Molecule 8: Scammers in DisguisePaul
If you collect 1:6 scale figures chances are you might have heard the company name Molecule 8 mentioned in the past while browsing message boards or your go-to collectibles retailer (it should be Toy Origin by now, wink wink). Just over a year ago; roughly January or February 2017, Molecule 8 popped up on collectors radar with the company founder, Vijay Chadha, embarking on what at the time seemed like a noble mission to “evolve” one sixth scale and quarter scale figures. The plan was to offer a product that he was promising was superior from the inside out and top to bottom, sculpt to accessories. Now that last part might be a little confusing without context but the first product that Molecule 8 announced was the Mark I Endoskeleton internal body frame – a newly design 1:6 scale body type made of stainless steel. Sounds impressive, right? That’s what collectors thought too. This instantly got the attention of sixth scale collectors worldwide and put Molecule 8 in the spotlight with fans eager to see what was next to be announced.
When things sound too good to be true – are they?
Almost immediately following the reveal of the Mark I Endoskeleton body, Molecule 8 capitalized on this new found attention and announced that their first 1:6 scale figure would also be going up for pre-order: John Lennon. When promotional shots of the figure first went live collectors were blown away by the accuracy of the John Lennon head sculpt. Sculpted by the legendary “Kyung-ah Kim,” a former Hot Toys employee and famous sculptor in the one sixth scale space, it’s no surprise that the prototype looked phenomenal. With K.A. Kim (Kyung-ah Kim) having completed projects in the past for companies like Hot Toys, Blitzway, Star Ace Toys and others, it was clear that Molecule 8 was attracting the right talent to achieve their lofty goals of “sixth scale domination.”
So far so good but when the John Lennon figure went up for pre-order is when things began to get a little.. weird. Typically, collectible companies and many 1:6 scale manufacturers will require a 10-20% deposit at the time of pre-order to guarantee your order. This has become commonplace in the industry and collectors very rarely; if ever, take issue with this. What was different about the John Lennon figure pre-order though was that Molecule 8 was requesting collectors pay the full $299.99 USD upfront at the time of pre-order. As you might expect, this was met with mixed opinions in the collector community, with a large number of people apprehensive about shelling out such a great deal of money with the figure not even in the production phase yet. And who could blame them, Molecule 8 was a brand new company promising the moon and stars but with no track record to back it up. Despite this, the risk takers among us decided to slap down a pre-order anyway and roll the dice.
Over the next 3-4 months to keep the hype train rolling Molecule 8 regularly posted updates to social media detailing the progress on John Lennon and giving collectors an early look at outfits, accessories and even the alternate singing head sculpt that was to be included. Molecule 8 originally promised that the figure would ship with 2 head sculpts, 3 outfits and countless accessories: 3 pairs of boots, 1 pair of sandals, several pairs of glasses, a necklace and more. With two unique sculpts and nearly a dozen accessories promised the $299 USD price point became more tolerable and with no stopping the buzz, pre-orders continued to pour in for Molecule 8. Collectors were assured via social media and emails blasts that pending licensor approval their John Lennon figure would be shipping sometime in October 2017. Final packaging product shots were shared via the Molecule 8 account on Twitter October 12, 2017 and collectors everywhere were chomping at the bit to get their hands on this figure by now.
The final weeks of October quickly fade away with no shipment notifications for Lennon to be found anywhere. Delays happen though, right? Then November rolls around and Molecule 8 makes an announcement that they have received final licensor approval (November 20th, 2017) from the Lennon estate and orders will begin being fulfilled in January 2018. Having already failed to deliver on a previously promised release date, these new promises are met with mostly negative feedback and skepticism by the collector community. With many already out their $300 to Molecule 8 all they could really do is sit and wait, unfortunately. And wait they did. January came and passed with no shipments. Then February rolls around and Molecule 8 takes to social media yet again to promise collectors a new release date – this third one now in April 2018. The odd part about that promised April release date is that on February 28th, 2018 Molecule 8 posted to Twitter, “The John Lennon manufacturing process has started.” – with an attached picture of some of the accessories being produced.
If the manufacturing process is just being “started” (their words, not mine) so late in February — how did they honestly expect to have these figures shipped out to collectors by April? For any company that seems like a tough goal to reach and an even tougher one for the new kid on the block. My guess is that Molecule 8 had no intention of ever meeting the April 2018 shipment deadline or any of previous promised release dates. April Fools!
