro wanted the V1 Destro mold for their Toys R Us exclusive 15th Anniversary products.  When that mold could not be procured, they went with a repaint of the 1992 figure.  This was OK.  The 1997 figure featured different colors and a chrome plated head.  However, in 2001, Hasbro released the 1992 mold again.  This time, though, the figure was almost identical to the 1992 figure.  In photos, the two figures are nearly indiscernible.  Hasbro could have released the mold in Iron Grenadier colors, or something completely different.  But, they took a fairly cheap and easy to find figure and replicated it in a pack with a new army builder.  As if that wasn't enough, in 2005, the mold was released again, but with a new head, in colors very similar to the 1992.  The result is that the same, basic, figure was released 3 times.  It's an overkill that has left this mold sullied beyond the point of salvation.

This Destro is cheap.  Mint and complete with filecard versions can still be found for $5-$7 each.  The mold is both plentiful and unpopular.  You can get carded versions in the $20 range and even find the Chinese carded versions for $15 or so.  Every iteration of the figure is cheap and easy to find.  So, there's no reason for a modern collector to not have the figure aside from sheer apathy.  You will note the broken thumb in the photos below.  I took these pics on a cold day in the desert and the plastic was brittle.  The thumb snapped off while taking the photos below.  One of these days, I'll need to replace this figure.  But, for now, I'm good as I have little use for this Destro any longer and he will remain a cheap acquisition for a good long time.

1992 Destro, 2018 Ghost Mortal, 1985 Snake Eyes, Black Major, Factory Custom, Bootleg

1992 Destro

Thursday, April 16, 2020

1985 Airtight - Around The Web

We all make choices.  Some are good.  Some are bad.  Some stay with you.  Others don't.  I had a choice in February of 1985 when I found brand new Joes at a local KB Toy Store.  I could buy a Flint.  Or, I could buy an Airtight.  Flint, I knew about from the cartoon.  Airtight, well, he was all new and looked awesome.  In the package, Flint's head was drooping.  I thought he was broken since I didn't know about the new head articulation.  So, I bought Airtight instead of Flint.  Now, Flint became my white whale after I realized that his head was meant to droop.  But, I never regretted my purchase of Airtight.  35 years later, I can remember him disembarking from my then new Whale to attack Cobras at the top of the stairs in my parents' house.  It's a great memory for a great figure.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

1985 Airtight Profile

1985 Airtight by scarrviper

1985 Airtight by strikeforce_codename

1985 Airtight by Nekoman

1985 Airtight by Slipstream80

1985 Airtight by thedustinmccoy

Airtight in Wonderland by djv

1985, Airtight, Flint, Bazooka, Heavy metal, 1993 Monster Blaster APC

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Funskool Stormshadow

When I started collecting G.I. Joe figure in the late 1990's, collectors generally stopped all conversations about figures with the 1987 series.  Most people were trying to complete an '82 through '87 collection and then moving on.  They had no interest in anything released after that year.  Some of the savvier collectors found gems in 1988 and 1989, though.  Hit and Run, the Night Viper and Shockwave were deemed acceptable to pre-'88 collectors.  Another figure who fit that profile of "later" run designs was the 1988 Stormshadow.  While collectors vastly preferred the 1984 version, they did accept that this new update was a solid rendition of Stormshadow.  And, his affiliation change reflected what was going on in the comics at the time.  Hasbro found that this mold was useful in other ways, too.  Like the 1984 figure, the 1988 Stormshadow mold was exported and saw release in Brazil and in India: where Funskool made their own version of the classic updated Stormshadow figure.

At it's core, the Funskool Stormshadow isn't that different from the American version.  (And, the Brazilian version is pretty much in line with both of the others, too.)  From a distance, they are the same.  Up close, you can see the slight color variants.  And, Funskool's sloppier and heavier paint makes for a more distinctive visage on the figure's face.  But, really, there's no reason to have a Funskool Stormshadow if you have the American figure.  They are, practically, the same.  In the days of $4 Funskool figures, the Indian version was useful due to it being so cheap and always being complete.  But, as that price disparity has dissipated, the need for the Funskool release is diminished to just something for bored collectors to find.

