Tuesday, June 29, 2010

So...What's New???

More often than not, the topics of the entries in this blog are that of classic wrestling collectibles. There's nothing wrong with that. I, like many of you, enjoy the memorabilia of yesteryear. Once in awhile, though, I do enjoy highlighting new and upcoming collectibles. WWE and TNA are both very popular with children and young adults right now. Anytime that this is the case, you're sure to see merchandising galore.

Mattel is continuing to roll out product in their WWE line which began late last year. Numerous lines of single figures as well as double packs are plentiful on store shelves with many more to come. The WWE Legends line is starting to appear in stores with a second series slated for release in late-summer.

While Mattel promised a steady stream of new characters they have not improved upon Jakks often-criticized constant re-releases. While new characters such as Goldust, William Regal, and Dolph Ziggler have recently shown up in stores, the shelves are still filled with remake upon remake of Randy Orton, Batista, and Triple H. On the upside, new figures of Kelly Kelly, Drew McIntyre, and a 2009-version of Ricky Steamboat are all scheduled for release later in the year.

Jakks seems to finally be ready to release their new TNA figure line. At a special meet and greet on the weekend of the Slammiversary pay-per-view, TNA fans were able to obtain a signed set of the initial six figures in the Jakks line. Kurt Angle, Sting, Jeff Jarrett, Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, and Suicide are in the first wave with a two-pack set following shortly. Jakks will also have a Legends of the Ring line that is slated to feature grapplers from TNA, NWA, and New Japan Pro Wrestling. The first series includes Hulk Hogan (New Japan attire), Jeff Jarrett, Kevin Nash, Kurt Angle, and Sting in his classic WCW look. Scott Steiner was originally slated to be the sixth figure in the set and was later removed. It looks as if he may be released in Series 2.

Jakks has been getting heat among collectors for delays, changes in line-ups, and an overall feeling of uncertainty towards their TNA line. Perhaps the longer collectors wait, better quality as far as new faces and better likenesses will take center stage.

Trading cards are another popularity-gauging collectible in the wrestling industry. Tristar, as I covered in an earlier entry, has done a great job of producing and marketing TNA trading cards for a number of years now. Their TNA New Era set has captivated both wrestling and card collectors alike and continue to be difficult to find at retail. The easiest way to purchase the cards is through "Blaster" boxes which retail for around $20. Inside the box there is a cellophane-wrapped pack of 24 cards and one special authentically autographed card.

Topps, the legendary trading card company that currently has the WWE license, seems to be following the WWE's current direction in marketing to children. While a line of trading cards was released last year, their 2010 offerings thus far have solely been novelty items. A card game titled Slam Attax as well as packs of collectible poker chips, dog tags, and stickers are the current Topps WWE product in stores. It would be welcomed by many collectors to see a return to the popular Heritage-styled cards using the WWE license in the near future.

In the next entry, we return to the past! No Hogan or Flair. How about more old school than that? Buddy Rogers? Killer Kowalski? Lou Thesz? More of "The Living Legend" Bruno Sammartino? All of those and more! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wrestling MarketWatch: Magazines

It's a scene out of Anytown, USA. Saturday morning wrestling is over and it's a lazy summer weekend afternoon. As any good tv show should, the crazy ring action you just watched left you wanting more. At 6:05 tonight, there's a chance you'll see more. That doesn't do anything to satisfy your need at this moment.

A walk to the local convenience store sounds like a fair idea. A Coke or slushee may be just the distraction necessary to forget the squared circle and its crazy combatants. A peak beyond the refreshments, however, unveils something far better. Something epic to a 10-year-old wrestling fan and even ones far older. Behold...the wrestling magazine.

A great action packed (and if you're lucky--blood splattered) cover. Color pin-ups. Rankings. Results. Wrestlers and promotions from not only far-off lands but from the next county! These are the tools that turned so many young wrestling fans into readers. I recall using the word "sabbatical" to my mother as a youngster. I was immediately questioned, out of joy, as to where I'd learned such an advanced word. I immediately came clean. From a wrestling magazine, of course!

