Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Comprehensive Look at Habs Figurines / Collectibles

Today we bring you a special feature on Montreal Canadiens figurines, bobbleheads, McFarlanes, and other figures in line with the other Habs site I run, which can be found at:

That site covers my collection / project to seek out, document, and ultimately obtain pieces of any player to ever play a game for the Montreal Canadiens. Clearly such a venture would require significant investment, so I'm in no hurry to track it all down, but it is a fun, gradual mission to find good deals on hard-to-find collectibles from any of a number of sources.

For the Habs collector reading from home, we will go over the evolution of player-specific Canadiens collectibles, documenting some pieces you yourself may want to add to your collection. Let's call this Your Official Guide to Habs Collectibles.

1) Hockey Heroes Stand-Ups

Going wayyy back to 1975-76, we find a series of NHL and NHLPA-licensed Hockey Heroes Stand-Up cardboard statues. Once you punch them out of their yellow frame, they can be inserted into their base and stand as a diecut figure, nice to display. The series featured players from around the league, including 6 Habs: Yvan Cournoyer (pictured left), Guy Lafleur, Jacques Lemaire, Pete Mahovlich, Doug Riseborough, and Larry Robinson. Today, most pieces in the series (with Bobby Orr a notable exception) can be found in the $10 range.

2) 1989-90 Provigo Series

Provigo grocery stores in the province of Quebec distributed a team set of small Montreal Canadiens figurines for the 1989-90 NHL season. What is particularly remarkable about these figures is that, despite their age, they bare a striking resemblance to the actual player depicted, much better than many more recent attempts by a number of toy production companies. This was also a rare chance to grab a collectible of some of the team's more "depth" players, as there were 13 players in the set in total: Guy Carbonneau, Chris Chelios, Shayne Corson, Russ Courtnall, Bob Gainey (pictured right), Craig Ludwig, Mike McPhee, Mats Naslund, Stephane Richer, Patrick Roy, Brian Skrudland, Bobby Smith, and Petr Svoboda (photos of each included on my Master List).

3) Starting Line-Up Figures

The early collectible that most are likely familiar with, Starting Line-Up figurines were manufactured in various forms by Kenner. Throughout the 1990s, there were many Montreal Canadiens featured in series like the annual standard run, the multiple Timeless Legends series, One-on-One Freeze Frames, multi-player combo packs such as Classic Doubles, 12-inch player dolls, and Pro Action motion figures. A full list of former Habs with figures can be found on my Master List page. The standard run figures are the hockey pieces that most resemble a traditional G.I. Joe-type action figure, and because of their cheap plastic nature, can still be found for just a couple of bucks each. One of the unfortunate parts about these figures was the limited variety of player poses, and with limited facial similarities to the actual player for the most part, figures often looked like simple repaints.

4) Headliners Mini Figures

Rivaling the Starting Line-Up figures in the market was this batch of miniature big-headed plastic men put out by Corinthian. As would later be the case with McFarlane figures, the first series was licensed only by the NHLPA and not the NHL, so players appeared with logo-less jerseys (see the Chris Chelios at left, for example). By the time the second series (which included logos) was released, the Habs were in turnover turmoil mode, and thus no Headliner figure with the CH crest was ever created. Still, as seen on my Master List, a number of former Habs were included, the rarest of which was a Philadelphia Flyers Eric Desjardins released only in the United States through a Burger King promotion. Another line of these products, larger in size, resembling bobbleheads of today (but without bobble action), was released under the name Headliners XL, featuring amongst others this Patrick Roy.

5) NHL ProZone Dolls

In 1997 and 1998, two series of dolls were released featuring some of the game's greats. Only two former Montreal Canadiens, Patrick Roy (pictured at right) and Chris Chelios, were included. Thus, like with the Headliners, no players were featured in Hab jerseys.

