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History 300 – Non-Poster or ‘Super Rare’ M.U.S.C.L.E. Figures
Perplexing Production Items
The folksy phrase, Super Rare, is the epicenter of M.U.S.C.L.E. debate. Collectors disagree on every aspect of the figures: classification, prices, legitimacy, origin, etc. In reality there are three main aspects to the Super Rare debate:
1. What is a Super Rare M.U.S.C.L.E. figure?
2. Where do Super Rare M.U.S.C.L.E. figures come from?
3. How much are Super Rare M.U.S.C.L.E. figures worth?
Before there were Super Rare M.U.S.C.L.E. figures, there was simply a rare figure – Satan Cross. Mattel did not assign names to the majority of the M.U.S.C.L.E. figures so collectors often referred to Satan Cross as the unknown 4-armed M.U.S.C.L.E. Patrick Gresham and Kevin Mayle were the first documented collectors to offer any insight into the mystery of the “4-armed M.U.S.C.L.E.” They pointed out his similarity to a Kinnikuman character. Their insight was first documented in Issue #5 of the newsletter, The M.U.S.C.L.E. Times
-MPS Times #5 Cover Page, and Last Page-
It is difficult to uncover who finally identified the 4-armed M.U.S.C.L.E. as Satan Cross. Once he was named, he became nearly the sole focus of the collecting community. Collectors scrambled to find themselves this previous unknown figure, quickly raising the status level, and perceived value, of the figure. Even in the earliest days of M.U.S.C.L.E. collecting collectors questioned the high prices Satan Cross was commanding. Interestingly, the prices outlined here seem to have held quite steady. Satan Cross was easily confirmed as a legitimate M.U.S.C.L.E. figure because he was seen in a sealed 4-pack, even as early as the late 1990’s.
After the discovery of Satan Cross collectors were on the constant lookout for more undiscovered figures. The challenge in the earliest days of online collecting was the sudden influx of uninformed collectors. This allowed figures like X-2 (“The Futuristic Goalie”) and the “Light Bulb Guy” to be considered potentially rare figures. These two figures were soon proven not to be legitimate M.U.S.C.L.E. figures. The X-2 figure was from a Kinnikuman spin-off series, Ramenman. The “Light Bulb Guy” was simply a Kinnikuman figure found in both bootleg and Kinkesi forms.With the two former figures were dismissed, and Satan Cross being easily authenticated, some new figures became the focus of M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors. These new figures were less plentiful than Satan Cross and quickly dubbed “Super Rare.” This label appears as early as 2001, which likely suggests the label was first used by someone in the original M.U.S.C.L.E. email group.
The first “Super Rare” was Spinning Head Ashuraman, commonly referred to by his acronym SHA. His first appearance can be traced to a 2001 eBay auction. This was the first widely known example of the figure.
For years SHA rightfully held his Super Rare distinction. However, each passing year, this designation seems less and less appropriate. SHA figures continued to appear. While the figure is certainly more difficult to obtain than the average Flesh figure, its mythic Super Rare designation seems entirely untrue.
The second Super Rare figure was Black Hole Sunshine, commonly referred to by his acronym BHS. His first public appearance was also in 2001 eBay auction. Originally he was discovered without his removable chest piece. However, since the original discovery he has been found both with and without the removable piece. There have even been examples found with the chest piece having never been detached from the figure.
The UofM Non-Poster Figure Guide offers a new classification system. The new classification system and new SHA designation can be read about in Philosophy 200.
Like the SHA, BHS rightfully held his Super Rare distinction for several years. And like SHA, more and more BHS figures continue to appear. With so many examples of the figure it seems that BHS is better suited with a different designation.
The UofM Non-Poster Figure Guide offers a new classification system. The new classification system, and new BHS designation can be read about in Philosophy 200.The next Super Rare figure to appear was Drunken Master in 2003. He is sometimes referred to as DM. This figure first appeared in a seemingly pedestrian lot of M.U.S.C.L.E. figures. In fact, the figure wasn’t even identified until the lot of figures was in the hands of the buyer.
For a number of years this figure only had one know example. In 2010 a second Drunken Master figure appeared.
Unlike SHA and BHS, Drunken Master has rightfully held on to his Super Rare designation. Yet any figure that only has one or two known examples carries an asterisk next to it. The ultimate, and often sole, identifier of the figure is the owner of the figure. It is possible, whether intentional or accidental, that the figure could be improperly identified.
