Anthropology 200 – MUSCLEMANIA

Did Select bring a Kinnikuman-like figure to the United States before Mattel?

There is no question that M.U.S.C.L.E. figures spawned a small army of imitators and changed the face of collectible figures in the United States. Some of those imitators were literally copies of the M.U.S.C.L.E. figures and others attempted to create Frankenstein-like figures using the M.U.S.C.L.E. figures. However, one brand took it a step further – MUSCLEMANIA.

For years collectors have often considered MUSCLEMANIA figures to be both a clear imposter and one of many examples of small, monochromatic, unarticulated figures being brought to market after the success of M.U.S.C.L.E. Additionally, most collectors thought Kinnikuman was too obscure for a small American company to try and “rip-off.”

However, with the documentation of a MUSCLEMANIA 4-pack something interesting happened. Collectors realized that MUSCLEMANIA had a 1984 copyright. This would suggest that MUSCLEMANIA predates M.U.S.C.L.E. by, at least, one year.

Musclemania’s manufacturer (or at least distributor) was Select Merchandise, Inc. The 4-pack packaging disclosed New York as potential headquarters location. It was surprisingly easy to find some information about them. The New York Department of State website was able to provide the following information:

Current Entity Name: SELECT MERCHANDISE, INC.
Initial DOS Filing Date: OCTOBER 26, 1982
County: NEW YORK
Jurisdiction: NEW YORK
Entity Type: DOMESTIC BUSINESS CORPORATION
Current Entity Status: ACTIVE

DOS Process (Address to which DOS will mail process if accepted on behalf of the entity):
SELECT MERCHANDISE, INC.
303 E. 57TH ST.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK, 10022

Ideally the organization would have been contacted. However it was not possible to discover a contact phone number and 303 E. 57th St. address did not have any listing of a Select Merchandise, Inc.

Based on the look of the building (Google Maps) it does not suggest that manufacturing took place at that location. It was most likely their office. There is no indication that a new iteration of Select Merchandise, Inc. operates in that location.

Unable to contact the company directly, the best insight into their practices can be gleaned from their other products. Select’s toys appear to be largely inspired by the success of other toy lines (i.e., Transformers, He-Man, etc.). It is incredibly difficult to properly align the dates of all of Select’s products. However, based on their offerings a potential timeline does seem to emerge.

It appears that Select’s Converters were all based on original Takatoku designs. Select appears to have bought many of the smaller molds and rights and Bandai purchased the other ones. Eventually Bandai and Hasbro secured the rights of all of the designs, which is why some Select figures are exact copies of Transformers.

Select most likely created enough capital, from both the sale of figures and the sale of the molds, to start creating their own toys. Having already seen the success of other Japanese brands with American children they may have wanted to be the first to introduce keshi, Kinnikuman-like wrestling figures with MUSCLEMANIA. By creating their own sculpts, which ranged from eerily similar to completely unique, they likely hoped to sidestep the need for licensing Kinnikuman – which would maximize their earnings.

1984 also saw the absolute explosion of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe toys. Select probably saw an opportunity to introduce a He-Man-like product (Ninja Assassins and Defenders) which could offer a lower price point and hopefully capture some of the tremendous market developed by Mattel and He-Man.

Select did not limit themselves to only action figures. Select also released a number of children’s books.

What happened next is a mystery. There is no clear indication of Select’s activity after this mid-1980’s window. Only two things remained: (1) the idea that MUSCLEMANIA predates M.U.S.C.L.E.; and (2) the wonderfully unique and interesting MUSCLEMANIA products.

Photo Credit: Chris

MUSCLEMANIA figures seem to have two general types of rigidity: (1) a more firm M.U.S.C.L.E.-like consistency; and (2) a much more “stretchy” consistency. The University of M.U.S.C.L.E. does not have separate photographs for Firm and Stretchy figures.

Because, for so long, little was known about MUSCLEMANIA figures it was impossible to know if the variations in the rigidity were the result of plastic deterioration, manufacturing differences, separate waves or series of figures, and/or some combination of these types of things.

