Saturday, July 31, 2021
Tuesday, July 27, 2021
Twenty years ago this month, the Funskool Crimson Guard figure debuted. At the time, the Joe collecting community was large, vibrant and extremely army builder focused. This created a perfect storm of collector desire matching up with a potential release. Once the figure appeared at stores, it quickly sold out, despite dealers of the day over-ordering in anticipation of unprecedented demand. Large armies appeared in various collecting forums and the figure appeared to have made an inroads in ways that no Funskool army builder save the Night Viper had done. Time, though, has left this Funskool release a forgotten relic of the army building era. Gone are the days of cheap access to this figure. And, newer collectors see little need for a figure that is inferior to the American version while still costing about the same as one.
In 2001, the Joe world was on fire. Collecting forums sprouted up frequently. And, many were able to grow quite large. Aside from the larger retail presence Joe started seeing in early 2001, there was also a new comic book. This fueled the fire, especially as the comic publisher opened a forum that quickly became the most visited Joe community online. In those early days, collectors were relatively collaborative and tended to all be in the same place. Most of us were relatively new to collecting and had a shared childhood duration that was heavily focused between 1982 and 1987. The community always had things to discuss since every Joe topic had yet to be beaten to death. And, more importantly, there was constant news being released about Joe: be it new Hasbro toys or some new comic. This Crimson Guard Immortal figure, though, was the first new Funskool figure announcement. When YoJoe.com started selling Funskool figures in February of 2001, every offering seemed new. When SmallJoes.com came online a few months later, there was one new figure, the 1991 General Hawk, but photos of him surfaced during the website preview and his discovery was malaise rather than anticipation. The Crimson Guard Immortal, though, was announced to the collecting world before he would appear for sale anywhere. Images followed the announcement. Then, the figure appeared.
Upon the CGI's release, he followed a pattern that would appear on highly popular Funskool figures of the day. He'd initially sell out almost instantly. Then, when more stock arrived, he'd last a few days. After that, the figure was a solid seller, but rarely sold out. Collectors who had anticipated triple digit CGI's in their collection found themselves not fulfilling that boast. First, the figure itself has some limitations. Orange and yellow gear combined with the golden head and spotty 2001 era quality on the initial figures all helped to temper some collector demand. But, the bigger factor was that right around the time of this guy's release, Hasbro also released the Laser Viper and Fast Blast Viper. It was followed with the less popular Shadow Viper before Hasbro announced the sculpting change for G.I. Joe figures that debuted in 2002. In short, the CGI quickly became old news in an era when Joe updates were fast and furious. In time, you saw more and more collectors saying they "should" get some more CGI's. But, since the figure was always available, there was no hurry. By the time Hasbro's heavy army building releases relented in 2005, Joe interest faded away with them. And, despite having been out of production for a few years, CGI's were still available at retail prices at Joe dealers all over the internet.
In some ways, this was a sad fate for this figure. The Funskool CGI is pretty solid and a nice replacement for the harder to find and rather brittle Hasbro CGI. Even the off color accessories aren't really that bad since you can limit the figure to his silver launchers and they match his silver accents quite well. In the days of cheap army building, there were only 4 or 5 options that surpassed the Funskool CGI that had any kind of legs. And, as this figure was many collectors first exposure to the CGI mold, it had the added value of expanding some people's vision of the Joe line past figures that were made prior to 1988. The comeback for this figure is that he remains relatively cheap and easy to find, even while all the other 2001-2004 new Funskool releases have gotten hard to find and even rather expensive.
In general, the Funskool CGI is pretty similar to the Hasbro figure. The red is a deeper maroon color and is not a match for the crimson red of the 1991 figure. The Indian version also has much more silver paint used to accentuate the mold's highlights. The biggest visual difference is the golden paint on the figure's head. There's no real reason for this paint application to exist. And, the gold paint isn't as great a match for the figure as the silver. And, a silver head would have probably worked better for this figure's overall appearance. But, in general, the Crimson Guard Immortal is a pretty solid design that fits with other 2000's era army builders.