Collecting money from someone when you are not directly offering them something immediately in exchange for it is no easy feat and Molecule 8 knew this from the beginning. Molecule 8 knew that billing the $299 USD asking price upfront from collectors was going to be a tall ask but maybe if they promised their figure was due out in less than 6 months from time of announcement then collecting that money would be a lot whole lot easier. So even though the timeline was never realistic from the get-go it didn’t necessarily need to be in their eyes. It was simply a business tactic that they employed to convince collectors to freely open up their wallet and hand over the entire product cost upfront so that money could be used to fund further development and production. If when Lennon was originally announced Molecule 8 had said it would not be available for release until late 2018 the amount of pre-orders they would have collected would have been significantly less.
Flash forward to April 2018 and still no shipment notifications are being sent to distributors or collectors. This is now the third time that Molecule 8 had promised collectors John Lennon was ready to ship only to offer a “sorry, but soon!” not long after. April and May both pass with no shipments made, only more false promises via social media. At this point, some collectors began to fear they would never recieve their John Lennon figure or get back the $300 they paid to Molecule 8 now over 12+ months ago. Fortunately enough, by June and July of 2018, almost a year behind schedule, some collectors began to receive shipping notices and John Lennon figures began to find their way into sixth scale collections. But that’s not where the story ends of Molecule 8. Not even close.
Following the release of the Molecule 8 John Lennon 1:6 scale figure to the public, social media for Molecule 8 went completely quiet out of what seemed like nowhere. The company was previously quite active in sharing updates, even if quite a few of them were false shipment promises. At least it was something. And what happened to the progress on the upcoming Willy Wonka sixth scale figure? Strange. You would think that a company would want to capitalize on the publicity of their first figure making it to market and follow-up strong with regular updates on their next products to keep the momentum going. But Molecule 8 was quiet on all fronts and despite shipment notices arriving for some collectors others were still stuck waiting. To date we still don’t know how many John Lennon figures were sold and paid for versus how many have been shipped to collectors and distributors worldwide or how many people are still waiting, if any. As it turns out, making false promises and outright lying about release dates was only the tip of the iceberg of the Molecule 8 scam that was beginning to unfold.
In recent weeks, two famous sculptors (KA Kim and Vimal Chadha) who were employed by Molecule 8 have taken to pubic forums and Facebook to share their story of how they were scammed and mislead by Molecule 8 and particularly the CEO, Vijay Chadha, over the last year or more. Back in early 2017 Vijay flew to Korea to meet with KA Kim in-person and introduce his company, Molecule 8. It was at this time he contracted her to sculpt the John Lennon sixth scale sculpt and others including David Bowie and Arthur from the new ‘The Tick’ television series. The agreement was that KA Kim would receive an ongoing percentage of the total sales with a minimum guarantee in place to ensure she was adequately paid for her work whether or not the figure was to be a successful seller. Upon completion of the three head sculpts, KA Kim sent them to Vijay at Molecule 8 and when she tried to make contact with him to follow-up on the money still owed she was ignored. Weeks and months go by of repeatedly trying to contact Vijay only to be met with rude remarks about how she was “paid enough” for the sculpt and that no further money was owed.
Vijay told artist KA Kim that further modifications were required for the John Lennon sculpt and as a result it was no longer her work and as a result she wasn’t owed the remaining balance. While we cannot be certain if modifications were made to the sculpt or not, contracts exist for a reason and so blatantly trying to violate one and rip-off an artist is an outright shame and blight on the industry. While working on these head sculpts for Molecule 8, KA Kim likely had to refuse other work offers and/or dedicate her time to a product that she is now not being properly paid for. According to KA Kim, she has only been paid 1/5th of what she is owed by Molecule 8. It turns out that she not the only artist to be burned at the hand of Molecule 8; Vimal Kerketta, another famous sculptor in the one sixth scale space, was also scammed in a similar manner by Vijay and company. It turns out that false promises were being made all over the place – both to collectors and internally to those that were helping build the very company and collectibles we were supposed to fall in love with.
This carefully executed scam by Molecule 8 on both sixth scale artists and collectors worldwide should serve as a wake up call for all of us. Every so often a new company is bound to pop up in the collectibles and one sixth scale space as the hobby continues to flourish and that’s totally okay. What we, as collectors, need to remember in the future is as simple as the old saying goes, “when something seems too good to be true, it often is.” Molecule 8 from the very beginning made a lot of lofty promises (starting with that fancy stainless steel endoskeleton – just think about the production cost on something like that and how it would effect MSRP) and while it may have been nice to see this innovation crystallize what’s more important is that we protect the artists that make this hobby possible. Without incredibly talented and hard-working artisans like KA Kim and Vimal Kerketta this hobby would cease to exist overnight and none of us want that. Stand up against scammers and vote with your wallet: DO NOT buy Molecule 8 products or support a company that is knowingly trying to destroy the very thing you love.