Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New McQuarrie figs

From plasticandplush, Here's something cool for Star Wars fans. Hasbro will release two more figures (Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda) based on Ralph McQuarrie's concept drawings. The set will be a SDCC exclusive and run $14.99.

In his sketches, concept artist Ralph McQuarrie evokes the graceful power of a ninja master or samurai warrior in his drawing of Obi-Wan. The diminutive Yoda appears leaner and more whimsical than he will ultimately appear in the films, yet he still exudes mystical strength. This collectible two-pack of figures celebrates the vision that would later become known as two of the most memorable characters in the Star Wars saga. Obi-wan and Yoda figures come with exclusive collector coin.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sneak Peak new JLU figure for 2009!

From martycollector, Hey JLU Collectors,

We already revealed quite a lot at SDCC 2008 of our 2009 line up, but wanted to give everyone a little holiday treat before the New Year. Take a gander at the image below! We are not revealing where this figure fits into the line-up quite yet, but you will see her in the first half of 2009!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

My best toy investment ever

Star Trek Captain Jean Luc Picard Tapestry Action Figure

According to Amazon there is "1 used & new available from $999.99"

This is bar none the best toy investment I ever made. I picked this up in a Toys R Us in Pensacola back in the early 1990s. I remember that I was looking for something else (probably Micro Machines) and I saw this hanging on the peg. Mind you I had just read about this rare figure in Action Figure News and Toy Review and I was astonished to see it sitting on the pegs - how could this escape the eyes of an employee? Anyway, it cost me about $4 and now fetches a grand. Woo-hoo! If only all the stuff I've purchased over the years would appreciate this nicely. I'm thinking that it's a once in a lifetime find.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

KB Toys, depressing and lame to the end

Okay, I know that's a little harsh. Kay Bee was lots of fun when we were kids, and it was the site of the awesome Black Friday Star Wars Toy Grab that I chronicled below. When they got out the red ink, you could find some pretty good deals. I can recall a decent Bionicle purchase I made there as recently as 2006 (just looked the sets up on Bricklink to make sure of that date).

But depressing and lame were the sights that greeted me when I popped into the KB Toy Works store in Sherman Oaks tonight. It's a store I almost never check even though it's closer to my house than the nearest TRU, and a store in which I have never purchased a single thing (and, it looks like, never will).

And here's the problem right here. The SW figs were 30% off... but they're priced at 9.99. The huge discount, the "we're selling off everything because our company is DEAD discount," it still only nudging the price down to 7 bucks. That's pretty much the highest price most toy stores will charge for a SW fig, and in many places it's even cheaper.

This is, of course, no surprise; their prices on new, premium toys have always sucked. But what about the odd blast from the past, or finds from strange, unexpected toy categories? Some of the best toy collecting moments can happen then...

Well, not here. It's been a long time since Dr. Fate was news, and "Super Value" my big, black ass. It's been like that for a while; I can't remember the last time the archive racks at a KB served up anything I was even remotely interested in buying. Maybe back when the long-gone Swansea's KB had their Toybiz figs on the left side of that big center aisle, but that was ten years ago.

And as a final "Up Yours, Consumer" there was this. Signs for buying gift cards for a store that won't exist inside of a month or so. What the hell? I even heard an ad for these in between the piped-in songs, a cheerful woman pointing out that the gift cards had no extra fees and -- get this -- never expired. "Oh, but we didn't say the store wouldn't expire, sorry!"

I will miss KB, but mostly because I will miss any toy store that once existed and now doesn't anymore. TRU, Wal-mart and Target seem to be gobbling up everything, and I suppose there are ways that's a sad thing.

But really, for the last several years KB has rarely managed to be anything other than a waste of time for JPX and me (because we're too fanatical not to check), and as far back as I can remember it's been the store with the worst music ever.

Adios, KB Toys. May you return as something better.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I just love the new Sinestro color scheme

I managed to find one at Target (I think only Target sells JLU figures now). Do you want me to keep an eye out for this version for you? Come on, she has a new hat!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

KB Toys is no more!

