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Points of Articulation

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The Toy Glossary

I thought it might be handy to create a gloassary of often-used terms from the toy world. This way if there's a strange term in one of our reviews, you can look it up here. We're constantly updating this list and accepting suggestions, as well.

This list has appeared, in various forms, on several sites over the years. It's still helpful, though, and will instruct you in the ways of the world.

Or at least in the ways of the toy world.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X| Y | Z

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. One of the two most common plastics used in the manufacture of action figures. ABS plastic is generally harder and more brittle than PVC.

The various accoutrements that come packaged with, and are intended for use by, an action figure. Superman's cape is an accessory; a Star Wars Freeze Frame slide is not.

Accessory Pack
A set of accessories, typicaly intended for a specific line of figures, that come packed by themselves instead of with an individual figure. Can be either reissues of old accessories or entirely new offerings.

Any figure in a line standard enough in appearance to create an army of characters by buying multiple copies of the toy. Star Wars Stormtroopers, Lord of the Rings Easterlings and Plan B SWAT Officers are examples. Also called a troop-builder.

Note: collectors who buy multiples of these characters for displays may also be referred to as "Armybuilders."

Movement in a figure. Typically found in places like the neck, waist, and other major joints. However, can sometimes be found in other areas, such as mid-bicep or thigh.

Build-A-Figure. A single character, packed in pieces as accessories with the other figures in a series. Though the idea gained popularity with ToyBiz's Marvel Legends, the first North American example was in McFarlane Toys' Metal Gear Solid 2 line. Also known to some as a "big-ass figure."

A type of joint that allows for a wide range of motion, usually in a shoulder or hip. There are two main types of balljoints: 1) a hinge/pin joint combined with a swivel/peg joint and 2) a true ball and socket joint. Type 1 is much more common.

The Big Five
1) The main points of articulation shared by almost all action figures - neck, shoulders, and hips.
2) (archaic) The five national retail stores that sold toys: KB Toys, Kmart, Target, Toys Я Us and Wal*Mart. see also:
Market Six, Specialty Market

The Big Three
Formerly the "Big Five" (see above). The bankruptcy of KB Toys and decline of Kmart reduced the number of major national toy retailers to three.

Blind Box
also Blind Pack. A style of packaging that does not allow the purchaser to see the figure inside. Often used to sell randomly packed figures such as Kubricks.

Blister Pack
also Blister Card. The typical fashion of packaging an action figure, features a plastic bubble glued or taped to a cardboard backing.

The form an action figure is built around, to ensure sizes (such as the distance between hips and shoulders) are standardized. Originally a physical item, such as a piece of bronze or steel, embedded in the center of the sculpting clay, a buck eventually became a set of specific measurements carefully monitored.

Note: do not mistake a re-used body sculpt for a buck; these are not the same. The 1980s GI Joe toys used a buck; the 2000s DC Universe Classics do not. For more information, see here.

Any rare or shortpacked figure in a particular series. It could be a variant, or could just be the figure that everyone wants. So named because collectors "chase" after it.

Packaging that is more "collector friendly," meaning that it is resistant to dents and bending, but also indescribably hard to open.

Someone who buys toys because they enjoy them, whether loose or mint.

A toy that has been removed from its packaging, but still has all its various pieces. see also: Mint

An action figure that has been changed by the consumer in some way from its mass market counterparts, either to improve the existing figure or make another character all together.

Doop stand
The clear, three-section display stand included with many Marvel Legends figures. Named after the first figure to use it, ML6's Doop.

A figure, variant, or set sold through ony one store or a limited number of specific stores. The Ash and Pit Witch set from the Movie Maniacs line was exclusive to the Sam Goody/Suncoast/Musicland/Media Play/On Cue family of stores.

A production method which can be used to give toys hair or fur. A full explanation can be found here.

Generation 1
The first series of Transformers toys from the '80s. It was not called that at the time - the name was retroactively applied when "Generation 2" began. The naming convention has since been adopted by GI Joe, which is up to Generation 3.

The opposite of a shortpack - the figure that has more per case than the rest of its fellows.

Someone who buys toys with an intent to resell. Will buy as many of a single figure as they can find, squirrelling them away in the hopes that their value will increase. This buying practice can create a local shortage, and therefore the desired price increase. Most damaging to the collector market in the long term.

A blister pack with a j-shaped notch in the top, designed to hang on a peg for display. The j-shaped notch allows figures from the back of the peg to be removed without removing all the figures in front.

Where a figure moves. There are several kinds of joints, including Peg (swivel), Pin (hinge) and Ball.

The portrayal of fictional events as real. Presenting "in-story" reasons for conditions and events as true.

Licensed Property
A line of toys based on an outside source. Toys based on tv, comics and movies are licensed properties. Retail stores are more likely to support a licensed property, because the show or movie acts as free advertising for the toys.

An entire family of action figures, encompasing both Series and Waves. All Spawn figures are one line.

Market Six
(archaic) Formerly, the sixth retail outlet (after the Big Five). This was a collective term for stores outside the standard distribution channels: drug stores, department stores, supermarkets, etc. Now called "emerging channels" or "alternative channels."

