The very first baseball action figures were similar in design and look to Hasbro's popular GI Joe figure with interchangeable uniforms and a generic look rather than the modern-day versions that are made to look like specific players and personalities.
Johnny Hero is considered to have been THE first of many baseball figures that have come since and although technically not a baseball figure (he came with a track and field uniform) Rosko Industries who manufactured him also produced separate baseball team uniforms.
Released in 1966, just a year after Hasbro's groundbreaking G.I. Joe figure, Johnny Hero is considered by many to be the granddaddy of sports figures who is often forgotten, neglected, and overlooked by fans and collectors despite his place in history.
Uniforms were available for 17 of the 20 Baseball League teams with only Houston Astros, Kansas City Athletics, and Milwaukee Braves not being issued due to the uncertainty surrounding them in the league at the time.
Unfortunately, Johnny was a bit ahead of his time and proved to be unpopular with the kids, so after only being featured in the Sears catalog for two seasons he was dropped.
A few sporadic lines of baseball figures appeared on the market over the coming years but it wasn't until 1986 that we were to see any major lines of baseball action figures released.
Kenner first debuted the MLB Starting Lineup figures in 1988 by releasing a 124-player set, a 5 player stand and a mail in baseball and each team had at least four players in the set. Kenner also distributed the players to stores generally by geographical region, so it was virtually impossible to complete the collection or find players from out of the market.
The figures were sold in cases of 16 figures which were approx 4-inches in height. Each of the figures also came with one or more trading cards, and occasionally another keepsake such as a mini-poster or medallion.
There were a limited number of poses a figure could have, which was initially 10, for each sport but in 1993 and 1995 Kenner introduced several new poses. They also had limited articulation with joints at the shoulders, neck and waist and a base that resembled a part of the baseball field.
The Baseball figures came in blue blister packs as each sport was "color coded". Initially they were primarily sold to large retail stores and the sets were produced regionally which created large sets, however Kenner noticed that they were actually selling more to hobby dealers than toy stores.
This caused them to change their marketing strategy, and greatly reduce the number of figures per set. They also began to introduce variations of some of the figures with low production runs, thereby creating the "chase" figure into the hobby.
Kenner/Hasbro continued to produce the Starting Lineup baseball figures until 2000 when McFarlane Toys were granted the license.
Today, many of the figures have become highly sought after collectibles and can vary in price from a few dollars to $100's.
As well as their regular All-Star series over MLB figures Kenner also released several series of Headliner figures, Cooperstown figures, Stadium Stars, Baseball Greats, Classic Doubles and Team Line-ups as well as a series of 12 inch figures.
The Rarest MLB Starting Lineup Figures:
• 1988 Cal Ripken Jr. $125.00
• 1988 Nolan Ryan $125.00
• 1989 Scott Fletcher (FP) $125.00
• 1989 12.00 Tony Gwynn $250.00
• 1989 Greg Maddux (FP) $100.00
• 1989 Cal Ripken Jr. $175.00
• 1989 Mike Scioscia (FP)$110.00
• 1990 Greg Maddux $220.00
• 1994 Cooperstown Collection Jackie Robinson #44 $150.00 (note: there was also a #42 produced which goes for much less than this one, ie about $8!
*Please note that these prices are only a guideline as they are continually fluctuating and changing.
In 1989 and '99 Topps released two series of Action Flat figures which were 3-inch figures that came with a foiled Topps card of the featured player. These figures were very cheap and poorly made but they were only sold for $2.99, so weren't really aimed at the collectors market.
The figs seemed to put in third dimension the players in the same pose that were on the card. But they weren't "real 3Das they were more like the old toy soldiers with just "front" or "back" views.
However these figures never caught on and were discontinued after the second series.
Despite their novelty value, they retailed for $2.95, and lack of "professionalism" at the time, they seemed to have gained somewhat of a curiosity value over the years and now sell on the secondary market for between $10-$30.
Not a bad return on a $2.95 investment!
Topps Action Flats
In 1997 and '98 Playmates released a series of 13-inch Pro Zone figures. These figures were designed to interact with the bases that were sold separately. These bases featured Intelli-Tronic resistor technology which when activated played recordings of Sports Commentator Stuart Scott as he announced to the player the players stats and achievements.
Several figures could interact with each stand, e.g., the Randy Johnson figure was packaged with the stand but other figures that worked with the pitching mound included Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez. Figures of Roger Clemens, Nomar Garciaparra, Ichiro, and Jason Giambi were planned but apparently never released.
