2015 was an extraordinary year for Star Wars action figure collectors and for Star Wars fans in general. Two big questions which were on figure collector's minds going into 2015 were "When would we see figures from Star Wars The Force Awakens?" and "Are super articulated figures going away for good?". We had to wait until Fall to get answers to both questions due to the secrecy surrounding Star Wars The Force Awakens and its products.
Let's take a look at 2015 month by month.
Although not directly Star Wars action figure related, but interesting for Star Wars action figure collectors nonetheless, was the release of Marvel's issue #1 of the new Star Wars comic book. One of the many variant covers was photographed using Hasbro’s STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES 6-inch figures, including Darth Vader and Boba Fett, Emperor Palpatine, Bossk and IG-88 figures, and 50 Stormtroopers!
In addition to the fantastic action figure cover, Marvel released several Star Wars comic book covers throughout 2015 which featured vintage-inspired packaging art of Star Wars action figures from the late '70's and '80's created by John Tyler Christopher.
January was also the month where we first heard about the Star Wars Saga being released in digital formats, and there were whispers that Hasbro was going to release Star Wars action figures to commemorate the occassion.
One other eyebrow-raising report came late January 2015 by Bloomberg, which reported that a vintage Star Wars Palitoy Boba Fett sold for $27,000.00 at an auction. We all know that Luke, Vader and Ben Kenobi with double-telescoping lightsabers, vinyl cape Jawas, Vlix among a few others go for quite some money, but 27 grand? Wow!
Late January we received a message from J.B. reader Chris Gerhardt who reported that The Vintage Collection Amazon exclusive SLAVE I vehicle (and the Legacy Collection II multipack) was being sold at Toys'R'Us Express stores at deep discounts.
February 2015 brought us Toy Fair in New York City, but Hasbro informed attendees beforehand that no Star Wars The Force Awakens product would be shown in the show room. The only Star Wars products presented during the Hasbro panel included Star Wars Hero Mashers, Bladebuilder Lightsabers and Furby Chewbacca. There was no new Star Wars Rebels product shown and no Star Wars Celebration Anaheim exclusive. There were rumors however, which indicated that Hasbro would go exclusively with 5 points of articulation for their 3 3/4 inch Star Wars action figure line for Fall 2015. We later learned that this was indeed true, with the exception of a few super articulated Star Wars figures which were released as Walmart exclusives.
Over President's day weekend 2015 some Disney Store outlets set Star Wars products on clearance. The entire range of Star Wars Rebels vehicles (AT-DP, The Inquisitor's Tie Advanced, The Phantom) could all be had for $7.90 each. That was by far one of the best clearances in recent history!
In early March the Star Wars Rebels Imperial Troop Transport was found on store shelves along with a handful of new 5POA figures (Lando (Skiff Guard), Luke (X-Wing Pilot), Han Solo (Bespin Outfit)). The Lando Skiff guard figure is probably one of the worst 3 3/4 inch action figures released in 2015.
People also found the un-announced Star Wars Digital Release Commemorative Collection box set in the United States and Canada, which confirmed reports from January that Lucasfilm was indeed going to release the Star Wars Saga digitally. There was one set for each movie, and each set included 4 previously released Star Wars figures.
Ten years ago on April 1st 2005 Hasbro released Star Wars toys based on Revenge Of The Sith. If you are interested, have a listen to The Galaxy Of Toys Podcast (Episode 44) and hear me discuss the toy line with Jason Luttrull and the rest of the podcast crew. The Revenge Of The Sith toy line had a lot of cool figures in it, you can check them out here: Revenge Of The Sith Toy Line 2005
On April 6, only four days prior to the Star Wars Saga's digital release on April 10, the official Star Wars website finally announced the release of all the movies in digital format. The roll-out and the marketing behind the digital release felt lackluster and late, especially because Hasbro's commemorative action figure sets had already been found in North America many weeks before. In addition online streaming services such as Walmart's VUDU had space holder pages set-up on their website to promote the movies.
The rest of April was all about Star Wars Celebration Anaheim, which was a fantastic experience from beginning to end. Being able to share the excitement about the up-coming Star Wars The Force Awakens with like-minded people was truly amazing. You can find J.B.'s complete coverage here: JediBusiness.com at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim.
Even though the convention was fantastic, there was hardly any news for Star Wars action figure collectors. The only new figure shown was a prototype of a 6-inch The Black Series Ahsoka Tano, which was based on her appearance in Star Wars Rebels. Unfortunately there was no Celebration exclusive Star Wars figure, but that might change again in the future. You can listen to my interview with some members of Hasbro's global marketing team on the Galaxy Of Toys Podcast (Episode 43).
April also had a surprise in store for all of us as un-announced Star Wars action figures of Commander Bly, Han Solo (Endor), Luke Skywalker (Endor) and Princess Leia Organa (Endor) showed up on store shelves.
