Thursday, January 26, 2012

Wrestling MarketWatch: The Hall of Famers

In the recurring "Wrestling MarketWatch" series we try to combine the latest going rates for various collectibles with a common theme. What better, and timely, theme this week than Hall of Famers?

Just because a Hall of Fame superstar is on an item doesn't necessarily mean that it will become valuable, but it's certainly fun to see what people are willing to pay for certain collectibles. As always, I remind you that just because an item brings in a certain amount of money one time doesn't mean that it will do the same in the future. Remember, collect for you...not for your wallet.

I also ask that you keep in mind that the items shown are from my own collection and some are autographed. The prices listed were for unsigned examples unless otherwise noted.

*What better way to start than with items that could be in a Hall of Fame themselves--a toy Hall of Fame, that is. To many, the WWF LJN line is the ultimate wrestling figure series. It's certainly one of the earliest, contains many of the most beloved names ever to enter the squared circle, and the sheer size and presentation of the figures makes them stand above all others.

Values have remained somewhat steady for the line for about twenty years now. Loose common figures (Piper, Volkoff, Sheik) go for very little while any carded example rarely goes for less than $40. Some figures in the line have the potential to sell for well over $1,000.

Figures of two Hall of Famers recently caught my attention as far as auction price. Carded examples of Harley Race and Jimmy Snuka recently sold for $204.49 and $199.99 respectively. While both have always been sought after, it seems that "The King" and "Superfly" are in extra demand as of late. It should be noted that the cardback of the Snuka figure was "unpunched." The early LJN figures had a small piece of cardboard that had to be "punched" out in order for them to be displayed on peg hooks in retail stores. Later figures, like Race, had the more common "j-hook." If these early figures still have the extra piece of cardboard, as small as it is, this can be a factor in pricing.

*"Superfly" seems to have found his way onto many desirable items. The very first issue of WWF Victory Magazine (the magazine that WWE claims was their first in-house publication, although as I've informed you, it wasn't) features Snuka performing one of his magnificent leapfrogs over the equally magnificent Don Muraco. These early publications are fun and show a time when the WWF wasn't yet against acknowledging other stars and promotions even though the company was well into the infamous "expansion" era. The magazine, with its iconic cover and full color and gloss, recently sold for $43.

*Back in the world of action figures, we stay classic yet get a little more recent in terms of production. Last year the Hall of Fame welcomed the one and only Sunny. While I did not get to attend the induction in Atlanta, I did get to share in the glory of the one who gets what she wants. Sunny days aside, one of the last "1 of 100" limited figures in the Jakks WWE Classic Superstars line was of the original Diva herself. Equipped with the tag team titles, Sunny is decked out in her cowgirl outfit worn while she managed The Smoking Gunns to the belts. Out of all of the figures limited to 100 in the line, this one is still probably the most undervalued. The figure recently sold for $173.99 and I have a feeling that it will only go up in value. After all, she knows you want her.

On the other end of the spectrum of blondes, we bring you another Hall of Famer with golden hair and packaged with a tag team championship. This would happen to be one of my favorite competitors who is well into his fourth decade in the ring, none other than Greg "The Hammer" Valentine. I've always felt that this figure was one of the most underrated in the line. Not only is it the best likeness we've ever seen of Valentine in figure form, but it also includes his most recognizable robe. An autographed version recently sold for just $17. A steal of a deal considering that it would cost more to obtain the figure at this point and then have the figure autographed.

*There's nothing I'd rather end this installment with than by giving you the bird. Yes, Koko is in the Hall of Fame, but that's not the bird that I had in mind. Albeit a bit early in my eyes, Stone Cold Steve Austin is indeed in the Hall of Fame. He certainly belongs in any wrestling Hall of Fame due to his impact on the business for a few short years. Heck, if I were ever to begin a wrestling memorabilia Hall of Fame he'd deserve his own wing. Who wasn't wearing an "Austin 3:16" shirt in 1998? If you gave someone "the bird" back in the same time period, chances are it was much better received if you were wearing Stone Cold's foam bird on your hand. Hogan had "yellow fingah." Austin had "black bird." Cena has "purple okay sign." What comes next? Regardless, Austin's finger recently sold for $20 and I can only see this price going up as the years go by. Hold onto those "3:16" shirts, too.

