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Action Figure Collecting Glossary

Updated on November 22, 2014
Cruella de Ville figure and prototype
Cruella de Ville figure and prototype

Collecting new and vintage action figure toys

Learn how to find rare and scarce action figure toys at flea markets and auctions, or by visiting online forums and participating in comic book conventions where toy collectors meet and trade. Find out how to get collector's items in the best condition and at the lowest price from the right sources. It's important to know the definition of words like chase, exclusive, flocking or proto when looking for scarce action figures to complete the ultimate toy collection.

Every hobby and profession has a unique language, and toy collecting is no exception. The terms in this list apply to plastic action figure toys. There are plenty of resources online for a glossary of other specialized words used by people who collect dolls, metal banks, die-cast cars, and dozens of other toys. (photo: dotpattern)

Articulation

Puts the action in action figures

Points of connection or joints between the moving parts in poseable action figure anatomy. Lego minifigs (mini figures) and Kubricks have several points of articulation in the ankles, hips, wrists, shoulders and neck. The hands can be molded to clutch weapons and other accessories.

Toy figures are fixed, with no moving parts, though some toy figures have limited motion to swivel their head and neck, for example. Bobbleheads are another kind of "inarticulate" toy figure.

Action Figures of the 1960s (A Schiffer Book for Collectors)
Action Figures of the 1960s (A Schiffer Book for Collectors)

Very entertaining book from veteran toy collector and author John Marshall, covering the entire range of figures from the 1960s.

 

Blind Box

Take a chance to find a rare toy figure

Blind Box is a way of randomly packaging toys in a sealed box so you never know which character in a series you'll get when you buy, and buy and keep on buying until you find that one character you need.

KidRobot and other designer toy companies pioneered this promotional strategy which was adapted from baseball and trading card games that are packaged the same way. Often, the odds of getting each toy is printed on the box. Find scarce figures in a series listed on eBay.

Batman Blind Box assortment - Funko 2013

"The chase is on" to find exclusive toys

Chase stickers
Chase stickers | Source

Chase figures

Limited-edition variants of the standard production toys by using a different combination of paint colors ("colorway"), Glow-in-the-Dark paint or alternate colors for the vinyl material. These toys are produced in small editions of 10-1000 units.

Toy makers mix chase figures in the regular shipments to their distributors, so you never know who will have these figures on their shelves. In the past, chase figures were only identified by a small detail like a different colored base. Now, you can simply look for the special chase sticker on the box.

Chase figures are produced in limited quantities and are prized by collectors. Look for Funko Pop! vinyl chase figures "in the wild" on the shelves of stores at the mall.

Comic-con International: San Diego

Dozens of toy industry conventions are held in different parts of the country throughout the year to bring new toys to the market each year. This is where fans can connect directly with comic book artists and celebrities in attendance who sign autographs, and discuss their career in crowded panel discussions.


Comic Book Conventions

  • SDCC: Officially named Comic-Con International: San Diego, this is the largest comic book convention in the country. Held every year during a long weekend in July, the Comic-con is the place to introduce new toys and mingle with thousands of comic book and movie fans dressed in full costume. The International Independent Film Festival (CCI-IFF) is also held during the Con.

  • Funko Fundays is a customer appreciation day that happens on the same weekend as Comic-Con. The event is presented by the owner of the company each year for members of the Funko Funklub [membership application] and fans who participate on the Funko Funatics message board online.

  • NYCC: The New York Comic Con is the largest comic book and toy convention on the east coast, at the Javits Convention Center in October.

  • New York Toy Fair is a trade show in February for the toy industry only, strictly for the business of toy sales and news announcements about the latest hot products for the new year.

  • WonderCon is another toy convention hosted by Comic-Con International during March at the Anaheim Convention Center, with the hope of moving to San Francisco in the future.

  • The D23 Expo is the Official Disney Fan Club convention in Anaheim, California for a week in August each year.


Comic-Con exclusive toys

Each year, toy companies create exclusive collectors items for customers who attend the San Diego Comic-Con and other large comic book conventions.

Find the best toys from Funko, Lego, McFarlane Toys, KidRobot, and other top toy makers.


Crystal or Resin - See-through, "water clear" plastic

Clear polyester resin can be used instead of vinyl to produce a see-through toy figure. Resin may be tinted, and the surface can also be painted, but the whole point is to see through crystal figures.

