Welcome to another edition of Toys on a Tuesday, a series where members of The Outerhaven team either tell stories of their childhood loves or look at characters or series from a collector’s point of view. In this edition of Toys on a Tuesday, I dive back into my personal history of my love for those Heroes in a Half Shell, those original Teenagers with Attitude, those Cowabunga Kids, those Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (or TMNT).
For those of you who have seen me do this before, there will be nothing changed from the formula. This time around I’ll be looking at the second series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures that were released in 1989, checking online (mostly eBay) for the cheapest and most expensive versions of each toy and giving some background on each toy along the way as well as some personal stories of my collection from back in the day, and re-collection in modern days.
Yep, it seems that those smart minds at Nickolodeon had the great idea of bringing back some of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Playmates era figures for young kids to play with for the first time, along with collectors boxes featuring an assortment of figures for the older fans to collect and relive their youth. I personally have dropped a fair bit of cash on some of these collector’s sets in recent months, along with finding some original era figures for decent prices on eBay, which has led me to look at doing a follow-up to one of my favorite toy lines to ever be created.
With the second series set, things were different for me as a child. The toy shop my Uncle owned, which is where I got a pretty much complete set of the original first series, was starting to struggle financially, (Mostly due to my Uncle’s gambling habits, which we never learned about till many years later) so instead of getting these figures as they were released either as payment for being a good kid while in the store, or as gifts from family, this series became exclusively for special occasions such as Christmas, Birthday, and good report cards, so I had less of them. This is reflected in a previous article I did called: “10 TMNT Toys I Would Have Killed For As A Kid“. But there were still a fair few I got from this series, and unfortunately became one of the last series I would get figures from for a while.
It should also be known that this was the beginning of the “gimmick” line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. These figures, usually based on the original 4 Turtles, would be released with some sort of gimmicks like a wind-up action, storage shell, or a crossover with another toyline. These ones did appear alongside the basic figure assortment that would go on for a few more series before everything ended up having a gimmick, and ultimately killing the toy line. I’ll also be including these gimmick figures in this and future retrospectives.
Terms to know:
Variant: A variant is a slight change from the original version of the toy. This could come as a coloring change, a change of costume or outfit, the materials used in making the toy, or just something as simple as an error getting into a batch of the mass-produced toy.
Soft Head: You’ll see this a lot on eBay when it comes to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys themselves. In the original 1988 run, the very first run, Playmates went the route of the popular He-Man and the Masters of the Universe toys and produced a few hundred Turtles with soft rubber heads, known as the “Soft Heads” to collectors. Sort Heads are not a thing with Series 2 as by this time production was standard across all figures.
Loose: Loose figures are the ones you’ll mostly find out in the wild. A lot of the time this will be the basic figure itself (The lowest price for the category) without any accessories. Some collectors will prefer to have the figure along with everything it originally came with, known as “complete”, which gets the higher prices.
Graded: These toys are the holy grail of being a hardcore collector. What happens is that someone will “Slab” their toy, usually right from purchase, and send it to the Action Figure Authority, who then inspect the toy, it’s packaging, and everything else before assigning a grade to the product and shipping it back. Like the graded comic books, you’ll find today, these figures are in high demand due to how close they are to straight out of the shipping box in quality, thus demanding high prices.
Slabbed: A Slabbed item is one that is picked up right from the store shelf or through special order and then placed in an air-tight hard plastic case to prevent damage to the toy. A lot of these cases are made with built-in tabs to keep the card from bending and are also UV protected to decrease the plastic encasing the figure from “yellowing” over time.
MOC: Literally meaning “Mint on Card”, this is the term used for 100% complete and original products. The “Card” is the cardboard backing that the figure rests on. The figure itself is encased in a soft plastic “Bubble” for protection and so people won’t steal the things. The closer the whole product is to its original straight-from-shelf condition, the more “mint” it is.
MIB: Practically the same as MOC, but instead of being on the card, it means “Mint in Box”. This term is used for boxes items such as vehicles and play-sets.
