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 Nfl Ncaa College Series 3 Michigan Wolverines Charles Woodson FigureTodd Gurley Los Angeles Rams Ea Sports Madden Nfl 17 Ultimate Team Mcfarlane 7"Mcfarlane Nfl Ncaa College Series 1 Michigan Wolverines Tom Brady Figure1988 Starting Lineup Tim Krumrie Cincinnati Bengals Football Slu Kenner Rare NflTroy Aikman Dallas Cowboys Starting Lineup & Mcfarlane Lot Of 3Custom Pose Mcfarlane Dallas Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott White Jersey #21 Ohio StateMcfarlane Nfl Legends Dallas Cowboys Roger Staubach Regular & Chase Lot Of 2Mcfarlane Nfl Assortment Chase Variants & More Holt Smith Green Brees Lot Of 11Oakland Raiders / Mcfarlane Nfl Legends / Lot Of 2 / Bo Jackson & Howie LongMcfarlane 6" Loose Custom Jimmy Garoppolo New England PatriotsMcfarlane 6" Loose Custom Variant Mookie Betts Boston Red SoxMcfarlane Nfl Action Figure Lot Of 12 (loose) Mannings, Moon, Montana, OthersMcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 5 Randall Cunningham Eagles FigureMcfarlane Nfl Legends Tony Dorsett Dallas Cowboys Action Figure New SealedNolan Ryan Cal Ripken Jr. Mip Mcfarlane Lot...cooperstown Collection FiguresMcfarlane Madden Nfl 17 - Ultimate Team Tom Brady Target Exclusive Mcfarlane Jason Witten Dallas Cowboys - Nfl Series 21 - 2009Exclusive Rob Gronkowski Ea Sports Madden Nfl 17 Ultimate Team Mcfarlane In HandMcfarlane Nfl Legends - Johnny Unitas - Baltimore Colts - LooseMcfarlane Nfl Ncaa College Series 1 Miami Hurricanes Ray Lewis FigureCam Newton Carolina Panthers Ea Sports Madden Nfl 17 Ultimate Team Mcfarlane 7"Mcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 3 Bo Jackson Raiders FigureOdell Beckham Jr. - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 37 New York Giants Figure - In Stock!Mcfarlane Nfl Series 21 Jay Cutler Chicago Bears New Sealed2009 Mcfarlane Nfl College Set Of 6 Series 1 Brady Peterson Manning Ward Lewis +Mcfarlane Nfl Legends - Joe Montana - San Francisco 49ers - LooseMcfarlane Nfl Legends - Mean Joe Greene - Pittsburg Steelers - LooseNew York Yankees Lou Gehrig McfarlaneSteve Young San Francisco 49ers White Jersey Nfl Legends Series 6 McfarlaneNfl Players Starting Lineup Mcfarlane Toys Lot Of 15 Action Figures Carded 2012 Mcfarlane Sports Pick Nfl Series 4 "cam Newton" Auburn Tigers Qb #2 NipJameis Winston - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 37 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Figure - In Stock!Reggie White 1994 Starting Lineup Figure - Green Bay Packers Action FigureCustom Mcfarlane Nfl 6" Sean Davis Pittsburgh Steeler FigureMcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 2 Walter Payton Bears FigureTom Brady New England Patriots Nfl Mcfarlane's Sportspicks Action FigureMcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 1 Franco Harris Steelers FigureMcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 6 Marcus Allen Raiders FigureMcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 2 Joe Montana 49ers Figure1988 Starting Lineup Slu Nfl Rookie Jack Trudeau Football Action Figure - SealedMcfarlane Nfl Series 20 Larry Fitzgerald Arizona CardinalsStarting Lineup 1989 Johnny Unitas Baltimore Colts Legends Slu Unpunched1989 Nfl Football Legends Slu Lot Greene Ditka Sayers Colts Steelers BearsNfl Action Team Mate Custom Lineage Of Dallas Cowboys Qb Figures W/accessories !Mcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 5 Bart Starr Packers FigureCustom Mcfarlane Nfl 6" Jeese James Pittsburgfh Steeler FigureCustom Mcfarlane Nfl 6" Sammy Coates Pittsburgh Steeler FigureMcfarlane Nfl Series 29 Ken Stabler Oakland Raiders Black Jersey1989 Kenner Slu Starting Lineup Offense Nfc Football Helmet CollectionMcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 4 Fran Tarkenton Vikings FigureMcfarlane Nfl Legends - Jim Brown - Cleveland Browns - LooseTim Duncan 2003 Mcfarlane FigureNfl Starting Lineup Barry Sanders 90, 91, 93 Lot Of (3)Cam Newton Mcfarlane Nfl Series 31 Carolina Panthers Action FigureNib Tom Brady Madden 17 Ultimate Team Series - Free Shipping!!Mcfarlane Nfl 37 Odell Beckham Jr. Ny Giants White Jersey Chase Cl 133/2500Mcfarlane Nfl Series 6 Rich Gannon #12 Oakland Raiders Figure Lot Of 4Mcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 6 Steve Young 49ers FigureMcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 4 Jack Lambert Steelers Figure2000 Joe Montana - Starting Lineup - Slu -"commemorative" - San Francisco 49ers