Masters of the Universe

Action Figures

Series One Produced by Mattel in 1982

About The Toy Line

Masters of the Universe is a sword and sorcery-themed media franchise created by Mattel in the early 1980s to boost sales in the company’s “Male Action Toys” division. This epic action-adventure toy line follows the story of He-Man, a young boy (Prince Adam) who, with the sorcery of Grayskull, was chosen to become the next Master of the Universe, and protector of the secrets of Castle Grayskull. The concept is a modern-day derivative, loosely inspired by the myth of the heroic Hercules. The central premise revolves around the conflict between Prince Adam (He-Man), the chosen guardian of Eternia, and Skeletor, the evil ruler of his minions on Eternia. Using the “Sword of Power,” Prince Adam can utilize the “Power of Grayskull” to transform himself into “He-Man, becoming “The Most Powerful Man in the Universe.” Along with his feline-like companion (Cringer), who transforms into “Battle Cat,” many other supporting characters feature creative and innovative hybrids of the medieval-style sword, sorcery, and sci-fi technology.

Mattel Inc. is an American-based International toy manufacturer and entertainment company founded in 1945. It is most commonly known for its introduction of the “Barbie” brand and line of fashion dolls launched in March 1959. Following the massive success of the Barbie toy line, Mattel Inc. became a publicly-traded company in 1960. In 1968, Mattel again found success with its “Hot Wheels” scaled model cars toy line, proving Mattel could compete heavily in the decade’s popular “Male Action Toys” market.

In 1976, Mattel was approached by the up-and-coming independent film studio Lucasfilm Ltd. regarding the opportunity to produce toy merchandise for a soon to be released science-fiction film titled “Star Wars.” At the time, Mattel believed that licensing for TV and movies had a much shorter shelf life, as sales declined once films left theaters or TV shows ran their course. With just a few years shy of the home-video explosion, Mattel, unfortunately, turned down the Star Wars merchandising licensing on the strength of their previous marketing research. Notably, it also didn’t help that Lucasfilm Ltd. was pushing a premier release of the film for May 1977, offering an unrealistic holiday merchandise delivery season for the same year. When Kenner Toys secured the “Star Wars” merchandising toy license and launched the first of many waves in 1978, Mattel was forced to play catch up. After the phenomenal success of Star Wars, Mattel attempted to produce licensed vehicles and action figures for franchises like Battlestar Galactica, Captain Futuro, and Flash Gordon. All seemed to have minimal to no success and failed to complete with the dominant Kenner Star Wars line.

In 1981 Mattel saw their licensed movie products like MegaForce (Hot Wheels Style vehicles) and Clash of the Titans action figures also offering little to no success in “Male Action Toys” retail. They invested millions of dollars in tooling and inventory, only to see the film debut, and then leave theaters in the same season. Retailers would consistently question Mattel executives about how they could justify stocking merchandise when nobody could remember the movie when the holiday toy buying season started. The ability to purchase or rent a theatrical movie release on video, and essentially play on demand would not become mainstream for another couple of years, still relying on public theaters as the only source of viewing studio released Blockbuster film features. The solution presented by Mattel’s President Ray Wagner was to develop a new and original concept. Mattel hired Mark Ellis as their new Director of Marketing for “Male Action Toys” with the primary task of creating a male action figure line that was not dependent on a comic, movie, TV show, or any licensed figure. Mattel wanted to reproduce the independent success of their original “Big Jim” toy line in the early 70s, which wasn’t associated with a licensing deal from an external film or TV show.

Extensive market research began and eventually narrowed the categories down to military, space, and barbarian-style fantasy. With a development team of designers and sculptors led by Roger Sweet, Mark Taylor, Paul Cleveland, and Bob Nall, research eventually led to combining the three adding additional inspiration from the sword and sorcery fantasy art of the 70s. Coincidentally around the same time, Conan Properties International approached Mattel regarding the development of action figures for the upcoming Conan film release scheduled to hit theaters in 1982. Mattel accepted the contract and began concept development. However, it is rumored that Mattel developers and executives were unaware that the film would be rated R, causing a conflict of interest in developing a children’s toy. Mattel requested to be released from the Conan development obligation and paid the contractual fee upon release. Unfortunately, this would not be the last Mattel would hear from Conan Properties International.

