In recent years, superheroes and comic book culture have become more accepted and mainstream. Thanks to genuinely great films like The Dark Knight, box office smashes like Guardians of the Galaxy, and a litany of great video games (most of which, we have to admit, are either all Batman or Spider-Man games… actually, all of them), superheroes have been pulled out of the often stigmatized niche market of comic books and into the mainstream. Now, people from all walks of life with varying degrees of personal interest, from the casual to the obsessive, enjoy superheroes in their media shamelessly.
With all that being said, however, comic books and collectables are still the domain of the hardcore super fan. All around the world, the most dedicated admirers of Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Cap, The Incredible Hulk, etc. regularly buy and collect comic books of their favorite characters, observing their adventures and drinking in their backstories in their original format. What they also collect are action figures of these fictional heroes. Arguably nerdier and more hardcore than comic collecting, these people love nothing more than to see these characters immortalized forever in plastic, so they can put them on their shelves and, well, stare at them in admiration I suppose!
Aside from (sometimes) looking cool and filling up shelf space, these figurines can also cost an absolute fortune. Depending on the supply, date of discontinuation, and fan demand, a figure that may have set you back a couple of bucks on release could run you in the thousands today. So, let's look at some of them here. Break out your kryptonite… and your wallets…
25 8-Inch Mego Spider-Man
Perhaps one of the oldest figures on this list, the 8-inch Mego Spider-Man is part of the Mego Action figure set, which was first put out on the market way back in the 1970s.
Released in the same era as the Amazing Spider-Man television show, the web-slinging superhero was coming into his own as a favorite among Marvel and comic book fans. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that one of these figures would, in mint condition, set you back over $100.
24 Cap, 1973
First released back in 1973, again during a similar boom to the Mego Spider-Man figure, this Cap action figure saw an extensive release, meaning that from the year it came out up until the year it was discontinued, 1983, it was relatively easy to get a hold of one at retail price. However, it has been 25 yeas since then, and in spite of its previous widespread availability, now this Marvel action hero could set you back more than a grand in mint condition.
23 Original Series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
While perhaps not as big as many of the DC or Marvel superheroes, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are, nonetheless, a popular and fun group of crime fighters. The original comic books were released in 1984, and four years later the first set of action figures came out. Since then, the shelled heroes have gained popularity through film and television (for which they are perhaps better known), which has increased the demand for these original turtle toys. Expect to “shell” out $250 for a set of these in their original packaging.
22 Teen Titans Aqualad
The young protege of superhero Aqua Man, Aqualad is a member of the Young Justice squad in the DC universe.
In 1976, the Mego toy company brought out an Aqualad figure as part of the Teen Titans series.
Of all the characters in the series, he was perhaps the most popular, which would make sense as he was the leader of Young Justice. Costing bidding collectors just over a grand at $1,010 in mint condition and still in the box, this young amphibious lad will put a dent in your wallet for sure!
21 Powers Of The Greyskull Line
Released after the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series, the Powers of the Greyskull was a prehistoric prequel to the popular animated show. In keeping with tradition and sound business logic, a line of toys was developed to coincide with the program. It consisted of three dinosaurs, two giant action figures, and a figure of He-Ro. He-Ro never made it to release, and while the dinosaurs were, internationally, the giant figures were released exclusively in Italy. Needless to say, any of these figures would be great, albeit rare, finds for fans of the show.
Another character here from the Power of the Greyskull universe, Ram-Man is like a cross between a spartan warrior, a Viking, and hardy shoe mending elf. Fitted with a helmet which allows him to smash enemies and hard terrain with his head, he was one of the more unique characters from the Greyskull show and the series as a whole. His figurine was a thick, stocky plastic toy which sees Ram-Man dawning his signature helmet, along with his mighty ax and a rather fetching red sweater/green pants combo.
19 Original Superman Action Figure
One of the oldest superheroes there is, Superman first appeared as part of Action Comics way back in 1938.
It took just two years for the first action figure to emerge, and what a beauty it was!
