Phasing and Timeline of figures and cardbacks

Action Force, Red Shadows, SAS, Z Force, Q Force, Space Force... we love them all!
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Phasing and Timeline of figures and cardbacks

Postby Hopper » 20 Dec 2016 20:38

Hi all
This is the Phasing of Palitoy releases and cardbacks I have been slaving over for a year or more. This should reveal the history of Palitoy's releases, and explain some of the variants. Also, where the cardback descriptions says Phase 1b, 2a, 2b, etc. This is what it is referring to.
Where it says T1, T2, T3 etc. following a figure name, that refers to the variant Type (Type 1, Type2, etc.). I will post a new and updated version of Hopper's Variant List following this mega post (apologies for the lengthy geekery!)
I am happy with this, and it works nicely with all the variants (which was a nightmare) but feel free to point out any issues or blatant mistakes.
I'm strangely nervous about posting this - it has been a labour of love for a good long while!
:headless: :shock: :screwy:

Well, here we go, and a Merry Christmas to one and all.



I propose the following Phases in the life of Action Force as a toy line. It will make talking about the different releases a lot easier, and give us a framework on which to hang the cardbacks, variants, etc.

Phase 1B – Series 1 – Initial release.
Phase 1B – Series 1 – later release.
Phase 1B/2A Interface – Development & production of Phase 2 prototypes & salesmen’s stock
Phase 2A – Series 2 – Initial release (SAS, Z Force, Enemy).
Phase 2B – Series 2 – Secondary release (Q Force, Space Force).
Phase 2C – Series 2 – New figures released (Red Wolf, Red Jackal, Attack Trooper, Blades, etc.).
Phase 2C/2D Interface – Mixing elements of both Phases (new moulds in old plastic, etc.)
Phase 2D – Series 2 – The ‘Second Wave’ – hard plastic, new moulds, re-tooling (‘Dufus’ Shadow, etc.).
Phase 2E – Series 2 – Chaos as Palitoy closes – miscards a plenty!
Phase 3A – Series 3 – Cobra vs AF, Duke et al.

The details are as follows:
"Not gods - Englishmen. The next best thing."
Brother Peachy Carnehan.
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Phase 1A

Postby Hopper » 20 Dec 2016 20:40

• Phase 1A (Early Summer 1982)

Description:
The first 13 AF figures (9 only oncardbacks) are based on the Action Man originals, each copying all details of the originals including helmet decals and paint highlights. That this first 13 are a homogenous group is shown by the medal numbers on the back (numbers 1 – 12, and the unnumbered giveaway Commander figure, who was given the un-assigned number ‘13’). This Phase used Type 1 cardbacks only: English language “Collect Them All” badge, and a silver ‘scratch’ panel number on the back. The presence of the medal numbers on the cards allowed two things: mail away ‘loyalty’ rewards to the buyer (the Commander figure in this case), and,as numbered medals were mailed in, Palitoy to know how well each figure was selling. However, it seems the wrong numbers were mistakenly printed on the cardbacks of Phase 1A, and as this would affect Palitoy’s tally of what was selling, the numbers were over-painted in silver, and changed before distribution.
Date:
The planning for this phase dates back to June 1981 according to dates on the prototype drawings for the range. This also tallies with the year, 1981, given on the vehicles which records the ‘patent’ year, not the production year. A green quality control sticker on a T2 Frogman dated 24/5/1982, which would suggest early Summer 1982 as a release date.
Figures:
Australian Jungle Fighter, British Marine T1, Commander T1, Commando T1, Deep Sea Diver, Desert Rat, Frogman T1, German StormtrooperT1, Ground Assault T4, Mission Pilot T1, Mountain & Arctic T1/2/5/6, SAS T1/2, US Paratrooper.
Vehicles:
AF3, AF5, AF7, AF9, Headquarters.
Cardbacks:
The 9 figures that are found on cardbacks in Phase 1A occur exclusively on Type 1 cardbacks.
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Phase 1B

Postby Hopper » 20 Dec 2016 20:43

• Phase 1B (October 1982)

