HELPING YOU TAKE CARE OF YOUR FIGURE(S)!
Do You Have Any Of The Very First WWE Figures or WWF Figures?
It is commonly believed that the first WWE Figures,or WWF Figures as they were known then, were produced by a company called LJN.
LJN produced these figures from 1984, however I have been told that there was a series of WWE Figures released prior to these by a Japanese company but I have been unable to clarify this or find any further information.
LJN Wrestling Figures 1984-1989
With the phenomenal success of the wrestling industry in the 1980's, particularly the WWF, which was (and still is) owned by Vince McMahon, the WWF contracted LJN to create a line of WWE Figures based on the sports Superstars, and so LJN's WWF Wrestling Superstars line was born.
These figures, however, bear little resemblance to today's modern action figures as they had no articulation and were made from solid rubber but they were very accurate in appearance to the actual wrestlers and therefore remain popular even today.
Much of the WWF'S success in the mid-80's was due to Hulk Hogan, a household name even today. Returning to the World Wrestling Federation in late 1983 and quickly rose to the top of the promotion, making short work of The Iron Sheik when he won the WWF Heavyweight title in January 1984.
These 8-inch WWE Figures became very collectible, partly due to wrestling's continuing success through the 80's and 90's and the current nostalgia boom in wrestling collectibles.
LJN's first series of WWE Figures stood anywhere from nine-to-12 inches in height and hit toy stores in 1984 and consisted of nine figures including such stars as "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, The Junk Yard Dog, and of course, the Hulkster. Each of these figures also came with a clip-n-save bio card and mini-poster.
Standing and made up of a sturdy rubber material, the first series of WWE Figures hit the pegs in 1984, courtesy of LJNToday, these items can fetch quite a few bucks on their own, especially ones from later in the line's run.
Probably the only significant, or variant, figure from these series was JYD's chain which has three different color variations, i.e. silver, red and black. The silver chain is thought to be the most common and the black the rarest but finding ANY JYD figure with a chain is quite a challenge and as a result these can fetch a very good price on the secondary market, especially if carded in mint condition.
The only other variation in this series was the color of Roddy Piper's boots. Most of the LJN Hot Rod figures have him wearing red boots, however, a deeper red boot also exists. It has also been rumored that there are a handful of Piper figures out there with a shirt that displayed a panther head, as opposed to the words "Hot Rod" but this has never been as being an official figure or to even exist!
There was also a variant Iron Sheik that could be found with either a yellow or orange pattern on his pants but it is difficult to differentiate between them and there doesn't seem to be any difference in their rarity.
There are others, as with any line of figures produced in the 80's, that have minor variations and generally don't affect the figures value.
The second series of LJN's WWF Wrestling Superstars figures was released in 1985 and consisted of only five figures, compared to the nine released in the first series.
The most interesting figure from this series is the King Kong Bundy figure, the other figures in this series were Brutus Beefcake, Greg Valentine, George "The Animal" Steele and "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff.
It is rumored that there are two variations of the George Steele figure in circulation one with his trademark body hair and a variation with his hair darkened but it is unclear whether these, like the previous figure, are true variations or customized figures.
The third series of LJN's WWE Figures had a phenomenal 16 figures in the series! These series had a good mix of figures including managers, short lived characters and even some of the less popular wrestlers. The most notable, and popular, figures in this series were "Macho Man" Randy Savage, Jesse "The Body" Ventura, Ricky Steamboat and Terry Funk.
This series also had an unprecedented number of variations which, along with the large number of figures in the series, made it a difficult set to complete.
Some of the variations included in this series were Hart, who could be found with a megaphone that was either a solid red or peppered with white hearts, the Heenan's figure's shoulders were either plain or had an elaborate sequenced design, the figure was released were either clean-shaven, had stubble or a full beard. Ventura with had either blonde or brownish-red hair and Albano's shirt had either an animated version of himself on it or red or white lapels, and Jones was available in his red or more festive Hawaiian shirt.
This trend continued with series 4 which had 17 figures, however by this time most of the Superstars had been covered so there were a lot more of the secondary stars in this series which also meant lower production runs. This combination has resulted in many of the figures from the latter series commanding much higher prices on the secondary market.
This series also included Miss Elizabeth, the lone female figure from the line, and the first figures to include their pets, e.g. Jake "The Snake" Roberts, with a bendable version of Damien, and Koko B. Ware with his sidekick Frankie.
Variations in this series include Elizabeth in a gold or purple skirt and Mean Gene's microphone either having the WWF logo or nothing at all on it, also The Hart Foundation had three tight color variations: purple, deep purple and hot pink. The Killer Bees could also be found with tan skin or a pale tone.
This series was followed by series 5 in 1988 which included two new Hulk Hogan figures, one in all white and the other in his classic yellow trunks and red Hulkamania shirt. These figures have no become highly sought after collectibles, especially the harder to find red shirt version.
Series five also introduced several new faces with Demolition Ax, Bam Bam Bigelow, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, Rick Martel, The One Man Gang, Ted Dibiase and others all making their debut with this line. The highlight of this series though has to be the figure of Vince McMahon in one of classic hideous suits.
This line had fewer variations than the previous series with the most significant probably being the referee who came in either a blue or white shirt.
This series also marked the end of LJN's line of WWE Figures as it was the final one distributed by LJN and they sold the rights to a Canadian company called Grand Toys.
The sixth series was therefore only available via mail orderand is often referred to as the "black card series" as all the previous series had come on blue cards.
This series was made up of six new WWE Figures, The Ultimate Warrior, Warlord, Big Boss Man, "Ravishing" Rick Rude, Andre the Giant (with black strap), and Haku. As a result of the short production and limited availability of this line they have become highly-desired and collectible wrestling figures and pieces of the collection it is quite common to see them go for two or three times their book value on venues like eBay either when not in pristine condition.