Funko Spock Talking Wacky Wobbler
Funko Spock Talking Wacky Wobbler

My favorite crystal is the Funko Wacky Wobbler of Spock (Star Trek) -- half painted and half crystal, like he's dematerializing in the transporter aboard The Enterprise.

 

Dunny

Dunny is the name of a classic KidRobot figure of a stylized "devil-bunny" rabbit produced with several new designs over the years, by artists from around the world commissioned by KidRobot.

Paul Budnitz started Kidrobot in 2002 to design limited edition art toys and apparel by merging urban street trends, fashion, and pop art. Artists from the world of graffiti, fine art, fashion, industrial design, graphic design, illustration, and music collaborate to create limited-edition "designer toys".

The KidRobot blog is the place to go for the latest news and information from devoted fans, and trade with other collectors.

Collecting action figures - Books for collectors

Tomart's Encyclopedia of Action Figures The 1001 Most Popular Collectibles of All Time
Tomart's Encyclopedia of Action Figures The 1001 Most Popular Collectibles of All Time

The most popular book about action figure toys, available from third-party sellers on Amazon Marketplace.

 

Exclusive - Limited-edition

Exclusive toy figures are produced in limited editions for a specific retailer to offer their customers as a sales incentive. These toys have a special paint finish or other unique features that are different than the standard product.

The total number of exclusive toys produced in the edition is usually indicated on a special sticker, along with the name of the convention where the toys were introduced. The abbreviation "LE 480" on auction listings indicates a Limited Edition of 480 units total. Chase figures also have a special paint finish or unique feature, but the size of the edition is not limited like exclusive figures.

Flocked

Originally used to describe a process that's used to create fabric with a raised texture, flocked plastic has the same kind of peach-fuzzy carpet texture on the surface of the vinyl.

Glow in the Dark

GITD or Glow

Special photo-luminescent paint or an additive to the vinyl mix, usually covering part of a vinyl figure (representing skin or hair) or the glow completely covers the entire figure.

Holographic

Holographic or "Holo": Type of plastic that creates a rainbow starburst effect in the light. Often used for trading card games and for labels to prove the authenticity of valuable collector's items.

In the Wild

  • "In the wild": This is where you will find Chase figures sitting on the shelf, by frequently hunting in small, neighborhood toy stores and novelty shops at the mall. Look for standard production and rare Funko Pop! figures at Target, Hot Topic, Walmart, Barnes & Noble, Toys 'R' Us, Amazon, Urban Outfitters and Spencer's.

The Lego Book
The Lego Book

Complete and exhaustive review of all the major toy lines from LEGO brand toys, including a companion book about the history of Minifigures. Beautiful hardback volumes printed to the highest standards for a long-lasting books.

 

DC LEGO Batman Visual Dictionary

Diary of a Wimpy Kid toys and games
The 7th Diary of a Wimpy Kid book The Third Wheel, was issued with a new series of movie memorabilia, toys, games and apparel from the award-winning Wimpy Kid books and movies.

Metallic

Not actually made of metal, but a colored paint finish with a metallic look, similar to an automobile paint finish with small flecks of different colors mixed in. Often in silver or gold and other bright colors, and reserved for limited-edition production of chase figures and exclusive toys.

New and mint condition

NIB - New in Box, can also be MIB - Mint in Box. Some companies charge a premium to get the standard window box from the manufacturer in completely pristine "collectors" condition. Fragile boxes and blister packs can be damaged in transit. If you order online, request careful packaging when you place your order. NWT - New with Tag is used for plush toys and clothing.

Proto or Prototype

Toy prototypes are made in very limited numbers as a test before a large batch goes into production, usually no more than five units. Protos are usually unpainted figures in solid white or flesh colored vinyl, but rare prototypes painted by the artist are available occasionally. Colored vinyl prototypes are also created to experiment with different materials and color combinations.

The "Big-Head" Cruella De Ville prototype was originally rejected by Disney and re-sculpted different proportions. (Photo: dotpattern)

Riddler and Cruella prototypes

Source

Retired

Retired: When production is completed on a batch of toys, the factory will "break the mold" so no more figures will be made in that edition (in theory). Once a figure is retired, the supply is limited and the value can go up. Refer to the List of 29 Retired Funko Pop! figures (new window).

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