Captain Toy/Michael's Review of the Week

Captain Toy Picks...
The Top Ten Underrated Collectibles

Date Published: 2017-04-20
Written By: Michael Crawford

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Twilight Zone Eye of the Beholder action figures

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This list was a tricky one, since it depends heavily on your definition of 'underrated'. Everyone is going to have a different concept of what that really means, and so the pool of collectibles that are even possible for consideration is going to be different for every reader.

The series I chose are ones that I feel don't get the positive attention they should. It's not that they get undeserved negative attention - that's a different category for me. Those aren't underrated, those are unfairly slammed, and that's a list all its own. And yes, I'll be doing that list eventually as well.

Instead, these are collectibles that somehow got forgotten, or overlooked, or simply never fully appreciated for one reason or another. They are all older lines, since I think it takes some time to see whether a line is truly underrated or not. Nine of the ten are also action figure lines, but one is a series of busts that I feel has been woefully under appreciated.

While these are all older lines, they aren't vintage. I actually avoided vintage stuff, simply because I think at some point, 90% of everything gets lost to memory, and only the real stand outs, like Mego or Super Powers, remain at the forefront. Once you get past 15 or 20 years, everything other than the top lines gets less attention, and it's hard to call any of them 'underrated'.

If you're paying attention, yes, the Twilight Zone (and Outer Limits) stuff you see at the top was on my potential list but didn't make the cut. The same is true of the Palisades Army of Darkness figures you might have seen pictured in my Facebook post, or the Mezco Family Guy figures in my tweet. I always uses photos of almost winners in the posts rather than actual winners, since that would be a pretty big spoiler, don't you think?

Enough with the jibber jabber - let's go!

10 - Harry Potter, Popco, 2007
Popco was a company working in the U.K. action figure market about a decade ago. They were bought (or turned into, or merged with, or something like that) by Character Options eventually, the makers of many fine Doctor Who products today. Before all that, they were working in the 4" scale with several different licenses, including Harry Potter.

Harry has managed to get a few really nice higher end collectible lines, like the Noble wands, the Gentle Giant busts, and of course, the Star Ace sixth scale figures. But the cheaper, smaller action figure market has not been good to the poor boy. Mattel did a terrible job, and NECA's series wasn't their best work. The Popco figures went pretty much under the wire at the time, with a very limited release in Europe.  They aren't the best quality - I'm not going to lie. But there was a very wide range of characters produced in a fairly short amount of time, there were several excellent play sets, and it was the only line that was really geared towards kids in a more traditional way.

Most of the single figures are still pretty cheap on the secondary market, although the sets can be quite expensive.

Popco Harry Potter action figures

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9 - Goon, Mezco, 2005
This selection is quite a bit different from every other one on the list, simply because there were so few figures and it was so short lived. There was only one wave of Goon figures from Mezco, with just four regular figures and a 'BAF'. The quality on this series was simply outstanding though, and remains one of my favorite Mezco releases of all time. It truly bums me out that we never saw a second wave, and I doubt any other company will ever top this work on this license.

Like many of the older Mezco lines, the prices on the secondary market have gotten pretty crazy on these, lending some credence to their quality, and to the recognition of such by fans over time.

Mezco The Goon action figure

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8 - Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel, Diamond Select Toys, 2005
I'm really combining two lines into one here, because let's be honest, they were. Even the shows were really one, despite having a very different tone. Diamond Select produced THE action figure line, with tons of figures, lots of show specific variants, and a butt load of accessories. They even produced the very cool Library play set, which was part of last week's list.

That's not to say it wasn't a series without its own issues. I suspect every series on this list will have some issues, otherwise it wouldn't have ended up being underrated. Here, the articulation was often at odds with the sculpt, and some of the bodies (particularly on the females) look just a hair short of atrocious.

But the majority of the portraits were surprisingly good, particularly for this period and this scale. Many of the figures are still easy to come by, so if you're a fan of the show(s), I'd suggest checking them out.

