In May of 1984, a self-published comic book about an unlikely group of martial arts heroes laid the foundation for what would become a massive, media-spanning franchise. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 was the brainchild of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. The modest black and white publication was printed in a limited run of 3,250 copies, financed with funds from a tax refund and a loan from an uncle. The book was published as a single-issue parody of established (and popular) comics like Marvel's Daredevil and New Mutants and DC’s Ronin.
The uniqueness of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (and the low print runs) quickly led to the book becoming a sensation in the comic book arena. In 1986, the Turtles were adapted to the small screen for a cartoon. Playmates Toys soon signed on as associate producers and developed a line of action figure line based on Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael. Since 1988, countless numbers of figures have been made, making TMNT one of the most successful toylines in history. Many of the earlier figures are highly desired by collectors now, so we’ve come out of our very comfy shell to create for CBR readers this list of the 15 most valuable Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys.
In 1991, fans of the Turtles entertainment franchise saw the long-awaited release of the film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze. The Super Shredder (aka The Movie Star Super Shredder) was an action figure release based on this villain's super cool appearance in the film. Two rare Super Shredder variants were also produced, the first featuring a black bodysuit that was only obtainable via a mail-in promotional campaign with Chef Boyardee, and another with purple armor that was made available only in Europe.
The TMNT Super Shredder figure came blister packed with an assortment of cool accessories, including a Shredder communicator, Sinister Spiked Staff, Shred Studded Belt and two mini Ooze Cannisters. Representing the most affordable figures in this list, a MOC (mint on card) Super Shredder recently sold at auction for the low, low price of $250.
The “Powerhouse Punk Enforcer” for the Foot Clan known as Bebop was the third of four different villains released in 1988 as part of the original Playmate Toys’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figure toyline. As a henchman serving under the evil Shredder and his Foot Clan, Bebop was third in command after Rocksteady, his troublemaking partner in crime. Despite being a bad guy, Bebop’s punk rock fashion aesthetic -- complete with tattoos, Mohawk hairstyle, baby blue shades and high-top sneakers -- helped to make him a favorite among young fans.
Bebop’s no frills accessories included the Turtle Shell Drill, Garbage Can Shield, and Knife; those turtle shells worn by Bebop as shoulder pads appear to suggest how this punk rock villain’s weapons of choice were used. At auction today a mint condition Bebop still in its original packaging will cost the TMNT collector around $295 bucks.
In the world of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the (fictional) Foot Clan is recognized as the most notorious ninja clan in all of Japan. The leader of the Foot Clan is Oroku Saki, otherwise known to his enemies as “Shredder.” And helping to carry out Shredder's diabolical schemes is an endless army of faceless Foot Soldiers. Originally comprised of human followers of Shredder, the Foot Soldiers is now made up of robotic androids.
Playmates' releases always included a generous assortment of accessories, and the 1988 Foot Soldier figure was no different. Included in the blister pack were an Electro-Shock Mace, Turtle Shell Biter, Turtle Carver Knife and a “Weapons Rack.” Today, a mint condition Foot Soldier figure still sealed in its original blister pack will cost the TMNT collector upwards of $325.
Here's a fun factoid: When the Turtles were first created for the black and white comic book in which they made their debut, they all wore black masks over their eyes. In the original book, the different weapons that each carried helped to distinguish one from another. When the Turtles were licensed for the mass consumption of kids by way of Saturday morning ‘toons, action figures, and a color comic book series from Archie Comics, the bandanas were changed to primary colors so that kids could more easily distinguish between them.
Distinguished by the purple mask with matching kneepads, bo staff, and the letter “D” on his belt is the creative genius of the team Donatello. He’s the first of his team make the list of the most valuable Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys and he is valuable. Recently at auction a 1988 Donatello figure sold for $325 greenbacks.
In celebration of 30 years of animated adventures of everyone's favorite "heroes in a half shell," Neca Toys produced a stellar San Diego Comic-Con exclusive limited edition collector's set with carrying case. This totally awesome assortment boasts 8 action figures (Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Shredder, Krang with Bubble Walker, and 2 Foot Soldiers) and ridiculously cool number of accessories, all packed into two different figure trays in the vinyl carrying case. The collector's case itself boasts original illustrations by Archie Comics’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures artist, Ken Mitchroney.
