Everything You Wanted to Know About Limited Edition Figures… but were afraid to ask

Webster’s Dictionary defines limited edition as “an issue of something collectible (as books, prints, or medals) that is advertised to be limited to a relatively small number of copies”.

Unfortunately, the definition of small amount of copies leaves a lot open to interpretation. I’m a black and white kind of guy, and I really appreciate rules. OK, so, when I approach a stop sign, I have to come to a complete stop, or I will get a ticket. I have to pay my car payment, or my car will be repossessed. You can see why I have an issue with a phrase as nebulous as “small number”.

Why does this matter? I appreciate companies being forth right. Limited edition denotes a sense of urgency. So, this is a limited edition Batman figure? Does this mean that there are only five being made? Or five-thousand? Because I will gladly pay a premium price for a limited edition when five are only being made. But I am going to have to eat a lot of TUMS should I pay a premium price for a figure, and several thousand are being made.

Allow me to take this one step further. In reality, all figures are limited edition. I do not know of one action figure that has been made every year since the 1960s. Sure, Batman figures have been around this long, as have many other figures, but the styles change. And thank goodness for that! Could you imagine just one line of one style of Superman figures to be able to play with (or in my case, keep in the box)? Figures would never go up in value, and would just be handed down from generation to generation. And I shudder at the thought of what would happen to Sideshow Collectibles!

So, here are some extremes of the use of limited edition action figures. The limited edition 8-inch Wolverine retro figure by Diamond Select had a production of 3,000. In my opinion, that is a lot. As opposed to the 12-Inch Cthulhu glow in the dark figure, in which only 300 were made. Somewhat applicable is the Greatest American Hero Ralph doll. Never marketed as a limited edition (and never really up for sale), there are 5-10 in some lucky collectors hands.


My personal favorite, which I missed out on, and almost bought on eBay when it was available for the low price of $1,500 was the Hot Toys Iron Man Mark VI, pre Avengers release. Only 13 were made, and you could only get it if you were physically in Hong Kong. You can occasionally find these on eBay, and one is listed now for the very low price of $9,999.00. Shipping is free, however! This, too, wasn’t advertised as a limited edition, but an “exclusive” edition…which in this case, exclusive really meant exclusive.

But, I digress. The sad truth is most “Limited Edition” figures are released with no production numbers mentioned. One has to rely on the manufacturer that they really are limited edition, and that they are being honest that there are only a “small” number of these figures being produced. However, that is like asking the wolf to guard the hen-house. It’s like trusting a drug company’s sales rep that the latest and greatest medicine really is the best available. One more poor analogy: It’s like trusting a politician that they will keep their promises.

Limited Edition Kmart figure. I have three. Not very limited in my opinion. But back then, the “limited edition” nomenclature worked on me!

So, although the term “Limited Edition” is a highly effective marketing tool, when a production number isn’t included with these terms, this is to be taken with a grain of salt.

Do you have any limited edition figures? If so, tell me what you have, and your thoughts on the use of “Limited Edition” nomenclature.

By Bryan Stewart

Bryan first discovered an appreciation for action figures at an early age, setting up elaborate GI Joe ant hill attacks, complete with firework pyrotechnics. Due to the high injury rate for the Joes, replacements were a constant necessity.


  1. I think that if something is being advertised as limited edition, then they need to be numbered. If they aren’t numbered, they should at least be required to tell us how many are being produced.

    It’s funny that you mention that you think 3,000 is a lot. I know you collect Hot Toys too, so did you know that they make anywhere from 20,000 – 30,000 of each release? That’s a lot in my opinion, especially for a 12-inch action figure that costs upwards of $200.

    I guess I probably have a lot of “limited edition” figures, but in reality they probably aren’t even limited. Recently I have really been gravitating toward sixth scale, so my favorites are probably the movie promo Hot Toys. I wonder how limited they really are? I know the very first one only had about 3,000 made…

    Also, when something is being advertised as limited edition it just causes all the scalpers to pick them up. It’s funny when the figures aren’t really that limited though, because then they are stuck with tons of them. LOL.

    Why can’t companies advertise exactly what they are giving you, without the deceptive marketing tactics?