There you have it. A variety of items for a variety of budgets featuring a variety of Hall of Fame superstars. Variety is the spice of life. Remember to check out our Facebook Fanpage for galleries of hundreds of wrestling collectibles and our Twitter feed for the latest blog updates!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Hall of Fame-Bound Horsemen

Around this time of year there is always plenty to discuss in the world of wrestling. Who will show up in the Royal Rumble? Who will headline WrestleMania? Who will enter the WWE Hall of Fame?

As I've said many times before, I enjoy the WWE Hall of Fame for what it is. It's an extremely political yearly tribute to stars from the past. If you take it as such you may just enjoy it. For the most part, those who are in it tend to brag about it. Even some who are not in it would love to be. Sure, it's a payday and a small reunion with some old co-workers. For the fans, it's a chance to see those stars on the grandest stage of all one more time.

Although we will discuss selected other 2012 WWE Hall of Fame inductees in the weeks to come, the announcement of the induction of The Four Horsemen is more than worthy of its own entry.

While overly justified, the announcement seemed to "break all the rules" in the minds of fans. A group being inducted? Which version of the Horsemen? Ric Flair inducted twice? Isn't Ric Flair under contact to TNA?

Certainly tag teams and families have been previously inducted, but the induction of a group is a totally different ballgame. The Horsemen had quite a few different members in the span of about a decade. The original lineup included Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Ole Anderson, and JJ Dillon as manager. Perhaps the most remembered and celebrated roster was actually the third which included Barry Windham (who had replaced Lex Luger who had in turn replaced Ole).

It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that the Windham version is the one most likely to be celebrated by WWE. Even before airing their video package which highlighted this incarnation, most fans know that Ole Anderson wants nothing to do with WWE and WWE most likely wants nothing to do with Ole Anderson.

Anderson is, in my opinion, a very misunderstood man. People who are opinionated often get a bad rap. It doesn't necessarily mean that they're bad people. It simply means that they have strong opinions and are unable to waver on them. Ole Anderson is very opinionated and censors himself for no one. That's simply the way he is. Bruno Sammartino is similar in many respects but has a beloved hero aura about him that brings out his endearing side. Believe it or not, Ole does have an endearing side. He just doesn't choose to show it and would probably rather be thought of as the "grumpy old man."

As much as an oversight as it is for WWE not to mention Ole, even if he is overlooked by his Horsemen partners at the ceremony, it's not going to be the end of the world for him. Aside from having a ring, WWE is about as far away from Ole's idea of wrestling as one could get. On the flip side of the coin, there's a much better chance that the members of the "WWE Universe" are going to know who Barry Windham is. We've learned in the past that if WWE feels that their "Universe" doesn't know who someone is and there's no financial stake in teaching them, that person simply isn't going to be presented no matter the role. This is the factual reason as to why William Shatner inducted Jerry Lawler rather than The King's choice of Memphis announcing legend Lance Russell.

As for who WILL be present for the ceremony, Arn Anderson, Blanchard, and Dillon seem to be a lock. Windham is still recovering from health problems suffered last fall although not enough is known on his present condition to even speculate about an appearance. The true question marks in this category all lie with "The Nature Boy" himself.

When cornered by a fan at a recent autograph signing, Flair claimed that he would indeed be accepting the induction on stage at the ceremony. Assuming that he is still under contract with TNA would make this a landmark event. Although Flair was in the audience at the 2011 ceremony, WWE was very careful to catch him on camera as little as possible.

Certainly his TNA run has done him no favors regarding personal financial issues. Whether or not being back with WWE would change that or even be possible remains to be seen. One way or another it seems that we will be seeing Ric Flair involved in the world of professional wrestling until the day he dies.

Inducting the Horsemen is ultimately a landmark event. It pleases old school fans while re-introducing a concept that all fans, new and old, should be aware of. Fans of newer entities such as the nWo and DX need to know where the roots for such "super groups" were planted. This also opens up a floodgate of new ideas for the WWE Hall of Fame. Just when WWE seems to be tricking itself by inducting stars within a year of their retirement, the company finds a way to RE-INDUCT stars such as Flair and others in the future like Shawn Michaels (DX) and Bret Hart (The Hart Foundation). As much as the company is criticized for bad decisions (most of the time rightly so), they do seem to have a think tank with its target being the almighty dollar.

