The Ultimate Guide To Starting Lineup Figures

September 20, 2022

Starting Lineup figures were the pride of Cincinnati. Conceived by former Bengals punter Pat McInally (700 punts for 29,307 yards) and produced by Kenner from the city, they were a sensation in the 1980s.

In 1988, Kenner launched Starting Lineup, a series of action figures portraying the most notable athletes of the time.

History of Starting Lineup figures

When McInally retired from football in 1985, he sold his Cincinnati condo to a Kenner Products executive. The two struck up a conversation that turned to the toy company’s famous Star Wars figures.

Kenner was a big player in the toy industry. They are perhaps best known for the production of the Easy-Bake Oven starting in 1962. The company was bought by General Mills, better known for its massive industrial foods division.

It was the beginning of the big sports card boom, which would become the infamous “Junk Wax Era.” Meanwhile, it was also the peak of the action figure craze. So the marriage between the two was natural.

Pat later remembered, “I was talking to him about my idea for working with kids and writing books. He took me to a toy store, and we picked up a G.I. Joe. I thought, ‘Why not a sports figure? Everybody knows who Walter Payton, Michael Jordan, and Magic Johnson are.'”

Before they did Starting Lineup, Kenner made a very popular Star Wars series. Look for them on eBay. 

The idea becomes reality

It did not take much convincing for the McInally to convince the local company to produce the figurines. Luckily they didn’t punt on the idea (ok, I apologize).

It took three years for the awesome sports figurines to show up in the shop. But that wasn’t because Kenner was unenthusiastic about the idea. One of the significant delays was related to the takeover of Kenner from General Mills by toy company Tonka. They reorganized Kenner as an independent division.

However, the new owners of Kenner were excited by the Starting Lineup idea. In fact, the Cincinnati-based toy company launched a massive line of athletes. The toys were a gigantic hit and proved a worthy competitor to the primary action figures of the time.

Ultimate guide to Starting Lineup figure cards

One of the coolest things about the original Starting Lineup releases was the enclosed trading cards. The cards were unique to the release, coming with the Starting Lineup logo. As a result, they can be worth quite a bit of money when graded.

Here is a look at some of the prices they have gone for (prices current as of posting):

1988 Michael Jordan (PSA 10)$7,000
1988 Cal Ripken (PSA 10)$888
1996 Kobe Bryant (BGS 9.5)$400

However, these are the exceptions. Most of the Starting Lineup cards are worth a few bucks.

The Kobe Bryant figure and card are the gems among the later releases. Look for them on eBay. 

Why did the Original Starting Lineup Figures lose their popularity?

The popularity and broad scope of the original release were part of the problem. The 1988 class included well over 300 figures (124 MLB players, 137 NFL players, and 85 NBA players in all). So everyone got their favorite athletes early on. Later releases were far more limited and generally included lower-profile names.

Even when new sports were included, things didn’t go very well. For example, in 1993, the first hockey set was released but did not include the legendary Wayne Gretzky, who wanted more money. His figure finally arrived in 1997, but the release was well past its sell-by date by then.

The kids who grew up on Starting Lineup had grown up and gone to college. Younger consumers were more enamored with video games. Indeed, the golden age of action figures was gone. Sonic the Hedgehog had replaced G.I Joe.

And, of course: Big money

But the real killer of the series was the sports licensing fees. Until the late 1990s, leagues charged (relatively) affordable rates. But the costs began to escalate as the league owners encouraged monopolies. The same process killed off the smaller card producers and left us only with the giant companies.

In 2000 toy giant Hasbro bought Kenner and essentially dismantled the smaller company. In 2001, Starting Lineup produced the last set of MLB figures and quietly left the scene. At least for a while.

Starting Lineup Figures new releases

The new release is part of an emerging partnership between Hasbro and Fanatics.

A Hasbro press release celebrated the new initiative: “We’re thrilled to be bringing back one of the most beloved sports collectibles brands of all time, Starting Lineup, and to be teaming up with Fanatics for its highly anticipated return this fall,” Eric Nyman, President, and COO of Hasbro said in a press release.

“The fast-growing sports collectibles category presents great opportunities to connect with fans of all ages, and we’ve got many exciting announcements to come from the brand in the months ahead.”

Unfortunately, we do not know which athletes will be included in the new release. However, Fanatics already owns the baseball and several soccer licenses. In addition, it will soon hold the NBA and NFL licenses. Therefore, Fanatics will have its choice of athletes.