    1. I vehemently agree. It’s just good manufacturer practice, in my opinion, if you are going to label it limited edition, you need to number it.
      And you just blew my mind! I had ZERO idea that each Hot Toys release involved 20,000 – 30,000. I completely agree, that really is a lot. Which in my mind, although off topic, almost negates the need to pre-order many of these releases.
      And very very cool that you have a lot of movie promo Hot Toys. Was the first one an Iron Man? Those can still be found, and they have sky rocketed on eBay, but not too bad considering they are really limited editions. I think they are about 500-600 bucks right now.
      And to your point, I would think the more upstanding companies, like Sideshow collectables, would automatically make that info available. One really shouldn’t have to search that stuff out.

  2. I have a Batman Begins Movie Masters Ghoul “Chase” figure. I don’t know how limited these are but I got the last one at my local Walmart ..

  3. As always, all good points all around. I figured out a long time ago the word limited edition is huge industry inside joke to boost sales, until you realize you are desperately trying to unload that limited edition figure as fast as you can at half the price. This is not just local to toys either, I tell people all the time, Comic Con has become a bottomless pit for so called limited edition comics that turn out to have little to no value at all and you are stuck trying to sell those 30 copies of that limited edition comic you thought was valuable because you realize no one wants it, and those who do want you to unload for as little as possible. And you will, because your desperate.

    What I have figured out is that true limited edition, as state above, comes specifically numbered in a very low range for toys, 25 to 300 tend to be the golden numbers, and this goes for comics as well. Anything above that ceases to really be limited edition. Also, some ultra rare items fly under the radar of the collector and either are never sent into production, or begin production, but are halted. The ones that do make it go into the hands of collectors who will either never give them up, or ask for a small bounty on your head to get your hands on it. Making a deal to give up your soul, or mortgage your life savings works too!!

    There are the occasional items that become rare through osmosis and the magic of a rabid fan base. Yes I am talking about you, Headless Ned Stark. In those rare instances, it is a bit of collecting gold that puts you into rarified collector air if you were smart enough to snag one, or just though it was cool and didn’t realize what you had.

    On the Hot Toys Promo Front, when you guys posted about stealth Iron Man from Hot toys this year, you were not kidding he would be gone in one day. I pre ordered him that same day, and the next day he was on waitlist. I have one now, and intended to sell it, but have decided to hold on to him for just a wee bit longer, maybe a lot longer. Also, despite the videos claim that they made hot toys figures like Black Widow in large numbers, almost all the women in Hot Toys sell out fast, and have smaller production runs, making them fly off the website a lot faster then the men. I snatched up a Harley Quinn Hot Toy this year in the 199.99 range, not a particularly well made one to be honest, but she was gone in three weeks and is now a complete sell out. Her Fan base is rabid, and in that price range I guessed she would sell quick. I was right.

    So now I just ignore all the claims for manufactures and go with my gut as a collector. They do not fool me anymore and have developed a nose for more rarified items all on my own and seek them out when I can.

    1. Hey JR. Thanks for the reply. I have to say, I LOL several times when I read your replies! Very good and valid point on the comics being the same issue (no pun intended).
      I vehemently agree with the numbers you stated: 25-300. And yes, I think the true rare ones were the ones that never were listed as limited edition. I still can’t imagine having a Greatest American Hero mego. I caught an episode of toy hunter last year, and he sold for $20,000 I believe. And like you aptly stated, I would be in the group of folks who would never give it up. The bounty on it adds to the awesomeness, but not as much as actually owning the figure.
      I think what you said in your last sentence was quite profound. Going with your intuition. I think after following this website, one can start to develop a taste of what will be truly limited edition and will be the must have of the line.
      Lastly, kudos to keeping the stealth Iron man for longer. I ordered one too, not realizing it was a movie promo, but because I wanted the complete Avenger’s set. I was stupefied when I came across how much he is going for on eBay!

      1. yeah he is stupidly awesome. He also saved me money, because now I do not need to order the Pepper Potts that comes with Iron Man, just her, because, well because she will look just awesome next to stealth Iron Man. I really Do not like Gwyneth Paltrow, but as some collectors have told me to sooth my odd feeling about buying her, well, it doesn’t really look like her anyway, so you are good! LOL!!

    2. Yeah those “movie promo” figures are no joke. They usually sell out the same day they are posted. I can’t quite figure out how many of them are produced now, but I know they only made about 3,000 of the first one. I bet they make more now, but probably not much.

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