Everyone profited from these great periodicals. The fans got an exciting look into wrestling beyond what they could see at an arena or on television. The wrestlers and promoters got the publicity and fame that they hungered for. It was a win-win situation, and one that makes these classic titles such valued pieces to so many collectors.

It should be no surprise that many collectors are looking to acquire titles that they didn't own as children or perhaps reaquire ones that were thrown out by overzealous parents. As with all of my MarketWatch features, I will now highlight some of the recent going prices for specific magazine titles. Maybe one will be a title that you picked up in a newsstand long ago.

*A favorite of many collectors, including myself, is the November 1970 issue of The Wrestler magazine. This issue is a favorite as the cover is filled with a photo of Bobby Heenan's face covered in blood. The photo is accompanied by the caption "My God, Bobby! What Happened To Your Face?" As anyone involved in the old school wrestling magazine industry will tell you, a bloody cover almost always ensured a sell-out issue. This particular one has always enjoyed a great secondary market value, but recently a copy sold for a whopping $76. Various factors could have had a hand in this selling price, including the fact that Mr. Heenan has recently started back into the autograph signing circuit, making this an item that many collectors would love to have autographed. A picture of this magazine will appear in my upcoming Pro Wrestling Illustrated article.

*Another title that always does well on the secondary market is the April 1957 issue of Sports Illustrated featuring legendary wrestler Danny Hodge. Various copies of the magazine have recently appeared for sale averaging between $20 and $40 per issue. Hodge is the first of two professional wrestlers to make the cover of Sports Illustrated, the other being Hulk Hogan in 1985. Autograph seekers will also be seeking out this issue over the summer months as Hodge is scheduled to appear at the NWA Legends Fanfest in Charlotte, NC this August.

*A copy of the first issue of the WWF's Victory Magazine featuring a great action shot of Superfly Jimmy Snuka recently sold for $36. The Victory Magazine only lasted for a few issues before the title morphed into the long running WWF Magazine. Current WWE publishers claim that Victory Magazine is the first in-house WWF publication, which is not the case at all. The WWWF (and for its last issue WWF) Wrestling Action magazine is the actual first in-house publication. The magazine had but a mere five-issue run however is, to many collectors, one of the finest wrestling magazines ever produced. In the future there will be an entry in this blog dedicated solely to Wrestling Action.

*How about those great magazines from Japan? They aren't as far out of the reach of American collectors as one would think. Most issues, even from the golden age of puroresu, can be had for $20 or under. Don't read kanji? No problem! These magazines are chock full of great photography covering the Japanese stars as well as those from other countries. If you're a fan of the Funk brothers, Stan Hansen, Abdullah the Butcher, or even Hulk Hogan, you will not find better, rare photos of these stars than you will in a Japanese publication from the '70s or '80s.

Looking to start collecting wrestling magazines? A trip to a flea market or garage sale just might turn up some treasures. Even today you can find Pro Wrestling Illustrated, Inside Wrestling/The Wrestler, and the various WWE publications on store shelves. It's never too late to start.

And for the record, it was Kamala who took that sabbatical...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bonk Em! Bop Em!

Those immortal words from the Wrestling Buddies commercial (voiced by the late, legendary Arnold Stang) were followed by thousands of '90s children the world over.

These weren't just wrestling figures, they were wrestling BUDDIES. Days of jobbing to your pillow? GONE! Now you could choose one of four WWF Superstars to take your second grade frustrations out on!

Feel like being Dusty Rhodes today? Then bring out your Ted DiBiase or Macho King Wrestling Buddy, dress your little sister in polka dots, and VOILA! Instant American Dream!

Feeling a bit Lanny Poffo-ish? How about Dino Bravo? Bring out your Ultimate Warrior or Hulk Hogan Buddies and BECOME your favorite territorial star-turned national tv jobber to the stars!