While I was mostly out of Joe collecting in 1988, my younger brothers still picked up figures from time to time.  Among them was the 1988 Stormshadow.  So, while the figure wasn't part of my childhood collection, I was familiar with him.  (At some point in late 1988, I spent a boring weekend at my aunt and uncle's in a small town in Ohio.  My brother had brought the 1988 Stormshadow and a custom figure that used mostly parts from the 1985 Snake Eyes.  I found them in the basement of their home and had a little adventure to just pass the time away.)  I thought the figure was amazing, though.  The claw was a weapon I'd have loved to have had in my childhood collection.  It was a new weapon that was worthy of Stormshadow.  The sculpted ropes on Stormshadow's chest were a fun little detail that hinted at this figure being more useful than the rest of his gear indicated. 

The overall sculpt of the figure, is a great upgrade over the original Stormshadow.  This 1988 mold is larger, bulkier and better fits with the post 1984 figures.  Stormshadow's head is exceptionally well done.  The wrap around face mask and hood appear as two pieces and give the head great depth.  In some way, the figure's only flaw is the rolled up sleeves.  But, this was intentionally done so that Hasbro could drop the famous Arashikage tattoo on the figure's arm.  This was a great nod to the comics and something that, in 1988, was an amazing cross over.  The tattoo reappears on the Funskool figure.  Though, there are tattoo variants and even figures missing them.  The rest of the body is pretty basic.  But, that works.  For a ninja, less is more. 

The 1988 Stormshadow's gear is excellently sculpted and designed.  And, the Funskool figure includes versions of the classic accessories.  Sadly, though, the issues that plague the American weapons was also carried over.  While Stormshadow includes an excellent claw and bow that are done in black, he also includes a backpack and sword that are red.  Red.  While they aren't as aesthetically terrible as they sound, these colors were an odd choice.  And, having it replicated around the world has left collectors without a better colored alternative.  For me, the claw is the high point of the figure and remains the piece of gear that I most associate with the mold.  The bow is excellently done and provided the main source of custom Zartan weapons during the first decade of online Joe collecting.

Hasbro was careful about the figures they exported.  Through the years, they kept tight control over how certain molds could be used.  Characters like Wild Bill could be released in bright orange because Hasbro didn't really care about maintaining a classic look for the figure.  But, figures like this Stormshadow saw little to no variation in their international releases because Hasbro wanted the character and this design to remain consistent across all variations of the G.I. Joe brand.  Many of the now desirable early Funskool color variants that were replaced by re-decos of figures that more closely mirrored the American release were changed due to Hasbro's preferences for some characters to not stray from their iconic looks in comics, cartoons and other advertising that was reused around the world.

The Joe collecting world seems to have forgotten that from 2001 through 2005, Funskool G.I. Joe figures were available from any toy seller who had an American Express card.  Pretty much every collector who was interested had access to Indian wholesalers who would sell you cases of figures for around $1.00 per figure.  (Funskool shipped figures in solid character cases of either 22 figures or 24 figures.)  Savvier dealers could get them for less.  And, the massive profits off of Funskool sales propped up many dealers through Hasbro's turmoil as they cancelled items like the Cobra Island Infiltrate set or simply didn't have stock to ship to smaller dealers as with the 2003 "army building" wave of figures.  Figures like Stormshadow, though, were extremely popular and sold with great frequency.  The reason why figures like Stormshadow remain cheap today while oddities like Grunt are extremely hard to find is because so many collectors bought them at the time and dealers imported larger quantities of Stormshadows, Night Vipers and Flint than they did the brightly colored oddballs like Skydiver.

The 1988 Stormshadow mold had the three vintage uses.  All of them, the U.S., Brazilian and Funskool produced figures have the same colors and the same gear.  Funskool produced this Stormshadow until 2003, when Hasbro recalled his mold.  Hasbro then started using it for JvC era repaints.  The first appeared in 2004 when a green and brown Stormshadow was released in the Ninja Strike set.  This figure tends to be of poor quality.  But, the colors are somewhat unique to the mold.  I don't really see this figure as Stormshadow.  But, the color palette has some merit.  Hasbro used the mold again in 2005.  This time, though, it was released as a Red Ninja in a comic pack alongside Snake Eyes and...Stormshadow.  With no camo pattern, this plainer, red release does kind of work as an army builder.  The wave of releases with this pack saw heavy clearance around the country, so many collectors were able to army build a few of them.  After that, the mold died.  There are Funskool variants of the figure that are all white.  And, a repaint like that could have been a cool homage to the original Stormshadow figure and given collectors a more useful repaint than the oddball green 2004 figure.