ProZone MLB Series 1
• Alex Rodriguez Texas Rangers
• Barry Bonds San Francisco Giants Comes with Home Plate environment.
• Curt Schilling Arizona Diamondbacks
• Derek Jeter New York Yankees
• Mike Piazza New York Mets
• Pedro Martinez Boston Red Sox
• Randy Johnson Arizona Diamondbacks Comes with Pitching Mound environment
• Sammy Sosa Chicago Cubs
MLB Baseball Sports Picks were first announced back in Feb 2002 at the American International Toy Fair in New York. This announcement heralded a great personal triumph for Todd Mc Farlane as it gave him his fourth license in a top north American sport, after clinching contracts with the NFL, NBA and NHL.
It is a well-known fact that Baseball has always been one of Todd McFarlane's true loves and that he has always been a big baseball collector which is why he was so keen to get the license to produce MLB-endorsed action figures.
As a onetime player and lifelong collector of baseball memorabilia it also gave him the opportunity to put his company's vast talents into figures that would be truly representative of the players and that fans and collectors would be proud of.
McFarlanes figures are so detailed and authentic that it is like having your favorite star in your own home. Meticulously sculpted and painted to bring you the best baseball memorabilia.
Each figure features the official team logos and colors as well as authentic apparel and equipment specific to the player. Mc Farlanes are world famous for the detail and accuracy of their figure and these are no exceptions.
Many of the players have been captured in famous and historical moments that have made them famous and will bring back fond memories to many a fan.
Each 6 inch figure comes in it's own McFarlanes classic MLB Sports Picks clamshell packaging along with a custom base for it's display. Watch out for the special one off Collectors releases as well as the mainstream figures.
Over the years these have become huge favorites with fans and collectors. because of their level of accuracy and detail of the paintwork and sculpting which is a testimonial to the talents of Mc Farlanes artists talents and abilities.
There are five main "brands" of McFarlane MLB Action Figures within the Sports Picks range:
The base series consists generally of six figures, although occasionally a seventh figure has been added, from the current teams and season. Many new players or rookies have seen their McFarlane debut in one of these series.
As well as the "base" figures each series will also include one or two chase figures which are harder to find and usually feature one of the base players in an alternate uniform. There are generally three releases during any given season to reflect any seasonal changes or tradeoffs.
The Collector’s Edition figures are the "one offs" that are produced for the "All-Stars" game, Hall of Fame Induction weekend and event exclusives. These figures are generally not released through the mainstream distributors either through their online shop or at the event.
These new action figures include the usual high level of detail associated with McFarlane Toys in a newly developed 4-inch scale figure with no fewer than 20 points of articulation allowing fans complete playability and enabling them to re-enact or even create countless sports action poses.
The Cooperstown Collection was introduced create figures of retired sports legends. However, while it seemed a fantastic idea at the time, the project had several setbacks from a licensing perspective but they persevered and finally released their first series of sports legends in 2004 giving it the title of the Cooperstown Collection.
In 2008 Gracelyn Re-plays Baseball Action Figures were introduced after the success of their excellent, high quality NFL Football figures which had been produced since 2006, with a total of four series available.
Although a relatively unheard-of company Gracelyn's Re-plays Baseball Figures are of a superb quality and excellent standard. I would even go as far as saying they are one of the best Sports figures on the market and unlike most other Baseball figures these are truly "action figures" that are fully poseable with articulation on the head, arms, upper swivel arms, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, and ankles.
Each of these 6-inch figures is solidly made from very high-quality materials, is well-assembled with carefully applied and professional paintwork. They also come with a base, but this isn't required as they stand perfectly well on their own.
I think Gracelyn deserved a lot more credit and exposure for these sports figures and it was a shame to see them discontinued after only one series.
However, McFarlane Toys new Playmaker figures are very similar to these, but with loads more articulation!
Gracelyn Re-plays Baseball Action Figures:
• Albert Pujols - St. Louis Cardinals
• Brandon Webb - Arizona Diamondbacks
• Carlos Beltran - New York Mets
• David Ortiz - Boston Red Sox
• Derek Jeter - New York Yankees
• Derek Jeter - New York Yankees
• Hideki Matsui - New York Yankees
• Ichiro Suzuki - Seattle Mariners
• Ivan Pudge Rodriguez - Detroit Tigers
• Jermaine Dye - Chicago White Sox
• Manny Ramirez - Boston Red Sox
• Roger Clemens - New York Yankees
• Ryan Howard - Philadelphia Phillies