Action figures have been a beloved part of many childhoods for decades. These small, poseable toys allow children to play out their favorite stories and imaginative scenarios, bringing their favorite characters to life. But when did these toys first appear on the market? The history of action figures dates back to the 1960s, when the first mass-produced action figures were introduced to the world. These early action figures were often based on popular TV shows and movies, and quickly became a hit with kids and collectors alike. Today, action figures continue to be a staple of toy culture, with new and exciting designs constantly being released. So, when did action figures first appear on the market? Let’s take a closer look at the history of these iconic toys.
Action figures have been a popular toy for decades, but when did they first appear on the market? The earliest action figures can be traced back to the 1960s, with the release of the famous “Mr. Action” figure by the toy company, Ideal. This toy was marketed as a “moveable action figure” and was designed to be posed in various ways to mimic the movements of a real person. The popularity of action figures continued to grow throughout the 1970s and 1980s, with the release of iconic figures such as G.I. Joe and Star Wars action figures. Today, action figures remain a popular toy among collectors and fans of all ages.
The Early Days of Action Figures
The Birth of Action Figures
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the birth of action figures was a pivotal moment in the toy industry. Prior to this time, toys were largely limited to simple, non-articulated figures that were often made of cloth or plastic. However, with the rise of popular TV shows and movies, there was a growing demand for toys that allowed children to interact with their favorite characters in a more dynamic way.
One of the earliest examples of action figures was the “action man” toy, which was introduced in the UK in 1966. This toy was a 12-inch tall figure that was highly poseable and could be dressed in a variety of different outfits. It was designed to be a more realistic representation of a soldier, with intricate details such as camouflage uniforms and combat gear.
Another important milestone in the history of action figures was the release of the “G.I. Joe” toy in 1964. This toy was created by Hasbro and was designed to be a realistic representation of a soldier, with over 21 moving parts and a variety of accessories such as weapons and gear. G.I. Joe was marketed as a toy for boys, but it quickly became popular with girls as well, and was later rebranded as “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.”
The success of these early action figures led to a surge in popularity for the toy industry, and paved the way for the creation of countless other action figures and toys in the years to come.
The Rise of Superhero Action Figures
The Birth of Superhero Action Figures
In the early 1960s, the first superhero action figures made their debut, marking a significant shift in the toy industry. The release of these toys coincided with the rise of the Marvel and DC Comics superheroes in popular culture, which led to a surge in demand for toys based on these characters.
Articulated Action Figures
One of the most significant innovations in superhero action figures was the introduction of articulated bodies. These figures allowed for greater poseability, enabling children to recreate their favorite comic book scenes with more accuracy. The introduction of articulated action figures revolutionized the way children played with toys and paved the way for the modern action figure era.
Detailed Costumes and Accessories
Another significant development in superhero action figures was the inclusion of detailed costumes and accessories. Companies like Marvel and DC Comics began to produce action figures with intricate details, including intricately designed costumes and accessories that closely resembled those worn by the characters in the comic books. This attention to detail helped to enhance the play experience for children and allowed them to feel more connected to their favorite superheroes.
During the 1960s, superhero action figures featuring popular characters such as Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man became extremely popular among children. These figures quickly became collector’s items and remain highly sought after by collectors today. The popularity of these figures led to the creation of many other superhero action figures, including lesser-known characters, which helped to expand the market for action figures as a whole.
Overall, the rise of superhero action figures in the 1960s marked a significant turning point in the history of action figures. These toys not only revolutionized the way children played with toys but also helped to establish the modern action figure era, which continues to evolve and expand to this day.
The Golden Age of Action Figures
The 1970s and 1980s
The 1970s and 1980s were a significant period in the history of action figures. During this time, the toy industry experienced a surge in popularity, with companies such as Kenner and Hasbro leading the way in the production of iconic and beloved toys. The action figures produced during this period were not only highly detailed but also reflected the cultural zeitgeist of the time.
One of the most notable developments during this period was the emergence of action figures based on popular movies, TV shows, and video games. The release of the first Star Wars action figures in 1977 marked a turning point in the industry, with toy companies recognizing the potential of tie-in merchandise. The success of these toys inspired a wave of movie-based action figures, including those based on the Indiana Jones and Superman franchises.
In addition to movie-based action figures, the 1980s saw the rise of action figures based on popular cartoons and video games. The success of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe in the early 1980s paved the way for a new wave of fantasy-based action figures, while the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985 led to a surge in popularity for video game-based toys.
Another significant development during this period was the increased use of advanced technology in action figure production. The introduction of action figures with moving parts, such as the Kenner Star Wars action figures, represented a significant step forward in terms of both design and playability. This innovation not only enhanced the play experience for children but also contributed to the overall popularity of action figures during this period.
In conclusion, the 1970s and 1980s were a defining era for action figures. The emergence of movie-based, cartoon-based, and video game-based action figures, combined with advances in technology, helped to establish the action figure as a staple of popular culture. The impact of these toys during this period is still felt today, with many of the most iconic action figures of the era remaining highly sought after by collectors.
The Emergence of Star Wars Action Figures
The release of the Star Wars film in 1977 marked a significant turning point in the history of action figures. The film’s immense popularity sparked a surge in demand for toys that allowed children to recreate their favorite scenes and characters from the movie. In response to this demand, the toy company Kenner began producing a line of action figures based on the characters from the film.
