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Jabba the Hutt Rubber Collection Strap (and Pencil Case) by B-S-S

July 5, 2015

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One thing that I wanted to pick up while I was in Japan was this strap. I had seen an eBay listing for it earlier, but the asking price was $20, which seemed quite high for a simple rubber strap. It turned out that these were blind-boxed (I should’ve known, really) and sold for 600 yen apiece, or around $5. It’s made of nice thick rubber, but 600 yen is a little on the high side. On the other hand, it comes with three different connectors — a carabiner, a metal ball chain and a thin loop. I would recommend choosing one and removing the others, depending on how you want to use it, but it’s nice to have options.

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There are 10 characters in the series, so collecting them all or finding a particular character can be a challenge — the original eBay asking price was starting to look a bit more reasonable. I bought all four of the boxes available at the only store that carried them, but ended up getting a Stormtrooper, Boba Fett, Yoda and a Wicket the Ewok, but no Jabba. Here’s Boba:

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Luckily, Osaka’s Den-Den Town electronics district has the solution for exactly this kind of problem. There are stores that specialize in selling items that were originally available only in blind-boxes or gashapon capsules.

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I recommend Super Position, as they had the best selection, including two Jabba straps for about 750 yen apiece, which isn’t too bad of a markup considering that you can get exactly the character you want. They had several other characters and Jabba was by far the cheapest, indicating that he’s probably not the most popular character…

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That said, I did spy a vintage Kenner Jabba in this display case there, along with the Applause Jabba statue in the far right.

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The artwork used for these straps has also been used for a variety of other items, including tote bags and pencil cases. I found online listings for at least half a dozen different variations. Since they aren’t totally Jabba-centered, I didn’t try to collect them all, but I have a bit of a weakness for pencil cases so I did pick this one up:

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Front

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Back

Super-Deformed Jabba the Hutt’s Throne Room Garage Kit by “Monstar Shop”

June 28, 2015

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I first discovered this model kit a few years ago when a painted one appeared on eBay UK. The seller wanted quite a bit for it, and it seemed expensive and risky to ship it to the US, so I passed. A while later, another appeared on eBay UK, but the story was pretty much the same. Until recently, those were the only two examples of it I had ever seen. For posterity, here are pictures of the kits I saved from those auctions (click to enlarge).

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I recently returned from 3 weeks in Japan, during which I regularly monitored Yahoo! Auctions (Japan’s equivalent to eBay). I was mostly looking for the sterling silver Gamorrean Guard ring from JAP Inc. to go with my Jabba, Bib Fortuna, and Rancor rings, but didn’t have any luck there. However, I did stumble upon a listing for this very model kit — in unassembled form, no less. The opening bid was low, and I was hoping that it would be obscure enough that I might get it cheaply, but it ended up going fairly high (around $150). Still, it was considerably cheaper than the asking prices for the completed sets above, and for me having the unpainted version was actually more appealing. It came with about 37 different pieces, as you can see below. I’m certainly capable of painting something like this, but an unpainted version has got to be pretty rare at this point, so I decided not to. However, keeping it in its completely unassembled form doesn’t appeal to me, since you can’t appreciate it, so I just prepped and assembled it enough to allow me to display it as you see in the first photo above.

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(As an aside, it’s not easy to buy things on Yahoo! Auctions if you’re a foreigner without a permanent address in Japan. First of all, you basically have to be physically in Japan since the vast majority of sellers won’t send anything outside the country. You have to be able to read and write Japanese, since the website and all communications with the sellers will be in Japanese. And in most cases you have to be able to make a bank transfer to a Japanese bank, since Yahoo’s Paypal equivalent won’t work with non-Japanese credit cards. Luckily, I met all of these requirements while I was there, so I was able to get a couple of things. I don’t have a Japanese bank account anymore, but many ATMs in Japan allow you to insert cash and make a transfer that way.

There are some companies that will bid on things for people living outside of Japan and act as a go-between for payment and shipping, but they are expensive and can also be a little tricky to use. I did try it once, but given the extra expense I’m not sure I would recommend it unless it’s something you absolutely have to have.)

Finally finding one of these kits really made me want to figure out where and when it was from. I was pretty intrigued by it, since it seemed so polished for an unlicensed kit and because it was such a mystery. I couldn’t find any mention of it online, and I’m usually pretty adept at researching things like this. I did finally find a reference to it in a collection of Star Wars clippings posted by Chris Georgoulias (the ad can be found on this page). It’s difficult to make out much detail, but it clearly appears to be the same kit. The ad is dated early 1997, so it’s at least that old. They list the maker as “Monster Shop.”