Carved out of solid wood, our friend Clark Kent looks a little dated now compared to his plastic contemporaries, but would be a nostalgic blast from the past for longtime fans. But at $2000 near mint condition, you’d really want to love that nostalgia…
18 Power Lords First Series Action Figures
Power Lords - The Extra-Terrestrial Warriors toys are a little bit different than many of the other action figures on this list purely because they didn’t come off the back of a pre-existing television show or comic book series, but were their own entity. The other thing that made them unique was that each figure had a unique action move (such as Arkus being able to flap his wings) that could be activated by pushing a button. Their uniqueness and relative obscurity today make them a rare find.
17 Power Lords Second Series Action Figures
Another entry here for the Power Lords figures, but this time the second generation of toys to hit the market. No longer completely autonomous, however, as a grand total of three comic books were released by DC based on the figures. New additions to the series were Bakatak, Torch, and Drrench as well as the mini playsets Boulder Blaster, Trap Rock, and The Exploder. Receiving less attention and publicity than the first generation, chances are these figures may even be rarer and more lucrative than their first generation counterparts.
16 Cobra Commander GI Joe
Similar to the Power Lords action figures, the GI Joe action figures were released as standalone toys prior to the cartoon, television show, and film. When it was initially released, they were designed to represent the four armed forces of the United States: the navy (Sailor), the marines (Marine), the air forces (Pilot), and the army (Soldier).
Since then, the figure has become an iconic symbol of American military strength.
The Cobra Commander GI Joe, released in 1983, can fetch up to $900 in mint condition.
15 Toy Fair 2012 Iron Man And Cap Lego Minifigures
Superhero films have arguably never been more in vogue then they are nowadays. One of the movies that spearheaded this renaissance was 2008’s Robert Downey Jr.-led Iron Man. Spawning a few sequels, it went head to head with the Dark Knight films on the DC side and spawned a litany of follow-ups on the Marvel side, including Cap. It’s no surprise, then, that these figures, of which only 125 were ever made, are highly rare and desirable collector's items.
14 Action Pilot GI Joe
Another GI Joe figure here, and this time we are going airborne! As mentioned above, the GI Joe series represented the four military combat types of the United States. Here, the Action Pilot GI Joe represents the high-flying airforce pilots. Released all the way back in 1964, any GI Joe enthusiast looking to complete their collection by adding the Action Pilot to it will have to shell out a cool $1,100 to add him to their mantlepiece.
13 Scratch The Cat
A second entry here from the crime-fighting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. What makes this entry so unusual however is that the figure is essentially a nonentity in the show, and seems to exist purely in action figure form.
Scratch The Cat is a mutant cat which is draped in prison stripes, seemingly typecasting him as a convict and a baddie for the turtles to defeat.
Highly sought after by collectors, this offending feline can go for up to $1,250... assuming it's still imprisoned in its box.
12 Super Powers Cyborg
Released in the 1980s through the Canadian Kenner Toys company, the Super Powers version of the DC character Cyborg is a highly desired item for collectors, and is one of the rarest in the Super Powers collection. Having functions like moveable limbs and additional arm attachments, the action figure also has the distinction of not receiving a bilingual release, adding to its uniqueness and rarity. Difficult enough to come across at the best of times, finding one unopened is even harder and will set you back north of a thousand dollars.
11 Super Foes The Riddler
Although technically a villain and not a superhero, The Riddler has served as one of Batman’s longest and trickiest adversaries. Released all the way back in 1944 as part of the Super Foes collection, it wasn’t until Frank Gorshin’s portrayal of the enigma in the 60s television show (and later Jim Carrey’s adaptation and appearances in the Arkham video games) that the antagonist gained popularity, increasing the value of this already rare figure to as high as $1,250.
10 Freddy Funko Superman #6
A figure here which has the distinction of being both a Superman figure and a Freddy Funko figure, meaning that two sets of fans and collectors would potentially vie for one, and was made exclusively for the 2011 San Diego Comic Con.
