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 - NewMcfarlane Toys Sports Picks Nfl Sf 49ers Joe Montana Ronnie Lott Jerry RiceMcfarlane Nfl Lineman And Defense Lot LooseMcfarlane Sportpicks Deion Sanders Nfl #21 Atlanta Falcons Club Exclusive WhiteMcfarlane Loose Receivers LotTroy Polamalu Pittsburgh Steelers Mcfarlane 14 Clean Snow Variant Lot Of 14Daunte Culpepper Minnesota Vikings Mcfarlane 9 Purple White Variant Lot Of 14Nfl 2-pack: Dick Butkus & Brian Urlacher Sealed Mcfarlane’s Sportspicks FiguresHuge 1988 Football Starting Lineup Action Figures Lot.Mcfarlane Series Nfl Seahawks Russell Wilson Cl #1127/2000 - See My Other ItemsJamal Lewis Baltimore Ravens Mcfarlane Series 8 Purple White Variant Lot Of 14Mcfarlane Nfl Qb 3 Pack Aikman, Staubach And Romo Dallas Cowboys New In BoxLebron James Cleveland Cavaliers Mcfarlane Series 5 White Red Variant Lot Of 14Mcfarlane Loose Quarterbacks LotMcfarlane Nfl Riggins Romo Smith. Loose Mcfarlane Eric Dickerson Colts Variant Bronze Figure Rare Nfl Legend FigMcfarlane Afa 85 3rd Jersey Patrick RoyVince Carter Toronto Raptors Mcfarlane Series 1 White Lot Of 14Gary Payton Los Angeles Lakers Mcfarlane Series 6 White Lot Of 14Houston Rockets Mcfarlane Yao 5 White 7 Red Steve Francis 2 White Blue Lot Of 14Huge 35 1988-1999 Football Starting Lineup Carded Unpunched Action Figures LotBen Roethlisberger Pittsburgh Steelers Mcfarlane Series 11 Black Lot Of 14Drew Bledsoe Dallas Cowboys Mcfarlane Series 13 Blue Lot Of 14Steve Mcnair Tennessee Titans Mcfarlane Series 8 Blue White Variant Lot Of 14Mcfarlane Series Nfl Broncos Peyton Manning - See My Other ItemsEmmitt Smith Arizona Cardinals Mcfarlane Series 6 White Red Variant Lot Of 14Johan Santana Minnesota Twins Mcfarlane 15 White Grey Gray Variant Lot Of 12Mcfarlane Nfl Custom 78 Is Oilers DAmare Stoudemire Phoenix Suns Mcfarlane Series 9 Purple Lot Of 14Ray Lewis Baltimore Ravens 7" Mcfarlane Sportspicks Action Figure 2002 LooseJeremy Shockey New York Giants Mcfarlane Series 7 Blue White Variant Lot Of 14Willis Mcgahee Buffalo Bills Mcfarlane Series 11 Blue White Variant Lot Of 14Mcfarlane Series Nfl Colts Andrew Luck Cl #1794 / 2000 - See My Other ItemsDeuce Mcallister New Orleans Saints Mcfarlane Series 6 White Lot Of 14Nfl Mcfarlane- Legends Series 4 Fran Tarkenton Loose Figure- Minnesota VikingsMcfarlane Series Nfl Broncos / Dolphins Mccaffery / Thomas 2 Pack See ItemsNolan Ryan Texas Rangers Mcfarlane Cooperstown Collection Series 1 Lot Of 13Mcfarlane Nfl Running Backs LotStephen Curry Golden State Warriors Bronze Level Variant Mcfarlane Figure # 0188Adam Vinatieri New England Patriots Pats Mcfarlane Series 10 Blue Lot Of 12Mcfarlane Series Nfl Broncos Tim Tebow Cl #1699 / 2000 - See My Other ItemsDerek Lowe Boston Red Sox Mcfarlane Series 5 Grey Gray Red Variant Lot Of 8Shawn Marion Phoenix Suns Mcfarlane Series 8 White Lot Of 12Mcfarlane Series Nfl Seahawks Russell Wilson - See My Other ItemsRicky Williams Miami Dolphins 12" Mcfarlane Sportspicks Action Figure 2003 LooseMcfarlane Series Nfl Panthers Cam Newton - See My Other ItemsMcfarlane Nfl 3 Set Box Drew Brees Bush Shockey New Orleans SaintsMcfarlane Afa 9.0 Blake Griffin Cl #75Mcfarlane Nfl S33 Russell Wilsonlot/3 Premier Auto Cl#19/100 Cl #1022/2000 Reg 1989 Starting Lineup Michael Irvin Football, Afa 85 (triple 85) W/ 90 Sub GradeMcfarlane Nfl Custom Swann Bleier She'll GrossmanMcfarlane Nfl Custom Harris Stallworth Webster HolmsMcfarlane Series Nfl Falcons Julio Jones Cl #103 - See My Other ItemsTerrell Owens Philadelphia Eagles Mcfarlane Series 10 Green Lot Of 10Mcfarlane Tim Tebow Denver Broncos Series 30 Chase Variant BronzePriest Holmes Kansas City Chiefs Mcfarlane Series 6 Red White Lot Of 14Cowboys Pack 2 Figures Mcfarlane Tony Romo And Jason Witten NewMcfarlane Nfl Stafford Johnson. LooseReggie White 2007 Mcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 3 Green Bay Pack New In PackageJerome Bettis Steelers 6" Mcfarlane Sportspicks Series 5 Action Figure 2002