Starting Lineup Figures new release date

The new line made its long-awaited debut on September 22, 2022.

Update: The Starting Lineup Figures are back and they are much better than you remember.

Hasbro and Fanatics kick off the new Starting Lineup era with an all-NBA release. These new toys are instantly recognizable, and you can adjust them in different poses. Check out this article where we reviewed the new release to find out more on the 2022 Starting Lineup Series 1 release.

What did the original Starting Lineup releases include?

The original releases were pretty cool. However, they had their limitations. Due to the use of old-school industrial molds, they only had ten poses for the different athletes. Over time, more poses were introduced, but none were all that imaginative.

Of course, each figure can stand independently (unless you broke it). The base was made to look like the field in that particular sport. So baseball players on grass, basketball on a court, and hockey players on the ice.

  • A figurine
  • At least one trading cards
  • Some contained a mini-poster or small medallion

Starting Lineup Figure conventions

Conventions focused on the product popped up around the country in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They also garnered a good deal of attention at The National Sports Collectors Conventions of the day.

To mark these conventions, Kenner released unique limited figurines starting in the mid-1990s.

Starting Lineup Convention Figurines Checklist

  • Barry Sanders – 1999
  • Brett Favre – 1998
  • Cal Ripken Jr – 1996
  • Christian Laettner – 1997
  • Dan Marino – 1998
  • Derek Jeter – 2000
  • Glen Rice – 1997
  • Jason Kidd – 1997
  • Jerry Rice – 1998
  • Jerry Stackhouse – 1997
  • Joe Montana – 1995
  • John Elway – 1999
  • Johnny Bench – 1997
  • Larry Johnson – 1997
  • Mark McGwire – 2000
  • Pat Mcinally – 1997
  • Shaquille O’Neal – 1997
  • Wayne Gretzky – 1999

This Joe Montana was only available at conventions. Look for more convention figures on eBay. 

What Was The SLUCC?

The SLUCC was the Starting Lineup Collectors Club. It offered special deals to members, including figures not available to the general public. Some of these were unorthodox releases with helmets instead of figures. Many of them are exceedingly rare today.

SLUCC Release Starting Lineup Checklist

  • AFC Helmet Collection
  • Brett Hull & Bobby Hull Classic Double
  • Cade McNown
  • Joe Montana Freeze Frame
  • Joe Namath
  • John Vanbiesbrouck
  • Junior Seau Dan Marino One on One
  • Larry Bird Backboard King
  • Mario Lemieux
  • NBA Centers 3 Pack: Shaq Wilt Kareem
  • Nolan Ryan Freeze Frame
  • Nolan Ryan Jacksonville Suns
  • Reggie Jackson Stadium Star
  • Shaquille O’Neal Slam Dunk
  • Ted Williams Cooperstown Collection
  • USA Basketball 3 Pack: Barkley Payton Richmond
  • Wayne Gretzky Freeze Frame
  • Willie Mays Stadium Star

Starting Lineup Figures value

As with most figurines, the value is determined by the condition of the box. An unboxed figure is worth very little. So are figurines in heavily damaged packages. So you will want to look at these boxes the way you look at cards when considering grading.

The value depends mainly on availability. So the widely circulated Michael Jordan is worth a lot less than some of the more obscure athletes to feature in Starting Lineup.

The Ultimate Guide To Starting Lineup Figures Grading Scale

If so, the box is the most critical part of the condition. Although, of course, a broken figure in a pristine box (don’t ask me how that happens) wouldn’t be worth much either.

  • Mint – Mint has no significant blemishes and would be suitable for sale as new.
  • NM – Near mint has some scratches or flayed corners, but the box generally looks like it was kept protected over the years.
  • EX – An excellent condition box has notable flaws or discoloration, maintaining its integrity.
  • Poor/Distressed – The package is bad, including holes or punctures.

What Do Starting Lineup Figures Sell For?

So, what do these babies get on the open market? First, let’s take a look at some recent eBay sales.

Here are some of the highest recent acquisitions:

1988 Tony Dorsett (Graded 85/85/85)$1,025
1988 Michael Jordan$1,000
1996 Honus Wagner$1,000
1989 Michael Jordan/Isiah Thomas One on One$800

Here are some more typical sales:

1988 Gary Clark$30
1994 Joe Montana$3.50
1988 Eric Dickerson$30

Kenner made a ton of these Michael Jordan’s. Nonetheless, they remain very popular. Look for one on eBay. 