1988 Stormshadow figures were just starting to get expensive when the mass imports of Funskool G.I. Joe figures began.  The widespread availability of a figure that was nearly identical to the American figure for $4 destroyed the collector demand for the 1988 figure for many years.  As the Funskool figures dried up, though, 1988 Stormshadow prices started to rise.  In turn, the Funskool figures rose a bit, too.  But, not really like you would have expected.  While American Stormshadows will run $25 or more, carded Funskool figures can still be acquired for around $15.  As Funskool figures, in general, have gotten stupidly expensive in recent years, this is a good deal.  But, with what's going on in the world right now, luxuries like action figures are likely to be greatly affected.  But, $15 is pretty cheap for a classic mold in near vintage colors.  So, this Stormshadow remains one of the better Funskool buys you can make these days.

Funskool Stormshadow, 1988, 2005, Crimson Shadow Guard, Fred

1988, Funskool Stormshadow, India, Ghost Mortal, Snake Eyes, 1985, Black Major, Factory Custom, Bootleg

Thursday, April 9, 2020

1988 Tiger Force Recondo - Around the Web

At some point after I had quit collecting Joes but had yet to become a collector, a Tiger Force Recondo figure entered into our household.  The figure was in excellent condition and complete.  It gave me a cool update of a figure from my childhood.  Even today, this is a solid update to Recondo and gives him a different look from the classic khakis of the original release.  Here's the best of the Tiger Force Recondo from around the web.

Tiger Force Recondo Profile

Tiger Force Recondo Redux

Tiger Force Recondo by thedustinmccoy

Tiger Force Recondo by badgerscratch

Tiger Force Recondo by Joe Dirte

Tiger Force Recondo by backyardjoes

Tiger Force Recondo by jdoublebigape

Tiger Force Recondo by wigramjoe

Tiger Force Recondo by yorktownjoe

Tiger Force Recondo by mrmikevinthepit

Tiger Force Recondo by actionfigurefotos

Tiger Force Recondo by thedustinmccoy

1988 Tiger Force Recondo, Tiger Fly, Dragonfly, Hardball, 1982 VAMP

1988 Tiger Force Recondo, Tiger Fly, Dragonfly, Hardball, 1982 VAMP, Red Laser Army Sky Patrol Steel Brigade

1988 Tiger Force Recondo, Tiger Fly, Dragonfly, Hardball, 1982 VAMP, Red Laser Army Sky Patrol Steel Brigade, Dial Tone, Thunder, 1986, 1984

1988 Tiger Force Recondo, Tiger Fly, Dragonfly, Hardball, 1982 VAMP, Red Laser Army Sky Patrol Steel Brigade, Dial Tone, Thunder, 1986, 1984, 1997 Stalker, 2001 Tripwire, ARAHC

1988 Tiger Force Recondo, Tiger Fly, Dragonfly, Hardball, 1982 VAMP, Red Laser Army Sky Patrol Steel Brigade, Dial Tone, Thunder, 1986, 1984, 1997 Stalker, 2001 Tripwire, ARAHC, Roadblock, Lightfloot, Imp

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

2002 Crimson Viper - Convention Exclusive

2002 was a banner year for the G.I. Joe brand.  While the A Real American Hero line had fizzled out at retail in 2001, it was also a harbinger of greatness to come.  2002 brought a new style of G.I. Joe figure to the market that was better competition to other toy lines of the age.  Hasbro didn't forsake collectors, though.  2002 also introduced the first wave of toys released by a major manufacturer only to online vendors.  The year saw the return of vehicles to toy shelves.  And, there were some special collector themed sets and variants as well.  The biggest surprise of 2002, though, was the release of an exclusive set of figures for the 2002 G.I. Joe convention.  The set came out of the blue and blindsided many collectors.  When the set's contents were revealed, it was a wet dream for the collecting community of the time.  Tomax, Xamot, the Baroness and a full dozen Cobra Vipers painted in a crimson color scheme was about the most amazing item Hasbro could have sold.

