Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Collecting Ahsoka

Building an Ahsoka Tano collection is a rollercoaster of fun and frustration. There are definitely moments of pure collector’s joy, but sadly those are often overshadowed by a lack of pieces on the market, poor decision making and distribution on behalf of manufacturers, and the agony of the hunt. And while there are many factors involved, the bottom line is that the volume and variety of Ahsoka toys and collectibles available far from parallel the level of Ahsoka’s popularity and fandom. Why this is the case, I cannot say. All I know is what I, and other collectors, have experienced. With that being said, this article is more of an overview of Ahsoka collecting, not an answer to why more Ahsoka pieces are not produced, or why what has been produced was handled the way it was. And a conversation on the marketing and distribution channels of toys and collectibles is an entirely separate and lengthy topic unto itself.

Ahsoka was first introduced to the world on January 29, 2008 ahead of her debut in The Clone Wars movie, released August 15, 2008. While many Star Wars fans took to Ahsoka instantly, many more were skeptical of Anakin’s “snippy” new Padawan. But it did not take long before Ahsoka was one of Star Wars’ most popular characters. In fact, as time went on, people’s passion, fandom, and dedication to Ahsoka reached a level equal to, if not surpassing, that of the most beloved characters from the original and prequel trilogies. George Lucas and Dave Filoni’s work with the character (in and outside of The Clone Wars), and Ashley Eckstein’s dedication to recognizing and showcasing the fandom of females (in and outside of Star Wars), both played massive roles in propelling Ahsoka. But it was the emotional connection Ahsoka formed with fans which separated her from the bantha herd. Fans were able to watch Ahsoka grow and mature, and were able to feel her highs and lows as she was experiencing them. Fans were not simply watching Ahsoka, but living The Clone Wars with her. Ahsoka touched fans in a way rarely seen with fictional characters of any genre or franchise. She’s relatable, passionate, and extremely “human” (you know, for a fictional Togruta). Ahsoka leaving the Jedi Order and walking away from Anakin at the end of The Clone Wars season 5, and her big duel with Vader at the end of Rebels season 2 were Coruscant-shattering events. They joined the deaths of Chewbacca, Mara Jade Skywalker, Anakin Solo, and Darth Caedus (Jacen Solo), as some of the most emotionally charged moments in Star Wars history. From instant popularity to endearing love, Ahsoka Tano has certified her place in Star Wars greatness.

So why hasn’t Ahsoka’s popularity and connection to the fans translated into more toys and collectibles? As far as I can see the demand is surely there, and her track record speaks for itself. Yet still, Ahsoka collectors are continuously baffled by the lack of pieces to collect and left hungrily craving more. Is it possible market research shows something different? Without seeing said market research however, or even knowing if it exists, I’d find that hard to believe. I’d love to blame Disney, but this conundrum existed before the sale of Lucasfilm, and before the cancellation of The Clone Wars. I recently read a Tweet from someone stating they had over two hundred and sixty unique Rey pieces in their Rey collection. Rey is a character that has only been around for barely over a year. Yet the number of Rey toys/collectibles is leaps and bounds above what is available for Ahsoka, who has been around since 2008. Granted, Rey is Disney’s first “big new Star Wars character” and the star of a major motion picture. However, it wasn’t until the #WheresRey social media campaign and the public bashing of toy and collectible makers, mainly Hasbro, before her surge on this front really got off the ground. The push to see more toys/collectibles of female characters did wonders for Rey and Jyn Erso, but failed to yield much for the likes of Leia, Padme, Ahsoka, Ventress, Hera, Sabine, and others. Furthermore, because the number of Ahsoka pieces released to date is so small and void of much variety, there are still a great many items which collectors’ wish had been produced. So, on an emotional level, the Ahsoka collection itself will always “feel” incomplete. There are a nice chunk of items from The Clone Wars movie (plus seasons one and two), era Ahsoka (mostly with Rotta the Hutt), and a growing chunk of Rebels Ahsoka items. But The Clone Wars’ seasons three-to-five era Ahsoka, which is mine and many others’ absolute favorite version of Ahsoka, was largely skipped over. Ahsoka lightsabers and high-end collectibles have been extremely scarce (and non-existent since 2009). And with the exception of Hasbro, all other major toy/collectible manufacturers have either only produced one or two pieces, or none at all.