Dark Emperor, sometimes referred to as DE, was the fourth figure to be labeled a Super Rare. This figure was also found in a lot of M.U.S.C.L.E. figures listed on eBay in 2004. It is undoubtedly the last time a Super Rare M.U.S.C.L.E. figure was purchased without controversy. The auction that contained the figure sold for $26.00, ran the full duration of the auction, and ended without any incident.Since its discovery in 2004, there have been three additional Dark Emperor figures discovered. The discovery of the Dark Emperor figure also holds two distinctions for many collectors.
1. It was the last time a Super Rare figure sold for a routine M.U.S.C.L.E. price.
2. It was the last time a Super Rare figure was sold without discord and dissent in the M.U.S.C.L.E. community.
Dark Emperor’s name almost seems foretelling of the coming darkness and histrionics that will begin to overshadow Super Rare M.U.S.C.L.E. figures.
For a number of years it appeared that the only Super Rare figures would be SHA, BHS, DM, and DE. Although that didn’t stop the speculating that more Super Rare figures were waiting to be discovered.
The speculating ended in 2006 when a stunning discovery of 11 new Super Rare figures, discovered as a group, suddenly appeared. They were discovered by Jon Karis, the owner and operator of LittleRubberGuys.com. He found the figures, which were quickly labeled the “Magnificent 11,” in a Yahoo Japan auction of a 28-pack.
This discovery was significant for a variety of reasons:
1. Such a large group of Super Rare figures had never been discovered.
2. The figures were connected to M.U.S.C.L.E. packaging (the 28-pack).
3. The figures were found in Japan.
4. The figures were from completely different Parts (based on the Kinnikuman Parts) than all the previous Super Rare figures.
5. The figures were purchased by a M.U.S.C.L.E. expert, and eventually ended up in the hands of other M.U.S.C.L.E. experts.
The last point is significant because almost all of the previous Super Rare figures had exclusively been handled by their owners. When Jon broke up the set of 11 figures and sold them to other M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors it allowed multiple M.U.S.C.L.E. experts to inspect and concur with the validity of the figures.The next “Super Rare” figure to appear was Dr. Bombay. This flesh figure’s first appearance was in a lot of Flesh colored M.U.S.C.L.E. figures. The auction was ended early by a buyer offering the seller a buyout outside of eBay. Many collectors have no problem with this tactic. However there are two major downsides for the entire M.U.S.C.L.E. collecting community: (1) it robs other people of the opportunity to bid; and (2) it makes it nearly impossible to estimate a fair market price for a Super Rare figure. Dr. Bombay is unique because he is one of the more recent discoveries and has been discovered several times. The frequency of his appearance the few years might suggest that he should fall under a similar classification as SHA and BHS – even if there are fewer known examples when compared to BHS or SHA.
The next four discoveries introduced a new aspect to the subject of Super Rare figures – Super Rare Color figures. The first Super Rare Color figure, Red Geronimo (Shouting), was found in a seemingly routine eBay auction.
However, the next three figures were found in a lot of figures from a Japanese auction. The three Blue figures were: Robin Mask, Woolman, and Missileman. The Robin Mask figure was especially interesting to collectors because it was the identical sculpt of Robin Mask from the Magnificent 11 discovery – except it was Blue.
The next Super Rare figure to be discovered was Chain Man. Once again the figure simply appeared in a lot of figures in a seemingly routine auction. However, by this point, the only thing routine about auctions including Super Rare figures was their discovery. Auctions no longer came to their natural conclusion. Often the auction was ended early by buyers offering off-line deals. And when Super Rare auctions were allowed to conclude there was often distrust and speculation that shill bidding or other malevolent actions had taken place.
Because anything related to a Super Rare figure causes such intensity with M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors it is often difficult to objectively discuss their authenticity, where they came from, or what they are worth. Philosophy 200 examines the various popular theories regarding where Super Rare figures originated from – even the idea that they are not authentic M.U.S.C.L.E. figures.
The value of Super Rare figures is nearly impossible to suggest. Some collectors argue that the sale price of figures determines their value. Other collectors view the prices and value of the figures as separate constructs. The one thing that all M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors would agree with is that the popularity and relative scarcity will always make them desirable pieces for M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors.
There is an epilogue to the Super Rare discussion. In 2007 a figure was identified as a potential Super Rare figure as part of a M.U.S.C.L.E. lot of figures on Craigslist.com. The figure appeared to be a King Robin Mask figure. Based exclusively on the picture many collectors thought it could be a legitimate Super Rare figure. Sadly, the picture from the listing is the only tangible piece of information. The person that posted the listing never responded to inquiries. It never appeared on any auction sites. And no collector has ever stepped forward to say they purchased the figure. The King Robin Mask figure remains a mystery.
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