The Evolution of Action Figures

Posted by Phyllis Khoshatefeh on

In the mid 1960's Hasbro was having great success with their line of Barbie dolls and was poised to introduce a GI Joe toy to tap into the boys market. Realizing that boys might not be open to playing with"dolls", they coined the term "action figure" to make their newest toy more appealing to young boys, and their parents. 

Hasbro's GI Joe action figure had several features meant to differentiate it from the doll category and also to appeal specifically to boys. Its movable joints allowed it to be posed in many different stances, and it's traditional masculine traits and military attire and accessories appealed to boys.

The success of GI Joe established a permanent category for action figures. By the 1970's military men had evolved into Superheros and comic book characters.

In 1976 Kenner used the action figure genre to cash in on the success of Star Wars. Their innovative line of small action figures included groups of characters with special functions and changeable outfits. The Star Wars phenomenon inspired collectors to recognize the appeal of action figures, and they quickly became staples of movie promotion.

McFarlane Toys’ entered the action figure arena in the 1990's with a product line that was based on their bestselling comic book series “Spawn”. Their products differentiated themselves from other action figures on toy store shelves by their superior quality and intricate detail. Sales were so successful that they soon acquired the licenses for the rock and roll band KISS and the TV series “The X-Files”. Around 2002 they followed this by acquiring licenses from each of the professional sports leagues.

Today, McFarlane’s action figures are the among most coveted sports collectibles. Their Sports Picks line has won awards for their accurate depiction of professional athletes, from Babe Ruth to Joe Namath. And, their realm is constantly expanding, from sports into pop culture, film, music, and gaming. 

See our huge collection of action figures at:


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