Buffy Spike action figure

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7 - Futurama, Toynami, 2007
People's personal preferences are always going to show up on lists like this, since 'personal preference' is at the core of the entire concept. If you're a big fan of super hero lines like Super Powers, DCU, or Marvel Legends, then I'm betting other lesser known super hero lines will be high on your 'under appreciated' list.  I'm a big fan of cartoon lines, and not surprisingly, three cartoon lines end up on my top ten.

The first of these is the Toynami Futurama series. The line never got the love it really deserved, due in part to timing, due in part to marketing, but not due to the quality of the line itself. There were some great figures, plenty of character variation, well chosen accessories, even a couple of BAF's. The quality of the sculpts, accessories, and paint were all top notch, and fans of the wonderful show - Matt Groening's best work - will not be disappointed by going back and picking these up.

Futurama Roberto action figure

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6 - Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Sideshow, 2002
As much as I love and collect sixth scale, I only have one on this list. Most are appreciated - or ignored - pretty appropriately, although there will be several on my list of undeserved hate.

Sideshow did a lot of pretty cool lines back in the day. The company itself is under appreciated, simply because they are the father of the modern collectible sixth scale market, much as McFarlane was the same with smaller action figures. But many of their better licenses were produced when the manufacturing capabilities were not yet what they are today.

Some of those older licenses still stand out though, and one of my favorites is their Monty Python and the Holy Grail series.  The sculpts are quite good, and with a repaint, really shine.  The costumes are well done, and there's a very good variety of characters, including Tim the Enchanter, Patsy, the Black Knight, the Knight Who Says Ni, and even the Bridgekeeper. If I'm counting correctly, there were 17 figures in all in the series before it ended, which is quite a few even now for a license like this. Most are pretty cheap on the secondary market, except for the exclusive Knight Who Says Ni.

Monty Python French Taunter action figure

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5 - South Park, Mezco, 2005
Mezco gets on the list for a second time, but this one is a much longer, much deeper, much wider series of figures. Not enough of us, me included, appreciated the South Park series when it was out.  I certainly wish more people had - perhaps it would still be going.

Any cartoon series is tough to do, and translating the ever changing animated characters from two dimensions to three can be a killer. South Park was particularly difficult, thanks o the wonky animation. But they managed to do it extremely well, and gave us a bunch of great characters and great show specific accessories. Of course, there were plenty of variants too, but that's a Mezco tradition.

And I'll be shocked if we ever see another action figure line with articulated eyebrows.

If you want to get in on the South Park action now, your best bet is to check out ebay, although McFarlane is doing some new construction sets, and who knows what else he might do with the license moving forward.

South Park Cartman action figure

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4 - Invader Zim, Palisades, 2004
I had a lot of great Palisades lines on my short list for consideration here.  Army of Darkness, Adult Swim, Ren and Stimpy, Fairly Odd Parents - they did a lot of terrific figures that were underrated at the time. But I wanted to stick with just one...

...and for me, that's any easy choice.  Invader Zim was a hilariously off beat cartoon, and it is soon to get a new television movie.  Palisades only released a couple full waves of figures, but there were tons of exclusives and variants, expanding the roster quite a bit. They also produced amazing accessories for them, with large, diorama style extras the norm.

There was never a TON of Invader Zim fans of course, that's why the show itself didn't last. Translating them into buyers of plastic icons was never going to be easy, but Palisades gave it a great shot.

Invader Zim action figure

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3 - Sigma 6 G.I. Joe, Hasbro, Diamond Select, 2005
People hate change. It doesn't matter if the change is for the better, it doesn't matter if it's overdue, it doesn't matter if it's the right thing to do. They'll still hate it, because it's change.