Last year at this time I was sworn to secrecy, but thanks to a member of the 2011 class I knew exactly who all was going to be inducted. Although I don't have such information this year (and if I did...), I'm still hoping for another team to be announced. If they are, we'll be celebrating right here in the next few weeks. They certainly deserve it. After all, pain and destruction is their middle name.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Let's Rumble...Hasbro Style

Right now is one of the best times of the year to be a wrestling fan. Even if you're a member of the "WWE Universe" rather than being an actual fan of wrestling, you can appreciate the one event that unifies fans from the '80s, '90s, and today. Although WrestleMania seems to get weaker as the years go by, the Royal Rumble continues to deliver as it did in its infancy.

Ax and Smash entering as #1 and #2. Luger and Hart tumbling over the top rope at the same time. Ric Flair winning his first WWF Championship. Men like Shawn Michaels, Rey Mysterio Jr., and (gasp) Chris Benoit proving that even smaller stars could make it through the other 29 participants. These are the moments that have defined the Royal Rumble. Most of the top names of the past thirty years have at least one Rumble appearance under their belt. Looking through lists of each years participants can be like viewing 30 Hall of Fame-caliber superstars all in one single match.

The Rumble has had its share of prominence in the world of merchandise as well. Programs, videos, video games, and action figures have all been released using the Royal Rumble banner, which next to WrestleMania may be the most remembered and recognizable in the WWF pay-per-view lineup. In terms of both collectibility and infamy, there is one Royal Rumble item that stands above all the rest.

Let's go back to 1992. Hasbro was running full force with their famous WWF action figure line. The 5 inch tall figures, each with "Real Wrestling Action," were fun to play with and collect. As with any popular action figure line, the toy company will look down other avenues to add additional products to their hot licensee.

During the summer of '92, three packs of four mini WWF figures began to appear in stores. These figures were only a couple of inches tall and were non-poseable, mini versions of the larger Hasbro WWF figures and each was molded to a silver stand. Roddy Piper, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Texas Tornado, and Mr. Perfect made up one set while another included The Legion of Doom and The Natural Disasters. The Bushwhackers, Brutus Beefcake, and Greg Valentine rounded out the third pack. The figures were released to coincide with a WWF Royal Rumble ring which would include figures of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Big Boss Man, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Ted DiBiase, and Sgt. Slaughter.

The toy was fun, the figures were cool little representations of the larger figures, but the entire idea was plagued by a much larger problem. The centerpiece of the idea, the ring, was only available for a small window of time. While the three figure packs were available at many different retailers, the ring playset itself only seemed to show up at Toys "R" Us stores in a short period of time very early in the 1992 Christmas buying season. Aside from reports I've heard in more recent years of the set appearing at Toy Liquidators, this shipment may have been the only one.

The limited time to purchase the toy resulted in two things: the individual figure packs sat on shelves (collecting dust at Hills stores until the late '90s) since most kids had nothing to use them with while prices for the ring itself soared on the secondary market. Although examples have been known to sell for as much as $500, a price range of $250-$300 should be expected for most open pieces.

Prices aside, the Royal Rumble ring is truly a unique and fun toy. The ring itself is elevated on a light blue plastic platform to allow two hand controlled plungers to be placed halfway under. When pounded with a fist, the plunger hits the mat causing the figures to "rumble." The playset includes six rounded metal bases which fit onto the bottom of the silver bases molded onto the figures. The metal bases are hard to remove from the figures. I wouldn't really advise putting them on today, as it can take as much as a screw driver to pry them off. The figures will still "rumble" without them, although they might not fly over the top rope as originally intended.

Speaking of the figures, they may just be the highlight of the entire deal. As previously mentioned, the figures are replicas of their larger Hasbro counterparts. The Randy Savage figure is of particular interest as the paint deco transforms the figure released twice in the larger Hasbro line (as both Macho King and Macho Man) into a longer "tights" version that never saw a bigger "brother." Also of note is the Brutus Beefcake figure which features pinkish purple decor opposite its larger counterpart that has a black, white, and red motif.

The box art is a lot of fun, too. The Big Boss Man figure is depicted on the box featuring the head of the first Hasbro Boss Man and the body of the second. Savage is depicted on the box as having the short purple trunks that the larger figure has.

As to why the ring wasn't widely available is a question that has been debated but never completed unraveled. It's possible that Hasbro wasn't satisfied with the reaction to the separate figure packs and decided to stop production of the ring. Another theory is that due to the difficult of removing the metal bases production was halted and simply never restarted. The possibilities are endless, but those that own the toy enjoy it as a fun and unique entry in the Hasbro WWF world.

