1982 GI Joe Product Catalog – Part 1

1982 reintroduced GI Joe for a new generation of kids. The first year also brought the first of many cross-sell catalogs, which were packaged along with boxed vehicles and accessories. From the get-go, Hasbro’s 80s GI Joe marketing team was hitting on all cylinders. Compared to later catalogs, the 1982 version is an almost minimalist design. From the stark white and yellow text on a black background, to the bold new GI Joe logo and its red white and blue stripes laid out across the bottom of the pamphlet, the look is simple, but effective. The toy themselves are also depicted in a basic diorama format. There are no epic landscapes or volcanic surfaces against which the figures and vehicles stand; just the wonderful texture of burlap and strategically placed rocks.

Grunt is the face of GI Joe for 1982, and that stands to reason. After all, he most fits the established everyman tradition of the old toys. I have to wonder if Grunt was prominently featured in early advertising to sway parents who themselves played with the Joes of old. I can certainly remember hearing a bit of backlash in the 80s media over GI Joe being “shrunk down” to a smaller size. The story of this new GI Joe team is laid out alongside the graphic. It’s interesting to see the file cards mentioned so prominently, another great marketing tool that set GI Joe apart from other toy lines. Competing with Star Wars, Hasbro had to create a story to get kids interested in a bunch of mostly green colored toys. Everybody knew what Luke, Han, Chewie, Darth Vader, et al, were all about, but we had to find out just who Grunt, Stalker, Snake Eyes and Scarlett were.

The MOBAT is the first vehicle to get center stage, and that makes a lot of sense, considering it was the largest and most expensive item in the line’s first year. Like many of the other toys in the catalog, the tank and figure pictured are prototypes, and vary from the final product. Steeler appears to have a different body, and the story goes that these early figures were mocked up using Mego’s 3 & 3/4 inch figures. The tank itself is very different, from the wheels to the turret and main gun. It stands to reason that with the lead time required to design and produce toys, that they would often change from the product and Toy Fair catalogs. This continued through the years with the GI Joe line’s later catalogs as well.

Again, there’s a simple backdrop of burlap, and a few rocks to simulate terrain. It’s kind of a melding of a modelmaker’s diorama and the practical way that a kid would utilize a bedspread to create a battlefield on the bedroom floor. The real world intrudes into the inset picture in this way, as the MOBAT is pictured climbing a book. Hopefully it’s a copy of Sun Tzu’s Art of War.

Come back tomorrow, as we’ll take a look at the second part of the 1982 catalog, featuring more vehicles, more mocked-up driver figures, more burlap, and more Duty, Honor, and Courage: the motto of GI Joe.


  • Neat pull…I’m glad you’re focusing on another product catalog. I thought that was pretty cool that last time around. I like that you’re going back to where it all began.

  • Kids were easier to entertain in 1982

  • I saw GIJoe on the shelf and ignored it for the first few months and then finally bit the bullet in summer of 82 when I got Flash and the FLAK together, so I had the catalog right from the get-go. After that a love affair had begun…

  • Y’know, I’ve always wondered about that book!

    It took a lot of burlap to get this line off the ground in ’82 but it sure paid off. Even though the arm rivets on the figures made them look like repurposed Megos, Hasbro’s marketing team still knew how to sell a toy. Phrases such as “will go anywhere and do anything” or “read their Combat Command File Cards and select the best team members for each perilous mission” not only got me excited over the figures but it also created a sweet feeling of inclusion where I, the kid, was fully in charge. Star Wars didn’t have that because you already knew more or less where the established canon was heading. Whereas, GI Joe was pretty much a blank slate at this early stage and that was an awesome thing for guys my age.

    I was lucky to get every vehicle from this debut catalog at one point or another during those first few years, with the MOBAT the last to go just as it was being discontinued. I got mine for Christmas of ’84 alongside the Slugger and the Killer W.H.A.L.E. Hovercraft.

    I don’t believe that 12” inch collectors will ever reconcile both lines, though. Guys who were kids in the 60’s indeed derided RAH in the 80’s, and I still see GI Joe web sites to this date which focus on everything produced from 1964 through 1978, (even Super Joe) but ignore RAH and anything that followed. (Kinda like I often do with Extreme, I suppose!) But I had a few Geyper Man figures before the small Joes came along and love both ranges, so I fail to understand the prejudice there. It’s likely to be a point of contention for some folks not unlike the great o-ring debates which began at the turn of the century and still persist in some quarters…

  • @Clutch
    I felt the same way about Extreme and S6 when they were released. I have since gained respect for Sigma 6 [Extreme on the other hand is identical to all that other crap from the 90’s like Street sharks, Biker mice and so on]

    The individual file cards were the greatest addition to any sort of packaging. Larry Hama said in an interview, he went to a mall one day and noticed that now every other product does the same thing.

    Those cards also helped sell the characters and make them unique indivuals. Without his file card, Grandslam might as well be Flash 2.0

  • Perhaps Hasbro should re-introduce some of the points in the catalog opening (like how each Joe member is a specialist in his or her own field as well as how Cobra is a paramilitary group). Sometimes that gets lost in the attempt to bring something fresh and sellable to kids (both young and old).

  • So true. “Remember your roots.”

  • I love these breakdowns of the cross-sell catalogs. In fact, I’d love to see a book that showcases all types of advertising & promotional materials, covering the vast history of action figure toys.

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