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Super Rare Theories

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Where Do The Super Rares Come From?

It seems like such a simple question, but it has spurred a multitude of possibilities. Since it will be very difficult to uncover the absolute truth, each theory will be presented. It could turn out that all of these are wrong or that the truth is in a combination of theories.

 

The Final/Next Wave

This is perhaps the most likely scenario, because it is the simplest. The first year of release Mattel only produced the figures in the original “flesh” color. The second year saw the introduction of various colored figures. Perhaps the Super Rares were part of a second wave of flesh figures that was halted, because the second wave was going to be the same wave of figures – but colored. These also could have been part of a third year of release, but after the line was cancelled only a limited number found their way into the general public.

 

I believe that the appearance of both a flesh and dark blue Robin Mask Super Rare add credence to this theory. Additionally the Super Rare colored figures have only been found in dark blue and red – two of the three first colors introduced.

 

Foreign Release

There have been many other examples of toy manufacturers that have dumped their unwanted product into foreign countries. Kenner sent some Power of the Force to Europe and Takara sent some of their Laser Beasts to Europe. So there is precedence for this type of behavior by toy companies.

 

Bandai USA did release the MUSCLE toys during the 80’s in Latin America. This piece of information is especially interesting because of Kenner’s relationship with Latin America. When the Star Wars line was dying in the US, Brazil received a figure that was not part of the American release. Perhaps our Super Rares are exclusive to Latin America?

 

There are also some facts that suggest that the Super Rares may have come from Canada. As with the Latin America example, perhaps these figures were dropped into Canada as the line started to falter. Many of the Super Rares have been from sellers in the upper New York region near Buffalo. It’s not unthinkable that figures were purchased in Canada and made it into the Buffalo area. It’s also interesting to note that the Oriental Trading Company at one point distributed the M.U.S.C.L.E. figures. I’m unsure if it was during M.U.S.C.L.E.’s official release, or if they distributed them as a clearance center. I tend to believe the latter because they a “dollar store” distributor. There were also French/English 4-packs released in Canada. These are the only know examples of bilingual M.U.S.C.L.E packaging.

 

Samples/Testers

This theory is based on the relatively small number of Super Rare figures that have been found. This seems somewhat unlikely for a few reasons. There was already an ample supply of samples because of the Japanese line of Kinnikuman. There were already hundreds of examples. It seems unlikely that a few examples would be made just so that people could experience the different texture and rigidness.

 

Mattel was known for making limited quantities of certain toys as samples or tests. Hot Wheels has a well known history in this regard.

“Mr. W also had some interesting information about where a lot of these production pilots ended up. 

He told us about some of the "Consumer marketing" that was being implemented by Mattel then. The Mattel employees' kids were categorized by age and sex. This would determine which toys they got to "test".

Typically, there were approximately 100 production samples of certain cars given away. They would always be in some sort of container, such as a sealed baggie, but never loose. (for safety reasons) So these production sample were simply given away as test market toys!

Another category, the Mattel defects were sold at the Mattel Toy Club at closeout prices. Even today, the Mattel Toy Club sells (non-defective) cars that failed to sell in the stores and they often have closeout prices on them.”
- From:
Red Lines Online

This interview was from a Mattel employee, and deals with Hot Wheels. However I thought it was interesting that Mattel had this type of “procedure” in place. Perhaps they had a similar practice for MUSCLE? This is very unlikely since Bandai actually produced M.U.S.C.L.E in Japan and China.

 

Loose Pieces

When SC was first found in a sealed 4-pack collectors believed that perhaps SHA and BHS were recalled either through an internal Mattel recall or as a consumer safety recall because they had small loose pieces. This theory seemed reasonable until DM showed up. It was argued that perhaps DM was lumped into the recall group because his cane was too sharp or too prone to snapping. This theory took another hit when DE was discovered. There was nothing about this figure that was sharp, fragile, or loose.

 

This theory took a tiny step forward with the Magnificent 11 because there is a two-piece Satan Cross, unfortunately the other 10 figures and following five figures did not have loose pieces.

 

I was able to uncover some initial information about toy recalls. Here’s some of the interesting information about child safety. It should be kept in mind that these are 2003 guidelines, not 1986 & 1987 guidelines. Updates could mean that they are now different.

“In 1994 and 1995 the United States Congress passed and the Consumer Product Safety Commission implemented the Child Safety Protection Act. The CSPA requires, among other things, the banning or labeling of toys that pose a choking risk to small children. The CPSA specifically requires:

2. Any toy or game that is intended for use by children who are at least 3 years old but less than 7 years of age be conspicuously labeled with a warning statement that the toy contains a “small part” and it therefore poses a choking hazard to small children. The Act defines a small part as one that fits completely into a “small part tester” with a diameter of 1.25 inches.”
-
http://www.safekids.org/

I also went to “The Consumer Product Safety Commission” and couldn’t find any Mattel recalls from 1985-1988 (Actually ’88 had something about cribs). Although I did find this, http://www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PUBS/cpsr_nws03.pdf

On page six it has an interesting graph, notice that action figures aren’t on the list. I also contacted the Consumer Product Safety Commission to try and get addition information about 1986 and 1987.

 

I also spoke with Todd Stevenson the Director of Office of the Secretary with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. Here are some of the questions I asked in the email I sent:

…Specifically I am looking for the guidelines for
small toys from the years 1985-1988.

The specific toy line I am concerned about is a toy that was released in 1986 and 1987. The toy line was called M.U.S.C.L.E and released in
America by Mattel, although Bandai owned the rights.

If a toy had small parts (e.g., 3/8 of an inch wide and of an inch
long) would this have been considered unsafe for distribution in 1986 or 1987?

Is there any record of recall with Mattel during these 2 years? If so,
what recalls were listed?”

 

And here is the email I received…

A summary of the standards and the regulations are:

http://www.cpsc.gov/businfo/regsumsmallparts.pdf

http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/ge...ON=18&TYPE=TEXT

The testing guidelines for small parts are located at:

http://www.cpsc.gov/businfo/testtoys.pdf

http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/ge...ON=18&TYPE=TEXT

The standards for small parts in toys have not changed much since the 1980s.

Our searches of recalls did not locate any recall of M.U.S.C.L.E. toys or any Mattel recalls during 1986 or 1987.

The best way to search for recalls is to use the Search button on the website home page, for
www.cpsc.gov

I think this is incredibly important information. It completely debunks the theory of recall, at least at a governmental level. If production of these figures had been stopped, then it would have had to have been internally through Mattel and/or Bandai. This seems highly unlikely based on similar toys of that period.

NOTE: Please remember that all of these are theories. I have attempted to base them on all the available facts. I will be more than willing to alter any of them if new information is uncovered. Unfortunately we may never know the definitive truth without the help of Mattel, Bandai, or a former employee.