While the habit is nowhere near as pervasive (or expensive) as it used to be, I still collect a few toys here and there. When I'm out shopping at the big box retailers, I inevitably pass through the action figures aisle and thumb through the Transformers and DC Universe figures--and the 25th Anniversary G.I. Joes. I never really got into the Joe toyline as a kid--most of what I have is from the really gimmicky end times of the Real American Hero line, with space suits and Play-Doh armor. The most recent revival of the line has given me the opportunity to collect my favorite characters (and the coolest figures) with the best sculpting, paint jobs, accessories, and articulation I've ever seen in the Joes, and some of the best in toys period. About the only figure I want that I haven't gotten is the black-suited Baroness, because it's only available in a too-expensive Cobra 5-pack.
But I digress. Anyway, I've noticed something strange at some of my local stores, and I'm curious if it's some kind of widespread phenomenon. The first one I noticed was General Hawk. I saw a General Hawk figure, but he looked odd. He was kind of amorphous, kind of short, kind of bulky, and kind of crudely articulated. Also, he was wearing bright orange instead of the more muted/realistic colors of the modern line. He looked like a figure from the '80s series, here on a 25th Anniversary card. I didn't think too much of it, just filed it away as a weirdness (and it helped that I didn't remember what the modern Hawk figure looked like).
But then, a few weeks later, I encountered a Cobra B.A.T. with a weird lenticular animation sticker on its chest. Now, I'd bought a modern B.A.T., so I was pretty familiar with what it looked like--which was pretty different from this. I also noticed that neither the figure nor its accessories quite fit into the bubble, even though the bubble had been reattached well enough to not look like it'd been tampered with. I've looked since then, and discovered that it was the fourth version of the figure, from 2003 (based on a 1991 mold). Here's the modern version for comparison.
Hawk, as it turns out, was the 2005 version of the figure. The modern one looks considerably different.
Since then, I've seen a 2004 Cobra Trooper and a figure I couldn't identify on a Crimson Trooper card. With the exception of the last one (which I saw in a different part of the state), the only real sign that the figure didn't belong was that nothing quite fit in the bubble. Someone took some serious time and care to reattach those bubbles.
So, what's going on? Initially, I thought that replacing dime-a-dozen new figures with vintage '80s ones was an exercise in insanity (or at least poor financial planning or ignorance of eBay); now that I know they're 2000-era reissues, it makes more sense financially. I can understand the impulse to scam big box retailers by returning old figures on new cards, effectively getting free toys, but is it really worth that much effort? Are toy collectors really so hard up for $8 and so drowning in 2000-something reissues that they need to engage in some illicit bartering? Mightn't that be a sign that they need to take a break?
Or am I way off-base, and is this perhaps some crazy Hasbro contest that I've missed out on winning three times? What's up?