While Obi-Wan Kenobi might have famously described the Mos Eisley spaceport as a “wretched hive of scum and villainy,” it may interest you to know that the toy aisles of your local retail stores have also been known to hide a horrendous haven of sneaky scalawags; you just need to know where to look.
In the circles of action figure collectors, there lies an unscrupulously terrible taxonomy known as “repackers” or “swappers.” Essentially, they are action figure collectors (presumably adults) who buy figures from retail stores, take them home, meticulously open the package, replace it with an older unwanted figure and carefully reseal the package. The purpose? Return the repacked item to the store, pulling the wool over the eyes of a customer service employee to receive a full refund, leaving the larcenous louse with a free action figure upgrade. Essentially, it’s legal theft.
The repacked figures get put back on display like any other returned item, where they sit in shame until well-intentioned parents get bamboozled into buying it, oblivious to the fact that they’ve become the victim of a scurrilous Shanghai surprise. By contrast, discerning, honest collectors will pass by a repacked item and immediately realize that an unnatural, unsustainable force has been insidiously introduced into their precious ecosystem of local retail stores.
This practice isn’t going away anytime soon. Thus, in accordance with Collectibles Month, I was inspired to put together some bizarre and/or hilarious examples of repacks documented for posterity by collectors across the Internet. Assuredly, you won’t need to be an action figure expert to understand the pure temerity that's on display.
Not the Skywalker you're looking for
If the glaring issue with the first name of the intended character being dubiously scratched off the card of this Star Wars figure wasn’t enough, the fact that its Darth Maul statue sweepstakes sticker was moved to ominously obfuscate the character’s portrait on the side should have been taken as a sign that something was amiss here. Unfortunately, the retro-tastic The Vintage Collection Lightsaber Construction Luke Skywalker figure that once inhabited this packaging ended up being lifted by a repacker. Indeed, much like the scene that the figure was made to represent in Return of Jedi, this figure has been deleted. Now, an unwanted plastic representation of Attack of the Clones Jedi knight Roth-Del Masona sits in its place.
Doomsday: "Marvel Legend"
Honestly, while this may very well be one of the most absurd examples of repacking for comic book-savvy fans, its return acceptance is one of the more understandable mistakes on the part of a store employee. After all, why would the average store employee possibly be expected to know that Doomsday, the uber-powerful DC Comics world-wrecker who famously killed DC Comics icon Superman, would be an inappropriate candidate to be in the Marvel Legends toy line? Indeed, this offering from the Marvel Legends “Allfather” build-a-figure wave – originally Sentry – even retained the arm pieces that were an additional incentive to collect the whole wave; something that complements the fact that it’s a nice Doomsday figure.
Those Captain Phasmas look a little off
If this brash example is any evidence, we can safely assume that some repackers are under the impression that the jobs of returns-processing customer service employees are so perfunctory that even multiple infractions of glaring card/figure inconsistencies with four packages of the same figure would go unnoticed. Well, in this specific case, the notion was proven correct. Indeed, the repacker was counting on the returns processor being under the impression that Captain Phasma of The Force Awakens was so chameleonic that versions of her action figure resembled old figures of Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and various Stormtroopers. On another note, a Carbonite-ready Han Solo managed to successfully pass as his would-be son.
Darth Vader and Deadpool hunt Grievous?
This Star Wars: The Clone Wars battle pack set does mostly contain Star Wars figures. They’re not part of the actual set, for sure, but they’re still Star Wars figures – mostly. However, it’s hard not to notice the presence of a controversial cinematic iteration of Marvel Comics’ Merc with a Mouth; one whose mouth in question was unceremoniously sewn shut. That’s right, some repacker decided to part with an X-Men Origins: Wolverine Deadpool movie figure, using it as swap fodder for whatever this set originally contained. Moreover, since – seemingly in the spirit of trolling – the repacker decided to pack the (also swapped) Darth Vader figure holding, of all things, a rifle. Perhaps, the reworked motif of this set was intended to represent a literal hunt for the also-present (and also-swapped,) General Grievous.
Padmé Amidala couldn’t have possibly imagined that this The Black Series Attack of the Clones action figure would end up being unscrupulously replaced, in this instance, with one of the very members of the droid army that she helped fight against in the battle of Geonosis, where she ended up sustaining a fortuitously attractive midriff rip in her white outfit. Regardless of the fate of the original Black Series Padmé figure, what was left in its place was a mockery to her movement and toy collectors alike. This is how action figure liberty dies – with thunderous repacker applause!
Cobra’s Geonosian Recruit
In many ways, the villainous military terrorist group Cobra from the G.I. Joe lore was a profound and prescient (albeit hyperbolic) depiction of the rise of private military organizations paid to fight the wars of the highest bidding nations. However, little did anyone over at Hasbro Toys realize that the greedy reach of the chrome-domed-despot Cobra Commander would extend to the “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” planet of Geonosis. At least, that’s the impression one might initially get after looking at the packaging for what was supposed to be a very cool retro upgrade of the Cobra Trooper, replaced with what appears to be a Geonosian Warrior from the Star Wars prequels – which, make no mistake, is what happened here, thanks to a repacker.
The “Spirit” of Biggs Darklighter
This Biggs Darklighter figure from The Black Series is, surprisingly, 90% intact – even his helmet is still there. However, it happens to be clearly lacking the mustachioed mug of actor Garrick Hagon. Why, you might ask, would someone swap a head? Well, the assumed answer might be that this repacker wanted the Hagon/Biggs head for a custom project of some kind and didn’t particularly like the idea of paying full price when all he/she wanted was the new noggin. Thus, the repacker decided to part with a neck-peg-compatible head belonging to a G.I. Joe Spirit figure for a swap. Unfortunately, what was one famous Cobra-combating Indian tracker’s loss was some sneaky ne’er-do-well’s gain.