As development for the Masters of the Universe line continued, it was determined that the action figures would feature a more dominating aesthetic, towering over its three and three-quarter inch competition currently controlling the market. Notably, the height of the action figure was primarily determined by the battle-action waist feature, as the size was needed to accommodate the spring-action mechanism successfully. Mattel’s development team landed on a five and one-half inch tall action figure that would also feature muscular sculpting, intimidating facial expressions, and now iconic spring-activated battle-action waist movement.

Early concepts with the naming the brand were set to be “Lords of Power,” and Roger Sweet was noted for eventually conceiving the lead character “He-Man” name during an internal development meeting. Mark Taylor developed most concept art and character design. Taylor drew inspiration from some of his previous concept work and his love for fantasy sword and sorcery-style art, including artist Frank Frazetta best known for his Conan painting and artwork.

When the time to market the Masters of the Universe toyline to retail arrived, retail buyers were now heavily influenced by licensed film and TV franchises. Mattel was very eager at this point to get the toys on store shelves for the 1982 holiday session. During a sales meeting with a national retail chain, marketing director Mark Ellis had a stroke of sales genius to include a mini-comic with backstories inserted into the packaging with each action figure. The story featured within the included mini-comics was initially developed by writer Donald F. Glut and illustrated by artist Alfredo Alcala. The mini-comics became a crucial aspect of the characters’ backstories and selling points to retailers. In July of 1982, Mattel joined forces with DC comics releasing “DC Comics Presents #47,” a Superman meets the Masters of the Universe comic crossover issue. Several exclusive Masters of the Universe DC comics followed and the Filmation produced animated series first aired on September 5, 1983. In 1986, Marvel comics secured the rights to produce 13 comic issues and one comic adaptation of the live action movie.

During the first year of launch, Mattel was forecasting sales in the range of around 13 million; however, the reality of $32 million far surpassed their original projections proving the toy line a huge success. This caught the attention of Conan Properties International, which filed a lawsuit against Mattel, claiming that the concept originated from the Conan license agreement and Mattel failed to offer any Conan-related deliverables. Conan Properties International claimed that Mattel acquired the Conan license to assure that no other toy company would produce Conan-related toys and lockdown the fantasy-style barbarian market. Mattel confirmed to the court system that the Masters of the Universe toy line had been in development long before accepting a development agreement for the Conan license. The courts eventually concluded that the Masters of the Universe toyline looked nothing like the Conan movie and ruled in Mattel’s favor.

Topping off the aesthetic value of this fantastic toy line, artist Rudy Obrero has often been credited as one of the leading package artists of the 1980s by creating some of the best box art of all time. This was no exception when he designed the phenomenal illustrations for the product lines packaging. In conclusion, this very successful brand has spawned a vast catalog of products, including several unique lines of action figures, over seven animated series and spin-offs, multiple comic book series, video games, newspaper comic strips, books, and one animated holiday special. In addition, two feature films were produced around the franchise, an animated 1985She-Ra” crossover “The Secret of the Sword” and the 1987 live-action Hollywood Studio production titled “Masters of the Universe“, starring Dolph Lundgren.

With the success of the 1968Hot Wheels” model cars toy line, Mattel sponsored a thirty-minute Saturday-morning cartoon series appropriately titled “Hot Wheels” from 1969 to 1971. The animated series was inspired by Mattel’s “Hot Wheels” toys and assisted in massive sales boosts during and after the series aired.

Competitors to Mattel’s model cars toy line complained to the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) that the ABC network television show was simply a half-hour commercial for Mattel’s toy cars. The ABC network contested the charge, stating there was no prior commitment to Mattel, and more importantly, Hot Wheels toys were never officially advertised during any episodes. The Topper Corporation, a rival toy manufacturer to Mattel, known for its similar Johnny Lightning diecast model cars line, originally surfaced this complaint on the foundation that Mattel solicited free network TV advertising. The network was endorsed by the National Association of Broadcasters, allowing the show to remain on the ABC programming schedule. This would notably become the beginning of parental consumers backing child advocacy groups, therefore leading to the regulation of television programming by limiting advertising manipulation among younger viewers. It was believed that the so-called “hidden” advertising would be targeted during programming, and children could not differentiate advertising from the show’s context.

