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The 1701 controversy two decades later


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#1 Morgan

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Posted 13 April 2019 - 01:19 PM

tapestry2.jpg

 

Time heals some wounds, but time also offers a bit of perspective. Do the 1701 figures still seem like a controversial move today, was the controversy overblown, or were they a misstep that contributed to the demise of the Star Trek figure line?

 

Even with the mere announcement of the two 1701 limited figures there was an immediate backlash that Playmates was a little taken aback by, with collectors and even toy magazine editors blowing a gasket and making a big show about stopping collecting, berating the manufacturer, all while ignoring the fact that two years prior Playmates offered a mail-away Sisko figure that nobody bothered to get. Even Red Data and Thomas Riker didn't get this kind of a reaction. It's worth recalling that the Sisko figure had somehow evaded the wrath of everyone who had a horse in the race and those who did not.

 

In retrospect a lot of this sentiment aimed at the 1701 figures appears to have been stoked by Trek fan clubs, and those who occasionally bought trek figures but turned into strict completists with the flick of a switch and suddenly wanted to "speak to the manager."

 

Part of this was the scalping and general toy climate at the time, especially in 1996 when sci-fi was all there seemingly was, and the feeling that the action figure bubble would last forever. The absence of eBay in 1996 also made the market itself reliant upon these big collectible shops that advertised in Toy Fare, Lee's and Tomart's.

 

As such, it appears that at the time the demand could not really dictate the price and you yourself could not buy and sell stuff before a global audience. So a lot of things, like various foreign figures, almost did not exist for all intents and purposes, and it was frequently a situation of paying a "ransom" to one of these stores that advertised in a magazine or simply not obtaining what you wanted.

 

garber.jpg

 

Playmates got all the bad press for the Picard/Tasha/Barclay trio (and later released the 3-pack to atone for it), but other toymakers also churned out fairly limited stuff -- perhaps to a smaller audience -- and somehow avoided the bad press. The 1701 figures were also, perhaps shortsightedly, blamed for the deterioration of the popularity of the line, but I suspect that at most it was one of like 10 factors that contributed to the decline in the line's popularity. On that point, I suspect that the switch to generic backer cards for multiple lines, the switch to a larger format for First Contact figures dealt just as much damage, along with some other blunders.

 

Twenty years later, after the bottom had fallen out of most of the line, everyone who really wanted a Tapestry Picard can get one, sometimes for as low as $200.

 

How could Playmates have approached this differently? Here are some options to consider:

 

1. The 1701 thing was okay as it was
2. Release Tapestry Picard in normal quantity, but then do 1,701 units in a unique package, Theater Luke-style.
3. Produce a 10,000 unit run of Tapestry Picard, as with the Huntsville figures
4. Produce 17,001 Tapestry Picards
5. A limited run of 5,000 units through The Communicator magazine but not in stores
6. Produce Tapestry Picard & Tasha separately in regular quantity, but then release a two-pack with both at 1,701 units.
7. The 1701 figures should not have been made in a limited manner of any sort
8. This ruined collecting for a lot of people

What do you think about the 1701 figures?
 

 



#2 s8film40

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Posted 13 April 2019 - 08:43 PM

I like your option 2 & 6. Since they made the box set though Im perfectly happy. I got the figures (and at a reasonable price) and thats all that matters to me.

#3 VulcanFanatic

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Posted 14 April 2019 - 06:11 AM

I like your option 2 & 6. Since they made the box set though Im perfectly happy. I got the figures (and at a reasonable price) and thats all that matters to me.

I agree. As a collector in that time period who frequented quite a few stores to keep up with the Playmate figure releases, having figures that were impossible to get ruined it for me. If they had released them all normally and then made a few special 1701 sets that were only comprised of recently released figures, no one would have complained about impossible to find figures and the collectors would have been happy with the 1701 sets as well. Also, back then , information wasn't instantaneous as it is today with social media, and many collectors relied on old information in magazines to find out what was going on with Playmates and may have missed out on stuff that you would pretty much know about away now with the internet and social media.