Luke’s Hoth Stache
If we were ignoring our initial incredulity, it’s possible to believe that this retro The Vintage Collection Hoth Luke Skywalker was so indelibly hardened by his encounter with the Wampa that the overwhelming combination of adrenaline and testosterone caused him to grow an instant mustache. – That, or some scurvy repacker replaced the real figure with a prequel figure representing personnel from Bail Organa’s Tantive IV ship. At the risk of editorializing too far in one direction, I think I’m leaning toward the latter theory. While the lightsaber (or, a lightsaber) remains in the package, the space in the card bubble that was supposed to contain Luke’s snow hat is ominously vacant.
Nick is Furious
This was once a Marvel Legends Giant Man build-a-figure wave Nick Fury figure that comes with swappable alternate heads so it can pass as different SHIELD agents. It would have represented a lot of bang for some action figure fan’s buck if a repacker hadn’t swapped it out for a Frankensteined, amalgamated abomination of other Marvel Legends parts. Indeed, while all three original heads seem to remain, it’s a mess of body parts below the neck; notably evidenced by the dismembered state of the right knee. This is actually one of the more sinister examples of repacking, since it shows a tremendous amount of effort and premeditation. For what reason, exactly, we will never know.
Padmé: Mon Calamari Pilot
The card art for this The Vintage Collection Return of the Jedi Mon Calamari Rebel Pilot figure might have been enough to briefly fool an unfocused action figure fan into thinking that the undercover handmaiden and secret Naboo Queen from The Phantom Menace was also an undercover pilot for the Rebellion. However, as another famous member of the Mon Calamari species might say, “It’s a trap!” Indeed, such a moment of gullibility (which, for our hypothetical subject’s sake, I hope was brief,) will subsequently lead to the disappointment that a repacker quite clearly swapped out the real pilot figure with a 1999 The Phantom Menace Padmé Naberrie figure. Well, you can always tell her about how you hate sand.
This offering from Star Wars The Legacy Collection Build-a-Droid series normally represented an impressive bargain of a super-articulated Jawa and a sizable Treadwell Droid with eight articulated arms. – If that’s what you see here, then you need to get your eyes checked by a world-class optometrist. Fascinatingly, this is one instance of repacking where the culprit took advantage of the unconventional content and simply utilized chaos to fool store personnel by throwing in a bunch of random accessories along with an old, beaten-to-hell figure of the droid bounty hunter IG-88 that may well have inhabited a human orifice or two. To quote the newly-minted Admiral Piett, “Bounty Hunters, we don’t need their scum.”
Scott Summers: Agent of SHIELD
At one time, this was a Marvel Cinematic Universe-themed 6” scale Marvel Legends 3-pack that included, amongst other things, the first proper action figure representation of Agent Phil Coulson, complete with an alternate head sporting his signature shades and the big-ass gun he was holding before Loki shish-kabobbed him in The Avengers. Of course, that’s far from what’s pictured here. – Unless, Coulson’s TV turn on Agents of SHIELD will see him add a jumpsuit, ruby-quartz visor and a proclivity for screaming “Jeeeean!” to his repertoire before replacing Nick Fury with the Punisher and Maria Hill with Black Widow. While such a thing is not exactly inconceivable, given the out-there reboot tactics in comics these days, it’s clear that some repacker royally screwed Toys “R” Us.
While many viewers of Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated television series initially found Ahsoka Tano to be an annoyingly sanguine, tacked-on character, her arc became one of the most profound in the overall franchise’s non-movie mythos. That idea increased exponentially when she showed up in Season 2 of Star Wars Rebels, fulfilling her destiny as a fulcrum of the burgeoning Rebel Alliance and having a showdown with her former master Anakin Skywalker, now Darth Vader. – None of that would have happened if Ahsoka ended up like this Clone Wars figure depicting her in space gear, which made its way back to the toy aisle, despite missing a lightsaber and, most notably, its head. Thanks, repackers!
Green Lantern Joins Cobra
2011’s Green Lantern will always be remembered as a notorious comic book movie boondoggle; one that star Ryan Reynolds himself would later throw some shade upon in Deadpool. However, the shame only continues, since this repacker was apparently so indiscriminate in a desire to ditch this Green Lantern figure that this colossally clear clash of movie tentpole toys was blatantly overlooked. Consequently, the apparent guile-gushing operation to acquire this G.I. Joe Copperhead figure sans a proper purchase proved successful, despite the stunning aberration. – The question that now remains is whether Hal Jordan’s skills as a pilot can help him handle this homage to the classic Cobra Water Moccasin?
This was originally a 2010 Saga Legends series reissue of a figure that’s generally considered the definitive 3.75” scale version of The Empire Strikes Back reptilian bounty hunter Bossk. It’s a nice figure – so nice that a repacker just couldn’t acquire it honestly. However, what the repacker did have was an old Ponda Baba (a.k.a. Walrus Man) figure, a set of paints and a lot of time. The result was this repack that has been named by collectors with the pitiful portmanteau Possk.
This one is kind of a legend in the annals of Star Wars figure forums because it’s absurdly clear that the repacker thought so little of his/her own time that the meticulous, time-consuming endeavor of painting this Ponda Boba figure to somewhat resemble Bossk enough for a sinful swap was worth less than the $7.99 it would have cost to simply buy the thing. The adage, “Work smart, not hard” must have missed this person.