The Crimson Guard Immortal has a short history. The original figure was released in the U.S. in 1991. From there, the figure was released in Europe, too. Some European examples, though, have a 1990 Rock Viper head instead of the head originally intended for this mold. This is a rare figure. And, large numbers of fakes were produced in Asia around 2010-2012. They were bagged and still float around, passed as originals, with alarming regularity. The CGI's gear was also recolored and released with a 1991 General Hawk in Europe, too. It's possible that the Rock Viper head CGI's are a function of the fact that the CGI head appears on the 1993 Create a Cobra mail away figure, too. The mold was meant to go to Brazil. Estrela cardbacks feature a figure named Flagelo, using the CGI mold. But, this figure was never actually produced. (An American CGI is incorrectly listed as Flagelo in some early international Joe guides.) Funskool then got the mold that went into production in 2001. Funskool CGI's can have gold painted bullets on their left leg, silver painted bullets or unpainted (black) bullets. The silver and black are the harder variations to find. Funskool dropped a final production run of CGI's in April of 2003, right before they returned the mold to Hasbro. Most of these were bagged, but are the highest quality CGI's that Funskool made.
In 2003, Hasbro quickly got the mold into production and released it as the driver of the KB Toys exclusive CAT Tank. This blue version was different. But, wasn't overly popular with collectors of the day. In 2005, the body mold was used for the convention exclusive Destro. It's an odd look for Destro. And, again, didn't make for a really popular figure. The mold then disappeared...never seeing use either the Crimson Guard set from 2004 or the Crimson Shadow Guard from 2005. Hasbro getting the mold back seemed like wasted opportunity...especially since it removed the Funskool CGI's from production. But, the ubiquity of the Funskool figures has helped soften that blow.
The Crimson Guard Immortal mold has a lot of life left in it. A Cobra blue repaint seems a no-brainer. But, a black and silver paint job to match the Shadow Guards would also be a hit. Alas, these are never to come from Hasbro. In the late 2010's, though, a factory custom maker floated the idea of CGI repaints. Spec sheets appeared that showed the CGI in a variety of colors. Among the excellent blends of classic Cobra colors were also some oddball items with the CGI painted up as Boba Fett and Darth Vader. I'm not sure of the board appeal of something like that. But, I'd have probably bought at least one Boba Fett CGI for the curiosity of it all. As of 2021, though, these figures have yet to materialize. They may be pipe dreams at this point. But, they do show that the mold still garners some collector interest and many realize the untapped potential of the design.
So, in an odd bit of irony, the huge popularity of the Funskool Crimson Guard Immortal has made him one of the cheapest Funskool figures to acquire in the 2020's. Today, you can get MOC figures for around $20. Loose figures are harder to come by and tend to sell for similar prices. But, since dealers imported massive amounts of Crimson Guard Immortals in the early 2000's, there's lots of them available today. Now, figures that were ignored by collectors of the early 2000's have gotten hard to find and, in some cases, stupidly expensive. The Crimson Guard Immortal, though, remains relatively affordable. We're two decades removed from the days of buying all of them you wanted for $4 each. But, because so many collectors did, there's lots of them out there. And, the collector demand got lots of toy dealers to also buy up overstock as Funskool liquidated the last of their Joes in the mid 2000's. So, now, we have a figure that's much more common than other figures who were ignored in the Funskool heyday.
That's good since these CGI's are still attainable for a new collector. But, at collector prices, the usefulness and desire to army build these guys fades away. You don't see too many Funskool CGI's in photos these days. There are just better options available and few collectors who came of age in the post Funskool collecting landscape ever paid the figures attention as an army building option. I still love this figure, though. He reminds of a great time in the Joe collecting world. He also reminds me of the silliness that pervaded that era, too. I stick around because figures remind me not only of childhood but also of collecting related events that were relevant to young adulthood, too. It's weird to realize that this figure was released and I first reviewed it prior to 9/11. But, that just shows how much of an impact Joe continues to have on my life.