These initial Star Wars action figures were revolutionary in their design and featured a level of detail that had never been seen before in toy figures. Each figure was carefully sculpted to resemble the character it represented, with intricate costume details and accurate facial expressions. Additionally, the figures had articulated limbs, which allowed children to pose them in a variety of dynamic positions.
The success of the Star Wars action figures was immediate and widespread. Children across the world were eager to collect and play with these toys, and the demand for them quickly outstripped supply. The toy industry as a whole was transformed by the success of these figures, and the Star Wars franchise became a key driver of the growth of the action figure industry in the years that followed.
In addition to their popularity among children, the Star Wars action figures also gained a following among collectors and fans of the film. The intricate detail and careful craftsmanship of these figures made them highly sought-after items, and many have become valuable collector’s items in the decades since their release.
Overall, the emergence of Star Wars action figures in 1977 marked a pivotal moment in the history of action figures and toys, and their influence can still be felt in the industry today.
The Modern Era of Action Figures
The 1990s and Beyond
In the 1990s and beyond, action figures continued to evolve and expand, with toy companies producing figures based on a wide range of licorice and properties. Action figures based on video games, comic books, and science fiction movies became increasingly common, and the toys themselves became more advanced and detailed.
During this time, the popularity of action figures reached new heights, with the release of highly sought-after collectibles such as the Star Wars Power of the Force line and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures. The 1990s also saw the emergence of action figures based on popular cartoons like Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh!, as well as action figures based on sports stars and athletes.
As technology advanced, so did the technology used to produce action figures. In the 1990s, many action figures began to feature articulated joints, allowing for greater posability and more realistic play. Additionally, many action figures began to include accessories and props, such as weapons or vehicles, to enhance playtime.
In the 2000s and beyond, action figures continued to evolve, with the release of highly detailed and intricate figures based on popular video games like Halo and Call of Duty. Additionally, the rise of online shopping and collector communities made it easier than ever for collectors to find and purchase rare and hard-to-find action figures.
Overall, the 1990s and beyond saw a significant expansion in the types of action figures available on the market, as well as an increase in the level of detail and complexity of the toys themselves. The popularity of action figures continued to grow, and they remained a staple of many childhoods and a beloved part of popular culture.
The Rise of Collectible Action Figures
Increased Popularity of Collectible Action Figures
Collectible action figures have experienced a surge in popularity in recent years, with major companies such as Hasbro and Mattel entering the market. These companies have recognized the growing demand for high-quality, limited edition figures that cater to adult collectors.
Highly Detailed Figures with Accessories and Display Stands
The collectible action figures produced by these companies are typically highly detailed, with intricate designs that showcase the unique features of each character. These figures often come with accessories and display stands, allowing collectors to showcase their collection in a visually appealing manner.
Premium Prices for Limited Edition Figures
The limited edition nature of these collectible action figures has led to their increased value, with collectors willing to pay premium prices for rare and exclusive figures. This has resulted in a thriving market for collectible action figures, with prices often reaching into the hundreds of dollars for a single figure.
Growing Interest in Action Figure Collecting
The rise of collectible action figures has also sparked a renewed interest in action figure collecting among adults. Many collectors are drawn to the nostalgia and nostalgia of their childhood, while others appreciate the artistry and attention to detail that goes into creating these figures.
Overall, the rise of collectible action figures has been a significant development in the world of action figures, offering adult collectors a new way to engage with their favorite characters and expand their collections.
1. When did action figures first appear on the market?
Action figures have been around since the 1960s, but the concept of action figures dates back even further. The first action figures were actually created in the 1940s, but they were not mass-produced until the 1960s. The rise of television and movies helped to popularize action figures, as they allowed children to play out scenes from their favorite shows and movies with their toys.
2. Who created the first action figures?
The first action figures were created by a company called Hasbro, which is still one of the leading manufacturers of action figures today. The first action figures were based on popular characters from comic books and cartoons, such as Superman and Batman.
3. What materials are action figures made of?
Action figures are typically made of plastic, although some more expensive figures may be made of metal or other materials. Early action figures were often made of rubber, which allowed them to be posed in a variety of ways. Many modern action figures are also designed to be articulated, meaning that they have movable joints that allow them to be posed in different ways.
4. How have action figures evolved over time?
Action figures have come a long way since they were first introduced in the 1960s. Early action figures were relatively simple, with limited articulation and few accessories. Today’s action figures are much more complex, with detailed costumes, intricate accessories, and advanced articulation systems that allow them to be posed in a wide range of ways. In addition, many modern action figures are based on characters from popular video games and movies, which has helped to expand their appeal to a wider audience.
5. What is the future of action figures?
It’s difficult to predict exactly what the future of action figures will hold, but it’s likely that they will continue to evolve and change over time. One trend that is already emerging is the use of 3D printing technology to create highly detailed and customizable action figures. Additionally, the rise of virtual reality and augmented reality technology may lead to new and innovative ways of interacting with action figures, such as through interactive games or virtual worlds. Whatever the future holds, it’s sure to be an exciting time for fans of action figures and collectibles.