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The guy selling one of the painted kits above on eBay told me some interesting things about it, although I have no way to verify any of it. He said that the model he was selling was used as a display model by a shop in Manchester England that was selling the kits. The owners of that shop told him that the kit was originally from the early 80s and was made in Japan. Later in the 90s a UK firm supposedly acquired the rights and started making them again (although I question whether there were actually “rights” to acquire for an unlicensed kit like this — unless he just meant that they bought the molds.) Since the only examples of this kit I’ve found have been in the UK and Japan, it might support some of what he said.

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The bottom of the throne has the words “MONSTAR SHOP” (“monster” spelled with an “A”) on it, but no other markings or dates, and I can’t find anything definitive about who or what that is. I don’t know if it was made in Japan originally, or if it was imported to Japan from the UK. I’d really like to figure this out. I’ve sent emails to various places, including the website mentioned in the clipping above, but haven’t had any responses as of yet. Add a comment or send me an email if you know anything.

Some shots of the individual figures follow below. They’re obviously quite exaggerated in a manner similar to the puppets used on British TV show “Spitting Image.”  But they also could be seen as fitting the Japanese “super deformed” (or “SD”) style. They’re really quite high quality for a kit of this nature. The sculpts are well done and there are basically no problems such as air bubbles. There was some extraneous resin on the bottoms of several of them that I removed with a rotary tool, but that was about it. The resin is fairly light but extremely strong — I packed it well, but I was still very impressed that absolutely nothing broke on the way back to the US. Even the very thin pieces like Boba Fett’s antenna. Click any of the images below to enlarge.

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One final note. The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that one of the painted models above has an R2-D2 figure but no Boba Fett, while the other painted model is identical in its composition to the one I have. In addition, the model in the ad clipping has the same models as in mine, plus an additional one at the bottom right that appears to be a Gamorrean Guard, although it’s quite hard to make out. I don’t know how to account for these differences. Is my set missing something, or were other figures added later on? The mystery deepens…

[EDIT: I received the following info from Steve York in this thread on Rebelscum.

Here’s the history behind the kit, it was made by master garage kit model builder Eiichi Mogi and his company MONSTER SHOP, probably in the late 80s or early 90s. He was an incredible sculptor and caster, you won’t find a single air bubble in any of these pieces which is just crazy rare, and a really crazy high quality resin was used. Its a beautiful set unpainted after getting to inspect one.

He sells exclusively at WonderFest, a yearly hobby show, and Creature Features would host him in Los Angeles over the years where he would sell his models, hence the Toy Shop ad. From what we can tell (memories are hazy) the Boba Fett was done first and in greater quantities, then the Jabba set. The R2 unit seen in that painted set is not one of his pieces. Though a Gamorrean Guard is pictured on the box for the Jabba set, it was not included as it wasn’t finished, and on the box it looks like an early sculpt.

Upcoming: SDCC-Exclusive Black Series “Jabba’s Rancor Pit Set” (3.75″ Figure Set)

June 25, 2015

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There have been rumblings for some time about a Black Series Rancor set, but since a Rancor in the 6″ scale would be huge, I imagined that it would be a repack of the previously release figure, along with some other figures. Today we learned that the set does indeed exist, and that it will be an SDCC exclusive retailing for $130. It comes with the Jabba’s Rancor toy (previously released as a Target exclusive), a Slave Leia (apparently the Legacy Collection one, but without the sitting legs), and a Gamorrean Guard (apparently identical to the Vintage Collection one). There’s also a Jedi Luke and a C-3PO, although I’m not positive if these are identical to previous releases or not (the c-3PO certainly looks very familiar, but I’m not sure about the Luke).

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I was right about it being for the smaller figures, but the one surprise is that they are apparently releasing a shrunken-down version of the 6″ scale Black Series Jabba to fit with the traditional 3.75″ figures. It looks to be more or less identical, although my hunch is that it may not have the opening mouth feature of the larger figure. I’m curious whether they will be releasing this Jabba separately. I guess one benefit of designing figures completely digitally is that you can scale them down easily.

In addition to being available at SDCC, these will apparently go on sale at toysrus.com on July 9th, so that would seem like the best bet if you want one of these. $130 seems on the pricey side, although the Jabba’s Rancor figure does have a fairly high value on the secondary market, and of course you’re getting a brand new Jabba as well. That alone is enough to convince me to bite. I just hope I can get it for retail and won’t have to resort to eBay.

[Hat tip to Jedi News.]

Reporting in from Japan! (With Photos from Japanese Toys R Us)

June 7, 2015

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As you may have noticed, it’s been a while since my last entry. Part of the reason for that is that I am currently in Japan. It’s not really a vacation so much as a working holiday, so in addition to meeting people and going places around here, I also have to keep up with my normal freelancing workload, which hasn’t left a lot of time for other things. But I have kept my eyes open for Star Wars-related items, and I’d like to talk a little bit about what I’ve seen.