Description:
Increased interest leads to simplifications/changes in the moulds. There is decreased attention to detail (decals, etc.), and changes in moulding due to their now being 2 (or more) moulds making them. This results in the Type 2 variants in several of the original 13 figures, as well as the introduction of the 6 new figures. The line is now produced in six different cardbacks, and the scratch panel number seen on the back of the Phase 1a figures is discontinued.
Date:
Post-Phase 1A, obviously. Green Quality Control labels give a date of mid-October 1982 for Phase 1B (14/10/82, specifically), which fits nicely, preparing the toyline for Christmas.
Figures:
2 Para, Arctic Assault T1/2/3/4, British Marine T2, Commander T2, Commando T2, Frogman T2, German Stormtrooper T2/3, Ground Assault T1/2/3, Helicoptor Pilot, Mission Pilot T2, Mountain & Arctic T3/4/7/8, Naval Assault T1/2, Night Patrol, SAS Frogman T1/2
Cardbacks:
Phase 1B figures on cardback are found on Types 2, 2A, 3, 4, 5 & 6 cardbacks.
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Phase 1B/2A Interface

Postby Hopper » 20 Dec 2016 20:48

• Phase 1B/2A Interface (Late 1982 - Early 1983)

Description:
Not a clear Phase as such, but a period of research and development. Whilst Series 1 was being pushed, its success meant that plans were made for a larger, more bold, toy line – Action Force. The number of Series 2 test shots, moulds, and true prototypes that pop up occasionally should fit into this Phase. Also into this Phase goes the prototype Special Weapons Force, and the conjectured ‘Air Force’ neither of which made it past pre-production. The amazing prototype carded Red Shadow should also be placed here, though right at the very end, as it is a ‘finished’ carded prototype, unlike SWF, for example. Also, it may be suggested that the salesmen’s samples and Palitoy employee’s carded figures similarly go here, although they are the finished product in the true sense.
Date:
Late 1982 to Early (pre April) 1983
Figures:
SWF, Air Force, all manner of prototypes.
Vehicles:
As above!
Cardbacks:
Types 7 and 8 only.
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Phase 2A

Postby Hopper » 20 Dec 2016 20:50

• Phase 2A (April 1983)

Description:
The start of the new all new Action Force, with the launch of the first three groups: The Enemy, SAS and Z Force. Q Force and Space Force were launched later, in Phase 2B.This staggered release is clearly shown by the medal numbers on the card backs that group Phase 2A (Medal Numbers 20-33) and 2B (Medal Numbers 34-42) figures separately. Many of the figures in Phase 2A have multiple Types, representing different moulds used. The card backs themselves are also evidence for the homogeneity of this group: Phase 2A cardbacks have the Commander Offer on the left (Phase 2B cards have it on the right), and from the front, the 2A bubbles have feet at the bottom, where Phase 2B cards lack this feature). In addition, they have a black star sticker on the front with the words “Free Action Force Comic inside Battle, Tiger, and Eagle during July and August”, and the figure name in English only.
Date:
April 1983. The green Quality Control stickers that are occasionally seen on cards have the date of early/mid April for initial release. Battle comic featured AF stories in June 1983, and it and other comics (Eagle, etc.) gave away free mini comics during July 1983. The toy line was fully developed at this point.
Figures:
Enemy: Baron Ironblood T1, Black Major T1, Muton T1, Red Laser, Red Shadow T1, Red Vulture.
SAS: Sparrowhawk T1/2, Squad Leader T1/2, Stakeout T1/2/3/4, Stalker, Commando T1/2/3/4, Frogman T1.
Z Force: Quarrel, Radio Operator T1, Sapper T1, Steeler, Wheels, Captain T1, Commander T1/2, Infantryman T1
Vehicles:
Enemy: Shadowtrack, Laser Exterminator.
SAS: Boat Patrol, Para Attack, Mobile Missile System, Panther.
Z Force: Rapid Fire Motorcycle, Battle Tank, Jeep, Attack Cannon.
Cardbacks:
Types 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13.
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Phase 2B

Postby Hopper » 20 Dec 2016 20:54

• Phase 2B (October 1983 – but in reality probably a bit earlier)

Description:
This sees the launch of Q Force and Space Force. Many of these figures in this Phase are both T1 and T2 – in actual fact one or other of them may well be Phase 2C, but it is difficult to subdivide them without more knowledge of card backs and examples to compare. The medal numbers on the card backs, numbers 34-42, show them as a coherent release
Date:
According to the trade catalogue, Phase 2B is October 1983, but given the massive instant popularity of AF, it is likely to be a bit earlier – possibly late summer (August/September) 1983. We may assume that either production delays, or a trial run of both ‘army’ or land-based toys, as well as the comic, etc. were responsible for the staggered release. Once popularity was established, there would have been a huge rush to produce and cash in. An advert in the ‘free’ first issue of BAF (as opposed to the paid, regular, issue – Dated 8th October 1983) details the ‘new’ groups of Space Force and Q Force.
Figures:
Enemy: Baron Ironblood T2, Kraken T1 (freebie), Skeletron (freebie)
Q Force: Sonar Officer T1/2, Aqua Trooper, Deep Sea Defender.
SAS: Frogman T2.
Space Force: Security Trooper T1/2, Space Pilot, Commander T1, Patroller T1/2, Moondancer
Vehicles:
Q Force: Stingray, Swordfish.
Space Force: Cosmic Cruiser, Satellite Defence.
Cardbacks:
Types 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, and 25 & 26.
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Phase 2C

