San Diego Comic-Con is pop culture haven for collectors

Companies offer one-time toy exclusives at event

Hasbro will be offering a 6-inch scale action figure exclusive of Luke Skywalker and his land speeder from the first "Star Wars' film
Hasbro will be offering a 6-inch scale action figure exclusive of Luke Skywalker and his land speeder from the first "Star Wars' film

The nation's biggest annual pop culture convention -- the San Diego Comic-Con -- is this weekend. And while the SDCC attracts some of the biggest names in Hollywood to promote their upcoming film and television projects, the event also brings collectors out in droves from across the country who will get their only opportunity to buy exclusive toys and action figures based on those projects. In fact, some SDCC attendees' sole purpose is to attend the convention to do nothing but collect.

So why the extreme passion? Well, to begin with, there's value in the hobby. To some, the limited availability of the products is just simply a good investment, and others, they simply fulfill a memory that the collector has for certain film. And whether one or 1 million copies of an item is produced, lots of people buy action figures, toys and other merchandise based on their favorite movies.

Perhaps the best example are products from "Star Wars" saga. Forty years ago, the first "Star Wars" film revolutionized the movie merchandising industry when 3 3/4-inch action figures of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Princess Leia and several other characters were produced.


According to recent figures released Licensing Industry Merchandising Association (via Variety), merchandising sales for the "Star Wars" films in 2016 totaled $262.9 billion worldwide -- a 4.4 percent increase from the year before bolstered by the success of the latest saga entries "The Force Awakens" and "Rogue One." Even the subject who helped start the craze -- Mark Hamill -- is a collector. The Luke Skywalker actor, in fact, started an online series last year called "Pop Culture Quest," which focuses on collectors of "Star Wars" and other movie merchandise.

While there will be plenty of "Star Wars" exclusives at SDCC (Hasbro, for example, will be offering 6-inch scale action figure exclusive of Luke Skywalker and his land speeder from the first film), other movie lines will be given the exclusive treatment as well. Hasbro's other exclusives include an Optimus Prime autobot from "Transformers: The Last Knight."


Funko, which is known for its POP! figure line, is producing exclusive figures of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) from "Spider-Man: Homecoming" and the villain Ares from "Wonder Woman." Mattel, meanwhile, will also offer an exclusive 6-inch scale figure of Cyborg (Ray Fisher) from its upcoming "Justice League" movie, and 12-inch tall "Wonder Woman" dolls from its Super Hero Girls line.

While many SDCC exclusives are concentrating on new films, there are more collector-focused retailers like NECA that are focusing on vintage lines. NECA, for example, will be offering exclusive 7-inch figures of "Jungle Briefing Dutch" (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from "Predator," as well as a Sewer Mutation Warrior Alien figure inspired by the 1986 sci-fi classic "Aliens."

In addition, NECA has a 7-inch figure display set based on the Oscar-nominated stop-motion hit "Coraline." And while fans of the Laika Studios' favorite may be disappointed that the set will only be available at SDCC (a special online sale of a limited number of the figures sold out in minutes), NECA director of product development, Randy Falk, hinted that more "Coraline" and Laika products are on the way in conjunction with the studio's 10th anniversary (the studio also produced "ParaNorman," The Boxtrolls" and "Kubo and the Two Strings").


"I can't elaborate too much on this at the moment, but yes, we are definitely celebrating Laika's 10th anniversary," Falk said in an email interview. "We love all of their films and are thrilled to be working with them again. 'Kubo and the Two Strings' was one of my favorite movies last year, in fact. We have a lot of things in the planning stage now, but for the moment I can only say there will be new figures and more."

The San Diego Comic-Con runs Thursday through Sunday in Southern California.