Saturday, July 24, 2021
Rock and Roll is one of the few original 13 figures to feature unique parts. His bullet strapped chest was an amazing look and has made him a fan favorite after all these years. He remains one of my most used early figures as he holds up with later releases without some of the baggage that other early figures feature. Of course, he's popular. And, I only scratched the surface of the Rock and Roll content out there.
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
The 1995 Ninja Commandos were right behind the Manimals in terms of almost making it to production. While packaged and loose samples of the Manimals exist, only loose samples of the Ninja Commandos are out there. But, they are full production versions and even feature accessory trees. Originally, the set was to be 6 figures. But, it was reduced to 5. The biggest name in the set was Storm Shadow. This new version isn't a terrible look for Storm Shadow. And, had I come across this hanging on a peg in 1995, I'd have probably bought him, even while I left other Ninja Force figures behind. The colors are subtle. And, the figure kind of looks like Storm Shadow. The more muted appearance would have been attractive to me as a neophyte collector.
Did you know that there was also going to be a variant Storm Shadow released in the Ninja Commando line? There is a second set of color masters that show some significant variants were planned for Ninja Commando figures. Storm Shadow was one them. The variant figure featured bright orange grenades and an orange cloth on his right leg. The shoulder pauldron is grey and the figure's mask is all white. It's actually a better Storm Shadow and would have matched nicely with T'Gin Zu. Alas, neither figure made it to production.
After ignoring these figures for a long time, I've become fascinated by the Ninja Commandos in recent years. Their designs are not bad. And, they would have been a nice supplement to the sparse Battle Corps Rangers releases that would have also graced the shelves in 1995. While I would have likely skipped Road Pig and even the Flint, this Storm Shadow would have been a good enough match for other figures that he would have called my collection home. For years, rumours speculated that an entire production run of Ninja Commands were produced and were rotting in a warehouse. After 25+ years, these figures aren't going to magically appear and the rumour was likely just wishful thinking by collectors of the day.
But, as a fun aside, in the early 2000's, a collector visited Hasbro. There, the Hasbro team had a bin of loose figures that they used to kitbash and paint up to developed repaints for the JvC and Toys R Us line. In this bin were loose Ninja Commandos. The Hasbro team had no idea they were rare, unproduced figures. Sadly, though, we never got this figure at retail. And, the dreams of one day owning a set of Ninja Commandos are now reserved for high dollar collectors who will treat them as museum pieces instead of the toys they were meant to be.
Saturday, July 17, 2021
If you were around back at the time of the Black Dragon Ninja figure's release, you remember that he appeared quite frequently. Everyone was happy to show off their new figures. But, in the years since, the Toys R Us 6 figure packs have kind of dried up. Many new collectors don't have them. And, the limitations of many of the figures have played out over the past 17 years. (Yes, it's been that long.) It's fun to find old write ups of figures like this. When taken through the eyes of a new release, you see a different perspective than you do now that this figure is older than the vintage Joes were when he debuted. There's not a ton of content on the Black Dragon Ninja out there. But, of the TRU figures, this one has held up pretty well. While Black Major has given us nice Stormshadow repaints, the Black Dragon Ninja color scheme hasn't really been explored. Here's the best of his content from around the web.
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
At first, collectors were ecstatic about the Night Watch. Cheap Cobra army builders were rarely scoffed at. But, once in hand, the oddity of the release hit home. The Night Watch figures didn't really fit anywhere. Sure, they were supposed to be Cobra's night guardsmen. But, their color scheme didn't fit with Night Vipers. Nor did it really match up with the Stinger or it's driver. They were an island unto themselves. And, this quickly took a bite out of their popularity. Slowly, the sets began to stagnate. And, when Hasbro finally sold all of their non-moving online stock to Toys R Us, there was a large supply of Night Watch sets that were included in the sale. A year after the set's online release, you could find plenty of Night Watch sets hanging at Toys R Us stores around the country.
