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 36 New England Patriots Super Bowl Xlix Champion 3-pack - In StockMarshawn Lynch - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 35 Seattle Seahawks Exclusive Variant! NewMcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 1 Barry Sanders Variant Retro Uniform Lions HoferMcfarlane Nfl Lot Of 35Mcfarlane Tom Brady, Steve Young And Ben Roethlisberger LotMcfarlane Nfl Series 36 Rob Gronkowski Gold Level Collector Variant #/500Mcfarlane Rob Gronkowski New England Patriots Collector Level Gold #067/500Rob Gronkowski New England Patriots Mcfarlane Series 36 Variant #367/500Nfl Seattle Seahawks Richard Sherman Mcfarlane Toys Action FigureMcfarlane Nfl Series 25 Charles Woodson White Jersey Exclusive Packers Hofer Rob Gronkowski Mcfarlane Rare Classic UniformMcfarlane Nfl Walter Peyton 12" Inch Variant White Jersey*chicago Bears*loose*Mcfarlane Giovani Bernard Bengals All-star Limited Edition Figure Brand NewMcfarlane Nfl Brett Favre 12 " Inch Variant White Jersey*green Bay Packers*looseRichard Sherman - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 36 Seattle Seahawks Bronze Cl# 371/3000Mcfarlane Nfl Series 6 Mike Alstott White Jersey Variant Bucs Football FigureRob Gronkowski - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 36 New England Patriots Figure - In Stock!Mcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 3 Bo Jackson Oakland Raiders NibMcfarlane Nfl Series 34 Adrian Peterson Cl #258/500 Gold Level Figure HoferEddie Lacy - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 34 Green Bay Packers Rookie - New! In Stock!Mcfarlane Derrick Brooks Bucs Variant And Ray LewisRichard Sherman - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 36 Seattle Seahawks Figure - In Stock!Mcfarlane Colts Qb Andrew Luck Nfl 36 Collector Level Rare Figure 0016 Of 1000Mcfarlane Nfl Series 34 Eddie Lacy Cl #0384/1000 Silver Level Retro Jersey RareCustom Mcfarlane Football Figure Don Meredith Dallas Cowboys 1962Houston Texans Nfl Sportspicks Series 36 J.j. Watt Mcfarlane Toys Action Figure Mcfarlane Nfl Series 10 Terrell Owens 49ers Uniform Variant Figure HoferAaron Rodgers - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 34 Green Bay Packers Exclusive Mvp VariantLeveon Bell - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 35 Pittsburgh Steelers Rookie /new & In StockMcfarlane Nfl Series 3 Ladainian Tomlinson Rookie Figure Chargers 1st Piece 2005 Mcfarlane Nfl Two-pack Deion Sanders/jerry RiceMcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 4 Joe Montana San Francisco Forty Miners NibTeenymates Series 1 Nfl Quarterback Complete Set Puzzle Football Figures CollectMcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 3 Roger Staubach Dallas Cowboys NibTroy Aikman Nfl Legends Series 1 Mcfarlane Sportspicks Dallas Cowboys RareTeenymates Series 3 Nfl Wide Receivers Complete Set Rare Figure Football CollectMcfarlane Nfl Series 11 Alex Smith Rookie Sports Picks Figure 49ers Nice PieceMcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 1 John Elway Broncos Hofer Football Action FigureMcfarlane Junior Seau Chargers ExclusiveGiovani Bernard - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 36 Cinncinnati Bengals Figure - In Stock!Mcfarlane Nfl Series 30 Peyton Manning 1st Broncos Figure HoferJ.j. Watt - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 36 Houston Texans Figure - In Stock!Mcfarlane Nfl Series 5 Jeff Garcia Rookie Figure 49ersAndrew Luck - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 33 Indianapolis Colts - New! In Stock!Mcfarlane Nfl Series 9 Junior Seau Surprise Chase Dolphins HoferMcfarlane Nfl Ncaa Series 3 Tim Tebow White Pants Reg Issue Gators2004 Mcfarlane Nfl Collectors Club : 12" Jerry Rice - San Franciso 49ersMcfarlane Nfl Series 12 Marvin Harrison Blue Jersey Variant Figure Colts Mcfarlane Nfl Peyton Manning 12" Inch Variiant White Jersey*colts**loose*Mcfarlane Nfl Series 4 Rickey Williams Saints Uniform Variant Figure Mcfarlane Nfl Series 9 Brian Urlacher Dark Pants Variant Bears Football FigureNfl Mcfarlane's Sports Picks Series One Emmitt Smith Dallas Cowboys FigureMcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 1 Johnny Unitas Colts Hofer Football Action FigureMadison Bumgarner World Series Limited Edition Mcfarlane (san Francisco Giants)Mcfarlane Nfl Series 27 Eric Dickerson Rookie Football Figure La Rams Hofer Andrew Luck - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 36 Indianapolis Colts Figure - In Stock!Demaryius Thomas - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 34 Denver Broncos - Exclusive! Case NewTeenymates Series 3 Nfl Wide Receivers Complete Set Rare Figure Football Collect2008 Mcfarlane Nfl Exclusive Anquan Bolden Football Figure Cardinals RareAj Green - Mcfarlane Nfl Series 33 Cincinnati Bengals Rookie - New! In Stock!