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Collecting the Action Figure

Those fond of dolls and action figures have unique items to acquire, trade, and hoard. Ever since the debut of the Barbie doll in 1959, moveable toy figures have become hugely popular, representing nostalgia and innocence, and have become valuable commodities in their own right.



Action figures have existed since the 1960s, with the term "action figure" first used by Don Levine of Hasbro in 1964. This was to differentiate G.I. Joe figures, aimed at boys, from dolls traditionally perceived as something intended for girls.

According to Levine and Hasbro designer Stan Weston, G.I. Joe was one of the toys' earliest, if not the first, action figure lines. The changeable clothes featured on the figures represented the four branches of the U.S. military (Action Marine, Action Pilot, Action Sailor, and Action Soldier), making the 12-inch G.I. Joe so successful that it was inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame in 2004.


In 1966, Mattel, a rival toy producer, released the Major Matt Mason line, which featured astronaut figurines modeled after NASA designs. Children highly sought these figures because they were bundled with miniature vehicles and play sets.


Action figures depicting superheroes have been a significant hit since they were first introduced in the early 1970s. Mego was the leader in the market for these collectibles until 1976.


In the late 70s, figures based on film characters became a trend. One of the first franchises to make the jump was Star Wars (1977). Kenner, a company at the time of the original release, made a wise decision when producing a Star Wars figure collection.


During the 1970s, action figures of superheroes from D.C. and Marvel, such as Wonder Woman, Batman, and Spider-Man, gained massive popularity in the United States and could be found in most stores.


After Hasbro granted licenses to overseas companies, action figures started to vary. For example, the U.K.'s Palitoy created Action Man, inspired by the idea of G.I. Joe. Additionally, Japanese firm Takara produced Henshin Cyborg-1, which featured a G.I. Joe torso.


Martin Abrams, the head of Mego, changed the toy industry by introducing eight-inch figurines in the line called The World's Greatest Super Heroes, notably different from the twelve-inch G.I. Joe standard set previously. This alteration was primarily due to the 1970s oil crisis, which decreased the materials needed to produce toys.


It is difficult to determine when action figures began to be seen as collectible items. However, they have likely been valued in this way since their inception.


Action figures, such as the original Kenner Star Wars and those made by other manufacturers in the 70s and 80s, are worth a great deal of money as collectibles today. Many figures are sold on eBay, with some costing up to tens of thousands of dollars. The most desirable pieces have been kept in their original packaging or those produced in a limited run.


Rarity and demand are definite elements that determine the collectible status of something. Furthermore, nostalgia is a factor that adds value.


In conclusion, action figures remain highly sought-after by collectors and as playthings for kids. Even though various digital games and other forms of entertainment are widely available, these figures are still prized.

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