17 September 2012
With Avengers Assemble out now on DVD, we remember some vintage Thor, Iron Man, Incredible Hulk and Captain America toys. ...
With the Avengers Assemble now available on DVD and Blu-ray, we decided this was a great time to look at some classic superhero collectables featuring characters from the Avengers. So, whether you’re looking for Thor’s diecast van, an Iron Man action figure or something a little more unusual, then this is the feature for you.
Of course, the more typical superhero collectables tend to be the comics themselves and these can often fetch hundreds, if not thousands at auction. In fact, earlier this year the first ever issue of the Avengers comic sold for an impressive $274,850 – beating a previous best of $250,000. So, you should definitely keep an eye out for a copy of that at a local toy fair!
Also, among all the superheroes, it tends to be Batman that remains the most possible, with dozens of diecast cars, figures, guns and lots more. We’ve often covered Batman in the Collectors Gazette and recently looked at Spider-Man collectables from the 1970s (which you can read an extract from online), so thought it was time to assemble (see what we did there) some items featuring the Avengers.
Thor is among the least popular, with few vintage collectables featuring the son of Zeus. In fact, one of the few we came across was a Hot Wheels Mighty Thor Van (No. 2880) made during the1970s. It’s a bright yellow van, with a striking image of Thor on the side swinging his famous hammer. This was part of a range of superhero vehicles made by Hot Wheels for the younger collector and there were also vehicles featuring other Avengers characters, such as The Incredible Hulk Van (No.3301) and a Captain America Van (No. 2878). Sadly these vehicles aren’t great quality and tend to trade for around £10.
When Thor wasn't travelling around in his van, he was walking around thanks to a Marx wind up Mighty Thor figure. Made in 1967, the item was officially licensed by Marvel and was released as part of the Mechanical Marvel Super-heroes range, which also included Spider-Man and Captain America. Although the figures are a little clumsy looking, the box has some wonderful comic artwork, with the three heroes almost leaping out from the rear and is almost worth picking up for that alone. Prices vary but don't expect to pay more than around £60.
Moving onto Iron Man and you do find some rather more special collectables. One of the more interesting items dates from the early 1980s but is already generating some interest from comic book collectors. As well as making the Hot Wheels vans, Mattel also produced a series of action figures based on Spider-Man, Doctor Octopus (one of Spidey’s arch enemies) and, of course, Iron Man. The Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars series shows Iron Man in his most recognizable form, complete with bright red chest plate and yellow arms, along with a special plastic Secret Wars shield.
The range was actually based on a series of comics of the same name, which ran between 1984-’85 and was based around a powerful alien transporting Earth’s superheroes to a mysterious planet called Battleworld and then forcing them to fight it out. Luckily you’re unlikely to have to fight it out at auction for these items but a full set of figures did sell at Vectis Auctions for £200 and could be one to keep an eye on for the future.
Continuing the action figure theme, toy maker Mego made a series of poseable models featuring superheroes such as Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Iron Man. Created in 1975 the eight-inch Iron Man figure attempts to capture the likeness of the character, including features such as red fists ready to punch evil and a sewn on chest piece. Bizarrely, he doesn’t look much like a ‘robot’ though and instead rather resembles a normal male doll with a yellow face – he even has a little nose and eyes, plus the stripy underpants are a strange addition. Perhaps due to this uncanny likeness, the action figure had a fairly limited run and Mego stopped production in 1978, which means it’s fairly hard to snap one up nowadays.
Perhaps the most popular Avenger, in terms of vintage collectables, is The Incredible Hulk – no doubt helped by the popular TV series in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s. There are a number of Hulk toys featuring the green giant but one of the more interesting items is by Corgi and, although the Corgi Batmobile is undoubtedly the company’s finest, No. 264 The Incredible Hulk is a fairly nice diecast piece too. It’s a metallic copper Mazda, with a logo on the front and the Hulk bursting out of a cage on the back. An excellent example of this model sold at Vectis Auctions last year for £120.
In terms of Hulk figures, Mego once again had its own Hulk replica as part of the ‘World’s Greatest Super Heroes’ series, which featured a range of Marvel characters and was released in 1979 – at the height of the TV series’ popularity. The piece is a fully poseable action figure featuring the Hulk grimacing in his famous purple trousers. However, perhaps more interesting is the Mego figure released a year earlier under the Palitoy brand. This version had a much better box with a very impressive transformation scene on the rear. As such serious Hulk fans are happy to pay a little bit extra for this earlier version, thanks mainly to the artwork.
Going back to the diecast theme – but perhaps not on the same impressive scale – Corgi also released an Incredible Hulk motorcycle (No. 100), featuring a rather bulky Hulk figure perched on top of a tricycle with bright red wheels. Sadly, the Juniors range has always failed to set the heart of collectors alight and this example, like many others, tends to change hands for around £10.
It’s a shame because another fellow Avenger – Captain America – actually has a rather nice Corgi Junior model. Made in 1978, Captain America Racer (no. 25) is a great looking speedstar with red windows, a bright silver engine and Captain America logo on the rear, while the box shows our all-American hero charging towards the bad guys.
However, something even better is Corgi’s Captain America Jetmobile (no. 263) that, as the name may suggest, is pretty much a rocket on wheels with ‘Cap’ in the cockpit. In fact, of all the Marvel cars Corgi produced, this is probably one of my favourites because it’s just so outlandish and ridiculous. The image of our Star Spangled Superhero charging after the Red Skull in a rocket is wonderfully daft and might have made an interesting addition to the recent feature film. Anyway if, like me, you appreciate this crazy image, Metropolis Vintage Toys in Warwick currently has a boxed example on sale for £65.
Another similarly implausible example is made by Marx (Hong Kong) and sees Captain America riding a rather bog-standard yellow scooter. Measuring around five inches and with a friction drive motor, it’s the complete opposite to Corgi’s super-charged rocket! In fact, Captain would probably look more at home nipping to Sainsbury’s on this than he would fighting crime. However, there’s clearly no accounting for taste and in 2005, two of these plastic models sold at Vectis Auctions for £100 each.
Well, hope you've enjoyed this quick tour through some of the Avengers collectables and remember to keep coming back to Collectors Club of Great Britain to see how much they make at auctions or toy fairs.