With time, though, comes perspective. And, this set was both over-hyped and then overly derided within its release window. Now, though, you can see the figures in the set for something new. The Night Watch doesn't fit the traditional definition of Cobra Trooper colors. But, the bluish-grey with camo pants does add some design flair to a normally staid look. The grey pads on the chest straps bring out the detail on that feature that had been lost to a sea of black on other releases. The multiple skin tones allowed for more diverse army building. Though, Hasbro did do away with the differing eye and eyebrow colors for the caucasian members of the 2004 Infantry set.
The Night Watch Trooper's accessories are OK. The Toys R Us six packs had devolved into a just including massive amounts of non-sensical gear for the figures. The Night Watch brought back a bit of order to the weapons...even if it meant a decrease in quantity. Each of the four Troopers includes the same black stand, black knife and black rifle. Both the rifle and knife are JvC era designs. But, they actually work with the older figure molds. The knife is menacing. It looks good and it's always nice to have extra bladed weapons lying around. The rifle is also OK. It's a rifle/grenade launcher combo that debuted a few years earlier. It's compact for what it is. The handle is a bit blocky, though, and would snap vintage thumbs. The softer, more pliable plastic used in the 2000's releases, though, allows the Night Watch Trooper to hold it with no fear of breaking. In fact, the greater issue is that the weapon stretches out the figure's hand so much that you have to push it back into place before he can hold the weapon again.
This figure uses the same parts as the 2004 Comic Pack Cobra Trooper. Supposedly, the change from the 2004 Toys R Us Infantry figure mold was due to Hasbro finding the original Officer and Trooper parts in a different factory. The sad part is both the waist and arms are from the 1984 Roadblock. I don't really mind the waist. It does look a bit out of place. But, it doesn't bother me to the extent that it does others. The arms, though, are a different story. Roadblock's arms were meant to be bare. So, with painted sleeves, they look skinny. I thought that Thunder's arms on the 2004 Troopers worked well. But, these Roadblock arms are the weakest point of the Night Watch figures. The original Cobra Trooper arms were iconic in that they included the piano wire that really gave you an idea of how bad they were. Losing that detail (and all details) on the Night Watch figure made them appear more plain.
In looking back at the Direct To Consumer strategy, Hasbro was really ahead of their time. In 2021, a series of collector themed toys sold via online dealers who cater to that constituency should be viable. More than a few companies make it work. But, in 2005, it was downright innovative. We do have to account for the fact that that toys had already been designed and molds created. So, Hasbro had a lot of sunk cost into their creation. So, the proposition was less risky for them than it otherwise would have been. The fact that DTC failed is both a function of the timing (2005 was a LONG time ago!) and the size of the Joe collecting world. Joe collectors like to believe we exist in great numbers. But, we don't. And, we never have. People point to large populations on various social media forms as proof of a large size. But, those groups are mostly people who joined to ask a question (usually about value) and then never come back. There's a few dozen to a few hundred really active people out there with an overall collecting community that's, maybe, 10% of the size of the Star Wars community. In short, there aren't enough of us to sustain a line. Even in 2021, that's true. The Joe toys we see are geared towards people who collect scale: almost exclusively at retail. If they flock to Joe, we'll get more of that product. But, there aren't enough of us 3 3/4" collectors left to really support a toy line. And, that's now been true for 15 years.
Like all of the 2000's era ARAH releases, the Night Watch sets have kind of dried up. You can get boxed sets in the $80-$90 range. And, dealers tend to sell a lot of loose, complete sets for similar amounts. This appears to be a deal, though, since dealers will get up to $20 per figure for the individuals with many still reaching $16 on the open market. It's a far cry from the days of these being $3 or $4 figures. And, at current pricing, it's hard to justify these figures. Most of the factory custom paint jobs of the Cobra Trooper are better. And, they are around the same price. The Night Watch is something different. But, it lacks a true identity and it doesn't really mesh well with any existing Cobra units or vehicles. If you can get them cheap, the bizarreness of their release is worthwhile. But, at current pricing, there are a lot of better options out there for classic Cobra Troopers.
