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Playmates The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Series 1 1988 Review & Guide

Playmates released the very first line of The Teenage Mutant Turtles in 1988 and over the next fives years more than 250 million figures would be sold worldwide!

The initial “vintage line” went on until 1997, although some countries continue to receive stock until as late as 1999.

The original line, released in 1988 included:

·         Donatello (Soft and hard head)

·         Leonardo (Soft and hard head)

·         Michaelangelo (Soft and hard head)

·         Raphael (Soft and hard head)

·         April O'Neil (hard head only)

·         Bebop (Soft and hard head) (UK 1990)

·         Foot Soldier (hard head only) (UK 1990)

·         Rocksteady (hard head only) (UK 1990)

·         Shredder (Soft and hard head)

·         Splinter (Soft and hard head)

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A Collapsible Table:


Leonardo was the level-headed leader of the team, and Splinter’s favourite disciple.  Leonardo’s head sculpt was far from accurate to the cartoon character and his facial expression makes him look like he’s suffering from constipation, rather than angry or menacing. This was due to the grimace sculpted on his face and the fact that only the teeth on the left-hand side of his mouth were painted in.

That said, the detail in the sculpting, particularly on the shell was pretty good. The paintwork was also pretty good, it was clean, crisp, and clear. Even down to the letter “L” painted on his belt buckle.

Leonardo had an olive-green skin tone, which is probably the most “turtle-like” of all of them, and blue bandanas. For accessories, as well as the standard weapons and weapon rack he came equipped with two Katana Blades crossed and attached to his back.

For articulation he had a swivel neck, swivel joints on his shoulders allowing an up and down movement, a cut joint in his forearms allow his arms to fully rotate 360 degrees, and semi-ball joint articulation on his hips which gave a fair amount of movement that was hindered a little by his shell. There was no knee or waist articulation though, unfortunately.


Soft Head Graded  $Not Available

Plastic Head Graded $Not Available

Soft Head MOC – $480

Normal MOC – $75 to $575

Loose $14-$37


Michaelangelo had a very similar head sculpt to the Leonardo figure but with narrower eyes and his teeth on this sculpt are painted on the right-hand side, rather than the left-hand side. He has an orange bandana and padding on his elbows, wrists, and knees. Michaelangelo had a dark green skin tone rather than the later olive green of Raphael.

This figure also has very little likeness to the actual cartoon character, but hey, who cares?

He’s a cool looking dude anyway, right?

Michaelangelo, as with Leonardo and the other turtles had a swivel neck, swivel joints on his shoulders allowing an up and down movement, a cut joint in his forearms allow his arms to fully rotate 360 degrees, and semi-ball joint articulation on his hips which gave a fair amount of movement that was hindered a little by his shell and no knee or waist articulation.

The colours on this figure were crisp, sharp and clean and were applied well, right down to the “M” on his belt buckle. The detailing on the sculpt is quite good with his muscles and veins popping out on his arms. His hands were sculpted as open fists in order that he could hold his nunchaku.

For accessories, other than the weapon rack and the other standard weapons, came with two nunchakus strapped to his back. These were all made from the same orange or tan coloured plastic and had some great detail but a little variety in colour or material would have been good.


Soft Head Graded – $540

Plastic Head Graded – $280

Soft Head MOC – $350  

Normal MOC – $90 to $190

Loose $14-$37


Donatello, unlike Leonardo and Michelangelo, who only had teeth painted in on one side of his mouth had all his teeth painted in, giving him a much fiercer and menacing look. Donatello’s skin colour was a lot darker as well, almost brown and he had a purple bandana, elbow pads, knee pads and wrist pads.

Both the sculpting and paintwork on this figure looked better, but that may be more due to his skin tone giving more definition to the details and his face sculpt and painting being more complete.

Donatello’s shell was more of an orange than a yellow also and looked very clean and sharp with plenty of detail. He had his initial “D” painted onto his belt buckle with nicely detailed and sculpted straps.

Donatello’s signature weapons were two Bo Staffs that were strapped to his back. These were made from the same orange or tanned plastic as the other weapons.

The reverse of his shell was painted a much darker green than the other turtles, but this contrasted well with his skin tone. The detailing on his shell was excellent and even had some battle damage scars.

Again there was a swivel neck, swivel joints on his shoulders allowing an up and down movement, a cut joint in his forearms allow his arms to fully rotate 360 degrees, and semi-ball joint articulation on his hips which gave a fair amount of movement that was hindered a little by his shell. He was also sculpted with open fists to hold his Bo staffs.

Due to the position and angle his feet were sculpted in he was extremely difficult to stand unaided.


Soft Head – $135

Plastic Head Graded – $235

Soft Head MOC – $125 to $200

Normal MOC – $60 to $225

Loose $10-$40


Raphael also had a full set of teeth painted giving him the same menacing and fierce look. Again, the head sculpt, although very detail and well painted, looked another like the cartoon character.

Raphael had a red bandana and pads, and a very light green skin tone with a light brown shell to distinguish him from the other turtles.

The paintwork was generally good but around the eyes, patches and his bandana is was a bit sloppy with some overlapping, but the “R” on his belt buckle was crisp, clear and clean. Raphael’s shell on the reverse was a sparkling emerald green, and again was very detailed with some battle damage and scars showing.

He had a swivel neck, swivel joints on his shoulders allowing an up and down movement, a cut joint in his forearms giving his arms full rotation, and semi-ball jointed hip articulation which gave a fair amount of movement which unfortunately was slightly hindered a little by his shell.

Raphael’s signature weapons were his, two fairly large and long Sai daggers which were held in place by two pouches on the front of his belt.


