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    

Todd Gurley Madden Series 1 Mcfarlane Figure Yellow Chase Variant New SealedTodd Gurley - Los Angeles Rams Mcfarlane Madden Nfl 17 Ultimate Series 1 Figure1988 Marc Wilson Oakland Raiders Unopened As Originally Issued Nfl Football SluNfl Starting Lineup Football Lot - Several 1988 And 1989 49 FiguresTodd Gurley Madden Series 1 Mcfarlane Figure Yellow Chase Variant New SealedTodd Gurley La Rams Madden Nfl 17 Ultimate Team Mcfarlane Chase Variant FigureOdell Beckham Jr. - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 37 New York Giants Figure - In Stock!Mcfarlane Nfl 3 Pack Sb Champs. Ne Patriots!! Brady, Gronk And Edelman Nip! Mcfarlane 6" Loose Custom Variant Jamie Collins New England Patriots Color RushMcfarlane 2006 Tony Esposito Chicago Blackhawks Legend Series 3 Sealed !!Cam Newton - Carolina Panthers Mcfarlane Madden Nfl 17 Ultimate Series 1 FigureMcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 6 Marcus Allen Raiders New SealedNfl Football Mcfarlane Sports Figure Lot Of 6Mcfarlane Tom Glavine Atlanta Braves Sports Figures Variant Loose2016 Mcfarlane Todd Gurley Variant Madden Ultimate Team Madden 17 New In Box Amari Cooper - Oakland Raiders Mcfarlane Madden Nfl 17 Ultimate Series 1 FigureAntonio Brown - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 37 Pittsburgh Steelers Figure - In StockAmari Cooper Custom McfarlaneCustom Nfl New Orleans Saints Steve Gleason Rebirth Football Mcfarlane PuntBoston Red Sox Mcfarlane Starting Lineup Action Figure Lot Of 34 FiguresMcfarlane Nfl Football Action Figure Lot Of 43 FigurinesMcfarlane Nfl Ncaa College Football Ser 1 Tom Brady Qb Michigan Wolverines 2006 Mcfarlane Nfl Legends 2 Ronnie Lott Oakland Raiders Variant FigureTudor Nfl Electric Football Teams Falcons And Bears (new Stock)Mcfarlane Nfl Series 2 Brian Urlacher Chicago Bears No Helmet Mint1988 Danny White Dallas Cowboys Unopened As Originally Issued Nfl Football SluJameis Winston - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 37 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Figure - In Stock!Mcfarlane Sportspicks Pittsburgh Steelers Legends Lot Lambert Harris Greene2016 Mcfarlane Series 1 Madden Football Ultimate Tom Brady Chase VariantCam Newton Mcfarlane Carolina Panthers Series 31 Nfl Football Figure 1990 Mike Merriweather Wade Wilson Lot Starting Lineup Slu Minnesota Vikings NflMcfarlane Nfl Legends 4 Howie Long Oakland Raiders Figure LooseMcfarlane Nfl Series 21 Jay Cutler Chicago Bears New SealedMcfarlane Sportspicks Pittsburgh Pirates Lot Clemente Stargell Kendall LegendsMcfarlane Calvin Johnson (6"inch) Rookie Figure Nfl Lions NewNfl Football Lot Of 11 Items - Mcfarlane Toys & Starting Lineup Action FiguresChicago Bears Starting Lineup Lot - 1988 1989 .... Nice 6 Figures1989 Starting Lineup - Slu - Nfl - Nfc Helmet CollectionMcfarlane Nfl Football Action Figure Lot Of 35 FigurinesNew York Yankees Mcfarlane Action Figure Lot Of 14 SetDeandre Hopkins Houston Texans Mcfarlane Madden Nfl 17 Ultimate Series 1 FigureRichard Sherman - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 36 Seattle Seahawks Figure - In Stock!Marcus Mariota - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 37 Tennessee Titans Figure - In Stock!1989 Starting Lineup Steve Young San Francisco 49ers Kenner Clear Bubble W/ CaseCustom Mcfarlane Nfl 6" Jason Witten Dallas Cowboys 2011 Pro Bowl FigureNfl Detroit Lions Calvin Johnson Jr. / Mcfarlanes Series 30 / "exclusive"Custom Mcfarlane Nfl 6" Adrian Peterson Minnesota Vikings 2011 Pro Bowl FigureMcfarlane Sportspicks Nfl Legends Series 1 Pittsburgh Steelers Franco Harris12” Nolan Ryan Collectors Club Exclusive Figure Mcfarlane Toys Astros RetroMcfarlane Nfl 30 Peyton Manning Denver Orange Jersey Free ShippingRandy Moss 2004 Minnesota Vikings Series 10 Mcfarlane Figure Mcfarlane Nfl Series 29 Ken Stabler Oakland Raiders Black Jersey Free Shipping!Mcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 6 John Riggins Chase Variant Green #1326/2500 JetsMcfarlane Nfl Sb Exclusive Eddie George Houston Oilers Nip! Please Read!Odell Beckham - New York Giants Mcfarlane Madden Nfl 17 Ultimate Series 1 FigureDemaryius Thomas Denver Broncos Mcfarlane Sportspicks Debut Series 34 #88Mcfarlane Sportspicks 2010 Nfl Legends 6 Phil Simms New York Giants #2Nfl, Loose Warren Sapp 6 Inch Mcfarlane Figure, Tampa Bay-buccaneersDenver Broncos Starting Lineup Lot - 1988 .... Nice 5 FiguresCustom Nfl New York Giants Football Mcfarlane Legend Carl "spider Lockhart"