Case in point - G.I. Joe Sigma 6.  For me, G.I. Joe stopped being G.I. Joe when he shrunk from 12" to 4", but for a lot of modern collectors, the Real American Hero is all they know. So when Hasbro tried something new in the early aughts, it was an uphill battle. The Sigma 6 (not to be confused with Six Sigma) figures were damn cool, larger than the recent lines at about 8", with lots of articulation and even more accessories. Even the body style was a ahead of its time, and for those of us with no real dog in the fight, the line was applauded. But the kids of the 80's couldn't see it, and the line never really took off. It's a shame, because they were really terrific action figures.

Sigma 6 Firefly action figure

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2 - Street Fighter, SOTA, 2004
Speaking of terrific action figures, SOTA did lots of great stuff in the early aughts, but nothing quite as nice as their Street Fighter series.  These were large as well, coming in around 7", with a ton of articulation and some great accessories. The sculpt and paint quality was well above the norm, and the play value was excellent. They also did a nice selection of characters, hitting most fan favorites, along with a variant or two of the main crew.

This level of sculpt quality and excellent articulation was rare back then, when most companies were following the McFarlane/NECA style of Nerd Hummel, and they set the stage for improved articulation on more main stream lines. No one before or since has treated this property as well, and very few action figure lines currently on the market are this all around perfect.

So why were they under appreciated? I suspect this one was more of a timing issue.  The game was at that weird point in its life cycle where original players weren't nostalgic enough, and there wasn't enough interest in the game for new players to be enamored...yet.

SOTA Street Fighter action figures

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1 - Muppets Busts, Sideshow, 2002
I'm going to really brake rank here with the final choice, and go with the only series on the list that isn't action figures of some sort. But the Muppets mini-busts from Sideshow are just so damn good, and so damn over looked, that I just can't help it.

These were larger than most busts at the time. A smaller character like Scooter was around 8" tall (including the base), while a bigger character like Link Heartthrob was around 10". The amount of texture and detail was unheard of, creating a much more 'puppet-like' look. Most busts followed the Gentle Giant style of a smooth surface over the entire bust, making these really stand out. They weren't cheap, running $50 - $60 each, which is probably the single biggest factor keeping collectors away at the time. You could get the Palisades figures for $10 - why spend five times as much on a bust?

While I love my Palisades figures dearly, there's no denying that these large busts have a much classier look on the shelf. They produced twenty in total, making for a very impressive set in your display case. Prices on some are in the $100 - $150 range these days, with a few topping out over that, but many can still be had in the $50 - $100 range on ebay.

Muppets Statler mini-bust

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I had a ton of potentials on my short list, including the Star Trek Original Series stuff from Art Asylum, the various Gremlins figures from NECA, the cool but inexpensive Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and Charlie Brown figures, and even the original Last Airbender figures based on the show (not the movie!). I'm betting you can come up with at least a dozen more that would fit perfectly into this underrated category.

And don't worry - I'll be covering figures and lines that I feel were undeservedly bashed at the time they were released as well. That should be a good one!

If you're enjoying this top ten concept of Captain Toy Picks or have a suggestion for a future list, drop me a line and let me know! I've added a section below with links to all the past Captain Toy Picks... features:

Captain Toy Picks...The Top Action Figure Play Sets!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Ten Smart Purchases!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Ten McFarlane Lines!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Ten Bad Action Figure Ideas!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Ten Toy Fair 2017 Reveals!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Ten Unproduced Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...The People's Picks for Best of 2016!
Captain Toy Picks...Best/Worst of 2016!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Poppies Winners of the Past Ten Years!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten DC Universe Classics Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Christmas Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Joker Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Superman Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Animated Action Figure Series!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Toy Things I'm Thankful For!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Premium Format Statues!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Horror Sixth Scale Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Horror Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Sixth Scale Disappointments Over $100!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Sixth Scale Disappointments Under $100!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Palisades Muppets!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Wanted Licenses in Sixth Scale!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Batman Black and White Statues!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Masters of the Universe Classics Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Female Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Prop Replicas!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Simpsons World of Springfield action figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Batman action figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Sixth Scale Grails!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Sixth Scale Figures!

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Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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