Tuesday, September 1, 2020

2006 Viper - Viper Pit

Army building is heavily a phenomenon of adult collecting.  It spawns from the fantasies that we all had as kids of owning as many toys as you could possibly want.  Truthfully, army building something to great degrees is probably extremely unhealthy, obsessive behavior.  But, in collecting circles, it's not looked upon as that.  Instead, it is celebrated.  It is a cause of jealousy.  And, in the early 2000's, it was the fastest way "in" to be considered a "serious collector".  Back then, though, it was all about army building at retail.  In the end, all it proved was that you were good at shopping.  Despite collectors clamoring to buy up every retail army builder they saw during that time, Hasbro was able to sate demand.  Every few months, new army builders would appear.  Rarely were they perfect.  And, most times, they were downright flawed.  As the swan song of the Joe line, though, Hasbro dropped one final army building set on the collecting world.  At first glance, it was perfect: six classic Vipers done up in classic colors.  There was no way it wouldn't be a hit.  And, a hit it was.  So much so, that Hasbro did a second production run to get them into collector hands.  But, in the 14+ years since this set debuted, the flaws that were apparent upon its release have only become more pronounced.

If you were a fan of this set, or if you weren't a fan of this set, it was maddening.  If you loved 6 of, essentially, the same figure in colors like very common (and falling in price) original Joes, this set was frustrating because Hasbro only ever delivered two army building sets in that vein.  The rest featured characters, odd mold choices or bizarre colors.  If you didn't like this set and wished they had gone with a variety of Viper colors as the line's final send off, well, you knew that your desires would never be fulfilled.  Either way, though, collectors bought the set up.  Knowing it was the final release in the line helped to drive demand.  But, the fact that the 6 Vipers in the set were excellent stand ins for the original figure (and, in some ways superior) only helped the set's popularity.

But, with heavy purchase volume came issues.  The corners that Hasbro was cutting in terms of design and materials came to roost on this set.  The o-rings were bad.  The joints were stiff.  And, worst of all, the crotch piece was not properly designed with the upper legs and many collectors simply sheared away the little piece of plastic just by trying to sit the figure in a vehicle.  The drooping heads that were a hallmark of all Vipers released from 1997 and on were even more pronounced on these figures.  All of these issues combined to make the figures not only awkward to pose, but a downright liability to move around for fear of breakage.  All these years later, this set's poor quality continues to be it's hallmark and comments sections are filled with criticism of these figures for their brittle nature.

The actual set, though, did look good.  It included one gold face plated Viper and 5 silver faced Vipers: the subject of this profile.  The paint masks on the set were convention set level quality.  This figure features two-toned gloves, a very finely detailed Cobra logo, silver buckles on his chest and metallic grenades.  He features substantially more paint applications than the 1986 Viper.  And, even more than the retail Vipers that Hasbro had been pumping out since 2002.  From a pure aesthetic point of view, this was one of the best Vipers ever produced.

As this was the final Joe product to be released before the anniversary debacle, I bought this set heavily.  I figured I'd never regret getting cheap Vipers.  And, back then, I still had delusions of a massive collection display that would include a magnificent Cobra rally.  But, even if that didn't come to fruition, having a large quantity of Vipers available for photos, dios and just general purpose was enticing.  And, in the package, the set didn't disappoint.  But, once opened, the quality issues that others found also limited my use of these figures.  To this day, the figure rarely appears in any photos because the figures are so difficult to pose.  

Personally, I enjoyed the Viper Pit's weapons.  The Ambush rifle in grey is decent enough.  The fact that I had used the version of it from the 1994 Flint with my 1994 Vipers also gave it a nostalgic bent for me.  The little pistols were nice add ons.  The 1992 Gung Ho backpacks are fine.  The big win, though, was the inclusion of the machine guns.  This sculpt was from a JvC era figure.  But, it worked well enough with the ARAH figure scale.  And, it looks great with the Viper.  I've always liked Vipers or Troopers to be self sufficient.  So, Troopers having heavy machine guns, mortars or bazookas was fine by me.  The Viper including this machine gun works in the same vein.  It allows the Vipers to have heavier fire support and makes them a more formidable force.  To me, this was the only value in the Viper Pit set.  I was able to get some cheap Vipers that had different weapons to use.

Beyond that, though, this set's value is limited.  If you want to stand them all up in a row on a shelf, this set looks really nice.  The excellent paint masks and solid gear make for a visual treat and one of the better looking figures from the repaint era.  But, that's the extent of their use.  Once you want to use them in photos, dios or displays, the severe limitations of the poor quality become way to apparent.  You can't really pose the figures and any sudden movement may leave you with a snapped crotch.  Over the years, I've tried to get them into more photos.  But, the stiff legs hinder even cautious movement and I've had more than a dozen of the o-rings snap just in proper storage.  So, the figure's visual appeal is more than offset by the quality issues and that has left these figures with a legacy that is far below what a cursory visual inspection would imply.

