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The past few days I’ve had a bit of a crisis of conscience.

Reading the latest round of Hasbro Q & A’s was a bit of a wakeup call as they repeatedly mentioned the overseas sellers, leaking photos early, selling potentially stolen product, and generally making life difficult for the folks in Pawtucket.  I will say, right up front, that I somewhat disagree with Hasbro’s notion that these early leaked photos do some harm.  Sure, in some cases there is misinformation, and of course, lots of things can change in the course of toy production.  However, I think this constant stream of leaked images actually helps keep the Joe brand vibrant and in the minds of us collectors with short term memory loss and attention deficit disorder.

Look at it this way…the last official images Hasbro showed us was during Toy Fair, 2009.  That was in February, now over three months ago.  By all intents and purposes, we won’t see any other official images until San Diego ComicCon, which is in late July.  That would mean from February – July there was NOTHING.  No images, no press releases, no talk, nothing.  How many short-minded Joe fans would have moved on to other things without the realization that there was actually some cool product coming down the pipeline?  How many disillusioned Joe fans would have already gone on to Star Wars, Masters of the Universe, Marvel or whatever, without knowing that there were some great vintage-style figures and vehicles on the way?  Not to mention the folks who like the movie stuff…we would have no idea about the awesome Headquarters for Heroes exclusives, the Wal-Mart 2-Packs, or the cool as hell upcoming Dragonhawkfly (or whichever it is).  I think these leaks are critical to keeping the G.I. Joe line “fresh” in the collector mindset.  Sure, some items may be labelled incorrectly…sure, some weapons might not actually be right, and some paint apps may change.  Or hell, some figures or vehicles might not hit release as planned.  But the important thing is, the fandom is talking about something.  Spring is a notoriously slow time of year, and I think the fact that there are new leaked images to talk about and new things to discuss leading up to the big summer convention season is vitally important.  Without those leaks, where would the fandom be by the time SDCC crawled along?  Would a lot of fans have forgotten and moved on?  I think that’s a big possibility.

But there is a critical line there…and it’s a line I’m afraid to say I have crossed repeatedly over the past couple of weeks.  Thankfully a good friend of mine whose opinion I trust and value confronted me on it over the weekend, and you know what?  He was right.

I think these leaked images are important,  and I think they generate conversation and interest.  However, I think I’ve gone a bit overboard in my “endorsement” of online auctions from overseas sellers.  In reading some past posts I’ve made, it almost seems as if I’m recommending that people buy from these black-market eBay stores, and I really regret coming across that way.  We are in a pretty critical economic climate, and for every $14.99 Alley-Viper that a Joe collector buys from Asia could potentially subtract COBRA Island 7-Packs that are bought legally, which could have disastrous ramifications for Hasbro sales.  Not only could that hurt the Joe line in general, but it could tell Hasbro that we’re not interested in these vintage-themed 7-Packs, which is the exact opposite of what I’m seeing in the fandom.

So from here on, I’m drawing a line…it’s a thin line, but I’m drawing it.  While I will continue to report on and show images from these overseas auctions in the interest of generating interest and conversation in the fandom, I will not endorse, nor report on black market items or auctions for items that we know will appear at mass retail in the coming months.  This “stance” will probably not make a whole lot of difference, but simply from my own philosophical standpoint and to clear my own conscience that is the direction I’m going.

I know that everyone reading this shares my desire to see the G.I. Joe line succeed and move forward, so hopefully  we can all keep that in mind as we search the latest overseas auction to see what we want to buy just to own it a couple of months ahead of time.  I’m eager to hear everyone’s thoughts on this…am I going overboard?  Should I do more?  Leave me a comment and let’s talk it over.