A recent Sideshow Star Wars 1:6 scale figure can cost best part of or even a whole week’s pay cheque, but there was a time when they were readily available at much lower prices. Back in 2006, Sideshow had already gained a strong reputation for their ¼ scale releases, but then came their announcement that a 1:6 scale line was to be launched, starting with Luke Skywalker: Jedi Knight from Return of the Jedi.
We had already had 12” figures from the early days of Star Wars collecting back in the 70’s and 80’s. Those figures become sort after and highly collectible, and then with the POTF2 relaunch by Kenner in 1995 more 12” figures were to hit the market.
During this time the Kenner figures hadn’t really evolved. Comparable to their 70’s counterparts, they were bulky and cumbersome, again much like the Action Man and GI Joe style ranges of the day. But, that announcement in 2006 proved to be a game changer for the larger scaled figures.
I had missed most of the press releases around the initial release of the Luke Skywalker: Jedi Knight figure and stumbled across it by accident in my local Forbidden Planet International in Wolverhampton. Quickly grabbed from the shelf and I undid the magnet ‘locks’ of the box to expand the now familiar gate folded windows to reveal a very accurate looking Luke with accessories galore! Marked up £19.99, (the exact same price as a POTF2 12” figure) I didn’t hesitate on making my purchase. Little did I realise, and thankfully neither did the staff, that it should have been marked up at £39.99.
On getting home, I hastily, but carefully, opened the top flaps of the box and slid out the plastic trays. I was astounded by the details and sheer brilliance of what I saw. Being the proud owner of many POTF2 12” figures, this new creation was a thing of beauty and incomparable to them.
The articulation would allow for far more dynamic poses and the sheer number of joints and accessories outstripped anything I had ever known before. Cape on, cape off; battle damaged hand, gloved hand; pensive Jedi pose, aggressive combatant pose; the choice was mine and mine alone.
Over the coming months I eagerly awaited the release of new figures from Sideshow. I homed in on my local stores on a regular basis checking the shelves for the new releases. The price tag didn’t put me off, although double the price of the then equivalent Hasbro figures, I felt that I was getting 10 times the value.
Slowly, but surely, my collection expanded, and I was buying at least 1 figure a month. My local stores and eBay being the major suppliers to me and even the odd one from Sideshow direct. It wasn’t too long before the price went up by 50%. This took most new releases to around the £60 mark. Again, the value was there due to the accessories, superior sculpting and extras that you would get.
Purchasing figures, especially online, can have its pitfalls as I came to find out. I remember purchasing Princess Leia from A New Hope Deluxe figure, which came with Imperial binders off eBay. On receipt I was surprised and very disappointed to find out that my figure had 2 left hands! I approached the seller, who was a little unwilling to help, but I decided to speak to someone at Sideshow. Email sent, I waited to see what would happen. A ‘helping hand’ was on offer and Leia’s right would be in the post all the way from America to me in the UK. 3 weeks later a heavily fortified box landed at my address. There it was, the missing right hand and a $15 voucher for my trouble. Wow, what a gesture!
With this type of service and the quality on offer, I was even more determined to buy more, and it was at this time that I moved my collecting focus away from Hasbro and Kenner to the higher end of the market. My collection increased dramatically but collecting these magnificent figures was not without further incident.
On receipt of my Commander Praji figure, I found the stock of his E-11 blaster to be missing parts. Again, an email to Sideshow resulted in another box containing the replacement blaster.
Then a big purchase came and proved to be a near disaster. Sideshow had released Jabba and his throne, and this was a must have for the growing collection. I really did need this, so I started my hunt. A friend who traded in second hand toys landed me my Jabba. The box was damaged, but for £60 instead of the RRP £100, I was in. Now to secure the throne set. At a cool £180, the polystone unit was a beast of a piece. Then a late-night trawl on eBay paid dividends and I had a done deal. £110 and it was from a seller 6 miles from home. The next night I battled the rush hour traffic after work to get to pick up my latest acquisition. Cash handed over and box secured in my car boot (trunk), I tootled home without a care in the world and a cheesy grin on my face.
My wife had very kindly offered to buy me the throne for Christmas, so being mid-October, it was a while until I would get to display it all together. My wife insisted I opened it before putting it away to be sent to Santa. So, I carefully opened the box and to my dismay I found a damaged throne. Gutted has nothing on it, the anger, I was raging especially when there were visible signs someone had tried to repair it with superglue and had even left the lid off the tube in the box!
