Having said that, I would not discourage keeping the unofficial items, as a matter of fact, I would INSISTS you include them in your collection, they add colour and flair to an otherwise predictable collection.
Explainations over the year as to what is official:
In an article in the Spawning Ground dated September 1995, Tood McFarlane wrote that:
In December 1996 to February 1997, McFarlane Toys attempt to answer questions regarding variations of the toys from 1994 to 1996. To read them, go to the End Cap of Spawn #56, #57 and #58. It is really entertaining stuff when compared to the contemporary explanations provided!
In April, May and July 2004 and again in October 2005, Dion Bozman wrote in Toyfest as to how McFarlane Toys defined their figures:
- Regular Figure
The version you see on the packaging and advertised on the official website
- Surprise Figure
The version that is not announced in the normal line, limited in production and randomly inserted in the regular cases at the factories
- Chase Figure
Product that is of a different version, usually involve paint application but could also be sculpt or accessory changes of a regular figure, intentionally produced and generally released in limited numbers. It is "unofficially" declared that chase is produced in the ratio of 1 chase to every 12 regular. This is not a fixed ratio though
- Variant Figure
Product that has paint, packaging or accessory difference from the “normal” figure that is often unintentional. Sometimes, these are production errors, glitches that occur at the factory and might be released into distribution before the mistake is caught and correct
- Club Exclusive
Product sold only through the McFarlane Toys Collector’s Club or MTCC
- Event Exclusive
Product available for purchase at a specific event such as a comic convention
- Promotional Exclusive
Products offered as a promotion or incentive such as the Cannes Film Festival
- Retail Exclusive
The Store Exclusive aka Retail Exclusive which limits an item to a certain retailer and/or geographic location but this is not regarded as a true exclusive. Such exclusivity is not confined to international distribution
The definitons however left unanswered a lot of questions: how a collector knows if a figure is intentional or unintentional, that it is meant to be a surprise or a chase! And event and promotion exclusives sound too alike. And how about licensed exclusives?
Meantime back to the list, I try to rely on my own photographs, unprofessional they may be but otherwise an indication that they are my personal collection. I am a display collector…in other words, I have a tendency to rip the boxes apart the moment I lay hands on them! Thus, I have to “borrow” rather frequently carded pics from other sites. Credits are ALWAYS acknowledged. Similarly, should you need to "borrow" any of my images, do give due credit.
And frankly a chronology and checklist would not be possible if not for the resident experts from the customer service of McFarlane Toys and fellow message boardies for their insights. Some I mentioned but those I failed to mention, it was unintentional!
As regards to date, the release dates cited in both the official website and magazines are obviously superior to other alternatives. And I do conduct check with the staff on the dates. Bear in mind however that the official answers do differ. If you have suitably qualified information, please write to me but if the date differs by a mere month, don’t bother.