When I told my wife about this article, she looked at me with a blank, incredulous stare. "You're blogging about price tags?" I'm sure there are a few of you thinking the same thing. But to me, action figure price tags remind me not only of the great toy stores from my childhood, but also of the fun I used to have browsing through those toy aisles. And many price tags are almost iconic symbols of the stores in which they were used. So let's check out a few price tags from yesteryear!
We'll start with this tag from BEST, a now-defunct chain of catalog showroom stores. I dimly remember browsing the toy aisle at the BEST in Fairfax, VA and picking up my very first Masters of the Universe figure. Being a "creature" kid, I passed by all the comparatively boring heroes and picked up the coolest creature of the bunch: Mer-Man.
I also have vague memories of looking for Yoda in that BEST when he first came out in Kenner's Empire Strikes Back line. I wonder if I ever found one there.
The above card back was from Riker as a Malcorian from the Playmates Star Trek: The Next Generation line, released in 1994. I never bought Trek figures from the Fairfax BEST myself... maybe because by the time they were released, BEST stores were in dire straights. Today, the chain is no more, a casualty of the inflexibility of catalog stores. But this price tag remains!
I didn't have a Childworld in my region, but I suspect the store was much like the smaller toy stores that popped up from time to time during the 80's. Shockingly enough, Toys R Us wasn't the only toy-specific store in those days and in my region, we had a number of toy stores like 20th Century Toys, Toy Wizard, Juvenile Sales, and KayBee. But they all fell to the wayside when the "everything" stores like Wal-Mart started taking hold.
In the price tag above, we see that Toxic Crusaders retailed for $4 each in 1991.
I'm sure you knew that Star Wars price tags would show up eventually. Here we see a Star Wars 21-back Snaggletooth card with a JC Penney price tag of only $1.99. That seems like a cheap price, but if you adjust for inflation, that comes to about $7 today. Probably not coincidentally, that's roughly the market price for today's modern Star Wars figures.
JC Penny wasn't one of my go-to stores for toys, but I'm sure I picked up a few Star Wars figures there given their ubiquity at the time. That logo hasn't changed all that much in 30+ years, has it?
Here's a K-Mart tag on IG-88 from Kenner's ESB line (circa 1980) and you can see that the price of Star Wars figures started to rise to keep up with inflation. Interestingly enough, if you adjust for that inflation, the value actually declines from $7 a figure in 1977 to $6.50 a figure in 1980.
Fast forward 14 years to 1994 and we see another K-Mart tag on Reg Barklay from the Playmates ST:TNG line. It's interesting to see the evolution of the price tag from the yellow tag with the old K-Mart logo to the newer white one with the more modern logo.
When I was a kid, we didn't have any Wal-Marts in my area. Considering how utterly omnipresent Wal-Marts are today, that's a difficult thing to imagine. But I do remember these tags, probably from my days of collecting Kenner's Star Wars: Power of the Force 2 line when I frequented the Fredericksburg Wal-Mart in an obsessive quest to collect the line.
This tag was on the card of the infamous Thomas Riker figure from Playmates Star Trek: TNG. That's right, some lucky schmuck scored a Thomas Riker for less than 5 bucks... which I then bought 16 years later for the same price. It's the circle of life.
Unmarked Price Tags
I have a few tags that show no identifying store, like this one on one of my favorite toy lines of all time, MUSCLE! As you can see, these MUSCLE 4-packs retailed for $1 each, which would equate to about $2 today. Still a great deal, even adjusting for inflation.
This next tag suggests that Pizza Tossin' Leo spent some time in the clearance bin. I seem to think it's a Toys R Us tag, but I doubt it because it doesn't use the same font. And speaking of TRU...
Toys R Us
I saved the best for last! For me, the classic Toys R Us price tag is the most iconic of tags: I associate the shape, color, and logos of the tags with my excitement as a kid of browsing through the world's biggest toy store. I have a few TRU tags on Star Wars cards, so we'll go in chronological order and start with ESB Ugnaught above. We can see that TRU's price of $2.38 undercuts K-Mart's $2.48.
Moving on we see Chief Chirpa from Kenner's Return of the Jedi line. The price of $2.68 equates to just $5.87 today. That's right, Star Wars figures actually declined in price from movie to movie when you adjust for inflation!
And speaking of Star Wars figures declining in price, this last tag labels a POTF85 Warok card with a clearance price of only 97 cents! How ironic that the POTF85 line, so widely rejected by kids bored with Star Wars back in the mid-80s, would be so valued today.