In another sign of the grim holiday season, KB Toys filed for bankruptcy protection for the second time in four years on Thursday and plans to begin going-out-of business sales at its stores immediately.

The 86-year-old company said in a filing that its debt is "directly attributable to a sudden and sharp decline in consumer sales" because of the poor economy.

That a toy retailer filed for bankruptcy just before Christmas shows how bleak things have become, since such stores make up to half of their sales during the holidays. But analysts expect toy sales this holiday season to be flat or down slightly from last year's total of $10.4 billion, according to market research firm NPD Group, because consumers are cutting back amid the recession.

In response, toy retailers, including KB Toys, amped up their discounts.

KB Toys had aggressively cut prices to entice cash-strapped shoppers, offering hundreds of toys for $10 or less. It also expanded its value program, which offers deals on new items each week, and offered "Buy 2, Get 1 Free" promotions.

But the deals weren't enough. In the filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, KB Toys said that between Oct. 5 and Dec. 8 sales in stores open at least one year, a key retail metric known as same-store sales, fell nearly 20 percent.

The company said it considered its alternatives and decided the most viable way to cover its debt was to begin liquidating its stores via immediate going-out-of-business sales. KB Toys also plans to sell its wholesale distribution business, according to the filing.

Filing for Chapter 11 protection rather than Chapter 7 liquidation allows a company to retain more control over selling off assets. Under Chapter 7, the court immediately appoints a trustee to take over the case.

KB Toys declined to comment beyond what was in the filing.

The company operates 277 mall-based stores, 40 KB Toy Works stores which are mainly in strip malls, 114 outlet stores and 30 short-term holiday stores. It has 4,400 full-time employees and 6,515 seasonal employees.

KB Toys, which says it has about $480 million in annual sales, said in the filing that it had debts between $100 million and $500 million and total assets in the same range.

Vendors top the list of unsecured creditors. The toy retailer owes Hong Kong-based toy manufacturer Li & Fung about $27.2 million, El Segundo, Calif.-based Mattel Toys $1.3 million and St. Louis-based Energizer Battery more than $728,000. Other creditors are Hasbro Inc. and the maker of Legos.

Pittsfield, Mass.-based KB Toys filed for bankruptcy in 2004 and emerged nearly two years later as a subsidiary of investment firm Prentice Capital Management, which owns 90 percent of the company's common stock. During that bankruptcy, KB sold its retail Internet operation to eToys Direct Inc., cut the number of retail stores from 1,200 to 650 and closed a distribution center.

Jim Silver, a toy analyst at timetoplaymag.com, said KB had been struggling since emerging from its first bankruptcy protection in 2005.

"Manufacturers were concerned about shipping to them over the last couple of months," he said. "This did not happen all of a sudden."

He said that the timing of the filing was a surprise, however, since he expected it in January. But as manufacturers balked at shipping "hot" holiday toys, their sales dropped off. KB Toys also suffered from deciding not to sell video-game consoles such as the Nintendo Wii, one of the few toy items selling well this year, Silver said.

"Their business model didn't work," he said. "They're selling closeouts, today people want the hot toys."

Amid the consumer spending slowdown and recession, KB Toys joins a growing list of retailers filing for bankruptcy protection. Others include Mervyns LLC, The Sharper Image, Steve & Barry's, to Linens 'N Things and Circuit City Stores Inc.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dinky Toys!

As a buildup-to-Xmas special, here are my favorite pages from the 1974 Dinky catalog. I started scouting for Dinky catalogs when JPX discovered PlaidStallions with all of its Corgi catalog action. Corgi toys were okay, but prior the debut of Star Wars figures Dinky toys were the vein of pure gold running through my toy collection -- the undisputed alpha toys.

