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What to look for when selecting action figures

Until the 1960s, if boys (and some girls) wanted to play imaginary battles or other types of action sequences, about the only option was little green army men. Then came G.I. Joe, and the action figure was born. Since that time, action figures have evolved into lifelike toys that young and old alike enjoy playing with and collecting. When looking to give an action figure as a gift, it can help to know what to search for when sorting through the many options, such as what some of the more popular action figures are, what action figures can do and proper ways to display them.

Superheroes rule the roost

When selecting action figures, many that you'll find are those related to superheroes, specifically to the Marvel and DC Comics universes. Both comic books companies have ties to the movie and television industries, and the heroes that began in comic books have leaped off the pages of comic books and onto the big and small screens. For Marvel Comics fans, some of the most popular action figures are the Avengers, which include heroes like Captain America, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Black Widow and several others. Other popular Marvel superheroes include the X-Men, such as Wolverine, and Spider-Man.

When it comes to DC Comics superheroes, the conversation used to start and end with Superman and Batman. However, several movies and TV shows released in recent years have also featured other DC Comics superheroes like Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Flash and Supergirl. Many of these superheroes are on a team that's like Marvel's Avengers, known as the Justice League. Fans of these heroes like to collect them as a group, making it easy to select several of them at once. Both DC Comics and Marvel Comics heroes have supervillains whom they face, such as the Joker and Lex Luthor for DC Comics and Ultron and Thanos for Marvel.

Action figures from a galaxy far, far away

Comic book heroes aren't the only heroes that dominate the action figure market. Since the first Star Wars movie was released in 1977, Star Wars action figures have been available, and many have become highly collectible. Virtually all movies and TV shows in the Star Wars universe are represented by characters like Qui-Gon Jinn and Anakin Skywalker from the first trilogy, Jabba the Hut and Lando Calrissian from the middle trilogy and Kylo Ren and Rey from the more recent films. Constant characters across all of the movies and shows are available as well, like Yoda, C-3PO and R2-D2. Heroes and villains alike are popular choices, with Darth Vader often being one of the most requested action figures, despite him being a villain.

Other popular action figure lines

Movies and TV shows have also spawned several other popular lines of action figures, such as those featuring the Power Rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers. Transformers action figures actually reversed the usual trend of the movie or TV show debuting and the action figures and other toys soon following. Transformers were toys first, and they then became a popular TV cartoon and eventually series of action movies. The best thing about Transformers is that they're dual-purpose toys action figures that transform into trucks, cars, other vehicles and robot animals and can be played with or displayed in either mode.

Action figure specifications

Action figures are available in many different sizes, so selecting depends on for whom you're buying them. If buying for a young child, you want to avoid any action figures with small, removable parts that the child could choke on or lose easily. Large action figures that a child can hold with two hands are ideal for young children, as are ones that are made from cloth or soft material. Older children (and some adults) will appreciate action figures that are posable, can stand on their own and have lots of accessories like weapons, shields and even removable hands and heads. Many of these types of action figures range from 6 to 8 inches tall, with some less than 3 inches tall and some more than a foot tall.

Best ways to display action figures

If your child or the child you're giving the action figure to is only playing with the toy, then how to display the action figure isn't an important consideration. However, some people buy action figures for the collectability they offer, with many people never even removing the action figure from the original packaging. A nice display case that hangs on a wall is also a terrific gift for action figure collectors; they can show off their collections without exposing them to dust or odors in the air. These display cases are made from acrylic, although some are made from wood and glass. If a display case isn't feasible, a bookshelf or shelving also works well for displaying these prized possessions.