Saturday, July 10, 2021
1989 Dogfight Profile
1989 Dogfight by thedustinmccoy
Tuesday, July 6, 2021
Dealers will ask $100 or more for a mint and complete Thunder Machine. Left to their own devices, though, you can get them in the $40-$50 range. There's plenty of stock out there from which to choose, though. If you sacrifice the antenna or steering wheel, the price drops quickly. Dreadnoks have a solid fan base. Though, it's probably more vocal than it's size warrants. But, the green vehicles tend to be a bit more popular among collectors. The Thunder Machine is one of those vehicles that's simply a staple. If you have Dreadnoks to display, the Thunder Machine is the best way to do it. So, the vehicle always has value in that regard. For me, though, its time has passed and the Thunder Machine provides a good memory, if it never leaves the shoebox that it now calls home.
Saturday, July 3, 2021
Once again, for the July 4th holiday, I present the Zeros. These are the least popular posts on the site in the past year. Some make senses. Others surprise me. I have a theory that newer collectors are less interested in obscure ephemera of the line and, instead, are more likely to engage with a post about a toy they had has as kids. That's far different from where the hobby was just two or three years ago. But, you'll see that a lot of the under-performing subjects are collector based items rather than nostalgic toys.
Whatever the reasons, though, these were the worst performing posts of the past year. So, take this long holiday weekend and catch up on some stuff you might have missed.
This one is a disappointment. It's the worst performing new profile I've written since 2015. I thought an obscure repaint that's an upgrade over a popular American character would have fared better. But, this was a complete dud across all platforms. Too bad. As, it's an amazing figure.
This one makes sense. This is a G.I. Joe blog and an entry about Batman figures is heavily out of place. But, Killer Moth is one of the highlights of 2020 and is a figure well worth owning. Plus, the Spinmaster Batman line is awesome and deserves to run for a decade or more.
3. 1982 MMS
This one surprised me. Hawk, the figure from this set, did really well a few months later. But, few people were interested in this origin year toy. It's not a really exciting toy and works better as diorama filler. But, it's still classic that every collector recognizes.
Another stunner. I would have thought that Zartan's favorite vehicle would have gotten some good attention. Any Zartan figure does good numbers. But, the Chameleon was an absolute dud in terms of engagement.
Cutter isn't a hugely popular character or figure. The 1992 mold is awesome. But, it doesn't get a lot of attention. The Funskool figure is obscure. So, this profile not getting attention makes sense.
Double Blast is another expected member of this list. Really, this is a Roadblock repaint and the new character isn't one that any cares about. So, low numbers make sense.
Recondo is a very popular character. And, in the old days, collectors loved variants. But, this combo of the two didn't do very well. I can't really explain why. Recondo seems popular all over the place. But, some other Recondo content didn't so hot, either. So, maybe he's not really that well liked?
I was super disappointed in this one. I think this figure is so cool and has tons of potential. I loved the pictures I got for him, too. But, no one else did. I thought this guy would find a nice audience due to his obscurity for a major character and his distinct visuals. He didn't. Collectors seem to love neon figures these days...except for this Rock and Roll.
Stormshadow is popular. But, this red version from 2002 is pretty low on the list in terms of collector interest. It's not a popular mold for the character. And, this o-ring retro fitted version retains a lot of the limitations of the original. So, he's an unsurprising addition to this list.
This one isn't too much of a shocker. Croc Master tends to be middle of the road in terms of popularity. Funskool's version is pretty strong but also fairly obscure. I was also offline for a while prior to publishing this so overall site engagement was lower during that time.
Another 1/2 year down. The Joe world has been stupid in 2021. We'll see how the year ends. I'm starting to see some signs that we might come out of this crazy market. Supply is up a bit and prices of non-rare items are starting to soften. So, those are all good signs that this hobby is returning to normal. We'll see how that holds up in coming months, though.
In the meantime, thanks for stopping by and supporting the site. Lots of good stuff to come in the second half of the year.