How to Buy Action Figures for Boys

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How to Buy Action Figures for Boys

Action figures were invented for boys.  Back in 1964 toy makers Hasbro launched G.I. Joe, a boy’s answer to the highly popular Barbie for girls. He too he was 11.5-inches tall, and could be bent and posed, and dressed in different garbs. Was he a doll? Not a bit of it. Hasbro called him an “action figure.”  Thus a new species entered the toy world - “a character known for vigorous action such as a soldier or superhero” (Oxford English Dictionary).

Spiderman, Batman, Transformers, Dr. Who, Spiderman, Harry Potter, Toy Story and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - almost every successful comic, movie and T.V. franchise has inspired sets of action figures. On eBay they are bought mainly by or for children, but also by adults as a hobby.  There are two main reasons why action figures are appealing.


Kids have a natural urge to collect.  Because action figures are produced in groups of characters, they give children the excitement of building up and completing the set.  That’s why they are the most widely collected toys on the market. There are over 35,000 different action figures available, including rare ones which avid collectors buy and sell as investments.

Play Value

Children can take out tiny replicas of well-loved characters and use them to re-enact scenes from favourite films or TV programmes, or invent new situations or even meet characters from other titles.  Can Harry Potter be working with Spider-Man? In a boy’s imagination, there’s no reason why not.

These features make action figures a safe and fascinating choice for both boys and girls, either as surprise presents or to buy with them on eBay. Once the purchase is in the boy’s hands, whoever has bought it or provided the pocket money has the satisfaction of knowing that playing with the action figures will take him away from the screen, albeit that the originals of the figures appear on the screen.

Top Collectible Action Figures for Boys

Fantasy, adventure and fun - these are the key qualities of this list of some of the most popular action figures available from major retailers and on eBay.  Some are pretty clearly boys’ toys, like Power Rangers and Transformers.  Others are based on famous movie or TV franchises, like Star Wars and Harry Potter, with universal appeal to boys, girls and adults alike. Here is a list of action figure lines with boy appeal in no particular order.

1. Star Wars

The Star War action figures followed the release of the blockbuster in 1977 and set the style for most action figures ever since. They were 3.75 inches in height and instead of being a single character with clothes that changed for different purposes (like Barbie); different sets of characters were introduced each with their own outfits. They were all bendable into different poses, so children could make them perform.  The most popular of all action figures, Star Wars toys are still being produced today, including original characters like Han Solo, Darth Vader and Obe Wan Kanobe, ones from recent films such as Anakin Skywalker, and there are numerous battle packs and models.

2. Transformers

The hugely popular film, video game and T V programme franchise grew out of the action figures produced by Hasbro in the 1980’s.  Transformers are a race of giant sentient robots from the planet Cybertron able to change their appearance into cars, planes and other machinery.  There are two factions, the heroic Autobots led by Optimus Prime and villainous Decepticons led by Megatron. They have brought their conflict to Earth and are fighting over deposits of Energon which Transformers use as fuel.  Endless possibilities here provide a choice of action figures rivalled only by Star Wars.

3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

There’s nothing like a team to make action figures collectible.  The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) are trained in the art of Ninjitsu and protected by their shells. Named after Renaissance artists, they make a formidable weapon wielding foursome – Leonardo, the unofficial leader, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo.  Somewhere under New York they battle it out with Dogpound, Metalhead, Shredder and Foot soldier. There’s a series of Playmates action figures which look smart, stand up well and come with lots of accessories. They’re designed to complement the TV series, so they should be a popular choice.

4. Harry Potter Earning

the greatest amount of money from any book or film series in history, Harry Potter has attracted a huge following.  So it’s a safe bet that if a boy is already a fan, he’ll love the action figures based on the eight books and films.  On one side in the struggle between black and white magic are goodies like Harry himself, the Weasels, Hagrid and Dumbledore. On the opposite side are Lord Voldemort, Draco Malfoy, Severus Snape and the Dementor. The figures are available in different sizes, individually and in film-related sets and backgrounds.  Let battle commence. 

5. Power Rangers

 This long running TV series features a team of athletic teenagers of both sexes trained by a mentor to morph into Rangers, each with a colour coded, battle suit, able to utilise special powers and pilot colossal assault machines called Zords to defeat evil forces that threaten humanity.  In the original series Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (which morphed into a movie), alien wizard Zordon recruited “teenagers with attitude” to harness the power of Dinosaurs to overcome the forces of evil space alien Rita Repulsa.  Like the Power Rangers themselves, TV series and films keep on coming.

6. Toy Story:

What could be more suitable for an action figure than a character that was a toy anyway in the original film? Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Slinky the Dog, Mr. Potato Head,  Jessie the Cowgirl, Bullseye the horse and other leading characters from Toy Story 3 are fully interactive and speak phrases from Toy Story 3 when their string is pulled. They are taller than the general run of action figures and more expensive too. But there are plenty of figures issued with the earlier movies in good condition to bid for or buy now on eBay.

