Collectible Football Action Figures

For baseball fans who love their toys, a player bobblehead is often a must-have addition to a collection of baseball cards, autographed baseballs, and game-worn uniforms. Bobbleheads have been made of football players, too, but toy-happy football fans have tended to collect action figures of their gridiron heroes.

Action figures of sports stars are a relatively new phenomenon. While baseball and football cards date to the 19th century, the idea of collectible sports action figures was not really hatched until 1986, well after the success of G.I. Joe and “Star Wars” figures.

In fact, G.I. Joe was probably the impetus behind the predecessors of the modern sports action figure. The first of these was a doll (sorry, guys, but there’s just no other word for it) named Johnny Hero. Manufactured by Rosko Industries and sold in Sears catalogs from 1966 to ’67, Johnny figures were generic, which meant kids could accessorize the figure’s standard jersey and pants with kits from one of 22 NFL teams Rosko represented.

A Broadway Joe Namath action figure from Mego in 1971 came next. This was one of numerous celebrity actions figures produced by Mego, which did not specialize in sports action figures per se. Still, Mego’s Namath could throw a forward pass and could be costumed in any of a dozen different outfits, including “Bachelor” attire.

In 1977, Action Team Mates were sold through Sears, as well as J.C. Penny’s. These 7 1/2-inch figures representing each of the NFL’s then-roster of 28 teams were held together inside with rubber bands, which was the same technology used by other articulated action figures of the day.

But the person credited with seeing the true opportunity of sports action figures is Pat McInally, a former punter for the Cincinnati Bengals. In 1986, while still a player, he convinced Kenner to create Starting Lineup, which began producing football action figures in 1988, the year after McInally retired from the pros. It wasn’t until 1997 that Starting Lineup, by then a division of Hasbro, honored McInally with a figure of his own.

The 1988 Starting Lineup (or SLU) figures were roughly five inches tall and came packaged on a card, with its memorable green background (cards for SLU baseball figures had blue ...

Starting Lineup dominated the market through the 1990s, but a few other companies tried to get a piece of the action. In 1996 and ’97, Best Card Company released several lines of football action figures, a dozen featuring college players (the 11-inch figures had a battery in their bases that enabled them to talk) and that many more for the pros. Topps tried out a line called Action Flats in 1999, but the three-inch figures, which came with a foil Topps card, were discontinued almost as quickly as they began.

After Starting Lineup lost the licensing rights to NFL players in 2001, McFarlane Toys, which got its start making highly detailed, and collectible, Spawn figures in 1994, entered the fray. That first year, the eclectic toy maker (2001 also saw McFarlane figures for Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead and all four members of Metallica) released two small football-player sets. The first group of six players included Emmitt Smith of the Dallas Cowboys; the second half-dozen offered later in the year included Brian Urlacher of the Chicago Bears.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vintage Football Card Gallery

