Packed in our bookbags for long car rides and gripped in our hands when we went for check-ups at the doctor, action figures were the toys that made us feel brave enough to conquer the world. Today, vintage action figures are hotter than ever, and the toys from your childhood are selling for hundreds and thousands of dollars every week. Which of these vintage action figures do you wish you never got rid of?
Original Star Wars Action Figures
If you don't know about Star Wars, at least peripherally, then you might be from a galaxy far, far away. The early production history of Kenner's 1970s Star Wars figurines is fraught with interesting production mistakes, but these pieces of Star Wars history live on in the collector's circuit.
Anything Star Wars related from the original trilogy is highly collectible, and in some cases, very valuable. For instance, in 2019, a J-slot Boba Fett action figure sold for $157,500. The Jedi and resistance fighters you have at home probably aren't worth that much, but they can be worth tens of thousands.
Look for sealed Kenner action figures from the 1970s. Across the board, these can sell for $5,000-$10,000, like this carded Boba Fett that sold for $9,999.99.
GI Joe Action Figures
GI Joe action figures were to little boys what Barbies were to little girls. These rough and tough, fully articulated military toys were the action figures that launched the market. Before 1963, when GI Joes were conceived, there weren't any non-fashion dolls that had really resonated with kids.
Kids in the mid-1960s were blown away by these toy men who were ready to take on any enemy in any environment. The very first prototypes for these toys are the most expensive GI Joe action figures to sell at auction. In a 2003 Heritage Auctions lot full of Hasbro Creative Director Dan Levine's GI Joe action figures, the original Government Issued Joe sold for $200,001.10.
Not all GI Joe's are worth that much, but vintage boxed GI Joe action figures frequently sell for a few thousand dollars. Take this cool 1967 boxed GI Nurse that recently sold for $3,499.99 online, for example.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Boxed Figurines
The 1980s Saturday morning cartoon round-up was full of heavily muscled men in small outfits gallivanting around the world. Thundercats might have been your jam, but you couldn't beat He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Nowadays, kids send memes of He-Man and Skeletor without knowing where they came from.
If you followed the age-old rule back in the day to not unbox any toys you thought might be collectible one day and left your original Masters of the Universe actions figures boxed, you're in luck. These 1980s action figures sell for a few thousand dollars when they're completely boxed and well-kept.
For instance, this boxed and near-mint Man-At-Arms action figure from 1982 sold in an auction for $3,360. But the real winners are the main characters like He-Man and Skeletor. One sealed vintage Skeletor manufactured for the Mexican market recently sold on eBay for $1,595.
Power Ranger MegaZord
Power Rangers was one of the most iconic ensemble kids' shows from the 1990s. If you had siblings growing up in the 90s, then you definitely cornered the market on your favorite Power Ranger and would make believe that you all came together to form the impenetrable MegaZord.
In true cartoon fashion, the lore behind the MegaZord is a bit complicated, but all anyone cared about was watching the Power Rangers come together to create a humanoid robot samurai that could destroy any of the bad guys. Each series had their own MegaZord design, but the earliest MegaZord action figures are the most valuable.
Why stop at just making action figures when you could make them fold into something else entirely? The 1980s brought everybody's favorite shapeshifting action heroes, the Transformers, to life. Whether you were a die-hard Autobot fan or wanted the Decepticons to succeed in their uprising, you never stopped being mesmerized by the way these toys could fold from one toy into another.
The most valuable one today? Megatron, leader of the Decepticons. This Transformer is a far cry from the trucks and sports cars we're used to. In keeping with the bad guy theme, Megatron folds into the shape of a handgun. Boxed Megatron action figures consistently sell for a few thousand dollars. Take this 1984 boxed Megatron that sold for $5,217.17, for example.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Action Figures
Who knew that all you needed for a hit cartoon in the late-80s was a few anthropomorphic turtles practicing martial arts in a sewer and fighting crime? Looking back, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was one of the more outrageous concepts on television. Yet, it totally worked, and kids still love the sewer turtles and their rat sensei to this day.
Vintage TMNT action figures from the 1980s and 1990s harken back to the glory days of kids' 2D cartoons. Although they're not the most valuable vintage action figures out there, they do alright on the auction block. Boxed TMNT toys usually sell in the low thousands. For example, this Slam Dunkin' Don from 1994 recently sold for $2,275 on eBay.
Clues That Your Old Action Figures Are Worth Something
The last thing you want to do when you're clearing out all your childhood toys from your parents' house is to accidentally throw away one that's worth something. When you're sorting through your old action figures, keep these clues in mind:
- Boxed and carded action figures are highly collectible. Hardly anyone buys toys and doesn't open them, so finding these unopened action figures from 30 to 40 years ago could end up being worth something.
- Popular characters and shows are more likely to sell. Niche subjects work for some collectibles, but with action figures, people like to collect the stuff they love. It's why Star Wars action figures perform so well.
- Action figures from the 1980s and 1990s are popular right now. Because millennials are starting to enter the auction market and revisit their childhoods, these action figures are selling for some of the highest prices they've ever sold for.
Be Your Own Action Hero
While we can't trade places with the action heroes we loved to watch and imitate as kids, we can relive that magic through the toys that put us in their shoes in the first place. Vintage action figures have never gone out of style, and there will always be someone around the corner ready to pay a hefty fee for that special action figure they've been dreaming of owning.