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- PART 1 -

Action figures were established as a top-selling toy category way back in 1965. And collecting them started to become a serious hobby over twenty years ago in the 1970s. The reasons why are clear... because, some of the best pop-culture icons come from movies, television and comics.


I suppose it is safe to say the company who (a) started all this madness, (b) greatly influenced trends in action figures over the years and (c) is still making their distinctive mark today, is Hasbro.

It all began in 1964 when Hasbro, Inc. (then known as Hassenfeild Bros, Inc.) infiltrated the imaginations of children around the world with their "G.I. Joe Action Soldiers" line. The 12" fully articulated action figure (complete with interchangeable clothing, various vehicles and endless accessories) took the toy market by storm.

By 1966, other toy companies began to imitate this trend in boys toys. Such as Ideal with their "Captain Action" figure which could quickly be converted into any popular comic or TV charactor simply by changing the costume and full head mask sold as separate accessories.

It seems Ideal unknowingly was the first company to touch on such a trend which would forever more be directly be asociated with action figures... the super hero!



Shortly after, Mego burst onto the scene in 1972 with their wave
of six "World's Greatest Super Heroes" and continued to produce
even more lines for ten years. These resembled previous styles of
large figures but were reduced to 8" and relied largely on printed bodygloves for costumes and semi-rigid plastic weapons as

Despite the differences from their 12" counterparts, kids and
collectors felt this was the wave of the future in action figures and
the line eventually entailed 34 different heroes and villains.

Not to say that Mego didn't produce 12" figures, in fact they did.
But only a small number of characters were made compared to the
many different 8" lines.

Just when other toy companies began to feel comfortable with this action figure phenomenon, the largest popcultural icons of the past century demanded attention.

It was the summer of 1977 when "Star Wars" embeded it's imagery into the minds of the entire planet! Somehow, Kenner Products (then a division of General Mills, Inc.) exclusively secured all rights to toys and games of the Lucas film. Thus, the 3 3/4" (and incredibly inarticulate, I might add) action figure was born!

Along with the enormous success of this galactic series, Kenner also produced figures for the "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark" movie in this miniature style which soon established it as the industry standard.



During the '80s, action figures took yet another drastic turn where the deregulation of FCC laws played a major roll. The 1969 prohibition of TV shows based on toy products was lifted, which empowered toy companies to create product-based entertainment of their own.

Although the miniature style still prevailed, many lines deviated from the 3 3/4" size to a larger 6" standard. Some examples include "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe", "Voltron", "Captain Power", "Thundercats" and who dosen't remember "Transformers" or "G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero"? To increase the potential success of these lines, interactive concepts were applied to the figure and the "action feature" was introduced. With such claims as "Swivel-Arm Battle Grip" or "Cap-Firing Action" who could resist?

Upon the arrival of the '90s, the classic super hero strongly emerged once again. Toy Biz, Inc. released the highly sought-after "Marvel Super Heroes" in 1990.

But dissatisfied with the sculpting of the figures and endless shipping delays, Marvel Entertainment Group quickly gained 46% ownership and control of the toy company. Striving for more of a presence on toy store shelves, Marvel's marketing strategies were now geared towards the collector.



Currently, since the success of "Spawn" and the resurgence of "Star Wars", action figure production has become an "art form" and action figures are remarkably better than they've ever been.

In the beginning, posability was the main concern which separated the action figure from the common doll. The introduction of the 3 3/4" scales accomodated the need for more diverse vehicles and playsets and the 5" scales allowed the integration of interactive features.

However, if you pay close attention to the industry's marketing tactics today, you will find that action figures are starting to come full-circle back to the 8-12" format. It is already apparent in such collector lines as Playmates' "Star Trek", Kenner's "Star Wars", McFarlane's "Spawn" and Hasbro's "Classic Collection G.I. Joes".

It may even be plausable to speculate that the past conventions used in action figures (as documented above) will be incorporated into this format. One thing is for sure... it's a fabulous era to be a toy collector !

Back to the Beginner's Guide To Collecting Action Figures

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