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Strange New Worlds Issue 9 - Jun/Jul 1993

The Bacteria that Ate Cheron:
Mego Trek Figures and Their Flaws

The rarest and most sought-after Star Trek action figures are the eight-inch Mego Star Trek aliens. These figures are popular both with Trek fans and Mego collectors. But before paying top dollar, be aware of some common flaws with these figures.

The Mego corporation was the premiere producer of action figures and toys throughout the 1970's. In addition to Star Trek, they held licensing agreements to produce toys for such popular shows as Planet of the Apes, Mork and Mindy, Sonny and Cher, and Marvel super-heroes.

Mego produced three series of eight-inch figures based on the original Star Trek television series. The first series (1975) originally included Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, Mr. Scott, and a Klingon. Each figure came with a foil insignia attached to the uniform, boots, and small accessories. Later in 1975 a Lt. Uhura figure was added and the artwork changed. Original figures were packaged on cards bearing drawings of the five characters then in the line. Later cards featured drawings of all six figures. Figures on the earlier cards are more highly prized.

Mego also released a second series of classic Trek figures in 1975. This series consisted of four aliens: Cheron, Gorn, The Keeper, and Neptunian. The third series, released in 1976, included an Andorian, Mugato, Romulan, and Talosian.

In late 1975, when Mego released the Uhura figure, they also instituted a change that some feel diminished the quality of the product. They replaced the standard metal joints with plastic. According to Mego, this was to provide a more natural look to the toys. Unfortunately, a major problem with these later Mego figures is that the glue used on these plastic joints does not adhere over time. This problem does not seem to affect the later, smaller action figures.

When purchasing a mint on card eight-inch Mego figure, check for loose pieces. Always gently shake the card a bit; the cloth costumes can sometimes hide stray body parts. If the legs or arms have come loose, you will hear them rattling in the package. The plastic pins holding arms and legs can easily be glued back together, but you would have to open the card to do so, thus diminishing the value of the item. Be aware that an opened package is often worth less than a package containing a figure with loose parts.

When opening your action figures, especially rare out-of-production toys, always use a sharp knife or single-edged razor blade. With a careful hand you can usually cut just beneath the glue that adheres the plastic to the cardboard backing. The least damage is usually done by cutting along the bottom and the side closest to the edge of the backing. Cutting two sides is generally enough to free your action figure.

If you have never opened your figures in this manner, you will be surprised at how neatly this can be accomplished. If you then return your figure to the packaging and use a clear glue to seal it, the casual observer may never realize this toy has been played with. Realizing this, if you are buying a mint condition action figure, you should always carefully inspect the packaging to see if it has been opened. A reputable dealer will always identify previously opened packages and adjust the asking price accordingly. But buyer beware! Disreputable dealers will open Mego figures with loose joints, repair them, reseal the packages and try to sell them as mint, unrepaired items.

Be especially observant when buying the Cheron figure. This half black/half white figure is based on the characters in the classic Trek episode, "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield." The body of the alien was produced in black plastic. Unfortunately, there is a strain of bacteria that has a particular affinity for the dyes used in this plastic. The bacteria affects even sealed figures never removed from the original packaging. I do not know if this is a regional problem, but many Cheron figures I see at Southern conventions have the right side of the face ravaged by the bacteria, making the figure appear like a disfigured mutant. I have heard dealers try to convince potential purchasers that this is the way the figure was manufactured.

Another frequent problem with the Cheron figure is that the black dye from the body often migrates into the costume, turning the white cloth a dark, mottled mess. The costume should be half black and half pure white. Both common flaws can be seen in the Cheron figure pictured on the adjoining page.

Mego originally planned a fourth series of eight-inch Trek figures to include Harry Mudd, Mr. Sulu, Nurse Chapel, and Ensign Chekov. Several clever fans have made their own versions of these never-released toys using pieces from existing Mego figures and packaging them on reproductions of the original artwork. These are beautiful, hand-crafted pieces and can often be found at the larger Trek conventions. These curiosity items often command prices rivaling the real alien figures.

Mego also produced two lines of figures for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and had plans for a Wrath of Khan line before going out of business in June of 1982. But their Trek Aliens remain the most popular among Trek collectors. l

Mego Star Trek 8-inch Action Figures
Price Guide
(Prices listed below reflect asking prices for
figures with accessories advertised by dealers in 1993.)

FIGURE Accessories Loose Packaged
Kirk phaser, communicator, belt, boots, uniform $25-35 $35-45
Spock phaser, communicator, belt, tricorder, boots, uniform $35-65 $65-120
McCoy tricorder, boots, uniform $35-65 $65-120
Scott phaser, communicator, belt, boots, uniform $35-65 $65-120
Klingon phaser, communicator, belt, boots, uniform $20-30 $35-60
Uhura tricorder, boots, uniform $35-75 $65-120
Cheron boots, clothing $50-75 $125-200
Gorn phaser, communicator, belt, boots, uniform $75-100 $150-250
Keeper clothing (note: no boots, bare footed) $50-75 $150-225
Neptunian clothing, boots $50-75 $150-250
Andorian clothing, boots $250-350 $400-700
Mugato clothing, boots $150-250 $300-600
Romulan helmet, communicator, phaser, belt, boots $400-500 $500-800
Talos clothing $175-250 $250-450

: The Keeper. Pins holding legs have come loose.
BOTTOM: Cheron Action Figure still on card. Notice bacteria damage to face and discoloration of the cloth costume.
PHOTOS by Kathleen M. Vollmar

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