Top Ten 1970s Action Figures Every Collector Should Own!
Movie, television and superhero action figure dolls from the '70s
It was back in 1964 when toy makers Hasbro had the brilliant marketing idea of making "dolls" for boys. The idea was simple, yet very clever - these 12 inch military themed dolls named after the typical US soldier "G.I. Joe" (or "Action Man", as he was known in the UK and Europe) would NOT be referred to as "dolls", but instead as "action figures", including an Action Soldier, Sailor, Marine and Pilot.
By the 1970s, action figures were all the rage, with Mego's 8 inch figures, and Kenner's game-changing 3 Â¾ inch Star Wars action figures, becoming hugely popular and legendary toys. In this lens I take a very personal and entirely subjective look at some of my personal favourite action figures from the 1970s, figures that have stood the test of time and are still sought after by collectors and toy lovers the world over today.
Nowadays, every big budget movie, and very often hit TV show too, has its own tie-in action figure line. Very often these figures are released even prior to a movie's release and enjoy the briefest shelf life in the stores before the movie is quickly forgotten and the toys move swiftly to the remainders bargain bin! I wonder how many of today's action figures will be remembered and collected with such affection forty years from now?
Please feel free to leave a comment and tell me any of your own favourite 1970s action figures at the end of the lens.
#10 - The Fisher-Price Adventure People
Okay, so these 3 Â¾ inch tiny people may not have featured superheroes or movie characters, but this series proved a huge hit with kids in the 1970s. Perhaps young kids have their priorities right - they know who the REAL heroes are in life: pilots, divers, rescue workers, astronauts, and racing drivers.
Points of articulation: 5 – check out the cool ball joint at the neck
Accessories: Various adventure playsets and vehicles
Height: 3 Â¾ inches
Dare Devil Sport Plane Pilot Photo Â© Deborah Swain
#9 - G.I. Joe Adventure Team - Sea Adventurer
This was the classic era of Action Man figures I remember from my childhood. My sister had several of these figures and they were notable because of several cool features which were introduced during these years: the rubbery hands giving a "Kung-Fu Grip", fuzzy, flocked "Life-Like Hair" and beards, and moving "Eagle Eyes". These figures were very popular in the UK under the Palitoy license, where the market could more easily welcome these once military figures in the new guises of "adventurers". Significantly, in the UK we did not associate them with the name "G.I. Joe", which became politically sensitive during the Vietnam years.
Points of articulation: Multiple – at least 19
Accessories: Various adventure playsets, outfits and vehicles
Height: 12 inches
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#8 - Evel Knievel - An iconic figure of the 1970s and a must have toy!
I confess that Evel here isn't technically an action figure. Instead, he's a “bendee” or bendy figure, being made of a rubbery plastic cast over a wire frame. Instead of moving joints he can be bent into shape! It's strangely fitting as the real Evel Knievel entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the number of bones he broke in his body – 433 - whilst performing stunts on his motorcycle. It was almost impossible to bend this guy out of shape for very long!
Manufacturer: Ideal Toys
Points of articulation: None – bendy!
Accessories: Helmet, belt and various playsets and motorcycles and vehicles such as a Stunt Cycle, Chopper, Dragster and Canyon Sky Cycle
Height: 6 inches
Vintage Evel Knievel Photo Â© Deborah Swain
#7 - Colonel Warrior - Battlestar Galactica action figures by Mattel
I just love this Battlestar Galactica action figure. He's huge, hollow legged, has only a handful of moving parts, looks nothing like any of the characters in the TV show, and for a late 1970s figure, seems more like something issued in the 1960s. In actual fact, Mattel cut serious corners with this figure, and took a classic from an earlier era - Captain Lazer from the Major Matt Mason line – and gave him a new lick of paint!
In spite of all these negatives, however, he has acquired real vintage charm nowadays, and looks fantastic in a vintage space and sci-fi collection!
Points of articulation: 7
Accessories: Waistcoat vest, light-up laser gun powered by batteries in backpack
Height: 12 inches
Colonel Warrior Photo Â© Deborah Swain
Which is your favourite figure so far?
Which 1970s action figure is best so far?
#6 - Superman - Mego's World's Greatest Super Heroes
No 1970s action figure round up would be complete without featuring at least one figure from the company which came to dominate the decade - Mego. The World's Greatest Super Heroes, in particular, was an enormously popular series, with Superman here introduced early on in the line, alongside Batman, Robin, and Aquaman. He was so popular, in fact, he stayed in production right through to the end, some ten years later.
