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There are many books and magazines that have been published over the years which cover action figures and the great hobby of collecting them.

Some are very current and some were published many years ago, but they all have the same love for our hobby.


When it comes to books on action figures there have been a large amount of titles published with more on their way as authors capitalize on this great hobby’s huge following.

Only a select few books have tackled all of the great lines and not so great lines while a majority of the books that have come out focused on a particular theme and subject matter like Star Wars, GI Joe, Transformers, Mego World’s Greatest Super-Heroes.

These books have a lot of information and detail on the vast amount of toy lines that have been produced. 

Having one of these books in your collection is just as important as having the figures themselves.

The following are some of the titles available with a quick synopsis of each. 
Unfortunately no longer offers the opportunity to direct link to their site with special buttons for a given item so I don't have those links here anymore.  You can easily look up the titles I have outlined below online to find these great publications.   

Tomart which publishes the Action Figure Digest made the greatest attempt to cover all of the action figure toy lines since 1964 up to current day which at that time was the mid 1990s.

No other publication has ever attempted to do so and with Tomart’s fine reputation for brilliant photography anyone thumbing through the pages of these volumes could see a picture of just about every toy line made.  It was like having a catalog of action figures of over 30 years worth.

The books were broken up into three volumes and most collectors purchased all three in order to see the breathtaking items that have come out during that period.  Tomart also added in their own price guide for each item. 

If are serious about vintage toy lines, then these books have to be in your collection.

The collecting hobby has never seen books like this since.  Here are the titles:

Tomarts Encyclopedia & Price Guide to Action Figure Collectibles, Vol. 1: A-Team Thru G.I.Joe

Tomarts Encyclopedia & Price Guide to Action Figure Collectibles, Vol. 2: G.I.Joe Thru Star Trek

Tomarts Encyclopedia & Price Guide to Action Figure Collectibles, Vol. 3: Star Wars-Zybots

Tomart produced a follow up called Tomart's Encyclopedia of Action Figures The 1001 Most Popular Collectibles of All Time

This book attempted to add some additional information to what was not covered in their three volume encyclopedias from the 90s.  The book includes character information, dimensions, production qualities, special features, packaging, where to buy and much more, all with wonderful photography that Tomart is known for.

Some authors decided to cover specific time periods and two of the books available cover the 1980s and the 1960s.

Action Figures of the 1980s (A Schiffer Book for Collectors) and Action Figures of the 1960s (A Schiffer Book for Collectors).

The 1980s book covers such lines from that era as GI Joe, Star Wars, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Thunder Cats and Transformers.  It has a price guide listing next to each figure for both packaged and unpackaged items.

The same author developed a book on the 1960s covering GI Joe, Captain Action, Johnny West, Major Matt Mason, Johnny Hero, and James Bond.  Again it contains a price guide next to each figure for both packaged and unpackaged items. 

Both volumes contain various photographs on the toys from those years.

Continuing to narrow down the focus to a specific theme, some authors would write books about one of the most impressive action figure toy lines ever made.

One of the foremost Star Wars collectors/experts developed a book on Star Wars action figures back in the early 2000s. 

Steve Sansweet who at one time in recent years worked as an advisor for LucasFilm put together an amazing book called Star Wars Action Figure Archive which covered all of the vintage figures from the 1970s to the mid 1980s and then picked up on the re-launch of Star Wars figures in 1995 up to that present year of the early 2000s.

This book was truly a first as it had photos of the actual actors in costume from the films with the figures that were made to portray them adjacent.  Photos of the weapons and accessories were right next to each item with a detailed description on the character.

There were vehicles and playsets photos and information as well.

The same publisher who produced the 1960s and 1980s books above made their attempt on Star Wars toys as well.  Collecting Star Wars Toys 1977-Present: An Unauthorized Practical Guide (A Schiffer Book for Collectors) covered items from 1977 to 1997 including information and photographs on not only the figures, but accessories, playsets, gaming equipment, model kits, playthings, promotional items, puzzles and weapons.  A price listing was also detailed in the book.

Tomart ventured into covering Star Wars too.  Tomart's Price Guide to Worldwide Star Wars Collectibles, 2nd Edition also went beyond Star Wars action figures with detailed information on just about everything Star Wars ever produced.  As usual with their wonderful photography this book would be a nice addition to your overall Star Wars action figure collection.

The incredible world of DC Comics characters dating back to 1938 became a subject for a book focused on DC action figures.  The DC Comics Action Figure Archive is a photo journal on action figure icons of pop culture like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman.  If you’re a fan of DC figures this book is worth having in your collection.

The world of GI Joe has had some impressive books produced on both GI Joe figure scales - 12 inch and the 3-3/4 inch versions.

The first one to discuss was produced by one of the top collectors of the 3-3/4 inch Joes providing in a magazine like format a photo guide of all figures from 1982 up to the mid to late 1990s.  Collecting & Completing Your GI Joe Figures and Accessories has clear photos of all figures and accessories.  If you want to have a visual guide to this great line, then this is one reference material that you cannot pass up on.