However, based on nearly a decade years of acquiring MUSCLEMANIA figures plus a recent large influx of MUSCLEMANIA figures and 4-packs, a strong hypothesis, based on data, can finally be offered with a strong degree of confidence.

The rigidity and textural differences appear to be the result of changing manufacturers. The Firm figures seem to have been created first, and then those figures were used to create molds with a second manufacturer. Two pieces of data support this idea:

#1 - There is a very small size and mold definition difference between the Firm and Stretchy MUSCLEMANIA figures. It is most notable when two identical figures are held, in-hand, next to each other. It is a bit more difficult to effectively photograph, but below are two attempts:

#1 Red
Firm (Left) and Stretchy (Right)

#10 Green
Firm (Left) and Stretchy (Right)

#2 - The lack of Firm 4-packs. MUSCLEMANIA 4-packs were quite rare for a long time. However, there has been a tsunami of MUSCLEMANIA 4-packs becoming available. All of these 4-packs have had Stretchy figures. It is reasonable to believe that all of the new old stock is from the end of the line, not the start of it.

And if you have any figures, 4-pack, or 12-pack pictures to add to the archive, then 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!

Packaging

At one time sealed 4-packs of MUSCLEMANIA were very, very rare. Within the small community of MUSCLEMANIA collectors it was an exciting and monumental discovery when the first 4-pack was publically shared on the internet.

The 4-packs continued to be so rare that it was possible, and meaningful, to document the few known examples. The six examples of 4-packs below represent the first six known MUSCLEMANIA 4-packs. However, as stated above, a tsunami of MUSCLEMANIA 4-packs have emerged. It is no longer useful or possible to document all of them.


Example #1

Example #2

Example #3


Example #4

Example #5

Example #6

The 4-pack may no longer be a mysterious MUSCLEMANIA item, but the 12-pack continues to be a bit of an enigma. There is only one documented example of the 12-pack, which can be seen below. The back of the 12-pack is especially notable because it states, “Over 100 different figures available!”

Yet the back of the 12-pack appears to feature the 24 known MUSCLEMANIA sculpts. It seems likely that the “over 100 figures” refers to the total number of sculpts in the various colors. For example, there are 24 different sculpts and there appear to be seven different colors. This would suggest a total of 168 possible figures.


12-Pack (Front)

12-Pack (Back)

Below is a visual archive of the 24 different MUSCLEMANIA sculpts.

Figure #1

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Figure #2

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Figure #3

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Figure #4

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Figure #5

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Figure #6

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Figure #7

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Figure #8

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Figure #9

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Figure #10

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Figure #11

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Figure #12

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Figure #13

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Figure #14

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Figure #15

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Figure #16

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Figure #17

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Figure #18

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Figure #19

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Figure #20

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Figure #21

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Figure #22

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Figure #23

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Figure #24

Card Art

Dark Blue

Light Blue

Yellow

Red

Green

Translucent Green

Flesh

Oddities

#1
New Green,
Fade, or Error?

#6
MUSCLEMANIA
Warp?

#7
New Green,
Fade, or Error?

#11
New Green,
Fade, or Error?

#8
New Green & Yellow,
or Fades and Errors?

#11
Manufacturing Error Figure
(Left Figure)



Collections

Kyle Fait's Collection


If you have any figures, 4-pack, or 12-pack pictures to add to the archive, then 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!

  1. #1 by ANDREA on December 30th, 2012

    hello I wanted to know how to buy this figure thanks andrea by Italy

  2. #2 by Chad Perry on January 3rd, 2013

    ANDREA :

    hello I wanted to know how to buy this figure thanks andrea by Italy

    I’ll assume you are asking, “How do I buy MUSCLEMANIA figures?”

    Right now, and I hate to say it, the best place is eBay. However, there are some people that will sell some of these figures and the best place to find those people are on LittleRubberGuys.com.

(will not be published)