In the late ’80s and early ’90s, riding a wave that was equal parts Chris Claremont and John Byrne; Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee; and the speculator market, the X-Men toy market was booming. ToyBiz, at the time a partially-owned subsidiary of Marvel, was cranking out X-Men toys almost faster than they could be bought up. Almost. With multiple waves of toys every year, multiple editions for the most popular ones, and easy color switches in the figures’ paint, they created a true glut that only a few of the most valuable toys have risen above.
So, with such a satiated market for X-Men figures, what makes for a valuable toy? In some cases, it’s scarcity, as with any surprisingly valuable item — if they had only known it would be so popular, they would have made six times as many! Other cases lead to toys with egregious misprints of their facial features, or packaging errors, which makes them valuable for their singular flaws. We tracked down 15 of the rarest and/or most expensive toys in the X-Men line from the gilded age of the ’90s — if you’ve got one of these in your basement, you may be looking at some serious cash.
15. ROGUE (12″)
This figure seems like less of an action figure and more of a naked cash grab at the Barbie market. The face on the doll features a vacantly benign expression, arms cooly cocked to her side, and instead of a piece of scenery or a weapon to play with, Rogue came with a change of clothes. The box loudly boasts, “Rogue transforms from superhero to civilian in a flash!”
The concept of a change of costume is a cool selling point, and if Rogue came with a stealth uniform, that could be a fun concept; instead, she comes with a sensible duster, and a purple top/skirt combo that look like wrapping paper. If you want one fresh out of the box, there’s one on eBay for $600 — oddly, there’s also one selling on Amazon for $55. Something is amiss here, but you’ll have to find out for yourself.
14. UNCANNY X-MEN WOLVERINE (2ND EDITION)
It may come as no surprise to the average comic book fan that one of, if not the most popular action figure character produced for Marvel is Wolverine. The list of editions of his figures go on and on, with minute changes every time: they change the color of his pants, or he doesn’t have stripes on his spandex anymore, or he’s not wearing a mask, or he is wearing a mask but it’s torn — and so on.
As part of the Marvel Dynam-X line released generally concurrently with Chris Claremont and Jim Lee’s X-Men #1, they released a Wolverine figure with “spring-out slashing claws!” The claws are flimsy addenda to the figure itself, but they add just enough excitement to the figure, along with the included Official Marvel Universe Trading Card that you may be interested in dropping $1,062 to snag it on eBay.
13. DEADPOOL WITH EXTENDING DAGGER
After the introduction of Marvel’s hottest new mutant assassin, they rushed an action figure into production. As part of the Uncanny X-Men/X-Force set of Evil Mutants in 1992, Deadpool’s first action figure was released, and he came with two ninja swords and a “spring-out dagger.” Unlike other spring-out bladed Marvel characters, Deadpool’s dagger didn’t make his forearm look misshapen; however, he comes with two swords and appears to only be able to hold one of them at a time. That’s a recipe for a lost plastic sword getting sucked up into the vacuum cleaner.
12. CYCLOPS WITH APOCALYPSE CARD
X-Factor was Marvel’s soft relaunch of the idea of the original five X-Men (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Iceman and Angel) having their own book again; since there were so many other X-Men by this point, the original five split off and rebranded. Since then, the X-Factor team has gone through several further line-up changes, but its most enduring contribution to the Marvel Universe still remains Apocalypse.
So how awesome is this figure from ToyBiz’s 1991 line? You get Cyclops in his X-Factor costume with laser light-up eyes, and a trading card with the biggest, baddest mutant the X-Men had ever faced inside? That’s a steal at twice the price. As a bonus, the figure came with a portable Cerebro attachment, and it can all be yours for just $250.
