Think of an icon of the 1960s and who springs to mind? The Beatles? Twiggy? How about an action hero who could easily give James Bond a run for his money, were it not for the fact that he’s only a foot tall and made of plastic?
Ah, Action Man! Just the mention of his name is likely to bring back a flood of misty-eyed memories to lots of boys and a few girls, especially ones over the age of fifty. Launched in 1966 and made in the UK by Palitoy, the figure was based on the American figure, GI Joe. It was an instant best-seller. By 1979 eight million Action Men were in circulation and the following year he was named as the National Association of Toy Retailer's Toy of the Decade.
What is it about this diminutive character that has captured the imagination of generations of children? Could it be his good looks? The embodiment of square jawed masculinity, he’s very much in the style of James Bond but those rugged looks could not be less English, as the design of the head and features was based on John F Kennedy. Sensing they had a commercial hit on their hands, the manufacturers immediately tried to get the figure patented and, with that in mind, gave him a distinctive scar on his face. As anyone who has seen Action Man with his kit off knows, a facial scar is the very least of his worries.
Anatomical issues aside, the outlook for our fuzzy-haired friend looks bright. Today, nostalgia is big business and the last few years have seen prices rising dramatically for toys from the 1960s and ‘70s. Alongside Action Man, there were many clothes, weapons and accessories sold to complement the figure. Easily lost to the vacuum cleaner, they are often elusive and can be more valuable than the figures themselves. At Clevedon Salerooms a collection of 1970s Action Men figures and accessories in their original packaging sold for a combined total of £3,720.