the rise of funko pop

Do you remember when Funko POP toys suddenly appeared in stores almost out of nowhere on the high street? It seems like a piece of recent history, and it probably is.

Understandably, since they create toys under many pop culture categories, there’s a Funko that aligns with everyone’s interests, and therefore, they appeal to the masses.

The Funko POP series is indeed the brand’s most significant success and has stapled the brand into a leading household name across the world’s toy industry.

But where did it all begin? Read on for a full timeline.

When Was Funko Founded?

The biggest question on everyone’s minds is of course “when did Funko POPs start?” Funko was originally founded in 1998. It was initially launched as a small project to create simple nostalgic toys that didn’t require much work compared to articulated figures and playsets.

The company filed for bankruptcy after failing to sell Big Boy piggybanks for which they managed to obtain licensing rights. However, they somehow remained in business and went on to sell 80,000 units of Austin Powers Wacky Wobbler bobbleheads.

The Funko POP franchise didn’t start until 2010 when it was rebranded from Funko Force 2.0 and debuted at Comic-Con.

funko force 2.0

When Was the First Funko POP Released?

The first ever Funko POPs was released at San Diego Comic-Con within multiple categories back in 2010. The first Funko POPs released were the Heroes line #1-10 featured in the list below.

Video Credit: MDK Collects on YouTube

According to our research, these are the first Funko POP categories and figures released:

  • Heroes
  • Batman
  • Robin
  • Batgirl
  • Penguin
  • The Riddler
  • Joker
  • Superman
  • Wonder Woman
  • Green Lantern
  • The Flash
  • Marvel
  • Thor
  • Loki
  • Ad Icons
  • Count Chocula
  • Franken Berry
  • Boo Berry

That’s 15 Funko POPs in total across three categories. They were released simultaneously on the same day at the Comic-Con event.

batman and robin funko pops

Funko POPs Through the Years: A Timeline

2010: Glow in the Dark and Chase

2010 was the most significant year for Funko POP. Not only was the brand unveiled but, in the same year, they also released their first Glow in The Dark POP which was unveiled as part of the initial Heroes #1-10 range at Comic-Con. Green Lantern #09 was the first glow in the dark model and proved to be an instant fan favourite.

The first Chase POP was released in 2010. It was also part of the first Heroes range. These chases were different from standard POPs because their bodies were metallic. And of course, the iconic Chase sticker.

batman chase pop

2011: Another Remarkable Year for Funko

One year after release, 2011 was another big year for Funko as the brand vastly expanded its range by releasing lots of new characters. Funko released more legendary categories which are listed below:

  • Disney
  • Movies
  • Star Wars
  • Marvel
  • Ad Icons
  • Rocks

One of the most iconic POP figures released in 2011 was the Mickey Mouse vinyl figure which was the first of the Disney series. Now, the standard version of this is worth around £30 and is hard to buy brand new.

first mickey mouse funko pop

2012: More Funko POP Line-Ups

Funko added the first 2 and 3-pack Funko POPs and more categories to their POP range in 2012. The full list of categories released in 2012 is below:

  • Television
  • Game of Thrones
  • Games
  • Muppets
  • Ugly Dolls
  • Sci-Fi
  • Classics

If you’re a Funko POP collector, you’d definitely have an association with the POP! Television range. This is one of the most significant categories of POP! So, with this and the multi-packs, 2012 was a prominent year for Funko. Figures from the most iconic Television shows were released such as The Simpsons, The Walking Dead, Sonic the Hedgehog and many more were released. 

At the time of writing, the total amount of Television POP figures is at 1,336 and this doesn’t include any multi-packs or special editions.


There were another seven categories released during this year:

  • Holidays
  • My Little Pony
  • Sanrio
  • NBA
  • WWE
  • Halo
  • Wreck-It Ralph

2013 also saw the first exclusives for Amazon, Entertainment Earth, Hot Topic, Fugitive Toys, PX Previews, and various small retailers and Comic-Cons; it even saw the first ever Translucent POPs, 4-packs, Stan Lee, and the first POP! Rides.

And that’s not all for 2013. There were also some great licensers that were gained such as Sons of Anarchy, The Goonies, Rocky, SpongeBob SquarePants, and Beavis and Butt-Head.

funko pop santa claus


2014 was very much the same again in terms of cool categories and licensers. Another great year for collecting Funko POPs. The following ranges were released this year:

  • Animation
  • Asia
  • Books
  • NFL

There were more huge exclusives such as the Emerald City Comic Con, Fan Expo Canada, Target, Walmart, 7Eleven, and Toy Tokyo, plus many more retailers. It was the year that we saw the first DIY POPs which later became very significant as they expanded the range. 

It was also the year that the first 6” POPs were introduced and consisted of cool Ghostbusters Stay Puft figures.

Again, we saw some nice licensers added this year such as the Flintstones, Pulp Fiction, Dragon Ball Z, Sesame Street, and Breaking Bad.


2015 had fewer category line-ups but nonetheless was still a great year. There were only two line-ups released:

  • Conan O’Brien
  • Harry Potter

However, it was a great year for exclusives as a lot of our favourite retailers saw their own Funko POP exclusives being put on sale.

Some exclusives were GameStop, Toys R Us, Funko Exclusives, FYE, and more!

There were some good licensers this year as well with Harry Potter (obviously because it had its own line-up), Doctor Who, Willy Wonka, Friends, and Saved By the Bell.


