It's the Poppies for 2008!

This is the second year of the Poppies, the industry pop culture collectible awards! This year, 147 Judges from all aspects of the industry - companies, collectors, media, artists, and retailers - came together to first nominate and then vote on their favorites in 14 different categories. This is the round up of those results, with some comments from the judges themselves! If you have any comments or questions, feel free to drop me a line.

In case you'd like to check the results of my picks or the People's Picks from previous years, check these links:

My picks:   Readers Picks:   Poppies:  
2008 2008 2008
2007 N/A   2007
2006 2006 N/A
2005 2005 N/A
2004 2004 N/A
2003 2003 N/A
2002 2002 N/A
2001 2001 N/A
2000 2000 N/A

While I've only included a photo of each of the category winners here, I also added in links for the top three in each category (after Best Company and Best Line) so you can see what they look like, in case you haven't seen them or don't remember. Now let's get to those Poppies results!

Best Overall Company

This is always an interesting category, because many of the judges (about 1/3) actually work directly for some company. Obviously, you'd bet a lot of them would vote for their own. Also, there's plenty of nominations to choose from, which tends to water down the votes.

But the three winning companies took almost 60% of the vote, dominating the others. It's also interesting to note that these are the SAME three companies that won in 2007! The spread between the first and third place companies was a bit wider this year though, and a couple companies swapped places.

Hasbro took third, which is the same place they took last year. I'd say that the strength of their Joe line as well as the overall continued success of the Star Wars line and the success of the new Iron Man line is what managed to keep them in the top three.  Many of the judges felt that they did an excellent job in 2008, and Monte Williams said "I felt compelled to give the Best Company nod to Hasbro; clearly they don't need the recognition the way some smaller companies do, and my knee-jerk, punk-rock inclination is to send some love the way of Sideshow or some similarly brilliant smaller company, but at the end of the day, for all Hasbro's faults (I am no collector of Marvel Legends, but even I can tell that they have wildly mishandled that series), Hasbro produces toys at a volume I can barely comprehend; their only competition on the same scale is Mattel, who is routinely plagued by distribution issues that frustrate fans and kill lines (Masters of the Universe 2002 R.I.P.; DCU Classics isn't much better), quality control ($20 He-Man figures with two left legs? That is unacceptable from such a veteran company) and of course their lead-paint PR fiasco.Hasbro has juggled such mammoth lines as G.I. Joe, Transformers and Star Wars for decades now, and while I do not always agree with their decisions, they boast more grace and willingness to accommodate fans than one should reasonably expect from a company their size."  

Dan Veesenmeyer, who is a mass retail consultant, said "Hasbro. Hands down in the overall toy industry for 2008, Hasbro's talented and dedicated Brand Teams continue to drive innovation, delight the kids and surprise the collector. Consider all the licenses they produced toys for in 2008 and how many of those products we all have now on our shelves, in storage or our kids are playing with. Star Wars continues to impress. After YEARS of floundering with the brand, Hasbro finally brought GI JOE back to it's 3 and 3/4" glory. They improved upon the Marvel license greatly in 2008, adding Mighty Muggs, offering stunning new Build-A-Figure assortments and stuck gold with Iron Man. Indiana Jones was back and better than any IJ toy or collector line ever produced. Mighty Muggs expanded across multiple brands with very pleasing results. Transformers expanded to a new animated line and helped continue to capitalize on the success of the film from 2007. Now think about how difficult it is for any company to be able to pull off so many success in a single year or build upon the success of brands that have been out there for decades while competing in a very challenging environment. Lastly, anyone who attended the San Diego Comic Con can attest that Hasbro's booth was far and way the most packed with attendees dying to learn what was new...more than any other toy vendor out there. Big round of applause for these dedicated and creative teams!"

Second place goes to last year's winner, Sideshow Collectibles. As a company, they are extremely well respected within the industry, and they had a strong year with several key licenses.

The winner was in second place last year, but they had an amazing 2008, creating some of the nicest figures on the market - Hot Toys. Anyone who has seen one of their top four or five figures in person knows why they received this honor. One of the judges said " was an outstanding year for Hot Toys with top products released from TDK, POTC, ALIEN, Appleseed etc etc. They unveiled new figures from Hellboy, POTA, The Godfather and Predator (amongst others) for 2009, but I have a feeling the soon to be released IRONMAN figures will set a new benchmark for armored figures. They had it in the bag!"

