In this post I am taking a look at terminology used by toy collectors. From ‘build-a-figure’ to ‘mail-away’ and more, these are the key words and phrases associated with toys and toy collecting.
This post is designed with new toy collectors in mind, so seasoned pros will know all of this information already. But for those new to collecting, hopefully the following information will get you up to speed in no time.
Toy terminology and jargon
Accessories – A collection of attachments included with an action figure. Accessories can range from weapons and snap-on accompaniments, to stands and build-a-figure parts (see below). Many vintage loose figures are sold without their accessories as these parts can often get lost over time.
Action features – Action features are an added feature, which give a toy extra playability. Action features are usually associated with figures and can vary from toy to toy, but usually include moveable arms/legs. Action features are usually activated through the touch of a button, located somewhere on the toy.
Articulation – Articulation denotes the amount of movement a toy has. Associated with action figures, articulation usually focuses on how many joints a figure has (knee, arm, head etc). Articulation varies from figure to figure, with some lines offering very limited articulation.
Blister card – A blister card is the packaging that an action figure is encased in. A blister card comprises a plastic case and a backing card.
Build-a-figure – Included as an added extra with select toy lines, build-a-figure parts are small sections of another toy, which are packaged up with figures. If collectors buy the entire run of one particular line they will obtain all the parts, which they can then use to construct a bonus figure. Build-a-figures are designed as a way to offer loyal customers an incentive for collecting an entire line, while ensuring less popular characters are purchased in larger quantities.
Carded – Carded is a term commonly used by collectors to refer to the way in which a toy is presented. If a toy is still in its original blister card (see above) it is a carded toy.
Chase figure – A chase figure is a limited-edition action figure, inserted into a toy line as a special incentive figure to create additional interest in the line. Chase figures are produced in smaller quantities and may not be available in all stores. Collectors searching for chase figures will ‘chase’ the figure in order to find it. Chase figures are often exclusive to certain stores.
Close-out – Close-out refers to the end of a production run for a certain toy line.
Customised – Customised, custom or customising are all terms used by collectors and/or artists who like to modify toys (usually action figures) in order to add or remove existing elements or in some cases, create an entirely new character.
Grading – Grading refers to the way in which toys are evaluated. Grading is used by serious collectors who want a definitive stamp of approval on their figures. High graded figures (i.e. those in pristine condition) can command high price tags.
Hook (also known as J Hook or Peg) – A hook is the hooked part of an action figure’s packaging; located at the top of the card. As hooks hold the weight of a figure when they are on display in toy stores, they often get damaged. Serious collectors look for hooks that are intact, with little to no damage.
Loose – A figure that is not packaged. Loose figures often (but not always) sell for less than a boxed figure.
Mail Away – A promotion created by the manufacturer to offer an incentive for buyers. A mail away offer gives buyers the opportunity to send away for another figure to add to their collection. Some mail away figures are only available as part of the promotion, which can make them highly collectable.
Mint – Mint or mint-on-card (MOC) refers to the condition of a boxed action figure in pristine condition. Mint figures usually sell for a higher price than non-mint figures.
Proof-of-Purchase – Proof-of-purchase is a symbol/section of a toy’s packaging that can be used as proof of sale. Manufacturers will sometimes use a proof-of-purchase as part of a mail away offer (see above), to give buyers the opportunity to obtain a free toy. The proof-of-purchase is confirmation to the manufacturer that the figure has been sold.
Prototype – A prototype figure is a figure created before a toy line officially commences mass production. Prototypes can command good money on the secondary market.
Repaint – A repaint is a term usually associated with a figure or vehicle that has been re-released with a new paint scheme. Repainted toys give manufacturers the opportunity to reissue and rerelease older products without the need for a significant redesign.
Re-sculpt – Similar to a repaint, a re-sculpt is a term associated with a figure that has been modified in someway in order to be rereleased as new. Re-sculpts can vary in shape and scale, but will usually consist of a minor reworking in order to reuse an existing toy mould.
Short packed – Short packed refers to a line of toys which has an uneven quantity in its case. For example, a wave of Spider-Man figures that contains only one villain to every 20 Spider-Man figures would be referred to as ‘short packed’.
Variant – A variant is a repaint or a re-sculpt of an existing figure added to a toy line in short quantities to create a variation. An example would be a Hulk figure largely produced in green, with a grey variant added into the mix at a reduced quantity.Variant figures can be highly sort after by serious collectors.
Wave – A wave is a term used to denote a series of figures. The first series of action figures would be wave one; the second wave two and so on.
I hope this post has proved useful to you. For further posts on toys and collectables, take a look at one of the recommended reads below.
- Where can I buy toys? – and other questions
- Is my vintage toy from the ’80s worth money?
- Buying digital comics