Funko made some more big moves this year, with five new line-ups and some decent introductions.

  • Pets
  • The Vote
  • NHL
  • Fantastic Beasts
  • UFC

This year's exclusives included the Legion of Collectors, Star Wars Smuggler’s Bounty, and the Funko Specialty Series.

This year saw the first ever scented POPs, the forest 8-pack, and the first deluxe.

There were also some significant licensers too such as Looney Tunes, Scooby-Doo, Scott Pilgrim, Rick and Morty, and Overwatch.


This was quite a chunky year for Funko, 7 new line-ups were added to the roster of Funko categories.

  • Comics
  • Zodiac
  • Monsters
  • Board Games
  • MLB
  • South Park
  • 8-Bit

This was a great year for new and previous collectors with the new line-ups and licensers. Also, more exclusives were brought out such as Box Lunch, Best Buy, Disney Treasures, Funko HQ, and more.

It was also the year that the first 5 Pack, 6 Pack, Chrome Pop, Glitter Pop, and First Moment Pops were sold.

The new licensers that came out this year were My Hero Academia, Stranger Things, Riverdale, Crash Bandicoot, and the 100.


2018 saw 7 more line-ups added, as well as some big licensers and new POP types. Here is the total list of new line-ups added to Funko in 2018

  • SNL
  • Football
  • Myths
  • Drag Queens
  • Royal Family
  • Icons
  • GPK

The most significant category here is the ‘Icons’ range. However, only one Funko was released this year, which was George R.R. Martin. There were more Icons released in 2019.

The POP types released in 2018 were the first removable item, such as hats. It was also the year that saw the first 10” POP released.

More exclusives were added with Fanatics and Barnes & Noble among the top names.

The licensers added this year were Pokémon, Fortnite, Jurassic Park, Venom, and Yu-Gi-Oh!


Funko released seven new line-ups this year and released more POPs for existing categories. The new line-ups released in 2019 were:

  • NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing)
  • Sports Legends
  • Candy
  • Christmas
  • Comedians
  • Artists
  • Town

There were also three major exclusives: Funko Hollywood, AT&T, and Pez. This was also the year of the first 18” POPs, the first Wood Deco POPs, First POP! Towns, and the first Light & Sounds.

2019 was also the year the following licensers were added: The Office, Jaws, The Mandalorian, The Umbrella Academy, and Coca-Cola.


This year was quite controversial for Funko. There were some unconventional POPs released:

  • Albums
  • Art Series
  • Candy
  • Deluxe With Connecting Bases
  • Around the World
  • Retro
  • Town Christmas
funko pop itsugarA couple of major exclusives were Wondercon and Itsugar. There were a few licensers obtained this year: Schitt’s Creek, Dinosaurs, Hunter, Happy Gilmore, and Anchorman.


In 2021, there were 10 Funko line-ups released which were:

  • Comic Covers
  • Game Covers
  • Air Force
  • Army
  • Marines
  • Navy
  • Directors
  • Foodies
  • NBA Mascots
  • Tennis

As always, Funko added new additions to existing line-ups. One of the notable POPs released this year was the Glowing Mr. Burns and the Tom & Jerry Funko POPs released in the Movies line-up.

Some notable exclusives released in 2021 were FunKon, New York Comic-Con, San Diego Comic-Con, Forbidden Planet, and more.


Another year of many additions to existing Funko line-ups, such as Movies, Games, Television, and Marvel. The most notable of them was Marvel, with a lot more exclusives and featured POPs being released.

The line-ups released this year were as follows:

  • Diecasts
  • Digital Figures
  • Trading Cards
  • VHS Covers
bobba fett diecast

Which Funko POPs are Rare?

Using this timeline, POPs brought out prior to 2013 are considered rare. For example, if you bought Mickey Mouse #01 from the Disney collection, it would be uncommon and hard to get.

This is because older POPs are vaulted, which means new ones are no longer produced. Instead, Funko creates newer POPs in the same line-up and any new line-ups it releases.

The rarest are the Limited Edition POPs. These include Chase, Flocked, and the Exclusives range.

POPs that have manufacturing defects are also rare and, therefore, may be more valuable to collectors.

POPs based on limited media releases, such as a Netflix Limited series, or limited video game characters are very rare. For example, skins on Fortnite that are only brought out for a limited amount of time on a season pass.

fortnite rex pop

Who Created Funko POP?

Funko was founded in 1998 by Mike Becker, who was a toy enthusiast and entrepreneur. He started the company with a focus on creating nostalgic bobbleheads of pop culture icons from the 1960s and 1970s. The company grew quickly, and in 2005 it was sold to a company called Fundamental Capital, which helped to expand Funko's reach into new markets. Mike Becker also started the company with his wife Claudia.

Join the Funko POP Craze With TopToys2U

Funko POPs have come a long way since their creation in 1998. What started as a small line of vinyl figures has grown into a cultural phenomenon, beloved by fans of all ages and interests.

From their recognisable design to their vast selection of franchises and characters, Funko POPs have established themselves as a staple in the collectible market. With no signs of slowing down, Funko's impact on popular culture and the world of collectibles is sure to continue for many years to come.

Looking to get in on the action with your own Funko POP toys? Look no further than TopToys2U. We have a wide range of models available, from TV series’ like Rick & Morty, to movie ranges like Minions and Ghostbusters. Have a browse through today and start your very own Funko POP collection.

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