Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Minimates Week: Alpha Flight

The Alpha Flight Minimates, in the box.
This two-box set is a good example of why I wasn't quicker to get into collecting these toys.   I really only wanted two of the Alpha Flight figures: the twins.  And of course they separated them into two different sets, which means that I needed to either pay a premium to someone who had the full series and had unboxed it, or buy the whole thing.  I did the latter, so instead of two new figures, I now have eight.

Grumpiness about the inability to purchase individual figures aside, overall I was quite impressed with these - each figure had a solid amount of detail and clearly looked like the characters from the comic.  The accessories were decent as well, and included an ice effect for Snowbird, air platforms for the flying characters, and a hand-holding joint for the twins, (who also each had two hair options although Aurora's dark wig doesn't actually fit on her head).

Monday, January 26, 2015

Minimates Week: Mass Effect Blind Bags

Wrex, Liara and Tali
I've been on the fence about Diamond Select's Minimates line for a while now.  On the one hand, they offer a wide variety of pop culture figures which are generally very detailed for the size.  On the other, they're Lego-style figures (although slightly larger than actual Lego-brand people), which makes them challenging to display in a non-cluttered way.  That would make sense if they were sold as play figures, but they're very much aimed at the collector market.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

In the Box: Wicket the Ewok and Princess Leia (Kenner's Return of the Jedi)

Princess Leia & Wicket the Ewok
A sort post today, but something I still wanted to share.  As it turns out, those die-cast vehicles were not the only still-carded Star Wars toys that my mother somehow managed to find.  She also gave me this pair of figures from  Return of the Jedi: Princess Leia and Wicket (or as the boxes say, "Princess Leia Organa in Combat Poncho" and "Wicket W. Warrick").

As with the vehicles, these still have their original clearance prices ($2.00, reduced from $3.88, which was reduced from $4.69).  Adding to the vintage fun, they're also from a now-closed chain, although it's K-mart this time (K-Mart still exists in the US, but they went out of business in Canada 20 years ago).
The back of the box.
Wicket up-close and personal
As with the vehicles, I'm going to try to find a way to keep these protected but also on display - maybe in a shadow box?  I'm still working on that part...

Friday, January 16, 2015

Out of the Box: Volks SDGou Claude the Beast

Back in December I was browsing the Mandarake (the site of a chain of Japanese consignment/second-hand shops) for wigs and came across a listing for this guy - I wasn't planning on bringing another large doll home in 2014, but that listing was an opportunity that I wasn't going to pass up.

Claude the Beast was a limited release from Dolpa Osaka 7 and IDEX 2013.  A one-off was also offered by Volks USA is late 2014.  I had I entered the lottery for the opportunity to buy that one, but didn't win, so finding this listing so soon afterwards (and at a lower price as well) was brilliant.

Luckily for me, the listing included almost the complete fullset - the original owner had kept the original red eyes (and replaced them with cat eyes), but everything else was intact (and as far as I could tell, they'd never even opened the outfit, boots or wig).

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Figures and Dolls of The Mansion on O Street

The dining room
The Mansion on O Street is a restaurant/hotel/museum/ antique shop housed in an 1890s-era Washington, DC row house.  My husband and I went there for brunch a couple of weeks ago, and then toured the building, the main selling features of which are the 700 hidden passages, the extensive collection of music memorabilia, and the fact that aside from some of the core music displays, everything in the building is for sale.

Among the antiques, books and guitars, there were a fair number of dolls and figures - ranging from $10 recent action figures to $4800 antique dolls.  I thought it might be fun to share some of the toys from the tour (it's all photos from here):

Friday, January 9, 2015

In the Box: Vehicles from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Series II

As regular readers will know, I'm not much of an in-box collector, but every now and then an exception pops up, and I think this set of old die-cast Star Wars vehicles from Kenner may be one of them.  I didn't buy them (they're one of my mum's random finds - she brought them along when she visited at Christmas), but I definitely think they're a fun thing to have.

These two vehicles (the Slave I and Twin-Por Cloud Car) are roughly the same length as the height of the action figures of the same vintage, so they're clearly not in scale with those figures even though they're packaged in nearly an identical way to the action figures (although being metal rather than plastic, they are noticeably heavier than any on-card figure is).

The Cloud Car.
Hilariously, they still have their original price tags: $2.47, reduced from $2.80 (at Woolco, which went out of business in Canada in 1994, although I understand that that the chain had disappeared from the US and the UK a decade earlier).
The back of the box.
I'm not 100% certain what I'm going to do with these, although if I can find a way to display them, they may end up on the wall of my guest room/nerd cave.  I've heard there are display boxes for carded toys, maybe I should look into that?  We'll see!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Out of the Box: Monster High Vandala Doubloons

Vandala Doubloons
In the past I've said that I didn't think I needed more than one Monster High doll (famous last words), and then it was two, and then three, so for now I'll just say that four is a good number but that I'm making no promises for the future.

Today's doll is Vandala Doubloons, the pirate ghost from the "Haunted" series.  This series is interesting in that, unlike the bulk of the Monster High dolls, there are no bright colours on the dolls.  Instead, presumably to go along with the ghost theme, they're all combinations of faded and muted tones. 

Vandala's body is a pale seafoam green while her hair is a darker green with white highlights.  Her dress is patterned with the same colours, while her purse and left shoe are a green tone that's in between the other two.  She also has a pink armour piece, pink hat (with a blue-green boat), a brown-pink prosthetic right leg (detachable in the style of the Create-A-Monster dolls), and a sea-blue stand.
In the box.

