What is the "life expectancy" of our figures? (Or: "Sticky" figures)

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The topic of "sticky" figures has come up over, and over and over on the Rebelscum forums, although usually in a vintage context. As I own only three vintage figures and they're not awfully sticky, I wanted to focus more on the modern (POTF2 onwards) figures and their stickiness and yellowing issues, since it seems that there isn't much discussion on that yet, but I refuse to believe I'm the only collector on the planet experiencing these issues!

For background info: I have a decent collection of modern figures, which I've stored in a closet for years. Air conditioning (or the lack of it, rather) is a very real problem in my place and as such, last summer was an utter pain as the temperatures both inside and outside were crazy. I doubt any Star Wars figures enjoyed it either! On the other hand, when they're in a dark closet, at least UV light and such isn't a major issue. The closet in question has five shelves, and I've used the topmost four (until recently, that is).
Given all this information, it's probably not very shocking that the figures stored in the topmost shelf -- Episode 1, some Saga AotC and POTJ as well as ROTS basic ones -- have the most "stickiness", to the point where touching some of these figures simply comes across as a gross idea. The figures on the below three shelves seem to be mostly just fine, with a few exceptions, some of which I found very unusual.

So I figured I'd post a listing of my sticky figures, in case if someone ever finds it useful, and ask for general tips: in other words, is all hope lost with these figures or can something be done about them? For a test run, I washed 10 figures, 9 EP1 and 1 Saga AotC, in warm water with normal dish washing soap, as suggested in some of the aformentioned threads about sticky vintage figure. Alas, it did nothing and sadly the figures remain as sticky as ever.

Sticky figures
Episode 1

Power of the Jedi (POTJ)

Saga

The Original Trilogy Collection (OTC)
  • Lobot -- the only non-sticky part of this figure is the Comlink

Revenge of the Sith (ROTS)


The 30th Anniversary Collection (TAC)


Yellowed figures

The Original Trilogy Collection (OTC)



Revenge of the Sith (ROTS)

  • Obi-Wan Kenobi (Slashing Attack!) -- torso only
  • BARC Speeder -- not a figure itself (the BARC Trooper is sticky but shows no signs of yellowing), but the speeder's "guns" which protrude from behind the trooper have yellowed, as has a small part in where the handle attaches to the speeder

The Saga Collection (TSC)

The 30th Anniversary Collection (TAC)

The Legacy Collection (TLC)
  • The Padmé Amidala Legacy -- Geonosis Padmé's lower torso part and ball joints have yellowed; otherwise that figure is OK, as are the other two

The Vintage Collection (TVC)
  • Admiral Ackbar -- "It's a trap!" The good admiral's ball joints have yellowed a bit, which is not exactly surprising, given that even Photo Archive photos such as this one do show off the fact that they've been cast from a different kind of plastic than the other parts. Surprisingly that's all there is to him, yellowing-wise.

Surprising highlights -- figures which have withstood the test of time (and which I find unusual for whatever reason)
As mentioned before, most of my collection is just fine, so these are quite literally just some highlights...

Episode 1
  • C-3PO -- stored in the Ep1 shelf along with other Ep1 figures
  • Captain Panaka -- stored in the same shelf as OTC figures, i.e. one shelf below the majority of other Ep1 figures
  • Rune Haako -- unlike his fellow Neimoidian, this figure shows no signs of its age (whereas Nute has somewhat sticky hands); stored in the Ep1 shelf along with other Ep1 figures
  • Watto -- the welder appears sticky, but the figure itself is fine; stored in the Ep1 shelf along with other Ep1 figures
  • Yoda -- also not stored in the same shelf as most other Ep1 figures

Power of the Jedi (POTJ)
  • Imperial Officer -- although mine might be a reissue instead of the original one since it's been rereleased a few times

Saga

The Original Trilogy Collection (OTC)

Revenge of the Sith

The Saga Collection (TSC)
  • R5-D4 -- this is something I find really unusual, given that the R2-D2 from the same collection has turned from "mostly white" to "mostly yellow", even the carded version; whereas when it comes to the R5-D4, you'd never be able to tell just how old the figure is unless you're a collector or otherwise happen to know it was released in 2006, like the Artoo

Closing thoughts and disclaimer
You may have noticed that The Vintage Collection (TVC) figures are mostly absent from the listing, save for Admiral Ackbar. I don't know for a fact but I sure hope that the reason why figures like TVC Sandtrooper or TVC R2-D2 haven't yellowed is because the big H chose or otherwise ended up using a better quality plastic in those figures than in e.g. the TSC R2-D2; then again TSC is four years older than TVC, so maybe time will tell for sure?

