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 Series 2 Brian Urlacher Super Chase Variant - No Helmet (rare)Lot Of 25 Loose Starting Lineup Nfl Vintage Action Figures Mostly 1988-1993Mcfarlane Nfl 36 New England Patriots Super Bowl Xlix Champion 3-pack - In StockCustom Mcfarlane - Cam Newton - Carolina Panthers FigureCustom Mcfarlane Nfl Football Green Bay Packers Power Sweep Kramer Taylor FuzzyCustom Mcfarlane Nfl Football Pittsburgh Steelers Hof John Stallworth Si CoverCustom Mcfarlane Nfl Football Philadelphia Eagles Legend Vince Papale Invincible1988 Doug Cosbie Starting Lineup Football Dallas Cowboys Lot Of Eleven Mcfarlane 2006 Cooperstown Series 3 Figures; Great Holiday Gifts!Starting Lineup Slu Huge Lot! 48 Football Figures Action Nfl Nip Nib1988 Kenner Nfl Starting Lineup Slu Danny White Dallas CowboysMcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 6 Green Bay Packers Ray Nitschke Figure LooseCustom Mcfarlane Nfl Football Oakland Raiders George Atkinson Smacking SwannMcfarlane's Nfl Legends Green Bay Bart Starr Sports Action Figure Collect 2009Gerry Cheevers Legends Mcfarlane Loose ( Opened ) In PackageMcfarlane Nfl Series 21 Aaron Rodgers Rookie Figure Packers Rare Variant Jerry Rice Nfl 1989 Starting Lineup Afa Candidate2005 Mcfarlane Nfl Series 11 Tom Brady Action Figure SealedMcfarlane Series 36 J.j. Watt Houston Texans Brand New! NflMcfarlane Series 36 Richard Sherman Seattle Seahawks Brand New! NflRichard Sherman - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 36 Seattle Seahawks Bronze Cl# 830/3000Mcfarlanes Sports Pick's & Nfl Players Lot Of 5 - Tony Romo, Bettis, Tebo NipCustom Mcfarlane Nfl Football Chicago Bears Wiliam Perry Refridgerator Super BowCustom Mcfarlane Nfl Football Miami Dolphins Hof Nick Buoniconti Vs O. J. BillsMcfarlane Nfl 31 Figure Cam Newton Panthers Silver Chase White JerseyMcfarlane 12 Inch Walter Payton ChaseNib Mcfarlane Toys "bart Starr" Nfl Legends 5 Action Figure (2009)Tom Brady University Of Michigan Wolverines Qb Football Figure New In Box 2009Mcfarlane Sportspick Nfl Donald Driver Green Bay PackersCustom Mcfarlane Nfl Football Green Bay Packer Favorite Fb John KuhnTy Cobb Mcfarlane Cooperstown Collection Detroit Tigers Nib New In Box Cam Newton 2012 Series 31 Silver Variant 734/1000 Mcfarlane Sportspicks MocEmmitt Smith Dallas Cowboys Mcfarlane Figure - 2003 Chase VariantMcfarlane Series 36 Rob Gronkowski New England Patriots Brand New! Nfl1988 Steve Grogan Starting Lineup New England PatriotsChris Osgood Mcfarlane New York Islanders Loose ( Opened ) In PackageMcfarlane Nfl Series 1 Warren Sapp Super Chase Variant - No Helmet (rare)Mcfarlanes Sports Pick Tom Brady White JerseyCustom Mcfarlane Nfl Football San Diego Chargers Hof Qb Dan FoutsCustom Mcfarlane Nfl Football Pittsburgh Steelers Legend L. C. GreenwoodCustom Mcfarlane Nfl Football Washington Redskins Hof Darrell Green2006 Nfl Mcfarlane Legends Series 2 Joe Montana Sf 49ers NibCalvin Johnson Mcfarlane Action Figure Detroit Lions Nib New In Box Matthew Stafford Matt Mcfarlane Action Figure Detroit Lions Nib New In Box Calvin Johnson Mcfarlane Nfl Series 30 Debut Figure Detroit LionsMcfarlane Nfl Series 30 Demarcus Ware Retro Dallas Cowboys/denver Broncos New! Mcfarlane Nfl Indianapolis Colts Peyton Manning Figure LooseDominik Hasek Mcfarlane Action Figure Detroit Red Wings Nib New In Box Mcfarlane Football Action Figure Lot Of 7 Footballs--great For Custom FiguresDennis Mckinnon Nfl 1989 Starting Lineup Afa CandidateEddie Lacy - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 34 Green Bay Packers Rookie - New! In Stock!Ozzie Smith St. Louis Cardinals Mcfarlane Figure Chase Variant - Blue UniformMcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 1 Baltimore Colts Johnny Unitas Figure LooseMcfarlane 12-inch Brett Favre Green Bay Packer Football Figure *loose*Mcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 3 Miami Dolphins Dan Marino Figure LooseCam Newton 2011 Series 28 Bronze 2271/3000 Debut Teal Mcfarlane Sportspicks MocBarry Bonds McfarlaneDemaryius Thomas - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 34 Denver Broncos - Exclusive! Case NewMcfarlane's Sportspicks Jerome Bettis Running Back SteelersLeveon Bell - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 35 Pittsburgh Steelers Rookie /new & In Stock