Mattel Quality Control – 1985 to Today

BP/Transocean's Gulf Oil Spill
Photo: Associated Press

Through various interviews and investigations into the history of M.U.S.C.L.E. figures, there has been one consistently repeating theme – Mattel has incredibly high quality standards.

Perhaps Mattel measures quality in the same way that Transocean measures safety (See the article from the Wall Street Journal).

The analogy may be a bit overly dramatic, but it certainly rings true based on the evidence M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors had discovered. There are countless Manufacturing Error Figures, even more figures featuring the “M.U.S.C.L.E. warp,” and poor quality control could even be the reason for Alpha and Beta M.U.S.C.L.E. figures.

Example from

A recent posting about the quality of Mattel’s Masters of the Universe Classics by (titled “Matty Collector: Substandard Toys for Premium Prices”) shines a contemporary spotlight on Mattel’s quality control issues. The question becomes, “How and why does Mattel let this happen?”

Some M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors dislike the theories around Non-Poster figures that hypothesize Alpha and Beta figures are part of some quality control-related issue. Other M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors embrace the quality control idea, often citing the technology and language issues between Mattel and Bandai as supporting data.

What if Mattel’s MOTU quality issues actually offer insight into Mattel’s corporate quality standards? Attempting to use the MOTU issue as a paradigm, it offers sound explanations for many M.U.S.C.L.E. related oddities:


1. Deformed or incorrectly packed figures in 4-packs

2. Slightly warped M.U.S.C.L.E. figures

3. Deformed figures

4. Non-Poster figures


1. The packaging is not compromised and the consumer still receives four figures.

2. The figure left the model according to quality standards. Shrinking/warping/etc. may occur as the figure cools.

3. Minor imperfections may occur and occasionally ship.

4. A playable figure is presented to the consumer.

Mattel's Commitment
to High Quality
1985 to 2011

According to they have struggled to find a satisfactory answer to their questions regarding a contemporary product of Mattel. It seems almost unthinkable M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors will ever receive satisfactory answers about M.U.S.C.L.E. toys from Mattel – especially because it M.U.S.C.L.E. is a toy that has not been in their catalog since 1986.

However, it is important for M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors to watch how Mattel continues to operate. It may not explain all of the mysterious of M.U.S.C.L.E., but it may offer insight into the behaviors and actions that Mattel, as an organization, considers acceptable and appropriate.

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  1. #1 by Crazy on April 6, 2011 - 1:48 pm

    I would point you to the Polly Pocket product line circa 2006 or 2007. While Mattel was taking a lot of heat for the use of lead paint in their products, most of the recalls that were happening after the initial recall were not due to lead paint. It was glossed over in the media because Mattel spun the recalls as mostly due to the lead paint issue, but most of the recalls were actually for the magnets in the Polly Pocket products. The magnets were not sufficiently secured in the retail available toys causing them to come lose. In several cases, children ingested the tiny, but incredibly strong magnets, some without even realizing it. As we know, magnets are attracted to each other. When two magnets end up in the intestinal tract and attract, they pinch the intestines causing incredible pain, internal bleeding, and possibly an intestinal rupture. This was bad. Very bad. Mattel knew about it, yet settled every case it came across, throwing money at the symptoms and not the problems until they were forced to.

    Mattel is going through a lot of transformation right now, but in the past it has shown an incredible lack of dedication to any product other than its cash cow, Barbie, and maintains its reputation as one of the most litigious corporations in the nation.

    This is coming from a big fan of many of their current and classic products.

    For more on the topic, I would suggest reading ‘Toy Monster: The Big Bad World of Mattel’ by Jerry Oppenheimer. Its an eye-opener!

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