I can try taking some pictures in the future if there's interest in seeing what this yellowing looks in practise on the aforementioned figures/vehicles.

In any case, please remember that these are just my experiences and these might -- and hopefully won't! -- reflect yours. I certainly hope that most of my fellow collectors have had better experiences with their Episode 1 figures than I have had. After all, the Vintage Collection features greatly upgraded versions of many of the Episode 1 and Episode 2 characters, from Padawan Anakin to Battle Droids and even Darth Maul, not to forget everyone's favorite Gungan, so most of us probably either picked those up or will consider picking them up in the future instead of the original, nowadays somewhat obsolete Episode 1 versions.

Please share your experiences regarding figures becoming sticky and/or yellow, and your best tips on how to possibly prevent such phenomena from occurring!
 
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While I can't comment as to why, it's worth adding the Walmart Jabba and throne (Shaddows of the Dark side line, 2010) to the list. I've seen reports of him getting a sticky underside. I'm unable to check mine as i can't get to him at the moment, but I'm hoping he's Ok.
 
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Great idea to catalog some of the worst offenders when it comes to modern figures that have yellowed or become sticky.

The worst yellowing I have seen are on:

Commander Cody (torso / codpiece)
http://www.rebelscum.com/tsc024cody.asp

Han Solo - Trash Compactor (entire body)
http://www.rebelscum.com/sw02dstc1.asp

Clone Trooper - Republic Gunship Pilot (entire body)
http://www.rebelscum.com/sagaclonepilot.asp

Biker Scout (torso / codpiece)
http://www.rebelscum.com/TSC-Vscout.asp

Clone Trooper - Troop Builder 4-Pack (codpiece on 2/4 of the figures)
http://www.rebelscum.com/sw05Clone4pack.asp

I have countless Clone Troopers from the animated CW series, and a few of them have slightly dingy bits, but not far enough to be fully yellowed. I think there had been an issue of cheap plastic during that period, which lead to a number of dingy figures.

As for sticky figures, I find those aren't all that common in my collection.

Flying Geonosian - Sonic Blaster and Attack Pod (wings) (entire pod)
http://www.rebelscum.com/sagadxgeonosian.asp

Darth Vader - Rebuild / Deluxe (skirt / cape)
http://www.rebelscum.com/ROTS05dlxvader.asp

Anakin Skywalker - Changes to Vader / Deluxe (cape)
http://www.rebelscum.com/rots05dlxanakin.asp

Many have speculated that the deluxe figures were made of cheaper plastic, and that may be the case, as those are the only ones that spring to mind. I think the lack of ventilation is a contributing factor, because as the plastic slowly degrades, if the gases aren't dissipated, the concentration makes the yellowing worse.
 
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You need to realize its not just Star Wars action figures that wear out with age, it also affects other toys such as old He Man figures even Transformers. But if youre a smart person and know how to take good care of toys since 1982 then there will be some action figures that will still still in great shape these days. Just depends on how you kept your toys in old cardboard boxes etc.

Like I said. Its not just your precious Star Wars toys. Other toys also get worn out from play and how you stored them etc.
 
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While I can't comment as to why, it's worth adding the Walmart Jabba and throne (Shaddows of the Dark side line, 2010) to the list. I've seen reports of him getting a sticky underside. I'm unable to check mine as i can't get to him at the moment, but I'm hoping he's Ok.
Ouch, always sad to hear such new figures becoming sticky. :'( Let's hope your Jabba is fine!