I've spent lots of time talking about how army builder crazed collectors of 2001-2005 were.  I can't understate how the notion of army building dominated the hobby.  Pretty much everything else wasn't secondary, it was far down the list.  Collectors seriously talked about how waves should be army builders only.  The derided any Joe figure, no matter how well done and wondered why Vipers, Cobra Troopers and BATs weren't released in every single wave.  So, seeing a set with a full 12 army builders was something collectors never considered that Hasbro would release.  The fact that the figures were collector favorite Viper molds painted in an theretofore unseen and collector favorite crimson color just made them even more desirable.

Of course, this desire also lead to anxiety about pricing.  Many collectors of the time were freaked out at their initial ideas that the figures might cost as much as $5 or $6 each, bring a set total to a range of $75 to $90.  This price seemed exorbitant.  And, many collectors balked at the thought of having to spend nearly $100 at one time to get some army builders.  But, then, the real pricing came out.  The first set was $210: $14 per figure!!!  This would buy you four figures at retail at the time.  And, you could buy pretty much any army builder other than an '86 Viper, original BAT, 83 Cobra Trooper or '83 Cobra Officer for less than that.  There was a kicker, though.  If you bought a boxed set, you could get another bagged set for $90.  This was only $6 for an additional figure (which tells you how much profit was built into the boxed set...), but the total package was 30 figures for $300, or $10 per figure.  This was an amount that collectors nearly revolted over.  Even die hard army builders threw up their hands at the pricing and resigned themselves to never owning the set.

But, upon the set's release, many songs changed.  The figures were cool.  The characters could be sold to recoup nearly the full cost of the bagged set and Hasbro never released a retail Viper with either the color scheme or the upgraded paint masks again.  Army builders relented as they simply couldn't let a modern release elude them and quickly absorbed the leftover sets after the convention.  In short order, real Crimson Vipers climbed in value, even surpassing the 1986 original figure.  Before wave after wave of "secret" Fuchsia Vipers came into the market, the desire for real Crimson figures intensified.  By late 2003, it wasn't unheard of for Crimson Vipers to fetch $40 per figure...making it one of the most expensive figures in the line.

As for the figure itself, the Crimson Viper is great for what it is.  The figure uses the exact same parts combination and paint masks from the 1998 Cobra Troopers/Officers.  The '98 paint masks were excellent.  (Hasbro didn't start skimping on the masks until 2001.)  These figures, though, got the added benefit of a Cobra logo.  They also included the original Viper backpack (missing since 1989) and got a better rifle, Red Star's AK-47.  The package is a well built figure that looks amazing and has the quality to stand with even vintage Joes.  (There are some issues with the head/chest combo, though, that leads to odd head positioning.  But, that's afflicted every Viper since 1997.)

There's another fun little story with this figure.  Originally, the A Real American Hero collection was to have five waves of figures in 2001 and early 2002.  However, the spectacular failure of Wave II at retail changed those plans (Big Ben and Whiteout forever doomed another arctic themed set.) and the failure of Wave IV cemented them.  While we did get a fifth wave as an Internet exclusive, that release was pared down.  However, early solicitation lists from Hasbro did leak out.  Among the figures listed as a release was a Crimson Viper.  Of course, collectors focused on that name and anticipated his release.  But, as the line started to fail and Hasbro's approach changed, the figure fell out production.  It is likely, however, that the convention figure started out, conceptually, as a retail figure with the other parts later added in.

A certain fan website, though, began to mock the lists of unreleased figure names.  In a move of consistent dickery that continues to this day, these "fans" gloated that the figure would never be released and then offered 1000 (or some such ridiculous number) to everyone if they happened.  Then, when the figure showed up in the convention set, this contentious group played semantics (you'll notice the beginning of several patterns, here...) saying that they didn't have to pay up since the names weren't exact and the convention figures weren't "released to retail" or some such nonsense.  Those of us who called this out were shouted down and ignored as collectors allowed themselves to be degraded as long as they got a couple of army builders.  But, I don't forget because I'm a bitter old collector who firmly believes that had this crap not been allowed, we'd have gotten a lot more good stuff in the repaint era instead of so much garbage that Hasbro foisted upon us.

So, a few things happened with this set.  At first, the convention sets didn't sell out.  After the convention, Master Collector still had sets available.  However, right after the convention, a set sold on Ebay for double the price from Master Collector.  Within days, the remaining sets sold out.  By the end of 2003, Crimson Vipers were $40 figures.  It looked like they might become the most expensive army builder out there.  But, Master Collector also lied about the numbers of Fuchsia Vipers that were made.  And, tons of secret Fuchsia sets were quietly sold to dealers who could then dump them into the community.  With Fuchsia Vipers available for $12-$15 each, collectors lost interest in the Crimson sets.  Why buy 4 figures for $120 when that same money would get you 10 figures that were, basically, indiscernible in dios and displays at the time?  Prices of Crimson Vipers plummeted and were below $20 until the price spike that started in early 2018 set in.

