Welcome to Action Figure Collecting 101 Part 2 where we take a look at the mystery that is action figure scales. Obviously, you can collect what you want, and if you want a short Darth Vader next to a gigantic Wolverine, you can do that. However, my broken, OCD brain won’t let that happen. While there are many scales, the main ones you will run into are 1:1, 1:4, 1:6, 1:10, 1:12, and 1:18. Also, keep in mind, some manufacturers will have ALL figures be the same height regardless of canonical appearance, while others will have their monsters/droids, etc, all be different sizes from an average human and is more what I consider a true “scaled” figure.
What does that format mean? A number next to another number, separated by a colon (HA! Colon!… sorry.. couldn’t help it), what is this nonsense?
1:1 is life-size. These will usually run you in the thousands and if you have the money and space, I say go for it. I don’t own any, and I doubt I ever will. When we look at 1:1, what we are saying is that one of these figures is directly proportionate to one of the “real life” characters. Do not be surprised if you see a 1:1 figure go for $5000-9000. Clear as mud? Let’s try another.
1:4 figures are starting to pick up in popularity. Their size may make it a challenge for some in terms of display space. What we mean when someone says 1:4 scale, or quarter scale, is that at its simplest terms, if you stacked a 1:4 figure on top of each other, 4 times, you would have a height equivalent to the subject matter that the figure is trying to emulate. NECA is coming on strong in this department and usually will run you around $100 a figure (give or take). These things are big and so far, I only have the NECA Affleck Batman and Superman 1:4 in my collection. Hot Toys does 1:4 as well, but expect to pay around $400-500 new. Aftermarket is worse because then it starts hitting the $800-1000 neighborhood. Ouch! If your pocket allows for this, go for it, but that’s out of my price range.
The next one up is 1:6 scale, or stack 6 figures on top of one another and you have an approximate real-world height of the subject matter. There are several 1:6 scale makers, but by far, Hot Toys leads the pack. I have about 10 of these, but at $2-400 depending on the figure, they aren’t cheap. Most of mine were presents or ones I managed to get really good deals for on eBay. 1:6, like the first two scales, will require a lot of display space, so keep that in mind.
1:10, or ten figures stacked on top of one another to reach the height of the subject, are fairly popular. DC Collectibles (although theirs is not a true 1:10 scale. More like a 1:11. 6 feet = 6.75 inches for DC collectibles. Weird.), NECA and Marvel Select all immediately jump to mind as great examples of these. You usually get a decent mix of details, limited articulation and increased display space over 1:6.
1:12 is by far the most popular scale for action figures. It also creates the most confusion with 1:6 scale figures. 1:12 figures work under the assumption that 6 inches is 6 feet tall. So if you’re looking for a 6-inch scale figure, you want 1:12, NOT 1:6. It’s a common error and one I’d hate to see anyone make. 1:12 scale is represented in such lines as Hasbro/Toy Biz Legends, DC Universe Classics (DCUC), Star Wars Black Series, DC Multiverse figures and imports such as SH Figuarts, Figma, Revoltech, and Mafex.
1:18 scale is the original Star Wars figures of old, and is still going strong in their current lines as well. In the late 70’s and 80’s, this was the de facto scale. We saw it in Super Powers, GI JOE, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and Secret Wars as well as A-Team, and a host of other figures.
Now that you know that, you can just pick a scale and everything will be one big, happy, same size family, right?
Wrong. Most companies can’t keep their scales in line with the same intellectual properties, let alone crossing manufacturers. So while most of the Hasbro Marvel Legends scale great amongst themselves as a 6 inch (1:12, remember?) line, they look really tall next to an SH Figuarts 1:12 figure. Which in turn is taller than the Figma Avengers line (although that Iron Man scales well with the Marvel Legends figures… so, again, same line, but looks odd to a lot of people). The Black Series Star Wars figures vary. Some loom over their SH Figuarts equivalents, while others are much shorter than their Bandai cousin. Then you have a line like the now dead DC Icons, which I love, but the first wave looked better next to the Figma Avengers. Towards the end of the line, their scale seemed to be sliding upwards so they looked ok next to the Mafex BvS figures if you were so inclined. Mafex 1:12 is usually taller than the other import figure offerings, but I also see instances where even that isn’t consistent. *sigh*
In this instance, you’ll want to buy what you think looks good next to one another. As an example, I purchased a Mafex Vader to stand with my Figuarts Star Wars figures because I think part of what makes Vader imposing is his height. You can’t get that with the Figuarts Vader because he’s simply too small. Again, these are all my opinions, so judge for yourself. Eventually, Figuarts figured this out and made a taller Vader.
The 1:10 DC Collectibles are much shorter than the 1:10 Marvel Select figures. No idea why, it’s just how it happened. I do like to mix the larger Selects in with my legends for display purposes. For instance, I think the Select Ultron, Thanos, Hulks, and the new (when I first wrote this article) Destroyer look great next to the Legends line because, in my mind, that’s how big those figures seem to me in real life.
We all have preconceived notions with our favorite characters and their builds, or “bucks.” In my head, Captain America, Superman, and Batman should have similar builds. The idea of making Kal-El have a bodybuilder type build is asinine to me because he couldn’t possibly put on enough bulk to allow him to do the incredible things he does. The fact of the matter, if we all indulge in suspension of disbelief, is that Clark Kent could look like Winston Churchill because his abilities come from being a Kryptonian in a yellow sun environment, not how many protein shakes he drinks after leg day. Iron Man should be bigger and bulkier (few figures nail this for me) because he’s an average sized man in a flying tank. Action figure manufactures seem to forget that part. Iron Man isn’t the person, Tony Stark is the person WEARING the Iron Man technology.
Quickly, you will hear the term “buck” used a lot. For instance, “I’m a fan of the Bucky buck so I am glad to see they used it on another figure.” Often times companies, especially mass produced figures, will reuse the same “buck” to save production costs and if we’re lucky, it allows us to get in package extras with those savings (extra hands/heads/special effects).
A buck is “the form an action figure is built around, to ensure sizes (such as the distance between hips and shoulders) are standardized. Originally a physical item, such as a piece of bronze or steel, embedded in the center of the sculpting clay, a buck eventually became a set of specific measurements carefully monitored.” (Reference http://www.oafe.net/articulation/terms.php)
Next up, we will take a look at domestic toy lines in Part 3!