Welcome to Action Figure Collecting 101 Part 1! Over the coming days and weeks, I will be releasing an article that I started working on in 2016 about action figure collecting and dropped it. I didn’t have a website or any place where I could put it, where people could actually find the article. Things have changed and I now have the 52,962nd most popular toy related website on the Internet. Honestly, the 52,961st is a hack.
When I first started back into the hobby recently, I had so many questions, and the answers were never in one place. I had to scour the internet. This series of articles will be everything I wished I could have had in one location using a combination of old and new pics. Let’s get started.
You’ve decided you want to collect action figures, and now you have nowhere to start. Maybe you found yourself Googling, “How do I collect action figures.” I’ll be honest, back in the day before the Internet ruled the land, it was a lot easier. If you saw a figure in a store (or, “in the wild” as we call it these days) you liked, you bought it. Easy breezy.
Things are different now. We have a lot more options which we will get into in a little bit.
First, a little personal history so you know where I am coming from with my collecting. My parents bought me my first comic at the age of 5 from a drug store spin rack and it instantly became an obsession for me. Being a skinny nothing of a child, reading about these modern day Greek heroes was about a lot of wish fulfillment. I wished I could help people. I wished I could be brave. I wished I had superpowers.
Instead, I ended up crying after every birthday wish, when, to my surprise the next morning, I was not endowed with superpowers and the ability to smite my foes. I don’t know how many foes a 7-year-old has… I guess NAMBLA? But if I had them, you’d better believe I would have smited (is that the past tense of smite? Smote? Smitten? No idea…) them.
At the same time I was exposed to comics, I saw Star Wars (there was no “A New Hope” back then, just Star Wars) at a drive-in theatre. I distinctly remember playing in the backseat with my little brother, we had a Stormtrooper figure and I THINK a C3PO figure. We had no idea who the characters were… yet. When we left that drive-in, we left as obsessed fan-toddlers.
These two events led to a lifelong obsession and will be the lens through which I write this article. I am by no means an expert and I am not going to tell you what is right and what is wrong. I focus on Super Heroes and Star Wars. Even with that very limited scope, there are a LOT of options. Options that completely overwhelmed me when I first got back into collecting in late 2015.
Growing up, we had every Transformer, every Thundercat, every He-Man, every GI Joe, every Super Powers, every Secret Wars and every Star Wars figure. Toss in some MASK and Stretch Armstrong and you pretty much nailed my childhood. I tried finding pictures of me with the plethora of awesome 80’s toys I had, but I guess by that age, I was past the point where parents take pics of their kid’s with their toys. By the time I was 16 and still playing with Transformers, I’m pretty sure I was a huge embarrassment to my parents. Heck, by the time I was ten, I remember my uncles saying to my dad, “Hey Steve, why is your boy still playing with dolls?” It was awesome.
Anyway, I kept collecting in the early 90s with my first marriage before there was any kind of official scale decision based on the manufacturers it seems. You could buy two different Toy Biz sets and still end up with figures that looked out of sorts, which became my pet peeve. I stopped collecting from the mid-90s to the early 2000’s when I got back into it again. I acquired a lot of Toy Biz Legends and a lot of the 1:18 Star Wars figures.
Then life happened again and I stopped. This was the time prior to the proliferation of the Internet and access to imported figures (“imports” as we call them). In other words, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and it was pretty blissful.
Around 2012 I started picking up the DC Collectibles (formerly DC Direct) Justice League figures from the New 52 relaunch. They looked great, but not very poseable. I considered them (and still do) moveable statues. That isn’t to take anything away from them, but outside of the most basics of articulation, you had a fairly static figure. Fast forward to 2015 when I decided I wanted to finish off the 7 (at that point I just had Green Lantern and Flash, my two favorites).
I picked up the New 52 DC Comics Unlimited Series 1 Superman and Batman Action Figure and proudly set them next to the previous two I had.
Whoops. What gives, I thought. Why is Superman so much smaller than Flash? Welcome to the world of action figure collecting, which leads me to our first real topic and next installment: action figure scales. Come back for part 2!