Perfect. A figure that has never been damaged in any way. Used most often in sales descriptions such as MOC (mint on card). MOSC/MISB (mint on sealed card/mint in sealed box) is redundant, because if the packaging is open, the toy is no longer mint. see also: Complete

A swivel elbow joint that is at a nearly 90° angle to the arm, thereby adding almost no playability to the figure. A swivel joint at a 45° angle allows the limb to be posed in straight or bent positions, while one at 90° only allows the arm to spin.

Original Property
A line of toys and characters developed in-house, with no pre-existing outside support. Examples include Lego's Bionicle and Mezco's Tikimon. Despite being created by McFarlane Toys, the Spawn line is not an original property.

Party _______
A figure wearing a skirt or other similar clothes, but without painted underwear. The term comes from the orginal McFarlane Toys release of Angela, who was wearing a loincloth but was missing the white paint app intended for her crotch, leaving it the flesh-toned color of the plastic. Fans dubbed the figure "Party Angela."

Peg Joint
The traditional joint found at the neck or waist. A peg on one part of the figure (the head, for instance) is inserted into the hollow main body cavity. The head and body are then flush against each other, and remain that way. This allows for 360° of motion. Sometimes called a "swivel" or "cut" joint.

A figure that doesn't sell as well as thought, was therefore over-ordered, and is now hanging dusty in some discount aisle. Also known as a shelfwarmer.

Phantom Series
A series late in the life of a line that's solicited and officially shipped to stores, but ordered in such small numbers that it might as well have never been released at all. More information here.

Pin Joint
A joint normally found in elbows and knees. Works like a hinge; a pin is inserted sideways at the elbow (in this example), joining the upper and lower arm and usually allowing for a 90° range of motion. Pin joints are typically the most obvious style of joint. Sometimes called a "hinge" joint.

A figure, often an exclusive, that uses the same mold as another upcoming figure, but is released before the figure the mold was designed for hits shelves. For instance, Civilian Cobra Commander was a prepaint of the Indiana Jones Toht: the body was designed for Toht and repurposed for the Commander, yet the GI Joe release came first.

Polyvinylchloride. One of the two most common plastics used in the manufacture of action figures. PVC plastic can be made more soft and flexible than ABS plastic, and is usually used for capes and other rubbery items - PVC is a thermoplastic, which means it softens as it is warmed and hardens as it cools.

More involved than a simple repaint, something other than the paint scheme is adjusted. Vampire Angel from Buffy Series I is a redeco, having a new head and hands.

Plastic waste material, such as sprues, runners and reject parts, which has been recycled by shredding or granulating. Regrind is usually mixed with virgin compound at a predetermined percentage for remolding.

A rerelease of a figure or accessory. Can be as part of a set or alone, repainted or not. Typically has some feature to set it apart from the original figures. The '80s Masters of the Universe line was rereleased with new collector's packaging, but no other changes.

Just what it sounds like. A figure that has been painted in new colors, whether as a production change or to create a new figure.

A production method which creates large hollow pieces. A full explanation can be found here.

Someone who buys figures specifically to resell. Seeks out the rarest or most popular figures, then sells them soon after at a large markup. Most damaging the collector's market in the short-term.

A specific subsection of a line of figures. Spawn: the Samurai Wars was Series 19 in the Spawn line. A Series can have any number of waves.

The figure in a case that is included in lower supply than its fellows - often the female toys, or the villains.

Size Creep
The tendency for long-running toylines to make their figures incrementally larger over time, to the point where the last figures released tower over the first ones, even if it's the same character.

Real cloth, fur, or similar fabric used on an action figure. If a toy is wearing clothes that are stitched rather than sculpted, those are softgoods.

Specialty Stores
Small stores that seldom carry the same toys as mass-market outlets, focusing instead on limited-run and import figures. Comicshops, Suncoast, Tower Records, Spencer's and Hot Topic are all specialty shops.

Springfield Four
The limited articulation found on every World of Springfield figure: neck, shoulders and waist.

Squint Test
An updated take on an old character that doesn't directly copy the existing design, but instead tries to homage it in broad strokes - if you squint at the update, rather than looking at the specific design elements, you should be able to tell who they are.

"Similar to But Legally Distinct From." A toy that is designed to look recognizably like one thing, but with enough changes to keep the makers from having to pay. Many Transformers are STBLDF a specific model of car or truck.

A marketing term that describes how easy/likely it would be to turn something from a property into a successful toy. It is often the reason that characters in a cartoon will wear special costumes, like Deep Space Superman, or ride on special vehicles, like the TMNT Sewer Slider motorcycle.

The opposite of a caricature: taking a design originally made in an animated style, and doing it as though it originated in the real world.

Sometimes referred to as "chromed." A shiny, metallic piece of plastic, often armor or a weapon. An explanation of the vac-metallizing process can be found here.

A slightly different version of a figure, typically found in smaller numbers than its standard counterpart. Can either be due to a change in production, such as the three Jean Grey figures from the X-Men movie line, or a specific choice on the part of the manufacturer, such as the yellow and brown Daredevil from Spider-Man Classics Series II.

The plain, unadorned version of a character. No action features, no special costumes, just the standard version of the charatcer in question.

A specific shipment within a series of figures. Wave 1 is the first batch of figures sent out from the factory. Subsequent waves may have production changes, thereby creating variants.

YDD Syndrome
The artificially inflated desire for an otherwise unpopular figure created by shortpacking. Named for the scalping frenzy seen in the wake of the Yellow Daredevil figure from ToyBiz's Spider-Man Classics Series II.

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