D. Martin Myatt summed up his thoughts on the overall category: "There were four companies that came to mind for this category. Hasbro has continued to produce their popular lines with a very strong focus on what collectors want. 2008 was a dream year for Star Wars and G.I. Joe fans, with many wish list choices getting checked off. Even when rehashing and repainting, they found ways to make relevant variations. They came back from a rough start with the Indiana Jones and Marvel lines with some amazing products, and with the new line of 3 ” Marvel figures coming out this year, we’re likely to see them continue to be a popular choice in the toy aisle. If nothing else, this has been a very
strong year for them. I don’t think they deserve the best overall company this year because of some of the hiccups along the way but collectors should pay close attention to them over the next year.

I thought about Mattel, since they have many great product lines right now, and the products are amazing for the price point, but their shipping practices leave a lot to be desired. The blind packing of chase variants doesn’t help their customers as much as it abuses them. Mattel needs to take a page out of Hasbro’s book and learn how to distribute their mass-market figures in a more proactive manner. With figures as good looking and well made as theirs, they would be unstoppable if they would only make their products available to the customers on the primary market. No one should have to rely on eBay to complete their collections.

Sideshow, as always, comes out over most companies, and their business practices over the last year have been nearly flawless. Their products are top notch, and their efforts to make International products available is commendable. Matter of fact, the only thing I disliked this last year was the over production of Dead variants. Just because they can produce four paint variants doesn’t mean they should.

Top marks go to Hot Toys because they are still a young company and they continue to out do themselves. The figures
they produced in 2008 are hands down the finest figures produced in any scale. I can’t wait to see what they produce next year, and how they influence other companies. Much in the way that McFarlane Toys (as Todd Toys) did in the 90’s, Hot toys will be the company that all others will be trying to keep up with."

Cannibal Jack Sparrow action figure by Hot Toys


Best Overall Line

All three lines that won last year are still in production this year, but there was some major changes. There was a very wide spread in this category, with votes going to many of the nominees. The final results were decided by only a few votes.

Last year's third place winner was still this year's third place winner - Hasbro's Star Wars line. Even with no show or movie for most of the year to support it, the line kept truckin' along, and with the release of the Clone Wars cartoon in the fall, it looks like it will remain a fan favorite for some time.

We actually had a tie for second place this year, between last year's winner, the 25th Anniversary Joe line, and new comer DC Universe Classics. I had both of these lines in my top three, and was not surprised to see the rest of the judges agreed.

And the winner? No surprise there - it's Hot Toys Dark Knight line. As D. Martin Myatt said "Nothing at all was as good as Hot Toys’ The Dark Knight figures. Granted, the fact that the movie was ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ for this decade doesn’t hurt, the pure quality of the toys themselves left us all drooling. None of the other nominees in this category come close to The Dark Knight line."

Dark Knight Joker action figure by Hot Toys

Best Figure 18" or more (Male or Female)

Several companies worked in this scale this year, and I happen to really enjoy the cheaper priced 18" figures when done well. Hey, even the expensive ones can be pretty sweet. Now, remember, these are 'figures', not statues, so that means there's supposed to be at least some articulation.

It's also worth noting that this was the first real blow out, with the top winner taking almost 40% of the vote all by himself, and the top three figures getting about 80% of the vote.

The third place figure is one that I think most collectors are giving the short stick - the Ultimate Quarter Scale Darth Maul. Yep, the body doesn't work great on some characters, but the sculpt, paint, outfit and articulation all came together for this release. You can find this guy as cheap as $50 at some online retailers, and at that kind of price he's a steal.

The second place winner is NECA's Alien. As one of our judges said "Man, that Alien figure is a hell of a piece. It is sold at an AMAZING price, and you get a near literal TON of a figure. Everything about this makes me giddy. Bravo to all involved."

The big winner here was a figure we've sort of seen before, but not quite - Mezco's 18" Helboy II figure. Although the first release was several years ago, the second release took the same great qualities that made it a favorite, and added extra cool, with the addition of the Big Baby.

Now, not every judge agreed with these results. Dan Veesenmeyer said "While I am not one who is convinced this is a valid scale to go with for any line of collector figures (why do we need this again when we are already getting so many amazing 1/6th scale product?) my vote goes to the Tonner Lara Croft. For me it's one of the few 18" scale figs produced so far that actually looks better than it's 1/6th scale counterpart produced by Sideshow. It's attractive, the details are nice, it looks like the character and I personally prefer to look at this Croft on my self than the SS version (which I can\'t even re-outfit without breaking a limb, but I digress). Very impressive." Even I have to admit that the Tonner Croft looks pretty sweet.

