Middle age can be tough on the hairline and murder on the waistline, but how good would you be looking after 30 or 40 years mouldering away in an attic? That was the ignominious fate that befell Action Man, the must-have boys’ toy of the 60s and 70s. With his trim figure, “realistic” hair and livid facial scar, Action Man was popular with the girls, too. His female counterparts – Barbie, Sindy and the “pocket-sized” Pippa – might have been good for dressing up, but could they lob a grenade or drive a tank like Palitoy’s macho man?
Though the original “vintage” Action Man (VAM) ceased production in the mid-80s, he’s currently enjoying something of a renaissance – especially on eBay. Call it a nostalgia boom or a symptom of the economic malaise, but all over Britain Action Man figures are being unearthed from lofts, basements and cupboards. A ragtag army that hasn’t seen the light of day since the Thatcher years is proving that balding heads, missing appendages and moth-eaten clothes are no barrier to raking in the cash.
My own Vintage Action Man squad began when I “acquired” my brother’s Christmas present of a Talking Commander figure around 1972. (He got the Kodak Instamatic, in exchange.) Failing to foresee the advent of eBay, I offloaded most of my collection in the early 80s. So it was farewell to Brutus, the Action Man guard dog – though I still have the tasteful selection of canine wear fashioned by my mother. Then, last summer, I discovered a box with four of the Action Men and their clothes. I was hooked all over again.
If you’re going to sell your Action Men, do it quickly. Don’t allow them to lounge around your study, or you’ll start fantasising about whether a custom reflock could turn your favourite figure into George Clooney or (God forbid) Justin Bieber. Thanks to the high-quality flocking service offered by Flocktastic!, you can now give your VAM soldier a luxuriant ginger head, eyebrows and beard, or even a more age-appropriate grey look.
As you can see from the pictures above, I treated my worn-out blonde Paul Newman look-alike to something more befitting a 21st-century metrosexual. Now I’m wondering where I can get my hands on a spare left foot.
Action figure – a convenient euphemism that avoids having to admit that you play with dolls.
Blue pants is just another way of saying that your Action Man is one of the Dynamic Physique models, introduced in 1978. The muscled torso and pre-moulded blue trunks made him look a bit like a wannabe Mr Universe.
Cracks in the limbs are probably a sign that your Action Man really is vintage and not one of those 40th Anniversary figures from 2006.
Dog tags are those bits of metal or plastic that used to hang round Action Man’s neck. Now worth their weight in gold.
Eagle eyes, introduced in the mid-70s, gave Action Man daft looking moveable eyeballs and permanently ruined his good looks.
Flocking is the technique used from 1970 onwards to achieve what was optimistically described as “realistic” hair on Action Man. Seriously, have you ever seen anyone whose hairstyle looks like it was crafted by an electrostatic process? Novak Djokovic would be the closest equivalent.
Gripping hands were highly effective until they dried up and dropped off, giving Action Man the unfortunate appearance of a leper.
Hasbro introduced GI Joe (Action Man’s US cousin) in 1964 and licensed the design to Palitoy two years later.
Investing in a mint condition, boxed Vintage Action Man is a better idea than sticking your cash in one those no-interest bearing savings accounts.
Junk stores would be a great place to pick up VAM in mint condition, with dog tag still attached. In your dreams . . .
Ken dolls (made by Mattel) also started out with the classic fuzzy, flocked hair look. But who wants a Barbie boyfriend when you can have a real Action Man?
Longevity is the hallmark of a great toy.
Musty smell? Action Men who’ve been boxed up in a darkened room for decades tend to have a vintage whiff about them. Just call it “VAM”, the exclusive cologne every Action Man wants to wear.
New “vintage” Action Men were launched in 2006, when Hasbro licensed the reproduction of 40th anniversary figures with painted heads, fuzzy heads and all the other features we know and love.
Old Action Men never die – they just end up in a “Spares or Repairs” auction on eBay.
Palitoy was the Leicester-based toy manufacturer that produced the original Action Man from 1966-1984.
Quick sales are guaranteed on eBay if you start your Action Man auction at 99p . . .
Rivets and elastic were used to hold together the early Action Man figures. He held his poses pretty well until the Dynamic Physique came along.
Sideburns came with the George Best footballer Action Man, as well as the bearded figures. Of course Action Man didn’t have quite the same ball control skills.
Talking Commander – the Action Man designed to spout out stock phrases like “This is your commander speaking” when you yanked his dog tag.
Unbreakable? Though a bionic Atomic Man figure was once part of the Action Man stable, it wasn’t a good idea to run him over with a Scorpion tank.
Vintage is always better than “new” when it comes to Action Man.
Walther PPK – James Bond’s weapon of choice is also part of the Action Man armoury. It’s a lot smaller, of course.
eXpert (re)flocking is the best way to ensure that your fuzzy-headed figure still looks good in the 21st century.
Youthful good looks can survive 40 years in a loft — provided your Action Man didn’t get nibbled by rodents.
Zips break and buttons fall off, leaving many Action Man uniforms looking the worse for wear.