6) Bobbleheads

Hard to place chronologically as they've existed in different forms since at least the 1960s, bobbleheads are probably the most popular of the sport figure collectibles. The array of hockey bobbles out there pales in comparison to those of baseball or football, but there is a wide variety of forms, teams, and players that have been released. We start with the simple but pricey generic player vintage bobbleheads of the 1960s like the one pictured at left, but they can take all kinds of forms and sizes. Some examples:
- Traditional pose bobbles like this Yanic Perreault
- Minor and American league bobbles like this Carey Price
- Other pose bobbles like this brand new Brian Gionta
- Miniature bobbles like this Jocelyn Thibault
- Bendable bobbles like this Saku Koivu
- Mascot bobbles like this Youppi!
- Alternate bobbling pieces like this bobble gloves Donald Brashear
- Rare Disney bobbles like this Mickey Mouse
- Coach bobbles like this Scotty Bowman

For a full list of present and former Hab bobbleheads, check our Master List page.
Various companies have produced these pieces over the years, but the two major players have been Forever Collectibles and Bobble Dobbles. As bobbleheads are collected so widely, prices can vary from just $5 or less for a random player to over $200 for an older or limited run rarity. Generally bobbles issued at games, referred to as SGA (Stadium Giveaway), are more popular than those simply sold at retail locations.

7) PrimeTime Heroes of the Ice / Teams of the World

Only two former Canadiens were featured in this National Team based action figure release. Patrick Roy (pictured at right) was included in his Team Canada jersey, while John LeClair was one of the players from the Team USA line.

8) SMITI Mini Figures

While more successful with their rockstar lines, SMITI took a brief foray into the world of hockey with a line that featured mini player figures inside puck-like discs. The only Canadien featured in this not too popular series was Saku Koivu, pictured at left. Though the packaging is well done, the figures themselves bare no resemblance to the actual player.

9) McDonald's

Over the years, the fast food chain has not only released hockey card sets, but also lines of collectible pieces, ranging from miniature sticks like this Cristobal Huet, to goalie masks like this Jocelyn Thibault, and nicest of all, mini masks with player figures like the Carey Price pictured at left.

10) Celebriducks

A small number of hockey players got the rubber ducky treatment, of which there was a single former Canadien (so again no Habs logos). This Jocelyn Thibault is a cute oddball item to add to any NHL collection.

11) NHL Ultimate Collection Mini Figures

These small toys were sold both individually and in a box set all at once. Two Habs were created in the single run, both in Canadiens jerseys - Carey Price, and Saku Koivu, pictured right.

12) Upper Deck All-Star Vinyl Figures

A cross-sports initiative from sports card manufacturer Upper Deck, no Canadiens have yet to receive proper retail treatment in this line. While the pieces are nice, the price tag ($40+ each) has kept them from taking off in a huge way. As such, Upper Deck was forced to cancel a bigger line of hockey figures which included the Carey Price pictured at left (pretty bad-ass looking if I do say so myself!) that was slated for retail sale at the last minute. Because of the timing, a small number of each player in that series was still produced and have made their way on to the secondary market, occasionally popping up at premium prices on eBay.

13) McFarlane Hockey Figures

We conclude our main groupings with the company that has dominated the sport figure industry for the last decade. Standard figures stand 6-inches, and spin-off lines have seen both 3-inch and 12-inch variations. Hockey releases come out about 5 times a year, with both standard lines and special editions, such as National Team figures and Canadian Tire exclusives. A large number of present and former Canadiens have been included in various lines, so check our Master List for full details of more like the Mike Cammalleri at right. This Fall will see rookie figures for Brian Gionta, P.K. Subban, and Jacques Plante. Unfortunately, due to licensing difficulties, vintage lines of retired players have been increasingly rare the past few seasons.

14) Some Other Figures

While this covers a lot of the major lines, there have been other Montreal Canadiens figures released from a variety of sources. Here we look at a few of these:

- Upper Deck Portraits Busts like this Guy Lafleur
- 4" NHL Rockers like this Jose Theodore
- Predators Dinosaurs like this Patrick Roy
- Troll Dolls like this Vincent Damphousse
- Salvino's BAMMERS Beanie Babies like this Patrick Roy

And various others you can see on our Master List page.

So Habs fans, I hope you found this look at Habs figurines and collectibles of interest. If you have or know of anything that I don't have documented on my other site, please get in touch with me!

If you have anything I listed as not already having on the Master List, also get in touch with me! I'm very happy to buy pieces I want that may be sitting around your attic!

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