In 1977, the Federal Trade Commission pushed not only to monitor and limit children’s advertising on television but set their sights on a complete network ban on all children’s advertising. In 1981, the FCC brought in a new commissioner and unlocked network advertising targeted toward children by deregulating all former FCC regulations. This ruling, therefore, opened the door for toy companies to take full advantage of series cartoon programming with the prominent tie-in campaigns that would influence the young minds of the 1980s.

When shopping the Masters of the Universe toy line to retailers, marketing director Mark Ellis received concerns from retail buyers that many young children around the age of five will not be able to read and understand the included mini-comic backstory. Understanding Mattel’s network broadcasting marketing experience during the previous decade, Ellis creatively, out of nowhere, mentioned that there would also be a cartoon series to accompany the toy line. This genius show of salesmanship became one of the essential factors of the franchise, not only for this particular toy line but for many to follow during the 1980s.

Using that valued strategic marketing experience Mattel had learned during the 1970s and the intrigue of retail buyers, executives at Mattel innovatively began shopping animation studios to produce a tie-in for the toy line release. Mattel initially approached the popular animation studio Hanna-Barbera but eventually struck a deal with the animation studio Filmation Associates and began developing an animated series around the Masters of the Universe toyline characters, already in production. Head of Filmation Lou Scheimer was very impressed with the Masters of the Universe concept and agreed to produce the series as long as Filmation would have complete creative control.

As a result of the FCC’s deregulation of children’s advertising on national television in 1981, there were no legal concerns in producing an animated series to market toy lines. Masters of the Universe would become the first toy franchise to take full advantage of this new ruling, and released 65 after school and Saturday morning syndicated episodes in its first season. Then, another 65 episodes in the second season with a total of 130 episodes. The show recruited some of the most talented and popular voice actors of the time, including Alan Oppenheimer, John Erwin, Linda Gary, George DiCenzo, Erika Scheimer, and even head of the Filmation studio Lou Scheimer. The iconic theme music was composed by Shuki Levy and Haim Saban. The two would become the most predominant animated series composers throughout the 1980s, producing successful themes and scores for shows like Kidd Video, Jayce, and the Wheeled Warriors, M.A.S.K., COPS, and many more.

During the first season, the Masters of the Universe animated series became the most popular syndicated television program in the 10 year old and under demographic. Over 30% of the viewing number were girls, eventually leading to a spin-off featuring (Prince Adam) He-Man’s sister, “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power,” in September 1985.

Included Mini Comics

One Mini-Comic was Randomly Included in Each He-Man Action Figure Package

A total of 12 different Mini-Comics were available in The first 8 Masters of the Universe action figures packaging. Some action figures never included some of the comics displayed above.

The 1982 Masters Of The Universe TV Commercial

Play Video

Above is a 1982 series one promotional video produced by Filmation for the launch of Mattel’s Masters of the Univers toy line. Mattel would produce several 30-second T.V. commercials in 1983-1987 to market and promote the series 1-6 Masters of the Univers toy line. Most toy commercials from the 1980’s typically aired during after school programming and Saturday morning cartoons as they were common demographic timeslots for children’s programs. Often, the producers of the toy commercials creatively used scenes of children playing with the toys as part of their action-packed commercial-based marketing.

Collector's Price Guide

Click on the “Product Name” to view the collectibles detail page. You can refine your selection by selecting a year or series. You can also enter name into the search box, to find the collectible you are looking for in our data base. If using a mobile phone, click the “+” to view additional details and value data. All values are estimated by Retro Toy Quest and subject to change and discrepancy, depending on the advanced nature of any collector. Retro Toy Quest holds no responsibility for any possible inaccuracies displayed within this reference guide and values may often fluctuate in the current collectors market prior to or after published updates. PLEASE NOTE: Variants, Unpunched, Graded, Early Releases, International, and other unique variations may fetch a higher price point on the collectors market.

