This is a Nintendo Trophy Figure, from 1988. I know it doesn’t look like much, but remember, there weren’t many Nintendo toys at all at that time. These things were gold-by-default.
It was a surprisingly large collection, with characters representing three of the era’s biggest games: Super Mario, Zelda and Punch-Out. (I’m going with the abbreviated titles, because the full versions are stuffed with periods and exclamation points and other things that make grammar checks nightmares.)
Each Trophy Figure featured a hero (or villain, or both) in an action pose. I’m sad to report that this “Super Mario Hurls a Fireball” is one of the collection’s lamest. Please don’t let him taint your opinion of the whole line. I promise, it got a lot cooler than this.
See that little scorecard sticker on the base? The idea was that you’d use these to commemorate your best Nintendo scores. Of course, nobody actually did this. If you ever hear someone claiming otherwise, assume that they’re lying. In truth, the toys were just “things for our shelves,” in one eye and out the other.
The toys looked a little cheap… and they were a little cheap. The concept was super close to working, but the execution didn’t quite cut it. Take this Mario, for example. Its composition is just so odd, and no single angle gives you a good look every important part. Also, they forgot to paint Mario’s sclerae. Microsoft Word won’t accept “sclerae,” but the Greeks would.
But, as mentioned, the other Trophy Figures were more inspired. Even limiting ourselves to the Super Mario versions, we got a full-fledged Bowser, and another where Mario is literally kicking a Koopa in the face. That’s so much better than when he does it figuratively.
The Zelda Trophies always included Link, but they also mixed in plenty of enemies. One pit Link against Gohma, and another had him fighting off a twice-as-tall Gibdo! (If you don’t know what those creatures look like: Gohma was kind of a crab/spider thing, and Gibdo was a big mummy.)
Course, the real showpieces were the Punch-Out Trophies. They were much harder to find. I cannot understate how unfathomably awesome it was to get a KING HIPPO figure in 1988. It wasn’t a miracle, but it felt like one.
I’ve been tracking these on the collectors’ market for years. The prices fluctuate wildly, but if you ever find them “cheap,” you’re lucky. The rarer and more interesting ones can go for a lot of money. (Occasionally more than $100!)
Most of us aren’t willing to pay top dollar, and there’s a specific reason for that. In fact, it’s the same reason why so many of us remember the things to begin with:
The Nintendo Trophy Figures were most readily available at Toys “R” Us. They weren’t kept near the “normal” action figures, but rather in the old school video game aisle. (You know, back when you picked your games by way of paper slips.)
For years (and I mean, YEARS), the Trophies remained in those aisles. Even after the games they were based on became “old hat,” the Trophies were still there. Toys “R” Us had them perpetually on clearance, but for some reason, it seems that only a relative few of us ever bought them.
Now, when I say “clearance,” I don’t mean “token clearance.” I mean like, “$1.12” clearance. Ridiculous prices. Red stickers, green stickers. I have little doubt that the figures would’ve sold out instantly had word gotten out about how cheap they’d become. Thing was, few people ever bothered to check.
I was one of the fortunate ones. Hey, by that point, I knew the score. Ever since I found those Wheeled Warriors accessory packs for eight goddamned cents, I never underestimated the power of a TRU clearance sale. I used to scour the whole store – even the aisle full of party favors – looking for those red or green stickers.
When people get warm fuzzies over the Nintendo Trophy Figures, I have to imagine that those old crazy prices are a big reason why. They were some of our first experiences with bargains. The fact that they were shaped like Bowser and King Hippo was just the gravy, baby.