Vintage Football Card Gallery

This great database of pro and collegiate football cards from the 1950s and 1960s offers scanned images of cards fo… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Mcfarlane Walking Dead Tv Series 1 Daryl Dixon Action Figure With Zoloworld CaseMcfarlane Nfl Series 14 Drew Brees New Orleans Saints Suprise Chase/variantMcfarlane Nfl Series 12 Kevin Mawae New York Jets *loose*Kobe Bryant Mcfarlane Figure Series 20 Unopened!!!Pittsburgh Pirates Roberto Clemente Cooperstown Collection Mcfarlane Oakland Athletics A's Mcfarlane 5 6 Rollie Fingers Tejada Eckersley Lot Of 13Bo Jackson Mcfarlane Cooperstown Collection Figure 2009New England Patriots Mcfarlane Tom Brady Randy Moss Variant 2008 17 18 Lot Of 12Ricky Williams Miami Dolphins Mcfarlane 4 10 Green Blue Orange Variant Lot Of 14Ben Wallace Detroit Pistons Mcfarlane Series 5 White Lot Of 14Scottie Pippen Mcfarlane's Sportspicks Series 6 HtfReggie White 2007 Mcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 3 Eagles New In PackageMcfarlane Sportpick Nfl - 20 Figure LotMcfarlane Nfl Legends 3 Earl Campbell Houstin OilersMcfarlane Nfl Brian Urlacher Chicago Bears 2-pack *loose*Mcfarlane Nfl Series 16 Steve Mcnair Houston Oilers Chase/variantTim Tebow College Florida Gators Mcfarlane Variant 1358/2500 Sealed Series 3 NewMcfarlane Sportpick Nfl Lot - 16 FiguresDerek Jeter New York Yankees Mcfarlane New Sealed Future Hall Of Famer DetailedJerry Rice Mcfarlane 12 Inch 49ers Figure Collectors Club Exclusive RareMcfarlane Derrick Rose Series 17Victor Martinez Boston Red Sox Mcfarlane Series 26 White Lot Of 10Demarcus Ware Dallas Cowboys Mcfarlane Nfl 18 Figure - LooseLoose Mcfarlane Alexander Culpepper Emmitt Shockey Vick Huge Lot Of 75 FiguresJoe Flacco And Torrey Smith Baltimore Ravens Nfl Mcfarlane Series 33 ExclusivesMcfarlane Rajon Rondo Series 19Mcfarlanes Sportspicks "jerome Bettis Steelers" Nfl Action Figure - Series 5Mcfarlane Nfl Series 1 Kurt Warner St. Louis RamsMcfarlane Nfl Series 11 Tiki Barber New York Giants Chase/variant *loose*Tom Brady Mcfarlane College Series 1Chipper Jones Mcfarlane Atlanta Braves Figure Sportspicks New Toysrus ExclusiveMcfarlane Custom Terrell Davis Denver Broncos Nfl Super Bowl 32Emmitt Smith Dallas Cowboy Mcfarlane Sportspicks Series 1 2001 Turf Play Stand Mcfarlane 6-inch Nfl Figure, Deion Sanders, Baltimore-ravens. Black Variant !Mcfarlane Nfl Terrell Owens Eagles 12 Inch Figure Nice!!Mcfarlane Small Pros Series 1&2 Base Sets + Rare Cl Peterson & Rodgers Figures Hank Aaron Atlanta Braves McfarlaneMcfarlane Nfl Oakland Raiders Ken Stabler Action FigureMcfarlane Nfl Jason Taylor Miami Dolphins Super Bowl Xli ExclusiveMcfarlane's Sportspicks 2001 Emmitt Smith Dallas Cowboys Nfl Football Figure Mcfarlane Ray Lewis University Of Miami Hurricanes Orange JerseyMcfarlane's Sportspicks 2006 Walter Payton Chicago Bears Nfl Legends Figure Chris Weinke Carolina Panthers Mcfarlane Series 3 Black Lot Of 14Mcfarlane Lot Of 8 Loose Nfl Figures2003 Mcfarlane Emmitt Smith "surprise" Variant FigureShareef Abdur-rahim Atlanta Hawks Mcfarlane Series 5 White Red Variant Lot Of 14 Mcfarlane 6-inch Nfl Figure, Legends. John Riggins, New York - Jets Variant !Mcfarlane Cooperstown Collection Babe Ruth Red Sox Series 6Derrick Rose Chicago Bulls Bronze Level Variant Mcfarlane Figure W/mvp Trophy!Tom Brady Mcfarlane New England Patriots Sealed Michigan Wolverines(13) Lot Of Starting Lineup Figures 1988 + 1989 Baseball And FootballNolan Ryan Cooperstown Collection Mcfarlane New New York Mets Owns Texas RangersAlbert Pujols (rookie) Mcfarlane's Sports Pick's Series 1 (cardinals, Away Grey)Mcfarlane Football 6" Pittsburgh Steelers Roethlisberger And Bradshaw 2-pk-mint.Terry O'reilly Baston Bruins Mcfarlane Sealed New Series Vintage Hockey FigureJulius Peppers Carolina Panthers Mcfarlane 7 Black White Variant Lot Of 18Lot Of 6 Michael Irvin Dallas Cowboy Nfl Mcfarlane Series 33 Big Head Collector Mcfarlane Nfl Legends 3 Roger Staubach Dallas Cowboys3 Adrian Peterson Mcfarlane Sealed Figures 2 Minnesota Vikings 1 Oklahoma SoonerMcfarlane's Sportspicks 2005 Troy Aikman Dallas Cowboys Nfl Legends Figure