Let’s take a look at what we do know. When The Clone Wars movie was released in 2008, a handful of Ahsoka (with Rotta the Hutt) items (action figures, statues, etc.), quickly followed suit in late 2008 and 2009. From 2010 to 2012 some additional looks of Ahsoka emerged on the action figure and toy market while things on the collectibles front fell silent. 2013-2014 was almost nonexistent in regards to new Ahsoka items. And 2015-2016 saw a nice little spike in Ahsoka items, mainly because of her appearances on Rebels. Please note that I am only referring to officially licensed Ahsoka Tano toys and collectibles. Artwork, hand-made items, and custom items definitely play into this topic, but I’ll touch on those a little later, along with items featuring Ahsoka. Additionally, as I have no personal interest in collecting LEGOs, I do not follow or track LEGO in terms of Ahsoka. And while I do accept any Ahsoka trading cards that come my way, I don’t track trading cards either. Because of the sheer lack of Ahsoka pieces that have been produced from 2008-current one would assume it would be easy to have a complete collection. Sadly, that is not the case. Looking at the officially licensed Ahsoka Tano toys and collectibles from 2008 to 2016, there are a few hurdles of frustration that plague every Ahsoka collector. Even factoring out further hindrances such as budget, time, geographic location, and being male (for male collectors), it is not an easy road. From quantity and availability issues, and empty pegs, to re-packs, exclusives, and limited piece counts, there’s never been such a thing as simply walking into Toys R Us or Target, grabbing the Ahsoka item one desires off the shelf and returning home a happy collector. Sure, it does happen from time to time, and is more common with certain types of items, but it is definitely not the norm. Hence why any Star Wars collector, Ahsoka-collecting or not, is extremely familiar with “the hunt”. However, the Ahsoka hunt is much more on the endangered species type of level. Granted, I’m not saying there should never be Ahsoka exclusives, or re-packs, or 2-packs, or pieces with a limited piece count. I would just like to see more pieces that are mass produced and mass distributed so that they can be found and purchased easily, at multiple retailers and/or websites, and at their intended retail price (as opposed to the ridiculous prices eBay dealers and online toy/collectible stores charge). Collecting, in any capacity, is supposed to be a fun, exciting and rewarding hobby. Not being offered the pieces one wants, and not being able to find or purchase the items that are available, all while exhausting mass amounts of money, time and effort, definitely detract from the main objective.  

There’s not really a super clean way to run through all of this, so I’ve just divided it up into subsections to break it down with some semblance of order.

A “nice” number of items were released during this time period. It was also when we saw the most variety in terms of types of pieces released. Hasbro pumped out twenty three Ahsoka items during this time period. Two Ahsoka statues, two Ahsoka lightsabers, three versions of Ahsoka’s Jedi Starfighter, a Hallmark Christmas ornament, and an Ahsoka skateboard were just some of the other items released during this time. 2008-2012 was also when a ton of smaller items, such as a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy, PEZ dispensers, figure key chains, etc. were released. However, although a slightly older Ahsoka debuted her “new look” (new outfit and shoto lightsaber) on the 11-19-10 “Heroes on Both Sides” episode 3.10 of The Clone Wars, collectors never saw much of that Ahsoka in the form of toys or collectibles. The “infamous” Hasbro The Clone Wars #CW44 action figure (the first and only “new look” Ahsoka figure from The Clone Wars), was released in 2011, and it felt like only a couple hundred ever hit the shelves. I’ve never been able to confirm with Hasbro exactly how many pieces were produced, but there is no way it was a standard run. It wasn’t an exclusive, it was simply just extremely rare. I found a dealer willing to sell me two for $25.00 each. Even paying $25.00 for a new figure that was supposed to be on the pegs for $8.00 kind of pissed me off. But on eBay and online toy stores they go anywhere from $150.00-$600.00 a pop. And of course, I can’t open one because I don’t know if I’ll ever get my hands on another. During phone calls and email exchanges with Hasbro about this figure, in 2011, Hasbro apologized and said they were not happy to hear about the outrageously inflated dealer prices, but were not able to offer much else.  In 2012 Hasbro released a live-action version of that Ahsoka in The Vintage Collection line (re-packed in The Black Series line in 2016). But we’ve yet to see another TCW version since… 