Some guy named Ralf Zeigermann in the UK has this small collection of one Dinky and three Corgi catalogs (the other two of his Dinky links don't work). Not a very comprehensive resource, really, except that the 1974 Dinky catalog was THE Dinky catalog, if you get my meaning.

And this here, pages 4 and 5, was THE spread.  I would eventually have five of the nine toys featured here. My first was the Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle in the upper left of page 5, followed by Thunderbird 2 and FAB 1, and later by the U.F.O. Interceptor and Shado 2 Vehicle. I still kind of pine for the white Spectrum Maximum Security Vehicle; I look at them on ebay now and again. They're either really beat up or expensive.

Of the ones I have, most are in good to decent shape. I know the FAB 1's dome is cracked and I personally pried out the Parker and Lady Penelope figures. The SPV, unfortunately, is a stripped hulk of a toy. Those little rubber tires come off, and because kids like to take things off they all vanished. Well, not completely. At one point I noticed the SPV and the FAB 1 had the same tires, so I cannibalized a couple from the former to fully tire the Rolls.

One of my other Dinkys is the MRCA seen above, with "swing-wings." Kind of an odd choice, but then again the only place I remember ever seeing Dinky toys for sale was in the toy store at the Mystic Seaport next to the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut. I'm sure it was an overpriced little touristy shop and I remember specifically that they each cost ten dollars, which was of course huge money. The problem with the MRCA was that the wings and the landing gear were on the same lever, so if the wings were sticking out the landing gear was down. Kinda lame.

I've included these two pics because I recall drooling over that hovercraft again and again. The military one is cooler but the red one was pretty temptatious as well. But I never saw either one.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

If you're not familiar with the term, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, which is always the single heaviest shopping day of the year. The name was supposedly coined by those who work in retail, hence the negativism. For them, it's a suck day. For a lot of people, it's a day of opportunity.

For toy geeks, it's often a day where new stuff is on the shelves. On Black Friday in 1995, JPX and I got up super early to hit the stores. Toys R Us opened at 7 am, and we were there. But they didn't have what we wanted. What we wanted: In anticipation of the Special Editions of the original Star Wars trilogy coming out, new Star Wars figures were being made for the first time in twenty years. The first wave of the new figures was just kicking around that autumn, and the hard ones to find were 3PO and Princess Leia. Jeff wanted the princess and I wanted the droid.

So we headed next door to the Swansea Mall, which was open to the public before the stores lifted their security gates. Sure enough, right on the other side of the gate to Kay Bee Toy and Hobby was a display of Star Wars figs, and right in the front was a 3PO and a Leia. The store wouldn't open for another 45 minutes, so JPX and I used the time to head to the nearby Walmart in Seekonk.

Walmart was disappointing, but worse than that, when we got back to Kay Bee there was a big ol' nerd parked right on the other side of the gate from the SW rack. Damn! This was a pretty typical example of our ilk: about 300 pounds of misfit stuffed into an army jacket that I'm sure hung on a hook in his parents' basement. I sidled up next to him as best I could and stood silently in the gathering crowd, poised like a gunslinger for when it was time to make my move. Soon a noisy guy showed up behind me, going "maaaan, look at all the people. Hey, what are you trying to get? What about you? How about you, dude?" The big nerd reluctantly spoke up: "oh, 3PO, the Princess...the hard-to-get ones." I grinned to myself. He had broken his poker face facade, clearly he had tipped his advantage. I set my gaze ahead and waited.

During all this I was assuming that when go time came, an employee would come up to the gate and turn a key on the floor, saying "let's take it easy people." But no. They stayed behind the counter and pressed a button somewhere. Suddenly the gate was rising past the toes of my boots. I made a split-second calculation: clearly I'd surrendered all dignity by just being here this early in the morning, I might as well get what I came for. When the gate was about two feet high, I flattened and zipped underneath it. Grab! 3PO in one hand. Grab! Princess Leia in the other. Fwoosh! Suddenly I was in the middle of a tight sea of people, clawing at the rack. I turned around and looked at JPX, triumphantly holding the two figs above the scrambling mass around me. His huge grin reflected the one I felt on my own face. Success! Blissful success.