#4 s8film40

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Posted 14 April 2019 - 06:42 AM

I agree. As a collector in that time period who frequented quite a few stores to keep up with the Playmate figure releases, having figures that were impossible to get ruined it for me. If they had released them all normally and then made a few special 1701 sets that were only comprised of recently released figures, no one would have complained about impossible to find figures and the collectors would have been happy with the 1701 sets as well. Also, back then , information wasn't instantaneous as it is today with social media, and many collectors relied on old information in magazines to find out what was going on with Playmates and may have missed out on stuff that you would pretty much know about away now with the internet and social media.

Yeah It's almost hard to imagine collecting things without the internet now. I would always talk with fellow collectors in stores and that was mostly the extent of the knowledge that I could get. I did actually call Playmates every once in a while directly. They were surprisingly very open to sharing information. They just didn't usually openly offer up the info I might need to know for upcoming releases if I didn't ask the right questions.



#5 MisterPL

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Posted 16 April 2019 - 08:24 AM

Exclusivity killed the line for me.

 

It started with impossible-to-get convention exclusives and ended with Target figures. 

 

"Our goal was to build some excitement..." More like resentment. Pissing off the core consumer base is never a good idea.



#6 VorlonKosh

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Posted 16 April 2019 - 04:57 PM

I continued to collect all the figures, but it did take away alot of the excitement as I new I would probably never be able to complete the collection.  And realistically, $200 for a plastic figure is still way too much money.



#7 Gothneo

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Posted 17 April 2019 - 05:27 AM

Interestingly enough the concept of the "Chase" figure has pretty much died or faded into rarity itself. Even the idea of convention exclusives being hard to get is pretty much a thing of the past... thus it seems #7 has actually kinda won because most companies make enough Con exclusives to sell online afterwards and most people can get them for cost plus shipping. 

 

I think it might have been about the mid to late 2000's that collector  anger really made companies change to make exclusives some type of paint difference rather than a character exclusive.

 

 I can say from lines I've collected with limited or chase figures... in retrospect (after years), most I find I don't care so much about. In playmates case, these were the only version which to me goes right back to #7



#8 Damon1984

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Posted 17 April 2019 - 06:16 AM

If I had been a fan of the characters in these outfits, I would have been dissapointed as well. But I never got the impression that it was fans of, say, a Tapestry-Picard who got mad. It was completists. Not being a completist myself, and having a hard time wrapping my head around that mindset, I thought the controversy was a bit overblown. The switches to larger figures and the inclusion of very stupid articulations in their later figures, killed the line a lot more for me.



#9 Gothneo

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Posted 17 April 2019 - 03:30 PM

There were a couple lines I was a completist on... in the excitement of it all... but as I was saying... in retrospect I've often abandoned my completist tendencies after the fact. 



#10 Morgan

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Posted Today, 12:27 PM

If I had been a fan of the characters in these outfits, I would have been dissapointed as well. But I never got the impression that it was fans of, say, a Tapestry-Picard who got mad. It was completists. Not being a completist myself, and having a hard time wrapping my head around that mindset, I thought the controversy was a bit overblown. The switches to larger figures and the inclusion of very stupid articulations in their later figures, killed the line a lot more for me.

 

Yeah, that's the thing: there were plenty of collectors who were not completists, especially those who didn't bother to get the Sisko figure for next to nothing, but who got butthurt when the 1701 figures came out and suddenly acted like they were denied admission into college or something.

 

Another thing we kinda take for granted now is supply. If the 1701 Picards were released today, in 2019, and bought up by scalpers just like there were back then, there would be like 300 of them for sale on the internet any given day. Then supply would have driven the price down. Back then, if you picked up a copy of Tomart's and Lee's, there were like half a dozen shops offering half a dozen Picards. So it was take it or leave it, effectively -- pay the ransom or go find another. There was no eBay.

 

There's one other important factor here: It may not have been that the 1701-unit run was small in relation to completist and non-completist collectors, it's that the scalpers got most of these. It was the guys sitting in their Pontiac Grand Ams at 5:59am before the Wal-Mart opened and the guys slipping $50 bills to back room clerks that got to most of these. With them removed, I think it would have been a very different outcome -- each US state would have had an average of 34 Tapestry Picards. Adjusted for population/store number, it would obviously have been skewed to more populous states. It would have still been a Willy Wonka ticket type of thing, but it would have been more palatable.
 






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