May 3rd 2015 was a big day for Star Wars action figure collectors because Lucasfilm revealed on the official Star Wars website the packaging style for Star Wars The Force Awakens merchandise, and it was announced that Star Wars action figures based on the up-coming movie would be released world-wide on September 4th, 2015.
May The 4th Be With You was a thing a few years before Disney made a big deal out of it in 2014, when they held their first May The 4th Be With You event at Disney stores. But on May 4th 2015 many online stores jumped onto the bandwagon and offered deep discounts on Star Wars merchandise. The cynics of course complained that Star Wars Day should be held on May 25th when the original Star Wars was released in theaters in 1977, but I think May the 4th works just fine. And to all the people who complain about Disney monetising Star Wars, let me tell you that there are worse things in life than to pick a day to celebrate Star Wars and to get some discounts on the toys we all love. The Hollywood Reporter by the way has a great article from early 2012 about monetising Star Wars when George Lucas was still president of Lucasfilm.
About one week after May 4th I received a calendar from Hasbro, which counted down the days to September 4th. Each calendar page contained pictures of previously released Kenner/Hasbro Star Wars toys. This was a great idea and fun to look through!
May 2015 had one of the biggest surprises of the entire year for Star Wars action figure collectors. Out of nowhere, 12 figures from the 2013 cancelled The Legacy Collection showed up at Calendar Go! stores across the United States. Those 12 action figures were very difficult to find, but they seemed to be more plentiful in international markets.
On June 12th we learned through Entertainment Weekly that the San Diego Comic Con exclusive Star Wars figure would be a The Black Series 6-inch First Order Stormtrooper. The figure looked great and the packaging was fantastic, it sold out quickly during San Diego Comic Con.
Later in June Hasbro invited JediBusiness.com to help determine the next 6-inch Star Wars Fans’ Choice figure for The Black Series. It was great to see that Hasbro reached out to fans directly and gave us the opportunity to make our voices heard. JediBusiness.com had a little over 500 contributions in our Facebook comments section with well over 1000 likes (votes) on all the suggestions made. That was truly fun and hopefully we'll get to participate in future polls again.
During the month of June Hasbro released The Black Series 6-inch Luke Skywalker (Hoth Outfit) with Wampa, which was one of the nicest sets throughout the entire year.
In July Hasbro held their annual panel during San Diego Comic Con where they revealed The Black Series Special Forces Elite Tie Fighter, a painted version of 6-inch Ahsoka Tano, 6-inch versions of the First Order Tie Fighter Pilot Elite, Jango Fett, Luke Skywalker and Kanan Jarrus.
The only 3 3/4 inch action figures which were revealed were Captain Rex as an old man and the 5th Brother Inquisitor from the 2nd season of Star Wars Rebels. You can find all the press photos here: Hasbro Star Wars Reveals San Diego Comic Con 2015.
During the panel Hasbro also announced the winner of the fan's choice poll, which was the expanded universe character Darth Revan. Hasbro also announced that Sabine from Star Wars Rebels was going to be produced in the 6-inch scale as well (she came in 2nd place in the poll).
August 2015 marked 20 years of collecting modern Star Wars action figures. It was the 20th anniversary of The Power Of The Force toy line. To commemorate the event some fan sites, including JediBusiness.com, handed out POTF2 themed swag during Star Wars Celebration Anaheim 2015, and we partnered up with From-4-Lom-to-Zuckuss.com to bring you our TOP 10 Power Of The Force action figures. I hope you take a look at the list, the Power Of The Force action figure line had some real gems in it!
August was an exciting month overall because we were close to the official street date for The Force Awakens toys, and that meant leaks! And indeed all throughout the month of August one leak after another hit social media and online auction sites. Even a Hasbro product catalog found its way online.
September 4th 2015 was the big day, the Force Awakens action figures were finally released. When I went out to the midnight opening at Toys'R'Us I met up with Jake Stevens (From-4-Lom-To-Zuckuss.com) and many other local collectors in the Seattle area, you can read an in-depth report about the entire experience here: Force Friday 2015. Force Friday was a big deal here at JediBusiness.com, and we received many submissions from fellow fans from around the world who were equally excited to get their hands on new Star Wars action figures. We even received a submission from JediBusiness.com follower Leo Sorzano, who was in line for Force Friday with Oscar Issac's uncle, who apparently is a massive Star Wars fan!
Star Wars action figures flew off the shelves, literally. Even over-priced armor-up figures such as the armor-up Boba Fett and the armor-up Luke Jedi sold through. As much as we all like to complain about 5POA figures, they sold extremely well.
Another exciting event was the release of the French Star Wars book titled La guerre des étoiles : la saga Star Wars vue de France, which highlighted Star Wars merchandise and toys specifically for the French market. JediBusiness.com contributed a handful of images to the book.
In October 2015 Hasbro held the T'was the night before ... party one day before New York Comic Con, where they revealed an entire wave of up-coming The Black Series 6-inch figures, including a Han Solo action figure based on The Force Awakens. The reveal felt light and it seemed as if Hasbro's hands were tied behind their backs by Disney. There were no new 3 3/4 inch Star Wars figures or vehicles on display.
