Thursday, August 4, 2016

Wrestling MarketWatch: Jakks WWE Classic Superstars of the 1970s

For sheer variety alone, Jakks WWE Classic Superstars line still holds the title of "Best Wrestling Figure Line" in this neck of the woods. No, it wasn't perfect. There were glaring omissions. The production quality went down at the end just as it did across the entire Jakks WWE line. There were even promised figures that never made the light of the day. Nevertheless, what we did get was usually amazing. Stars of the '60s, '70s, '80s, and '90s were produced and even some current names like John Cena, Randy Orton, and Nattie Neidhart officially made it into the line through special means.

The stars of the '70s were special in the line as many of them had never before been made into figures. Others had but maybe just never saw that definitive figure. In this latest edition of Wrestling MarketWatch, it's a look at some of those '70s stars who became Classic Superstars. As always, the quoted sale prices are from recent online auctions and are for carded, non-autographed examples only unless otherwise noted.

*Why not start with a legend who is still making the headlines on Monday nights? Bob Backlund has done it all. World Heavyweight Champion. Wholesome hero. Crazed villain. Presidential hopeful. Now, he's once again a coach, trying to make Darren Young great again. No matter how that turns out, Backlund has reinvented himself multiple times to stay in the game. He's also the author of one of the best wrestling books of all-time. His best figure, thus far, has been in the Classic Superstars line. It will be interesting to see if Mattel produces new figures of Mr. Backlund now that he's back with WWE. His Classic Superstars figure recently sold for $30.

*Bob Backlund had a plethora of evil villains to battle during his long run as WWWF Champion. One of those baddies was the devious Mr. Fuji. Master Fuji has had three action figures, two of which were in the Classic Superstars line. The single release reflected his years as a manager, complete with cane, hat, and number sign representing his "entry" into the Atlantic City Boardwalk run at WrestleMania V. "The Devious One" even has his red eye makeup on. Fuji was produced much more to scale than earlier managers in the line who seem to tower over their proteges. This great figure recently sold for $25.

*One star who did not see a figure until this line was Jerry Brisco. Both he and his brother Jack saw their first and only representations very late in the Classic Superstars run. They also suffered from poor case distribution leading to supply not meeting demand. They may be simply clad in red trunks, but the figures bring a lot of excitement to collectors who waited a long time to have The Brisco Brothers in their collection. An out-of-package example of Jerry Brisco recently sold for $30. No carded versions have been offered in recent months reflecting that the demand is still out there.

*They may have made their name in the '80s, but it was 1979 that saw the debut of the Fabulous Freebirds as a unit. Their style certainly reflected the rough and tumble, wild west attitude of '70s wrestling, too. Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy, and Buddy Roberts had a magic that few teams do. They considered themselves brothers and probably shared more wild times than most real brothers do. Some collectors may remember these sets being clearanced out at Spencer's stores despite originally being Wal Mart exclusives. Did you stock up? The boys recently sold at $40.

*One of the biggest marquee stars of the '70s happened to see his WWE return just as the Classic Superstars line was at its height. Thus, there are quite a few Jakks releases for Superstar Billy Graham. We saw just about every variation for Graham, but one of the most unique was a figure done completely in "black and white." The effect probably would've made more sense for a Bruno Sammartino variant, but it was Graham who was one of the WWE's "star" legends at the time. Surprisingly, this figure has seen a considerable drop in price. In past years you could not find this figure for under $50, it recently sold for just $22.50. It may be a good time to pick one up.

While some Classic Superstars prices are still high, a lot have steadied between $20-$30. That's still more than original retail, and prices do nothing to effect the value of a figure as far as how great it is to have in your collection. Mattel is making more and more legends in their WWE line, but I still don't believe that we'll ever see quite the variety that we did from Jakks. There's room for both, as each line brings something different to the table. Bring em on!

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