What makes this so desirable is that the Freddy Funko figures are released sporadically for events just like Comic Con.
Because of all of this, the figure currently sells for around $1,370, but given how early it is into this particular Funko figurine, that price could increase in years to come!
9 Super Powers The Riddler
Another entry here from the Super Powers series, and another appearance by the Dark Knight’s enigmatic foe. The Riddler rendition of the Super Powers action figures (known as Super Amigos in Argentina) is arguably the rarest from the series and a much-desired item for Batman collectors. Getting your hands on one of these won’t be easy, however, as a figurine, still in the box in mint condition, could set you back as much as $3,500.
8 Attack Armor Batman
Comic book culture, particularly when it comes to DC and Marvel, is synonymous with western culture; from the snarky, cocky personality of Spider-Man to the aptly named Cap, it is at its core inspired by western values and bravado. So it comes as a surprise when you see a figure like this which is more coveted in the west than in places like Europe and Australia. This is because it was released in the States after those continents, and only through the retailer Toys R’ Us.
7 Kresge Spider-Man
As we mentioned earlier, there is no denying the popularity of Spider-Man; with a popular television show in the 70s, and a massive video game and film release forthcoming, affection for the hero is as high as ever.
So is the demand for web-slinging memorabilia, as is the cost.
Between 1973 and 1982, Kresge released a line of Spider-Man figures during the height of his popularity. Now with a recent resurgence and a slew of new fans, one of these figures in mint condition could set you back almost $1,500.
6 Superman Cinemaquette
More often than not, action figures, like other items and collectibles, increase in value when they are discontinued and or the supply does not meet the demand, making them more desirable to collectors. In the case of the Superman Cinemaquette, however, its initial pricetag, which would have run you an outrageous $2000, when it was revealed at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con, is more than enough to warrant its place on this list. We’d hate to see what it’d be worth if it became a rare collector's item!
5 Mego Batman
Another Mego figure here, this time though it’s DC and not Marvel. Released back in the 1970s (like so many entries here), it ran from ‘73 to 1982 when it was discontinued. This happened just as the television show brought Batman out of the niche market of comic books and into pop culture icon. As has been the theme for many entries thus far, this superhero’s new popularity spawned a demand for old memorabilia, meaning that you could dish out as much as $4,627 for one of these bad boys in good condition.
4 Robin The Boy Wonder Figure (Original)
Often laughed at or dismissed as only being Batman’s inferior sidekick. Well, no one’s laughing at the Boy Wonder now!
Yet another figure released in the 1970s, this original Robin figure came in various sizes and had a removable mask.
The cost for the privilege of revealing Robin’s true identity? $7,357. Holy Gotham City, Batman, that’s an expensive sidekick. No one is laughing now, that’s for sure, but some of you may be crying…
3 Nomura Batman Robot
A triple whammy here: a figure that was released exclusively in Japan, a figure that was released half a century ago, and one that fetches a ridiculously high retail price today. The unremarkable looking figure is a battery operated robot that can light up and walk around. Antiquated by today’s standards, it still fetches a whopping $5000 today. All of this means that in spite of its ugly appearance (frankly unbecoming of the masked superhero) it would be a jewel in only the most dedicated of Batman collections.
2 Optimus Prime, Transformers
Perhaps the most well known and iconic Transformer there is, Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots, is a staple of popular culture for those familiar with the Transformers and those who are not. A truck that transforms into a gun-toting force of technology, he is known for his virtuosity as well as his formidable fighting might. Something else that is formidable is the price tag, that can run you over $6,500, transforming you into the envy of all Optimus Prime fans… and a broke person.
1 Original GI Joe Prototype
So here he is again. The gung-ho military man of action figures, the GI Joe doll goes all the way back to the early 1960s, and in many ways epitomizes the subculture that is the action figure, so we think its fitting to go all the way back to the start to finish this list. Released in 1963, the Prototype GI Joe figurine was not released in toy stores, but was purchased at an auction as it was the first of its kind. For $200,000. The budget of a small army. Well, that’s us defeated!