I estimated I had two or three whole seconds with the rack to myself. On the way out, I stopped and got myself an R2D2, a fig that had been out for a while and was not hard to get. The noisy guy was still there, talking, and I heard him say "man, that first guy just flew!" Jeff and I rode that high for the rest of the holiday, and in a way we're still riding it.

This has become my signature story of just how committed a nerd I am.

Good times.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sunday, November 09, 2008

FX-6 from Revenge of the Sith

I had this in my hands today and then put it down for some reason. Now I want it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Images of next year's Lego sets are on the rampage! I'm especially excited about the Jedi Starfighter above because 1) I want an Ahsoka minifig but she's currently only available in two 90 dollar sets, 2) I'm psyched about the dark red astromech body/legs because the V-wing came with a dark red head but no body; I can't wait to evict Ahsoka's dumb white and green one for a nice red R2 unit, and 3) It just looks like a cool set. I like those decorated wedges.

Compared to these images, my 2008 Holiday catalog that Lego mailed me looks stale and old. I'm in the same funny place with Lego sets that I am with JLU figs: I go scouting for stuff in the stores and I've already got everything (unless I want to drop HUGE Lego bucks, but I don't).

I probably won't go for this set, but seeing it is exciting.

These new Power Miner sets have an unfortunate color scheme, but this one at least has those great drill/wheel parts.

And they're bringing back Pirates! Again, I'm not excited because I want the sets per se, but the excitement of the other Lego freaks is infectious. And I am SO all over that dark red octopus. And it's in a cheap set! Totally getting that.

Go here for a good look at new Spongebob, Star Wars, Power Miners, Bionicle, Farm, and more. Go here to see the pirates.

Remember, they say 2009 but actually some of these will come out a week or two before X-mas. Better watch out!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Finally, a Star Wars wave I can get behind!

Cool, more cantina denizens!!!

Respect my Authority

I still haven't found this 3-pack yet but it really irks me that it comes with yet another Flash and Wonder Woman. How many of them do I have now, like 10 each?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Got my Castle Advent Calendar!

This wasn't intended to be sold in the US at all, which sucks when you check out the exclusive and very cool minifigs it comes with (below). But the good people at The Brothers Brick (my favorite Lego blog) and other online Lego geekoids put enough pressure on the Lego group that they sold a limited amount starting at noon EST today. I was all over it, got the special code from the blog and called their asses at 9:00 PST sharp. And it's on the way! (If you're interested, follow the link to TBB.)

Battlestar Galactica vehicles I never knew existed

Colonial Scarab

Colonial Stellar Probe

Lucifer was a silly action figure

Photos from Cooltoyreview.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Brix Blox look like something your grandmother would buy

From retrothing, I was a lucky "early adopter" of Lego. My father brought some back from a business trip when I was a boy, and that started me on a lifelong fascination with this classic construction toy. Back then Lego was expensive and hard to find, so it's only natural that giant retailer Sears would try to copy that success with Brix Blox.

To be perfectly correct, Sears didn't create Brix Blox. It's a relabeled version of "Loc Blocs" by Entex (a famous maker of handheld electronic games). Remember that Sears used to demand that anything sold in their retail chain stores be relabeled with a Sears house brand. So Brix Blox were included as part of Sears' "Little Learners" toy line.

The shape and size of the bricks is clearly patterned after Lego, though the two aren't compatible. There are also far fewer specialty shapes like windows and wheels.The pieces don't have the same precision snap fit that Lego does, so I found the models to be a bit less sturdy.

Loc Blocs were manufactured in the 70's and 80's (I even found photos of a Smurf themed set). I'm not sure when this set dates from, but perhaps since the pieces are all red, white and blue, perhaps they're from around 1976? I'm surprised that Loc Blocs existed as long as they did, given Lego's protection of their patented (since expired) construction bricks. In the 80's, Lego became somewhat more affordable and featured many more specialized and sophisticated pieces than the competition - so I guess that it wasn't enough for Loc Blocs (or Brix Blox or whatever) to merely be cheaper.

