I think the simplest answer for me at this point is Lego or (for characters I really want) Sideshow. Hasbro's made it completely cost-prohibitive to collect this line from a financial perspective, given the amount of money one devotes to either gas driving around in a futile attempt to actually find products in stores, or the amount of money one has to pay for shipping on their more-or-less internet exclusive Star Wars toys. Quality-wise, Hasbro is going further and further downhill (more on that in a moment) and they're charging more and more for less and less with no real excuse other than "we can." I'm really curious to see how the Q&As go at the summer conventions (starting this weekend at JoeCon) and how Hasbro responds to collector complaints (if they even do; I can honestly see them saying "NO QUESTIONS!" before the presentations of their PowerPoint).
As for the quality, I had an interesting situation a few weeks ago that I wanted to share, but didn't really know what forum to post it in, or if it was even relevant to Star Wars, as it doesn't involve SW but does involve two other Hasbro lines. I bought two different Hasbro products on two consecutive days: the 6" Walmart exclusive Avengers Movie Hawkeye figure and a blue GI Joe Retaliation Cobra Commander (at Toys R Us). When I opened Hawkeye, I noticed that one of the pins that connected his elbow joint to his forearm had not been assembled completely and any movement would cause the forearm to almost completely separate from the joint. Luckily, having read many threads in JD's wonderful customs area, I was able to use some tweezers and the really hot water trick to soften the plastic and repair the joint. Hawkeye still sits on my shelf aiming his bow and arrow and you'd never know that this had to be done. But, alas, that is not the point.
Cobra Commander had a similar problem right out of the package, but this involved the right shoulder joint. The plastic had not been attached completely and, as a result, his upper arm was simply hanging on by the equivalent of a plastic thread. I examined him closely and tried to do the hot water trick, but given his construction, it was impossible to do, as I am not that skilled and would likely have burnt myself in the process. So, I returned the CC to TRU and got my money back (the CC was placed in the damaged bin, but just this past week I noticed they had put it back on the shelf with its scotch-taped on bubble; I found this both amusing and sad, moreso considering how much TRU marks everything up these days). Again, second toy from a second Hasbro line in two days that was damaged BEFORE I EVEN OPENED IT.
I figured enough was enough and called Hasbro Consumer Affairs, not to yell and scream but to point out that they had some quality control issues that I, as a (more or less) adult was able to fix but one that children (their supposed target audience) would NOT be able to fix. This decrease in quality along with an increase in pricing was likely to affect their public perception as what parent is going to buy a toy that is broken out of the package before the kid even plays with it and then actually consider buying more Hasbro products? They're going to look at it and say, "No, Bobby, I remember how Hawkeye's arm fell off when we opened him so I'm not buying any more Avengers." The woman I spoke with was very nice and I believe in treating people considerately, especially when she probably had no earthly idea what I was talking about in the first place. She, doing what she was no doubt trained to do, told me she would send me two 3 dollars off coupons for my next Hasbro purchase and forward my comments to their Customer Affairs team. I thanked her for her time and that was that.
I tell that story to make the point that not only can Hasbro not get product to stores so people can actually buy it, but the product they are getting to stores is of an inferior quality on a more regular basis. Many of us have complained about saggy Battle Droids or rubbery guns, and it seems like everything is getting this slipshod treatment now. They're charging twice the original retail price for a figure from 2002 that is made of inferior materials and expecting the market to be happy with it. I've said it before and I'll say it again: all employees see when they look at that wall of Vintage Qui-Gons and gobs of Movie Heroes is STAR WARS. Hasbro has had years to work on case assortments and instead of learning, they seem to be regressing each and every day. And yes, retail isn't ordering things from Hasbro, but the fault lies with Hasbro for putting out inferior products, time after time, charging a ridiculous premium for them, and then blaming everyone but themselves for their mistakes. If nobody bought that Saga Darth Maul in 2002 because the action feature was horrible for 5 bucks, they're certainly not going to buy it now for 10, and definitely not if it's going to fall apart after you open the card.
All this said, I would like to complete my "new" Vintage collection by the end of the year, because I feel that's going to be my jumping off point. Hasbro has made collecting cost prohibitive (as I said before), they have made it a chore rather than an enjoyable hobby, and they have made it impossible to even collect because the figures aren't even being sent out in the real world to be purchased. And that, to be quite blunt, is not cool. When Lego releases their fall Star Wars sets, I'm going to be able to walk into Target, Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, Lego's retail stores, Barnes and Noble, and even K-Mart and buy that Jabba's Palace with its 10 mini figures and not have to worry about case ratios or scalpers or what have you and JUST BUY IT. And I'm going to enjoy putting it together, and admiring it, and showing it off to people who will no doubt think I'm crazy for having a Lego Jabba's Palace to begin with, but it's going to be fun. No "hunt" no fuss no muss. No having to order it from Entertainment Earth or Big Bad Toy Store or whoever else (unless I want to do so and, you know what? THEY'LL HAVE IT IN STOCK TOO) because Wal-Mart has a stack of old crap in the way. When's the last time anybody here can honestly say they saw a figure online and thought "I'm going to go to Wal-Mart and pick that up" and actually was able to do it?
Even Sideshow, limited and high end though they may be, has their system set up so you know what to expect, what you're going to have to pay for it, and when you'll get it. I knew the 12" Boba Fett was going on sale a certain day, I made accommodations to order mine, knew what it would cost, knew approximately when it would show up, and here we are about 10 months later and it will be here in about two weeks. Hell, Commander Bacara came with one less gun than advertised due to a clerical error and Sideshow didn't ignore it: THEY SENT OUT AN EMAIL SAYING SO AND EVEN ALLOWED PEOPLE TO CANCEL IT WITHOUT PENALTY IF SOMEHOW HAVING ONE LESS GUN WAS A DEALBREAKER. Hasbro just says, "Oh we had to cut costs" and doesn't bat an eye. And you know what? That's why I keep ordering stuff from Sideshow. Because they care about the product they're selling and stand behind it. It's people who seem to genuinely like Star Wars, who understand what it is to be a fan, and know that they're going to have loyal customers and get new ones because they treat people well and stand behind what they sell. Ditto for Lego who, in the year since I've been out of my dark ages as an AFOL, have shown that they are the single-best company in terms of customer care and satisfaction that I've ever dealt with in ANY situation.
So yes, that is why the future of Star Wars collecting, for me, is with Lego and Sideshow. Because they have fun, interesting products that are of a high quality and that bring a smile to my face without me having to search like Indiana Jones for the Holy Grail in the desert to find it, only to have its arm fall off when I open it. So keep on doing what you're doing Hasbro, and Battleship won't be the only disaster that you're known for.