Due to George Lucas selling Lucasfilm to Disney in October 2012, Ahsoka leaving the Jedi Order in March 2013, and Disney cancelling The Clone Wars in March 2013, only two items of note were released during this time period.
*DaGeDar Ahsoka Tano Drag Racer (2013) [I’m not even sure what these things are…?]
*Her Universe Ahsoka Lives T-Shirt (2014)

There were fifteen Ahsoka items released in 2015 and 2016. Of those fifteen items, all but the Ahsoka novel were either; from Rebels instead of The Clone Wars, in a 2-pack instead of packaged individually, an exclusive, or released in limited quantity.
1.      Hasbro Mission Series 3-3/4” Ahsoka & Vader Figure 2-Pack (2015) – from Rebels and a 2-pack
2.      Hasbro TBS 6” Ahsoka Figure (2016) – from Rebels
3.      Hasbro TBS 3-3/4” Ahsoka Figure (2016) – Walmart Exclusive and a re-pack
4.      Hasbro Ahsoka & Vader Poster – San Diego Comic-Con 2015 Exclusive
5.      Disney Infinity 3.0 Ahsoka & Anakin Figure 2-Pack (2015) – a 2-pack
6.      Funko Ahsoka POP! – Hot Topic Exclusive and from Rebels
7.      Her Universe Ahsoka/Vader Unisex T-Shirt (2015) – Her Universe Exclusive
8.      Her Universe Ahsoka Female T-Shirt (2015) – Her Universe Exclusive
9.      Her Universe Ahsoka’s Journey Unisex T-Shirt (2016) – Her Universe Exclusive
10.  Her Universe Ahsoka Holiday Pin (2016) – Hot Topic Exclusive and limited to 1000 pieces
11.  Ahsoka Emoji Pin (2016) – Star Wars Celebration Europe Exclusive
12.  Ahsoka Art Print (2016) – Star Wars Celebration Europe Exclusive
13.  Rebels Season 2 Finale Ahsoka/Vader Button (2016) – Hollywood Red Carpet Exclusive
14.  Ahsoka Novel Advanced Copy (2016) – San Diego Comic-Con 2016 Exclusive
15.  Ahsoka Novel (2016)

*From 2008-2016 Hasbro released eight individually packaged Ahsoka 3-3/4” action figures.
  Of those eight released, three were re-packs.
*From 2008-2016 Hasbro released eight 3-3/4” action figure 2-packs / battle packs featuring Ahsoka. With the exception of the Rebels figure, the other seven were all re-packs, although some had additional accessories (i.e. a poncho, Geonosis brain invader).
Yes, paint jobs on some were slightly different and there is one eyelash variation, but essentially there have been ten re-packs on sixteen figures. And the one figure never re-packed is the one everyone wants re-packed, the most sought after Ahsoka figure of all time, #CW44 from The Clone Wars 2011 line.

*eFX Collectibles Limited Edition Replica Lightsaber in 2009. Limited to 1,000 pieces.
*Rubies Costume Co. toy lightsaber in 2008. Repackaged in 2009.
To date, no other Ahsoka lightsabers (not including custom or fan made) have been produced.

High-End Collectibles
There have really only been three high-end collectibles of Ahsoka.
*Kotobukiya ArtFX Statue (2008)
*Gentle Giant Maquette (2009)
*eFX Collectibles LE Replica Lightsaber (2009)
So in regards to Ahsoka Tano, this market is virtually untouched.

Major Manufacturers
The number of Ahsoka Tano items released by major manufacturers 2008-2016:
*Hasbro = 28
*PEZ Candy = 7
*Her Universe = 7
*DK Books = 4
*Lucasfilm = 2
*Funko  = 2
*Rubies Costume Co. = 2 (one re-pack)
*Advanced Graphics = 2
*Disney = 2
*Kotobukiya = 1
*Gentle Giant = 1
*eFX Collectibles = 1
*Hallmark = 1
*Jakks Pacific = 1
*Play-Doh = 1
*Sideshow Collectibles = 0
*Hot Toys = 0
*Diamond Select Toys = 0
There is a list of lesser-known companies who have each produced one to two Ahsoka items. But with the exception of Hasbro, the list is rather bare. As I mentioned earlier, I do not track LEGO or trading cards, but LEGO and Topps do rank up there with Hasbro.