If you prefer Marvel Comic heroes over DC Comics, there were also Spider-Man, Captain America, the Hulk and numerous other figures available. Mego's 8 inch action figures set a bench mark of excellent in the 1970s, and they continue to be highly desirable collectibles today.
Points of articulation: 14
Accessories: Costume with incorporated shorts, cape and belt, separate boots
Height: 8 inches
Mego Superman Photo Â© Deborah Swain
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#5 - Pulsar: The Ultimate Man of Adventure - Kitsch, but in a good way!
Oh, how I love my Pulsar figure! The Six Million Dollar Man was taking the toy market by storm during the mid 1970s so Mattel knew they had to come up with something clever to compete, and boy did they ever come up with the goods! A huge, 14 inch giant of a man with visible lungs and heart, which would pump a red blood-like gel through his arteries! Sounds gross, I know, but this figure is utterly cool.
Points of articulation: 9, plus pumping lungs and heart and veins
Accessories: Two piece costume with Velcro, white boots, two mission program discs to be inserted inside head
Height: 14 inches
Pulsar Man of Adventure Photo Â© Deborah Swain
Vintage Pulsar Life Systems Center televsion commercial - Pulsar sold separately!
#4 - Fonzie - The likeness to actor Henry Winkler is spot on!
Heyyyy! Happy Days was one of the first TV shows to take a nostalgic look back at the 1950s and 1960s and had a huge influence on how we, in the rest of the world, imagine those times in the US. Arthur Fonzarelli aka The Fonz was the character we all loved as kids of course, and he was the action figure everyone wanted from Mego's 8 inch line, with Richie, Potsie and Ralph proving less popular.
There's even a cool thumbs up mechanism worked from a switch in his back!
Points of articulation: 15, including articulated thumbs!
Accessories: Leather jacket, white sleeveless vest with high collar, blue jeans and black boots.
Height: 8 inches
Mego Fonzie Photo Â© Deborah Swain
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#3 - Oscar Goldman - The Six Million Dollar Man's boss!
A middle-aged guy in a suit? What on earth is he doing here? Strange, but true, yet Oscar Goldman is a highly collectible action figure today. He was, as you'll remember if you were a child of the 1970s, the Six Million Dollar Man's boss. He was the man who issued the Bionic Man Steve Austin's orders, after all, so hugely necessary for kids wanting to recreate scenes from the TV show.
The likeness to actor Richard Anderson is very good. A must have 1970s item!
Date stamp: 1977
Points of articulation: 14
Accessories: Exploding briefcase
Height: 12 inches
Oscar Goldman by Kenner Photo Â© Deborah Swain
Vintage Oscar Goldman television commercial - Hey! Maskatron has the briefcase!
#2 - Muhammad Ali - Floats like a butterfly...
The Greatest! I had wanted one of these Mego figures for years and finally tracked on down recently in great condition. Ali was a sporting icon of the 1970s and Mego did him proud with this . This is a heavy, chunky figure fitting for a Heavyweight Word Boxing Champion.
This is an exquisite action figure and a must-have item for any sports collection. Possibly the finest Ali figure ever made!
Date stamp: 1975
Points of articulation: 13, plus power punch Ali Trigger Mechanism
Accessories: Everlast boxing gloves, white boots, Everlast belt, sparring helmet, shorts, robe
Height: 9 inches
Mego Muhammad Ali Photo Â© Deborah Swain
#1 - Darth Vader - If you collect Star Wars action figures, you simply have to have him!
Who could have imagined when Kenner hit upon the idea of creating 3 Â¾ inch action figures for its tie-in merchandising for the original Star Wars movie trilogy that they would be creating an entire sub-genre of collectibles that continue to be highly sought after decades after the first film's release in 1977.
From 1978 to 1985 Kenner created more that 100 action figures in the line – all lovingly reproducing the innumerable characters that people the Star Wars Universe from the smallest alien part with a nano-second of screen time to this guy, one of the greatest movie villains of all time – Darth Vader.
Points of articulation: 5
Accessories: Vinyl cape, single telescoping lightsaber with tip
Height: 4 inches (he's slightly taller than the other figures)
Vintage Darth Vader Photo Â© Deborah Swain
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