What Is Happening to the Action Figure?

The action figure world seems to be a victim of its own collectibility.

Image via Mike Albo

This past weekend, New York City’s Javitz Center housed the 113th North American International Toy Fair, “the largest toy and youth entertainment product marketplace in the Western Hemisphere,” where an estimated 30,000 “play professionals”—including international buyers from more than 7,000 retail outlets—come to show their newest robots, slime, slides, board games, hover boards, and more.

The space was organized into sections like outdoor toys, action figures, educational, board games, and puzzles. This helped attendees get a good, overall sense of what's happening in each genre. The action figure section at the Toy Fair, for example, seemed to be gearing up for the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. One location had a pewter-hued large figurine of Wonder Woman and an armored Batman from the film, $149.99 each, displayed in glass boxes like ancient Sumerian necklaces. In fact, most of the figurines were behind glass, encased and precious, among them a Freddie Mercury figurine.

Image via Mike Albo

Comic book merchandise is booming. Sales of graphic novels in 2015 were up by 22 percent. According to Diamond Inc., the top-selling comic-related figurine this year is Erick Sosa's sculpture of the character Harley Quinn, who will be played by Margot Robbie in the much-anticipated DC Comics antihero feature Suicide Squad, hitting theaters this August.

The figurines were all detailed and worthy of a prominent place on a superfan’s shelf. But—where were the Micronauts? The Transformers? It was difficult to find toys that kids could actually play with in the dirt, outside, or even in a makeshift fort made of sofa cushions. The action figure world seems to be a victim of its own collectibility. Maybe because half the reps here have scuffed-up Chewbaccas that they wish they’d kept in the box.

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