Ultimate Guide To Starting Lineup Figures Storage

These figures, especially early ones in good condition boxes, can maintain value. So you will want to keep them well protected.

  • Avoid weight – the boxes are not very strong. Do not place anything on top of them, or the condition of the box (and possibly the figure) will deteriorate.
  • Avoid heat or smoke – Either can corrode the wrapper or the figure.
  • Use a clear display case – Your best bet for protecting these figures is to place them in a clear display case.

Bottomline of Starting Lineup figures 

The Starting Lineup figures are coming back, and the enthusiasm among veteran collectors is palpable. These toys meant a lot to fans of a particular generation. And it is easy to see why. These campy but awesome little figures just scream 1980s culture. It’s like watching the Breakfast Club. In addition, Kenner made these with love and care. It is notable in the details they included with every figure.

The return of Starting Lineup will add to their visibility in the future. So, this may be an excellent time to get some of the early figures. First, however, make sure you get ones in good condition and, of course, in their original box.

Below we have provided a complete checklist of the starting lineup figures we believe are worth an investment. They include the first generation of releases and the Cooperstown series, a particular favorite.

Who was included in the original 1988 Starting Lineup release?

The 1988 release is the OG and, therefore, generally the most valuable and beloved one. Here is a complete list of all of the action figures included in that class.

1988 NFL Players Checklist

  • Al Toon
  • Albert Bentley
  • Alonzo Highsmith
  • Andre Tippett
  • Anthony Carter
  • Anthony Toney
  • Art Monk
  • Aundray Bruce
  • Bernie Kosar
  • Bill Brooks
  • Bob Golic
  • Billy Kenney
  • Billy Ray Smith
  • Bobby Hebert
  • Boomer Esiason
  • Brent Fullwood
  • Brian Bosworth
  • Brian Brennan
  • Bruce Smith
  • Carl Ekern
  • Carlos Carson
  • Charles White
  • Chip Banks
  • Chris Burkett
  • Christian Okoye
  • Chuck Long
  • Cornelius Bennett
  • Cris Collinsworth
  • Curt Warner
  • Dan Marino
  • Danny White
  • Darrell Green
  • Darrin Nelson
  • Dave Krieg
  • Dave Waymer
  • Deron Cherry
  • Dexter Manley
  • Doug Cosbie
  • Doug Williams
  • Drew Hill
  • Duane Bickett
  • Earnest Jackson
  • Ed Jones
  • Eddie Brown
  • EJ Junior
  • Eric Dickerson
  • Eric Martin
  • Floyd Dixon
  • Freeman McNeil
  • Gary Clark
  • Gerald Carter
  • Gerald Riggs
  • Harry Carson
  • Henry Ellard
  • Herschel Walker
  • Howie Long
  • Jack Trudeau
  • Jacob Green
  • James Brooks
  • James Jones
  • Jay Schroeder
  • James Wilder
  • Jeff Chadwick
  • Jeff Davis
  • Jerry Gray
  • Jim Everett
  • Jerry Rice
  • Jim Kelly
  • Jim McMahon
  • Joe Montana
  • Joe Morris
  • Joey Browner
  • John Elway
  • John Offerdahl
  • JT Smith
  • Karl Mecklenburg
  • Keith Byars
  • Kellen Winslow
  • Ken Davis
  • Ken O’Brien
  • Kevin Mack
  • Lawrence Taylor
  • Louis Lipps
  • Marc Wilson
  • Mark Bavaro
  • Marcus Allen
  • Mark Clayton
  • Michael Carter
  • Mark Duper
  • Mark Gastineau
  • Mickey Shuler
  • Mark Lee
  • Mark Malone
  • Mike Merriweather
  • Mike Quick
  • Neal Anderson
  • Mike Rozier
  • Mike Singletary
  • Neil Lomax
  • Ozzie Newsome
  • Phil Simms
  • Phillip Epps
  • Randall Cunningham
  • Randy White
  • Randy Wright
  • Ray Childress
  • Reggie Rogers
  • Reggie White
  • Richard Dent
  • Rickey Jackson
  • Rod Jones
  • Rod Woodson
  • Ronnie Harmon
  • Ronnie Lippett
  • Roger Craig
  • Ronnie Lott
  • Roy Green
  • Rueben Mayes
  • Rulon Jones
  • Sammy Winder
  • Scott Campbell
  • Stanley Morgan
  • Steve Grogan
  • Steve Jordan
  • Stump Mitchell
  • Tim Krumrie
  • Todd Blackledge
  • Todd Christensen
  • Tony Casillas
  • Tony Dorsett
  • Tommy Kramer
  • Tony Eason
  • Troy Stradford
  • Vance Johnson
  • Vinnie Testaverde
  • Warren Moon
  • Willie Gault

