1983 GI Joe Product Catalog – Part 3

The 1980s were a grand time for playset fans, as most major toylines received at least one HQ or similar item as a play environment for their figures. GI Joe was no different, even in only its second year of the relaunch. The amazing Headquarters Command Center dominates the next section of the 1983 catalog. It sits on the same sort of rocky terrain that the figures occupied, only this time with a few more large stones dotting the landscape. The base is staffed mostly by the first series Joes, though Gung Ho and Airborne are present as well. The VAMP and MOBAT sit in the two vehicle bays, and the new Dragonfly XH-1 awaits flight on the helipad. It’s a wonderful diorama pic, and one that I’ve wanted to recreate.

Photo insets show off the main features of the playset. A side view, with the bay removed, provides a clear shot of the control center and stockade, and illustrates the depth of the toy. Figures have plenty of space to be moved about, and the quarters aren’t at all cramped. The stockade is featured in another inset photo, and though all of these shots are small, the components of the playset and its overall function comes across well. The small pictures just further served to whet the appetite of young toy fiends. You had to buy this thing to see all the cool details up close!

Next, Cobra gets its own special featured spot. In a nice little bit of integrated fiction, the photo is presented as a top secret shot of the enemy forces. Oh, and it’s been taken using special infrared film! I had no idea what that meant in 1983, but it sounded cool. This pic is taken at a lower angle than most of the catalog’s other shots, and provides a compelling eye level perspective. The HISS tank looks particularly menacing. There’s an onset describing Destro, and I can see the reason for the focus on the new Cobra agent, as I also remember the Destro push that was on TV, advertising both the figure and his Marvel comic appearances. But that’s a story for another post.

The bottom of this section lays out information for joining the GI Joe Mobile Strike Force. Kids could enlist for one year for a mere $5.00 and receive goodies such as dog tags, a GI Joe web belt, patch, membership card, and a newsletter. Man, I wanna sign up! If I hurry, I think I can get my application in before the deadline of August 31, 1984. Now, where’s my checkbook?

The cornucopia of catalog coverage will continue, with the GI Joe vehicle and battlefield accessory complement. Don’t miss it!


  • The Headquarters Command Center remains a Holy Grail for me 30 years later. I had received the Millennium Falcon and AT-AT Walker two years back and Castle Grayskull the previous Christmas. But by December of ’83 my dad was away from home in search of work and my mom had moved with me into my grandma’s apartment. So money was tight and I didn’t bring it up. But man, how I salivated over that sucker! The control panel, stockade, and vehicle bay were my favorite features and it wasn’t until mid decade that I got to see an actual HQ at a friend’s house. Oh, how I wish Hasbro had re-released this baby in that often mentioned desert scheme a dozen years or so ago.

    I did sign up for the club a year later and received the membership package of which I still have the dog tags right here in my desk drawer. Before joining the club, I’d sent out for Duke, the poster set, the head and wrist bands, and the MANTA.

    Cobra was greatly expanded this year, adding two new characters plus a classic tank, copter, and exo-suit. I read an article at the time which noted that the Destro figure had been the best selling boy’s toy for 1983. It wouldn’t be long before Cobra began to rival the Joes in product offerings!

  • I can remember having those dog tags too. And just being totally excited about them.

  • I enjoyed the retroblasting video of this playset

    The HQ is my favorite of the Joe bases/playsets. I can never dream of owning a Flagg as its too big and expensive and the same goes for the Defiant but the HQ is certainly in my reach.

    Destro certainly made an impact over here. Many kids i knew used him as the cobra leader. He is also one of the figures who is next to impossible to find on the second hand market.

  • Skymate: I visit RetroBlasting every day. Mike and Melinda’s videos are the best out there.

  • @Clutch
    I might be a hardcore transfan who’s supported everything the brand has done [excluding Beast machines] but i agree with what Mike said on the Transformers video i agree’d with: the toys were frail and the cartoon was plotless.
    I showed some of the videos to my brother and his wife and althopugh they are into video games and m.m.o.r.p.g’s [or whatever the acronym is], they thought “dont eat the yellow lightsabre” was hilarious. I also had no idea the Kenner deathstar was so poorly made; the more you know 🙂

  • I too wanted to recreate this scene with my HQ. I came close, wow, the power of advertising, or at the very least, a very cool photo.
    Had this HQ scene had a picture of all the towing units that work with the HQ, I would have known about it then, instead of finding out just a couple years ago. AFTER getting rid of all the tow units so I never got to put them into the HQ personally.

    A very cohesive looking toy line!

  • As a kid,I always wanted the HQ but never got one. I had to be content with a carboard box with windows and doors cut out.Last year I bought one for 60 dollars and then bought two stockade doors from e-bay, because they break easily.I bought a complete Terrordrome back in March for $300,but the headquarters is the superior playset.

  • The HQ was cool, but it was also over 50% vehicle parking spaces. The cartoon made the HQ icon, with it’s enormous version. Hama found a way to use it twice in the comic.

  • When you see these old catalogs, you remember how tightly integrated all the figures, vehicles and colors of the first couple of years really were.

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