So my girlfriend and I encountered something peculiar at a local Wal-Mart on May 1st. This particular store had previously reduced the space dedicated to G.I. JOE figures to one peg for singles and one peg for comic book two-packs, in addition to its glut of Combat Heroes sets. When I walked into the action figure aisle that evenening, however, they had expanded JOE’s area to five pegs for single figures and two pegs for the comic packs. What was really interesting, though, was what was on those pegs.
What I found when I started flipping through the figures was a nearly complete collection of 25th Anniversary, all on 25th cards. Available for purchase were:
Snake-Eyes w/ Timber
Cobra Air Trooper
Rock ‘N Roll
Duke w/ jet pack
Wild Bill (this was the only figure they had on a 25th card a week earlier)
That’s just ten figures short of a complete single-carded collection. They also had a Tomax and Xamot pack that hadn’t been there before and one each of the 25th G.I. JOE five-pack from 2007, the Cobra five-pack from 2007, and the Cobra Legions five-pack. The store moved the newer Resolute five-packs to the bottom shelf to make room for these, and they were priced at $24.88. I thought at first that they must have received some cases that had been sitting around somewhere, but that wouldn’t explain the selection at all. Cases from the first couple of waves would have resulted in multiple Snake-Eyes and Cobra Commander figures, and what are the odds that one case of each wave was nearly forgotten in a warehouse? The availability of one each of the three five-packs certainly wouldn’t fit that theory, either, considering the case assortments in which those were shipped. Our best guess was that someone brought his/her collection and returned it to the store, either haggling to get a cash refund for the merchandise or perhaps to exchange for store credit. In our current economic conditions, it’s not all that difficult to imagine someone exchanging luxury items for groceries.
This was the scene on May 8th, one week later. A few of the single figures were gone, moving JOE’s space back down to four pegs, and the Cobra Legions five-pack had disappeared, as well. Someone even bought Buzzer! The price of the remaining older five-packs had been lowered to $13.00. Everything on a 25th card is gone now, except for that stubborn Wild Bill figure.
Figures from several waves in stock at once.
It’s been a long time since I’ve walked into a store and found older action figures that had pretty much disappeared from retail hanging on the pegs, or at least desirable figures, anyway. I’m not talking about old pegwarmers at Kmart that should have been clearanced off after the 2005 holiday shopping season. It reminded me of a place I used to love twenty years ago. While I was buying Toy Biz DC Comics Super Heroes at Circus World, there was an independent toy store in a shopping center called Cotswold Mall here in Charlotte that still had carded Super Powers figures for sale at their original retail prices. I even remember a guy at the store going into his back room to fetch more of them so that I could get the characters I wanted. Just imagine, a toy store that’s happy to help you find figures they don’t have out on the sales floor. I don’t recall the name of the shop, but I’ve seen it mentioned in a couple of forum posts on a popular STAR WARS collecting site. It’s a shame that those kinds of stores could not thrive today. It seems like the only local toy stores these days are collectors’ shops with prices you can usually beat by shopping on eBay. The situation at Wal-Mart wasn’t nearly as cool of a find as a carded Super Powers Batman in ’89, three years after the line had come to an end, but it was a G.I. Jackpot for anyone who would want to start a collection after missing the original release of those figures. It definitely brought back some fond memories for me, too.