The gross speculation and hoarding of collectibles in the 1990s proved to be pretty good. I couldn't afford to collect everything in 1995, and with Star Wars on the horizon I had to pass on figures from my favorite TV shows like Grand Nagus Zek. Money was tight, so I had to pick a side - and 20 years later, I waltzed into a record shop to find pegs upon pegs of sealed Playmates Star Trek toys for $2-$5. Adjusted for inflation, a 1995 $5 figure would cost $7.80, so that's pretty sweet. Even sweeter, the slightly-dinged packaging contains figures in mint condition and they aged quite well. It's pretty remarkable, because in 1989 the notion of finding a figure from 1969 at or near cost seemed completely alien. Even the then-still-"worthless" Star Wars line usually bottomed out at $2 loose, and anything under $5 was unrealistic. Anyway, Zek - good figure, get one.
At 4 3/4-inches tall, Zek is shorter but not too short like most of the Ferengi of his species. As an extremely old man, the fact that they didn't have him designed as hunched-over or at all pained is odd. The overall quality of the figure's sculpt is pretty fantastic, with an nicely textured jacket complete with metallic gold painted detail. The pants are pretty bland - super flat - and he seems pretty in shape for an old dude. He also has the world's biggest soda can pop top on his collar. Even more remarkable is the figure's face, covered in wrinkles and peppered in detailing to bring them to life. He's even got grey painted ear hair. Ear hair. Who else is doing that for you today? Nobody, that's who. With expertly painted teeth, eyes, and lips, the quality of this 1995 figure is certainly remarkable even if his posture isn't.
The coloring is right on, and the right hand is posed, closed, pointing his index finger at (I assume) Quark. This hand has an open fist, but the hole isn't big enough to hold any of his gear. Thankfully, the left hand can hold the Nagus Stuff (similar to Quark's) as well as the bigger piece of Latinum or the bottle. The little Latinum is a bit too small for his grip. As was commonplace for 1990s Playmates accessories, each accessory is molded in one color with no painted detailing. Unlike modern accessories, you got more than one. That's just one of many sobering details about the 1990s - this figure was $5 and came with a display stand, 4 accessories, a POG, and 12 points of articulation. Today you can't get a Star Wars figure for five bucks if your life depended on it. (At big box retail, anyway - pawn/comic/record shops are loaded.)
I've wanted a Zek figure since about 1993, so stumbling on one recently when I had some cash in my pocket - for $4 - was a screaming deal. The level of detail on this figure from 20 years ago reminds you just how good things were in the 1990s, and while we've seen big improvements from Hasbro and Kaiyodo and others since then we haven't seen anyone who managed to maintain the economies of scale while keeping collectors on board to tens (or hundreds) of thousands of figures per character. The boom ended, things became more specialized, and while we got significantly better stuff, we're being charged accordingly. In 1995 you could buy ultra-obscure characters at Target for five bucks. Here's hoping it'll happen again some day, but here's assuming that it never, ever will. Snag Zek if you can!
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