I’m positive I remember specifically buying these on a rare trip with my Great Grandmother to the store. She never had a car, so we would walk across town to go to the store. It was pretty crazy in hindsight, but I picked these guys up with her on a trip to either Woolworths or Winn-Dixie, I can’t recall which. Originally this was four individual figures, but now it’s just barely two.

Around 1991, ERTL, toy maker mostly known for tractor and farm style toys, dipped their feet into the action figure realm with some pretty neat efforts. By the way, I vividly remember ERTL’s toy commercials with a country guy saying “ERTL makes em’ just like the real thing, only smaller.”

Anyway, these figures known as “Socket Poppers” weren’t very big hits but I loved them. It’s a shame I wasn’t able to track more down and I’ve lost a lot of their parts through the years. There was a total of 16 figures, that mostly came in two packs. Apparently they also came in larger five packs, as well.

My two favorite figures was the Dinosaur and the Monster Fly, which is why I ended up with the those two packs. The other figures were sort of useless, a football player and a punk rocker. I actually liked the Punk Rocker/Dinosaur two pack because I would always pop the arms and head off the Punk Rocker and then I could have the Dinosaur in cool leather gear.

Unfortunately most the pieces have been lost over time so I’ve only got 3/4’s of the Dinosaur and bits and pieces of the others. I lost most of the Fly guy, but I think I may have his torso floating around somewhere. I’m not sure why these weren’t a bigger hit, but I suspect ERTL made too many silly characters like the Football Player and Sheriff to really take off.

There was also no sort of storyline and the package just focuses on nonsense like “If you built three characters a minute with no duplications and worked continuously for two years, you couldn’t complete all the possible combinations offered by just two Socket Popper characters!” Exciting? Not really.

The figures were pretty cool, though I wish they had removable weapons. The football and guitar being stuck in certain figures hands, really limited their playability. Still it was a great place to start customs and some of the figures were really fun. Unfortunately a lot of them have become pretty rare and they’re scarce on the secondary market, but they certainly were pretty cool for their time. ERTL probably could have had a bigger hit on their hands with better marketing.

Did anyone else ever own any of these guys?

7 Responses to Focus On: ERTL Socket Poppers

  • Mark says:

    Cool I used to have Mutant, never knew what these where called.

  • Awesome. I wish I had the Swamp Monster.

  • ralph says:

    Here in Germany and also in italy they got marketed&distributed (on new cards and under new name) through Matchbox. Titled as "Connectors". I loved how they look but for my mother it made no sense in playability when buying me He-Man figs and then these 4 inch guys. Though she got me Turtles…well they were the green little mutant dwarfs in MotU world so i was out of arguments.

  • Connectors actually sounds like a better name than "Socket Poppers"… I think a better name might would have helped them here in the states. They were sort of an odd scale for the time period, you're right about that.

  • Mark says:

    The Indian figure is really cool.

  • Matthew says:

    I always love reading about good, but less well known toy lines like this, Spinjas, Tacky Stretchoid Warriors, Xpanders, Monsters In My Pocket… Lol, the list could go on forever.

  • Shoe says:

    I had a TON of these, one of the coolest toy ideas. I still have most of the parts, but the nubs broke off a lot because of how much play they saw. Wish it was possible to buy these today!

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