Friday, January 10, 2014

[RealxHead/リアルヘッド] Limited

RealxHead - Mutant Evil (ME-L03)
RealxHead - Mutant Evil (ME-L03) Beautiful. Limited.
The subject of a particularly controversial ‘reproduction.’

In our first article we covered the meat-and-potatoes, “regular” RealxHead (RxH) release. If that article served to thoroughly confuse you on the topic of RxH release information, that was, unfortunately, the kiddy pool. Today we jump in the deep end.
 
As the title of this article suggests, we are here to cover the “limited” release. As mentioned previously, the Super7 ‘Mook’ (a.k.a., Super7 - The Book, Volume 5, Issue 1), delineates releases into three types: regular, limited and prototype. As the progression might suggest, limited releases are less common than regular releases. However, the term was probably created to suggest quantity and availability, rather than actual conditions of distribution. It is one of the less precise terms in RxH collecting, although denoting a bounded set of releases. I like to think that the people at Super7 were simply trying to find a word that sounded a little less bleak than “impossible” releases.
 
Well, I may be overstating the case. Perhaps a better term for limited releases would be ‘non-traditional’ releases, since they are generally releases that were distributed at odd venues and/or in extremely limited quantities... or not publicly distributed at all, being given only as gifts to friends and staff. The term is used to encompass a variety of release types, most of which are connected solely by being very, very difficult to obtain.


RxH - Mutant Head (MH-L01 7-04)
RxH - Mutant Head (MH-L01 7-04) The first Mutant Zone figure to see paint.

To attempt to bring order to the melting pot, you can probably think of limited releases in three subcategories: (1) figures sold at the same venues as regular releases, but in extremely limited quantities, (2) figures sold at non-standard venues in extremely limited quantities, and (3) figures given as gifts to friends and staff in extremely limited quantities. Beginning to see a pattern?


RxH - Gatchigon (MG-L01 5-07)
RxH - Gatchigon (MG-L01 5-07) “That BIN is too much, I’ll just buy it later.” ...5 years later.

RxH - Shinto-san (secret WHF 16 ltd 05-07)
RxH - Shinto-san (secret WHF 16 ltd 05-07) Same event. Much easier to find.

The first subcategory of limited releases are those that were sold alongside regular releases, in very small numbers. These are also known as ‘secret releases’ by old collectors (not to be confused with secret STORE releases- to be covered at a later date) since they were typically sold unannounced at the event. Regular releases were usually publicized in magazines or via the old RxH website prior to the event. Of the three types of limited releases, I think collectors outside of Japan have the best chance of obtaining this type. Since they were sold at events with substantial attendance (e.g., Super Festival, Wonderfestival), they were more likely to be purchased by resellers and casual collectors, meaning a greater chance that they would be later resold.


RxH - Mutant Evil (ME-L01)
RxH - Mutant Evil (ME-L01) Almost a non-seller at Patchi-Summit.

The second subcategory consists of those limited releases sold at non-standard venues. What are non-standard venues? Basically, any event or show that does not have the word “festival” in its name. Patchimon Summit (often shortened to Patchi-Summit) was a major offender in the way of producing many of the near-impossible-to-find RxH limited releases (probably true for many of the other companies’ toys released at Patchi-Summit as well). This semi-annual gathering of denizens of the patchi-kaiju fan club occurred only at the seediest of bars. It also featured lottery prizes that could be had for the price of a drink! Although many of the early RxH releases (RxH was a regular attendee and dealer until around 2007) at Patchi-Summit were legendary limited releases (red and clear purple Mutant Evils, ME-L01 and ME-L03, respectively), later years would yield now-fairly-common regular releases at these events.
 
After Patchi-Summit, a variety of shop releases account for the majority of remaining limited releases of this type. Also, Pizza Express Harajuku.


RxH - Mutant Chaos (MC-L08) Acetone the figure, change the eye.

RxH - Fighter Chaos (MC-L10)
RxH - Fighter Chaos (MC-L10) Rinse and repeat.

