The first action figures were produced on the planet Alderaan, by an old man named Feldon Kenner. Kenner made good business deals to acquire likeness rights from many politicians, military leaders, and professional athletes. Even though his figures did not really resemeble their models, the young boys of Alderaan were eager to play with something other than blunted lawn darts. The popularity of Kenner's new action figures spread throughout the galaxy.
A small number of Kenner's figures were rare, and became valuable collectibles owned only by the richest in the Galaxy.
The success of the figures was brought to the attention of several of the rich and powerful galactic manufacterers who had no intention of letting Kenner continue to make profits. At the same time, The Emperor saw these toys as a way to promote his agenda and to finance The Clone Wars. He sent General Mills to take Kenner by force, and put him to work making military and Jedi-based action figures. Eventually, Kenners methods became seen as outdated, and the quality of the figures did not match those made by others. Kenner reluctantly sold his company to Hasbro.
The Hasbro Years
Hasbro cranked out a ridiculous number of figures based on everyone from Jawas to The Emperor himself. These figures showed a steady improvement in quality, which allowed them to release several figures of the same individuals, and collectors felt as though they were forced to buy them to relpace their previous inferior versions. This business model was quite successful. Hasbro was even able to convince some of the weaker-minded colelctors that they needed to buy everything they made, even if they didn't like it, or already had it in slightly different packaging.
Action figures were once made for kids, but the spending power of fat guys who live with their parents was enough to reshape the action figure market, and allow companies to produce figures that have no appeal to kids. Especially anything that is made by Todd McFarlane Toys. Except the Halo 3 action figures, which are awesome.