The Hunt Is On - The Vintage Collection 3 3/4" Wave 5 and Exclusive Figures Found

Given the previously mentioned glut of old figures in stores, it's becoming increasingly unlikely that I'll be seeing future waves of Vintage Collection figures in my area any time soon. Life, uh, finds a way, however - so I've been turning to the secondary market in order to get my hand on the latest releases. The beauty of being an 'opener' is that this can be done rather cheaply. I recently managed to find all of the Wave 5 and Walmart exclusive figures on my Hunt List for around $17.50NZ each - considerably less than their MISB price of up to $29.99 at some retailers (I'm looking at you, Toyworld).

Wave 5 consists of repacks of four figures from the very early days of the Vintage Collection back in 2010: VC02 Princess Leia (Hoth), VC03 Han Solo (Echo Base), VC08 Darth Vader, and VC23 Luke Skywalker (Endor Captive). This time around, however, all four figures have been given the gorgeous Photo Real face treatment - providing them with some of the best likenesses we've seen in this scale. Add this to the super articulation and wonderful accessories that we've all come to expect from this line (Vader's three-piece helmet is a particularly magical touch), and you've got one phenomenal wave of classic characters.

While I'd picked up the Vader on his initial release many years ago, the Photo Real upgrade was sufficient incentive to purchase another. The Leia, Han, and Luke, on the other hand, were all figures that I'd missed the first time around. Given this, I was rapt to finally be able to add them to my collection (even more so given how much their initial releases sell for on the secondary market).

Along with this wave, I also managed to nab four exclusives that had no hope of making it to Australian shores: VC21 Gamorrean Guard, VC137 Ree-Yees, VC 143 Han Solo (Stormtrooper Disguise), and VC144 Lando Calrissian (Skiff Guard). The Gamorrean Guard is a straight reissue of the exquisite figure first released in 2010. I passed on this the first time, and have regretted it ever since - especially after picking up my 3 3/4" Jabba the Hutt. The Ree-Yees is a repack from the 3 3/4" Black Series line, while the Han Solo and Lando Calrissian figures are heavily modified (and improved) versions of previous Vintage Collection and Legacy Collection releases -  now with the Photo Real upgrade. Once again, these represented a handful of gaps in my collection that I was incredibly excited to fill. The trio of Return of the Jedi figures will go especially well with the raft of Jabba's Palace-themed figures I picked up from the last wave!

Micro Force WOW! Series 1 Figures

Last year my wife and I decided to diversify our collecting habits by focussing on a new line - specifically, Hasbro's Micro Force. These figures retailed for $2.99US (around $4.00NZ) in blind bags of two. We managed to collect full sets of both Series 1 and Series 2 - however, while three more series were released, these never turned up at any of our local stores. With interest in the line diminishing, Hasbro recently opted to reposition and rebrand the line as Micro Force WOW!, now selling four figures at a time in a new lightsaber-shaped blind box. We finally came across the first series of this new line at Hobbyco during a recent trip to downtown Sydney.

These new packs retail for $17.99AU. That's around $19.00NZ - or approximately $4.75NZ per figure. Given that the figures have more than doubled in price, we opted for a single blind box to begin with. Fortunately, we nabbed a great quartet. As well as new figures, the WOW! line also includes holographic (read: unpainted translucent) versions of previously released sculpts. We only received one of these however - a red holographic version of the Darth Maul we obtained in Series 2. The other three figures we pulled - holographic K-2SO; Luke Skywalker (Jedi Exile); and Bucket (R1-J5) - were entirely new for our collection

While we were rapt with this particular pack, we're not entirely sold on picking up more than these. Truth be told, we lucked out in getting pretty much every figure we wanted from this wave. The remainder are resculpts - or holographic rereleases - of characters that we already have in our collection. The considerably higher price of these new packs is also a big deterrent. It's a little frustrating to be honest. It's clear that Hasbro is attempting to offer a more involved blind-opening experience - perhaps in an attempt to emulate the wild success of lines like LOL Surprise! But once it's open, the lightsaber serves no extra purpose as a means of display nor has any other playability to offer. Further, given the low production costs of these figures, there's every chance that the lightsaber packaging may very well cost more than the items it contains - and this might go some way towards explaining the significant increase in prices. At the end of the day, it's hard to see how the addition of such a gimmick can save the line. While Hasbro might have been disappointed with the sales figures for the earlier waves of this line, there's every chance this was simply down to poor distribution (a complaint also shared by 3 3/4" figures right now). My wife and I would have invested heavily in Series 3 through 5 - had we been able to find them.

In short, we're hoping that Hasbro soon take this line back to its roots, and once again give us the chance to pick up simple (and cheap) packets of these fantastic little figures. Until then, we're unlikely to be dabbling much more in this line.

The Star Wars Identities Exhibition (Sydney, Australia)

A few months ago my wife and I moved to Sydney, Australia - just in time to catch the Star Wars Identities Exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum. Unlike the Power of Costume display we caught in Florida (which focussed exclusively on screen-used costumes) this exhibit features an additional range of concept art, maquettes, and - most exciting for me - model starships.

As the name suggests, the exhibition centres around the many influences that comprise our personal identities. Guests use an electronic wristband to interact with ten digital stations throughout the exhibit - each of which invites them to make decisions about what kind of person (or alien) they'd be in that galaxy far, far away. At the end of the tour, each guest's Star Wars alter-ego is projected on a screen for all to see.

Unfortunately, the 'identities' activity was a little underwhelming. Each guest's final character really ends up being a combination of only two choices - the costume (of which there were about a dozen options) and head type (of which there were around the same number). It would have been great if some of the other identity choices had an effect, making for a more unique avatar - but lets be honest, no-one came to this exhibition for the interactive component. The real attraction here were the gorgeous, screen-used costumes and props. And these certainly didn't fail to disappoint.

The Star Wars: Identities exhibition will next be at Warehouse TERRADA in Tokyo, Japan from August 8, 2018 to January 13, 2020. More locations and dates are expected to be announced after this, and can be found on the official website of the exhibition.