I was posed this question by a co-worker yesterday. He asked, “How and when do you decide what to collect?” He meant specifically in terms of figures, but I suppose you can apply it to anything. I had a multi-year period where I collected baseball cards due to an increased interest I had in baseball around junior high. I’ve been getting comics nearly my entire life. But figures is an interesting question, and I think I can break that down.
First thing, I’m going to subtract just “generally getting toys” from the timeline. I had Fisher-Price Adventure People, for example, but I couldn’t say that I actively “collected” them. I’m only going to include lines that I could honestly say that I collected. (Let me clarify that the years are when I collected these series and not the dates that the lines necessarily ran).
Mego World’s Greatest Superheroes and Others (late ‘70s): I’m sketchy on the year, but the first Mego figure that I know I had was . . . Wonder Woman. I’m pretty sure my Aunt Jennie got me this, and I’m pretty sure it’s because I loved Super-Friends and Wonder Woman on TV. I could have been . . . 3, maybe? That would be 1976ish, which is about right, as Mego introduced the WW figure in 1974. Shortly after, I had Batman, Robin, Superman, Shazam!, Joker, Penguin, and Spider-Man. I’m honestly not sure why I didn’t have more Marvel. I DID, however, get three of the Mad Monsters: Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, and The Mummy; I’m also not sure why I didn’t have the Wolf Man, as I love werewolves. I had Captain Kirk from the Star Trek line (this is the only one that my memory is fuzzy on, as I think I might have had a couple of others), a couple from Planet of the Apes, and all of the Wizard of Oz (except the Munchkins) and the Emerald City playset. A number of these were played to death, lost to time or garage sales or younger relatives. I believe I still have the Kirk somewhere as the last survivor; that’s because he doesn’t believe in the no-win scenario.
Star Wars (1977-1984; 1995-2002ish; 2019): I’ve told this story here and elsewhere a couple of times, so I’ll keep this one brief. I was all in at the start; I even had the Early Bird Certificate. I was really consistent until I lost steam after ROTJ and stopped due to my interest in other things. When the line came back in the ‘90s, I picked up again and hung in until just after AOTC. I stopped completely until this past year when The Mandalorian re-ignited my interest, and I started filling in certain characters from the 6-inch Black Series. I kind of regret not getting on that sooner, but since I’m not approaching it as a completist, I’ll live with it.
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (1982-1987): Again, I’ve told this story, notably a much longer version in the book The Joy of Joe. I got into the 3-3/4” line early, and I was all in on both the toys and comics right up until around BattleForce 2000.
Masters of the Universe (1982-1984): A brief run, but one I should include. I really liked that Castle Grayskull playset.
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons from LJN (1983-1984): A brief shining moment. I didn’t have all of them, but I had quite a few. These had great detail and should have stuck around longer.
Transformers (1984-1986): I was never a completist, and mostly done in 1985. I got a handful in 1986, including the Aerielbots and Hot Rod (which I got after the movie). My favorite from the line remains Jetfire.
Super Powers (1984-1986): Definitely not complete (I refer you to the previously discussed Mister Miracle and Cyborg), but I loved this line and would have certainly gotten more if they’d gone into the proposed Teen Titans, Blue Devil, and more.
THE LAYOFF (1987-1991): I quit collecting for a few years spanning junior high and in to the senior year of high school or so. The absence was due to a variety of reasons: lack of interest, concentrating on comics, lack of money, sudden upturn in the ability to secure dates, school activities, hanging out with bands, and so on. But the thing that really brought me back, outside of a stray pick-up here or there, was when the Toy Biz X-Men line launched in 1991.
Marvel/X-Men/Spider-Man/etc. (1991 to Now, really): I am a nearly lifelong X-Men fan. Seeing them get figures ahead of the animated series brought me back. And when I went in, I went in all the way. With a brief break for the cessation of Marvel Legends a decade ago, I’ve pretty much been in the tank ever since. I narrowed my focus over time to the 6-inch Legends, and they comprise the bulk of my collecting today.
Star Trek (Playmates; 1992-1996 or so): I told the story of my girlfiend (now wife) hunting down the original Deanna Troi figure for me. I was definitely into this for a good bit, picking up a lot of ST:TNG, DS9, and TOS figures. I stopped around Voyager due to a combo of burnout, the return of Star Wars, and my ongoing focus on comics figures.
