Elementary M.U.S.C.L.E. Education – How Many M.U.S.C.L.E. Figures Were Made?


The reality is that collectors will never definitely know how many figures were made. However, the 2009 M.U.S.C.L.E. investigation offered some data that allows for speculation. But before the speculation can begin some baseline understanding needs to be established.

Mattel, like any company, would have cared about the number of SKU’s being shipped. M.U.S.C.L.E. had four main SKU’s for MUSCLE:

  1. 2637 – a box of 72 four-packs = 288 M.U.S.C.L.E. figures
  2. 2638 – a box of 48 ten-packs = 480 M.U.S.C.L.E. figures
  3. 2649 – a box of 12 twenty-eight packs = 336 M.U.S.C.L.E. figures
  4. 2749 – the 144 four-pack display box = 576 M.U.S.C.L.E. figures

This means that is a single store ordered one SKU of each product, then there would have been 1680 figures in that store.

But how many SKU’s would be created? Martin Arriola stated 16,000 SKU’s were a common number for a product launch. He went on to state that the average SKU count, roughly 200,000 pieces, was the average across all brands for Mattel.

One source, that chose to stay anonymous, stated that a low cost item might get 400,000 to 800,000 SKU’s. Martin thought these numbers were very unlikely and very high. Those kind of numbers were “Barbie numbers” and very unlikely for a “boy” toy.

In the mid-1980’s the Toys R Us ordering strategy was to order at least one of each SKU for their store. Unfortunately it was impossible to uncover even an approximate Toys R Us store count for the mid-1980’s. However, there were approximately 1,198 Wal-Mart stores in 1987.

If Wal-Mart used Toys R Us’ ordering strategy (one of each SKU), then each store would have, at least, 1,680 M.U.S.C.L.E. figures. If the 1,680 M.U.S.C.L.E. figures number for each store is multiplied by the 1198 stores, then Wal-Mart had 2,012,640 figures in their stores in 1985. And if Wal-Mart ordered that each year M.U.S.C.L.E. was in the Mattel catalog (two years), then Wal-Mart could have housed over 4 million M.U.S.C.L.E. figures (exactly, 4,025,280).

Even knowing the total number of SKU’s created there is still a need to speculate. Of the 4 SKU’s which were the most heavily produced, anecdotal childhood memories and shared collector experience would probably suggest that SKU 2637 and SKU 2638 were the most heavily produced.

The table below attempts to layout various scenarios.

Click to Zoom

To understand the computations in the chart above, here is an example:

  • 40% of 16,000 SKU’s is 6,400 SKU’s.
  • One SKU 2637 contains 288 M.U.S.C.L.E. figures.
  • So 6,400 of SKU 2637 equals 1,843,200 M.U.S.C.L.E. figures.

This chart shows that in one year anywhere from 6 million to 300 million M.U.S.C.L.E. figures were produced. Over two years it is possible that anywhere from 12 million to 600 million M.U.S.C.L.E. figures were produced.

Using the Comments below, and the poll in the top right corner, how many figures M.U.S.C.L.E. figures do you think were made?

  1. #1 by majinmoo on May 8th, 2014

    Well it has to be millions or it would be false advertising right?

  2. #2 by muscle things on May 11th, 2014

    Another top notch article Professor, and a blast to read.

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