11. X-MEN SPACE RIDERS SET WITH MASTER BATTLE CRUISER
The X-Men Space Riders set is, for lack of a more technical term, completely bonkers. It was one of the earlier Marvel sets with a collect-a-piece gimmick (i.e. each character in the set came with a set piece that was part of a larger spaceship, the Master Battle Cruiser), and it was an excuse to redesign all the characters just a bit. The space versions of the X-Men are covered in oxygen tubes and armor pieces the way that early ’90s X-Men in the comics were covered with patches and bandoliers.
Another fun fact: this is the first set of X-Men figures that included a Professor X who could walk (or at least did not come with a wheelchair). These are still pretty affordable, at $75 for a complete set (out of the box, which could be a dealbreaker).
10. X-MEN WATER WARS HYDRO BLAST WOLVERINE
1997 was the peak year of the decade’s obsession with add-ons and different, unrelated themes being forced onto action figure lines, with no worse culprit than the X-Men Water Wars toy line. The Hydro Blast Wolverine figure is a particularly strange entry; the figure itself is a pretty solid Wolverine (although the claws look like they’re glued on, instead of coming out of his knuckles), and he comes with an over-the-shoulder rocket launcher-type device.
The really egregious part here is that the device comes with a tank that is nominally for water (in the design, at least), but it only fires red plastic darts. The toy sells for $170 online these days, but don’t let it fool you: it’s just Wolverine with a dart gun.
9. X-MEN VS. STREET FIGHTER CYCLOPS AND M. BISON
X-Men vs. Street Fighter was released for PlayStation and arcade cabinets in 1996 and introduced the world to what would become the wildly successful Marvel vs. Capcom franchise. It’s larger-than-life style of animation lent itself well to both the Marvel side and the Capcom side, with Marvel characters getting a little more realistic and Street Fighter characters getting a little more god-like.
The consequent set of figures has a few valuable entries, but honestly, this pair rules on its own merits. This set features two figures with about 900 abs between them, Cyclops has a removable bomber jacket and optic blast, and M. Bison has “Psycho Double Punch Action,” which sounds kind of pedestrian for an evil genius like him. The set also includes a background card to replicate a scene from the game, and only costs a cool $90.
8. KANE DELUXE 10″ FIGURE
This one stands out not only for being valuable (at $200, it’s one of the higher priced items on the list), but for being a character that has faded into obscurity. Originally a Liefeld/Nicieza creation, he featured prominently in the early goings of Cable and Deadpool (not to be confused with Cable and Deadpool), as another victim of the Weapon X program.
While Wade Wilson received a healing factor to keep his cancer at bay, Kane received cybernetic arms (later upgraded to liquid metal in the 40th century). Kane has been largely absent from the Marvel Universe recently, with his most recent appearances alongside Alpha Flight. His figure looks like a knockoff Man-at-Arms, and comes with a “weapon” (the quotes are on the packaging), which appears to be a metal X that he can… throw?
7. WOLVERINE WITH LIGHT-UP WEAPONS
This one is a strange one. On its original release, this Wolverine figure wore a purple cowl, purple gloves, and a dark blue bodysuit — his “stealth” outfit, which ultimately just ends up looking like a knockoff Hawkeye costume. The weapon itself is a giant machine gun with ammo belts to attach to both sides, but the real star is Wolverine’s shouting face. He is mid-berserker rage, and they sculpted every single tendon in his neck sticking out as far as possible.
When the toy was rereleased for another edition, he was repainted to Wolverine’s traditional yellow and black color scheme. You can find both versions online, but the stealth suit is the collector’s item, listed at $180. Meanwhile, the repaint is included in a bundle with five other X-Men for less than a third of that for all of them.
6. GRAND CANADIAN X-MEN 4-PACK (2ND EDITION)
One thing that can affect the value of a set is the language on the packaging — e.g. while they may have produced tons for the American market, perhaps there were only a few printed with French packaging. This set stands out for just that reason, as it was intended for the Canadian market and includes French packaging, alongside its stellar and nonsensical line-up.
