Over 40 years later, judging by recent auction results, his efforts are being fully appreciated by collectors at least.
According to US firm LCG Auctions (20% buyer’s premium), the Masters of the Universe (MOTU) toys made by US manufacturer Mattel is now one of the brands making the most waves, along with the more familiar GI Joe.
MOTU was one of the first instances of toys being deliberately paired with an animated TV series (originally running from 1982-88 with later re-releases), which turned out to be an inspired marketing ploy.
Apparently, MOTU had appeared only after another action figure line was snubbed by Mattel. In 1976 Mattel CEO Ray Wagner turned down a Star Wars offer after rejecting a $750,000 licence fee.
LCG offered a single-owner collection of early release MOTU Series One ‘8-backs’ action figures, 5½in (14cm) tall, released in 1982. Featuring the original eight characters on the reverse of the card, these “are considered ‘Holy Grails’ in the MOTU collecting community”, says the auction house. An 8-back He-Man surfaced in the LCG sale on October 16, described as having an ‘impeccable card, bubble, and figure’.
Rated AFA 80 in the sometimes labyrinthine world of US grading systems, and offered with a Vengeance of Skeletor comic, after 26 bids the final, successful bid was $27,094/£21,950 (or premium-inclusive $32,513/£26,340) against a guide of $10,000-20,000.
The MOTU storyline featured a battle between good and evil and involved the control of Castle Grayskull. A rare factory sealed original Series 1 Castle Grayskull ‘in outstanding condition’ took a final bid of $8633/£6990 (premium-inclusive $10,359.60/£8390) against an estimate of $10,000-20,000. This castle was assessed as AFA 80+. Another example offered in LCG’s September 2021 auction graded at AFA 80 had actually made a premium-inclusive $22,206.
LCG Auctions founder Mark Montero told ATG: “We have seen a noticeable surge in interest for vintage Masters of the Universe action figures and playsets. As a result, high-demand ‘fresh to market’ pieces are achieving record sales prices in our auctions.”
MOTU in the UK
In November 2019 Teesside saleroom Vectis sold a Castle Grayskull catalogued as ‘sealed within excellent packaging’ for a hammer price of £2100 (guide £400-600).
That auction gave an indication of the level of rising demand for MOTU action figures. A Heroic Warriors three-pack, containing He-Man, Teela and Ram Man, Mint, ‘within Good to Good Plus (some creasing) sealed packaging’ took a hefty £10,000, way over the £800-1200 estimate, while a He-Man and Wind Raider pack, ‘Mint, within Fair (some creasing, scuffs and wear) sealed packaging’, took £4000 – which was 20 times the low estimate.