Positive Fandom: The Vintage Collection
Earlier this year Star Wars all but disappeared from my display shelves.
The POTF2 Millennium Falcon, a Black Series OT Stormtrooper helmet, a boxed Sphero BB-8 and the 1997 Special Edition VHS box set (the silver widescreen edition) were the only hold-outs on shelves resplendent with Transformers and comic books. A combination of dissatisfaction with Disney’s handling of the franchise, an inability to truly love the 6″ Black Series (despite genuinely trying) and the continued push of 5POA 3.75″ figures all kept me at arm’s length. As much as I still love Star Wars, it had started to feel like a piece of my history.
Yet the last few months have seen me more pumped about George Lucas’ saga than at any time since early 2018 – and this enthusiasm has nothing to do with the new films or media. It’s all thanks to the triumphant return of the Vintage Collection.
To give that enthusiasm a voice, it’s time for a list article. Click on through for GCB’s top five reasons to be cheerful for the Star Wars Vintage Collection in 2019!
1. The Vehicles
The Star Wars toy line has relied on vehicles since its inception back in 1978, with Kenner’s understanding that kids would want to play with the Millennium Falcon, X-Wing and TIE Fighter leading directly to the 3.75″ scale.
As with most things Star Wars, the last five or so years have seen Hasbro lose their way when it comes to vehicles.
The 6″ Black Series line is too big to make anything but the smallest ships work, and that’s if there’s even demand for 6″ scale vehicles in the first place – the heavy reductions on unsold 1/12th First Order TIE Fighters suggests otherwise.
Beyond that we’ve seen large, hollow X-Wings without any play features, a selection of undersized, un-interactive Millennium Falcons and a proliferation of unsightly Nerf features.
The Vintage Collection’s realistically-styled 3.75″ vehicles have quickly kicked the other pretenders into touch. 2018’s Imperial Hovertank is an incredible looking piece for play and display that’s loaded with multiple features. The Imperial TIE Fighter is a re-release of an older Legacy version but one with a completely new paint job.
With a heavily-rumoured Red 5 X-Wing and another ship from The Rise of Skywalker due in October, along with a centrepiece ship to go alongside The Mandalorian also coming down the line, it looks like Hasbro has got the craft of making great Star Wars toys back to a fine art.
2. Playsets & Dioramas
There’s a reason that neither Jabba’s Sail Barge or the brand new Skiff were mentioned under vehicles. Much like the Millennium Falcon and AT-AT before them, these beasts are big enough to serve as diorama display pieces in their own right.
But that’s not all. The Jabba’s Palace Adventure Set is a bonafide playset in the Vintage Collection style, and it’s a real game-changer. After years of fan sites campaigning Hasbro for decent diorama pieces they’ve finally delivered with one of the most popular locations in the Star Wars fandom, and the market has responded by buying up every last piece. The fact that it’s been surprisingly affordable and contains two pack-in figures has helped, but this is something that was always going to be popular.
It’s taken Hasbro a few years to finally listen to the fans about this. But now, hopefully, they’ve seen it’s a success and will bring us more in the future.
3. Photo Real Printed Paint Apps
Star Wars figures have never had it easy when it comes to likenesses. These toys are modelled on some of the most recognisable characters in pop culture, and it’s fair to say that the reality of toy production has meant that we’ve often had to settle for toys that look close enough at best to the original actor.
Photoreal paint apps have changed that. Introduced for the 6″ scale, this new approach of printing the face apps on to the figure from a digital file has totally revolutionised how our figures look. Gone are the wonky eyes or plastic-looking skin of before – instead Hasbro is giving us small-scale masterpieces for our toy shelves.
Hasbro introduced this approach to the 3.75″ line with wave 20A of the Vintage Collection. Much like the TIE Fighter mentioned above, this wave featured older TVC figures re-released with new photo real paint apps, giving these formerly definitive figures a new lease of life.
Yet there’s more to it than just retro-fitting old figures. The new Han Solo in Stormtrooper Disguise is truly stunning, and more than matches anything from the 6″ line. Meanwhile, the convention exclusive Luke Skywalker (Jedi Destiny) three-pack of figures look like giving us the three greatest Luke Skywalker figures ever produced.
Yes, there are still plenty of samples with mismatched paint apps leading to shifty eyes (or worse), but this process is still in its infancy. As long as Hasbro continues to improve photoreal, 3.75″ Star Wars is ready to reach new heights.
4. Killer Sculpts
One of the main reasons that Han Solo in Stormtrooper Disguise has been in such high demand is not to do with the paint apps but rather the excellent sculpt – many collectors see this as a definitive OT Stormtrooper thanks to the unusually great removable helmet. Yet it’s had competition from the “pure” Rogue One Stormtrooper, another new 3.75″ figure that many other collectors see as definitive. In just two releases within the same month, we’ve suddenly got a choice of the best Stormtrooper figures available.
Much like using paint apps to revitalise older figures, Hasbro has also gone back to the well to make key fixes to otherwise decent releases. A case in point is Lando Calrissian (Skiff Guard), a re-sculpted improvement of the earlier Sandstorm Outfit release that gives Lando both a brand new paint job and brand new legs, finally making the figure the right height.
Given that the Vintage Collection has been consistently smashing out above-average figures for the majority of its run, the above shouldn’t be a surprise. But all the same, it’s incredibly exciting to actually see it all in practice.
It’s the unique scale, historical context and constant advances that set the Vintage Collection apart from most other action figure lines. Even so, it’s still a toy line that needs focus and dedication to succeed, as Hasbro inversely demonstrated for the five years following 2013.
Yet in the short space of time since the return of the Vintage Collection last year Hasbro has given us 40 new super-articulated figures (admittedly including 9 repacks from the 3.75″ Black Series line), released three vehicles (including one for the ages with Jabba’s Sail Barge), and an actual playset.
And this is all before October’s Triple Force Friday, which is heavily rumoured to include another Vintage Collection wave.
This relaunch has proven how much life is left in the 3.75″ Star Wars line when Hasbro sticks to the basics and simply aims to deliver the best possible product it can. With this care and attention reaping sales and a satisfied fandom, it’s given the Vintage Collection momentum and made it pretty much the best thing going in the Star Wars franchise right now.
So there we have it. I didn’t believe that the Khetanna would ever see production, but thanks to the passion and dedication of the Star Wars collecting community, it remains the only truly successful Haslab project (Unicron needed an extended deadline and international buyers to reach its target, lest we forget).
Longtime readers will know that I couldn’t care less about the card backs. It’s the amazing quality of the 3.75″ line at its best that keeps me coming back, and thanks to Hasbro’s recent efforts, there’s been a lot to come back to.
Thanks to The Vintage Collection, Star Wars toy collecting is once again rewarding and enjoyable.