1966 - 1969

Vintage Action Man issued in UK ('VAM' and Painted Head).

'Action Man' was first introduced in the UK by Palitoy in 1966. The concept was the first of it's kind - a fully poseable artist's dummy style action figure. First figures available to the UK were a soldier, sailor and pilot complete with basic uniforms and dog-tags. His launch was inspired by the success of his American 'brother', the successful GI Joe figures of two years earlier in 1964, produced in the US by parent American company the Hasbro Toy Co. Both Action Man and GI Joe were virtually indistinguishable during the first period of hard, painted head figures (black, brown, blond, red), and only minor differences in detailing occurred. At the tail end of this first period, a softer squeezable head were produced. Europe too were to have versions of the figure called Geyperman, and Group Action Joe. This range (up to 1984) is termed as Vintage Action Man or 'VAM'.

Read more on the Forum here.

 

1970 - 1976

Action Man flocked (VAM 'fuzzy' or 'Flocked head') hair and 'gripping hands'

1970 saw a major change in the four-year-old Action man figure. A 'flocking' process that reproduced the effect of a crew-cut hairstyle was perfected in the UK and the blond and black flock-haired Action Man was introduced. GI Joe was to copy this lead and gained his new look shortly after. The head was remodeled and was soft with enhanced scar and convincing-looking skin, but the body remained essentially unchanged and in 1973 improved figures with 'gripping hands' were launched to heighten the figure's realism and play factor. The first batch original gripping hands were a little delicate, especially when dressing the figure and a protective cup, metal at first then nylon, was included with the figure to help guide the fingers past the inner seams found inside the sleeves. These first batch perish and go hard after a few decades.

Later versions were to benefit from stronger hands and these survive the ravages of time a little better. Bearded versions were soon launched which it seemed better suited the adventurer-themed costumes as did a rare sideburns (footballer) figure which quickly was given the nickname 'George Best' after Manchester United's star player. A wealth of clothing and vehicles had by now enhanced the quickly expanding range, including sports, space, underwater adventure, and mountaineering.

In 1975 Palitoy gained the National Association of Toy Retailers '10 Year Gold Award', and a gold sticker was added to boxes around this year.

This range (up to 1984) is termed as Vintage Action Man or 'VAM''

 

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A Tank Commander flocked hair Action Man


A British Major 'Eagle Eye' Action Man

 

1977 - 1984

Action Man final guise, (VAM 'Eagle Eyes' or 'Dynamic Physique' or 'Blue Pants')

The final period of Action Man's first outing saw the introduction of realistic 'Eagle-Eyes' of 1977 which were housed in a slightly larger head and operated by a small lever on the back of Action Man's neck. It was added to the existing body. This head had more of a 'tan' and shine than the outgoing painted eyes figures and gave Action Man a permanent look of astonishment. This new look was developed further in 1978 when a totally new 'Muscular Physique' was introduced. Easily recognisable by the molded blue trunks and sun-tan, the figure was billed as holding slightly more complex poses and was built in such a way that it could not be easily disassembled and ultimately have parts replaced like the earlier elastic-strung figure.

The 1960s and 1970s will have to be acknowledged as a toy age that wasn't always compromised by the cheapest manufacturing processes over quality, but was a golden age of sturdily built, over-engineered toys that have lasted all these years and are now becoming a valuable collectable to a generation of 30-somethings that are more discerning having already been spoilt with the best that Action Man had to offer.

The final Action Man from 1981 with 'Sharpshooter' head could pivot upwards to a degree not possible with the traditional heads to add to the realism of a prone shooting position. Towards the end (that was 1984), cheaper and faster production methods resulted in perceivably less-well made, thinner fabrics and plastic webbing in place of stitched material. Star Wars was fast becoming THE toy of the late 1970s and the old Action Man formula, in a bid to regain some ground, tried to evolve into the new space adventure, but it wasn't to be enough to counter the emerging force!

Today most of this period of figure suffers from the neck post failing and the head dropping off.

