With a new Star Wars movie on the horizon — "The Last Jedi" hits theaters Dec. 15 — a whole new wave of Star Wars toys and memorabilia will be in stores on Sept. 1, a day commonly known as “Force Friday.” What other movie has a marketing day all to its own? It’s a day gaining as much popularity (if it hasn’t already) as Black Friday.
According to Fortune Magazine, Jan. 20, 2016, Star Wars toys generated more than $700 million in the U.S. in 2015 when the highly anticipated movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out in December that same year.
But last month, the New York Post published an article stating that “Star Wars fatigue may be settling in.” Just in time for Force Friday, too.
It stated that the franchise is “choking” the $20.4 billion toy industry. And that the merchandise — from action figures to plastic light sabers — have started to decline this year.
However, as the article states, sales were up by 3 percent in the six months until June 30.
The same article claims the reason for the “fatigue” stems from Disney’s release of Star Wars movies in consecutive Decembers. "The Force Awakens" came out in December 2015. "Rogue One" was released the following December. And the newest film will be out soon.
When is too much of a good thing actually good?
Though marketing experts believe toy sales could very possibly be better than they were when the movie Rogue One came out last year, they certainly won’t reach the same level they did when The Force Awakens was released.
Toy company Kenner, which became defunct in 2000, first released Star Wars action figures in 1978 following the release of the first movie in 1977. The original line of figures ended in 1985 as sales declined. And if there’s one word I could use to describe all the Star Wars figures that have come out since then, it would be “overwhelming.”
Between 1977 to present day, there are approximately 28 different lines (or collections) of Star Wars action figures. Star Wars figures came back to toy shelves in 1995 with “The Power of the Force” line of toys. “Shadows of the Empire” line came next, followed by toys for the movie 1999 Star Wars movie “The Phantom Menace.” Then the “Power of the Jedi” line came out, followed by “Star Wars Saga” series, the “Clone Wars” series, a line for the animated series. Soon after that, the “Trilogy Collection” hit stores. The list goes on.
Right now on toy shelves, consumers will find figures for “The Force Awakens”, “Rogue One”, and a line called “The Black Series.”
I can’t find an exact number of how many individual Star Wars action figures have been release since 1978. But to help put it into perspective, since that time, there have been more than 30 variations of the droid character R2D2 released.
There were more than 100 different figures released between 1978 to 1985 alone. Some of which were the same character, but with different features than previously released.
And since the first days of Star Wars toys, a large portion of the character gallery in action figure form have been characters who had no significant role in any of the films other than a quick appearance in the background of any particular scene in any of the Star Wars movies or TV programs.
And with Disney now owners of the franchise, it’s no surprise they would saturate the market with what’s already a big money-maker.
Toy collectors like myself may take an interest in new figures being released as new movies are produced. But I can’t imagine parents buying Chewbacca for instance from The Force Awakens for their kids, and then buying him again because he now comes in The Last Jedi packaging with, maybe, different accessories. With the average price of action figures at the store being $10, most parents aren’t going to buy the same figures over and over again.
I started collecting action figures myself about 10 years ago after finding some of my old action figures I had as a kid back in the early 90s, from the Warren Beatty film “Dick Tracy”. It was a hobby I grew passionate about — focusing on collecting the toys I had as far back as the 80s — HeMan and the Masters of the Universe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, ThunderCats, and especially Star Wars. The pop culture of my youth. And toys I no longer had.
Though I keep my collection to what are generally called “vintage,” when it comes to Star Wars, I do get a few newer figures from time to time.
I was at Walmart on Force Friday back in 2015, when people were waiting anxiously for “The Force Awakens” to come out. I was checking out the new figures for the movie, seeing what was out. I overheard two people who were looking over the new figures asking each other “what’ll be worth something in the future.”
I wanted to intrude and tell them “nothing.”
When it comes to Star Wars action figures worth money, whether they’re old or recently released figures, there aren’t much that are actually worth anything over $100.
Just in the original line alone from 1978, the number of action figures worth a decent amount of money because there’s a substantial amount of collectors wanting them, is not very high. I could probably count the number of valuable figures on both hands.
If any new figures released in the last 10 years that would have monetary value to them are very few and far between. Toys today produced in much larger quantities than they used to be. So, demand for them after they’re taken off shelves is going to be low. There’s too much emphasis on what Star Wars toys might be worth in the future. Old Star Wars told have that money-aura about them. But a lot of it is something like an urban legend. In reality, there’s a ton of old toys available at low prices at garage sales, eBay and antique stores.
Otherwise, fatigue in Star Wars merchandise is completely understandable It’ll be interesting to see what sales look like when The Last Jedi comes out. And Disney is a creative industry. I’m sure they’ll figure out how to market those toys in a more unique way to appeal to audiences and fans. The toys have lasted this long, after all.