ImageProduct NameAllianceTypeSeriesYearMLCMIB / MWCMISB / MOC (Taiwan)Heroic WarriorsAction Figure11981$135$175$1,250 WarriorsAction Figure11981$45$95$425 WarriorsAction Figure11981$45$95$795 WarriorsAction Figure11981$50$100$750 ManEvil WarriorsAction Figure11981$100$150$825 WarriorsAction Figure11981$45$95$650 (Taiwan)Evil WarriorsAction Figure11981$100$150$1,600 Figure11981$45$95$700 CatHeroic WarriorsAction Beast11981$50$155$450 RamHeroic Warriors Vehicle11981$45$155$550 RaiderHeroic Warriors Vehicle11981$95$145$590 GrayskullHeroic Warriors Playset11981$350$600$1,850 Whole CollectionNASERIES 1 TOTAL11981$1,105$2,010$10,435 Skeletor (Mexico)Evil WarriorsAction Figure11981$150$150$1,850 Skeletor (Taiwan Half Boot)Evil WarriorsAction Figure11981$125$165$2,200 He-Man (Mexico)Heroic WarriorsAction Figure11981$155$180$1,600 Mer-Man (Green Belt)Evil WarriorsAction Figure11981$55$155$1,025 WarriorsAction Figure21983$25$75$895 (weapons pack/pink tubes)Heroic WarriorsAction Figure21983$85$125 (France)Heroic WarriorsAction Figure21983 ManHeroic WarriorsAction Figure21983$40$90$950 WarriorsAction Figure21983$135$185$1,595 WarriorsAction Figure21983$35$85$400 JawEvil WarriorsAction Figure21983$70$120$850 Evil WarriorsAction Figure21983$45$95$775 (Malaysia)Evil WarriorsAction Figure21983$50$100 WarriorsAction Figure21983$45$120$200 WarriorsAction Figure21983$50$155$550 TrakHeroic WarriorsVehicle21983$50$85$400 Dread & Talon FighterHeroic WarriorsVehicle21983$100$175$590 WarriorsAction Figure21983$45$120$200 Armor He-ManHeroic WarriorsAction Figure31984$60$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure31984$30$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure31984$35$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure31984$30$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure31984$0$0$0 AdamHeroic WarriorsAction Figure31984$50$0$0 Armor SkeletorEvil WarriorsAction Figure31984$50$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure31984$20$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure31984$25$0$0 KhanEvil WarriorsAction Figure31984$18$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure31984$45$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure31984$20$0$0 WalkerHeroic WarriorsVehicle31984$50$85$0 RipperHeroic WarriorsVehicle31984$30$80$0 WarriorsVehicle31984$20$100$0 WarriorsVehicle31984$25$110$0 MountainEvil WarriorsPlayset31984$350$450$950 PakNeutralAccessories31984$40$70$0 CaseNeutralAccessories31984$45$80$160 Punch He-ManHeroic WarriorsAction Figure41985$75$0$0 ManHeroic WarriorsAction Figure41985$30$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure41985$25$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure41985$40$0$0 Blaster SkeletorEvil WarriorsAction Figure41985$210$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure41985$30$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure41985$35$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure41985$30$0$0 HordeAction Figure41985$55$0$0 HordeAction Figure41985$25$0$0 (Brown Face)Evil HordeAction Figure41985$175$195$1,600 HordeAction Figure41985$20$0$0 HordeAction Figure41985$15$0$0 HordeAction Figure41985$50$90$0 WarriorsVehicle41985$40$85$0 BonesHeroic WarriorsVehicle41985$60$75$0 SharkEvil WarriorsVehicle41985$70$0$0 StalkerEvil WarriorsVehicle41985$40$0$0 WarriorsVehicle41985$125$0$0 ZoneEvil HordePlayset41985$0$0$0 Punch AmmoHeroic WarriorsAccessories41985$0$0$0 Fist He-ManHeroic WarriorsAction Figure51986$90$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure51986$50$0$0 BlastHeroic WarriorsAction Figure51986$80$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure51986$40$0$0 SpoutHeroic WarriorsAction Figure51986$70$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure51986$40$0$0 Claws SkeletorEvil WarriorsAction Figure51986$230$0$0 HordakEvil HordeAction Figure51986$0$0$0 HordeAction Figure51986$60$0$0 TrooperEvil HordeAction Figure51986$0$0$0 BotEvil HordeAction Figure51986$0$0$0 HissSnake MenAction Figure51986$40$0$0 MenAction Figure51986$30$0$0 