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- PART 2 -

So, now that you know a little about how action figures came to be,
let's focus on some of the special ways they're produced and marketed.
After all, how do you expect to "COLLECT THEM ALL!" (as their
packaging says) if you don't know what to look for?

MAIL-IN PREMIUMS (or mail-aways):
These are usually one-time-offers used to promote any number of other products and always destined for limited production runs.

The concept is to get the consumer to buy other products and send "proof of purchase" seals of those products back to the manufacturer in order to receive the figure which is not available elsewhere.

Kenner is a major culprit of this marketing tactic. Some of their better known mail-ins include: "Boba Fett with rocket firing backpack" (which actually came with the rocket glued in due to child safety regulations), "Ambush Predator", and the more recent Star Wars mail-aways, just to name a few!



Figure lines that attain top-seller status are great candidates for an "exclusive". Large retailers who can afford to purchase massive quantities of product from the toy manufacturer (such as Toys 'R' Us) are in a position to request something special. These retailers also want products not available from other competitors to get customers to shop at their stores.

A great example of exclusives were Playmates' Kirk & Spock dressed in the garb of a classic Star Trek episode "A Piece of the Action" available at Kay Bee Toy stores. Not only were both these babies exclusives, but limited to 5,000 each and there was absolutely no advertising to even promote them. Talk about an exclusive!

The same idea as an exclusive (see above) applies here, but with more than one retailer offering the "exclusive" product. "Semi-exclusives" are designed to avert the problems associated with regional retailer exclusives, such as stores located only west or east of the Mississippi River. There are also cases where some figures are offered to all retailers, but only one or two actually place orders for them.

This scenario happened most recently with Playmates' "Slag" from the "WildC.A.T.S" line.



Variations are minor changes made to the figure which usually result from one or more of the following:

  • The correction of flaws or defects that made it into the retail market.
  • Changes to comply with government safety regulations.
  • Identical figures produced in different molds.

Possibly one of the most sought after variations in some time is Kenner's 1995 "Power of the Force" tan vested "Luke Skywalker as Jedi Knight". The figure originally shipped with the tan tunic and was quickly corrected to black.

Toy companies frequently reduce the production of one or more figures in a series and are even possibly numbered in an attempt to enhance collector appeal.

Most toy manufacturers feel that characters which are not expected to sell in large quanities often merit the "Limited Edition" label and are frequently found in the company's collector edition series.

If you need an example of this form of marketing, just take a long hard look at Hasbro's recent "G.I. Joe Classic Collection". Could someone please tell me just which one of these figures isn't a limited edition?! ...SHEESH!!!...



These are the test molds of future figures. Usually made for the sole purpose of showing the detail of the figure before it goes into full production and for the most part appear unpainted.

Most prototypes never leave the buildings of the manufacturer, but some do slip out to be sold on the secondary market. Sometimes they obtained by action figure magazines to be given away in a contest.

Most people don't explore this avenue of collecting due to the simple fact that nine out of ten of these "rarities" are fakes produced by talented con-artists. If you are interested pursuing these items, I strongly suggest you check the background of the individual trying to sell you a prototype figure and/or call the manufacturer to see if any were released.

A figure that is packed in reduced ratios per shipment case. Typically one per case, while the other figures in the same case come two, three or even four to a case.

An excellent example is the ever elusive "Malebogia" of the Spawn series from McFarlane Toys. There are a number of reasons this is done and it depends on what marketing strategy the toy company holds belief in.

Some of the more popular corporate rationalizations are:

  • The higher cost of making a particular
    figure in a given case.
  • Lower expectations of consumer demand
    for certain figures.
  • Hopes that collectors will visit retail
    outlets seeking a particular figure.

Thus creating more demand than supply, and in turn the collectors will either buy other figures in the line, and/or force the retailer to purchase additional cases of the product from the manufacturer.


Tomart's Encyclopedia & Price Guide to Action Figure Collectibles; Lee's Action Figure News &
Toy Review; Collecting Toys magazine's home page; Seanww's home page (for the photo of the
Han Solo prototype).

Back to the Beginner's Guide To Collecting Action Figures

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