The State of Star Wars Toys – A Discussion On Action Figure Collecting


We interviewed Jake Stevens, the co-host of the Star Wars Action Figure podcast, Toy Run about the state of Star Wars toys and action figures.

Collecting Star Wars toys can be a daunting task. With new action figures coming out all the time, it takes serious dedication to keep up with all those plastic Jedis and stormtroopers.

I had the chance to talk with one of the most dedicated toy collectors out there, Jake Stevens. He co-hosts the podcast, Toy Run, with fellow figure super fan, Criz Bee. We got to discuss vintage collecting, its future value and what drives young collectors.

Dork Side of the Force: You are vintage guy and yet you continue to collect. What is it about the newer figures that inspires you to keep up your fanatical collection?

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Jake Stevens: After Star Wars faded for me in ’84, I turned to GI Joe and was still heavily into it in the mid-’90s but when Hasbro announced they were making new figures again I fell in love all over again. I’ve continued collecting since the relaunch in 1995 and am complete on most lines since. Both parts nostalgia and still being really interested in Star Wars in all of its forms keeps me motivated to continue to collect.

DSOF: The vintage-era toys are five-point of articulation (POA) and many modern figures are super-articulated, which would you prefer?

JS: I’d honestly prefer a middle option. Some figures really only need five points of articulation whereas others like pilots need more for sitting or Jedi for holding lightsabers with two hands. I am more concerned with the sculpt over the need for super-articulation, which is why 5POA has never bothered me as long the as the figure can interact with the vehicles and playsets in the line.

DSOF: I don’t collect modern figures, so I am not out on toy runs to Target, WalMart, etc… It seems distribution is a problem to certain regions. Why do you think this has been an issue?

JS: I think the misinformation about distribution is a problem as Hasbro receives unwarranted flack for stores x, y and z not stocking the aisles with figures. Once an order for a product is placed and fulfilled to the retailer by Hasbro, they no longer have control.

Therefore, if WalMart for example, orders more of Wave 1 because it sold well and chooses not to order Wave 2 of a toy line, this is not Hasbro’s fault, yet they are blamed for the lack of distribution of Wave 2. Or if a company like Toys ‘R’ Us, orders but then doesn’t make good on it with payment, again Hasbro is blamed for not releasing products.

In today’s hyper-connected social media filled world, I believe it is easier than ever (collecting groups online and websites like to find what want.

DSOF: Disney has certainly revived some of the Star Wars fanaticism, but what do you think drives the modern and young collector? Whereas vintage collectors had Kenner telling us “Collect them All.”

JS: People love collecting regardless of the generation they were raised in. My parent’s generation had baseball cards and comic books. My generation had action figures and today’s kids have both plus video games and vinyl figurines like Funko Pops! The only difference I would say I see in my visits to conventions, toy shows and interactions online, is that modern collectors are more willing to give up a collection or to change a collecting focus with more ease than vintage collectors.

DSOF: What is your favorite vintage figure?

JS: For me, it will has always been and still is Bespin Luke! I loved the fact that Luke at that time carried a gun and saber!

DSOF: What is your favorite modern figure (1996 – today)?

JS: Yikes! We are approaching 5,000 figures in the modern line and choosing a favorite is a tough task. I think for me it would be easier to pick a favorite line of figures than just one. And for that answer, I would say my favorite is The Power of the Jedi line, which followed the Episode 1 line in 2001 and included amazing sculpts, great deco and a fantastic mix of minor characters and never-before-made figures from both the Original Trilogy and the first prequel.

DSOF: Phones, tablets, VR, video games seem to the be the focus of today’s youth. I’ve seen babies using phones in grocery stores. How much do you think “devices” have taken away from play with toys/action figures?

JS: As a middle school teacher, I have fairly strong opinions about this topic. I believe it really comes down to parenting and moderating a child’s tech time. In moderation, I believe collecting and gaming can be equally nurtured. Nintendo’s 8-bit console dropped when I was 10-years-old and I still spent more time outside and collecting than playing video games (which I did quite a bit). So, it comes down to what parents allow, value and mirror at home.