Hellboy II action figure from Mezco Toyz


Best Male Figure 12 - 18"

I doubt that the winner of this category is going to be any sort of surprise. But there is something here very surprising to me. More on that in a minute.

The third place award goes to Sideshow's Gandalf. Personally, I thought they did a number of Star Wars figures this year that were superior, but I'm betting that the fact that this was a) the nicest Lord of the Rings figures they've done and b) that it could very well be the last gave it a little extra boost.

Second place is another dead tie, with Sideshow's Indiana Jones, and Hot Toys first version of the Joker getting an equal number of votes! Dan Veesenmeyer picked Indy, and said "Sideshow Indiana Jones. Great likeness of Harrison Ford but the details in the outfit and the accessories are to die for here. And I have personally been waiting for an amazing 12" Indy all my life! The Hot Toys Joker was a contender for me and I know many will pick that figure here. Deservedly so. The ONLY reason I could not go with it is that I need to purchase both versions of the figure to make one amazing one. You need version one for the classic suit but you need the better Heath head from the Bank Robber version. So I need to send double to get the perfect Joker. Only reason he didn't top my choices. "

Lots of other folks felt that the Bank Robber Joker did deserve the top award though, and he won pretty handily. It's no surprise, because the figure really is just outstanding. D. Martin Myatt said "The Bank Robber Joker may very well be the best 1/6 scale figure ever made" and another judge added "...Yulli is the undisputed Queen of head sculpts right now!"

That surprise I talked about at the beginning is just this - where's Medicom? They were in the top three last year with their Boba Fett. Only one of their figures even managed to get in the nominations this year (Darth Maul), and they were pretty much ignored both here and in the Best Overall Company categories. The simple fact is that they are competing head to head with Sideshow and Hot Toys on a number of licenses (Dark Knight, Indiana Jones, Star Wars), and they are charging as much or more. Yet, their figures are not better, and I personally think they are going to have to make some changes in their business model if they intend to remain competitive with the other two.

Dark Knight Bank Robber Joker action figure by Hot Toys


Best Male Figure  5 - 11"

This was another of those categories where the judges were very divided. There were lots of stuff to choose from, and people's different tastes were very obvious.  And there was another tie!

Third place was split between two figures - the Master Chief from Mcfarlane, and Wink from Mezco. These figures showcase two very different aspects of what can make a figure great, with the MC showing off some of the most innovative articulation, and Wink showing off some exceptionally cool sculpting.

Second place was a clear won by a single figure - the deluxe Wall-E from Thinkway. I loved this guy, and I think that Thinkway did a terrific job with the complete series.

The big winner squeaked out the first place spot with just a few votes - it's Don from TMNT! Actually, I suspect that any one of the four figures could have been nominated and would have won (they do all look alike) but Don has perhaps the coolest accessories. D. Martin Myatt said "While at first I thought of voting for Donatelo because he was my favourite Turtle when I was young, I thought better of it and decided to look beyond my own personal tastes. That’s when I noticed that Donatelo was the only figure only TMNT figure I never saw on store shelves. So I stuck with my first choice." And while he didn't hae a guitar, I used the below photo just because I thought it was hilarious.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figure from NECA

Best Male Figure under 5"

Usually, there isn't a whole lot of variety in this category, but this year there was a big push in the 3 3/4" scale. That trend appears to be continuing into 2009, and I'm hoping we see better vehicles and play sets because of it.

Third place goes to another Wall-E. Of course, this is the itty bitty version this time, but he's almost as good as the deluxe version. Thinkway should be the first company that Pixar thinks of when they look for someone to work with them on licensed product in the future.

Mola Ram from the Indiana Jones line barely - we're talking by one vote - edged out Wall-E to get the second place trophy. Dan Veesenmeyer summed it up by saying "Mola Ram from the last and best wave in the Hasbro Indiana Jones lineup. You cannot find better detail in any 2008 line in this scale that with the Temple of Doom IJ wave. When I first saw final production on this wave, my jaw dropped and I was speechless. This was a wonderful example of talent that worked very hard and cared greatly about the outcome of the final product on each character in this wave. Every figure in this wave looks exactly like the actors and the sculpting and deco cannot be beat down to the tiniest detail. The whole wave deserves a collective award but Mola Ram is so cool looking here that it can easily sit at the top of my choice. 'Kali ma Shakti de!'"