Spawn/Youngblood/Wetworks (1994-1996): Like seemingly everyone else that started getting McFarlane Toys, I was drawn in by the details and the chance to get characters from an exciting new publisher. My favorites were the Wetworks figures (again, love that Werewolf). I stepped away from these as I lost interest in the comics themselves.
Total Justice/JLA (1996-1999): I really wanted a DC line in the ‘90s that was comparable to the Toy Biz Marvel avalanche. This was a decent, brief attempt. It got extended into comic shops and TRU exclusivity (loved the “hard light” evil versions of the JLA based on the “Rock of Ages” comic arc) and actually did Connor Hawke (MIA in action figure form ever since).
DC Direct (1998-2010ish): I loved DC Direct for a good, long while. There were some maddening bits (scale inconsistency, an unwillingness to finish teams), but there were some truly great character selections that we’ll possibly never see again (Enemy Ace? Tim Hunter? The Authority? Spider Jerusalem? Jericho?). For a kid that always wanted JSA and Legion figures, this line was a partial dream come true. I ultimately ditched it due to character repetition, increasing prices, and a more enjoyable experience collecting DCUC and doing the C+C figures with my kids.
Wrestling (WCW/Toy Biz 1998-2001; WWF/E:1998-2001ish): Like millions (and millions) of people, I was very into wrestling for a time at the turn of the century. I’d watched a lot in the mid ‘80s, gone away from it, and picked it back up watching Nitro rebroadcasts while working the late shift of a publisher. (I was working 3pm to 11:30pm, and TNT would rerun the show after I got off work.) Soon after, I was watching both WWF/E and WCW, and soon after that, the Toy Biz WCW figures hit. I got interested for a while, but my collecting of the figures faded as a I watched less and less.
Dragonball Z (circa 2000-2007): Similar time frame, similar story. Started watching DBZ on Toonami. The show had an incredible array of characters and I really enjoyed it. I got these for a good while, including the DB and GT spin-off lines, but I tapered off when they did.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel (2000ish-2006): Again, you love a show and you might buy the figures. I really feel like these could have gone on longer, as there are a number of characters that never quite made it (seriously, where the hell was Gunn? Or Connor or Gwen Raiden or Harmony or Nina?). I stopped just ahead of them releasing Kennedy and Kendra, which I never picked up.
Gundam (2001-2003): Stop me if you’re heard this one before. But I started watching Gundam Wing, and . . . yeah. I got A TON of these as I started writing for Newtype USA and watching more and more Gundam series. I didn’t list it, but I picked some up in “Japan” at EPCOT a couple of years ago.
Lord of the Rings (2001-2005): Loved the book for years. Loved the animation. Loved the movies. I thought that the figures were great. I didn’t get the tail-end variants or the Eye of Sauron, but I did get the trolls, the horses and warg, and the fell beast. I regret that a different company got the license for The Hobbit films; I never did get any of those, and they never completed the dwarves.
Justice League (2003-2009ish): One of the greatest animated series of all times turned out a line of great-looking figures that had a really hard time standing up. I burned out when they started doing more and more direct exclusives, etc., but I did get the Grundy and Giganta. I gave all of these to my boys.
DC Universe Classics (2007-2012): You know something? I loved this line. I thought it was a worthy compliment to Marvel Legends and the Collect + Connect figures were among the first things that my sons contributed to helping with where my collection is concerned. The character selection overall was great and Mattel deployed some boxed sets in clever ways to get us characters like the Crime Syndicate. One of my favorite things ever is the Legion of Super-Heroes boxed set. It was a drag when they had to go the subscription model, but I stuck with it the whole time (and with Club Black Freighter, too). I know they tried to continue the idea with DC Multiverse, and I have more than a couple of those as a companion to these, but they just weren’t quite the same. This is a lamented line for me.
CURRENTLY: Marvel Legends and certain Star Wars: The Black Series (6-inch scale only). I will pick up occasional DC figures that hit a spot that’s not covering on my shelf (come on with the classic Dawnstar, McFarlane).
All right, readers. What about you? What are your main lines? How long? What’s the line you collected the longest that you eventually quit, and why? Let’s talk.