Grand Toys also had a seventh series in the works, but things folded up before anything could ever come of it. For what it's worth, the figures that were slated to be part of this series included: The Bushwhackers, Brother Love, Bad News Brown, The Barbarian and Demolition Smash.
Many of the wrestling figures from the fifth series were also re-released by Grand Toys on the black cards and these tend to sell for much higher prices than the original blu-carded figures. The cards feature bi-lingual text and it's not uncommon to find other figures on bi-lingual cards that also came on English-only cards but generally they hold the same value as their bi-lingual counterparts.
LJN also released several tag team packs but all of these figures could also be found on single cards but the tag team packs came with championship belts and a tag team poster not found in the single releases and as a result can sell for several hundreds of dollars a piece, regardless of box condition.
On the whole LJN's WWF Wrestling Superstars have become highly collectible and difficult to find them in good condition as the paint on the figures easily chipped off during play, leaving most opened figures in poor shape. The price for "loose" mint figures therefore can range from $10-$75.
Mint-carded figures therefore can fetch much higher prices. A good condition, "mint on card" figure can range from about $20 for a Mean Gene Okerlund figure to $500-$800 or more for a Bret Hart figure. Other popular carded figures that can sell for hundreds of dollars are Warlord, Ultimate Warrior, Davey Boy Smith, Dynamite Kid, and the Hart Foundation tag-team box set.
Regrettably LJN closed its toy division in 1989and the WWF (by now called the WWE) was awarded to Hasbro who produced WWE figures from 1990 to 1994.
Hasbro WWE Figures
Hasbro acquired the rights to produce WWF / WWE figures in 1990 however many critics of the line complained about the figures cartoonish looks.
Unlike the LJN wrestling figures these figures were made of plastic and had limited articulation with each figure having a Signature Move but these moves were often repeated on several figures.
Depite the complaints these figures have become quite collectible over time, mainly due to the pro wrestling's popularity, and its being introduced at the peak of WWE Figures becoming "collectibles".
However, like most figure their true value depends on their condition and whether they're carded or not.
Some have managed to retain their value and others have become highly collectible and can fetch a high price on the secondary market, particularly if mint on the card. However, the most common WWE Figures wouldn't fetch much due to their abundance and generally sell for $1-$5 loose. Mint on the card figures on the other hand sell for much higher prices, often reaching values of $800 and more.
Many of the Hasbro cards were also produced on foreign backing cards, usually French or Spanish but these do not sell for as much as the English backed figures do, e.g. a 1992 Ultimate Warrior Mint on an American Card can fetch upwards of $150-$175 US, while the exact same figure on a French card may get around $15-$20 US.
Despite Hasbro's short period of producing WWE Wrestling figures they held the license for one of its most popular periods of time and as a result they hold a special place in many fans hearts and memories and still remain popular to this day.
Jakks Pacific WWE Figures
Jack Friedman co-founded JAKKS Pacific in 1995 with Stephen Berman, it was his third entrepreneurial creation. Earlier, in 1970, Jack's concepts for toy products came to fruition with the formation of LJN Toys, a company started with the financial backing of his employer, Norman J. Lewis and the first to produce official WWF figures (see above).
The fledgling toy company's survival was guaranteed in 1995 when, during the company's first year of existence, Friedman signed a pivotal licensing agreement with Titan Sports, Inc giving JAKKS Pacific the rights to develop and market a line of action figures based on the WWF's wrestling personalities, such as Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Undertaker. The ten year deal, and the thousands of WWF action figures that followed, have been the main reason for Jakk's phenomenal success, much of its growth since.
Jakks' recent line of vintage WWE Classic Superstars, based on their original figures, has sparked nostalgia in the minds of fans due to their striking detail and vast range of former wrestlers and personalities; many of them released for the first time.
However, this will all end soon as Jakk Pacific's license is due to come to an end in December 2009, when Mattel will take over production.
But don't worry, Jakks aren't abandoning wrestling figures as they are set to produce TNA figures and have already started producing UFC figures.
The very first series of Jakk's WWE Figures were appropriately entitled WWF Super Stars - Series 1 which consisted of six figures:
These figures became a huge success with fans and collectors of all ages due to their excellent quality and likeness to the actual wrestlers and I, for one, am very disappointed that they have lost the license to Mattel whom I'm not generally a great fan of.
Mattel WWE Figures
Rumour has it that Mattel have listened to the fans and collectors and that they aim to develope a vast product collection of items which will appeal to boys aged five to seven right up to adult collectors.
A seemingly impossible task?
Can they match Jakk's accomplishments?
Ony time will tell, but for now here's a look at what will be coming:
FlexForce WWE Figures- This range of figures will feature flexible characters that are able to perform their signature moves. There will be flips and all sorts of great stuff featured on this truly "action" figures, many of which has never been done before.
But that's not all because what can they do without a ring?
So to complement the figures, the Breakdown Brawl Ring will allow fans to recreate the action they see on the TV. Strategically placed launch points work with the Flexforce figures and accessories, while if kids slam hard enough into the mat the ring will break wide open!
There will also be a range of basic figures that have been created to real 'super star scale', complete with authentic tattoos and armbands. These figures will be available in two packs and the range will be updated throughout the year, including special editions showcasing major WWE events from Wrestlemania through to Royal Rumble.
An assortment of WWE Superstar Rings will also be available at launch, featuring tension ropes, turnbuckles and springloaded mats.
Complementing each of these will be six-inch Elite WWE Figures of WWE's biggest superstars, which will feature deluxe articulation, detail and accessories such as tattoos, arm-bands and costume pieces, plus a line of three Title Belts.
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Colin Dorman 2008 mcfarlanes-figures.com