“Come to Middle-earth, A world beyond the furthest reaches of your imagination”
In 1978, Ralph Bakshi released The Lord of the Rings, an animated film that covered books one and two of the legendary J.R.R. Tolkein trilogy. While the story and characters were well developed the quality of the animation was poor. Toy maker Knickerbocker purchased the rights to develop an action figure line to try and ride the coattails of the movie, but alas, the film ended up not being very successful.
The mediocre film success, poor merchandise management, and competition from other toy lines such a Star Wars and Battle Star Galactica resulted in the LOTR toy line spending very little time on store shelves. In the end not many of the figures were produced and were made were quickly unloaded through discounting. In fact, Knickerbocker went out of business just a few years after the LOTR line was released. Of course, we all know what those conditions result in today. Hard to find and highly collectible action figures.
Aragorn came with detachable sheath and not much in the way of pants.Aragorn came with detachable sheath and not much in the way of pants.
Knickerbocker released eight figures in the LOTR line in 1979:
- Frodo and his Steed
- Ringraith and his Steed
That was it. The entire line was comprised of only six figures and two horses.
Frodo came with detachable sheath and short-sword.
The figures had movable limbs and heads and varied from about 3 inches to almost 7 1/2 inches. Gandalf being the largest human at 5 1/8 inches tall. The horses are both 7 1/2 inches tall.
Frodo’s Horse is very difficult to find in high grade condition.
Many of the figures had accessories that are extremely hard to find today. Gandalf’s hat and staff and loose swords are in high demand today. In fact the swords can sell for nearly $100. Gollum was the only figure without an accessory which also makes him the easiest to find complete.
The horses are probably the hardest to find – especially the Ringwraith’s charger. The Ringwraith and Gandalf are difficult to find with nice cards because the bubbles are prone to cracking from the figures’ protruding hat and and helmet. Aragorn is somewhat difficult to find and Frodo, Samwise and Gollum are relatively easy to find.The horses are probably the hardest to find – especially the Ringwraith’s charger. The Ringwraith and Gandalf are difficult to find with nice cards because the bubbles are prone to cracking from the figures’ protruding hat and and helmet. Aragorn is somewhat difficult to find and Frodo, Samwise and Gollum are relatively easy to find.
Gandalf came with a removable hat and staff.
There are some other issues with the series. Gandalf’s beard and the white horse have tended to yellow over time so it’s hard to find them in their original white condition. Some have said that Gandalf’s hat can get moldy as well. The horses’ hooves are a bit fragile and often break off. The plastic bubbles on the Frodo, Samwise and Gollum figures weren’t always sealed properly during manufacturing either which makes finding a high graded MOC version that much more difficult.
The Ringwraith does not look at all like the animated version, or any other version for that matter. It is one of the hardest figures to find in the collection. It came with a sheath, sword and battle-axe.
The Ringwraith’s Charger is one well designed figure. It came with saddle, reins and battle shield.
Gollum had no accessories making him the easiest and cheapest figure in the line.
Overall, the Knickerbocker Lord of the Rings set is a tough one to put together in high grade condition. The low production run, manufacturing problems, poor merchandising and more popular competitors at the time resulted in a low supply. The later success of the 2001 Peter Jackson series of LOTR movies added to the demand for this vintage line. All of this came together to make for a highly collectible line.