The top winner here was no surprise to me - it's the Hellboy II figure from Mezco, specifically the SDCC version. Mezco did a great job with the few figures in this scale they've released so far, and hopefully we'll see these talents on other similarly scaled lines next year.

Hellboy II Hellboy action figure from Mezco


Best Female Figure any size under 18"

Yes, there's only two female categories, this one and the over 18" category. Why are there so many more male categories? I'd think that would be obvious - there simply aren't enough female figures to provide enough meaningful choices. Maybe next year, more companies will produce more female figures in more scales...but I wouldn't hold my breath.

The results were very widely spread in this category, with the top three vote getters combined only pulling about a third of the vote. The three winners here are probably not going to be a big surprise to anyone, however.

Third place goes to Deunan, the hot chick from the Hot Toys Appleseed line. As one of th judges said "Deunan Knute just nudged ahead of Machiko for me, that cute anime head and skin tight rubber just made her that bit more desirable... can't think why."

The second place winner proves that cheaper toys CAN compete with the more expensive stuff - you just have to do an amazing job. And I think the DC Universe Classics Wonder Woman fits that bill. Dan said about choosing her "Finally a nicely sculpted WW that can also be fully posed! Impressed how both her hair is sculpted and that the material is soft enough so that her head can be rotated more than typically with any long haired female."

Okay, so the first place winner WAS one of those expensive chicks, but the best women always are. Oh, stop rolling your eyes at me - you know it's true. Hot Toys Machiko takes the top spot. That's two of the three spots to Hot Toys again, further proof of what an amazing year they had.

Predator Machiko action figure by Hot Toys

Best Build a Figure

There were a TON of BAF's this year. I only included the top six nomination getters in the ballot, but there were at least four more that could have been contenders. That's pretty amazing, and I hope we see that sort of support for this particular marketing gimmick remain high in 2009.

In third place is a BAF you can't technically complete yet - the Robot Santa from Toynami's Futurama line. We've got a few more parts to get still, but if you were at SDCC last summer, you could by the figure as part of their exclusive for the show, and based on that the judges gave him the love.

Second place was grabbed by one of the DCU BAF's - Solomon Grundy. He is definitely a DC character that deserved the extra heft and size that a BAF can provide, and he was my pick for best of the year.

And first place? It was a landslide for Fin Fang Foom, the only truly huge BAF released this year. His paint ops kept him out of my top spot, but the Poppies Judges didn't agree.  D. Martin Myatt said "Hats off to Hasbro for finding a way to pull this off.  Sure, it would have been cooler with Kirby Shorts, but what wouldn’t be? FFF is exactly what a BAF should be. When Toy Biz made the concept a popular premium, we got stuff like Galactus and a Sentinel. Fin Fang Foom reminds us of how a good a BAF should be." Dan Veesenmeyer adds "It's huge and it's awesome. 'Nuff said."

Fin Fang Foom action figure by Hasbro

Best Vehicle or Play set

I used the term 'landslide' in a couple other categories, but none compared to this one.  One vehicle this year blew all the others away.

But that doesn't mean a couple didn't give it a shot. A surprise third place winner was the Imaginext Bat Cave. I was pretty surprised that it made it on the nominations, and even more shocked that it took third place. Hey, I thought it was pretty cool, but I thought I was in the minority.

Enough judges loved the 1/18th 1966 Batmobile from Hot Wheels that it made it into second place. But as cool as that car was, it couldn't come close to the first place winner.

Two out of every three judges picked the same vehicle. And there's no doubt it deserved all the accolades. It's the Millennium Falcon from Hasbro. Sure, lots of folks complained that it was too expensive, but there were reasons why it cost so much. D. Martin said "This is the Millennium Falcon we all wanted when we were little. Funny thing is the original designer lead the team that gave us this amazing toy. Goes to show what he can do when he’s given a decent budget." Another judge said "Hasbro's Falcon...I would have killed for this as a kid!" Added another judge "Nothing even close to this beauty released in 2008 or maybe in recent years. A once in a collector's lifetime miracle. No comparison." Even another judge said "If I had the space or money, the Falcon would be mine. Just like the USS Flagg, this is one piece that needs to be freed from it's cardboard prison and played with for hours on end." Yes, the vehicle is so cool, everyone was talking about it.

Millenium Falcon ship from Hasbro


Best Statue

Statues include Premium Format figures from Sideshow, at least in my awards. Because of the excellent quality of the PF's, that usually means they dominate this category. And they did again this year...sort of.

