Toys / Toy Collecting

Vehicles and Playsets Making a Comeback

By Randy Herkowitz
January 4, 2009 - 12:01


There is no question that in the late 1970’s Kenner Toys changed what we knew of action figures for a new generation with their smaller 3 ¾” scaled action figures.  Gone were the 8” clothed action dolls boys were used to playing with.  Kenner Toys made an ingenious decision of shrinking the standard scale of action figures to allow them to accompany the action figures with vehicles and playsets to help increase the play value of the hugely successful Star Wars toy line.  Soon after, most companies followed suit and 3 ¾” action figures became the standard in the 1980’s.  G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero took the vehicle and playset concept even further.  The vehicles and playsets became equally as important as the action figures themselves.  To date, Hasbro created the largest playset ever with the G.I. Joe U.S.S Flag aircraft carrier.  This toy is huge!  It is approximately six feet long.  It would easily take up a good chunk of a child’s bedroom.  The price was hefty at about $125.00 back in the 1980’s.  It was the last time we would ever see something that large.


In the 1990’s the action figure landscape changed.  Led by McFarlane toys, it appeared the new motto for an action figure was “bigger is better”. The new standard scale of an action figure was around six inches in height.  This left little room for including vehicles and playsets as they would have to be much larger to accommodate the bigger scaled action figures.   That is not to say toy companies did not try.  In the 1990’s, Hasbro released many cool Batmobile’s and Batcave’s for their popular Batman Animated series of action figures.  However, vehicle’s and playsets were no longer nearly as common and nor was the 3 ¾” scaled action figure.  In the mid-1990’s Kenner reintroduced the Star Wars universe to a whole new generation with a new line of 3 ¾” action figures.  Kenner rereleased many of the vehicles and playsets from the original series to go along with the new line and the series (now under Hasbro) is still going strong.


Enter the 21st Century.  The economy started to take a turn for the worse and the cost of oil went through the roof.  When oil prices increase, so does plastic prices, therefore, many toy companies have resorted to returning back to the 3 ¾” scaled action figures to save money.  Returning to the smaller scale action figure has opened doors for the return of vehicles and playsets.  Naturally, Star Wars continues to pump out vehicles.  Just recently, they have released a completely new and bigger Millennium Falcon.  This toy is huge and is closer to scale with the actual vehicle.  Of course with the bigger size a greater price tag goes along with it at a retail price of around $150.00!  In the 21st century we have also seen the return of G.I. Joe.  The series started out as two 25th anniversary sets but has blossomed into a full fledge series that has garnered much popularity amongst both collector’s and a new generation of children.  Hasbro has slowly reintroduced vehicles for the series and it seems like further vehicles will start to be released more regularly as the line continues to go forward.  Another noteworthy series that has received the vehicle and playset treatment is Hasbro Toys Indiana Jones.  Even though the series has just about reached its end, it did give the world some great vehicles and the very cool Lost Temple of Akator playset.


Who knows what the ultimate future is for vehicles and playsets to supplement action figure lines will be but with series’ such as Hasbro’s new 3 ¾” Marvel comic book action figures and Mattel’s DC Comic book 3 ¾” Infinite Heroes action figures, it is possible that we may see many more vehicles and playsets taking up space in the toy isles.


Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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