Wednesday, June 13, 2007

All-Star Vinyls: Very Cool, But Get Them Moving!

I don't know about you, but I really enjoy the Upper Deck All-Star Vinyls. It took awhile to get used to them, to let go of my focus on realism and accuracy, I admit. But once I got past that I started looking forward to every new release.

Here are some of the aspects to All-Star Vinyls figures that appeal to me:

They're BIG - I started collecting McFarlanes because I wanted to get the 12" figures. The larger figures are naturally more appealing to me. At 11" tall the All-Star Vinyls tower over Sports Picks and most other sports toys.

Player Selection - So far I think Upper Deck has done well with player selection, although it hasn't been too tough given the limited number of editions they produce.

Mixed Uniforms - I like the fact that most figures are released in home and away uniforms. I don't really care for the fact that they issue 500 of one and 1500 of the other; they could produce 3000 of each and it would be fine with me.

Collector Club - Dave with Upper Deck says there will be a collector club and that's great news. I want to throttle Todd McFarlane or whoever has ignored the whole club concept with Sports Picks. That will be the subject of a whole blog post some day . . . but for now, the promise of a club for All-Star Vinyls earns them brownie points.

Excellent Packaging - The packages are designed so that you can remove the figures and display them, then put them back in the box if you want. Very, very good idea.

Quality Construction - These things are solid, very well built. Good paint, good grade of plastic to make them. A couple of them (Favre, for example) don't stand up very well but other than that, the quality is great.

They're Fun - Well, they are. Sports Picks are cool and impressive, All-Star Vinyls are cartoonish and fun. I mean, I'm not dancing them around my coffee table or playing Barbies with them, not fun in that way. They capture the whole larger-than-life aspect of sports heroes and they don't take things seriously, and that offers a nice change of pace from Sports Picks.

That said, some day when I'm feeling particularly ornery I'm going to take some figures to a sports bar and recreate plays with them as I watch a game, just to see the looks I get from the other patrons. Some old geezer with a grey beard playing with toy men in a bar . . . a video of the other people's reactions to that would be perfect for Utube . . .

But I digress.

Those are some of the things I really enjoy about All-Star Vinyls. There are some aspects to these figures I don't like, however. Some of them are serious enough to where I think they undermine the long term success of this product line.

Immobile Poses - I understand that All-Star Vinyls are all about attitude, I get it. That said, after a few figures of guys just standing there, looking at me with a smart-ass look on their face, I'm ready for something different in the way of poses. Enough with the sideline poses! They aren't called "inaction figures." Kobe Bryant's figure was a refreshing change. At least he was dribbling the ball. And of course, Ben Roethlisberger was passing the ball. But the rest of them . . . they look like cocky Oscar statues, for crying out loud. I'll buy a figure of a player I don't care about if it's cool, and conversely I may pass on a player I like if the pose is lame. So far I've passed on Ovechkin, Wade, Iverson, Crosby and I'm about to pass on Sakic as well. I'll get Brodeur but that's a unique pose - the samurai pose is very, very cool. I really think this has contributed to some guys giving up on the vinyls and selling off what they've bought, along with a couple other factors. Cmon Upper Deck, get them moving!

Black Figures - No, I'm not being racially insensitive here. Upper Deck has started putting out a home and away version on release day, then selling a black and gold (sometimes called Raw) version at some trade show. I like the black edition figures, they're very cool. I just don't like how they're marketed, for a couple reasons. First, if a collector wants these things he has to 1) find people all over Canada and the U.S. who will trek over to the trade shows and buy them for him or 2) get hosed on Ebay. They already cost $100, which is bad enough, but then to have to pay scalper costs on top of that just sucks. Yes, McFarlane puts out event exclusives, but they release 3,000 exclusive figures, not 250. That's the second problem with black edition figures. The edition size is too small, the price is really high and they alienate collectors from around the country who can't get them. Upper Deck needs to get that club going and let their collectors - the guys who have been with them from Day One - buy the exclusives that way. They're breeding ill will this way.

More, More, More - The current release schedule of two players per month is too slow. They started this line with great hype and fanfare, got a lot of people talking about them. It's tough to sustain that buzz when the figures come out so infrequently, however. This is another reason why some guys are dumping their collections - not enough figures to keep the buzz up, not enough information to keep the discussion forum going, just not enough.

Price and Edition Size - At $50 each for the regulars and $100 for the exclusives, the figures are just too expensive. I'm very devoted to the hobby but I can't see dropping that kind of cash to get all the figures so I have to pick and choose. Upper Deck could put out more figures, sell them at a lower price and accomplish the same thing.

Two Packs - On release day, you can buy the regular figure or you can buy a two pack of the regular and alternate uniform figures. You can't buy just the alternate figure. I don't like the two packs. I don't want to have to buy two figures just to get one. The alternate jersey figures on release day should be available individually . . . increasing the edition size as I've mentioned above would help this to work as well.

That's it for now - Lots of pros and cons to the Upper Deck All-Star Vinyl line. The bottom line is that I really enjoy these figures and hope Upper Deck makes a few changes so the line will last for a long, long time.

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