Different Looks of Ahsoka
There are three main “looks” of Ahsoka, The Clone Wars seasons 1-2 Ahsoka, The Clone Wars seasons 3-5 Ahsoka, and Rebels Ahsoka. I’ve stated prior that The Clone Wars seasons 3-5 look Ahsoka has been largely skipped over in terms of toys and collectibles. In addition to those three looks, there is also a handful of one-off looks from various episodes of The Clone Wars. Below is a rundown of  how many times each look has been represented via a toy or collectible.

*The Clone Wars Movie with Rotta the Hutt = (multiple) figures, statues, etc.
*The Clone Wars Movie / Seasons 1-2 = (multiple) figures, standees, etc.
*The Clone Wars Ahsoka’s Jedi Starfighter = toy, Transformer and model
*Rebels = (multiple) figures, etc.
*Lightsaber (The Clone Wars Movie / Seasons 1-2) = eFX and Rubies (re-packed once)

*The Clone Wars Seasons 1-2 (Space Suit) = only one Hasbro action figure (re-packed)
*The Clone Wars Seasons 1-2 (Poncho) = only one Hasbro action figure
*The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5 = only one Hasbro action figure & Disney Infinity 3.0 figure
*The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5 (Scuba Suit) = only one Hasbro action figure
*The Clone Wars [Live Action Look] = one Hasbro figure (re-packed once)

*The Clone Wars Seasons 1-2 (Coruscant Underworld) = nothing
*The Clone Wars Seasons 1-2 (Hologram) = nothing
*The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5 (Future Ahsoka) = nothing
*The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5 (Slave Girl) = nothing
*The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5 (Work Goggles) = nothing
*The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5 (Jedi Robes) = nothing
*The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5 (Hologram) = nothing
*The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5 (Dark Side) = nothing
*The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5 (Night Vision) = nothing
*The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5 (Cold Weather Gear) = nothing
*The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5 (Coruscant Disguise) = nothing
*Rebels (Hologram / Fulcrum) = nothing
*Ahsoka Novel (Ashla) = nothing
*Lightsabers (The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5) = nothing
*Lightsabers (Rebels) = nothing

‘Featuring Ahsoka’
In addition to stand alone Ahsoka pieces, or figure 2-packs or battle packs, there are many items which I categorize as ‘Featuring Ahsoka’. These are pieces that feature multiple characters from The Clone Wars and are typically in the form of posters, plates, cups, birthday party supplies, home office / school supplies for kids, various other home items, etc. Also, things like magazine covers, DVD covers, etc. These types of items are not found in the toy section of stores and are typically not sold at collectible stores or websites. They are much harder to catalogue as they are not often manufactured by household name companies and don’t usually show up on collecting sites. Still, they are great additions to any Ahsoka collection.

Custom Pieces
*Custom Pieces
*Handmade Items
Ahsoka Tano has inspired many people in a multitude of ways. Much of that inspiration then flows in the form of custom Ahsoka items. Some creators do it solely out of love for Ahsoka, while others do it because they want a particular piece not manufactured by a licensed company. Regardless of the reasoning behind them, there are hundreds of custom-made Ahsoka pieces out there. Lots of these pieces are just one-offs made for one’s personal collection, but the vast majority at produced, in varying quantities, and sold. Visit Etsy, RedBubble, or even eBay and Amazon, at any given time and there are always Ahsoka items for sale. Like anything else in this arena, the quality will vary, as well as the prices. But there are some great items out there.

One-of-a-Kind Pieces
I hesitate to even bring this category up, but there are a small number of one-of-a-kind Ahsoka Tano items in existence. Most of these items will probably forever remain with Lucasfilm, or in Rancho Obi-Wan, and the rest were auctioned off for charity. I do like to keep track of pieces like these, although the chances of ever owning one are astronomical. What I’ve settled for is getting photos of me next to or with these items. I still have a few I’ve yet to come across in person.

