Collecting M.U.S.C.L.E.

By Morgan Boyd

Only recently have I started actively collecting M.U.S.C.L.E figurines. While I had several of these little two-inch flesh colored toys as a child in the mid 80s, my objective in those days was not to complete a set, but merely to play with these non-poseable figures. And that is exactly what I did, devoutly, for about a year until another product came along (the Nintendo home entertainment system), and successfully diverted my attention away from the little pink Mattel toys. During this upheaval, my M.U.S.C.L.E. men were cast aside, lost to adolescent antiquity, given away, or possibly thrown away, alas, never to be seen again. The memories that these M.U.S.C.L.E. had afforded me for a brief period of my childhood were thus forgotten and locked away in a safe somewhere in the recesses of my mind.

My M.U.S.C.L.E. memory vault laid hidden deep in my subconscious for over thirty years, but the safe was finally dredged to the surface of my consciousness, and cracked open by the most unsuspecting of tomb-raiders: my four-year-old daughter. Watching her play with Barbie, LOL, Sesame Street stuffies, and Legos swung wide the door of nostalgia, flooding me with a deluge of childhood recollections. Memories of He-Man, G.I. Joe, Transformers, GoBots, and of course those most glorious little figurines, M.U.S.C.L.E awakened acres of forgotten nostalgia-laden landscapes in my mind. Anybody who has witnessed their child’s first holiday glee, knows exactly what I speak of, and has undoubtedly felt the resurfacing of this potent strain of nostalgia upon watching their offspring open gifts.

Eager to reunite with my lost passion for M.U.S.C.L.E., I went online, and discovered various websites and social media groups dedicated to these little figurines. These fan pages functioned as drug paraphernalia, a device used to administer unfettered wistfulness through my veins, sending me into an all-consuming spiral of M.U.S.C.L.E euphoria. Soon, I was on eBay, bidding on M.U.S.C.L.E. lots, trading doubles with other collectors across the country via mail, keeping track of the various figurines in my collection in an excel spreadsheet, and, much to my wife’s chagrin, placing little pink figurines in various locations around the house.

Nostalgia for M.U.S.C.L.E. became an addiction. Each lot I purchased lit a match, igniting the flames of affection. Each grimy, used M.U.S.C.L.E dropped in a sink of warm, soapy water generated intense excitement. The original PVC smell of a freshly toothbrush-scrubbed M.U.S.C.L.E. magically created a glimpse back into my childhood through a time machine’s window. Who would have thought that a little rubber wrestler figurine could function as such a powerful conduit for the reanimation of youthful innocence? The cliche is all too true: nostalgia is a hell of a drug.

While M.U.S.C.L.E collecting can generally be a pleasing experience, invoking fond remembrance, there is an inherent danger lying in wait. The profound power M.U.S.C.L.E holds over collectors can be easily manipulated by unscrupulous, fraudulent, and deceptive conmen, hoping to profit from another’s childhood memories. New collectors are especially vulnerable, and often fall prey to overpriced figurines, bootlegs, manipulations, and mutilated M.U.S.C.L.E. These unprincipled practices by nefarious collectors invariably leave their victims feeling cheated. With every collection, there is a learning curve, and M.U.S.C.L.E. is no different. New collectors need to do their research, join communities, reach out to honest collectors for advice, and make wise decisions to avoid exploitation by bad actors, eager to take advantage of nostalgia.

Despite the ripoff artists, collecting M.U.S.C.L.E. can be an enjoyable and rewarding means of tapping into childhood nostalgia. There are, however, levels to collecting M.U.S.C.L.E. Begin by understanding which figurines are common, and which figurines are rare. Most M.U.S.C.L.E. cost a dollar a piece, which makes collecting them an affordable hobby. The first goal is usually to complete a flesh set (236 uniquely different characters). Completion of the flesh set requires vigilance in checking eBay and communication with other collectors to make trades. This goal may be time-consuming, but it is very achievable. The real challenges to M.U.S.C.L.E. collecting lies beyond the flesh set. When the collector is ready, they will inevitably move beyond the pink figurines and into the various other M.U.S.C.L.E. colors. This is where M.U.S.C.L.E. collecting can become expensive, frustrating, and impossible as there are M.U.S.C.L.E classifications based upon perceived rarity. If I can offer some advice: proceed with caution as collecting M.U.S.C.L.E. can quickly spiral out of control, becoming an addiction with a particularly adverse effect on one’s bank account.

As of late, my daughter has been asking for a Nintendo Switch, and her birthday is fast approaching. No doubt a fresh wave of nostalgia looms on the horizon.