LashorSnake MenAction Figure51986$45$0$0 HawkHeroic WarriorsVehicle51986$0$0$0 BoltHeroic WarriorsVehicle51986$45$0$0 FighterEvil WarriorsVehicle51986$0$0$0 HordeAction Figure51986$100$0$0 HordeAction Figure51986$0$0$0 WarriorsAccessories51986$0$0$0 SledHeroic WarriorsAccessories51986$0$0$0 StalkerHeroic WarriorsAccessories51986$25$0$0 VatEvil HordeAccessories51986$0$0$0 WarriorsPlayset51986$0$0$0 PitEvil HordePlayset51986$100$155$0 ChampHeroic WarriorsAction Figure61987$145$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure61987$0$0$0 RandorHeroic WarriorsAction Figure61987$250$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure61987$160$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure61987$0$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure61987$0$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure61987$250$0$0 GlowEvil WarriorsAction Figure61987$0$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure61987$0$0$0 SawEvil HordeAction Figure61987$0$0$0 HordeAction Figure61987$0$0$0 HordeAction Figure61987$165$0$0 FaceSnake MenAction Figure61987$0$0$0 MenAction Figure61987$0$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure61987$0$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure61987$0$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure61987$0$0$0 MenAction Figure61987$0$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure61987$0$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure61987$0$0$0 RexSnake MenAction Figure61987$0$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure61987$0$0$0 CatHeroic WarriorsAction Figure61987$0$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure61987$0$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure61987$0$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure61987$0$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure61987$0$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure61987$0$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure61987$0$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure61987$0$0$0 WarriorsAction Figure61987$0$0$0 Blaster and ArtillerayHeroic WarriorsAccessories61987$0$0$0 ClimberHeroic WarriorsAccessories61987$0$0$0 ToolsHeroic WarriorsAccessories61987$0$0$0 AttackEvil WarriorsAccessories61987$0$0$0 Monsters61987$45$0$0 Power He-ManHeroic WarriorsAction Figure71988$0$0$0 Light SkeletorHeroic WarriorsAction Figure71988$0$0$0

How To Use This Price Guide

MLC = “Mint Loose Condition” This is when the action figure or Vehicle is in excellent condition,  and is loose and “complete” with all original accessories, but without the packaging and original included paperwork.

MIB = “Mint in box” This is when the collectible is in excellent condition,  and is loose and “complete” with all original accessories and original included paperwork.

MWC = “Mint with Card Back” This is when an action figure os is excellent condition,  and is loose and “complete” with all original accessories, however included the original card back fully intact. If the original blister bubble is intact, It can bring additional value depending on the condition of the blister bubble.

MISB = “Mint in Sealed Box” This is when the Collectible is in excellent condition,  and is factory sealed and was never opened or used.

MOC = “Mint on card” This Is when the action figure is in excellent condition and is factory sealed and it’s original blister bubble and was never opened or used.

COMPLETE = “Complete” This is when the collectible is 100% complete with all of its accessories. Additional paperwork included with the original package does increase the overall value but does not necessarily consider the item complete

DISCLAIMER: All values are estimated by Retro Toy Quest and subject to change and discrepancy, depending on the advanced nature of any collector. Retro Toy Quest holds no responsibility for any possible inaccuracies displayed within this reference guide and values may often fluctuate in the current collectors market prior to or after published updates.