May 2019

The FOV Update: Differing Points of View

Before everyone heads off to enjoy their Memorial Day Weekend, I just wanted to touch base one more time regarding the revamped Forces of Valor range, discussing their differing philosophies both then and now and how it once again needs to be explained in detail to keep everyone informed. Back in 2002, when Unimax first burst onto the scene with their initial line up of Forces of Valor vehicles, we were instrumental in helping put them on the hobby map, advertising the line heavily in certain magazines and talking up the range as best we could so that they could gain traction as quickly as possible. In fact, I fondly remember meeting with the principals at Panache Place — then the distributor for the Forces of Valor range — when the line first debuted at Toy Fair here in New York City. I remember walking into their private offices with my partner, throwing down my winter coat on an unoccupied chair and telling them that they had an out-an-out winner on their hands even if they themselves didn’t know it as yet.

Over the course of the next decade or so, Unimax, the maker of the Forces of Valor products, contracted with a number of factories in China to produce the range, which initially came in two flavors; one designed for the mass market audience and was readily available at several Big Box stores including Toys ‘R US and Target, and a second, nearly identical range designed for the purist at heart. When the “action” range, as it was called, was passed over by the mass merchandisers, Unimax was faced with a dilemma; end the line or continue to produce it in far fewer numbers so that it was still financially feasible to make. They chose the latter course of action, looking to appease the collector even in the face of rising labor costs and oftentimes being shunted from one factory to the next who were looking to make widgets in the tens of thousands rather than a few hundred Tiger tanks at a time. As costs rose, the manufacturer slowly diluted the product to keep it affordable, stripping away much of each vehicle’s metal content, removing various accessories and even thinning out the cardboard carton each vehicle came in to make it as light as possible. Despite all these cost-cutting moves, however, the line began to languish and the owner, who was now closing in on 70 years of age, decided it was time to call it a day and pursue other interests he had long been delaying.

Fast forward several years to the present day, with Waltersons, the new caretakers of the line, now in control. Waltersons was keenly aware of the problems faced by Unimax at the end of their tenure and was determined not to repeat these mistakes. For starters, all manufacturing was brought in-house so they could better control the quality of each item as well as lower their production costs. Second, they reviewed all of the existing molds, looking to improve each inside and out and bring them up to today’s standards. This process has taken a bit longer than was originally forecast, but as you can now see, their toils have been well worth the effort.

The problem, as I see it though, is that many collectors, familiar with the original line, are still expecting to hold the current manufacturer up to the same rigorous production schedule and lowered standards that satisfied their earlier appetite, something Waltersons is not prepared to do. Waltersons’ aim is to produce the very best replica possible, even if means keeping the collector at arm’s length for extended periods of time and dealing with grumbling collectors who sometimes don’t know when to leave things be. I just want to remind everyone that at the end of the day, these are still toys; they aren’t loaves of bread feeding the impoverished masses or medication designed to keep the ill alive. So, when you place your orders for items that may not be available for some time, please bear this in mind and try to remain as patient as possible. Complaining that such-and-such item still isn’t available does no one any good. If its that important to you, build a model or have someone make it for you. You may find that by doing so, you’ll recognize how tough it is to make a realistic model at an affordable price while facing the vagaries of international trade and social media abuse. Its tough to make it in today’s world and sometimes we need to be nudged and reminded of this fact even if we don’t like to hear it.

Stay safe and have a great weekend!

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Films in Focus: Star Trek: Picard

Earlier today, Trekkies were treated to the first teaser trailer for the upcoming sci-fi series, Star Trek: Picard. Set fifteen years after the events put forth in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the trailer is devoid of special effects and hi-tech imagery, and instead takes a close-up look at what Admiral Picard has been doing in the wake of leaving The Federation. No official date has yet been set for the series debut on the pay-to-play network, CBS All Access.

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Films in Focus: The Cold Blue

With Game of Thrones having run its course, some of you may be contemplating cancelling your HBO subscription. Before you do, you may want to wait for The Cold Blue, an all-new documentary that focuses on the US bombing campaign over Europe during WWII. Directed by Erik Nelson and featuring newly restored footage shot by Oscar-winning director William Wyler, The Cold Blue is a meditation on youth, war and trauma, and a tribute to one of the world’s great filmmakers and the men of the Eighth Air Force. The Cold Blue is scheduled to air on Thursday, June 6th.