Postby Hopper » 20 Dec 2016 20:55

• Phase 2C (Early 1984)

Description:
This phase sees the expansion of the range, and whilst figures of Phase 2A/B continue to be made, new figures and vehicles are added, and more figures are borrowed from the US GI Joe range of toys. The medal numbers on the card backs, numbers 45-55, allow us to see the group as a whole.
Date:
TV advertising started in May 1984, but must have been launched early in 1984, as they talk about “storming into 1984” and being “about to expand” in the 1984 catalogue that must have been produced in the tail end of 1983. The date of ‘August 1983’ for the Roboskull prototype plans would confirm this. We may even be able to push this date back farther – late (Winter) 1983 perhaps?
Figures:
Enemy: Red Wolf T1, Red Jackal.
Q Force: Dolphin, Surfer T1/2.
SAS: Hunter T1/2, Blades, Beaver T1/2, Attack Trooper.
Space Force: Moondancer T1, Engineer T1.
Z Force: Jammer, Gaucho, Medic T1, Minesweeper T1.
Vehicles:
Enemy: Escape Armour, Roboskull, Hyena.
Q Force: Sealion, Sea Skimmer.
SAS: Wolverine, Hawk, Silent Attack.
Space Force: Triad Fighter.
Z Force: ATC, Command Centre, Whirlwind, Dart, Shaft, Lance.
Accessories:
Enemy Battle Gear, Q Force Battle Gear, SAS Battle Gear, Space Force Battle Gear, Z Force Battle Gear.
Cardbacks:
Types 21, 22, 23, & 24
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Phase 2C/2D Interface

Postby Hopper » 20 Dec 2016 20:56

• Phase 2C – 2D Interface (Early 1984)

Description:
Not a proper Phase as such, more a slight crossover between the two. Characterised by the use of the new moulds that would later be found in Phase 2D, as well as new paint types and patterns (for example, the sharp camouflage on the Z Force figures). However, unlike the new, hard, plastic, used exclusively in Phase 2D, it uses the older style, softer, plastic. I have examples of a Z Force Radio Operator – one of which has both arms in the new mould, and one of which has one arm new mould, and one arm of the original mould. Both show new paint types and forms, but are both in soft plastic.
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Phase 2D

Postby Hopper » 20 Dec 2016 21:06

• Phase 2D (Early [April?] 1984)

Description:
This has been known as the Second Wave (The ‘Doofus’ Red Shadow, for example). This phase is defined as seeing all of the new figures from Phase 2C, plus many of the more popular originals from Phase 2a being made in a hard plastic, with shinier, cleaner, paint, and with occasionally re-tooled or even completely new moulds.
Date:
Probably relatively soon after Phase 2C, perhaps even weeks. So, sometime early-ish in 1984; the green quality control stickers seen from this phase indicate early April for release.
Figures:
Enemy: Kraken T2, Red Wolf T2, Baron Ironblood T3, Black Major T2, Muton T2, Red Shadow T2
SAS: Attack Trooper T2, Commando T5, Frogman T3, Squad Leader T3.
Z Force: Radio Operator T2, Sapper T2, Minesweeper T2, Captain T2, Infantryman T2, Medic T2
Space Force: Commander T2, Engineer T2.
Cardbacks:
Types 21, 22, 23, & 24
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Phase 2E

Postby Hopper » 20 Dec 2016 21:06

• Phase 2E (Later 1984)

Description:
Again, not a distinct Phase as such, this time more a winding down of AF production, and as Palitoy scramble to liquidate stock, we see an increase in ‘Friday afternoon specials’ –mis-carding, figures with bad paint, bad plastic and two left legs. Sadly, the dream is over, and all crumbles, heroically, before the might of GI Joe.
Date:
Tricky. We know that the R&D department was the first to go, which may explain why no new toys were introduced after the early 1984 Wave 2D. We also know that the 1985 Annual of Battle Action Force features Cobra and Duke, et al. and that Cobra stories in the comic start in January 1985. So best guess, things start winding down in autumn/winter 1984.
Cardbacks:
A continuation from Phase 2D, but expect more miscards.
"Not gods - Englishmen. The next best thing."
Brother Peachy Carnehan.

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