The Judo Set number 34805 is a ‘Holy Grail’ for collectors of the British toy range, and a boxed version with Judogi suit and trousers, grading belts and booklet was the reason for the £5000 result via thesaleroom.com at Auction Antiques (25% buyer’s premium) on August 25, way above a £50-80 estimate.
It was sold with two sets of 35212 Underwater Explorer Skin Diver, two of 35207 Explorer High Altitude, and 35206 Explorer Mountaineer Anorak and 35201 Explorer Polar Accessories and loose shoes, hat, trousers and satchel, all described as having ‘aged packaging, fair to good condition’.
However, the judo gear was key. Action Man was launched by Palitoy in the UK in 1966, copying the success of GI Joe in the US introduced in 1964. The judo set was among the first flock-haired releases in 1970, as listed in the equipment manual, and seemingly produced just for a year before a later re-release much less valued by collectors. Flock hair replaced the painted hair of the original figures (see actionmanhq.co.uk for more details).
It was part of the Action Man sports range which is now much rarer than the military themed figures, not selling so well at the time and probably ordered less by toy retailers as a result.
Clive Downham of Auction Antiques in Hele, Exeter, said: “The lot went to a private collector based in Scotland. The gentleman was hugely excited to add this very rare piece to his collection.
“The vendor is Devon based. They were delighted that this ‘drawer find’ made such an excellent price.”
When another Action Man judo set was sold for £5400 (estimate £4000-6000) at Teesside toy auction house Vectis in May 2015 a BBC report suggested it was “believed to be one of only two in such pristine condition”.
That one came from the collection of 88-year-old Doug Carpenter, a former salesman for Palitoy who had kept scores of boxes in his loft for decades.
In October 2020, also in Devon, a group of seven boxed uniform/accessories sets plus seven Action Man equipment packs, estimated at £50-80, made £5500 at Atkins Auctions in Axminster.