PRICES ARE ON AVAILABLE PRODUCTS VIA EBAY “BUY IT NOW” AND PRICED CORRECTLY AS OF THE DATE OF PUBLICATION IN UNITED STATES DOLLARS.
Character Name: Ace Duck Variant: Packaging: The figure originally came with his cap on or off his head. The second revision had a Pop-Up Mutant Display Card. Price (Loose): $3 to $40.00
Price (MOC): $90 to $850
Price (Graded): $114 to $475 Card Back Text: Hungry for duck brain, Krang ordered Shredder to beam an Earthbound duck to Dimension X (there’s a shortage of ducks in Dimension X). While transmuting the duck, famous test pilot, Ace Conrad, accidentally flew into the energy beam. The emerging plane was suddenly piloted by none other than Ace Duck, the aero-dynamic adventurer with a big bill. The plane plummeted into the inner city and slid nose-first into the sewer. Ace escaped without ruffling his feathers and found himself at the secret hideout of the Turtles. After realizing he wasn’t just some quack off the streets, the Turtles decided to hire Ace to pilot their Turtle Blimp. Always looking for a good adventure, Ace isn’t afraid to scramble the Foot with his hard-boiled Egg Grenades…as long as he gets paid on time. Even though he’s employed by the Turtles, Ace is still their fearless, Flying friend.
A shocking opener to be sure. Ace Duck was one of two figures with a very unique feature: He had wings to go on his back so he would “fly”. When it comes to the pricing, as usual, things are all over the place with MOC versions of the toy going for a much higher price than the Graded versions. When it comes to the loose versions, the base figure is very cheap, but the accessories are what are going to cost you in the long run since the hardest parts to find are the 4 little “egg bombs” that go into his belt. Also, note that there is a more modern “Classics” version of this figure that is in a two-pack with Mutagen-Man that might be worth checking out for the more sophisticated collector.
Character Name: Genghis Frog Variant: The figure came with 2 variations of the belt: Green and Black, with black being the more common one. This was another figure that came with the Pop-Up Mutant Display Card in a third veriation.
Price (Loose): $6 to $40
Price (MOC): $60 to $1300
Price (Graded): $435 to $1000
Card Back Text: Genghis Frog, once a humble, native tadpole, was accidentally mutated, then intentionally tricked by the evil Shredder to join his cohorts in horror. Once exposed to the sinister, wicked ways of Shredder, Genghis soon realized that the Turtles were his true friends.Now, this radical amphibious leader of the frogs is showing everyone his true colors. He’s a sewer-surfin’ fool and courageous dude who doesn’t mind ridin’ the waves to splash the Foot. Undaunted by the fear of croaking, Genghis Frog arms himself with his Tongue Gun to lick the evil Shredder. Riding his Radical Razor-sharp Boogie Board, this frog’s ready to cut the Foot Clan to rib-bits!
Holy price jumps! Genghis Frog, one of Shredders’ experiments to create an amphibian-based fighting force to take down the Turtles, with the weird side effect of being Cajin Frogs, has some of the highest Graded and MOC prices I’ve seen in a long time. Much like Ace Duck, loose collectors are going to pay a fortune in the accessories market since Genghis comes with 4 gas canisters that go into his belt that are easy to lose. Personally, I’d hunt down that $60 MOC and get it graded for an instant profit… DAMN!
Character Name: Casey Jones Variant: Pop-Up Mutant Display Stand Card variant. Also has a re-release with a “pizza backing card”.
Price (Loose): $8 to $70
Price (MOC): $110 to $350
Price (Graded): No Data Available
Card Back Text: Like all psychos, Casey Jones, the masked sportsman, wanted to be a legend. Armed with broken bats, shattered dreams, and one golf club, Casey turned his ambition toward crime-fighting. Modeling himself after his favorite vigilante cop show, Casey decided to take the law into his own mitts. Outfitted with castoff sportsgear, Casey challenges every criminal who dares to go out of bounds. This bat-bearing vigilante fights to rid the world of all bad sports, including those who would dare steal second base. Casey’s got a score to settle against all lawless losers – from litterbugs to madmen bent on world domination. Teaming up with our beloved Turtle Teens, Casey strikes out with a special vengeance against Shredder and the Foot Clan!