Finally, we have the third subcategory: gifts to friends and staff. For the most part, these are unpainted versions of Super7 exclusive RxH figures that were given to Super7 employees as thank-you gifts in 2006 and 2007. A few probably remained in Japan as well.


RxH - Bigaroid (SWF2006 ltd 08-06)
RxH - Bigaroid (SWF2006 ltd 08-06) Only about 8 of these in circulation.

RxH - Mutant Head (MH-L12)
RxH - Mutant Head (MH-L12) Seen outside the Mook for the first time.

And all that serves to raise the question of, well, how limited is “limited”? It is a generally accepted truth that limited releases exist in quantities of 2 to 10 pieces per release, with the majority falling within the range of 5 to 10 pieces. On the low side, you have items such as the golden ‘Hyaku’ Mutant Head (MH-L17) that was distributed exclusively through Hyper Hobby magazine and purportedly limited to 3 pieces. You can be reasonably assured that Super7 employee gifts are somewhat less limited in quantity (although the scope of distribution probably makes up for any numerical advantage). On the other extreme, I’ve always found it baffling that the Organ Bat in unpainted forest green vinyl (MT-L01) is considered a limited release in that it was never highly sought-after and can still be found without much difficulty.


RealxHead - Kaiser Man (MA-L01)
RealxHead - Kaiser Man (MA-L01) Bet you didn’t know his name is “Kaiser Man.” It is.
Check your Mook.

Even at 5 pieces, you might say, hey that’s not bad. Heck those are better odds than many modern day micro releases. Shouldn’t these limited releases be therefore easier to find than micro releases? Based on personal experience, no. One contributing factor may be that many limited releases were distributed early in RxH’s life and/or as gifts to customers and friends. This probably makes it more likely that these limited releases ended up in the hands of people who did not continue to actively collect RxH or who may not have collected RxH at all. For the latter group, I’d have to guess that they view these figures in one of two ways: ‘I cannot sell this gift’ or ‘I don’t think this gift has any value, so there is no sense in trying to sell it.’ Although only my speculation, this would further limit the chances of seeing these released into the wild. In contrast, new micro store releases are probably purchased by die-hard RxH fans and flippers, both of whom know exactly what they are buying. The second contributing factor is time. As time passes, older releases tend to fall into long-term collections and show up on the secondary market with decreasing frequency. While there was a point at which some of the older JP vinyl figures were flooding auction sites and resale stores, this seems to be tapering off. The obscurity of early limited releases and the passage of time have both contributed to make it more difficult than ever to turn up these rare figures.


RealxHead - Mutant Evil (ME-L07)
RealxHead - Mutant Evil (ME-L07)
RealxHead - Mutant Evil (ME-L07) A simply stunning paint scheme on an early Mutant Evil.

RxH - Mutant Head (MH-L10)
RxH - Mutant Head (MH-L10) Wonderfully subtle colors, often lost among the wilder paint schemes.

Although RxH continues to change and adapt to the market, possession of limited releases continues to serve as the shining mark of a dedicated RxH collector. While they were never easy to acquire, the decreasing frequency with which they appear these days means that it takes true determination and patience to add these to a collection. Best of luck in your efforts.

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*Numbering of RxH toys per standards of RealxHead Supplement, Super 7-The Book, vol. 5, issue 1 (2007).

- Credit and thanks to Super 7-The Book, vol. 5, issue 1 (2007) (for providing numbering standards and release information on RxH toys); and to all of the Skullbrain.org board members that have furthered our collective knowledge of these toys.

- My sincerest thanks to the many blogs, image galleries and websites that have photographed and provided information regarding past events and toy releases: Kadomiumtank's sofvi blog (http://pink.ap.teacup.com/kadomiumtank/) and (http://blog.goo.ne.jp/kadomiumtank/); datadub's flickr gallery (http://www.flickr.com/photos/datadub/sets/); and others.

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