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5 Vintage Action Figure Lines Worth Investing In

Updated on September 18, 2018

Vintage Action Figures

The market for vintage collectible action figures is a huge one and if you know how to work it a profitable one.
The market for vintage collectible action figures is a huge one and if you know how to work it a profitable one.

Lion-O, Orko, and Egon OH MY!!!!

As a child I spent hours sitting in front of an old box fan playing with my action figures. Having Egon catch a ghost that mysteriously looked like Mumra, making Leonardo chase Evil Lynn to get back the stolen gems she took, or just staging an epic wrestling match between King Muscle and Buffalo Man, my childhood could easily be summed up by action figures.

Over the years I got older and the desire to play with my tiny friends faded. Some of them vanished as things tend to do while others were passed on to younger generations in my family. Still though I kept many of them as a reminder of my childhood but also as part of my growing collection of random things, lol.

With age the desire to play dwindled but the desire to make money kind of sprung up as it often does and with that desire I learned that some of those figures I had sitting in the attic were worth a pretty good amount of cash so my curiosity began to peak. I started paying attention to values and collectibility of certain figure lines and now I am going to share my five favorite action figure lines with you and tell you what to look for and what you can expect to see them going for on the open market.

Sadly many people assume if it is not part of the Star Wars or GI Joe lines it does not have value but they would be very very wrong on that accord. So let's check out my favorite vintage action figure lines and whats what about them.

Thunderwings Lion-O is a collector's dream!

Selling in the range of $1200 loose and $6000 on card this figure is what sweat collector dreams are made of!
Selling in the range of $1200 loose and $6000 on card this figure is what sweat collector dreams are made of!

Thundercats

I can fondly remember running around the house with my little plastic sword of omens shouting Thundercats! Thundercats! Thundercats! HO!!!!! Of course my sword did not grow like Lion-o's sword did and my orange oven mitt did not have that look of his glove but that did not stop me from treating my grandpa's cat like Mumm-ra and chasing that bad boy all over the yard.

Thundercats was a children's cartoon that ran from 1985 to 1988 and followed the exploits of the Thundercats as they fled their planet and found them selves on third Earth. (our Earth long after we have been destroyed) They fight the vile and vindictive Mumm-ra and his minions of evil. The show was one that had a morale story every episode and really showcased some good things.

In 1985 tagging on the success of other TV and movie action figure lines and riding the former success of their WWF action figures LJN started producing Thundercats action figures. Each figure was really like a work of art as the detail and appearance was taken very good care of. Some figures had levers that allowed you to operate their arms in a swinging action and others even had light up eyes. This made them very very sought after among kids and the figures seemed to fly off the shelves for the longest times.

I have been fortunate to find some very good quality loose figures at the local flea market and even managed to score a mint Cheetara for a buck! Not a bad investment if you ask me! So which figures are worth the investment and which should you avoid?

The easiest and most common figure you will stumble on is going to be Mumm-ra, in his red cloak form. This figure is really simple and looks more like a Dungeons and Dragons figure than it does a Thundercats one. I find these all the time for a buck or so at yard sales and flea markets and if you are lucky a mint loose Mumm-ra can fetch you up to $10 which is not bad but it is nothing to cause anyone to go out and search for the figure.

The top three figures you will find that you can turn into a profit are going to be Lion-O, Cheetara, and Panthro. I have seen these figures for a buck or two at flea markets and the like and usually it is not to uncommon to find them. Lion-O will usually fetch you anywhere from $15 to $25 bucks loose depending on the condition while Panthro will get you $25 to $35. Cheetara which is a much harder figure to find in good condition is going to drive a much better deal at around $45 to $50 for a complete loose figure. Now investing $1 in these and turning this kind of profit is well worth the effort.

As far as most expensive figure in the Thundercats collection the Thunderwings Lion-O mint in package will run collectors right at 6K, yes that's $6,000 bucks. A loose complete figure can net around $800 to $1,400 bucks depending on the condition.

Thundercats action figures are well worth the investment and really if you collect vintage figures or just 80s nostalgia you can't go wrong with these.

Favorite Thundercat?

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Screaming Geronimo

This particular color variation is a $50 figure while one in the rare salmon color has sold for $3000
This particular color variation is a $50 figure while one in the rare salmon color has sold for $3000

M.U.S.C.L.E

While not often looked at as action figures these little hard plastic wrestlers were a huge part of my childhood. Bandai introduced the toys in the 70s following the success of the Kinnikuman manga and cartoon series. 418 unique figures were spawned in this amazing toy line and each one depicted a crazy wrestling character ready to get in the ring and fight for some gold.

In late 1985 and early 1986 Mattel took a leap by adopting the line and calling it M.U.S.C.L.E (Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere) The same molds were used but Mattel took the figures out of traditional Japanese vending machines and packaged them in a variety of media. They were in cards on shelves, boxed sets and even garbage cans full of figures.

Mattel went even further introducing a wrestling ring that allowed you and your friends to have actual matches with your figures. This ring to me was the coolest accessory ever and it made the figures so much more interactive and 3 dimensional.

What really made these figures collectible was each figure was molded in different colors so you could have a flesh colored King Muscle and a pink one. This made it all the more fun to pop open a package and see which versions of the cool little characters you got.

Today most figures from this once iconic line can be had for $.25 up to around $2. A few rare exceptions exist for instance a salmon colored Shouting Geronimo sold for over $3000.