1988 MLB Players Checklist

  • Alan Ashby
  • Alan Trammell
  • Alvin Davis
  • Andre Dawson
  • Andy Van Slyke
  • Barry Bonds
  • Benito Santiago
  • Billy Hatcher
  • BJ Surhoff
  • Bobby Bonilla
  • Bret Saberhagen
  • Brian Downing
  • Buddy Bell
  • Cal Ripken Jr
  • Candy Maldonado
  • Carlton Fisk
  • Carney Lansford
  • Charlie Hough
  • Chris Brown
  • Cory Snyder
  • Dale Murphy
  • Dan Quisenberry
  • Danny Tartabull
  • Darryl Strawberry
  • Dave Parker
  • Dave Righetti
  • Devon White
  • Dave Winfield
  • Don Mattingly
  • Donnie Moore
  • Dwight Evans
  • Dwight Gooden
  • Eddie Murray
  • Ellis Burks
  • Eric Davis
  • Fernando Valenzuela
  • Frank Viola
  • Franklin Stubbs
  • Fred Lynn
  • Gary Carter
  • Gary Gaetti
  • George Bell
  • Gary Redus
  • George Brett
  • Glenn Davis
  • Greg Walker
  • Harold Baines
  • Howard Johnson
  • Jack Clark
  • Jack Morris
  • Jeff Reardon
  • Jeffrey Leonard
  • Jim Presley
  • Jim Rice
  • Jody Davis
  • Joe Carter
  • John Franco
  • John Kruk
  • Jose Canseco
  • Juan Samuel
  • Julio Franco
  • Kal Daniels
  • Ken Griffey Sr
  • Ken Oberkfell
  • Keith Hernandez
  • Ken Phelps
  • Kevin Bass
  • Kevin McReynolds
  • Kent Hrbek
  • Kevin Seitzer
  • Kirby Puckett
  • Larry Parish
  • Lenny Dykstra
  • Leon Durham
  • Lou Whitaker
  • Mark Langston
  • Mike Boddicker
  • Mark McGwire
  • Mike Dunne
  • Mike Marshall
  • Mel Hall
  • Mike Schmidt
  • Mike Scott
  • Matt Nokes
  • Mike Witt
  • Ozzie Guillen
  • Nolan Ryan
  • Ozzie Smith
  • Ozzie Virgil
  • Pat Tabler
  • Paul Molitor
  • Pedro Guerrero
  • Pete Incaviglia
  • Pete O’Brien
  • Rick Reusche
  • Pete Rosel
  • Rick Sutcliffe
  • Rickey Henderson
  • Rob Deer
  • Robin Yount
  • Roger Clemens
  • Ruben Sierra
  • Ryne Sandberg
  • Shane Rawley
  • Shawon Dunston
  • Sid Bream
  • Steve Bedrosian
  • Steve Sax
  • Ted Higuera
  • Terry Kennedy
  • Tim Raines
  • Todd Worrell
  • Tom Brunansky
  • Tom Herr
  • Tony Gwynn
  • Vince Coleman
  • Von Hayes
  • Wade Boggs
  • Wally Joyner
  • Willie Hernandez
  • Will Clark
  • Willie McGee
  • Willie Randolph
  • Zane Smith