Her face screening is similarly muted, to the point that I actually had a hard time photographing it since the lack of contrast with her base colour made it hard to see if she was actually washed-out by the lighting in the photos or if it was just an accurate capture of her ghostly self.

The armour, purse and doll stand all reflect the nautical theme, and are sculpted with anchor chains (the purse and armour remind me of the barnacle-covered, semi-scaled characters from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies).  The stand differs from the standard Monster High stands in that it keeps the doll's feet off the base, so she "floats" rather than stands - appropriate for a ghost!
She's floating!
Unlike the hard plastic of the purse and armour, the large floppy hat is a thin, flexible vinyl (although the ship that decorates it is in the harder material).   Although it's a lighter shade of pink than the armour, it's a very close match to the doll's lip colour, which I thought was an interesting choice.

The hat.
I've mentioned before that I specifically collect dolls and figures with prosthetics, and this doll is an interesting addition to that collection.  The promotional material refers to it as a peg leg, but it actually isn't one since it has a foot.  I'm not sure why they elected to not make it an actual peg, since the main reason I can see for not doing it (allowing her to shoe-swap with other dolls) doesn't apply since a shoe is sculpted onto the foot. The sculpting it nicely done (in addition to the shoe, there's a chain and anchor pattern running the entire length of the leg), and I love the concept, but the shoe part baffles me.
A closer view of the "peg leg".

Annoyance over the sculpted shoe aside, I really like the concept behind the doll, and I'm impressed at how well this doll and the others in the "Haunted" series work with the rest of the main line Monster High dolls, even given the very different colour palate.  

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Out of the Box: Carpatina Dolls' Veronika

Carpatina Dolls' Veronika
January already! Happy New Year!

My first post for 2015 is the last doll I received in 2014: Carpatina's "Medieval Princess Veronika".  Since Carpatina started out as a medieval/fantasy costuming company for humans, I thought that a doll that reflected that history would be a solid choice.

Carpatina's doll line consists of several 18" girl and two boy options in a variety of hair, eye and vinyl colours.  The dolls have 5 points of articulation (neck, shoulders, hips), and unlike American Girl-type dolls, have a slim vinyl torso rather than a round plush one.  As such, the dolls can't share clothing with AG-size dolls (although they can share clothes with the new Double Dutch Dolls line).  That said, Carpatina does have a separate line of doll clothing (called the "Girlfriends Collection") for AG-type dolls, and their patterns include both size options.

In addition to their costumed dolls (which Veronika is one of), they also offer basic dolls, which include a simple slip dress and generally sell for about $30USD less than the costumed dolls (which seem to range from $90-$110 USD, depending on the source).

The box front.
The back of the box.
The doll is shipped out in an attractive blue cardboard box that has the Carpatina logo on the front and both sides.  Oddly, given that the box has a front window, there were several layers of packing material in between the doll and the box, so one can't actually see the doll through the window.

The back of the box shows off both Veronika and the other 7 dolls from the line (and yes, the boy dolls in the line do look strangely Spock-like).

In the box.
The doll itself arrives wrapped in a plastic bag and is secured to the back of the box with ribbons at her neck and ankles.  She ships out dressed, but with her shoes in a separate bag.  Her hair was wrapped in a hairnet and her hands, lower legs and neck were wrapped in plastic.

The guarding against staining was probably a good choice - 24 hours after having removed her from the box (and removing the neck guard), staining had started to appear on her upper chest from colour transfer from the black portion of her dress (so far, the red hasn't caused any staining though).

Out of the box, two things stand out about this doll: the quality of her outfit and of her hair.   The dress is well-constructed and visually interesting - nice enough for display and solid enough for play, which is perfect for this type of doll.

Out of the Box
The back of the head.
Her waist-length curly black hair is soft and comes styled in an interesting partial dual braid/ribbon with bouncy curls in the back.  I don't know that it's the kind of hair that would hold up to extensive brushing, but it's lovely to look at (and feel) as-is.

The silver ribbon that's braided into her hair also matches the trim on her dress, which is a nice touch.  I did find it a little challenging to get the front of it (which sits crown-style in her promotional photos) to stay straight, but I think it would be simple enough to fix by loosening up the braids.

The dolls face is an interesting one - it's less traditionally cute than the rounded faces of American Girl dolls, but also not as traditionally doll-like as the faces of something like a Madame Alexander.  Which Veronika's face is not as angular or mature as Carpatina's boy dolls, it does seem to be straddling a stylistic line in a similar way.

Her eyes are also interesting, in that they're two-toned: blue on the outside and violet on the inner ring.  It gives her a very distinct look, and much like her face it seems to be straddling a stylistic line that most 18" doll lines don't aim for.  I'm actually not certain that I like the look, but I can't deny that it's an interesting one!

A side view.

Double Dutch Dolls
Sascha in Carpatina's
Tudor dress
The AG-sized Sari

Along with the doll, I also received two additional outfits: one in the Carpatina/slim size, and one in the broader "Girlfriends"/American Girl size.  Both outfits (the slim Tudor dress and the AG-sized sari) are solid quality pieces (in fact, I think the Tudor dress may even be better than Veronika's default outfit).

Overall, I'd say that while I'm satisfied with the doll herself, what I'm massively impressed by is the design and construction of the clothing.  I can easily see myself picking up another outfit or two in the future, and I'm planning to buy a couple of their doll clothing patterns and seeing how detailed they are.

Compared to AG