The front of the 4-pack did not change over the course of two years. However, the background blue color of the 4-packs has been known to differ. The blue background is either a darker blue version or a lighter blue version – additional varying shades of the dark and light blue can be seen. It is likely that the different shades were never seen next to each other, because of several factories producing figures and packaging, which is why Mattel never refused the product.A counter explanation for the differences could be that all these packages were printed in the mid-80’s and the variance is simply fade and wear instead of legitimate factory difference. This could be the case in some instances. A key indicator of the color variance being factory originated is the sheen and overall brightness of the card and figures. To the right is an example of the dark and light blue cards. While the photograph seems to brighten both cards, the difference is even more noticeable in person. Cynics may suggest that the difference is due to one package being Flesh and the other package being Color figures. The comparison is not a true comparison. The figures, featured to the left, are all Color figures. Again, the picture seems to minimize the differences but they are far more noticeable in person.
While there were not any changes to the front of the package, there was one variation – an incredibly uncommon French-Canadian version of the 4-pack. The most obvious difference is the front and back of the card feature everything in both English and French. The French-Canadian front also features a yellow outline to the orange splash, instead of the white outline on English cards.
The rest of the differences are quite minor. The front of the English card has “FOR AGES OVER 4” in the top left corner, while the French-Canadian card has “NOT RECOMENDED FOR CHILDREN UNDER 4.”
The layout of the back of the French-Canadian card is quite different, even though it has all of the same information. The differences for the back of French-Canadian card are:
- The Mattel logo is now on the right side of the card.
- The SAFETY-TESTED has moved to the bottom right, just above the bar code.
- The bar code has also moved to the bottom right, and no longer states “PROOF OF PURCHASE.”
- Muscleman’s speech bubble is no longer touching the M.U.S.C.L.E. logo.
- The font in the speech bubbles no longer has a comic book-like appearance.
- The corporate information states the figures were distributed by Mattel Canada Inc.
- After the “MADE IN JAPAN” it no longer says “Manufactured by Bandai,” instead it says, “Manufactured for Mattel.”
The back of the regular 4-pack did experience one change over the two years. Originally the 4-pack was released with the plain-back (this original, Flesh card back can be seen to the right). Based on interviews regarding Mattel’s production process, it is very likely that these plain-back 4-packs are from the initial production run of Flesh M.U.S.C.L.E. figures.
The first change took place while only Flesh figures were still available. Mattel was now offering a poster with two proofs of purchase and a cash register receipt. This poster offer remained on the back of the card throughout the remainder of the all Flesh release, plus the 50/50 (Color and Flesh) 4-packs.
There were definitely five combinations of 4-packs available:
- All Flesh – without poster offer
- All Flesh – with poster offer
- 2 Flesh, Purple, Red – with poster offer
- 2 Flesh, Blue, Red – with poster offer
- 2 Flesh, Blue, Purple – with poster offer
The correct number of color combinations is much more difficult to pinpoint. There are 70 possible combinations of colors in 4-packs without the poster offer. There are not any documented color 4-packs with the poster offer, but if there were some discovered it could push the number of combinations to 140.
Dark Blue (DB), Light Blue (LB), Green (G), Red (R), Salmon (S), Orange (O), Magenta (M), and Purple (P)
If you have a 4-pack combination that is not listed, please email a high-resolution picture to the University of M.U.S.C.L.E.. Please take the picture on a white background. Thank you!