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The History and Evolution of NHL Action Figures: From Plastic Players to Highly Detailed Collectibles

Are you a collector of NHL action figures? Or, maybe you're just curious about the history of these miniature hockey players. In this article, we'll take a deep dive into the history and evolution of NHL action figures from their humble beginnings in 1964 to the highly detailed collectibles of today. We'll explore the different manufacturers, toy lines and the evolution of design, articulation and materials used to make these figures.

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A Collapsible Table:


NHL Action Figures The Early Years (1964-1990):

  • The first-ever NHL action figure was produced in 1964, a tiny plastic player wearing a Montreal Canadiens jersey. These early figures were produced by companies such as Marx and Hartland, known for their sports-themed toys. They were simple in design, with limited articulation and paint jobs that were less than perfect. The figures were made of hard plastic and were prone to breaking and chipping if not handled with care.
  • Despite their shortcomings, these early figures were a hit with hockey fans and collectors alike. They allowed fans to bring a piece of their favorite team into their homes and play out their own mini-games on the living room floor. Some of the early popular toy lines produced in this period include "Team Action Players" by Marx and Hartland's "Hockey Greats". These early toy lines featured players from all the teams of the time, and usually included a few of the star players, coaches and even goalies.
  • As the years went on, the design and quality of NHL action figures improved. By the 1970s, figures were starting to feature more articulation and better paint jobs. However, they were still far from the highly detailed collectibles we have today. The articulation in these figures were usually limited to the arms and legs, which meant that the figures could only be posed in a limited number of ways.

NHL Action Figures The Modern Era (1990-Present)

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McFarlane NHL Sports Picks
  • In the 1990s, the game changed. With the advent of new technologies and manufacturing techniques, NHL action figures underwent a major transformation. Figures began to feature more accurate and detailed team uniforms, realistic player faces, and even miniature hockey sticks and pucks. The materials used to make these figures also improved with the use of softer plastics which reduced the chances of breakage and chipping.
  • Today, NHL action figures are highly detailed collectibles that are prized by fans and collectors alike. They are designed to be as accurate as possible, with realistic player faces, detailed uniforms, and even miniature equipment. These figures often come with a wide range of articulation, which enables them to be posed in a variety of positions, making them great for display and play.
  • From McFarlane Toys to OYO Sports, there are a variety of popular brands and manufacturers producing these figures with some even releasing limited edition figures and exclusive sets that are highly sought after by collectors. McFarlane Toys, in particular, has become known for their highly detailed figures and attention to detail, which has made them a favorite among collectors. Their "NHL Sports Picks" line was first produced in 2000 and featured players from all 30 teams with exceptional detail in both the sculpt and paint job. They also released a series of "NHL Legend" figures that featured some of the greatest players in NHL history. OYO Sports, on the other hand, is known for their minifigure line which is a smaller and more affordable option for collectors. Their minifigures feature bendable knees and elbows, as well as rotating forearms, wrists, and heads. They also offer a wide range of accessories like goalies, referees

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PLEASE NOTE: All prices and values quoted on this site were correct at the time of publication based on the average value across several online and offline auction sites etc. The prices quoted ARE NOT an offer or solicitation to buy any figures at these prices.

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