Casey was one of the more interesting characters since this was based on his 1988 cartoon version rather than any other version, including the comic version, that was out at the time. Casey was also one of the few characters (outside of the Storage Shell Turtles) that had an accessory that would hold his weapons that could be used with the figure. This figure was the only one not to be produced for the 25th-anniversary re-release of the original figures with no reason given, and he has not had a release since. Maybe Nickelodeon doesn’t like hockey face-covering wearing psychopaths? Or maybe they don’t release Casey again due to him being too close to Jason Vorhees in looks? We shall never know.
Character Name: Metal Head Variant: None
Price (Loose): $4 to $43
Price (MOC): $125 to $445
Price (Graded): No Data Available
Card Back Text: Designed as Krang’s ultimate weapon against the Turtles, Metalhead was re-programmed by Donatello to serve the side of good. This chrome-plated sewer servant’s eyes light up when you hold him up to the light. Always the life of the party, Metalhead can whip up a whipped cream and jelly bean pizza, serve sodas, display video games or rock the sewers with tunes from his jazzed-up juke box. When trouble’s brewing, Metalhead becomes one annoyed android and dishes out trouble with his Robo-chuks and Foot Blaster to all who dare mess with his Turtle masters.
One of the characters to show up on my Top 10 wants list, and for good reason. This was the first robot, outside of the Foot Soldiers, who actually got some time in the cartoon and everyone at the time loved robots. This mold would be used again in 1995 for Warrior Metalhead Michaelangelo, complete with the same accessories. Speaking of the accessories, this is the bane of the loose toy collector as Metalhead is found usually with missing attachments like his Robo-Chuks, making it hard to get a complete figure outside of the expensive MOC market. Also, he is now removed from the Top 10 Wants list as I bought a nice loose version for $20, and he was only missing his radar dish for the top of the backpack.
Character Name: Usagi Yojimbo Variant: Pop-Up Mutant Display Stand Card.
Price (Loose): $5 to $48
Price (MOC): $100 to $275
Price (Graded): $495 to $500
Card Back Text: Hundreds of years before sewers were even invented, Usagi Yojimbo (Rabbit Bodyguard), a skilled but masterless Samurai, wandered ancient legendary Japan. In a freakish burst of reception through Donatello’s trans-dimensional portal, this medieval hare wound up thrashing his way through the Turtle’s lair, kicking shell and more or less proving a few points with his Katana. Splinter recognized the ronin’s skills at once as Usagi repeatedly put the Turtles on the cutting edge. Trapped in Turtle-time, Usagi Yojimbo quickly became a trusted and honorable ally in the ongoing pursuit of pizza and a Shredder-less world.
One of the most awesome crossovers to ever come out of the cartoon and the comics. Seeing Usagi Yojimbo popping up in all sorts of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles media over the decades has always been a treat, and the toy was one of those too. I was lucky to have one as a kid, but there was a couple of design flaws that really hurt this figure overall: One being the ears would break off easily, now seen in a lot of the loose figures, and that the spear he had would also break, leading my mother to “fix” it by melting the plastic a little to put the blade back on time and time again till the spear was useless.
Character Name: Krang Variant: 4 Re-releases: 1995 Pizza Backing Card, Heroes in a Half-Shell, 2019 Nickolodeon rereleases, 2021 Villains Collection
Price (Loose): $8 (walker)/$12 (Krang) to $43 (complete)
Price (MOC): $28 to $275
Price (Graded): $375
Card Back Text: Krang is all the brains a body could want. Unfortunately, Krang ain’t got no body. He is, however, the mastermind behind Shredder and the Foot Clan. Krang’s ranting, burbling, chortling, raving antics are a few reasons he was banished from his home-sweet home of Dimension X. Now, Krang brings his smarty-pants attitude to the decent planet Earth, where law-abiding citizens are threatened by his supreme intelligence. Krang also supplies Shredder with his controversial Retromutagen, the transformation substance which is instrumental in their conquests. Krang’s tentacles allow him to wrestle with his biggest headache, the Turtles – who pose a threat to his global dominance.
