Action Figures For the Questioning

I’ve been in the action figure world for about 20 years.  So, it’s safe to say I’ve got a fair bit of knowledge on the terms that tend to be thrown around by collectors with little or no explanation as to what they mean.  I generally try to explain a concept on its first appearance on this site, but much as Stan Lee once said to assume every comic book was somebody’s first, I too must assume that every review on this site might be the first to be read by a new visitor.  As such, I’ve decided to put together a guide to some of the more frequently used terms and names that might show up.

ACCESSORIES

accessories

What Are They?:

Accessories are a more normal term to hear.  Simply put, an Accessory is anything included with the figure that isn’t actually part of the figure itself.  They can vary in number, but generally collectors prefer for there to be more.  Some toy companies will put in accessories that are made up, or make no sense for the character, such as large spring loaded missile launches.

Example:

Luke Skywalker’s Light Saber, Batman’s Batarang, or even a simple gun for a character known to carry such things are good examples of an accessory, but they can also include pieces like interchangeable heads, extra hands, or scene specific pieces.

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ADD-ON

add-on

What is it?:

Anything that is not part of a figure’s body sculpt or underlying structure. Usually made of a different material, often a rubbery material.  These pieces may or may not be removeable. Minimates and Buck System will cover common uses.

Example:

A coat, vest, or fringe pieces of bulkier clothing.

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ARMY BUILDER

ArmyBuilder

What is it?:

A figure, typically of a nameless character, that can serve as a generic member of an army of similar characters.  Army builders are meant to help you build an army at a greater speed, by letting the collector have a figure they can buy a large quantity of at once.  It is also beneficial to the toy company, as they get greater sales without having to tool new figures.

Example:

Storm Troopers or Clone Troopers.

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ARTICULATION

Articulation

What is it?:

Each point of movement on a figure is considered a point of articulation.  A figure with 20 points of articulation can move a different direction in 20 places.  Too much articulation can ruin the aesthetic of a figure.  Too little can limit the fun factor.  It is preferred that it not be too tight or too loose.

Example:

Movement in neck, shoulders and hips are the standard points of articulation.

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BLEED OVER

BleedOver

What is it?:

A result of poor application of paint on a figure.  Bleed over is when paint goes past it’s intended stopping point.  It is usually evident by looking at sculpted boarders between colors, or possibly a painted line detailing a boarder.  Generally seen as making a figure look cheaply made.

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BOXED SET

BoxedSet

What is it?:

A collection of figures, typically based around a theme of some sort.  Generally refers to a number of figures greater than three.  It isn’t uncommon to see re-releases or a large amount of part re-use in such sets.  Frequently used to release lesser known characters, as packing them with better known characters means the average buyer will still buy them.

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BUCK SYSTEM

BuckSystem

What is it?:

A method of creating a small set of base bodies on which multiple figures can be built.  Commonly used as a way to cut costs.  However, it may also be used to make releasing additional figures and characters a quicker process.

Example:

Masters of the Universe is perhaps the greatest example of this system, but it has been seen on other lines, such as DC Universe Classics, another Mattel line.

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BUILD-A-FIGURE

BuildAFigure

What is it?:

A way of releasing larger or less desirable characters.  The figure is divided into several pieces and a piece is included with each figure in a given series.  It is common for figures in that series to be related to the Build-A-Figure in some way, but not necessary.

Example:

The idea was pioneered by Marvel Legends, where it was used to release larger characters such as Galactus and the Sentinel.

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COLLECT-N-CONNECT

What is it?:

The Mattel equivalent of a Build-A-Figure.  Exactly the same idea, just under a different name.

Example:

Used in just about every series of DC Universe Classics, for characters such as the Ultra Humanite

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DAY-OF

DayOf

What is it?:

When an item is released online, at a specific time, and there are no pre-sales, it is typically referred to as a “Day-of” sale.  Depending on the nature of the site, Day-of sales can range anywhere from relatively painless to living hell.

Example:

Matty Collector runs on Day-of sales.  They tend to be an example of the “living hell.”

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DC

DC

What is it?:

One of the big two comic book companies.  They are owned by Time Warner, and created Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Flash, and many others.  The name stands for Detective Comics, the name of the series in which Batman first appeared.

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DISPLAY STAND

DisplayStand

What is it?:

A stand meant to aid a figure in remaining vertical.  More often than not, designed to be innocuous and small, but can also be large and obtrusive.  Mostly seen with more collector oriented lines.

Example:

Recent releases of Minimates include a small clear stand.

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EXCLUSIVE

Exclusive(Green)

What is it?:

A figure only available from a certain place (first-hand, anyway).  Can be a specific store, such as Toys R Us or Wal-Mart, or possibly and event such as San Diego Comicon.  Usually a figure that is desirable to more hard-core fans, but not a general audience.  Store-exclusives are usually meant to be a sign of good faith to the store to encourage them to support the line.

Example:

Minimates have prominent Toys R Us exclusive waves, with brand new characters not seen elsewhere.

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HASBRO

Hasbro

What is it?:

Probably the largest producer of action figures.  They originated the term action figure with the original GI Joe.  They currently produce Star Wars and Marvel toys, and previously made DC toys as well.  They have bought out numerous smaller companies over the years, and are best known for their work with the 3 ¾ inch scale.  They have a tendency to pack figures with pointless missile launchers.

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HEAVY HITTER

HeavyHitter

What is it?:

A character that is more heavily packed in case assortments of figures and receives more variations and figures in general, based on their well-known status.  They are generally used to anchor a series of boxed set of lesser known characters, and are usually aimed at “moms and kids.”

Example:

Batman, Spider-Man, and Iron Man are all heavy hitters.

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HOT TOYS

HotToys

What is it?:

A company based in Hong Kong who are known for their high-end twelve-inch scale figures.  Their figures retail at a high price, are exceptionally lifelike, and usually include a large number of accessories.  They also have a tremendous after market, with more popular figures going for anywhere from two to six times their original value.

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