The set includes Weapon X Wolverine (naked save his helmet and a techno-loincloth), a pretty solid Omega Red, a great Apocalypse and Iceman, who is made of clear, smooth plastic and comes with a differently colored piece of plastic to “surf” on. Instead of being displayed in a clear window in the box, the figures are all individually bagged inside an opaque cardboard box — surely a no-no in today’s collecting culture. All four can be yours for only $194!
5. UNCANNY X-MEN OMEGA RED
Omega Red is another cautionary tale from the Marvel Universe about trying to recreate the Super Soldier serum that gave Captain America his powers. Omega Red was a Russian assassin who underwent the procedure (as best as they could figure it), and he ends up with a healing factor, which they use to install metal tentacles in his arms. It’s definitely not similar to a mutant with a healing factor and metal claws in his hands.
Omega Red was never quite as popular as some of the other Jim Lee-era X-Men creations, so that scarcity probably contributes to the $341 price tag on his original Uncanny X-Men action figure with “whipping tendril weapons!” It also comes with a collectible trading card, ‘natch.
4. X-MEN BATTLE BLASTERS WOLVERINE
So one thing to clear up: there are two separate sets of X-Men Battle Blasters figures; in one set, the figures come with freestanding turrets that shoot little plastic darts; in the second, the titular Battle Blaster is more of a display stand that sometimes does things. For example, the Storm Battle Blaster comes with a stand made out of clouds that spins. It’s… lackluster, to say the least.
The Wolverine figure in the Battle Blaster line comes with a platform that looks like it might be made from wreckage from the Weapon X facility, but they leave a lot of that legwork to the person purchasing the toy. Fun of the Battle Blaster notwithstanding, an unopened Wolverine can be yours for the low, low price of only $348!
3. UNCANNY X-MEN SABRETOOTH
Sabretooth has long had the unfortunate job of playing second fiddle to Wolverine, the real feral cat-person star of the Marvel Universe, but he finally gets a shot in with his Uncanny X-Men action figure. Coming with “snarl swipe action” and a collectible trading card, as per usual, the figure itself is sort of middle of the road.
The body sculpt is good, if generic, but the face looks like it’s supposed to be the Tick or something, with an outsized chin that’s entirely too big for his already-enormous body. The figure retails at $328, which makes it more valuable than a Wolverine from the same set, but Wolverine gets his revenge with his second edition figure, which retails for about three times that amount.
2. X-MEN VS. STREET FIGHTER GAMBIT AND ZANGIEF
Based on the X-Men vs. Street Fighter video game, this one is a rarity because it is a one-of-a-kind, colossal mistake. The packaging lists it as a Gambit and a Zangief figure — it’s half right. There’s definitely a Zangief in the package, with Back Breaker Action, but the Gambit is a mess. First of all, it’s actually a Ryu, so it’s off to a horrible start. The figure is unclothed save for a pair of briefs and a white, unpainted headband, and to really top it all off, it’s missing it’s right leg below the knee.
Seems like there definitely not be any Kinetic Card Throwing action coming from this mismatched set. These two can come live at your house for only $1,000 — might want to invest in some action figure pants for Gambit/Ryu, though.
1. X-FORCE DEADPOOL WITH REMOVABLE MASK
For one of the X-Men’s most valuable bit players, who has gone on to become his own verifiable cultural juggernaut (no pun intended), it seems like the ad copy writers for this Deadpool figure did not care for the character at all. By the mid-’90s, Deadpool wasn’t quite the pop culture fixture he is today, and some of his comics from that period are just outright bad, but there’s no reason to roast the guy like that.
He’s billed on the packaging as “Mutagenic Hidden Nightmare,” but the toy itself is pretty great. The Merc with a Mouth comes with a katana, a dagger and a gun, as well an interchangeable left hand, to switch between all of them, as well as the aforementioned mask. It also came with one of the official Flair Marvel Universe trading cards, which were certifiably great.
Which of these X-Toys did you have growing up? Let us know in the comments!
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