This was the first way most people would get Krang, which also fits in with his early appearances in both the comics and the cartoon since his Android Body (We’ll get to that someday) was created later in both mediums. This was another figure that I was glad to have in my collection as a kid, giving me someone else to put up against the Turtles rather than Shredder. This was also the last figure I bought during the 2019 re-release era since all the others were from the 25th-anniversary collection.
Character Name: Baxter Stockman Variant: Fly-Swatter weapon came in brown and blue variants.
Price (Loose): $4 to $49
Price (MOC): $30 to $250
Price (Graded): No Data Available
Card Back Text: Baxter Stockman, a man with the mind of a scientist and the body of a common housefly, buzzes around town, annoying the Turtles and other decent reptiles. Created accidentally in Dimension X by a malfunctioning disintegrator unit, Baxter flurried himself into an avenging frenzy, ready to fly up anyone’s nose. Finally convinced by Shredder that the Turtles were solely responsible for his rebirth as an insect, Baxter now vents his hostilities toward our half-shelled heroes. Armed and winged with the Anti-Turtle Swatter, Baxter swats the shell out of the Turtles. His scientific experiments may break a few beakers, but Shredder can always use a fly with evil ingenuity.
This was one of my biggest and longest wants as a child and as a collector. A tribute to the movie “Fly” Baxter was the most disgusting mutant of the original line ups. This figure did get a Heroes in a Half-Shell backing card release somewhere around 1995, which is pretty rare, but other than that it has taken 32 years for an official re-release of Baxter Stockman to show up, and it’s only in the 2021 Villains Vehicle release too, keeping the rarity of this figure intact for a new generation… And I got him!
Character Name: Leatherhead Variant: None
Price (Loose): $8 to $40
Price (MOC): $100 to $235
Price (Graded): $425
Card Back Text: While scum-skulking through the green, slimy depths of a rank Florida swamp, a garden-variety gator swam through a streak of orange mutagen. Faster than snap, crackle, and crunch, this grinning gator mutated into Leatherhead, the biggest, meanest reptile ever to hit the amphibious circuit. Rippling with supermutant strength and swimming ability, Leatherhead enjoys just a pinch of Turtle between his teeth and gum for true chewin’ satisfaction. This garbage can gourmet fills his gullet by trapping Turtles, tenderizing them with a blast of his swamp gun, and mixing in a bag of red-hot Cajun spices. Leatherhead is the undisputed king of the swamp and could be the next sultan of the sewer when Shredder drafts him into the dreaded Foot Clan.
One of the weirdest figures to come out of the line thus far, Leatherhead was the only figure that I can recall that was designed to be in a crawling stance at all times. While his cartoon and comic counterpart was often on two legs and was either smarter than most or dumb as bricks, this figure is a real standout in any collection. There seems to be an abundance of Leatherhead around in loose form, put into group deals that any collector would be silly to pass up.
Character Name: Rat King Variant: None
Price (Loose): $9 to $55
Price (MOC): $100 to $225
Price (Graded): $305
Card Back Text: No one knows for certain where he came from, but one thing is for sure. Rat King revels in scum and scum revels in him. The creepiest of sewer crawlies nest in his royally rotten rags. The self-proclaimed King of the Ratocracy, he hypnotizes his rodent subjects with his seductive flute playing. Even Splinter succumbs to his magical musical powers. Rat King’s army protects his slimy kingdom by fighting tooth and whisker against all outsiders, good or bad. Watch out! Rat on his loyal subjects and you may be wrestling with his Rat Hook or running for your life from Rat King’s Royal Ratbow. Rat King’s motto is: “First the sewers, then the world !” He and Shredder are battling for total sewer domination while the Turtles are defending their “Home Sweet Sewer” from both. Looks like plenty of trouble underfoot!