Thanks for taking the time to make those lists. That was a lot of work.
You're welcome! It was a bit of work, but if it helps anyone, it was well worth it -- learn from my mistakes and don't repeat them!

Great idea to catalog some of the worst offenders when it comes to modern figures that have yellowed or become sticky.

The worst yellowing I have seen are on:

Commander Cody (torso / codpiece)
http://www.rebelscum.com/tsc024cody.asp

[--]

As for sticky figures, I find those aren't all that common in my collection.

[--]

Many have speculated that the deluxe figures were made of cheaper plastic, and that may be the case, as those are the only ones that spring to mind. I think the lack of ventilation is a contributing factor, because as the plastic slowly degrades, if the gases aren't dissipated, the concentration makes the yellowing worse.
Why am I not even surprised to find that yet another TSC figure hasn't aged gracefully? :(

As for deluxe figures...it would certainly make sense, because the Saga Deluxe Jango I have is probably literally the stickiest piece of plastic there is! While some figures like the Evolutions Jedis have slightly sticky heads and/or maybe arms, that Jango is just overall gross. Alas, I no longer possess any other Saga Deluxe figures (unless the Nexu counts, which, for this purpose, I don't think it does as its body is made of hard(er) plastic and only the legs + tail are made from softer plastic) so I'm unable to compare it to any other Saga Deluxe figures.

Good point about the ventilation (or the lack of thereof) -- I'm sure that has played a non-trivial role in the yellowing of many of my figures, as I cannot recall any of the Clone Troopers or Stormtroopers, let alone Han Solos or the Bespin Lando, being even slightly yellow a couple years ago. What can I say, people, give your figures the attention and regular care they deserve! :wub:

now im paranoid and want to touch my figures.
i recall soemthing being kind of sticky but i dont recall what.
what does this mean they are melting or something?
I'm no expert on chemistry, but based on my limited research and information, it could well be the case. Some forms of plastic contain some rather "unstable" compounds which may, over a long period of time, result in changes in the plastic itself. However, since Star Wars figures are firstly and foremostly children's toys and sold as such, there is--or should be, at least--some kind of regulation in place to ensure that the figures aren't inherently dangerous to humans.

Honestly, though, my knowledge is virtually nonexistent in this regard, but this sure would make a fine subject for a study for someone with the appropriate knowledge of chemistry and other resources...

Have you tried hydrogen peroxide? I hear it restores white plastics back to their original condition especially on a bright sunny day.
I've heard of the "retr0bright" method, certainly, and I wanted to try it out on my NES, which also hasn't aged very gracefully, but before getting to buy any hydrogen peroxide and trying to make the solution, it was discovered that it degrades the plastic to some extent, which admittedly scared me. I'm not sure, but I'd wager that a couple times probably wouldn't hurt, but I haven't felt adventurous enough just yet. Thank you for the tip nevertheless; I'll definitely give it a shot in the future, just to see how it plays out! (Not to mention that a single 3 3/4" Stormtrooper is probably easier to "bleach" than an entire gaming console which would need to be carefully taken apart and then reassembled!)

You need to realize its not just Star Wars action figures that wear out with age, it also affects other toys such as old He Man figures even Transformers. But if youre a smart person and know how to take good care of toys since 1982 then there will be some action figures that will still still in great shape these days. Just depends on how you kept your toys in old cardboard boxes etc.

Like I said. Its not just your precious Star Wars toys. Other toys also get worn out from play and how you stored them etc.
Yep, good point! As for why I focused on Star Wars, it's pretty easy: most of my collection is SW. Sure, I have a few Indiana Jones figures and such, but not enough to make conclusions one way or another. Furthermore I found this a fascinating topic, given that I have some LEGO sets (which are made of ABS plastic) which are almost as old as my oldest Vintage SW figures if not even slightly older, and I've never had a problem like this with LEGOs. That's not to say that LEGOs are perfect and cannot be damaged--quite the opposite, I've managed to damage some of my (newer) LEGOs rather easily with plain hot water or hot water and dish-washing soap, which did no damage to some of the SW figures mentioned in my initial post.


