Thursday, 10 January 2013

First Toy Of The Year (2013)

I usually try to get my first and last figures of the year on the first and last days of the year, but this year I wasn't able to get out to the stores right away.  My first figure of the year for 2013 isn't something new or even hugely exciting, but it does send me into a bit of a rant.

At first glance nothing seems to be amiss.

My first toy of 2013 is Luke Skywa.... wait.  No it isn't!  It's an obscure (even by Star Wars' standards) Jedi named Roth-Del Masona, and despite what the package might lead to you to believe, he's from Attack of the Clones.  Not Return of the Jedi.  I typically try to avoiding getting figures from the same line for my first and last toys of the year.  2012 ended with a Star Wars figure, so usually I would avoid Star Wars for my first toy of the next year.  In this case I ignored that tradition to focus on a subject that I feel rather strongly about.

I pride myself on being the "right" kind of toy collector.  I buy my toys for me, not to resell them online with jacked up prices.  That kind of thing is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, but doing that doesn't instantly make you the "wrong" kind of collector to me.  I open all the stuff I buy, I enjoy them, I don't spend a lot of time whining about the stuff I don't like.  If there were a hard-to-find figure on the pegs and both me and a kid wanted it, I'd let the kid have it for sure.  I'll always get another chance to find the figure I'm looking for, that kid might not.  There are elements of the toy collecting world that bug me, and despite what people may say about this company or that company, most of the stuff that really gets under my skin is caused by the actions of other collectors.  Case in point: Figure swapping.

You don't have to look too closely to see that this isn't the figure that's supposed to be included.

I think by now most toy enthusiasts know what figure swapping is.  For those who don't, it's when someone (the wrong kind of toy collector) buys a figure, replaces it in the package with an older or less valuable figure, returns the swapped product back to the store, and walks away with both the new figure and their money.  They probably think that they're not hurting anyone and have therefore done nothing wrong, but it is wrong and it drives me NUTS.

The swapper has scratched out part of the name on the package and covered Luke Skywalker's face with a contest sticker.

So what's the big deal?  The store might not get the original product back, but they get something back that they can sell again and make their money.  Well, without going so far as to say they're left with someone else's garbage, these figure swappers are basically defrauding the store.  Usually the figures swapped into the packages and returned are older and worth less than the figures being swapped out.  There may be extra accessories that are taken with the original figures, leaving the returned figures with less.  The newer figures usually have more articulation, better details, etc.  The returned figures have less.  Now some poor unsuspecting kid is going to pay more, and get less.  Then what happens?  Maybe that kid gets tired of this less exciting figure more quickly and it stops them from getting another figure down the road.  Action figures are already taking a hit in the toy aisles from video games, and the less kids buying action figures means there will be less action figures getting made.  That's not a good thing for toy collectors.  This may seem like an extreme example, but it's not untrue.

Two lightsaber accessories are missing, and the inner tray is crammed into the plastic bubble.

And what about the hit we collectors take?  Aside from relying on unsuspecting buyers to get rid of them, swapped figures usually hang around on the shelves, warming pegs and preventing other new figures from going out.  The toy companies know about the problem, but all they can do is come up with new packaging that's harder to get into.  I like to keep some of the card backs my figures come with so I can look at them later on and remember how excited I was when I got them, or see the other figures that were also out at the time.  Now it often takes extra work on my part to remove a figure from the package without destroying the thing.  And don't even get me started on the plastic bands that most figures have these days to help keep them secured in the package.  These bands can dig into the figures, or warp the shape of limps and accessories.  Never mind the fact that all of these extra pieces of packaging need to be paid for and end up increasing the overall cost of the toy.  Yeah, there's inflation and market fluctuation and all that, and toys cost more than they used to.  But stealing a figure and returning a lesser figure takes its toll, and we're the ones that have to pay for it.  And that's what it is, plain and simple: Stealing.  These swappers buy one thing, return something else, and go on their way.

The bubble has clearly been opened and then resealed with tape.

You'd think the stores where this is taking place would want to be all over it, wouldn't you?  But they don't even care!  That's another part of the problem.  I've pointed out swapped figures to store staff on numerous occasions, but I often see the same swapped toys back on the shelves later on.  They would care if this was happening with other products.  If clothes or video games or movies or food were being returned with the wrong items in the packaging, it would be a big deal.  But because it's toys and they figure kids won't notice or care and they'll still make their money, it doesn't matter.  They're being presented with proof that they're being robbed and they're just fine with it.  The figure swapping thieves don't care about what they're doing, the stores being robbed don't care about what's happening, and it leaves the right kind of collectors paying more.  It sickens me.

Here's the figure that was supposed to be in the package.

So why did I buy a swapped figure?  There's a few reasons.  First, I wanted to talk about figure swapping, so I needed something to take pictures of to go with it.  Second, I didn't have this figure, and the swapper in this case must be some sort of idiot.  Granted, Roth-Del Masona is not a popular character, but this is most likely the only figure he's ever going to get.  He originally came in a two-pack with a Super Battle Droid and they were exclusive to Target.  The Battle Droid has been released numerous times, so instead of paying more for an obscure figure and a character that's been around before, I just got the figure I needed.  Meanwhile the swapper gave away the only figure in the pack worth noticing.  The figure that was swapped out isn't even a popular or well-recieved figure.  It's Luke Skywalker from a deleted scene where he constructs a new lightsaber.  I don't personally have any problems with the figure, but a lot of fans have pointed out mistakes with the it.  It can also be found everywhere, whereas Roth-Del Masona can't.  So as I say, this particular swapper is an idiot.

Roth Del-Masona originally - and only - came packaged like this.

Now that that's out of my system, Roth-Del Masona is still my first toy of the year, and he deserves the spotlight on his own merits.  I had to look him up on Wookieepedia to see just who exactly he is, and he's got a small enough backstory to leave me lots to work with.  He's one of the few survivors from the arena battle on Geonosis.  He was later tasked with protecting Chancellor Palpatine on Coruscant, and met his end at the many hands of General Grievous when Palpatine was "abducted".  I have three other figures of Palpatine's protectors, and I love obscure characters that share backstories with other obscure characters.  The figure itself is mostly a repainted Mace Windu with a new head, but it works for the character.  It's not like he needed an all-new sculpt.  He also has his trusty lightsaber, and from what I can tell, it's the same lightsaber he originally came with.  Thanks swapper!

Roth Del-Masona, standing proud and no longer tainted by the offending package.

The thing I like about obscure characters is that you can really do what ever you want with them.  Sure Masona died heroically (albeit needlessly) protecting Palpatine, but there's still a ton of backstory to be fleshed out.  I bet he had other adventures with the other Jedi he was assigned to protect Palpatine with.  That's an important job, so they must have a proven history of working well with each other, otherwise they wouldn't have been given such a task.  He did survive Geonosis when many other Jedi didn't, so I don't see him as a pawn hand picked by Darth Sidious (as Palpatine) because he knew Masona would be more likely to fail.  And since I have three of the other Jedi that Masona served with, that's all I really need to cook up some cool stories.  Because at the end of the day, that's what toy collecting is all about: Fun and creativity.  And I won't let the few sore spots like figure swappers or indifferent stores take that away from me.

Fun and Creativity: All I need!
Now what kind of story can I make up for THESE two?

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