For many of us the mention of a doll conjures up images of Barbie or Cabbage Patch Kids. Something with limited mobility in the joints and lots of accessories like shoes, clothing and hair brushes. However, an action figure conjures up images of a rugged adventurer of the likes of the 1960’s GI Joe. This toy had jeeps, tanks, helicopters, uniforms, and enough weapons available to him that would be the envy of most third world countries. His counterpart introduced as a boyfriend to Barbie, was Ken. Ken was a simple construct with limited movement in his joints, no real discernible stream of income, sports cars, fancy clothes and a fixed smile. Whereas Joe, had the scar on his cheek, sometimes sported a tight, trimmed beard, a determined look on his face and several options as to where he got his funds be it government work or freelance adventurer ala Indiana Jones type missions.
With the 1970s came the fuel shortages and long lines at gas stations. This led to GI Joe being shrunk in size from his normal 12” to a smaller 7-9” and renamed ‘Super Joe’. Hasbro ate a lot of those due to the lackluster sales. The 1980s saw GI Joe revised yet again into a 3 ¾” action figure and the name was changed to act as a code name for a joint task force against the terrorist organization Cobra. This led to comic book series, television cartoon shows, and a major inventory of vehicles and weapon systems. Sometime during all this, the term ‘doll’ was replaced with ‘action figure’ so that little boys could enjoy constructive playtime just like little girls.
Now, the 12” action figure market seems to only be occupied by Barbie and similar type dolls. However, along came a new entry into the Hasbro dominated world of action figures, a company from California introduced a 12” action figure for boys called the Ultimate Soldier. This action figure made the original 12” GI Joe look like a model A Ford compared to a Ferrari. With ultra detailed clothing and weapons, this new action figure made Hasbro sit up and realize that the market for 12” action figures was still alive and well. Hasbro then attempted to compete with 21st Century Toys, the maker of the Ultimate Soldier, by introducing historical figures patterned after prominent personas and historical dioramas such as Pearl Harbor.
Other, smaller companies entered the market with lines such as Soldiers of the World and Elite Force. The Ultimate Soldier was a dominating force in the market for several years and their figures received many awards at conventions. Then 21st changed their line to 1/18 scale and for all intents and purposes, the 1/6 scale Ultimate Soldier line was discontinued. Collectors swarmed online retailers and Ebay for any and all items related to the Ultimate Soldier. In doing this, they soon discovered other companies that manufactured 1/6 scale action figures and accessories.
This discovery led to more and more collectors adding these action figures to their collections. Now the fine line between doll and action figure has been crossed. Barbie made by Mattel, normally retails for about $12.00 as a ‘stock’ model. Prices do go up for clothing or special editions that can be as expensive as $50.00. Barbie has houses, campers, condos, homes, townhouses, cars and business sites such as doctor’s offices and restaurants.
The other manufacturers of 1/6 action figures such as Hot Toys and BBI, offer their figures from the $39.99- $200.00+ range. Is this considered a doll, an action figure or a collectible? Some of these companies even offer vehicles that retail in excess of $350.00. These vehicles and figures are highly detailed and many have working equipment or accessories such as lace up boots, zip up flight suits and miniature fastex buckles on their load bearing gear. Museum quality detail for sure.
As a parent, I might have a small issue with purchasing a Barbie knowing that some of the smaller items could conceivably be lost such as the shoes or earrings, but to purchase an action figure for $100.00, that figure would in reality be placed in a display case and not be touched.
On a side note, I have a small collection myself of 1/6 scale figures and have been known to customize a few on occasion.
I’m currently taking requests from anyone who wants a custom zombie hunter/survivor figure.
1/6 scale of course.