Toys R Worth Bucks

Most kids these days don't even know who Janis Joplin was or Alice Cooper is. So what's the marketing strategy behind a line of aged rock-star action figures? Well, according to the folks at Todd McFarlane Productions, the things aren't dolls, and they aren't aimed at kids.

McFarlane, the creator and artist of Spawn, the hugely successful comic book series about a black antihero mercenary, started out creating collectible figurines of his own characters in 1994.

"McFarlane Toys is marketed to ages basically 13 and up, and a lot of our Spawn things and the horror things have generally been to the 18-to-34 market," according to McFarlane public relations director Ken Reinstein. "Todd always looked at the stuff as a conversation starter. Someone you're not going to go out and buy a Barbie for, you might go out and pick up a Rob Zombie action figure for them."

In 1997 McFarlane hit on the idea of creating dolls of rock stars and put out miniatures of Kiss. His newest creations include plastic likenesses of Joplin, Kid Rock, Rob Zombie, and Ozzy Osbourne, which comes complete with decapitated bats. The Cooper doll also sports props associated with the rocker's infamous stage antics: a guillotine, snakes, top hat, and cane.

Rock-star action figures, of course, aren't a new concept. Produced by the Mego toy company in 1978, a mint condition figure of Ace Frehley or Gene Simmons of Kiss now goes for $100 -- $250 if it's still in its original package.

The new rock action figures go for about $10, according to 25-year-old Tate Ottati, owner of Tate's Comics, Inc., in Lauderhill. His dad, Tony, who helps him run the store, says McFarlane's demographics match up with those of the local shop. "It's not a Toys R Us; it's a collectors' store," he says. "Our collector base is 18 to 35."

Collectors, whatever their age, can snoop around for items old and new at this weekend's 4th Annual MondoPop 2000 Collectible Show. Tate's puts on the event, at which attendees and dealers buy, sell, and trade comic books, sports cards, antique dolls, Beanie Babies, and action figures.

One collector last year found a Superman phone he'd been after for years, says Tony Ottati. "He ended up buying it from the guy for $1200."

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John Ferri