Even now, though, Crimson Vipers aren't as expensive as many other convention figures.  Most of the sets that collectors bought to display or hold have been broken up as collectors have begun to maximize space.  Rows of 20-50 of the same figure seem passe, now.  But, the general increase in Joe prices has lead to dealers getting $50 for Crimson Vipers with open market figures selling between $30 and $40.  That's a lot for a mold that was so frequently used between 1997 and 2006.  But, the Crimson Viper is the equal of the 1998 Cobra Trooper in every way and is an excellent paint scheme that everyone should have.  The need to build an army of two dozen of them is a relic of their release era.  But, a small squad both makes sense and works within the confines of Cobra.

2002 Crimson Viper - Convention Exclusive, Sears Dreadnok Stinger, 1986, Letal, Commandos Em Acao, Bronze Bomber, Scorch, Motor Viper, Olmec Toys, Green Frag Viper

2002 Crimson Viper - Convention Exclusive

Thursday, April 2, 2020

1994 Snow Storm - Around The Web

As the Joe line petered out, I scoured retail to find the last bastions of figures and vehicles that I could.  At some point, I acquired a 1993 Snow Storm figure.  I didn't pay him much mind...until I got a Blockbuster tank.  This arctic vehicle required two men in the cockpit.  So, I went to a Meijer store where I had seen a Snow Storm and bought another one.  Since I hadn't really cared about my original, I was pleasantly surprised to find the newly purchased one was a different version.  And, with that the 1994 Snow Storm entered my collection.  Since that day nearly 25 years ago, Snow Storm hasn't done much other than helm the Blockbuster.  But, the 1994 repaint is decently colored and works well enough.  Here's the best of him from around the web.

1994 Snow Storm Profile

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

How Are You Doing?

So, the world's a bit of a different place than it was just a couple of weeks ago. It's weird to see both how quickly everything changed and also the degree to which society was affected.  Those who are fortunate enough to have not lost their employment find themselves at home.  Store shelves are far barer than anyone who doesn't live in the path of hurricanes has ever seen.  Those of us with kids find them home, too, and having to now fill the role of both parent and teacher.  I know that my professional life has intensified, too, with more demands as a business tries to alter its course to survive the current landscape.  In short, it's a time of immense stress for pretty much everyone.

Personally, I try to manage my stress through my hobby.  I'm successful in this at times.  And, fail miserably in others.  Looking around online, I'm seeing a few different themes emerge.  Guys who are home now are spending some time with their collections.  Collectors are digging through forgotten bins and breaking out old favorites for photos or playing with their kids.  I'm also seeing, though, that my web traffic is way down.  Yet, my engagement on some other media sites is way up.  This is a sign that people are venturing into the unexplored corners of their walled gardens.  But, not yet leaving them for a real adventure.

As for Joes, you're seeing people who have been laid off starting to sell their collections.  Anyone who was around in 2008 through 2010 knows how quickly Joes turn worthless in a rough economic time.  Savvy collectors are starting to sell down their high value duplicates before the market tanks.  I've seen more Gold Head Steel Brigades for sale in the past week than I have the past year.  But, the prices are still artificially high.  We'll see how that plays out in two or three months.  But, history isn't a rosy guide in this arena.

More importantly, though, how are all of you doing?  Where are you finding respite in trying times?  I never thought I'd see the day where getting a pack of toilet paper was a good day or that I'd get excited finding a standalone freezer at Home Depot.  But, here we are.  The collecting community has weathered tough storms before.  It will shrink and there will be many, many sad stories of collectors who are forced out and will, likely, never return.  I don't wish that upon anyone and hope that all of you who stop by are doing well.

As for me, I'm doing fine.  Life is stressful and that will take a toll.  I have several months of content mostly done and will keep going.  I'm not finding much time for new items.  I'm only taking one or two new photos per month.  But, I also expect that will change in the summer since there's far less to do during that time of year.  For now, I'll continue on as I have...if only for my own sanity.  So, stay safe and stay well.