I tried to contact the seller, but no reply, so in my anger I loaded the throne into my car and headed back to where I had collected it from.
Hammering the door, a rather sheepish person appeared and when confronted, denials of any wrong doing came back to me. Disbelieving of them, I demanded my money back and reluctantly it was handed back to me. I left to head home angry having been stung by an unscrupulous seller.
My wife took pity on me and ordered me a throne set from Amazon for the full RRP and it arrived intact and was sent to Santa ready for Christmas day.
With my previous purchases all put together and with Jabba on his throne, the whole environment made for an amazing centrepiece for my growing collection. I must admit that it is probably one of the best things I own in my collection, but alas, I am currently unable to display it due to its sheer size and weight.
From this point on, I was always more cautious when buying online from auction sites and moved to purchasing from reputable online retailers only. With the price increases now seeing a figure rise to £80, combined with the extensive new range of figures available, it was becoming harder to collect all that was released. Not only that, where could I display them all?
Purchases started to become very selective, resulting in me only picking up favoured characters rather than all on offer. While the price had increased I must admit, the quality had only got better. More accessories, more pose ability and far more accurate figures were now available. The figures on offer way surpassed anything we had ever seen before as collectors.
With each release everything just seemed to be bigger and better. After Jabba and his throne, further accessories like the Millennium Falcon’s Dejarik Table, Nadon’s Nook and, then the Alcove with Han Solo in Carbonite hit the market and the bar just seemed to get higher and higher. It wasn’t just about the figures now, we were even getting beautifully crafted and accurate dioramas to accompany them.
Then came a further game changer. Hot Toys announced a Luke Skywalker: Bespin 2 pack. Now, the bar had just been raised even more significantly. With 2 versions of Luke, a full set of accessories and Bespin weather vane, this set was amazing. Although they didn’t release anymore items until a couple of years later, the prices had started to creep once more.
In line with the rise in pricing, the quality continued to improve too. The competition had started to heat up and so had the pressure on the purse strings of the collector. The prices were around the £140 mark in the UK. We always seem to have to pay more that our equivalent collectors in the US due to import taxes and shipping costs being passed on to consumers. Now £100 per figure more expensive than in the beginning, my collecting was grinding to a halt with the release of Boba Fett: Prototype figure.
This time, I decided to order direct from Sideshow as no pre-orders were being accepted by my usual suppliers for less than £190. My price from Sideshow, $130, approximately £100 before shipping. Another $30 shipping was added, but I was still going to be roughly £60 in pocket. Then, instead of receiving my figure, I received a customs letter. Boba was in the UK but sat in a customs warehouse waiting for me to pay the import tax on my purchase. The princely sum of £40 was requested by Her Majesty’s Government as a ransom to release Boba to me. With no other choice, I had to pay up, but this tainted my experience of importing figures direct from Sideshow. I was around £20 better off, but with the hassle, it would have been easier to order from retailer here in the UK.
Alas, Boba was my last purchase, but I had even splashed out on 2 non-Star Wars figures to add to my collection. I also own Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark and Captain America: The First Avenger figures in my collection. These are 2 of my favourite and most iconic characters outside of the Star Wars galaxy. Indy speaks volumes to many Star Wars fans, but for Captain America, he was my very first comic book hero.
Since the turn of this year, prices for new releases are now at between £250 and £350 per figure, and new characters are being turned out at such a prolific rate. I am unsure how people can keep up, with the volume (and space) and how they can fund the hobby. I now admire the new releases through the cabinet windows, displays at toy fairs and in shops. But I also take time out with my own collection. While not quite as high in standard as some of the current releases, they are still of amazing quality and still look fantastic on my display shelves. My grail figure currently is the Obi-Wan: Mythos figure and I am putting away money each month to make sure he gets a spot on my shelf at some point very soon!
Sideshow continues to go from strength to strength and long may that continue. For collectors they allow us to own a piece of memorabilia which will never change, a snapshot from our favourite movies and characters that have influenced our lives.
In my opinion, looking at the news coming out of New York Toy Fair recently, the new Hasbro Hyper Real range may influence a shift in this market once more. Although offering figures of a reduced size format, the price point may be more appealing and would require less shelf space to build your collection for display.
One thing for sure is that the industry is only going in one direction. Toys and collectables will only become more accurate and of higher quality as manufacturing processes improve. Look how things have changed in the last 10 years, let alone 40, so is there any limit to where it could in the next 10?
Authors note: The pictures featured are of my own collection as they have been displayed over the years.