Thursday, September 6, 2007

Good Times, Tough Times for McFarlane Sports Picks

Good times and bad times for the producers of sports figures. It's been a crazy month or so.

McFarlane struggled with their latest lines of baseball figures. The paint jobs on MLB Series 18 and 19 have been widely criticized by baseball collectors - sloppy paint jobs and paint smearing inside the packaging have been the largest complaints. On the flip side, McFarlane came up with one of their best Super Chase figures yet with the Albert Pujols figure in Series 18. Collectors also seemed to like the Rivera chase with the outfield wall behind him.

Collectors waited with great excitement for NFL Legends 3 - probably the most highly anticipated line of the year. It featured NFL figures (the most popular of any sport) that included Dan Marino, Roger Staubach and Bo Jackson. (I'm not jazzed about the Jackson figure but it was a big deal to many fans.) Sadly, the line has suffered several problems.

First, the choice of chase figures is questionable. Everyone expected a Dan Marino chase - none to be found. The regular figure is in the all white uniform and the line was screaming for a teal version, but it was not to be. Roger Staubach's chase amounts to a red stripe on a helmet rather than a blue stripe. This is more suited to a super chase than a chase - Roger should have been in a blue jersey. Earl Campbell is one of the least desired figures in the lineup, and his white jersey chase is suitably boring. And John Elway in a white uniform is ok, but this is a second figure for Elway. A chase of Marino or Jackson would have been much better received.

Like MLB 19, Legends 3 has suffered quality control problems. I've seen numerous posts showing sloppy paint jobs, missing jersey numbers, missing footballs, helmet stickers reversed - the pride of a McFarlane lineup is their quality, and there have been a lot of problems. Worse, Dan Marino's helmet is not historically accurate. It has stripes on it that were not used until after Marino retired. Dolphin fans are saying that the stripes aren't even the right color. Staubach's uniform is accurate except that the numbers on the front are either too low or too small. The helmet is the source of most Staubach problems. The facemask is too big and the helmet just doesn't look right. (Thanks to Mexicanfan for finding and clearly identifying these errors.) Staubach's hands are also poorly sculpted and his fingers have been described as "looking like sausages." These two figures are awesome poses and it's a shame that they've been poorly reproduced.

I'm going by what others have said regarding the quality issues on NFL Legends 3 because I haven't seen my figures yet. Why? Because NFL Legends 3 suffered a terrible blow when a large portion of the shipment was damaged during delivery. Several dealers reported most or all of their orders were crushed and they had very few MOMC figures, let alone cases. This was a disaster for good dealers like - those poor folks had to scramble to get enough sellable figures and they probably never will be able to fill all their case presells. This has meant collectors have been forced to wait for delivery on their singles, sets and cases. Not the dealers' fault, they've suffered a lot as a result of this.

I'm guessing McFarlane will be having to dump a lot of figures with damaged packages on places like Dollar General, Big Lots and Tuesday Mornings. Be patient and you may be able to get Legends 3 at a great price if you don't care about the packaging.

Mark with McFarlane has made some comments about working with different companies to produce the figures, and I'd be willing to bet that most of the troubles with Legends 3 - poor paint jobs, bad packaging - are the result of them going with a different manufacturing company that cut corners and weren't up to McFarlane's previous standards. Unfortunately these figures have a long lead time. Even if McFarlane wanted to change to a new company it would take several series for them to find and hire a new company and get their products produced and delivered from them. I'm afraid we may be seeing these quality issues for several months to come. I feel bad for McFarlane because I think they probably got hosed by the company that didn't deliver as promised. That's all speculation on my part but I refuse to believe McFarlane would go with a company, knowing that they would have to accept lesser quality.

It does appear McFarlane has been doing some cost-cutting measures, however. The newest figures' clamshells are markedly flimsier than previous packages. Lots of guys have been complaining about the high number of damaged clamshells.

In an even bigger move, McFarlane has decided to stop including nets with most goalie figures. This decision set off a firestorm of complaints with hockey fans, who are typically the most detail-oriented of the sports collectors anyway. McFarlane claims that this decision was made to allow them to use smaller packaging and thereby fit more products in the same shelf space in stores. This doesn't seem as plausible as them just wanting to bring the cost of goalie figures down. Goalies are the most expensive figures to produce anyway, so excluding the nets would help them along these lines. McFarlane is considering selling upgraded display stands with nets through their website for hockey guys who want the nets. It does make the figures more expensive to have to buy those bases, but it may be worthwhile if the bases are improved over the old ones and are closer to actual scale.

I told you there was a lot of crazy stuff going on!

The good news is that NFL Legends 3 is starting to get out to collectors now. NFL Series 15 is just about to hit and hopefully it will include better quality workmanship - I'm hopeful, at least. LOL The Vince Young and Tony Romo chase figures look really good. A lot of guys are complaining about Romo getting a chase, but Cowboys sell and I think it was a pretty easy decision on McFarlane's part to do one of him. October should be a good month as well with the Walter Payton 12-inch figures.

McFarlane isn't the only company to experience a rather turbulent time over the past six weeks. I'll have more on that in my next blog post.

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