Usually your more common figures will include King Muscle, Wrangler and Sunshine while for me the pick of the litter was always Neptune Man who came in clothesline pose already. While cheap these figures are super fun to collect and will liven up a man cave in a hurry.

He-Man

He-Man has been a staple in the action figure community since it's introduction in 1981. The figures were highly popular despite most were the same body with a different head. I was always a fan of The Masters of the Universe series and had tons of the figures. For me it was a fantasy world that mixed an element of science fiction of even horror in there. You had your super cool good guy in He-Man who like heroes before him had an alter ego (Prince Adam) and a group of dedicated friends to help him fight the forces of evil. You had your really cool rogues gallery with characters like Lock-Jaw, Merman and Beast Man and than there was Skelator the ultimate bad guy.

He-Man is still a popular figure line for collectors and it is not uncommon to find them at yard sales and flea markets. The most common He-Man figure I seem to find is Ram Man. Despite being a completely different body style than the usual Masters of the Universe figure this figure just did not seem to catch on as well as he should have. Loose Ram Man figures are usually going to run you a few bucks and to the right collector you can get around $20 for a mint loose figure.

As far as common ones go I find tons of the battle armor He-Man and Skelator figures but seldom do I find a mint one. I also stumble on Evil Lynn and Teela figures a lot.

For super value you want to look for figures like Scare Glow that can fetch around $150 for a loose figure. Other high end figures include Faker who can get you a few hundred for a good quality loose figure and Laser Light Skelator which in loose condition can net you a sweet $500.

The key to He-Man is buying what you like. All of the figures in this set have some value to them.

Undercover Don was one figure I found everywhere I went.

A mint loose figure will get you $10 but getting all the things that came with this is a nightmare!
A mint loose figure will get you $10 but getting all the things that came with this is a nightmare!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

TMNT was all the rage when I was a kid and the show may have been the most popular cartoon of it's era which is saying a lot. When Playmates began producing TMNT figures in 1988 it was no wonder they were selling like crazy. The series was so popular it ran for nearly ten years producing everything from turtles in disguise to occupational turtles figures. The market was always introduced to new exciting characters and innovative action figures.

This fresh approach kept fans buying and buying figures. For me the ability to play as Donatello was a thrill. I was also taken back by how much the figures resembled their cartoon counterparts. Details were just amazing on these things!

As far as common finds go I seem to find the original four figures and Master Splinter everywhere I go and have actually stopped buying them. I am also always finding Undercover Donatello. Granted this is a super cool action figure it does not merit having ten of them. Other east finds for this set include Krang without his body. (just the brain) and characters like Ghengis Frog and Rat King. These figures pop up frequently and usually will set you back a buck or so but are still worth the investment as a mint loose Rat King can net you up to $20 to the right collector.

There are a few go afters in this series. A loose foot soldier in mint condition can net you a quick and easy 50 dollar bill. Hotspot the Dalmatian is bringing around $100 for a loose figure and is a multi faceted collectible as firefighters are known to buy the little guy just as much as TMNT collectors do. Slash will get you a nice $55 for a good quality loose figure.

Turtles are still at the pinnacle of action figure collecting and new series seem to pop up on a regular basis so collectors will not run out of options on this one. For me the coolest figure as always been KC Jones but hey what is not to love about a vigilante who uses sports gear to beat the bad guy up?

Retro Turtle Toy Talk

My favorite figure!

Louis Tully slime action was my favorite toy growing up and I still have this thing.
Louis Tully slime action was my favorite toy growing up and I still have this thing.

Ghostbusters

By far my favorite toy line of all time is Ghostbusters. I was so into the movie and cartoon that is was obvious the figures would blow my mind. Kenner was at the helm of the Ghostbusters action figure line from 1986 to 1991 and produced some wonderful toys in that time frame. Scare action figures, transforming ghost and even figures that developed the look of being slimed when introduced to hot water made the line a huge success for kids and collectors.

The line really brought the magic of The Real Ghostbusters to the forefront right there in your living room but it also gave us a chance to play with figures and characters from the two successful films so we had tons of great options with this one. While some figures are super common others have become like the holy grail in terms of action figure collecting.

The most common figure I run into is Egon. I may have 15 or so right now in my collection but as long as I find them cheap I will continue to build my little Egon figure army. I am also prone to finding figures like the slime containing ghost and monster figures like the werewolf rather frequently. These figures are easy to find but if you can get them cheap do so because you can usually net anywhere from $5 to $15 for a loose Ghostbuster and around $10 to $12 for the werewolf character.

For some reason it is still fairly easy to find mint on card figures in this series but they will cost you. Recently a mint in box Fearsome Flush went for around $300 so expect to pay for these types of figures. Some of the rare figures that you want to look for are the scare effect and slimed figures. They always seem to fetch a little more than their non variant counterparts and also as far as regular Ghostbusters go Winston seems to bring a little more cash than his coworkers so keep that in mind.

My favorite figure growing up was Lois Tully slimed figure. I loved the character from the first film and just fell over heels for this thing. It is still the highlight figure of my collection and I take care to keep a hold of it.

As far as vintage Ghostbusters figures go you really can't go wrong but remember that the ghosts figures end to get more bang for the buck and any of the monster figures resembling the Universal Monsters seem to fetch top dollar.

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