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I was last in Japan exactly two years ago, when I took my son to Tokyo Disneyland and we tried out the then-brand-new Star Tours: The Adventures Continue” ride. When we visited the local Toys R Us at that point there was essentially no Star Wars merchandise at all, aside from a couple of LEGO sets and maybe a handful of very old figures on clearance. The difference between that and what I saw recently is incredible. At that same TRU there’s now an entire aisle dedicated to Star Wars, and I’d say it rivals our local store in terms of selection. In addition to a nice selection of Japanese exclusives, they also had a lot of Hasbro Black Series figures that I had never seen in person before, but unfortunately they were a little pricey.

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I’m convinced that this is due to The Force Awakens sparking renewed interest in Star Wars. I’ve even seen a couple of people (adults) wearing Star Wars t-shirts, which I can’t recall seeing before. I do think that they are mostly targeting adult collector types with these displays, rather than kids (who are more interested in the likes of Pokemon or Yo-Kai Watch than Star Wars). But it’s exciting to see stuff like this in stores again, and to get the chance to pick up some Japanese exclusive products. Stay tuned for more!

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Bootleg of Mexican Bootleg Jabba the Hutt Figure

May 12, 2015

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No, that’s not a typo. This is in fact a bootleg of a bootleg — a sort of bootleg inception, if you will. As I mentioned in a post from a few years ago about Mexican bootlegs of vintage Kenner figures, there was a bootleg figure of Jabba made, but (presumably due to the size) it was a new sculpt rather than a direct copy like the other figures. This bootleg Jabba is very rare and valuable (to bootleg collectors, at least), so I don’t have one. But this is what it looks like:

Earlier this year, something that looked very similar to this figure appeared on eBay, but cast in green plastic. I’m not sure what the original bootleg was made of, but it was painted in a similar color scheme to the Kenner figure, so this was odd. After some consulting with people who know more about bootlegs than me, my suspicions were confirmed: they were selling a fake version of the original bootleg.

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Whether they actually had the original mold or had just made a new mold from one of the bootlegs is unclear, but it is pretty clear that these are modern bootlegs and not from the vintage era. If there was any doubt, the appearance of many of these on eBay in colors like gold, purple, red (like mine) and orange should make it very clear that these have been made for eBay. Still, it’s interesting for me to have a copy of the original. As you can see below, it’s really quite tiny compared to the vintage Jabba figure.

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It’s cast in a fairy dense and almost waxy plastic. The arms are in fact attached to ball joints, so they can move in a way that’s not that different from the original figure.

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Hooray!

Celebration Anaheim-Exclusive Rancor Bottle Opener

May 9, 2015

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This is the last of the Celebration Anaheim exclusives I picked up. It’s a metal bottle opener in the shape of the rancor’s head. It’s about 3.5″ tall by 2.5″ wide, and has a nice heft to it. The back is rubber with the Celebration Anaheim logo on it. I did try it out on a bottle, and it performed as expected. It originally sold for $20.

Celebration Anaheim-Exclusive Javva the Hutt Merchandise (Mug, Travel Mug, Patch)

May 7, 2015

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As I mentioned in a post about a t-shirt I made almost exactly 5 years ago today, Javva the Hutt is the in-house coffeeshop at Industrial Light & Magic. While they did have some t-shirts (and possibly some other things?) available to people visiting the shop, they were not available to the general public, so if you wanted any you had to hope that someone would sell some on eBay. But that all changed with Celebration Anaheim, where people could buy a number of items featuring the “Javva the Hutt” logo. One of these was a t-shirt, but I was unable to get one. It was very similar to the one I already had, though, so I can live without that one for now (it retailed for $25).

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I did get the other items, though, starting with the mug above, which is quite nice. It has the “Javva the Hutt” logo on one side and the Celebration Anaheim logo on the other, and seems to be a pretty high quality product. It sold for $12, which isn’t too bad. I was not so pleased with the travel mug version, however.

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I was expecting a hard plastic travel mug, but it’s actually covered in a squishy material like you might find on a “koozie” (one of my least favorite product names ever). The hard parts of the mug seem to be made of very cheap and lightweight plastic, giving the whole thing a rather nasty feel, especially since at $15 it’s more expensive than the nice mug. Also, the logo on the side looks terrible, like it was printed an a cheap inkjet printer with the wrong settings.

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Finally, there’s a patch of the Javva the Hutt logo, which sold for $8. I’m not sure I entirely get the appeal of patches, since absolutely nobody ever seems to use them for their original purpose. They’ve become collectibles in and of themselves, like pins. This one’s not bad — it looks nicer in real life than in this photo. It’s around 4 inches wide.

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