Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sports "Action" Figures

Just got this in my email:

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Upper Deck Authenticated, Upper Deck’s memorabilia and collectibles division, has just put together an informative, up-close video chronicling the making of one of its most popular lines: All-Star Vinyl Figures. The four-and-a-half-minute-minute video shows various iterations of the product line with interesting quotes from many of members of UDA’s Collectibles team.

Click on the link below and learn some things you didn’t know about Upper Deck’s All-Star Vinyl Figures.


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I'm a toy collector as well as a comic and trading card fanatic, this means that my funds are always split between my three loves, though comics have been getting the short end of the stick since my daughter was born. I find that I can no longer justify $25 weekly visits to the comic store, especially these days when that won't even get me more than 6 comics with standard issues going for $2.99 a pop and soon-to-be $3.99. I find that I just get more value out of cards at $1.99 to $2.99 a pack (remember this is the BUDGET card collector) or Action Figures which have a much easier re-sale ability. I state all of this because over the last decade the vinyl art figure market has exploded as one of the few profitable and collectible areas of toy collecting. So much so that Upper Deck has entered the market. Not once, but twice already.

Upper Deck first flirted with vinyl designer toys a couple of years ago, to middling success. Their figures of Bret Favre and others followed the exaggerated designs that urban vinyl artists have been using for years, and I dare say that Upper Deck's attempts have a much greater print run than any of the vinyl figures you can find at say Kid Robot or Giant Robot, which to me pretty much ruins the entire point of collecting these things in the first place.

You see, one of the big attractions to urban vinyl is that the print runs on each figure is usually incredibly tiny. Some of the "colorways" which is a fancy term for different colors and designs on the same basic figure, can run in the single digits, though runs of a couple thousand are more the norm. Designer toys originated in Asia during the 70's and originally focused on Kaiju and other anime/live-action characters. During the late 90's DJ's and underground graffiti artists co-opted the style of toys being able to produce small numbers of toys for a reasonable amount of money, and customizing them to their own artistic specifications. The field also includes "blind boxed" trading figures, which are reasonably priced (under $10 typically) small figurines or action figures which are all packaged in generic boxes. Much like trading cards you do not know what you will get in each box. Of course each case of trading figures has some pieces more common and some more rare.

I'm not a huge fan of designer toys to be honest. It's not that I don't see the appeal, I just don't really get it. I think some of them are cute, but I have enough small items cluttering up my apartment as it is. I really do not see the appeal of cartoonish looking sports figures that don't have any articulation either. When it comes to action figures I'm an articulation junkie, which means that I like my dudes to be able to hold any pose. These days the choices in sports figures are as wide as they've ever been. There are the McFarlane SportsPix, the Re-Play MLB and NFL figures, the new NFL Robot Figures and now these Upper Deck Vinyl guys. I'm sure I'm even missing a couple.

I wasn't a big fan of the old Kenner Starting Lineups, though I owned more than my fair share; it helped that they came with trading cards and had some moderate articulation. I could never stand the McFarlane plastic statues, especially since Todd seemed to have a bias against the L.A. Kings (seriously look up the number of Kings figures versus oh, say the Canadiens. A few years back Smiti produced a series of NHL figures that were a big larger than LEGO mini-figs, but in a similar style. The Kings actually did a cool promotion where they gave away one figure during 5 regular season games, and a box to hold them all in. I managed to get the box and 4 out of the 5 figures. I still need the Ian Lapperiere figure.
Here's a review from Michael Crawford, the king of toy reviews.

Going back even further than Starting Lineups were NFL Action Team-Mates, that were sold during the 70's and early 80's at places like JC Penny and Sears. Here's a trade ad for them:

Now those were bad-arsed figures, with just as much articulation as an old Mego Worlds' Greatest Heroes figure, but with better plastic. I'd love to get one of these guys now, I wouldn't really care which team (though the Rams or Chargers would be my preference). A carded Dallas figure went for well over $50. This auction sold for $76+ and two of the four figures needed serious help.

Here's the pic from that auction for posterity:

Going back even FURTHER than the 70's Marx and other companies would produce small 2" static generic sports figurines, and those can be quite desirable these days. Hartland Statues are also still in high demand from collectors as they have been reproduced a few times so that even budget collectors can afford a repro.

There are other brands of figures that I'm leaving out, have to have something for another blog entry.

So, does anyone have a nifty collection of sports figures they'd like to show off? Send me pics and I'll post 'em up here.

Oh and anyone with a Chargers or Rams NFL Team-Mate for sale or trade at a reasonable price, contact me.

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