I say 'sort of' because the third place winner is a PF, but he's sorta not. It's Sideshow's Creature from the Black Lagoon who is not a traditional mixed media statue. Oh, there's a little mixed media with the base, but he's basically a traditional statue. One of the judges said "A great statue is one that captures a thought or an emotion, and the Creature does that perfectly. It helps that it was designed to defy gravity too."

The second place winner is Kotobukiya's Iron Man Fine Art statue. I suspect this might surprise some readers, especially after some of the comments I got when I picked it in my top three. But the industry judges liked it as much as I did. Kotobukiya had a strong year in general, with plenty of other excellent releases like the Bounty Hunters, but their Iron Man was a step up in quality, even for them.

The judges and I (as well as a lot of other folks, I'm betting) agreed on the big winner too. The Indiana Jones PF - a true mixed media PF - was the clear winner in this category.  That head sculpt was just too much for the judges to resist. I think it's those dreamy eyes. One judge summed it up with "It's been a big year for Indy... not all of it good, but at least the PF was!" Personally, I think the head sculpt on the PF is going to be one that's near impossible to top by any future Indy collectible.

Indiana Jones Premium Format statue by Sideshow Collectibles


Best Bust

Best bust is a category normally dominated by Bowen and Gentle Giant. And yet this year, almost half of the nominated busts weren't from either company. The winners weren't completely from them either.

We had a third place tie here between the Gentle Giant Aayla Secura, and the Hot Toys Dark Knight Batman. I was pretty surprised by this result. Oh, I liked both these busts, but certainly not as much as the Poppies Judges did.

The second place spot was taken completely by GG, with their SDCC exclusive Faun bust from the Pan's Labyrinth license. I'd love to see a large scale version of this character. Can you imagine what a great looking 18" statue he'd make? It's too bad that one of GG's best busts of the entire year was an SDCC exclusive that most folks will never even get to see in person.

If you need any further proof of Hot Toys dominance this year, look no further than this category, a category that is completely new to them. And yet, they pulled off a first place victory with their Dark Knight Joker! I don't think the head sculpt is as strong as the Bank Robber Joker, but it's still a great looking bust, done in a larger scale than most other companies generally work.

Dark Knight Joker bust by Hot Toys


Best Designer/Vinyl

It's difficult to cover such a diverse group of products in a single category, and it's probably no shock that those items with the greatest exposure ended up taking the top spots. I'm going to look at alternatives for the 2009 Poppies that might give the smaller, unique characters a better shot.

But one of the little guys managed to squeak in there this year, even with the heavy competition from the more mainstream brands. This was a very close race, with the winners barely getting past the pack with a handful of votes, and being separated from each other by just a few as well.

Third place goes to a mighty mugg - Mola Ram. One of the judges summed up the MM love by saying "Mighty Muggs. C'mon...pick any of the various MM lines and any collector will find at least one they absolutely love and have to have. We were all winners in this category in 2008."

The second place trophy was another of those dead heat ties. Hot Toys, a name that's popping up in an awful lot of categories, gets in with their Alien vs Predator Cosbabies. The cosbabies were well received across the board, and this particular license seemed to please the fans.  They tied with Milk and Cheese, that 'little guy' I was talking about. I loved the Milk and Cheese figures (as well as the comic), and they were not just well done, but done at a decent price, making them more accessible to the average collector.

The big winner was the SDCC Iron Man Mighty Mugg. Yea, I was pretty surprised too, but as one judge commented "Hard to pick just one but that San Diego Comicon Iron Man had one sweet paint job."


Best Prop Replica

When it came to the industry judges picking this category, Diamond Select Toys did extremely well.

They took third place with their full sized Flux Capacitor, straight outta Back to the Future. The Back to the Future license had a number of products this year, but the Flux Capacitor was easily the best. And yes, it was DST that produced it. I like what one judge said "Now we just need to find a DeLorean to put it in…"

They also produced the second place winner - the Star Trek the Original Series Communicator. This was a great replica at an amazing price, and it has everyone anticipating the upcoming Tricorder.

But the top place winner was one of those ultra expensive items - Sideshow's Samaritan from Hellboy II. As one judge put it "I don't own it, sadly, but I wanted one when it was a poly-stone cast, and now it's metal I want one even more... sigh"

Hellboy II Samaritan prop replica from Sideshow Collectibles

Best Misc

The final category is the catch all - best misc.  There were plenty of things to choose from, but the three winners took over 60% of the vote, but were separated from each other by only a few votes each.

