Saturday, October 4, 2014

HAPPY ORNAMENT RELEASE WEEKEND! (Don’t Bother Looking For) The 2014 War Machine Ornament!

The Good: Great sculpt, Decent paint job, Good balance
The Bad: No light effect, Exceptionally pricey now!
The Basics: While only the most die-hard ornament collectors will want to hunt down the “War Machine” ornament, those who do will find that Hallmark did an excellent job on it!

Happy Ornament Release Weekend! Every year, Hallmark’s Ornament Release Weekend is like a little holiday in my household. I get in the car, drive around to all the Hallmark stores in the area, check out what each store is doing to be distinctive and drive business to their particular shop, and pick up all the exclusives I can afford to get my hands on. Unfortunately, this year, a broken oil pump switch something or other in my 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid (reviewed here!) is preventing me from taking part in the festivities. So, after calling around to various Hallmarks in the area to prepay for some of the ornaments that will sell-out this weekend, I am now sitting down with a cup of coffee to contemplate one of the exclusive ornaments I’ve been sitting on for review. Sure, there is an element to sour grapes to my reviewing the 2014 War Machine ornament now: it doesn’t matter how much I praise or condemn the ornament – those who are headed out to Hallmark this weekend will not find it there.

The 2014 War Machine ornament is a Comic Con exclusive ornament produced by Hallmark. Unlike this year’s Wampa ornament, which gave Star Wars fans another exceptionally-limited, uniquely-sculpted ornament to hunt for, the War Machine ornament is a simple repaint. In 2013, Hallmark released a dreadfully unpopular Iron Patriot ornament and for the fans of Marvel Comics, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the Iron Man franchise, they simply repainted the Iron Patriot ornament with War Machine’s colorings for the exclusive ornament. This is what I call a simple cash and grab ornament; despite the quality of the repaint, Hallmark needed to invest almost nothing in these ornaments and they are exploding in value almost entirely because of their rarity, not because they are exciting and cool. One suspects given how poorly the Iron Patriot ornament sold (seriously, I can still find it on the clearance shelves at two of my local Hallmarks!) that the die-hard fans who absolutely had to have a War Machine to go with their Iron Patriot already bought a cheap Iron Patriot and repainted it themselves!

For those unfamiliar with the concept, “War Machine” is a holiday ornament that features James Rhodes in the War Machine suit from Iron Man 2 (reviewed here!). For sure, the box and press for the War Machine ornament is labeled for Iron Man 3, but War Machine never appeared in that film; it was already repainted/rebranded as Iron Patriot when the movie began. Hallmark either couldn’t (licensing reasons) or didn’t bother to change the graphic on the box to make it correct for this specific ornament. It is War Machine soaring up into the sky that is the subject of the War Machine ornament. This is a realistically dully-colored ornament made entirely of solid plastic.


“War Machine” recreates Rhodey in his War Machine suit from Iron Man 2 as he soars through the sky or stops abruptly to blast someone with his shoulder cannon. The ornament, released in 2014, is a pretty remarkable ornament that is perfect in the detailing. War Machine in this incarnation looks just like the cinematic version of War Machine with the War Machine armor molded to look assembled and like most of the panels have more than one function. The armor looks like it could be blown away, save that the character looks strong enough to take most hits! This does not look like a comic book character, but rather the virtual War Machine suit seen flying about in Iron Man 2! Measuring four inches tall, three and a quarter inches wide and three inches deep (he is splayed out, which enhances the illusion that the character is hovering), this “War Machine” was only available at the San Diego and New York Comic Cons.

The Hallmark “War Machine” ornament is made of a durable plastic and has James Rhodes in the War Machine suit, though there are no panels that open, nor a removable helmet to prove that! He is cast in a pearlescent gunmetal gray and then has relevant panels painted a lighter gray. The proportions are all wonderful and this War Machine sculpt looks like it may have come from a digital model of the character it is so precise. The detailing for the sculpt is pretty incredible, especially on the shoulder-mounted cannon, the helmet’s eyes, and the forearm armor.

As for the coloring, the seams look like the painters paid attention to this paint job in a way they did not for the Iron Patriot. Instead, the War Machine ornament looks like what it is supposed to: a suit of armor comprised of different panels that have different hues to them. The helmet, chest and leg detailing is as precise as the sculpt and that transforms a potentially mundane ornament into one that is actually artistically amazing.


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, “War Machine” could have a function like a sound chip or light effect, but it does not. Given how some of the better Iron Man ornaments have come with a sound chip, it is disappointing that this does not have the ability to deliver dialogue from the film or feature light-up eyes or a lit chestpanel. The lack of a feature makes the exclusive feel a bit less special and more like a cashgrab (it would be nice if, instead of a simple repaint, Hallmark enhanced their reused ornaments for an increased element of value).


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake “War Machine” ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate superhero Christmas Tree, the “War Machine” ornament is very much a luxury ornament which many fans will be able to live without, even if they are fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Still, those who do pick it up will find it is nicely balanced.

The ornament has a metal hook loop that comes out of the top center of War Machine’s shoulders (right below where the neck is). From that position, the War Machine hangs perfectly level, making it look like he is ascending or decending to fire off his weapons!


Hallmark Keepsake began delving into the collectibles market in 1991 with Star Trek when it introduced the exceptionally limited edition original U.S.S. Enterprise ornament. Since then, they have delved into virtually every other collectible franchise in an attempt to cash in on every major license. The War Machine series is part of the Marvel Comics ornament collection that has been growing since the buyout of Marvel by Disney, with Marvel’s presence expanding this year in the common-release ornaments. War Machine might be a completely obscure sidekick character, but the rarity of this ornament has already made its collectible value explode. Selling now for no less than twice its issue price, the 1350 War Machines are no longer available from Hallmark and can only be found in the secondary market. The thing is, while some dealers are holding theirs hoping to get more than a hundred dollars, I think the market has already peaked in the $50 range. This ornament is cool, but given how it is not a unique sculpt (seriously, a determined fan with model paints and the Iron Patriot ornament could replicate this ornament exceptionally easily), one has to believe that the market has been saturated with whatever demand there would have been for this. Had Hallmark made an exclusive Black Widow ornament and done it flawlessly, one has to believe the ceiling would be much higher. As it is, I think this will actually be a poor investment piece, save for those who actually made it to Comic Con and could buy it at cost and inflate the price from there.


Sure, it may not be available in stores and it may be mismarked as an Iron Man 3 ornament, but the 2014 repaint that brings to life the Iron Man 2 War Machine is enough to make us want to celebrate the fact that Hallmark still cares about making quality holiday ornaments of pop culture characters!

For other Marvel Hallmark ornaments, please check out my reviews of:
2013 Iron Patriot Iron Man 3 ornament
2012 Captain America The Avengers ornament
2012 Iron Man The Avengers ornament
2012 Thor The Avengers ornament
2012 The Amazing Spider-Man ornament
2011 Spider-Man ornament
2011 Thor ornament
2010 Defender Of Justice Iron Man 2 ornament


For other ornament reviews, please check out my Ornament Review Index Page!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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