DSOF: Social Media. Love it? Hate it? Or somewhere in between?

JS: Social Media can absolutely be something to hate depending on who you choose to follow and allow on your feeds. I do think it is a superior way to interact with friends and fellow collectors online than the online collector forums I spent my time in before Facebook. In order to keep one’s sanity and passion for Star Wars, I do think you need to edit your feeds often and unfollow and unfriend those who bring negativity into your hobby.

DSOF: I know you don’t collect for value. But, do you think the vintage figures and vehicles (which have skyrocketed in cost in recent years) will continue to grow in value? Or is there a decline on the horizon with the aging collector set?

JS: I asked Steve Sansweet this same question not long ago as I felt the bubble must pop at some point on vintage products. He instead predicted the opposite and he turned me to baseball cards and comic books of the Golden Age. Seventy years later those items are still soaring in value and price. I think the less common stuff like the Last 17 and Droids line will never come down at this point.

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 04: Author Steve Sansweet attends Toys”R”Us Force Friday With Out-Of-This-Galaxy Midnight Events on September 4, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Toys”R”Us)

DSOF: We have the 6” Black Series line and the 3 ¾” line. It feels like the 6” line gets more love and has better sculpts. Even more streamlined. Do you think Hasbro has the collector in mind or kids? Are they trying to split the difference?

JS: Hasbro has made it very clear that The Black Series is their collector-focused line and the 5POA is their kid-focused line.

Now that The Vintage Collection has returned, 3 ¾” collectors are starting to feel the collector-focused love but nowhere to the degree that the 6” collector is and have been feeling for years now.

My dream is a cheap line that is regarded by Hasbro as a collector series, much like Kenner did for the original line and Hasbro did for GI Joe line in the ’80s.

DSOF: Power of the Force 2 seems to be universally hated for its muscled-out figures, what is the worst line to hit store shelves?

JS: No, not in the slightest. They were a product of their time. Look at any figure line from the early to mid-’90s, they all looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger. The line was huge, had tons of vehicles, playsets, accessories, and figures. The line is fantastic as action figure lines go. I believe the Movie Heroes line for 2013-2014 was way worse.

DSOF: Do you still collect vintage?

JS: I dabble in it still but with the prices, these days, it’s not as fun as it once was. I also stick to a budget so when I see I can buy a pop-up Artoo for $500 that equates to 50 modern 3 ¾” figures in my mind. So I still pluck away at the holes in my collection but it is very casual and not a priority for me.

DSOF: Is there a white whale that has never made it into your collection?

JS: I am still missing four figures from the vintage line, including the Ewoks and Droids line. So those are my big wants but as stated above, they all cost a mint and as a school teacher, I’ll never be swimming in money so those would be them.

DSOF: We have the Vintage Collection line, but do you think Hasbro would ever go as far as creating figures that look like the vintage Kenner line?

JS: I do not think Hasbro will ever do it but I think Funko or Super 7 would jump at the chance. We will see what happens when the current exclusive 3 ¾” contract Hasbro has with Lucasfilm expires in 2020.

DSOF: Podcasts have become a pretty amazing outlet for people like you and Criz to talk about topics that would not normally be on the radio. How has your show evolved from the beginning? Has it changed your life in any way?  And where do you see it going in the future?

JS: TOY RUN has been an amazing experience. Putting out 130+ 1-2 hour episodes in two-and-a-half years has been an enormous labor of love. The biggest impact on my life has been hearing the stories of how the show has impacted others. Here Criz and I thought we were just getting together to talk about Star Wars once a week and somehow the T.R. Nation was formed. I guess passion is contagious and we have plenty in stock in when it comes to Star Wars and action figure collecting. As for the future, TOY RUN will definitely be at Celebration Chicago this year. In what form and manner, will be announced at a later date.

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In addition to the Toy Run – The Star Wars Action Figure Cast, Jake Stevens and Criz Bee also run Star Wars websites, From 4 LOM to and respectively.