Produced in a limited edition of 5,000 sets, Neca Toys' 2017 Comic-Con exclusive 30th Anniversary Cartoon Box was originally released with a retail price of $200, a steal considering everything this case holds. But they usually go for higher on the secondary market. At the time of this writing a set recently sold for $330.
Here's another fun factoid: In 1984, when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 was published, the name of one of the book’s heroes was misspelled. Michelangelo (aka Mikey) was originally misspelled "Michaelangelo" by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman. In addition to that, Laird has also revealed that the reason why the Turtles have names based on Renaissance artists -- as opposed to monikers from the Land of the Rising Sun -- was because the duo couldn't come up with convincing Japanese names.
A Ninja Turtle by any other name is still a martial arts butt kicker, and punching his way into the #10 spot on this list is Michelangelo, wearer of the orange mask and the skillful wielder of matching nunchucks. Recently at auction, a 1988 Michelangelo figure sold for $350, which seems like something’ that would give Mickey reason to say, in his Southern California accent: “Party on, dude!”
Kicking his way into the #9 spot of this list of the 15 most valuable Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys is Leonardo, Master Splinter’s star pupil and the Battle Commander of the Turtles. Leo wears the blue mask with matching kneepads and his identifying weapons of choice are the Katana Blades, Turtle Fist Dagger, Ninja Stars, and the Kama.
As you can probably tell from the image above, Leonardo is a Turtle on a mission when it comes to kicking bad guy butt. “No matter how dangerous the situation,” reads the back of his blister pack, “Leo doesn't mind sticking his neck out. His primary objective in life: cut Shredder down to size!” Like the previously discussed Michelangelo, the 1988 Leonardo figure still sealed in its original packaging also sold for $350 at auction recently.
When creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 made its debut in 1984 (with a limited original print run of 3,000 copies), the book was sold for the cover price of $1.50 a copy. Three decades later, mint condition copies of this highly desired comic book are actually worth about 2,000 times its cover price, making TMNT#1 the most valuable published in the '80s -- by any publisher.
Despite being produced in mass quantities, as already shown with the previous entries, TMNT action figures also command a pretty penny for toys still sealed in their original packaging. Although they’re not valued at 2,000 times their original SRP (suggested retail price), figures like the 1988 Raphael are worth 80 times its original $4.99 SRP. Recently at auction, a minty fresh Raphael sold for $395 smackers.
Since 1988, Playmates Toys has been responsible for the lion’s share of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures and related accessories released to the toy marketplace. To this day, the company remains the primary maker of Turtle-related toys, but other companies have also begun offering their very own interpretations of characters from TMNT’s colorful catalog of characters. One of the first such releases was 2015’s NT-01 Cerebral (Krang) figure from First Gokin, a 3rd party toy maker specializing in high-end action figures.
Marking the beginning of what fans could expect from First Gokin’s “NT” line of Ninja Turtle homage figures, Cerebral is an impressive interpretation of the cyborg exo-suit piloted by the brain-sized mutant Krang (one of the most memorable villains from TMNT cartoons). The figure features remarkably detailed design and rich color scheme application, which justifies the $400 price range within which this figure currently sells.
Described on his blister card as the "Metallic Mad Shogun Mauler," 1994's Shogun Shoate was one of a dozen or so late introductions into the TMNT toyline. This tail-end entry would result in the figure being overlooked by buyers at the time of its initial release. In the intervening years, though, Shoate’s star has risen sharply (under the law of supply and demand), and the figure is at the top of the “most wanted” of many toy collectors today.
Along with the "muscled, mutated and mad-tempered" Shoate, came an assortment of Metallized Shogun Accessories. These included Reptilian Metallized Battle Armor, Dragon-headed Double Dose Axe, Slithery Sharp Snake Slicer, and Long Lizard Blade. Today a fully accessorized Shogun Shoate action figure in MOC (mint on card) condition sells for about $420 dollars at auction.