In all seriousness, Wrestling Buddies were a great idea. Tonka released the line in 1990 around the same time Hasbro's WWF action figure line arrived in stores. Stuffed and sized like a pillow, Wrestling buddies were the perfect idea for the more physical child who just couldn't get enough out of the action figures.

Tonka's initial offering included Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, "Macho King" Randy Savage, and "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase. Each were bright in color and included their full costumes and accessories printed onto the doll. Hogan and Warrior each featured the WWF Championship printed, while Savage and DiBiase had the crown and Million Dollar Belt, respectively.

Going into 1991, Tonka introduced Big Boss Man, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, and The Legion of Doom into the plush fray. Hawk & Animal were included in the same box producing an interesting difference in the way stores handled the pricing. While I vividly remember Toys "R" Us stores charging more for the LOD, if you were lucky enough to have a Family Toy Warehouse store in your neighborhood you may have gotten a deal. Some stores in the now-defunct Family Toy Warehouse chain are known to have charged the same price for the tag team set as they did for the single buddies.

It was around this time that WCW started copying most of the WWF's marketing ideas. Wrestling Buddies were not lost on Ted Turner's "rasslin'" company, and a manufacturer named ToyMax produced several similar plush dolls in the form of WCW's wrestlers. While other characters are known to have made pre-production stages, Ric Flair, Sting, and Lex Luger are the only ones that are known to have hit store shelves. While these toys are not as colorful and distinct as their WWF counterparts, they are more lifelike in their likenesses and are just as in demand with collectors today.

While various plush-style toy lines have been put out by any wrestling company with a toy deal from the Attitude era to today, none have quite caught on like these original examples did. One line that probably would've sold well sadly ended up not seeing the light of day.

Well over a decade before I started this blog I ran an online memorabilia newsletter. At one point I was contacted by someone in the toy industry who had a catalog from the JusToys company featuring photos of WWF toys that ended up not being produced. Among those were a proposed line of plush wrestling dolls that looked very similar to the Tonka WWF Wrestling Buddies. Bret Hart and Diesel dolls were shown, and would have probably been huge sellers had they been released. Photos of these dolls, as well as the other toys shown in the catalog, still circulate around the internet today with my original "watermark" on them.

And you thought Tonka only made trucks...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Going Full Circle!

June 29, 2010. This is the on-sale date for the September 2010 issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Although I'm sure many of you are regular readers of the magazine dating back to your childhood, I implore you to check out this issue as...the Wrestling Memorabilia Blog *becomes* wrestling memorabilia!

Yours truly was given the opportunity to write an overview of the wrestling collectible scene. Complete with photos, it's a really nice showing for me and I do hope you all enjoy it.

In another feature on myself and the blog, I was once again showcased on one of my favorite blogs, Johngy's Beat. This past Monday, John posted an entry featuring my meeting with the one and only Mike McGuirk...including the famous microphone. Please check that out, as well!

As always, thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

And now for something a bit different...

Just as the WWE did so infamously this past Monday night, this week I plan to deviate from the usual fare and comment on something in the wrestling world itself. To keep with the parallel, the topic will be just that, Monday Night Raw.

Some who know me personally describe me as "jaded" when it comes to the current state of professional wrestling. To be perfectly honest, I'd even describe myself using the word. Do I detest absolutely everything about modern wrestling? No. Was I spoiled by just how great it was when I was younger? Maybe. Will I admit when something modern is actually good? Yes!

Over the past few years a friend and I have developed a "code phrase," for lack of a better term, to emphasize when something in the world of wrestling, past or present, particularly pleases us. Since it came about, my friend could probably count on both hands how many times I've used the phrase regarding the current product. This past Monday was one of the times.

If you've been under a rock or simply don't follow the current product, I will provide a short summary. The "rookie" stars of the WWE's SyFy channel program "NXT" emerged and proceeded to wreak havoc during the main event of Monday Night Raw. John Cena, CM Punk, referees, announcers, and even the ring itself fell victim to the 8 marauders.

