Combat Figure Case
First off: I’m a bad daily blogger. I’ve been missing days here and there due to the general stuff of life. My apologies.
Second: this weekend I rediscovered an item that led me back on the path to collecting GI Joe toys. The time was the early 90s, and I was heavily into collecting Kenner Star Wars. I frequented local flea markets and consignment stores hunting for deals. Those were the days, by the way, when 80s toys were the low-hanging fruit of collecting: still available via garage sales and on the cheap at flea and swap sales. One trip to a consignment store was particularly fruitful, as I found this carrying case. Priced at $25, it seemed steep. However, when I opened it my mind changed. Inside were 24 figures in primo condition, including 1982-1984 specimens like Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow and many of the original 13 Joes. It was like finding old friends again, as I had sold off all but two of my childhood figures to a friend’s younger brother around 1987. The find jumpstarted my interest in tracking down vintage Joes.
The Combat Figure Case was quickly emptied and relegated to storage, and I had forgotten about it until I recently dug through some boxes at my parents’ place. The case is a little beaten, but that’s to be expected. The trays inside, made of very thin vacuformed plastic, have cracked and broken here and there. I think the condition reminds me that this was one well-used item, and I imagine followed some lucky kid to many a backyard battle back in the 1980s. Maybe I’ll pass it along to my son to continue the saga.
The vividly decorated but blandly named Combat Figure Case was but one of many themed carrying cases produced by Tara Toy Corp. Others in their oeuvre included the Space Case and Star Case (bet you can’t guess what they’re designed for), as well as Fantasy Figures, Great Heroes and the wonderfully generic Action Figures Collector Case. Tara Toy later released licensed GI Joe and Transformers cases as well. That’s a pretty amazing feat, as most me-too toy makers don’t end up striking a deal to make official product related the lines they were initially copying. I discovered the Tara Toy connections via Philip Reed’s book, Action Figure Carrying Cases. If you’d like to peruse the history of carrying cases and check out samples, I recommend keeping an eye on battlegrip.com, and also watching for site runner Philip’s next Kickstarter project, as he usually offers copies of his previous books in print and PDF format.