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 34 Eddie Lacy Green Bay Packers Low #21 Of 1000 Chase Variant Cl Mcfarlane Loose Lot Of 42 Nfl Figures Free Shipping Qb,rb,wr,def PlayersMcfarlane Football 12" Inch Jerry Rice 49ers UniformMcfarlane 6" Custom Randall Cobb Retro (acme) Green Bay PackersMcfarlane Baseball 12" Inch Derek JeterMcfarlane Sportspicks Nfl 32 Pittsburgh Steelers Antonio Brown Throwback UniformMcfarlane Nfl Case Lot Of 12 Legends Aikman Montana Payton Nitschke VariantsMcfarlane Nfl Series 34 - Demaryius Thomas Denver Broncos - Exclusive! Case NewMcfarlane Football 12" Inch Walter Payton White UniformMcfarlane Nfl Series 33 Colin Kaepernick - San Francisco 49ers Red Rookie FigureMcfarlane Football 12" Inch Walter Payton Blue UniformMcfarlane Green Bay Packers Lot Aaron Rodgers Clay Matthews Akman Green Look!2 Mcfarlane Pittsburgh Pirates Cooperstown Collection Clemente / Stargell NewMcfarlane Tony Romo Jason Witten Rookie Figures Dallas Cowboys Nfl FootballMcfarlane Nfl Series 33 Colin Kaepernick - 49ers White Exclusive Rookie In StockJohn Tavares Gold Level Auto Mcfarlane Hockey Series 24 - Hockey Action Figure2014 Nfl Teenymates Series 3 Complete 32 Team Set And PuzzleMcfarlane The Walking Dead Tv Series 4 Merle And Daryl Dixon 2 Pack NibMcfarlane Football 12" Inch Open Tom Brady@@ Series 2 Mcfarlane Nfl Legends Ronnie Lott 49ers San Francisco @@Mcfarlane Nfl Series 33 - Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks Rookie/debut In Stock!@@ Series 2 Mcfarlane Nfl Legends Mean Joe Greene Steelers @@@@ Series Mcfarlane Nfl Legends Barry Sanders Lions White Jersey @@Mcfarlane Nfl Case 12 Legends Elway Aikman Barry Sanders Unitas Harris VariantsMcfarlane Nfl 12 Inch Adrian Peterson Figure Vikings 28Brian Urlacher Mcfarlane Ser 2 Bears Cln. White VariantMcfarlane Nfl Adrian Peterson Vikings 12" LooseLot Of 8 Starting Lineup Kenner 1988 1989 1993 1996 1997 Etc. Football BaseballMcfarlane Loose Nfl Figure Parts Lot For Custom Mcfarlane Nfl 6" Inch Dallas Cowboy's Troy Aikman Canton Exclusive MintDerek Jeter Mcfarlane Commemorative 2-pack Yankees Retirement Box Set - In StockMcfarlane Nfl Football Figures Lot Of 172005 Mcfarlane's Nfl Legends Barry Sanders Throwback VariantMcfarlane Nfl Barry Sanders (loose) Good Condition.Mcfarlane Nfl Ladainian Tomlinson Chargers Dark Blue 12" LooseCustom Mcfarlane Football Figure Jim Taylor Green Bay Packers 1962@@ Series Mcfarlane Nfl Legends Steve Young 49ers San Francisco @@Cam Newton Mcfarlane Chase Bronze /3000 Rookie Debut Blue Jersey No Reserve Nfl Action Team Mate Pro Sports Marketing Football Figure 1977 Lot Of 13Mcfarlane Ncaa3 Charles Woodson Michigan Football Action FigureMcfarlane Nfl Series 34 - Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers Exclusive Mvp VariantMcfarlane Nfl Legends Lot Of 2 Dan Marino 2009 Collection **legends Series 3*newBrian Urlacher Chicago Bears Vinyl Figure Rare Madl 2007 Nfl As Alternate JerseyNfl Mcfarlane Running Back Lot Mint Out Of PackageDick Butkus Chicago Bears Mcfarlane Figure Great Condition Home JerseyMcfarlane 12" Inch Nfl Jerome Bettis SteelersMcfarlane Nfl Case Of 12 Mixed Lot Figures - Urlacher, Chad Johnson, BledsoeLot Of (14) Teenymates Collectible Nfl Figures Series 3 New In BagCustom Mcfarlane Melvin Gordon Iii Wisconsin BadgersBrian Urlacher Mcfarlane Ser 2 Bears Dirty Variant@@ Series Mcfarlane Nfl Legends Tony Dorsett Dallas Cowboys White Jersey @@Nfl, Jj Watt, 6 Inch Mcfarlane Action Figure, Houston-texans, Series 33Mcfarlane Football 12" Inch John ElwayBrett Favre Green Bay Packers Action Figure By Mcfarlane NibMcfarlane Nfl Series 29 Troy Polamalu Pittsburgh SteelersPeyton Manning Mcfarlane 2 Pack Indianapolis Colts & Denver Broncos Brand New Mcfarlane Nfl Series 34 - Brandon Marshall Chicago Bears Debut - New From Case!Mcfarlane Nfl Case Lot Of 12 - Brady, Moss, Roethlistberger + Others VariantsMcfarlane Nfl Case Of 12 Mixed Lot Figures - Faulk, Farve, Julius Jones VariantsLot Of 24 Mcfarlane 3" Football Sports Figures Great For Holiday Ornaments!!!