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    

Loose Mcfarlane Nfl Football Bush Tomlinson Gates Lewis Benson Young Lot Of 75Le'veon Bell Mcfarlane Nfl 35 Variant Figure Steelers Classic Uniform 907/1000Mcfarlane Nfl - Football - No Helmet - Emmitt Smith - Nrmt - In PackageMcfarlane Nfl Legends Marcus Allen Raiders White Variant #122/1000 Nib MintBart Starr 2009 Mcfarlane Figure Legends Series 5 Green Bay Packers LooseCustom Mcfarlane 6 " Nfl Bob Lilly Cowboys FigureMcfarlane Nfl 1 Emmitt Smith Variant Blue Jersey No Star! Very RareMcfarlane Baseball Roberto Clemente Cooperstown Collection *3* Pirates *sealed*Mcfarlane Nfl 12 Inch John Elway Denver Broncos New In Box Mcfarlane Nfl- Football - Troy Aikman - 12 Inch - Nr/mt - In PackageMcfarlane Nfl 35 Le'veon Bell Variant 0036/1000Nfl Mcfarlane Lot Of 3 (adrian Peterson, Jay Cutler, Ed Reed)Mcfarlane Walter Payton Nfl Legends Football Chase VariantMcfarlane Nfl Brian Urlacher Chicago Bears 12" LooseMcfarlane Nfl - Football - Emmitt Smith - 12 Inch - Nrmt - In PackageMcfarlane Nfl Legends Dick Butkus Variant #619/1000 "nib"Mcfarlane Ladainian Tomlinson 12inch Nfl Sports FigureJerry Rice Retro Mcfarlane Sportspicks 2002Jerry Rice Deion Sanders Mcfarlane 2 Pack Figures Loose Adrian Peterson Nfl Mcfarlane Variant 105/500 Htf *rare*Custom Mcfarlane 6 " Nfl Charles Haley Dallas Cowboys FigureMcfarlane Baseball Roberto Clemente Cooperstown Collection Pirates Nib Series 3Peyton Manning Mcfarlane Figures Lot Of 4 Colts BroncosMcfarlane Nfl Series 23 Michal Crabtree White Variant #924/1000 Nib MintNfl Mcfarlane New England Patriots Tom Brady Series 11Vintage Sears Nfl Action Mate Teammates Pro Sports Marketing Staubach & Bradshaw Mcfarlane Nfl Series Dallas Cowboys Lot, Romo, Staubach, Jones, OwensBo Jackson Series 6 Cooperstown Mcfarlane Kansas City Royals LooseNew Nfc Helmet Collection 1989 Starting Lineup Nmmt Condition New Set NflDerek Jeter Mcfarlane World Series Commemorative Set Of 5 Figures #/3000 YankeesMcfarlane Nfl Series 24 Ed Reed Purple Variant #40/500 Low Number Nib Le'veon Bell Mcfarlane Nfl Series 35 Collector Level Variant Silver #723/1000Mcfarlane Nfl Legends Randell Cunningham Purple Variant #536/1000 Nib MintMcfarlane Lawrence Taylor Nfl Legends Football Bo Jackson Raiders Mcfarlane Legends FigureDallas Cowboys Tony Dorsett Mcfarlane Legends New In BoxMcfarlane College Football 1 Tom Brady Michigan Wolverines QuarterbackNfl Legends Troy Aikman Variant Dallas CowboysDeion Sanders Exclusive, White Jersey Mcfarlane, Atlanta FalconsMcfarlane Tom Brady New England Patriot Rookie Action FigureRoger Staubach Dallas Cowboys Mcfarlane Toys Nfl Legends Series 3 FigureGreg Maddux 2002 Mcfarlane Series 2 White Jersey Braves Hof UnopenedDeion Sanders Mcfarlane Sports Pick Club Exclusive White Falcons VariantDerek Jeter Mcfarlane Commemorative 2-pack Yankees Retirement Box Set - In StockJoe Morgan Mcfarlane Cooperstown Collection Figure, Cincinnati Reds, UsedBrian Urlacher Series 2 Mcfarlane Sports PickCustom Mcfarlane 6 " Nfl Ben Roethlisberger Steelers 2007 Throwback Figure Troy Aikman Dallas Cowboys Mcfarlane Toys Nfl Legends Series FigureMcfarlane Football Bart Starr 2009 Legends Geen Bay Packers **sealed**new**1977 Action Team Mate Football Figure Houston Oilers WhiteTony Romo Mcfarlane Nfl Chase Variant Figure Thanksgiving Cowboys Uniform Fran Tarkenton Nfl Mcfarlane Figure Loose Minnesota Vikings LegendsMcfarlane Ken Griffey Jr. Cincinnati Reds 6"figure LooseBrian Urlacher Series 2 Mcfarlane Sports Pick White Jersey VariantMariano Rivera Mcfarlane Toys 2011 New York Yankees Collectible Figure BaseballMcfarlane Cooperstown Collection Ty Cobb & Yogi Berra Figure LotMcfarlane Joe Montana Nfl Legends 2 Football San Francisco 49ers Red JerseyMcfarlane Sportspicks Nfl Legends Series 2 Walter Payton New UnopenedMcfarlane Baseball Willie Mays Cooperstown Collection *2*san Francisco Giants*Lebron James Mcfarlane Figure