The State of Star Wars & GI Joe Collecting

January 13, 2012 | By More

When I was listening to my weekly podcasts this week, there was GI Joe in my Star Wars and Star Wars in my GI Joe.

At the end of the newest Star Wars Action News, Arnie was seeking feedback on what people saw as the good and the bad in the Star Wars collecting hobby. During his discussion of this, he mentioned that prices of GI Joe figures were in the same price point as Star Wars figures. He had offered this up as a counterpoint to folks that complain about the price of Star Wars figures.

Ironically, on the latest What’s On Joe Mind?, Chuck took a bit of a jab at Star Wars figures. Chuckdawg1999 is no stranger to controversy, so it didn’t really surprise me. The main point of his barb was that he didn’t feel Star Wars figures matched the articulation and detail level of GI Joe figures.

It isn’t very often that I listen to these podcasts back to back, normally something else is in between them. They are both quality podcasts that serve as a source of news to their particular niches of toy collecting. I listen to them both because I collect both. It was a bit interesting to see how each act as cheerleaders for their brand.

The similarities don’t end there. Both franchises have a film this year. Both have rabid fans and collectors. Hasbro is also the common source of their collecting.

As for Arnie’s comment on GI Joe prices, I think he’s slightly off. While they are close, for the most part, at least around here, GI Joe figures have been about a dollar less. It’s not much, but every lit bit helps. If you can find stuff on sale, which I don’t look for, I could see them being equal.

I suspect Chuck’s comment was probably from his historical knowledge. I really think articulation and detail has improved in the Star Wars line. To my knowledge, GI Joe still has a kung fu grip on the better articulation model. Scarlet’s ankles and the new wrists are good examples.

As I said in my wrap up of 2011, a good chunk of my collecting has turned from Star Wars to GI Joe this year. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had Star Wars figures since the original 12. A part of me will always be a Star Wars collector.  But, it’s really hard for me to get excited about. I’ve got most of the characters I wanted as a kid.

It hasn’t helped I couldn’t find the figures I wanted this year. Or that in the Legends line, Hasbro never seems to put the figures I couldn’t find like crispy Anakin. Yeah, I know it’s a kids line. But I can’t  believe that modern kids don’t want some of the same things collectors want.

An example is accessories. Most GI Joe figures come equipped to the teeth where most Star Wars figures come with one or two accessories. When I compare a Star Wars figure like Logray to a GI Joe figure like Low Light, you can really see the contrast. Yes, before you say it, I know some of the GI Joe Renegades were light on accessories. But, I can’t think of a Star Wars figure as well equipped as Low Light or Snow Job.

Vehicles are another area where these lines differ. For $20, last year I got a VAMP, a mid size jeep, from GI Joe which came with a figure. The closest Star Wars thing would be a mini rig type vehicle with a figure, or a midsize vehicle with no figure.

The thing folks are going to throw in my face is that Hasbro is having to pay licensing fees for Star Wars, where they own GI Joe. I get that. However, Hasbro is keeping the Star Wars name alive and I would hope that they are having to pay less these days for the license.

And that really leads to my thoughts on Star Wars as a whole. To me, while it is everywhere, it’s been so over saturated, it hard not to slake your thirst with just a sip. There’s no wait to see it on TV, it’s in stores everywhere, and you can’t miss it online. Twenty years ago or more, you had to wait for your Star Wars fix. Films were years apart. When Star Wars was shown on TV it was an event. And most people didn’t own any of it on VHS, let alone Blu Ray.

My next statement, will cause some nerd rage and I’m sorry. I almost wonder if Star Wars is at the point where Star Trek was in the late 90’s. We’d had our fill of TV series, Playmates had given us action figures of most of the characters we would want. Syndication was rampant on the different series. There had been a number of films that had ran their course. In short, we had all the Star Trek we could want and nothing really seemed new with it any more.

I’ve heard more chatter about the live action Star Wars TV series this week than I have in awhile. It would probably take this kind of move to rekindle the fire in some long time Star Wars fans. Episode 1 in 3D? Neat. Yeah. A good enough draw to really get me excited? Probably not. I just have a hard time getting excited over something I’ve seen countless times already.

I really hope they do ramp up a TV show. I want to see NEW Star Wars. Not animated episodes that really don’t fit in the image of Star Wars I have in my head. Star Wars will always be live action to me.