1988 NBA Players Checklist

  • Adrian Dantley
  • Alex English
  • Alvin Robertson
  • Armon Gilliam
  • Bernard King
  • Bill Laimbeer
  • Brad Daugherty
  • Buck Williams
  • Michael Cage
  • Charles Barkley
  • Chris Mullin
  • Chuck Person
  • Cliff Robinson
  • Clyde Drexler
  • Dale Ellis
  • Danny Ainge
  • Danny Manning
  • David Greenwood
  • Dennis Hopson
  • Dennis Johnson
  • Danny Schayes
  • Derek Harper
  • Derrick McKey
  • Doc Rivers
  • Dominique Wilkins
  • Eddie Johnson
  • Eric Sleepy Floyd
  • Gerald Wilkins
  • Hakeem Olajuwon
  • Isiah Thomas
  • Jack Sikma
  • James Worthy
  • Jeff Hornacek
  • Jeff Malone
  • John Paxson
  • John Stockton
  • Joe Barry Carrol
  • John Williams
  • Johnny Dawkins
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  • Karl Malone
  • Kenny Smith
  • Kevin McHale
  • Kevin Willis
  • Kiki Vandeweghe
  • Lafayette Lever
  • Larry Bird
  • Mark Agguire
  • LaSalle Thompson
  • Magic Johnson
  • Mark Eaton
  • Mark Jackson
  • Michael Adams
  • Mark Price
  • Maurice Cheeks
  • Michael Cooper
  • Michael Jordan
  • Mike Gminski
  • Moses Malone
  • Otis Thorpe
  • Patrick Ewing
  • Paul Pressey
  • Ralph Sampson
  • Reggie Miller
  • Reggie Williams
  • Robert Parish
  • Rod Higgins
  • Rodney McCray
  • Rolando Blackman
  • Ron Harper
  • Sam Perkins
  • Scottie Pippen
  • Sidney Moncrief
  • Spud Webb
  • Steve Johnson
  • Steve Stipanovich
  • Terry Cummings
  • Terry Porter
  • Thurl Bailey
  • Tom Chambers
  • Vinnie Johnson
  • Walter Berry
  • Wayman Tisdale
  • Winston Garland
  • Xavier McDaniel

Baseball greats and Cooperstown checklists

There is always a market for collectibles of the Hall of Fame greats. Starting Lineup has released a few fantastic series of this sort.

1989 MLB Baseball Greats

  • Babe Ruth & Lou Gehrig
  • Carl Yastrzemski & Hank Aaron
  • Don Drysdale & Reggie Jackson
  • Eddie Mathews & Hank Aaron
  • Ernie Banks & Billy Williams
  • Johnny Bench & Pete Rose
  • Mickey Mantle & Joe Dimaggio
  • Stan Musial & Bob Gibson
  • Willie Mays & Willie McCovey
  • Willie Stargell & Roberto Clemente

1994 Cooperstown Collections

  • Babe Ruth
  • Cy Young
  • Honus Wagner
  • Jackie Robinson
  • Lou Gehrig
  • Reggie Jackson
  • Ty Cobb
  • Willie Mays

1995 Cooperstown Collection

  • Babe Ruth
  • Bob Feller
  • Bob Gibson
  • Dizzy Dean
  • Don Drysdale
  • Eddie Mathews
  • Harmon Killebrew
  • Rod Carew
  • Satchel Paige
  • Whitey Ford

1996 Cooperstown Collection

  • Babe Ruth 12 Inch
  • Cy Young 12 Inch
  • Grover Cleveland Alexander
  • Hank Aaron
  • Hank Greenberg
  • Harmon Killebrew
  • Honus Wagner 12 Inch
  • Jackie Robinson
  • Jimmy Foxx
  • Joe Morgan
  • Lou Gehrig 12 Inch
  • Mel Ott
  • Richie Ashburn
  • Roberto Clemente
  • Robin Roberts
  • Rod Carew
  • Rogers Hornsby
  • Steve Carlton
  • Ty Cobb 12 Inch

1997 Cooperstown Collection

  • Brooks Robinson
  • Carl Yastrzemski
  • Dottie Kamenshek
  • Duke Snider
  • Hoyt Wilhelm
  • Jackie Robinson
  • Jackie Robinson 12 Inch
  • Johnny Bench
  • Josh Gibson
  • Mickey Mantle
  • Mickey Mantle 12 Inch
  • Rollie Fingers
  • Walter Johnson

1998 Cooperstown Collection

  • Buck Leonard
  • Frank Robinson
  • Jim Palmer
  • Lou Brock
  • Phil Niekro
  • Roberto Clemente
  • Roy Campanella
  • Tom Seaver
  • Tris Speaker
  • Warren Spahn
  • Yogi Berra

1999 Cooperstown Collection

  • Bob Gibson
  • Earl Weaver
  • George Brett
  • Juan Marichal
  • Nolan Ryan
  • Pepper Davis
  • Ted Williams

2001 Cooperstown Collection

  • Brooks Robinson
  • Nolan Ryan
  • Reggie Jackson
  • Robin Yount
  • Tom Seaver
  • Willie McCovey
  • Willie Stargell