It was a different era back then, maybe it depends on how old you were at the time, but all I needed was a representation that was fairly close to capture the magic. Today everything tries to be screen accurate,
For its time, the AMT Exploration Set captured the basic details of the TOS hand props well enough. To this day, i'm not sure if anyone has ever written about the origin of the kit, or if AMT had access to surviving props to use as inspiraition during the design process, but it would interesting to know how the kit was developed.
That said, I think the kit is no less accurate than the wave of Star Wars
toy lightsabers (slightly oversized with the telescoping plastic blade) on the market since 1999. They were oversized, suffered from a wealth of inaccurate details, but that did not stop the toys from being sold as accurate replicas.
but I have never seen a Kirk figure look nearly as close to capturing Shatner as the old Megos. Those dolls were amazing and are, to me, the standard by which the others stand or fall. I loved all of those toys and have a decent collection of them today.
You are 100% correct; after Mego's Kirk, from ERTL in the 80's, Playmates in the 90's, and finally Art Asylum/Diamond, and Sideshow in the 2000s, none have captured Shatner's features as close as Mego. That says Mego's sculptors--with 1970s skills--were damn near close to brilliant. On the other hand, today's talents--with technology now aiding these alleged "master" sculptors more than ever before--are sort of...half-asses in the sense that they pride themselves on the work, but fail miserably when it comes to ONE actor's face.