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 Legends Qb's Lot Of 4 Joe Montana Troy Aikman Johnny Unitas Elway1977 Oakland Raiders - Nfl Action Team Mates Figure Rare Sears Vintage TeammateMcfarlane Nfl Series 34 - Demaryius Thomas Denver Broncos - Exclusive! Case NewMcfarlane Nfl Pittsburgh Steelers Terry Bradshaw And Ben RoethlisbergerMcfarlane Nfl Exclusive Deion Sanders Ravens Black Jersey Collector Club LooseMcfarlane Jon Bon Jovi Richie Sambora New Sealed Set Last Ones!Mcfarlane Nfl Series 34 - Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers Exclusive Mvp VariantWayne Gretzky Mcfarlane Legends Series 1 Nib Figure Oilers White Chase VariantMcfarlane Nfl Series 33 Colin Kaepernick - San Francisco 49ers Red Rookie FigureMcfarlane Lot Of 10loose Nfl Figures (urlacher, Brady, Jackson, Smith)Mcfarlane 12" Jerome Bettis Nfl Football Steelers New In BoxLot Of Mcfarlane Hockey Goalies And More Starting Lineup Nfl Lot ,montana, Marino, Elway, Rice, 25 Figures W/many HofsWayne Gretzky Mcfarlane Legends Series 2 Figure Los Angeles Kings White JerseyMcfarlane Nfl Series 33 Colin Kaepernick - 49ers White Exclusive Rookie In Stock1977 Seattle Seahawks Lot (2) Nfl Action Team Mates Figure Rare Sears Vintage Mcfarlane Nfl Series 34 - Brandon Marshall Chicago Bears Debut - New From Case!Mcfarlane Nfl Series 33 - Joe Namath New York Jets Exclusive Debut! New!Lot Of 11 Nfl Starting Lineup Classic Doubles Figures Seau, Elway, Bettis, More!2004 Mcfarlane Toys 12” Lebron James Sports Figure With Stand New In The Box NibLot Of 25 Mcfarlane FiguresCustom Mcfarlane Nfl 6 " Allen Faneca Steelers Figure Wayne Gretzky Mcfarlane Legends 12" Figure Team 1987 Canada White Chase VariantLot Of 25 Nfl Starting Lineup Elvis Grbac (rare!), Jerry Rice, Jim Harbaugh, EtcMcfarlane Nfl Series 34 - Jimmy Graham New Orleans Saints Debut - New From Case!1977 Pittsburgh Steelers - Nfl Action Team Mates Figure Rare Sears Vintage Mcfarlane 12" Emmitt Smith Nfl Football CowboysMcfarlane 12" Jerry Rice Nfl Football 49ers New In BoxMcfarlane Nfl 34 Jamaal Charles Low #36 Of 500 Chase Variant ClBrandon Marshall Chicago Bears Nfl Mcfarlane Series 34 Collector Level FigureMcfarlane Nfl Series 31 Arian Foster Houston Texans Collector's Club ExclusiveMcfarlane Nfl Series 34 - Eddie Lacy Green Bay Packers Debut/rookie - Case New!Lot Of 14 Nfl Starting Lineups Mib; Reggie White, Aikman, Seau, Young, MoreMcfarlane Wes Welker Gold Level Nfl Series 26 Collector Level Patriots ThrowbackMcfarlane 12" Walter Payton Nfl Football Bears New In Box Mcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 5 Green Bay Packers Bart StarrMcfarlane Clay Matthews Sports Picks Series 28 Action Figure (green Bay Packers)Clay Matthews Mcfarlane Sports Picks Nfl Series 28 Rc Debut FigureSeries 29 Mcfarlane Ken Stabler VariantCustom Mcfarlane Football Figure Gary Collins Cleveland Browns 1964Mcfarlane Nfl Series 33 - J.j. Watt - Houston Texans Rookie Debut - In Stock!Mcfarlane Nfl Series 34 - Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers - Bronze Cl #2211/3000Mcfarlane Nfl Series 32 - Robert Griffin Iii/rg3 - Washington Redskins New!Nfl Mcfarlane Collector And Chase Level Lot2010 Marcus Allen Oakland Raiders Legends Series 6 Mcfarlane White Variant Rare1988 Brian Bosworth Seahawks Rookie Slu Starting Lineup Kenner Card Nm-mt Mcfarlane Nfl Series 33 - Doug Martin - Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Collector's ClubDan Marino,dolphins, Legends 3, White Jersey Loose Mcfarlane Nfl 6" FigureMcfarlane Nfl Series 34 - Peyton Manning Denver Broncos - New From Case! Mvp12 Pc Lot. Twelve Mcfarlane Ben Roethlisberger/pittsburgh Steelers Series 11/'05Mcfarlane Nfl Series 30 Matt Forte Chicago BearsNfl Legends Redskins John Riggins 2008 Mcfarlane Sealed Hall Of Fame 1 Of 3000Nfl Mcfarlane Chicago Bears Lot W/ Collector LevelNfl Legends Redskins John Riggins 2008 Mcfarlane SealedMcfarlane Nfl Series 32 - Jordy Nelson - Green Bay Packers Debut In Stock! New!Patrick Roy Mcfarlane Series 1 Figure RareMcfarlane Nfl Series 33 - Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks Rookie/debut In Stock!Mcfarlane Nfl Legends Series 5 Philadelphia Eagles Randall CunninghamNib 2007 All Star Vinyl - Nfl Pittsburgh Steelers - Ben Roethlisberger - 2ndCustom Mcfarlane Football Figure Pat Fischer Washington Redskins 1967