It took well into October for stores to re-stock 3 3/4 inch figures, and even slow sellers such as the Resistance Trooper and Luke Skywalker (Bespin Outfit) sold through eventually. Star Wars The Black Series 6-inch wave 2, which included a Captain Phasma figure, showed up at retail, but it was extremely tough to find.
One of the must-have-collectibles for 6-inch collectors was the First Order Special Forces Elite Tie Fighter which was finally released in October. The hefty price tag of $169 kept many collectors away, but Amazon.com sold it briefly for $113, which in my opinion is a decent price for what you are getting.
The amount of merchandise in stores was incredible, it appeared as if every store I walked into had some sort of Star Wars display. Even my local Fred Meyer grocery store (Kroger's) had multiple Star Wars displays throughout the entire store. If you were into Star Wars in 1999, would you have guessed that The Force Awakens merchandise would out-do The Phantom Menace by such a wide margin? I sure didn't.
November was a busy month for Star Wars action figure collectors. We found out that Empire magazine in the UK would release a special issue of their magazine with a basic Kylo Ren action figure packed-in. Only 4,500 copies of this special issue were printed and it was available only in the UK at branches of Sainsbury's. I personally love those kinds of items!
More 3 3/4 inch Star Wars action figures found their way to store shelves, including figures such as Goss Toowers and General Hux and PZ-4C0. In addition to more 3 3/4 inch figures on store shelves, most of the exclusive 6-inch action figures shipped in November, such as the Kmart exclusive Kylo Ren (Starkiller Base), Walgreen's Darth Vader (Emperor's Wrath), and the Amazon and Entertainment Earth exclusive multipacks.
On November 17, Electronic Arts finally released the Star Wars Battlefront video game. Some Walmart stores around the nation actually had The Black Series 6-inch Shock Trooper from the game in-stock on that day.
After Black Friday most store shelves were empty, and there were literally no 3 3/4 inch or 6-inch action figures on store shelves anymore. If you were lucky you could find a 6-inch Finn, maybe a 6-inch Chewbacca, but even those two sold through eventually.
There were only a handful of Star Wars action figures which were released in December, such as the Toys'R'Us exclusive armor-up Poe Dameron (X-Wing Pilot) and the armor-up Captain Phasma figure. Some people also found the 6-inch Tie Fighter Pilot and 6-inch Resistance Trooper.
The Walmart exclusive 3 3/4 inch wave of figures which had super articulated versions of Kylo Ren, Rey, Poe, Finn and the First Order Stormtrooper was extremely difficult to find in the Seattle, WA area. Thanks to fellow collectors Jon Gray and Jason Wood for picking up extras!
There were a handful of images of up-coming Star Wars figures for 2016 which leaked in December on the Canadian Amazon website. All the images were of 3 3/4 inch Star Wars figures and you can look at the full gallery here: LEAKED PHOTOS OF 3 3/4 INCH STAR WARS ACTION FIGURES FOR 2016.
Well, this entire year was an overwhelming experience. The anticipation for the new movie, the excitement everywhere for Star Wars, it was just incredible. No words could ever describe all this fun. We got a great movie, we got some fantastic Star Wars action figures to go with it, and it looks like all this is going to continue for years to come ...
It's too bad that there was almost no support for Star Wars Rebels during the Holiday season, the announced new figures from the TV show didn't make it onto shelves in 2015.
Before I end this column I'd like to thank everybody who has contributed or got involved with JediBusiness.com in 2015, especially to everybody who posted collection photos and participated in our Force Friday photo submission. The readership keeps growing and it's fun to see so many people being excited about Star Wars action figures.
A special thank you goes to Paris Gonzalez Aguirre for contributing some fantastic action figure photography to the website, Brandon Flores for all the posts and the incredible artistry he keeps on showcasing, Mike Sidious for his photography, Robert Sadlowski for writing a fantastic article about Hasbro's Star Wars action figure line (and what's wrong with it), Jake Stevens for all the collaborations and insights, James Burns and Mark Newbold from JediNews.co.uk for welcoming JediBusiness.com to the Force United, Jason Luttrull for letting me co-host the Galaxy Of Toys podcast, Arnie and Marjorie from Star Wars Action News for letting J.B. be part of the SW Celebration patch and Gus Lopez, Ryan Beise and Jake Stevens for doing yet again another panel with me at Emerald City Comic Con about collecting Star Wars action figures. I'd also like to thank Stéphane Faucourt for reaching out and letting J.B. contribute a handful of photos to the French Star Wars book La guerre des étoiles : la saga Star Wars vue de France.
Last but not least I'd like to thank the team at HunterPR for quick communications and for the #choosedarkside / #chooselightside promotion, which was a great idea and fun to be part of.
Thanks for reading everybody and May The Force Be With You! If you'd like to discuss 2015 with me, I'll respond in the comments below.
Chris "Criz Bee"