Looking at the numbers to date, there are over 130 unique officially licensed items (not including LEGO and trading cards), and over 250 total unique officially licensed items (including ‘Featuring Ahsoka’ items). So even though there are not an overwhelming number of Ahsoka items on the market, one can still build a nice size collection, especially when factoring in duplicates, items from the ‘Featuring Ahsoka’ section, and custom/handmade pieces. And there are some awesome and gorgeous pieces out there to enjoy.

I’d like to wrap things up with my personal list of Ahsoka Tano items I hope are produced in the future. There are a few I feel might make their way into production, but realistically I’m not holding my breath for most of the list. Regardless, here’s to many more years of collecting Ahsoka Tano toys and collectibles!

Hasbro – Action Figures
6” – The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5
6” – The Clone Wars Seasons 1-2
6” – The Clone Wars “Future Ahsoka”
6” – The Clone Wars “Cold Weather Gear”
3-3/4” – Re-pack of TCW #CW44
3-3/4” – The Clone Wars “Slave Girl Outfit”
3-3/4” – The Clone Wars “Cold Weather Gear”
3-3/4” – The Clone Wars “Future Ahsoka”
3-3/4” – The Clone Wars “Dark Side Ahsoka”
3-3/4” – The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5 with Jedi Robes
3-3/4” – The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5 Hologram Ahsoka
3-3/4” – The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5 (super articulated)
3-3/4” – Ahsoka as Ashla (from Ahsoka novel)
3-3/4” – 332nd Legion “Ahsoka Loyalist” Clone Trooper

3-3/4” Evolutions 3-pack
*The Clone Wars Seasons 1-2
*The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5

Ahsoka Tano’s Jedi Starfighter (re-pack)

Hasbro – Lightsabers
Force FX Lightsaber (The Clone Wars Seasons 1-3)
Force FX Lightsaber + Shoto Set (The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5)
Force FX Lightsabers Set (Rebels)
Ultimate Force FX Lightsabers Set (The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5)
Ultimate Force FX Lightsabers Set (Rebels)

Gentle Giant
Mini-Bust (The Clone Wars Seasons 1-2)
Mini-Bust (The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5)
Mini-Bust (Rebels)
Statue (The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5)
Animated Maquette (The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5)
Statue (The Clone Wars “Future Ahsoka”)
Statue (Rebels)

Sideshow Collectibles
Premium Format Figure (The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5)
Premium Format Figure (The Clone Wars Seasons 1-2)
Premium Format Figure (Rebels)
1:1 Scale Bust (The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5)

ArtFX Statue (The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5)
ArtFX Statue (Rebels)

Hot Toys
Sixth Scale Figure (The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5)
Sixth Scale Figure (Rebels)

Diamond Select Toys
Bust Bank (The Clone Wars Seasons 1-2)
Bust Bank (The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5)
Bust Bank (Rebels)
Ultimate Quarter Scale Figure (The Clone Wars Seasons 1-2)
Ultimate Quarter Scale Figure (The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5)
Ultimate Quarter Scale Figure (Rebels)

eFX Collectibles
Stunt Replica Lightsaber (The Clone Wars Seasons 1-2)
Stunt Replica Lightsaber and Shoto Set (The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5)
Stunt Replica Lightsaber Set (Rebels)

Jakks Pacific
31” Figure (The Clone Wars Seasons 1-2)
31” Figure (The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5)
31” Figure (Rebels)
12” Figure (The Clone Wars Seasons 1-2)
12” Figure (The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5)
12” Figure (Rebels)

POP! (The Clone Wars Seasons 1-2)
POP! (The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5)

Advanced Graphics
Life-Size Standee (The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5: pose 1)
Life-Size Standee (The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5: pose 2)
Life-Size Standee (Rebels - pose 1)
Life-Size Standee (Rebels - pose 2)
Life-Size Standee (Disney Infinity Ahsoka)

Replica of Ahsoka’s Silka Beads
Replica of Ahsoka’s Belt (The Clone Wars Seasons 1-2)
Replica of Ahsoka’s Belt (The Clone Wars Seasons 3-5)

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