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The FOV Update: Lighting Conditions

Earlier this week, we discussed how, beginning with their upcoming T-34/85 medium tank, Waltersons, the new owners of the Forces of Valor brand, has developed a method by which they can slightly alter the exterior color of a vehicle to reflect differing lighting conditions. As a result, we have begun making this option available to our customers when they order the vehicle in question. While we await manufacturer-supplied photos that demonstrate the differences between a vehicle operating under both day- and night time lighting conditions, we have enabled this option on the product’s ordering page. Please take a moment to review this change since it will affect other vehicles in the range that are produced going forward. We aren’t certain if these lighting effects will be applied to any upcoming artillery and anti-aircraft guns, so we have decided not to enable this option for them.

Forces of Valor’s 1:32 scale German 88mm Flak 36/37 Anti-Aircraft Gun with Trailer – Deutsches Afrika Korps, El Alamein, North Africa, 1942 [Comes with Seven Crewmen and Rommel]

In other news, our distributor reports that they have finally received the 88mm FLaK gun. We should be receiving our shipment by the middle of next week.

Lastly, we do not have firm release dates for those items still showing as in the production queue by Waltersons. These dates are still notional at best and based upon conversations with our distributor and manufacturer. Item staging and run completion are two separate and unrelated milestones. Moreover, just because the manufacturer is indicating that an item has completed production does not mean it will be available in the North American market within weeks. Typically, distributors look to reduce their overseas shipping costs by waiting until they can fill a container, thereby making it more economical particularly if the proposed tariffs go into effect. So, they may wait until several items are available en masse, before signing off on a shipment bound for the US. That said, the next large shipment will likely occur some time this summer, after the Sherman Firefly, Jagdpanther and T-34/85 tanks are all completed and available for shipment at one time.

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Hobby Master Puts the “Boo” in October’s Sonic Boom

Hobby Master’s Russian Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-29C ‘Fulcrum’ Fighter – “White 51”, Borisoglebsk Training Center, Summer 2001

The folks at Hobby Master have been busy as bees of late, posting imagery for several of their upcoming projects as well as debuting a gaggle of new warbirds due out this October. Perhaps the most noteworthy new addition to the Hobby Master hangar is a MiG-29 Fulcrum multirole fighter, clad in a post Soviet Union break up scheme from 2001. “White 51” as its known, was attached to the Borisoglebsk Training Center, which plays host to the Borisoglebsk Higher Military Aviation School of Pilots, designed to train up would be fliers on the latest Russian aircraft.

Also slated to arrive this October are the following items:

HG5005 – German Sd. Kfz. 7 8-Ton Personnel Carrier / Prime Mover – SS-924015, “Marta”, 1.SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler ‘LSSAH’ (1:72 Scale)

HG5208 – British Cruiser A34 Comet Mk. IV Tank – T335293, “Arrogant”, Queens Own Hussars, Berlin Brigade, 1960 (1:72 Scale)

HA3112 – USAF Convair F-102 Delta Dagger Interceptor – 0-61409, Florida Air National Guard, 1960s (1:72 Scale)

HA7743A/B – USAAF North American P-51D Mustang Fighter – Captain Abner M. Aust, Jr., 457th Fighter Squadron, 506th Fighter Group, Iwo Jima, 1945 (1:48 Scale)

HA7744A/B – USAAF North American P-51D Mustang Fighter – “Hon Mistake”, 1st Lt. William G. Ebersole, 462th Fighter Squadron, 506th Fighter Group, Iwo Jima, 1945 [Signature Edition] (1:48 Scale)

HA4558 – USAF Boeing F-15D Eagle Multi-Role Fighter – 78-0567, 65th Aggressor Squadron, 57th Wing, 2012 (1:72 Scale)

HA5007 – US Navy Northrop Grumman EA-6B Prowler Electronic Warfare Aircraft – 163890/AJ502, VAQ-134 “Garudas”, June 2015 “US Navy Farewell Scheme” (1:72 Scale)

HA4516 – USAF Boeing F-15C Eagle Multi-Role Fighter – 82-0023 “Maloney’s Pony”, 27th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 1st Tactical Fighter Wing, 1991 (1:72 Scale)