Another figure I had in my collection, but for some reason I would spend more time facing him off against the Toxic Crusaders (Another toy series I’ll get to eventually) than the Turtles. Basically coming off as a crazy guy in the sewers, The Rat King didn’t command much respect on toy shelves, often being the one who stayed on pegs and became a “shelf warmer” for most of us kids. Probably one of the more decently priced MOC on the market for this series might be worth an investment as he has never had a re-release at all.
Character Name: General Tragg Variant: Pop-Up Mutant Display Stand Card & “4 Turtles” re-release.
Price (Loose): $7 to $35
Price (MOC): $95 to $375
Price (Graded): No Data Available
Card Back Text: As unstoppable as a landslide, General Traag, leader of Krang’s Rock Soldier armies in Dimension X, has one thing on his tiny mind – demolish Turtles. Summoned by Krang to exterminate the Turtles and prepare the way for an invasion from Dimension X, General Traag is grinding like a glacier over everything in his path. This stone-cold killer digs through solid rock with his Anti-Turtle Combat Knife looking for Turtles. In a battle of wits, he may be unarmed but beware of his Laser Blaster. You are in for a shock should you end up on the wrong end of this atom smasher. Traag’s Stunlaser gun leaves his enemies dazed, dopey, and defenseless – perfect for Turtle shish kabobs or as victims for Krang’s diabolical schemes.
Another one from the Top 10 Want List, and now one that I’m annoyed I haven’t bothered to grab. There are a TON of these around with the average for a loose complete figure being about $20. For something that was the one-per-case figure at the time, this guy is everywhere. Hell, even the MOC is cheap! I guess there is nothing else to do but buy one and add it to the collection, then buy more and make an army out of General Traags!
Character Name: Rock ‘N Roll Michaelangelo Variant: Text
Price (Loose): $4 to $20
Price (MOC): $40 to $125
Price (Graded): No Data Available
Card Back Text: It’s rock ‘n roll, dudes, with this Wacky Action Michaelangelo wind-up! There’ll be lots of twistin’ and shoutin’ when Mike rolls into battle with his special Ninja weaponry. Stick a sewer snake in his rotating right hand and watch the whizzing, whirling, whipping action! No Foot will get a foot closer while Mike’s powerhouse right forearm delivers gyrating jabs. Cut pizza the old-fashioned way with Mike’s patented swiss-army sewer cover. Comes complete with Turtle can opener, pepperoni cleaver, pizza-power cutter and standard table fork for mock-human action. Bring the thrills of the TMNT cartoon into your own living room! Slip Mike’s nunchukus in his right hand, wind-up his power pack and stand back for three-dimensional articulation! The Shredder won’t know what to do when he sees the deadly sewer snakes spinning furiously at his head (kids, don’t try this at home). Now, the ultimate Ninja warrior’s got a new twist!
Well, it’s not a great start to the Wacky Action gimmick line. Finding Mikey at such low prices means that not that many people were interested in these figures, which would become a trend for most gimmick figures for a while till the series finds its footing again. To be honest, the gimmick were was nothing special, Mikey would spin his wrist around making any of his weapons, or his shield, spin around like it was a real attack or something. Plus this was the 1980s where wind-up gimmicks didn’t last too long and would break easily, making these very undesirable.
