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History of Action Figures

  • Introduction
An action figure is a poseable character figurine, made of plastic or other materials, and often based upon characters from a movie, comic book, video game, or television program. The action figure has grown wide acceptance as an adult collector item and has been produced specifically with this in mind. In this case, the item may take on the statuesque properties of being intended solely for display.
 
  • History
1960s-1970s
 
These different licensees had a combination of uniforms and accessories that were usually identical to the ones manufactured for the US market by Hasbro, along with some sets that were unique to the local market.
 

The Japanese had at least two examples wherea Hasbro licensee also issued sublicenses for related products. For example, Palitoy issued a sublicense to Tsukuda, a company in Japan, to manufacture and sell Action Man accessories in the Japanese market. Takara also issued a sublicense to Medicom for the manufacture of action figures.

 
Takara, still under license by Hasbro to make and sell G.I. Joe toys in Japan, also manufactured an action figure incorporating the licensed GI Joe torso for Henshin Cyborg-1, using transparent plastic revealing cyborg innards, and a chrome head and cyborg feet. During the oil supply crisis of the 1970s, like many other manufacturers of action figures, Takara was struggling with the costs associated with making the large 11½ inch figures, So, a smaller version of the cyborg toy was developed,standing at 3¾ inches high, and was first sold in 1974 as Microman. The Microman line was also novel in its use of interchangeable parts. This laid the foundation for both the smaller action figure size and the transforming robot toy. Takara began producing characters in the Microman line with increasingly robotic features, including Robotman, a 12" robot with room for a Microman pilot, and Mini-Robotman, a 3¾" version of Robotman. These toys also featured interchangeable parts, with emphasis placed on the transformation and combination of the characters.
 
In 1971, Mego began licensing and making American Marvel and DC comic book superhero figures which had highly successful salesand are considered highly collectible by many adults today. They eventually brought the Microman toy line to the United States as the Micronauts, but Mego eventually lost control of the market after losing the license toproduce Star Wars toys in 1976. The license was lost, not because Mego didn't realized thefranchise potential, but because the people who could sign the license were out of town. The Star Wars people then visited another company located in the same building (200 5th Ave. NY, NY). The company was Kenner.[3]The widespread success of Kenner's Star Wars 3-3/4" toy line made the newer, smaller size the industry standard. Instead of a single character with outfits that changed for different applications, toy lines included teams of characters with special functions. Led by Star Wars-themed sales, collectible action figures quickly became a multi-million dollar secondary business for movie studios.
 

1980s-1990s

The 1980s spawned all sorts of popular action figure lines, many based on cartoon series which were one of the largest marketing tools for toy companies. Some of the most successful to come aboutwere Masters of the Universe, G.I. Joe, Thundercats, and Super Powers Collection, to name just a few. Early in the decade, the burgeoning popularity of Japanese robot cartoons such as Gundam also encouraged Takara to reinvent the Microman line as the Micro Robots, moving from the cyborg action figure concept to the concept of the living robot. This led to the Micro Change line of toys: objects that could "transform" into robots. In 1984, Hasbro licensed Micro Change and another Takara line, the Diaclone transforming cars, and combined them in the US as the Transformers, spawning a still-continuing family of animated cartoons. As the '80s were ending, more and more collectors started to surface, buying up the toys to keep in their original packaging for display purposes and for future collectability. This led to flooding of the action figure toy market. One of the most popular action figure lines of the late '80s and early '90s, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures were produced in such high quantities that the value formost figures would never be higher than a few dollars. In the mid 1990s, a new Star Wars figure line had surfaced and Spawn figures flooded the toy store shelves, proving action figures were not just for kids anymore. Beginning in 1997, ToyFare magazine would become a popular read for mature collectors in providing newsand embracing nostalgia with a comedic twist. And with the gaining popularity of the Internet, websites such as Toy News International would soon offer information on upcoming collectible figures and merchandise.
 
It was during this time that popular characters were increasingly getting specialized costume and variant figures. Batman quickly became most notorious for this (i.e. Arctic Batman, Piranha Blade Batman, Neon Armor Batman). Rather than individual characters, these variants would make up the bulk of many action figure lines and often make use of the old figure and accessory molds. Glow-in-the-dark figures and accessories also became popular in the early '90s with lines like Toxic Crusaders and Swamp Thing.
 
A 1999 study found that "the figures have grown much more muscular over time, with many contemporary figures far exceeding the muscularity of even the largest human bodybuilders" and that the changing cultural expectations reflected by those changes may contribute to body image disorders in both sexes.[4]
 

2000s

Today, the adult collector market for action figures is expanding with companies like McFarlane Toys, Palisades, and NECA. Said companies have given numerous movie characters, musicians, and athletes their very first highly detailed figures. These are commonly intended as statuesque display pieces rather than toys; however, child-oriented lines such as the Masters of the Universe revival and Justice League Unlimited still evoke adult collector followings as well. Comic book firms are also able to get figures of their characters produced, regardless of whether or not they appeared in movies or animated cartoons. Examples of companies that produce comic figures and merchandise almost exclusively include Toy Biz and DC Direct.
 
Adult-oriented figure lines are often exclusive to specific chain stores rather than mass retail. Popular lines often have figures available exclusively through mail-in offers and comic conventions which raise their value significantly.
 
 
 
History of collecting Film Memorabilia
 
In the early days of film most people who were interested in keeping a memento from a particular film, or actor, did so by acquiring autographs or original photos or posters. Through the years, the passion for cinema has grown and now the film memorabilia collecting community is a fairly large.
 
When the collecting of film memorabilia was in its infancy, collectors had to rely on a handful of news magazines that were full of various sellers offering mail order catalogues or asking to buy bulk lots, or particular items of interest. Occasionally, events would be organised which were structured around a live auction. These, while fewer in number today, still occur, and one can still buy memorabilia in person from trusted sellers on-site. The community was also fairly fragmented, with collectors and dealers spread out across the globe and no real consistent and reliable way to communicate with one another; the development of the internet changed this situation significantly.
 
In the early days of the internet the larger community began to get in touch with one another through UseNet newsgroups, some of which still exist today and continue to provide information. As the internet grew, and more people began using computers and the internet, collectors began communicating in ways never thought possible. In 1995, popular on-line email group MoPo was formed, creating a central place for anyone with email to keep in touch about things and events important to the community. This group continues to provide information to new and old collectors alike. By 1997, the community had changed forever; eBay was quickly becoming the alternative market place after two years of steady growth. All of a sudden people had a way to sell pieces of their collection easily, and with consistently better results. Professional sellers took notice, causing many of them to close their bricks-and-mortar businesses and focus their attention completely on internet sites and the future of the on-line marketplace.
 

In the early days of internet selling, prices varied widely. One could find posters normally valued in the hundreds of dollars selling for twenty dollars or alternatively, find posters normally valued at twenty dollars going for a hundred or more. Today, the market place for film memorabilia has mostly stabilised. While one can still see a rare film poster go for large amounts, it is far more common to find that items are priced either at or near market value, or are bid up to that point.


 
 
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