1983 GI Joe Product Catalog – Part 1

Catalog. Pamphlet. Brouchure. You can call the little neatly folded pieces of paper whatever you want. I don’t know that there’s any official term for them within the Joe collecting world. Call them what you will, they were brilliant little insidious marketing tools that wormed their message into impressionable brains like mine. Look at all these cool toys, kid. You know you want them all, they whispered. It worked. Too well, in my case, because here I am, thirty years later, spending my evening writing about them.

1983 was the first year that I came into GI Joe collecting. My childhood years since 1978 had been dominated by a galaxy far, far way. That changed when I was introduced to a Cobra Commander figure at a school barter day activity. I traded a Weequay for the Cobra leader, and I was hooked. Soon after, I picked up a Polar Battle Bear, and found one of these beautiful little catalogs inside the package. I wore that magical little square of folded fun ragged over the ensuing year, carrying it in my pocket most everywhere I went, folding and unfolding it time after time, pining for the figures, vehicles and playset contained within.

The cover itself is striking, featuring a painting familiar to most 80s GI Joe fans. This same image was featured on other products during the Real American Hero line’s early years. It captures not only most of the first year team and their gear, but also the sense of action and adventure that awaited us inside. There’s all sorts of action going in here, with the team running, gunning and driving in all different directions. The odd thing about this painting is the lack of an enemy force. I wonder if it was produced at a time in the pre-Cobra stages of planning for the relaunch of the brand. Regardless, it’s a great showcase of the early team in action.

Stay tuned, as I’ll be covering each section of the catalog over the next few posts. It promises to be a fun look back at a piece of Joe history that enticed and excited us. Imagine a time when you could hold images of all the current GI Joe toys in your pocket! I know, you can do all that and more these days with a smartphone, but wasn’t it more fun to flip back and forth over a dog-eared pamphlet?


  • Nice introductory post! I know I carried around the little comic/catalog that came with the Transformers: Armada figures when I got them.

  • Man, how I loved those catalogs. I became a diehard fan in 1983 as well, especially after I got the Polar Battle Bear at Montgomery Ward sometime during the year along with the new, expanded mini-catalog. I poured over those pages for hours each day. The line was growing by leaps and bounds all of a sudden, and for me, there was no other brand that came close in sheer awesomeness. Needless to say, Star Wars lost all of my family’s spending money that year.

    I’ll be eagerly looking forward to your section breakdowns. That cover alone was offered as a part of the poster set. I would love to see those two gems reissued someday in one form or another.

  • Looking forward to this series!

  • I always liked this poster but, for some reason, to me, Flash looks like he’s running off to find a bathroom.

    “Hey, you guys keep holding off those Cobra. I gotta pee! Yo Joooooooe!”

  • @Acer
    You were into Armada?
    I have a whole drawer full of Armada era catalouges. Theyer yours if you want ’em

  • I know I have the catalogs from 84-90. I’m pretty sure I have this one as well. I’ll have to check my Tupperware container that holds all my GI Joe paper documents, like filecards, the Starduster comics (still in plastic)and other various papers.

  • Scarlett’s pose on the cover was so unnecessarily girlish. Like she already didn’t stick out

  • My wife and I use “To the rescue” as wall paper for our three laptops.
    ‘Nuff said.

  • I loved these catalogs. It let you look at everything (well, IIRC, some stuff was left out of ther 1987 one and around 88-90, many of the stuff from the previous year still being carried wasn’t depicted) without being on the toy aisle(s) or the toy store though the cardbacks were usually as good for keeping track of the figures out. And later on they had some great art for the cover (1987, 1988 stick out). Post-1990 though they turned to crap, including with being woefully incomplete with what was coming out.

    TF had some nice catalogs most of its G1 years too.

    The cover art for the 1983 catalog looks like a 19th century painting in style.

  • @Skymate
    Thanks for the offer, but I already have them (and all four “Energon” comics/catalogues).

  • @Acer

  • I think my interest in taking photos of Joe toys stems almost exclusively from these catalogs. I could spend hours looking at the new catalogs each year. Good time.

  • “The cover art for the 1983 catalog looks like a 19th century painting in style”.

    I agree!

  • The “To the Rescue” art is just phenomenal. This might be my favorite catalog of all, though I definitely spent more time pining over the MOBAT in the ’82 catalog.

  • “Call them what you will, they were brilliant little insidious marketing tools that wormed their message into impressionable brains like mine. …”

    Mine, too! I really dig these inserts, likely I spent just as much time studying all of them as I did playing or displaying with the actual toys.

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