Character Name: Breakfightin’ Raphael Variant: Text
Price (Loose): $4 to $25
Price (MOC): $40 to $100
Price (Graded): No Data Avilable
Card Back Text: When Raphael gets wound up, he likes to unwind on his back. He slides on his detachable garbage can gyro-lid and flips into a back-breaking Ninja spin. Nothing will be left standing inside the circle of Turtle terror as the disgusting rat bola spins ferociously in Raphael’s green grip. The Foot don’t stand a chance against Raphael’s streetwise, breakfightin’ maneuvers. His anti-Foot stars slice with the ruthlessness of a vegematic. So turn up the boom box and let the breakfightin’ master teach the Foot a few steps. Raphael would gladly sweep the Shredder off his feet and prove once and for all that it takes two to tangle!
This was one of the better Wacky Action figures, as Raph would be placed on his shell and would spin around attacking anyone who dared to get close. But much like the rest of the line, the wind-up gimmick was too short and would break easily. This feels wrong since Raph was one of the more popular figures around and most parents would buy this version of the figure because it would end up in discount bins, so you would think there would be more on the market, which there are not.
Character Name: Sewer Swimmin’ Donatello Variant: Text
Price (Loose): $7 to $30
Price (MOC): $46 to $125
Price (Graded): No Data Available
Card Back Text: Clean up the stinky Foot with Sewer-Swimmin’ Donatello. With Don’s sewer-scuba jet, you can be sure the Shredder won’t be surfing through your sewers. This Turtle teen skims the water to uncover deviously devised Foot plans. Don dares to boldly fo where no Turtle has gone before – your tub, for instance, where he gets more than his feet wet giving the Foot a bath. And his keen spy sense will keep him from making too many waves. See Don rival Olympic hopefuls with his shell-stroke swimming action! The Turtles can now command the high seas from the splendor of your sewer-bath!
It’s Donatello who can swim while you take a bath! The only swimming Turtle in the entire franchise of toys, this version was very common place to see in homes all over the world since this would be used as a distraction during bath time by kids while parents washed their hair. But this was one of the worst ones in this gimmick line since you’d run into one of many problems: Either Don’s feet or legs would break, the gears would rust from the water, the motor wouldn’t work at all, and the toy would sink making it useless. A great idea, but poorly executed. Plenty on the market if you want to pass along this bath time distraction to a new generation.
Character Name: Wacky Walkin’ Mouser Variant: Text
Price (Loose): $23 to $43
Price (MOC): $130 to $250
Price (Graded): No Data Available
Card Back Text: The Mousers were created by the infamous, wickedly winged Foot scientist, Baxter Stockman. These robotic rat traps patrol city streets and sewers, scanning for edibles with their penetrating search-eye. Your typical robot Mouser has a mindless cavity the shape and size of a walnut. Its cast-iron stomach, however, makes a garbage dump look appetizing. Chock full of Turtle pizzas, rodent ravioli, rat cheeseburgers and moused potatoes, these Mousers will devour anything. With the determination of an exterminator, Mousers employ their neutron-noses to sniff-out and track down rats and Turtles. Their repulsive steel, chomping jaws can chew through anything, including the hardest Turtle shell.
The dream! So many kids wanted an army of mousers to go alongside an army of Foot Soldiers to create the ultimate battle! Since these robots were used so often in the cartoon series, of course they became the one-per-case figure so that parents would spend ages looking around multiple toy stores in order to find just one. If you were the lucky kid who had one of these, then you were king of the playground or sandbox, and if you had more than one, then people would think you had some sort of connection at Playmates and wanted to be your friend. But looking back, these were too big and moved like one of those $2 wind-up toys that had flooded the flea markets back in the day… But I’d still kill for a case of just Mousers today.
And with that, we end the Series 2 releases of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys from 1989. In only one year we have seen the base collection grow from 10 to 20, and saw the beginning of the gimmick lines with 4 new figures.
Taking a look at the overall data, we notice that Series 2 didn’t have as many graded figures as the first series did, and the average price per MOC dropped dramatically, as did the loose figure price. Personally speaking, this is something that I like to see as a collector, as it gives me and many other Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans a good chance at reclaiming, or getting some of these figures for the first time.
But with the turning of time, and a new decade upon the franchise, what do the releases of 1990 hold? Well, that is a story for another Tuesday.