What Is An Action Figure?

 

Vintage Star Wars Action Figures Guide  Edit

This guide is a complete guide to the Vintage Kenner Star Wars Action Figures from A New Hope line to the Power of the Force line.

Includes a full gallery of ALL the figures as well as tips on how to spot fake and repro figures.

Listings also includes information on all the variants and the rarest figures and how to spot them.

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This is a question that has been debated and argued about since the first G.I. Joe hit toy shelves around the globe in the mid 1960’s.

The easiest way that I can describe the general difference between an action figure and a doll is that an action figure is usually based on a fictional character from a movie, comic book or video game, of course these days they can also be based on real life sports stars, pop stars and actors etc.

Generally action figures are a way to escape normal, everyday life by becoming a super-hero saving the world and defeating evil. As children our action figures were a door into another world or dimension where the only limitation was your imagination.

Dolls on the other hand are based on more down to earth and realistic role models and real life people, they also tend to be generic rather that based on any one person, e.g. a nurse, doctor, mother, baby etc. As a result dolls are usually used to role-play real life situations and family life.

Of course there are exceptions to this, the recent popularity in political and music based “action figures” being prime examples.

The Beginnings of the Hobby

Since the days of the early GI Joe and Action Man figures were released in 1964 there have been thousands of different variations of action figures released, representing movie stars, wrestlers, anime characters, cartoons, TV personalities, sports stars, pop stars and more recently politicians. 

Even Playboy has its own line of centerfold action figures, fully poseable, with removable clothes! 

There have been several major changes and influences in the hobby since the mid-sixties though.

When first released they were solely targeted to kids toys for play, then as these kids began to get older, during the 70’s and 80’s, some continued to buy and collect these childhood toys and so the hobby took its roots, but it was still considered “geeky,” and didn’t become the mainstream and acceptable hobby, that it is today, until the mid-90s. 

Probably one of the biggest and most influential events that changed people’s perceptions and attitudes to these toys came in 1977 with the phenomenal, and unexpected, success of the Star Wars movies. 

In fact, Kenner’s marketers were caught with their trousers down, and realized that they couldn't get their Star Wars toys into stores in time for Christmas. 

So what did they do? 

They did the next best thing, and sold a cardboard display for the forthcoming figures with a mail-in certificate which guaranteed the holder a set of the first four figures. 

Good to their word, in early 1978 Kenner sent out thousands of mailer boxes containing Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, Chewbacca, and Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2). 

This is why the first series of the Kenner Star Wars figures are dated as 1977, when in fact they didn't come out until 1978. Unfortunately they were ALL dated 1977, so these figures have no significant rarity. 

Even when the figures eventually reached stores, Kenner wasn’t prepared for the huge demand, as they flew off shelves quicker than they could be refilled, and with demand quickly outstripping supply, they became more and more difficult to find.

This led to the figures appearing at comic-cons and swap meets, where they were sold on the secondary market at inflated prices, especially for the more popular and harder to find figures, many of which are still highly sought after to this day!

The Kenner Star Wars figures were also the first to use the 3.5-inch scale, which soon became the industry standard. 

They decided to make the figures to this scale to keep the price low so kids could afford to buy and collect multiple figures; it also meant that they could easily be mass produced.

The next big “shake up” in the hobby came in 1994, when Todd McFarlane founded McFarlane Toys specifically to launch a line of action figures based on his Spawn comic character.

 McFarlane Toys was different, because its figures weren’t the standard 3.5-inch figures being produced at the time; but made to a larger 6-inch scale, they were targeted at an older and more mature customer base.

McFarlane wanted these figures to be of excellent quality and highly detailed so that his Spawn fans would be proud to own them.  They also had tons of articulation compared to the average figure at the time, which generally had only four points of articulation!

As a result these figures — along with McFarlane’s Movie Maniac line and other licensed figures — created a new market specifically targeting the adult collector, which grew exponentially, spawning (pardon the pun!! ;-) ) a host of new companies manufacturing collectors figures, such as The Three Horsemen, Gentle Giant, NECA, Mezco, Sideshow Collectibles and WETA.

The hobby has continued to grow and mature over the years, and has now become both mainstream and respectable.

Indeed, many sports stars, movie stars, pop stars or other famous personalities aren’t considered to be truly “famous” until they have had an action figure of themselves made!

The current action figure market can generally split into three categories:

  • 3.5 inch mass produced figures, e.g. Star Wars, Masters of the Universe, GI Joe etc.
  • Six-inch collectible figures, although these are still ‘mass produced’, e.g. NECA Gears of War figures, McFarlane’s Halo Figures, Medicom RAH figures, and Diamond Select Toys’ Battlestar Galactica figures etc.
  • Twelve-inch collectible figures, which are usually very limited editions, e.g. Hot Toys, AAA Figures, Sideshow Collectibles etc.

Ever since the release of the first action figure, one of the most contested, and heated debates has been on exactly what an action figure is, and the difference between an action figure and a doll. 

In fact, the case even went as far as the US Federal Court, to determine the tax category for import duties, due to the hobbies popularity!


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Looking After Your Figures

OK, so far we’ve looked at everything from deciding what figures you want to buying them, but what will you do with then once you get them home?

Most people either hide their figures away in some dark and dingy cupboard where they are left forgotten for eons, or put them proudly on display in the most prominent place at the mercy of the elements.

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Storing and Displaying Your Figures

Taking care of, protecting and storing your action figures correctly is of tantamount importance if you wish them to keep their value, whether it’s a sentimental or financial value.

Loose figures are a lot easier to store than carded figures but carded figures are better protected so storage isn’t quite as problematic as it is with loose figures.

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Cleaning Your Figures

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Does your G.I. Joe have dirty, greasy matted hair?

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How to Grade Your Action Figures?



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