I don't see many Loc Bloc fans around today (Lego forums are notorious for their dislike of other Lego-like building toys). These days the other brands of snap-together building blocks are fully compatible with the Lego originals, so no one has to settle for an also-ran off-brand that doesn't fit anything else.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Selective Index for Jeff & Jeff's Pandemonium

Iconic images

Roundup of original Star Wars figure blister card backs

Scans of choice Sears Wish Book pages, one and two

Boba Fett's first product appearance

General Toy Coverage

Uzay! Hilarious Turkish Star Wars knockoff figs

A look at Kenner's aborted Star Wars products from the mid '80's

A Star Wars figure collector's primer

Complete stupid history of Kenner's Droid Factory/Jabba's Dungeon playset

The Hal Jordan JLU figure so ultra-rare it might as well not exist at all

Star Wars Survival Kit remembered

Super Powers figured remembered, including the unreleased 4th wave

Battle Beasts remembered

Matchboxes Mobile Action Command (M.A.C.) remembered

JPX and Octo

JPX sighted on West Coast

A young Octopunk poses in front of a tantalizing rack of POTF figures

A younger JPX and family's 15 seconds of fame

Old Star Wars figs vs. New Star Wars figs: JPX weighs in, Octopunk weighs in

JPX's favorite Super Powers figures

Octopunk's favorite Super Powers figures

Octopunk's review of toy losses, both resolved and unresolved

The story of Octopunk snagging JPX a free Blue Snaggletooth

Octopunk drools over Star Wars animated maquettes, parts one, two,
three and four.

A roundup of upcoming SW figs that leads to a long hilarious discussion on the comment board, and also...

Octopunk whined at by lousy Biker Scout figure

Much later, Octopunk admonished by Black Bespin figure

Octopunk gets excited because his toys arrive from the East Coast (including his Shadow Thunder Cab)

Octopunk gets excited because he completes a Kaiyodo Chocolasaur set

Octopunk gets excited because he decides to special order those two Astromech droid collections and then they arrive

Octopunk shows off his Astromech droid collection

Lego Stuff

Cool story about Lego pieces in special colors

Some guy online imitates one of Octopunk's Lego designs

Toy Modifications

Lushros Dofine's arm is modified

Who the hell designed this ride?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Legos finally make it to Massachusetts!

LEGO Store Grand Opening Celebration
at South Shore Plaza, Braintree, MA
October 11 - 13
Mark your calendar for the Grand Opening Celebration of the new LEGO Store at South Shore Plaza!

The highlight of the weekend is our 3-day Master Builder Event, where LEGO fans of all ages are invited to help a real LEGO Master Builder construct an 8-ft tall LEGO Yoda™ model! This event is free and fun for the whole family, and everyone who participates will get a free LEGO Star Wars Certificate of Achievement, while supplies last, plus a LEGO Store coupon!

Event Hours:
Saturday, October 11: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sunday, October 12: 11:00 am - 6:00 pm
Monday, October 13: 11:00 am - 7:00pm
Macy's Court

Plus, on Sunday October 12:
Be one of the first 300 customers to spend $35 in the LEGO Store and you'll receive an exclusive, limited-edition LEGO Baseball Player set! This set was created just for the opening of our South Shore Plaza Store, and is not available for sale! The baseball player features a red hat, red socks, white uniform and even includes home plate!

And, on Monday October 13:
Be one of the first 300 customers to spend $35 in the LEGO Store and you'll receive an exclusive, limited-edition LEGO Minifigure T-Shirt! These shirts are available in child's sizes only, and were created exclusively to mark the Grand Opening of the South Shore Plaza LEGO Store!

South Shore Plaza
250 Granite St
Braintree, MA 02184