Soft Head Graded – $470

Plastic Head Graded – $275

Soft Head MOC – $75 to $150

Normal MOC – $110 to $250

Loose $4.99-$29:99

The sculpting, articulation and even the head sculpts on all of the turtles was very similar but it was their differences, rather than their similarities, that made them so popular as each of the turtles had its own signature skin tone, bandana colour and signature weapons that made them individual and unique from each other no matter how similar they looked, and this was the true genius of these figures. 


Rocksteady was sculpted in a light grey plastic with excellent detailing and slightly taller than the turtles. Was sculpted and painted wearing a black vest, camouflaged pants and a green helmet.

For accessories he came with a large, serrated Turtle Carver, a Mutagen Gun, and a Manhole Cover Shield.

The sculpting and paintwork for this figure was some of the best work from Playmates at the time, and it looked great especially when Rocksteady and Bebop were stood together.

Rocksteady had swivel jointed shoulders with a cut in the forearm allowing the arms to be rotated, semi-ball jointed hips and a swivel jointed head but again no knee or waist articulation.


Graded – $445

MOC – $115 to $230

Loose $10:43-$26:00


Bebop was a very colourful , mean looking, mutant warthog with a purple Mohican hairstyle and a big ring through his nose. He was sculpted and painted wearing a red waistcoat, blue sunglasses, and black pants.

For accessories he had a Turtle Shell Drill gun, a knife and a Trash Can Shield all made from the same grey plastic. For shoulder pads he had two regular turtle shells and he wore a large skull necklace around his neck that dangled down over his chest and chain wristbands.

The paintwork was excellent, especially as there were so many different colours, and the detailing was also exceptional, with minute details down to even the stitching on his vest. And he was slightly taller than Rocksteady and towered above the turtles.

Bebop had a swivel head and arms with basic articulation, and a cut joint on each forearm so you could rotate his arms, semi-ball hips which had a good rang of movement.


Graded – $700

MOC – $60 to $210

Loose $8:50-$30:00

Foot Clan

The Foot Clan in the comic book were originally human but were later changed to robots, this was probably to make it more “kid friendly”.

There was no soft-headed version of the Foot Soldier figure. These, like Rocksteady and Bebop were also designed by Peter Laird.

These figures had very little similarity to the characters in the comic book. They were sculpted wearing a purple hood, gauntlets and boots, a grey shirt with a black belt and waistbands, blue pants and large “shell-like” armour plates on their forearms, which were supposed to represent turtle shells, but they were purple!

The biggest problem with the Foot Soldier was that they were sculpted in a weird gorilla-like stance, making them difficult to stand and look short.

They had ball joints on the hips and shoulders so their arms and legs could be full rotated. They also had a cut joint on their forearms, but the turtle shell armour limited the movement.

There were three accessories for the Foot Soldiers, a Turtle Shell Biter, an Electroshock-Mace, and a Turtle Carver Knife. These were all made from the same grey plastic as Bebop’s and Rocksteady’s weapons, and they had a lot of details sculpted on them. The Foot Clan Soldier also came with a weapons rack like the turtles. 

The sculping on the figure was also very good with a lot of attention to details, such as the folds on his clothes, belt, and hood.

Price: Graded – $475

MOC – $100 to $240

Loose $22:25-$45:00


Splinter was the rat mutation of ninja master, Hamato Yoshi, who was betrayed by Shredder and was the Turtles' "shidoshi" (teacher).

This figure was probably the least popular the Playmates Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line, after all he is just an overgrown rat, and not even a particularly good looking one!

The sculpting and painting on the figure were pretty good, but also fairly basic being a rat. He also had a removable purple robe, which is usually missing on second-hand loose figures and without his robe he looked pretty pathetic and inadequate in all honesty, hardly appealing to young children more interested in action.

For accessories Splinter had a Ninja Bow, a Sword Cane, and Ninja Stars. These were again all made from the same material as the Turtles weapons.

His articulation was also the same as the Turtles with a swivel head, swivel jointed shoulders with a cut joint on the forearm, and semi-ball jointed hips.


Graded – $210

MOC – $37 to $150

Loose $10-$23:64


April was a determined TV news reporter always hunting for the next big story and breaking news. However, her over zealousness often got her into trouble and caused the Turtles no end of problems and headaches. April was the Loise Lane of the Turtles Universe and was their go between the public and the media.

As already discussed, the original April figure did not have the trim on the legs and arms of her jumpsuit, but this error was quickly corrected, and later version came with the stripes on her legs and arms. This version of the April figure is therefore one of the holy grails of the TMNT line (the other being a Ray Fillet figure, but more on that later!).

The original figure, with its solid yellow jumpsuit, was well sculpted with some nice details such as the two breast pockets on her jumpsuit and rolled up sleeves. She also wore a white belt around her waist and white boots. The paintwork was basic as there weren’t many colours but what there was, was applied cleanly and evenly.

April had a swivel head, swivel joints on her shoulders allowing an up and down movement, a cut joint in her forearms so her arms could be fully rotated, and hinge jointed hips which for her legs, but because of the semi-crouching position she was sculpted in she could only be posed in a sitting or squatting position and she was difficult to stand.

April’s eyes were painted blue, unlike most of the other figures who had solid white eyes, but they didn’t look right and gave her an almost cross-eyed look.

 For accessories April came with a Camcorder, a Gun, a Wireless Microphone, a TMNT Portable Computer, and a Ninja Star but why she had a gun and a ninja star, let alone know how to use them, is questionable.

There were many different variations of this figure due to the different header cards and the fact that there were “stripped” and “unstripped” versions of this figure that could come on either Type A1 or A2 cards.


No Stripes Graded – $225

Blue Stripes Graded – $250

Orange Press Suit Graded/Slabbed – $220

No Stripes MOC – $100 to $190

Blue Stripes MOC – $25 to $115

Orange Press Suit MOC – $30 to $150

Loose $10-$55

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