Having audited the rest of my collection over the past couple days, here are my findings:

The ROTS exclusive Holographic Yoda is definitely sticky. Not a sticky mess like the Saga Deluxe Jango, but stickier than e.g. the Evolutions Jedi figures, for example. A shame, since I doubt that figure's getting rereleased anytime soon...

Various Clone Troopers seem to have some yellowness in their torsos, ranging from the TSC Skirmish in the Senate Battle Pack Shock Troopers to the TLC 327th Star Corps Clone Trooper, not to forget the original ROTS super-articulated Clone Trooper.

Speaking of the Skirmish in the Senate Battle Pack, the two Senate Pods I have both seem to have changed their primary color from grey to dark olive green. However, in my subjective view, this doesn't stand out nearly as much as the Clone Troopers' or Stormtroopers' yellow torsos and is something only a dedicated Star Wars fan or collector would notice (or someone who has Rebelscum's Photo Archive open in their browser and is comparing the physical object to Rebelscum's reference pictures!).

TSC Boba Fett's torso had significant yellowing. I found this rather surprising, because his torso wasn't white to begin with, but rather grey. While it's still unfortunate, it's not a huge loss for me personally as I also own the more recent, less pre-posed TVC Boba Fett.

Meanwhile the TSC AT-AT Driver was a positive surprise, as despite having several white parts, he had no yellowing whatsoever!

Both the TSC Utapau Clone Trooper and TSC Sandtrooper have some yellowing in their torsos, but I'd argue that at least with the Sandtrooper it's not that noticeable and almost fits the character, given that Sandtroopers are essentially desert Stromtroopers.

The 30th Anniversary Collection Anakin Skywalker (Jedi Spirit) is also sticky in the head and limbs. I wonder if it has something to do with the way the "glowing" effect has been implemented, or if this is just a case of bad luck or something?

TLC Build-a-Droid Astromech droids also appear to be a mixed bag. R5-A2's torso (I only have the torso & right leg) is as white as it should be, whereas the R7-Z0's torso as well as the R7-T1's torso exhibit signs of slight yellowing.

To end this post with a happier note, I'm pleased to say that Colonel Wullf Yularen from the TSC Death Star Briefing scene pack is still looking sharp as ever in his white uniform. :)
 
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I reviewed a few more figures after your recent mention, and while my holographic Yoda seems fine, I did find issues with others. Some of these "free" figures were likely made with cheap plastic to reduce the cost, since they were giveaway items with purchase. I did notice, that simply handling the figure reduced the tacky feeling. Whatever this film is, developing on some figures, it can be wiped off on 2 of the 3. I am going to try soap / water on the last.

Holographic Emperor Palpatine (ROTS) - sticky cape / head, as well as a defective arm
http://www.rebelscum.com/rots05holoemperor.asp

Spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi (mailaway) - entire figure sticky / yellowing
http://www.rebelscum.com/potf2spirit.asp

Darth Sidious Hologram - entire figure sticky
http://www.rebelscum.com/episodeIsidiousholo.asp
 
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I've only noticed a sticky/tacky/filmy substance on some old Vintage figures (from the 1977-1985 days), but haven't noticed this as much with the POTF2-on figures - though I know it's an issue with the modern figures as well (to some extent).

And, though a lot of collectors may disagree with me on this, if any of these figures are sticky I consider them useless & trash them. The reasons are:

1) I don't feel comfortable handling them because of the sticky-ness, and don't want to donate them to charity (something I've done with other things I don't want) since I consider them defective.

2) I don't have the time or inclination to try to "clean" these, and I'm not sure anything I would do work work anyway - at least not without ruining the figure.
 
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A tacky film is probably a better way to describe it, because nothing I've seen actually sticks when touched. Its just the normal breakdown of certain plastics, and in most cases, cant be changed. I've washed figures off, which can help, but a couple years go by, and it returns. I wouldnt trash them personally, but perhaps separate them from the rest of the collection. The vast majority will never be released again, so its probably best to try and preserve them. These lists are helpful though, because collectors can pull problematic figures and clean them if needed.
 
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