I’m putting that GI Joe is at the other end of the spectrum. Yeah, there was a movie that didn’t catch on. I think the new film could easily be a push for GI Joe back into the spotlight. It could be what it’s fandom has been waiting and pining for.

GI Joe fans have been spoon fed for the past few years. Surviving on small waves of figures and really no large push, it reminds me of the early days of POTF2 line, small waves of classic characters everybody was hunting for.

At the same time, I think the design team behind GI Joe at Hasbro has really upped the ante. They’ve been shrewd in how they’ve reused pieces, repainted others and added new stuff. I’m guessing they laid out some basics for the line and what they could swap and create new figures from. Instead of straight up repaints, there’re are almost always enough differences in a figure that even a repaint looks like a new character. (To be fair, I think the Marvel Universe folks do a good job at this, as well.)

And it’s those little difference that make GI Joe figures so playable. When I get a new one, I keep it on my desk for quite a while posing and swapping gear and such. That’s a good thing. Each figure gets me excited to get my next plastic fix.

That’s the feeling that Star Wars just doesn’t quite give me anymore. For the most part, much like the multitudes of clone troopers, I feel like Star Wars figures are a bit of a commodity these days. The sad part is I don’t want to feel that way, but it’s just not as easy to get excited over the property in general.

I will still keep collecting Star Wars. And don’t worry, it will always be apart of TVFT. I’m just a lot more selective than I used to be. GI Joe with more accessories, articulation, and  lower priced vehicles will probably get more collecting dollars from me this year as I eagerly wait for the new film.

The take away is both of these franchises need to be driven by media. Whether it is film or TV, that is what creates anticipation, buzz and excitement. And that excitement is what drives me to collect.

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  1. I spent more on STAR WARS in 2011 than I had since 2002. After some of the 2003 Saga figures, I bought very few exclusives here and there, most of the figures from the original Cartoon Network show, and maybe twenty Episode III figures. That was it for eight years, really light compared to the previous five. During that time, G.I. JOE made a tremendous leap in quality, something I’d been waiting for the brand to do for a long time. I still loved the characters and the comics, but the action figures didn’t cut it. That changed when the 25th Anniversary line was launched.

    But after passing on The Clone Wars figures for the first 2.5 years of the line, I finally bought a few at the end of January. That few has turned into around 120 and several vehicles in a little less than a year. The series kept getting better and better, and the toys kept growing on me as I bought them for a niece who loves the cartoon. I finally caved, and I’m so glad I did. It’s really sparked my interest in STAR WARS all over again. I would actually take most of The Clone Wars over all but two of the STAR WARS movies. Aside from a couple of dud episodes, the storytelling and character development have been superb. And even those few episodes that didn’t live up to the rest of the series were still fun.

    But while I’m loving The Clone Wars cartoon and toys, G.I. JOE is still easily THE best mainstream action figure line out there. Nothing else is even close.

  2. Engineernerd says:

    I almost wish I had been more selective this decade on Star Wars collecting. If I’d have slowed down a bit more than I did, I might feel different today.

    The issue I struggle with watching Clone Wars is knowing that no matter what they do, the future is set. The clones will become Storm Troopers and the Jedi will die. (Sorry, spoilers.) I’m more an OT person, and I’ve never been a fan of the colored armors.

    When I wrote this, I was intending give folks a point to think about their collecting. Obviously, everybody is different and your own mileage may vary.

    Thanks for your insights ComplusiveCollector!

    BTW. There’s some pretty darn good reading on your site. Folks need to go check it out.

  3. JD says:

    I’m in total agreement that Star Wars has reached total saturation on every front. As a lifelong fan of the gallaxy far far away I’m suddenly at the point of retreating from something that’s hard to escape from. My love for SW will probably return at some point, it’s inevitable, but I hope it’s no time soon. There’s too much out there, too much hype to everything that’s out there, and there’s too much to possibly concentrate on any one aspect of it. My excitement for it is in hibernation. As for the toys, there’s no bang for the buck at all… great sculpts yes but the awesome toys they could be? Hell no. Arnie’s seeing value in the toys that simply isn’t nearly what it SHOULD BE. Yeah, Joes are cheaper per figure but even if they were more expensive they would still be more satisfying. For every aparment Jango with a ton of accessories or Pond Baba with the arm change options, there’s 5 Jedi with only a lightsaber and a couple troopers with 2 blasters or an Ewok with a 2 hoods and a spear. Meanwhile Firefly has multiple weapons, a Steel Brigade with an accessory pack worth of gear, Cobra Commander with 2 heads, and then a rare figure like Zarana who only had a rifle (exception far from the rule with GIJoe).