Who wudda' thunk that of the Turtles' best known villains, it would be Rocksteady and not Shredder in the top five of the most valuable Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys? This mutant G.I. Mauler is Shredder's #1 Thug and also the longtime partner-in-crime of Bebop. Along with the aforementioned baddies and the grunt-level Foot Soldier, Rocksteady helped to make up the first wave of villainous forces in the TMNT toyline. And if his placement here is any indication, he may even be the most popular!
Packaged with the 1988 Rocksteady were a handful of accessories, including a Manhole Cover Shield, his Retro-Mutogen Gun, and the somewhat brutal-sounding “Turtle Carver Knife” -- which probably explains the origin of the two turtle scalps that dangle from either side of his belt! (See: Turtle soup) A mint condition Rocksteady in its original packaging sells in the price range of $495.
The TMNT toyline's Firefightin' dalmation Hot Spot was one of the last figures to be produced before the original series reached its end. Hot Spot was released in 1993, along with other now highly sought-after TMNT toys like Scratch The Cat, Robotic Bebop and Robotic Rocksteady, Sandstorm, Half Court, and Mona Lisa. And included in the blister pack along with Spot were several firefighting accessories, including a Squirtin' Fire Hydrant and Hot Hose, Foot Fightin' Fire Axe, and Anti-Gaggin' Gas Mask.
As one should expect, due to its relative rarity today, the Hot Spot figure is one of the hottest in the TMNT toy franchise. Even out of the package, this particular figure typically sells for a couple hundred bucks a pop. And a mint-on-card Hotspot recently sold at auction for $574, proving beyond any doubt that this puppy is one hot dog.
Fall of 2017 brings the awesome release of several officially licensed Sixth Scale-sized figures from Sideshow and their partner Threezero. Among the first of these stellar releases are the TMNT villains Bebop and Rocksteady, as they both appeared in the 2016 film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. Both the Bebop and Rocksteady figures boast newly sculpted bodies featuring incredibly detailed heads and skin textures, realistic paint application, removable accessories, faux-leather clothing and over 25 points of articulation.
As brand new collectibles that carry on the rich, three-decades-old legacy of TMNT toys, Sideshow and Threezero’s Out of the Shadows Bebop and Rocksteady launches Teenage Mutant Ninja figures to a new and unparalleled level. Such figures are only for the most serious of turtle collectors, and a set of the Bebop and Rocksteady figures recently sold at online auction for $600 smackers.
In the #2 spot of the most valuable Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys is 1994's Undercover Raphael. This sewer-snooping sleuth came dressed in a fedora and a "real fabric trench coat!" In addition to the removable cloth coat, this “Surveillance Spy Turtle Technician” also came packaged with the following spy accessories: Undercover Mutant Movie Camera, Infrared Googie Goggles, Super Sensitive Eaves-droppin’ Dish, Surveillance Spy Case, Private Eye Pistol, and nifty ninja Spy Sais.
In contrast to a 1990 wave that offered only Donatello as an undercover agent (dressed in a plastic fedora and molded trench coat), all four Turtles were outfitted with fedoras and fabric coats for the ‘94 series, and packaged with their own respective detective gadgets. Each of the figures sells for a pretty penny at auction, too, but Raphael is currently the most valuable. A mint condition figure in its original packaging recently sold for $700.
What's black and white and prized all over? If you said 1993's Scratch the Cat action figure, you're right on the money. And if you're a TMNT collector who wants to have Scratch in your collection, be prepared to spend a nice stack of greenbacks.
This mutant cat burglar garbed in a striped jailbird uniform was one of the last figures produced when the original TMNT toyline neared its end. Due to its relative rarity, it’s since become the most prized figure in the history of Ninja Turtle toys. Even out of the pack, this figure sells for a couple hundred bucks, but a mint condition Scratch on original card goes for upwards of $1200. If you want see those other collectors in that TMNT Facebook group you're in yell out cowabunga, a mint-on-card Scratch the Cat would be the ultimate expression of your bank account’s "turtle power."
Did you own any of these Ninja Turtles toys when you were younger? Let us know in the comments!