HA4419 – USAF Lockheed-Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter – 15-5194, 466th Fighter Squadron “Diamondbacks”, 419th Fighter Wing, October 2018 [Low-Vis Scheme] (1:72 Scale)

HA6501 – Russian Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-29C ‘Fulcrum’ Fighter – “White 51”, Borisoglebsk Training Center, Summer 2001 (1:72 Scale)

HA5706 – Russian Sukhoi Su-35 “Flanker-E” Multirole Fighter – 901, MAKS-2007 Airshow, Zhukovskij, August 2007 (1:72 Scale)

HA5226 – US Navy Grumman F-14B Tomcat Fleet Defense Fighter – 162911, VF-24 “Fighting Renegades”, USS Nimitz (CVN-68), 1989 [Low-Vis Scheme] (1:72 Scale)

HA6303 – Russian Sukhoi Su-34 “Fullback” Strike Fighter – “Bort #10”, Oleg Peshkov Commemorative Scheme, August 2016 (1:72 Scale)

HA0211 – USN Douglas SBD-2 Dauntless Dive-Bomber – CDR Howard Young, Commander of the Enterprise Air Group, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (1:32 Scale)

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The Forces of Valor Update

Waltersons’ 1:24 scale Radio Controlled US M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank – Tri-Color Camouflage

We’ve been having some interesting private discussions with the powers that be at Waltersons, the new owners of the Forces of Valor brand. From a production standpoint, they have a number of projects in the works that we have already touched upon in previous Forces of Valor updates so there is no sense in rehashing old conversations.

Waltersons’ Forces of Valor Radio Controlled US M26 Pershing Heavy Tank

What we have learned is that beginning with their upcoming 1:32 scale T-34/85 medium tank, the Company plans to offer at least one pair of slightly differing paint schemes that portrays the vehicle in question under different lighting conditions. So, one tank might appear slightly lighter with gun metal grey tracks while another, still representing a vehicle from the same unit and battle, could appear a bit darker and with more muddied tracks, suggesting it may have seen action that day and has now been withdrawn during the early evening hours for rest and refit. We’re not sure if they plan to assign separate SKUs to each scheme, which would help to keep things straight from an ordering and inventory perspective, or include them in each master carton without any further fanfare. Once we have photos of the vehicles, thereby showing them side-by-side, we will have a better idea as to how they wish to proceed and offer them to the buying public at-large with more precise information. Earlier, we had suggested they think about including one “chase” vehicle in each master carton, which would differ slightly from the other vehicles and thereby command a somewhat higher price in the secondary market

On other fronts, the four original 1:24 scale radio controlled tanks should be in stock by the end of next week, barring any unforeseen issues. Some time towards the end of the summer, this assortment will be bolstered by a M26 Pershing tank as well as an M1A2 Abrams tank clad in a tri-color camouflage scheme. Years ago, a desert sand M1A1 Abrams was sold by Unimax, so this new version is not only painted differently but reflects a more updated main battle tank. Also in the offing is a MLRS, which will probably make it to market later in the year.

No new information was provided regarding their rotary- and fixed wing aircraft, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that work has come to a stand still. The Company does recognize, however, that their most popular lines continue to be their 1:32 and 1:16 scale military vehicles, so its entirely possible that their current efforts are being directed towards getting these into the market ahead of some of their other ancillary lines.

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Four More Warbirds Join the Atlas Fighter Sweep

The Atlas Fighters of World War II series got a boost with four new aircraft joining the aerial assault. The following warbirds are expected in late May, so check ’em out now if you want to be the first to add them to your collection:

ATL7896001 – German Messerschmitt Bf 109F-4/Tropical Fighter – Hans Joachim Marseille, 3./Jagdgeschwader 27, North Africa, 1942 (1:72 Scale)

ATL7896024 – US Navy Chance-Vought F4U-1A Corsair Fighter – Ira Kepford, VF-17 “Jolly Rogers”, 1944 (1:72 Scale)

ATL7896028 – USAAF Lockheed P-38L Lightning Interceptor – “Pudgy (V),” Thomas McGuire, 431st Fighter Squadron, 475th Fighter Group, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

ATL7896029 – German Heinkel He 219A-0 “Uhu” Night Fighter – Werner Streib, Nachtjagdgeschwader 1, June 1943 (1:72 Scale)

As usual, each model is priced at only $24.99, making them ideal introductions to the aviation market and great gifts for that special someone looking to get into the hobby.