  4. I tend to just go with however I feel when it comes to my hobbies. If I spend too much time thinking about them, I’ll end up dwelling on how much money I’ve spent on little plastic people. 🙂

  5. Engineernerd says:

    And to be fair, Zarana was an exclusive outside the norm.

  6. JD says:

    anyways, the state of Star Wars blows right now. when the fever subsides a bit it’ll get my attention again.

  7. FakeEyes22 says:

    I like the Clone Wars stuff, but I’ve bought very little of it.

    I do think it’s really important that it exists, because the vintage collection as well as some of the Legacy releases have provided the absolute best film specific Star Wars figures ever that can cater directly to collectors.

    Cost cutting and crazy toy inflation have done some odd things. Target exclusive “Luke Skywalker’s Tauntaun” was $25. It’s retail window is now closed, the Luke that’s supposed to ride it won’t be out for months and he’ll have no snow beast to straddle unless you were obsessed enough(like me) to plan ahead. The Luke on the box is incapable of riding it, even if he wasn’t a figure from nearly 10 years ago.

    Almost all of the store exclusives for the past few years have been incredibly nice, but man are you paying for that new tooling on the larger items. Store exclusives used to be decently priced as a way to bring customers into a store, but now the prices even on repaints seem jacked up really high and collectors should just feel honored for the opportunity to buy such a treasure.

    That confused rant aside, I’m pretty happy with the state of collecting both of these brands, excluding pricing and distribution, and I haven’t been as excited for either for years! Well, maybe I was a bit more excited during Joe’s 25th, as I recaptured childhood friends and new figures seemed to be released every other week. The fact that Joes have managed to maintain my excitement really speaks to the dramatic increase in quality we’ve seen in POC/30th!

    Back to Star Wars, I got burned out by going too nuts when there was way too much stuff available at once. I’ve spent the past several years picking of whichever random new characters I didn’t have, but I’m really enjoying it lately since the quality, sculpts and articulation go beyond just marks on whatever mental checklist I use for collecting. I should be tired of Vaders, but a Vader with a helmet that comes off in 3 parts is an impressive accomplishment! Jedi holding lighsabers with 2 hands would make 6 year old me suffer a stroke from pure awesome.

    I think the key for me is what’s available and the choices I make in how to collect. Since Joes have had a pretty slow roll out lately, I can happily buy all of the figures and a few vehicles. I’ve found that I enjoy Star Wars much more in moderation, sticking to the Vintage style figures and being aware of which releases are genuinely new and ignoring most of the vehicles since I know they will always see release later on or will be redone entirely. I’ve chosen to step back, not get overwhelmed, and pat myself on the back for not buying that B-Wing, which I’ve never had in any form. I let myself grab a clearance AT-AT because it’s incredible! And so darn big that my inner child hops out of my chest and rides it while I sleep. That’s my theory, anyway.

    I’m hoping very much that Retaliation has a quality line up and isn’t too overwhelming, since that can burn me out and burn out the line a bit like ROC. I did grab a $10 Night Raven at TJ Maxx yesterday and have other closeout luck, so despite my criticism, ROC keeps paying off for me.

  8. zedhatch says:

    It’s funny, Joe and Star Wars have always been the flipsides of the coin in my collecting since I was 6 and will probably continue to be forever. Star wars was my nain line when I was little, when it went away Joe was there. When Joe went away, star wars returned, when star wars became disheartening, Joe came back, when joe changed gears for a new scale, star wars was stil around, ect, ect.

    I hoped back to SW with a vengence with the 30th line, and now Joe made me hop back in with thier 30th line, and yet now both seem to be at a weird empass, Joe is losing articulation apparently, while that won’t stop me, There are figures I think I will pass up that I might not have if they were articulated (ie clutch with his vehicle). Star wars does have a huge problem as well, there just isn’t a great deal of ground to break any more, sure I still pick up a need update (Darth Maul for example) or an EU figure, but really I almost have everything I could want (But still looking for bespin han).

    I guess the point is that both these lines are at a point that I am holding back. Joe kind of went to a Duke, CC, Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Destro every wave pattern and as soon as they broke it I was there, SW seems stuck in a similar pattern now. What the future holds, none of us knows for certian, but even if it comes down to one figure a wave (as often happens now with me and SW) there probably will be something out ther worth grabbing I think.