I am not a huge collector of action figures but I do know there is quite the market out there if you know what you are looking for or what you have. Let’s be honest all the frenzy for action figures has to do with Star Wars. It is no secret that Lucas and Kenner made a fortune. I dare say that this could be the sole reason there is a real action figure market. I will throw in G.I. Joe as well but I do not think G.I. Joe’s warrant quite the same attention as Star Wars.
Let’s take a look back in time at how this phenomenon came about. Way back when, say around the 1970 when George Lucas was pitching his bizarre idea that would later become Star Wars most studios more or less laughed at him and thought his idea was little more than a summer blockbuster that would squeak out a little profit nothing more nothing less. What none of them realized was the massive, dare I say, Empire (pun intended) that was just in its infancy.
When Lucas brought the idea to 20th Century Fox they liked it enough to produce it, I assume that is what they did I am not in the movie business so I might be getting my lingo mixed up. When Lucas made mention of retaining the action figure rights and rights to all the toys the Fox executives laughed and said sure why the hell not, what did they care. In their minds there was no money to be made in the toy business; they were in the business of making movies, not toys. They gave Lucas all the rights and he could to with them what he pleased. BIG MISTAKE!!!
What followed was one of the most lucrative toy deals in all of toy history. Both Kenner and Lucas made ridiculous amounts of money on this deal and poor old 20th Century Fox was left watching Lucas receive truck load after truck load of cash. I would hope that someone got fired for not recognizing this and what a huge mistake that was made from a shareholder point of view. Although I am sure none of them were hurting as the movies were also a massive success.
Most collectors know that the first Star Wars toys were released in a rather bizarre fashion. I think they came out around Christmas time, but all parents could purchase was an empty box, Star Wars Early Bird Certificate Package, with the promise in a few weeks or months that Kenner would actually have the physical figures ready to be mailed out. Kind of a weird thing if you ask me, but no one anticipated the massive success that would be Star Wars. Still though I am not sure I would go out and buy and empty box like this, however, if you did and you still have it you are sitting on a small yet valuable gold mine.
As I have mentioned in my other posts there are again a few things that make action figures collectable and or valuable. The first is collectability, obviously you have to have something that someone else wants, and trust me everyone wants old Star Wars figures. It is the best grossing franchise of all time of course anything with Star Wars on it is collectable. The second part is what brings in the value, and that is rarity. How rare is the figure, were there a hand full made, a few hundred a few thousand, the rarer the more valuable it is. Again Star Wars has all these aspects wrapped up into one nice neat little package.
At any moment on Ebay you can find any number of rare Star Wars toys going for hundreds if not thousands of dollars, it just depends on the toy. There are some original Luke Skywalker, Dearth Vader, and Obi One with a rare lightsaber (double telescoping) that are worth some serious cheddar. There is also the famous Jawa that is can be worth some money as well. What I find absolutely hilarious and fascinating at the same time is the fact the Kenner released so many figures during their run, many of which probably had precious seconds of screen time if that. I think my all-time favorite is Willrow Rood, you know the dude from ESB, who is running through Cloud City carrying something, which of course his figure comes with. Yeah you probably do not remember but he was there I can actually see him in my mind during the movie. They actually made a figure of him. There is also Wioslea who bought Luke’s land speeder in A New Hope. I don’t really remember this one, but I do remember seeing him kind of talking to something or someone before they go and meet Han. But again, why the hell do you need an action figure of this guy.
While Star Wars certainly dominates the market when it comes to action figures there are quite a few other toys that are certainly worth mentioning. G.I. Joes are the next big one that come to mind. I never really had these toys growing up, but I had a friend that did and they were super fun to play with. I am not as familiar with them as Star Wars but I know that they are highly collectable as well and some are equally as valuable, especially Snake Eyes. I think that was certainly the fan favorite. It is also important to note that I am mostly talking about the 80’s toys not the original Joes that came out in the 60’s, those are I am sure very valuable. But what I mostly remember are the 80’s toys as they were certainly the most fun. The 60’s toys were also I think 12 inches tall whereas the 80’s toys were maybe 3 inches or something like that.
For me I think the 80’s are when the majority of the collectable toys came about, and I would say that Star Wars is mostly to blame. Try and think of any Saturday morning cartoon that did not have a toy line. Transformers, Thundercats, He-Man, TMNT, X-Men, Exo-Squad, Street Sharks (the last three were mostly 90’s) those are all I can think of right now, but all have toy lines and some are very valuable.
I think some of the last of the very valuable figures are TMNT. I use to have a ton of these but my mom either sold them all in a yard sale or gave them all away, regardless I don’t have them anymore. But now that I have a job and my own money I can make grown up decisions like purchasing Sergeant Bananas again or Leatherhead both very important purchases.
Speaking of Exo-Squad and Street Sharks, both of those cartoons were awesome. I loved Exo-Squad, it was the perfect blend of science fiction and just coolness. I really wish that was still on. I am also surprised that it is relatively obscure. When I mention it from time to time a lot of people either forgot about it or had never heard of it. Street Sharks was another pretty awesome cartoon. Per the normal it also had a toy line and I think this is just about the only one from the 90’s that has any real value to it. Some of the Street Sharks go for $30 or more. Which may not seem like a ton but the problem I think is more that they are hard to find, which will certainly affect the value. I have seen only a hand full of complete Dr. Piranoid and they were going for $50 or more, again they are hard to find.
I have gone back and looked on Ebay for the TMNT action figures, and I spent hours looking through all the toys. It brought back so many memories and looking at some of the most bizarre toys that were related to TMNT. There are some really odd TMNT toys out there as well as some very valuable ones. I honestly think that TMNT are the last series of toys that are considered valuable and collectable that can fetch hundreds of dollars for a single figure. I could be wrong but I do not know of any other toy line in the mid 90’s that are that valuable and that collectable. Of course this is outside of the rerelease of the Star Wars series in the late 90’s.
Through my many searches on the internet I found the Bandi Japanese robot figures, which I think are totally awesome. I would totally buy a ton of these, they are all awesome and have tons of pieces and can hold various poses, which is always neat. Some of the toys now a days are so much cooler than what I had to play with when I was younger. I am sure that there are plenty of these figures that are valuable. This is also a different type of action figure as you can purchase figures that are more like models, meaning that you can put them together. They come with extra parts so you can decide when building them how you want it to look. I like models but these are super advanced and really take some time and concentration to put together. What sucks is I do not think they are for playing.
I also had a ton of the X-Men toys from the 90’s, but I do not think these are valuable. I recently repurchased Cable, because he is awesome. But again I am not sure any of these are worth any money. Still though having and collecting them certainly brings back some wonderful childhood memories, and those, I am sure you are well aware, are priceless.