If you have yet to see the segment, I highly advise seeking it out. It has been well over a decade since something in the industry made me sit on the edge of my seat and leave me yearning for more. It wasn't the same old run-in, it was an old school WRESTLING angle designed to make you ask "What's next?" It was the very thing that this business was built on. Something that the Stamford, Connecticut-based company has been lacking for a long time.

Some more jaded than I have posed the obvious cynical question. Based on their track record of following up on hot angles, will the WWE be able to capture Monday Night's lightning bolt in a bottle? Mr. Jaded himself, yours truly, certainly hopes so. Perhaps going against his own beliefs is something Vince McMahon needs to push his company back over the top. Certainly the interest is there. He has stars that fans are interested in. Kids are loving wrestling again. It just needs some sort of shove to make it back to the plateau visited in years such as 1985 and 1999.

Maybe old school storytelling is the answer.

Maybe Mr. Jaded can give up his title.


In one quick note, be on the lookout for the September issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated magazine. John Cena, Kenta Kobashi, Ric Flair, and Harley Race grace the cover, while yours truly makes his PWI debut on page 30 with a feature on, what else, wrestling memorabilia! Be sure to pick up your copy which should be hitting newsstands at the end of June!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Wrestling MarketWatch: Action Figures

"That's not a doll, it's an action figure..."

"It IS an action figure!"

If you grew up in the '80s or '90s, chances are good that your wrestling memorabilia collection started with an action figure or two. From LJN to Remco to Hasbro to Jakks. WWF to WCW to AWA. Poseable, rubbery, statuesque. You know you had them. You know you rassled em. You know you had a ton of fun.

With Mattel's new WWE Legends line recently starting to reach the hands of collectors, it's all but guaranteed that many wrestling fans will jump on the "toy" bandwagon just as they did when Jakks released their Classic Superstars line. This is a good thing, as high sales will help ensure the depth of characters in the Mattel line as similar to the Jakks line.

What about the old stuff? How are the vintage items fairing in the price market? As usual with MarketWatch, I'm going to highlight some recent pieces and the prices they're selling for.

*One item that seemingly always does well is actually only about a decade old. The ECW toy line from The Original San Francisco Toymakers was a hit with collectors because of the stars it included, the good likenesses on a lot of the figures, and the mind blowing idea that the adult-oriented ECW product had a toy line to begin with. In addition to several series of figures, a ring and cage playset was released that included exclusive figures of Sabu and Rob Van Dam. While the ring and cage were redone versions of toys from Toymakers' previous WCW line, it was a popular item and one which did not see as wide of a release as the single carded figures. A boxed example recently went for $100.

*Prices on carded WWF LJN figures have seemingly dropped a bit as of late, with a number of the figures selling anywhere from $20-$50. This is a far cry from just a few years ago. Some collectors tend to blame the WWE Classic Superstars line for this drop, however I don't agree with that assessment. This does not include the 1989 "black card" series of which prices have largely remained the same.

*Carded examples of the 1990 WCW Galoob figure line have also dipped in price. Most of the figures have recently sold on an average of about $10-$15. I think any collector would make a wise investment picking these figures up at these prices. Always an underrated line and, as I described in a past entry, the closest thing we'll ever have to an action figure line FROM the glory days of NWA wrestling. The WCW Galoob United Kingdom exclusive figures remain very expensive to be found carded.

*With its 14-year run, the Jakks WWF/WWE line will probably always be the most varied. Like 90% of the wrestling merchandise from the "Attitude Era," the figures produced during that time are dead in the water and seem doomed to stay that way. 100+ different releases of Austin, Taker, and Road Dogg simply don't equal collector demand. That said, certain figures of The Rock and Austin from more recent series such as those included in the Classic Superstars line can sell for well over $50.

The best way to tell what your items are worth? As I've said time and time again, DO YOUR RESEARCH! Remember, the best collectibles are the ones that are priceless to YOU.