Twelve figures that should also be mentioned here weren't even produced by Hasbro or licensed by the WWF. Around the same time that the licensed mini figures were produced, a bootleg set appeared in discount stores around the world. The figures appear to depict Hogan, Savage, DiBiase, Boss Man, Roberts, Beefcake, Duggan, The Bushwhackers, The Ultimate Warrior, Jimmy Snuka, and Akeem. Despite being unlicensed, the figures are too nice to be ignored and actually fit quite well into the Hasbro Rumble ring. The Snuka figure is, in my opinion, one of the coolest looking figures ever made of "Superfly." The set continued to show up well into the mid '90s and I even recall seeing them marketed as cake toppers at one point.

In either instance, these are toys that truly capture the colorful and fun days when the Royal Rumble was taking its place as a yearly tradition. Thankfully, the event itself continues to remind fans of those days with its unpredictability, fast paced action, and memorable appearances.

It's time to RRRRRRRRRRRRumble!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

All Points Lead To "A"...And "A" Is For "Alberto"

A new year and a fresh start. There are many reasons why this is the first blog entry of the year. It's a new beginning and if you're going by the alphabet, you start with the letter "A." "A" can be for Alberto Del Rio. The Royal Rumble is held in January and Alberto was the 2011 winner. Alberto also has a popular new action figure. As a result of the entry on the Von Erich action figures last month, this entry was delayed until now. That would be the actual reason you're getting this entry now, but that's not exciting. We'll go with "A" is for "Alberto."

Del Rio has become one of WWE's top heels over the past year and a half. A mixture of two styles of wrestling heel, those being the foreigner and rich man, it's almost a given that Del Rio would have success as a villain. Perhaps it's his heritage that gives him the push over the top.

Del Rio's father is Mexican wrestling legend Dos Caras while his uncle is 2012 WWE Hall of Fame inductee (and Bill Apter's favorite wrestler) Mil Mascaras. While both men have had remarkable in-ring careers, it is Mascaras who at one point was probably as big a name in the United States as Rey Mysterio Jr. is today. In addition to countless magazine cover appearances in the 1970's, Mascaras was a popular figure in the WWWF, especially in Madison Square Garden.

Although masked at one point, Del Rio differs from the rest of his family in that he has made his name largely without the mask. Since beginning with WWE in dark matches under his original ring name of Dos Caras Jr., Del Rio's looks have only helped his heel demeanor.

As with most new stars, their "rookie" action figures have the tendency to fly off of shelves. Del Rio had two "basic" style figures released almost simultaneously thus making him easier to find. Many collectors waited for the "Elite" figure which is our topic of discussion today.

Although at a higher price point, Mattel's "Elite" WWE figures include more articulation and accessories. In Del Rio's case, the scarf accessory has become as much of a trademark as his father and uncle's masks are. The scarf included with this figure is a full fabric accessory that drapes perfectly on the shoulders of the figure. Also included is a masked chihuahua dog which Del Rio used to mock Mysterio.

With the added articulation comes my personal most hated feature--the torso joint. I'll be honest when I say that this feature is starting to grow on me. While I'd prefer it not to be there, it's simply not bothering me as much as it originally did.

The face on Del Rio is perfect, capturing the heelish smirk and truly bringing the character to life. This is important on a figure such as Del Rio where the ring gear is rather bland. Truth be told, Del Rio lacks in colorful ring outfits where his uncle and father flourished. Two tattoos on Del Rio's shoulder blades complete the detail.

The scarf and dog add a lot to the figure. The "Basic" figures of Del Rio are fairly unexciting and have been sitting on shelves. This "Elite" figure seems to be more popular and is in a series that includes "Classic" Kane, Papa Shango, and Daniel Bryan among others. The price point on these figures averages around $15. It seems a bit steep, but certainly if there is a must-have character for you in the lineup, it's a price that you'll pay. In all honesty, you're paying for the additions of accessories.

This is probably the nicest representation of Del Rio that we'll get. There isn't too much more that you can do with him in future releases although I feel that a glaring omission is Ricardo Rodriguez. If Jakks were still producing the WWE line I have a feeling that Del Rio's debut would've been in a 2-pack with his long suffering ring announcer. Mattel is less than proactive on the production of side characters.

And thus begins 2012 on the blog! If last year was any indication, we're in for a fun ride. As always I'm looking for your feedback in any of the avenues that I've previously mentioned. Happy New Year!