The 12 inch Joes has seen a few books produced by one of the most well-known GI Joe collector.  The Complete Encyclopedia to GI Joe (Complete Encyclopedia to G. I. Joe) and GI Joe Official Identification & Price Guide: 1964-1999 (Collectibles) are bibles on the 12 inch versions containing in depth information on all of the Joes and its accessories with a history on the creation.  There are interviews with the design teams from Hasbro in its contents.

The Transformers book called Transformers Vault: The Complete Transformers Universe - Showcasing Rare Collectibles and Memorabilia is probably the first book solely devoted to Transformers’ action figures and collectibles.  The manufacturer has provided the authors an inside peak into their archives to uncover some of the well guarded secrets on this amazing toy line. 

The book also provides quite a bit of information on the Transformers’ other forays - comics, television, movies and gaming.  If you are a collector of Transformers, then you need to add this book to your collection.

One of the most favorite and highly sought-after action figure toy lines ever made has an impressive book focused strictly on them.  Mego 8" Super-Heroes: World's Greatest Toys! provides a chronological history on the company that conceived and produced this incredible toy line with detailed photos on each and every figure made. 

The line contained characters from both DC and Marvel.  You will not find a more in-depth book on this line anywhere.

One of the memorable and collected action figure toy lines produced came from the one-time largest toy company in the world - Marx Toys.  The Encyclopedia of Marx Action Figures: A Price & Identification Guide offers great insight and photos on 1960s and 1970s Marx figures like Johnny West, Rat Patrol, Daniel Boone, Vikings, Knights and Indians.  If you’re a Marx collector, then this book is a must have.

The 12 Inch Action Figures: World War Two (Action Figures and Toys) focuses on 12 inch World War II figures.  It contains full color photographs on the various companies that have produced figures in this scale and genre.

The customization of action figures is a big part of the hobby.  The book Pop Sculpture: How to Create Action Figures and Collectible Statues is a good compliment to this ever increasing segment.  Learn how to build and modify your own action figures from some of the top sculptors in the industry as they take you through the concept phase all the way to the final product.

There are so many other books on our great hobby that you can find on various sites.


Currently there are two long-running magazines where anyone wanting to learn about action figures can pick up at any local comic book store or national book store.  They can be acquired via their web sites and collectors can subscribe directly from the publishers saving themselves time and effort from having to go to these stores to pick up a copy.

Tomart’s Action Figure Digest started back in the late 1980s and Lee’s Toy Review started at approximately the same time.

Action Figure Digest was distributed on almost a monthly basis, but altered that schedule in 2011 to be available 9 times a year in order to reduce subscription costs and allow their staff the opportunity to be provide more in depth stories on vintage lines.

The magazine is one of the more impressive illustrated periodicals on newsstands today for any subject matter.  The publisher has always tried to provide the best photographs on all of the latest action figures as well as a sneak peak on manufacturers’ future releases. 

They cover and photograph past action figure toy lines providing a detailed history on each.  Creators of those lines are often brought in to be interviewed for a feature article and have presented a history on the making of a given line.  There are various articles on different topics about figures. 

The magazine gives us collectors an almost encyclopedia-like photo journal on action figures.

This magazine is definitely worth picking up to keep you up to date on the goings on in the hobby.

Lee’s Toy Review is available monthly.  It has gone through a couple of name changes over the years once calling themselves Action Figure News and Toy Review and Lee’s Action Figure News and Toy Review and Lee’s Guide to Action Figure News and Toy Review. 

The magazine has improved on its photographs from its initial years, but the one thing that separates it from Action Figure Digest is that it contains a price guide.  The source of their information is described from coming from two major toy resellers and collectors from all over averaging out confirmed sales data.

They also offer investment commentary providing readers information on figures that are worth acquiring for future resell potential. 

The magazine started to include features and a price guide on die-cast cars in addition to the action figure sections.  It may be little distracting initially for some, but after a while you get used to it and some figure collectors have ventured over to collecting cars as well.

Toy Review does not have as many photographic pages as Action Figure Digest, but does have feature articles and insight on upcoming and current products like its competitor.

If you want the most current information on the hobby in a real-life format, then these two are just the thing.

If you would like to acquire past issues of either magazine, you can buy directly from the publishers’ web site.  Most of their past issues are available there especially Action Figure Digest. 

For the remaining issues that they do not have in stock then Ebay or would probably be good options.  I have seen them offered at local comic book stores and comic and toy shows.

Swap meets and some donation stores like Goodwill or Salvation Army may be another source as well as the many used book stores in your area.

Previously there was a third publication called Wizard Toy Fare.  It too focused on the hobby and provided the latest information.  It had a combination of both magazines’ strengths with its own price guide section.  It even contained a regular comedic feature called Twisted Mego Theatre.

Some of the staff members would stage existing figures and customized figures in comic book strip format entertaining readers with hilarious scenes and dialogue that one has to experience.

Almost all of these skits were eventually collected into a few trade paperbacks where one could read all of the stories without having to go back and find past issues of Toy Fare.

Unfortunately the Toy Fare magazine ceased publication in late 2010/early 2011.

Past issues are available at times on Ebay and and at the locations that I have listed above.

Happy Collecting!!!
Johnson's Collectibles


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