One fun fact about this Viper Pit set is that it included one filecard for all 6 figures.  We do not know the production runs on this set.  At the time, Toys R Us ordered around 20,000 Cobra sets when they sold vintage Joe 6 packs.  But, they also only ordered around 16,000 Joe themed sets of the same product.  It's likely that the first Viper Pit production run was in that ballpark.  The initial production run sold out at most online dealers relatively quickly.  Hasbro then produced a second, distinct run of the figures to help sate demand.  And, sate it, that extra run did.  The second production run lingered at retail and quickly stagnated as collectors had moved on and the anniversary collectors who were starting to come online didn't care about vintage style Joes.  As late as 2013, you could still buy packaged sets at dealers for original retail cost.  The filecard and production numbers are related, though, in that there is, at best, one filecard per every 6 figures that Hasbro released.  This means the filecard is, likely, one of the rarest filecards per figure in the line's history.  It's not a great filecard.  But, the fact that only 1 in 6 figures at max could possibly have the filecard, it's worth noting and holding onto any filecards you may have.

My final take on these figures is that, for the right price, they are good stand ins for the classic Viper.  But, that's about it.  Among the late Viper repaints that Hasbro created after 1994, this version falls in the middle.  The paint masks make it more interesting than most of the retail Vipers of the 2000's.  But, the 1998 Cobra Trooper and Officer and the 2002 Crimson Viper match the paint masks and have the added benefit of bringing something relatively new to the mold in terms of coloring.  So, that also means this figure is something skipable.  I'd rather have a ton of other figures than these Vipers.  But, the realities of retail in the 2000's made it possible to acquire a large amount of these figures.  And, the economic realities of the early 2010's when I went to sell off a large part of my collection meant that these figures were worth less than retail and weren't worth selling at that time.  So, even today, I have a massive bin full of these Vipers...that I never use.  Every now and then, I'll check on them to find a few more have snapped their o-rings.  But, that's about the extent of their value.  In today's market, it might be worth exploring their trade potential.  But, again, that's about all the purpose I can find for them.

Viper Pit Vipers are oddly priced.  Loose, mint and complete figures sell in the $12-$15 range.  (Dealers sell a farcical amount at $20, too!)  But, you can get an entire set of 6 loose figures for around $40 with a little patience.  That's a far better deal.  Dealers tend to sell loose and complete sets for about the same price as carded sets.  But, even carded sets top out around $60 in the open market.  That's quite a jump from where these figures were just 5 or 6 years ago.  But, it's also not nearly the leap we've seen with some of the other 6 figure sets that were produced in the same time frame.  But, collectors bought all of the Viper Pits and the later production run put way too many into the marketplace.  14 years after the set's release, this means that people can now get the figures for not too great a markup.  But, the relatively poor design choices have left this Viper as a poor substitute for the original and the demand for this figure reflects that.

2006 Viper, Viper Pit, DTC, TRU Exclusive, GHSB, Steel Brigade, Black Major, Gold Head Steel Brigade

2006 Viper, Viper Pit, DTC, TRU Exclusive


2006, Viper, Viper Pit, Cobra Viper, DTC Exclusive, TRU





4 comments:

  1. Back in '05 and '06, I wasn't paying really good attention to GI Joe. The lack of media presence and overall theme of the Valor vs Venom toys dissuaded me from the line. However, on a few separate trips to TRU, I remember seeing the Infantry Division, Imperial Procession set, and later this one. It was really frustrating to me to discover these at the time, because I didn't have the money to get them, but I would've been buying at least a few sets if they had seen a wider release.

    That isn't to say a wider release would've made these perform better at retail, or have saved Joe in the long run, but it's something I always think about when I see these sets. In hindsight, they aren't very good, though for a part of me, they always come to mind as toys I wanted, but didn't know about until it was too late.

    Sanding a few millimeters off the crotches seemed to improve the usefulness and longevity of mine by a lot. It's a real shame the quality is so bad on these, as were it not for that, they'd probably be the best Vipers ever made.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've seen loose Viper Pit vipers on ebay with busted crotch strips. Maybe someday a factory customizer will make replacements. They'll never get the blue to match, though.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I was ready to get 8 of these packs and then after the first two I got, assuming they'd be at least as good as the previous 2 pack Vipers, I was crest fallen. They look good but waist and legs stiff and fragile. One of the biggest let downs of 4" GI JOE.

    ReplyDelete
  4. These are extremelly brittle, almost GPS brittle. I had a set, and pretty much ALL of the figures got destroyed just by posing them. I thought this was a viable option to the original Viper, but it's cheaper in the long run to hunt down original Vipers than get this set.

    ReplyDelete