By 1984 his first chapter had come to a end. He was replaced by 'Action Force' - a smaller action figure first started as early as 1982, copying on the successes of Kenner with their mini-sized Star Wars figures. He was not to re-emerge until 1993 a changed man. This is the last of the range (up to 1984) known as Vintage Action Man or 'VAM'

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1993 - 2006

Action Man ('Hasbro' or 'MAM') click here to visit this new section

From a purist's perspective, the 1993 return of Action Man figure was disappointing. To children it was another fantastic new toy. The 'modern' Action Man figure seemingly learnt few lessons from the vintage Palitoy Action Man, which by its retirement was an exceptional toy that reached its final guise by a process of evolution. The new figure appeared to throw away some of the textbook and start again for a new retail market. The new figure didn't hold as complex a pose, had by comparison with the past, had clumsy hands that would not hold many accessories well. But children's play patterns had changed and now, a generation on, the formula was to sell the figure and clothing and accessories in one purchase for instant gratification. Children were now compelled to own complete figures and forego, to a large extent, the need for extra accessories or purchases.

The new Hasbro Action Man was an all-action hero, positioned somewhere between James Bond and Indiana Jones (who had the scar first?) and any number of Xtreme sports personalities. The new Hasbro Action Man gained new foes such as Dr. X, No-Face and Professor Gangrene drawing comparisons with James Bond's evil foes, with their signature clothing and clumsy henchmen! The Action figures were mass produced and therefore were typically affordable. In a departure from the past, uniforms and weapons were commonly bonded onto the 'completed' figure so exchange of clothing and weapons, and ultimately inventiveness in play were not a priority. Many had unquie arm actions and talents, and Action Man's headsculpt changed many more times than the original but the tell-tale Action Man trademark scar remained.

The innovative Hasbro packaging was a great improvement over the earlier Palitoy Action Man. A 'wall of orange' greeted children as they visited toy shops. Windows allowed you to see before you bought, and sometimes to try electronic gadgets through holes in the packaging. Many more vehicles were created than before to enhance the Hasbro Action Man's new missions (or X-Missions!) - transport for land, under the sea, across the snow or ready to traverse Dr.X's evil Island. Action Man had new allies too - the Australian skateboarding 'Flint', and Redwolf the Native American archery specialist.

Hasbro finally pulled the plug on Action Man with some remnants remaining in stores for early 2006 - now, almost a repaet of the 1980s, Hasbro was marketing smaller scale Action Man A.T.O.M figures (Alpha Teens on Machines) easing these gently in (12" figures at first) to win the affections of the children and subtley replace the Action Man for another period. This range is also know as Modern Action Man or 'MAM'.

Read more on the Forum here.


Action Man ATOM Axel Hydro Tag



Action Man Aqua Blaster

Dr X - Action Man's evil nemisis

 

SPECIAL EDITIONS

1996

Action Man 30th Anniversary Figure ('30th')

Hasbro UK Ltd celebrated Action Man's 30th Birthday in 1996 with the issue of a 30th Anniversary Collector's Edition, limited edition boxed Action Man that was more akin to the original Action Man of 1966. He had painted hair, and many accessories based on the 30 year old recipe, only for some reason everything was at a larger scale. It came in a special edition window box, and included inside a reproduction box that was similar design to the first box, albeit in a shoe-box 2 piece shape. The limited edition number of five digits is to be found inkjeted in black to the small of his back. Because of its intended resemblance to it's 30 year old big brother, comparison of the two figures is inevitable. So compare if you will the two Action Men as they stand shoulder-to-chest! Note especially the height difference, and the size of the 1996 Action Man's hands!

The 1966-1996 30th Anniversary Collector's Edition Limited Edition Action Man Set - with (oversized!) period-style accessories. Original Action Man dating from 1966 is shown far left.

2003 - 2005

GI JOE 40th Anniversary Figure ('GI Joe 40th')

In 2003, Hasbro began releasing large boxed sets that contained both a boxed figure, and a large or small window boxed related outfit set Some sets came with a few carded accessories instead of a window box set. One soldier footlocker set was released; the large outer box has a diagonal stripe with "Timeless Collection" as did all 40th Anniversary sets.

