Updated: Apr 25, 2021
In 1983 Mattel offered a buy 3 get 1 free deal with their Masters of the Universe toy line. The offer was if you purchased three action figures you'd received a 4th one free. According to the offer, the purchases had to have been made between January 2, 1982 and June 30, 1983, and submitted proofs of purchase postmarked by July 15 1983. After you mailed in the coupon a few weeks later you received and odd looking He-man figure. He had brown hair and loin cloth with black boots and two or three random accessories (some say he only came with the sword and ax) that was never mentioned in the offer.
So why is he referred to as the Wonder Bread He-Man? A fan based theory is that he was sold as part of a promotion that Wonder Bread was running with Mattel. Wonder Bread and Mattel did have a promotion in 1986, but the actual promotion was for a series of He-Man trading cards featuring artwork by Errol McCarthy. The figure was never part of a Wonder Bread promotion, but the name stuck and he's now referred to as the Wonder Bread He-man.
So how did this figure come to be? The theory is the figure was thought to be a prototype that Mattel had used to get the Conan movie licensing rights. However Mattel realized that the movie was not going to be kid-friendly and requested the termination of the license. The notion now is that the Conan figure was reused and given a different paint job so Mattel could use him as He-Man. Conan Properties International thought that the figured look to much like Conan The Barbarian and sued Mattel in 1984 for alleging copyright and trademark infringement. In the end Conan Properties International lost the court case, but that was also the end of Savage He-Man.
Because the figures are rare and pricey the market is flooded with knockoffs. So how can you tell if you have the real thing? The figure has a date of 1981 marked on the back of the body and also under the neck. The boot paint goes over the calf a little bit because the boots were dipped in paint rather than sprayed, which would have cause overspray. Also the neck has a slight lift to it because unlike figures produced later there is no head pin.
Now it's time to go and see if you have one of these lost gems hidden in your box of childhood toys. Happy Hunting !!!