I was going through some ideas to see what would make good article topics, and I had originally thought to go through and try to be comprehensive about the rarest figures from each popular (or not-so-popular) toy line.
But I realized that all those had more or less been done. So I got to asking myself – why are there various toy lines that people – particularly on ebay – seem to not get the idea that they aren’t worth the shipping price. I tend to frequent flea markets and occasionally grab a boxful of these here and there and have a hard time selling them off at my usual price of 2 for $5 for MIP items. Most of the prices that I quote will be total price of an item, including shipping.
Many of the action figures made in the late 80s/early 90s suffered from a rage of mass over-production that hit several related markets. Action figures, sports (and non-sports) cards, and comic books are several particular examples where collectors got the idea that there would be high value in the coming years after seeing the high demand that occurred with some figures from the 1980s like Transformers and GI Joes, and some of the figures and toys from the pre-1980s action figure craze like the 12” GI Joes. Manufacturers produced “chase” figures and limited production runs on others to drive up collector interest, but the internet boom hit in the late 1990s and collectors were able to get what they wanted for drastically reduced prices, and toy stores had to move them off of the shelves to make room for the budding video game craze (remember Kaybee’s “3 for $10 bins?).
My focus will be on some of these late 80s/early 90s lines. I’ll go through some of my overall impressions, market pricing (generally sourced by ebay, as that’s about an honest market price as there is), general availability, rare/expensive figures, army building, and several other issues as it strikes my fancy. I’m NOT a big collector of these figures – I more enjoy only a handful of early 1980s lines and individual figures that strike my fancy. I’m more apt to buy figures from the late 80s/early 90s for a quarter and flip them for a buck to pay for what I really want.
First off, we’ll go to one of the more popular science fiction shows out there – Star Trek: The Next Generation (and its various spinoffs). A good show overall, one that I enjoyed quite a bit growing up. Unfortunately, as popular as the show was, it only fit a specific demographic, and THAT demographic only had a limited number of fans interested in action figures. Several lines have been produced over the years, and the predominant one has been the 1990s line made by Playmates.
Galoob made two series of figures in 1988 and 1989 in 3 ¾” scale. The Galoob figures are a little bit rarer to find with only two series made, but demand isn’t high except for a couple of figures that only made it to prototype stage, or simply someone needing to get the last alien from the slightly rarer second series. Wesley Crusher (a TERRIBLE-looking figure) and a Romulan are the only rare figures in prototype form and can run several thousand apiece whenever they pop up from time to time.
I even want to punch the FIGURE...
The basic crew in the first series of figures can be had MIP readily whenever you find someone willing to drop the price to a reasonable level under $5 or in lots. Some of the rarer second series - which included several aliens like Q and the Ferengi - may sell as low as the .99+ shipping price if they’re loose individually.
Ferengi: Cheap in reality and fiction.
The Playmates figures are a little taller (5”) and chunkier than the Galoob figures, and there are certainly WAY more of them, with production reaching through most of the 1990s. Playmates made a “basic” figure for each main character, and made several that are specific to particular costumes for certain episodes. Articulation is pretty good – elbows and arms bend, and the arms and wrists pivot. Accessories are the standard phaser/tricorder/laser gun and “future space equipment IN SPACE” gear but a bunch of those had some dumb monochromatic coloration or the phaser “beam” coming out.
Geordi – we gave him the blue stuff cause he can’t tell anyway
I’ve recently seen one lot of over 90 of the loose common figures go for less than $100, and the MIP figures typically only sell in lots (if then) and probably the only time someone buys an individual figure MIP is to fill a hole in a collection.
There were only a handful of chase/ rare figures in the line.
A run of 1701 of three different chase figures were made on single cards, and later released as a set of 3 (which is inexpensive):
A red limited-edition MIP Jean-Luc Picard “Tapestry” figure has had a sale from an ebay seller with low feedback for $200+.
A Lt. Tasha Yar figure from “Yesterday’s Enterprise” figure that fetches less than $300 MIP.
A Lt. Barclay from Voyager that gets less than $100 MIP rounds out the set.
A Data figure from “Redemption” garners $80+; and a Lt. Thomas Riker figure grabs less than $30. “Voyager’s” Doctor Emh figure may get $20+. There were also a few limited runs on some Seven of Nine figures, but no good definitive pricing on those. A few other figures had production runs of 10,000, but the limited run figures are priced the same as the rest.
Playmates made some figures from the classic series that also are priced about the same, save for a Classic Bridge Set that can be had for less than $70 MIB.
If you’re army building, there are a few options, all on the alien side. Romulan, Ferengi, Borg, and a few other generic aliens were created; unfortunately, there aren’t any real “redshirts” available for Federation cannon fodder from any of the series unless you want to do some headswapping or other customizing work with the main crew. The positive note here is that it’s pretty cheap to crew an alien vessel, and a couple of the races have 2-3 different looking figures…except there aren’t any alien playsets to plug them into.
Only a handful of playsets were made at all, and they’re not hard to come by. A bridge playset, engineering room, and transporter room sets, and a nifty Goddard shuttle (and some small backgrounds available with some figures) were all that were produced for the TNG lines - nothing for the villains or aliens. Similarly, a Galileo shuttle and bridge were produced to squeeze the classic figures into.
All in all, you can pretty much be a “completist” and get everything MIP for less than $700; and if you throw out the three highest-dollar figures, you’re looking at close to just $300 or less for everything MIP with some patience, including the playsets and classic figures.