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Tales of Transparency: Who Knew There Would be No New News?

We’ve been in business for nearly twenty years and I cannot recall a time when there were so few new product introductions being made mid way through the month. While Hobby Master has yet to announce their roll call for the month of May, and Eaglemoss has been mum of late regarding new product announcements, several manufacturers have seemingly gone dormant of late or showed their hand and intentions months ago at the last round of Toy Fairs held at the beginning of the year.

My guess is that a lot of companies have decided to take a cautious stand in recent months largely due to the trade war we are now facing with mainland China. While some spokespeople — including our own president — remain hopeful, continuing to present a rosy picture even in the face of stalled negotiations and Chinese reciprocity, its becoming increasingly clear that the business world has begun to take a dim view of the proposed tariffs, which will now affect our industry as early as June.

Its difficult to say how or even when this situation will play itself out since there are many factors to consider and several points of view that coalesce to form the overall picture. Its also a question of saving face at this point as neither side wants to be seen as giving in to the other, even if their case and cause seems justified despite the collateral damage created in its wake. So, we’ll keep our fingers crossed that this issue gets resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, and the flow of goods and new product announcements resumes unabated all aimed at keeping this hobby alive and vibrant for years to come. Lets hope this current trade war ends up as a scuffle and not a full-blown conflict with no resolution in sight and the business world doing its best to stay apace.

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Tales of Transparency: Tariffs

According to Tabletop Wire, our industry could soon be affected by the proposed increase in tariffs with mainland China announced on Friday. After a series of failed trade negotiation meetings with the Chinese government, President Trump approved an increase in tariff fees to 25%. Moreover, he decided to place these fees on products already affected by the tariffs as well as a number of new product categories that our country imports from China. Under section 9503.00.00 of the proposed new tariff rules, diecast collectibles, which falls under the heading of toys, subheading reduced scale models, will be affected by the hike although hearings must first be held on June 17th to determine any issues with these proposed hikes. If passed, the tariff could go into effect as early as June 24th.

As an aside, some of the manufacturers we deal with are still located in China so these tariffs will obviously have an impact on the selling price of their goods going forward. Many will likely alter their production schedule should order reductions and/or cancellations ensue. Other manufacturers, in the wake of higher labor costs in recent years, have already moved their operations elsewhere, most notably to Bangladesh, Vietnam and other countries along the Pacific Rim, and will therefore not be affected by these proposed changes. We will keep everyone abreast should we have to increase the price of certain items/lines once these tariffs go into effect.

Keep in mind that the US and China are still negotiating a trade deal according to both United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, although the Chinese may decide to delay action until after the 2020 presidential election. Should a deal be concluded, however, then these hikes will likely be removed almost immediately. Bear in mind too that although our president continually claims that the Chinese are paying for these tariffs, the added costs are, in fact, born by US importers, who must then pass along these added hikes to everyone within the supply chain and ultimately to the consumer.

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Forces of Valor Rolls Out the Heavy Armor at Shizuoka

Forces of Valor’s 1:24 scale radio controlled US Pershing heavy tank and US M1A2 Abrams main battle tank

According to recent reports, it would appear as if Waltersons is resuming its radio controlled business in a big way for 2019. First off, it looks as though they will be bringing back several of their sold out 1:24 scale models (Tiger I, Sherman and Panzer IV) and hopefully have them ready for the all-important fourth quarter. To bolster their lineup, they also plan to re-introduce their long sold out M26 Pershing heavy tank and ressurect their Abrams mold, this time around making it an updated M1A2 variant and painting it in a tri-color camouflage scheme. At some point, it would be nice if they offered a T-72 or T-80 main battle tank, thereby giving it something to fight against in a head-to-head competition.

Their long-awaited 1:16 scale T-72A tank is finally in the works, with no fewer than three versions headed our way. The first introduction in their newly-acquired line of VS Tanks

And speaking of T-72s, Waltersons is finally showing off its long-discussed 1:16 scale main battle tank, which will reportedly come in three versions, each aimed at three different market segments. Pricing and actual dates of release should be revealed shortly, so keep an eye out for further announcements as they, well, roll in. Sorry…

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