Third place goes to Star Wars Galactic Heroes by Hasbro. These damn things have been cute from the get go, but this year they did the Rancor set - how could you resist? They sure have managed to eat up a lot of my money over the years.

The second place winner was big and expensive, but all that size and money went to good use - it's the Ultimate Wall-E. Considering that Thinkway wasn't even on the radar with their offerings last year, it's amazing to see how many categories they came up in. Of course, it helps that the movie rocked, but I don't recall anyone getting excited about the Ratatouille toys...

The top winner here was another Hasbro product, but this one you couldn't just buy outright. Nope, you had to collect the little stickers from different figures, and send them in to get your 12" scaled Indiana Jones Ark of the Covenant. Sideshow is going to be doing their own version this year, but they'll be hard pressed to beat this one considering the price.

Indiana Jones Ark of the Covenant from Hasbro

General Comments

After seeing the judge's results, a few things became pretty clear to me. Let's start with the most obvious.

Hot Toys is dominating the collectibles market right now, and they are doing it by taking the traditional categories, and upping the ante. This was what made Mcfarlane Toys over a decade ago - they stepped into a kid themed action figure market, improved the look and style of the offerings, and had such great success that for the next 10 years everyone else (including the big boys like Mattel and Hasbro) were chasing them. Out of 14 categories, they won 5, and took second in another. While their 12" figures are their clear forte, they won with their Joker Bust, and took that second place spot with the Cosbabies. Hell, even their Alien vs Predator diorama made a run in the Statue category. In every area, and in every license, they push the envelope, not just making a figure, bust or statue as good as the competition, but better. It's that innovation that's been key for them.

Some might think that HT's success is tied directly to the success of the Dark Knight and more specifically, the love for the Heath Ledger Joker. But that's absolutely not true, with many collectors even preferring 12" figures like Dallas or Cannibal Jack over the Joker. The fact is that they crushed any license they worked on in 2008, and they did it across all the styles of collectibles.

So do they have a weakness? Yes, right now they do. It's connecting directly with their customers. Companies that do an exceptional job on the specialty market include not just customer service, but customer interaction as a top priority. Both McFarlane and Sideshow have shown how critical it is to develop that sort of personal relationship with your fans. This kind of relationship, where fans feel as though the are heard directly by the company, and the company communicates directly back to them, fosters a feeling of ownership and comraderie. Having this relationship provides a long term bond between the company and the collector, something that is crucial in a market where buyers are often very fickle.

Hot Toys does not yet have that, nor have they shown any real signs yet of looking to develop it. Their customer service is almost non-existent, and if you have an issue with one of their figures, you're pretty much left to deal with whatever online retailer you purchased it from. They haven't attempted to develop any sort of direct relationship with any fan-based communities, and have not shown any interest in developing their own. This is the one area that Hot Toys can improve upon, and God help the rest of the industry if they do.

Of course, we all win when there's a company like this on the scene. McFarlane Toys did it in the nineties, and now Hot Toys is forcing the companies around them to step up their quality to remain competitive. It will be interesting to see if the market remains economically strong enough to continue to support them.

What's always true, no matter how good the economy is, is that there are only so many collectors and so much cash to go around. A couple years ago, Medicom pretty much had the top end of the sixth scale market sewed up. Hot Toys was out there, but they were staying in their comfort zone, releasing largely unlicensed military figures. Sideshow was sticking with the mid-range market, and the few competitors that Medicom had seemed happy with staying small.

That's changed dramatically now. Hot Toys has emerged over the last 18 months as THE company for high end sixth scale licenses, picking up the quality of their head sculpts and paint to levels not seen before in a mass produced toy. Sideshow has abandoned the $50 - $60 market and moved into the $100+ market, bringing with them their exceptional customer support and rabid fans. And a number of smaller companies, like Enterbay and Triad, appear to not be satisfied with just a few small run licensed characters, but are going after the bigger licenses and looking to expand. And all of this is happening at a time when the average collector has less to spend on his or her passion. Not everyone is going to be able to survive the rough 2009 - 2010 economy, but the smart ones will adjust and be posed to make it big in the years that follow.

I have some more comments on other companies as well, including Gentle Giant, McFarlane, Mezco and NECA, but I'll save those for the wrap up on the People's Picks. For now, let's finish up with an optimistic view from one of our esteemed judges:

"2009 promises to be a year of even tougher choices for collectors than 2008 was, and that hurt enough! But we live in exciting times, the quality has never been higher, and things can only get better!"


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