The 40th packaging was almost identical to the original items, with the addition of "Anniversary Edition" to all boxes, and "40th" imprinted on all plastic items to clearly distinguish them from original items. All literature and boxes contain the amended copyright "© 1964,2003 Hasbro, Pawtucket, RI 02862 USA." These sets typically retailed for around $30 U.S. There were 23 general release sets all together; numbered 1-21, and 30.

Others numbered between 22 and 29 have been released through collector clubs at premium prices (23; Combat Soldier, and 25; Pilot Dress Parade) since the general releases were cancelled. The figures were generally available in all Blonde, Black, Brown and Auburn hair variants, with the appropriate eye colors. A few sets came with American-ethnic variants. The body itself is simply the Timeless Collection, with a revised copyright, skin tone and head mold.

(words wikia.com)

 

2006 - c2010

Action Man 40th Anniversary Figure ('40th')

Who said nostalgia isn't what it used to be? Life truly begins at 40, or so it seems. As Action Man once more goes AWOL from our toy stores, the original Action Man reappears for duty. This time he has been carefully aimed at the growing number of action figure collectors and is as authentic as you could possibly wish. Modellers Loft, a specialist model shop chain based in the south of England has gained the production rights to recreate the original Palitoy Action Man of the past.

The key figures, uniforms and packaging were painstakingly recreated and on launch in 2006 cost £35.00 for a figure in its original cardboard box, and a uniform tray, packaged as an attractive bundle. Also included in some bundles are items associated with a third accessory card, which thoughtfully have been included in the set. So this time around, you can buy Action Man, and have him kitted out in just one purchase. Other uniforms are set to follow in a number of phases. Full list posted: Here.

Early editions did not have indicators to the fact that these were reproductions printed on packaging and items to the dismay of the collectors market. This was later remedied to some degree, but it allowed new to be passed as old, so caution is to be exercised before purchasing online. Instances of 40th items being passed off as the more expensive vintage items have been reported, sometimes by mistake, sometimes by design. Even though produced recently, some flaws have surfaced: Namely in choice and quality of materials used and have lead to plastics fusing together, colour staining from straps and detaching / cracking limbs: Read more: Here

As appealing as ever - Action Man resurfaces to fill a overdue gap in the market.

October 2016 -

50th Anniversary Range ('50th')

2016 sees the 50th anniversary of the Action Man brand and to celebrate Art + Science International have been granted the licence from Hasbro to bring back a range of Action Man figures.

The first wave of six collector edition figures are to be released from October 2016. The range will first feature the classic Soldier and footballer in October (R.R.P. £34.99), then British Infantryman, Paratrooper, Scuba Diver (Frogman) and Ski Patrol figures complete in boxes in January 2017. These collector editions have been inspired by the best of the Action Man brand and feature complete accessories, gripping hands, flock hair and of course, the famous scar. Other features like Eagle Eye and Muscle Torso may appear in later releases.

Some of the new Action Man figures will be presented complete in a special 'diorama' scene backed card box, with windows to three sides. The range is likely to take its own direction in the future with rumours of familiar and special editions being talked about . A special limited edition of 1,966 Bobby Moore figures are due for release in December 2016.

One of the original Action Man artists - Douglas Hart - will be providing some of the illustrations for early packaging and product manual. This unique range is being developed exclusively for the gift and collectors’ market and it is hoped that it triggers many fond memories of everyone’s childhood play.

They will be available from leading toy retailers in the UK such as ToysRUs, Amazon, Hamleys and Harrods and selected important retailers such as Cotswold Collectibles outside the UK.

 

The new 50th Anniversary Action Man Range!

50th Action Man

50th Action Man Soldier (Oct 2016)

50th Action Man British Infantryman

50th Action Man British Infantryman (Jan 2017)

50th Action Man Paratrooper

50th Action Man Paratrooper (Jan 2017)

50th Action Man England Footballer

50th Action Man Footballer (Oct 2016)

50th Action Man Ski Patrol

50th Action Man Ski Patrol (Jan 2017)

50th Action Man Frogman

50th Action Man Scuba Diver (Jan 2107)

 

50th Action Man Ski Patrol

50th Action Man Bobby Moore (Dec 2016)

 

 

 

 

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Action Man Brief History timeline from 1966 - 2016