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When Were The Kenner Football Starting Line-up Figures Produced?


In 1988 Kenner launched their range of NFL Starting Lineup Football figures. These figures came in clear plastic bubbles glued to a rectangular piece of cardboard with rounded corners (blister packs). These cards were often referred to a J-cards because of the shape of the "hang tab" that stores used to hang them from.

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The Football figures were sold in cases of 16 which were designated by year, sport and a two-digit decimal number, e.g. 1988 Football Case .01, 1992 Football Case .04 etc.

Each came with one or more trading cards, and occasionally another keepsake such as a mini-poster or medallion. In addition, the bubble had a kind of "foot" extending 2-3 inches out from the cardboard which it could stand on.

The Football figures were made from hard plastic, and painted to resemble a particular footballer, although the "resemblance" was often questionable. There was initially a limited number of poses for a figure, originally 10, for each sport but in 1993 and 1995 Kenner introduced a number of new poses.

These football figures also had limited articulation with joints at the shoulders, neck and waist and a base that resembled a part of the football field.

Kenner color coded each of the blisters so that it was easy to differentiate between them with baseball (blue), basketball (red), and football (green) then later when they began to produce NHL figures they had yellow cards.

They were primarily sold to large retail stores originally but Kenner began to notice that they were actually selling more to hobby dealers than toy stores.

This is the period when the action figure hobby entered it's adolescence and sport figures became truly collectible with the Starting Lineup figures being traded along side trading cards and other sport collectibles and memorabilia.

As a result Kenner's began to change its marketing strategy, by greatly reducing the number of different pieces produced. They also began to introduce variations of some of the figures with low production runs, thereby introducing the "chase" figure into the hobby. By decreasing the size of the sets they tried encourage collectors to collect them all, and in the five years, from 1988-1993, the set totals dropped from 137 to 27 in football.

However Kenner began to over produce the figures and undermined the market killing the line off gradually over time.

Much to the disappointment of their many fans and collectors Kenner decided to discontinue the line in 2000.

Recently however there appears to be an increase in their popularity among collectors with more activity and bidding occurring on eBay, particularly with the early vintage football figures from the 1988 and 1989 series.

This is possibly due to the fact that these figures were produced in low quantities for local markets also recent obsession with grading everything has helped to stimulate the market in general by creating more confidence in the hobby as a whole.

Some of the rarest NFL Starting Lineup Football figures quoted in Tuff Stuff magazine are:

  • 1988 Marc Wilson ($425)
  • 1989 Bill Bates ($425)
  • 1989 Bill Fralic ($425)
  • 1988 Ron Woodson ($400)
  • 1988 Darrell Green ($375)
  • 1988 Kellen Winslow ($375)
  • 1988 Steve Jordan ($360)

A few products have been considered "successors" to Starting Lineups, such as Mattel's Superstars (1999-2000) and McFarlane Sports Picks (2001-present).




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