The Crafty Crook Cat
Released in 1993
If you’re a collector, you already know all about Scratch the cat.
Let me get the obvious stuff out of the way: He’s a cat wearing black and white prison coveralls. He’s got the standard seven points of articulation. He’s a human/ cat hybrid mutant guy who has been sentenced to nine life terms. He’s escaped nine times and he, more than anything, loves robbing banks and eating cake (apparently). His design is simple, being a brown cat with a devilish grin and sickly green eyes that peer out from beneath a black mask. Everything about his look screams prisoner circa 1929. From his stripped hat to the broken anklet that used to be home to a sturdy ball and chain, but thanks to a file that dangles from around his neck, Scratch made quick work of his restraints.
Like I said before, this figure is the crown jewel for some collectors, as this figure is incredibly rare and has a steep price tag. I don’t know if he’s necessarily hard to find, as he always seems to be available from a bevy of online shops. But his price is sky high depending on the condition of the figure, whether he loose or mint on card. No joke, Scratch out of box without accessories will fetch around three to four hundred dollars; And if you happen to find this guy in the wild or online both pristine and in box, you’re probably going to pay around eleven hundred bucks for a toy manufactured (as of 2018) twenty five years ago.
But why the hefty price tag? Scratch wasn’t a mainstay villain in any animated series ever. He isn’t featured in any TMNT films, and he wasn’t a character in any TMNT comic at any time AND he wasn’t the final basic figure released in the Playmates toy line, despite what many people online will tell you. In fact, his one appearance in any Turtles media was a game for the Nintendo Gameboy called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Radical Rescue, where he was the first boss. So why is everyone so enamored with Scratch the Cat? What has elevated this figure, a figure that doesn’t even look like he belongs in the TMNT toy line, to something of an iconic status? Well that’s the tricky part, no one really knows.
There is reason to believe that by 1993, Playmates toys just decided to focus on variant figures for the Turtles, which is why you saw guys like Farmer Donatello and Sumo Raphael. There is also the possibility that they just didn’t manufacture as many Scratch figures as they did for someone like Mona Lisa or Halfcourt. But at the end of the day there is no concrete answer to this. The crappy reality is, is that we may just have to accept the very real possibility that Scratch is only considered rare…because retailors have told us so. This is all hearsay of course, stuff I read online about someone who knew a guy that sold toys and was going to sell a Scratch figure for a certain price and then read an article saying that Scratch was worth somewhere in the area of $200.00. The collector, wanting the figure, bought it for said amount. And thus began price gouging online, and thus a legend was born.
That possibility is sucks, and it means that it doesn’t matter why Scratch is such a mystique to collectors. There are other figures that are actually limited run figures that demand an overinflated price tag. But none of them are Scratch, THE rare figure for any collector of TMNT toys. While he wasn’t exactly resting in the arc of the covenant when I acquired him, he was great find and one that I am super proud to own.
Turtle Trivia: While Scratch may not have a direct representation from any TMNT comic, many do believe that he was inspired by a similar-in-design cat character called Hallocat, who made his one and only appearance in the Lovecraftian-ish twenty seventh issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, titled “In the Dark”.
featured image art by Ryan Brown