7. Dr. Who

 The cult television programme has generated extraordinary characters for as long as parents and many grandparents can remember – at least since 1963.  The first sequence of serials finished in 1989; the current series which today’s children will be aware of began in 2005. There are action figure representations of Dr. Who as played by all nine actors, his adversaries - notably the Daleks and the Cybermen - and his companions both male and female, such as Clara Oswin and Rory Williams from series 7. 

8. The Simpsons Gulp!

There are 203 different action figures representing characters in the animated cartoon series produced by Playmates Toys between 2000 and 2004.   They appeal equally to boys and girls.  The figures include different versions of the family members, for example, Daredevil Bart, Sunday Bart, Kamp Krusty Bart, Military Bart. There are also playsets with backgrounds to the figures, such as the Quickie Mart. No need to worry that the figures will become harder to find; McFarlane Toys have issued a series of famous scenes complete with the cast of characters.

9. Lego:Lego

Minifigures are probably the world’s smallest series of action figures that can be articulated (limbs posed in different positions).  Name a TV or film series and there is a good chance it will have been shaped into brick form by Lego – from Mickey Mouse to Batman, Harry Potter to Indiana Jones. They can be bought in packs of individual figures or as part of sets.  This makes Minifigures the ideal gift for children who already have a passion for Lego and want to populate their constructions with great little action figures

10. Skylanders

Video games play a big part in children’s lives today. The difference with Skylanders is that it uses small action figures of cute, colourful fantasy characters to determine the part a player takes in the game.  Place the figure on the Portal of Power and the figure’s digital version pops up and gets going. Even children as young as four, love to pop the characters in and out. It’s a great game for parents or older brothers and sisters to play with youngsters.

How to choose

For action figure collectors the golden rule is never to take them "off the card", the cardboard backing on which they are enclosed in a see-through plastic bubble. Doing this devalues the figure quite a bit.  But boys naturally want to remove the figure and play with it, sometimes using the backing as a stage set if it is designed as a scene.  Of course, there is always the option of buying two – one to play with and one to display and keep as a collectible investment.  But that would hardly be in the spirit of what action figures are made for – fun.

Buying Boys Action Figures on eBay

Now that you know which boys’ action figures you want you can find them quickly and easily on eBay. To start shopping, go to the Sports and Leisure category. Click the Toys & Games then the Action Figures portal. Then select boys in the gender sub-section.

While shopping, don't forget Animals & Dinosaurs, Anime & Manga, Comic Book Heroes, Designer & Urban Vinyl, Fantasy, Historical Figures and Military & Adventure.


The Categories list on the left side of each page will help narrow down listings by item type. There are  links for themes such as:  Wrestling ,Doctor Who ,Batman, Power Rangers, Action Man and Marvel Legends .

Product Finder

Use the Action Figure Finder to quickly narrow down item listings by brand, model and condition (new or used).

Keyword Search

Search eBay listing titles for specific words. For example, to find New Action Figures, type the keywords "Action figures New" (without quotation marks) into the Search box. Click, "Search title and description" to expand results. Visit eBay's Search Tips page for more tips on searching with keywords.

If you can't find exactly what you want, try browsing eBay Stores or tell the eBay Community what you’re looking for by creating a post on Want It Now, or save a search on My eBay and eBay will email you when a matching item becomes available.

Buy Boys Action Figures with Confidence

Make sure that you know exactly what you’re buying and understand how eBay and PayPal protect you.

Know the Item

  • Read the details in the item listing carefully.
  • Remember to add delivery costs to final price. If buying a high value item, check that the seller will insure it until it is delivered.
  • For more information, click the “Ask seller a question” button on the seller’s profile or the “Ask a question” link at the bottom of the item listing page.
  • Always complete a transaction on eBay (with a bid, Buy it Now or Best Offer) otherwise you will not be covered by eBay Buyer Protection.
  • Never pay for an eBay item using an instant cash wire transfer service like Western Union or MoneyGram. These are not safe ways of paying someone you do not know.

    Know the Seller

    Research the seller to feel safe and positive about every transaction.

  • What is the seller’s Feedback rating? 
  • How many transactions have they completed?
  • How many positive responses do they have?
  • What do buyers say in their Feedback? 
  • Are they positive about the seller?

    Most top eBay sellers operate like retail shops and have a returns policy.

  • Do they offer a money-back guarantee? 
  • What are their terms and conditions?

    Buyer Protection

    In the very unlikely event that you do not receive your item or it is not as described, eBay Buyer Protection covers your purchase price plus original delivery cost.


    Looking for a gift that’s almost guaranteed a great reception from a boy? Give him an action figure, or better still an action figure set. All that’s required beforehand is to identify the film, TV or video game series that he loves.  There will be a line of action figures which will allow him to play out key scenes on the living room floor or line up on his bedroom shelf waiting to be joined by others to complete the set. 

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