More GI Joe Anniversary Photos…

From 1994! Okay, okay, I’m sorry for the cheap ploy for views, but couldn’t resist. It’s Toy Fair week, there’s been GI Joe anniversary news, and I’ve been on a Toy Fair catalog kick of late. So what better way to cover a bit of a past Toy Fair catalog than with GI Joe’s last big anniversary celebration. It’s the 30th Salute. Without a really grand, all-encompassing commemorative series for this year’s 50th, why not take a look back at how the 30th was marketed to toy buyers? I can hardly believe it’s been 20 years since this all happened. It makes me feel really old.

I still remember finding out about the coming 30th Salute product via 1994 media outlets. I have vague memories of looking at flat, colored pieces of paper affixed together with staples. What were they called again? Magazines, that’s it. Tomart’s Action Figure Digest was the name of the ancient tome, I believe. Yes, it truly was a comparative information stone age, when one had to wait weeks to get the latest information from New York Toy Fair. Although, I guess BBS systems, Usenet, and email lists were around back then. However, I don’t recall much in the way of GI Joe chatter in the emerging new media. Regardless of how I came across them, I was absolutely in love with these photos when they surfaced, and couldn’t wait to get the figures in my hands. I suppose the marketing department did a fair job at hyping up some interest, at least wihin the adult collector segment. Despite the fact that
the marriage of eras in the modern small scale was incongruous, I was happy to see the 60s classics adapted into little guys’ format.

I truly miss this era of toy advertising. Gone are the elaborate environments, replete with rocks, foliage and even scale buildings. Instead, the promoted figures these days reside in a white void, and in many cases with Hasbro, are Photoshopped to give them an artificial detail that the actual toy paint jobs simply don’t replicate.

Old Toy Fair catalogs can also be a treasure trove of clear photos of unproduced and pre-production figures. For those of us who can’t sink fortunes into obtaining the rare actual items, the pictures serve as an economical alternative. I tried to serve these up in a fairly high resolution, if you view the images individually via your browser. Look for more coverage of the Real American Hero era’s final Toy Fair catalog soon, but for now, enjoy the 20th birthday of GI Joe’s 30th birthday.


  • Definitely see some elements that didn’t make it to the final product with the smaller Action Pilots–namely, the white masks and the black Lifeline pistols.

  • I too miss the catalogs with the fake model landscapes. Transformers & GI Joe had some cool ones in their catalogs. Everything now would be computer-generated. It’s too bad, even now CGI can lack that authentic look, lacking the physicality (which is why I felt some 1980s horror/sci-fi movies had more realistic/believable monsters/robots/aliens than CGI from the 90s/2000s).

    Hmmm, do you have any other toy fair catalogs from earlier GI Joe years or know where their images are? I’m curious how many figures shipped per case assortment (might’ve varied over the years). I’ve been piecing together through looking at images of cardbacks what figures went with what case assortments, including in the 2nd (and sometimes 3rd) year they are available. I filled in much of the data for the classic line, but have a number of gaps.

  • Someone made a boo-boo. That Action pilot looks like he’s trying to shoot an off screen enemy…with his flare gun.

  • No, he’s trying to shoot Action Sailor with his flare gun. Those two guys have had it in for each other since day one.

  • @Captainswift
    Its 1964. He must have just seen From Russia with love and is trying to recreate the aquatic skirmish at the end

  • Thanks for putting these up. I remember reading in Tomart’s AFD Hasbro’s announcement that “GI Joe, as you know it, will go away.” I had stopped collecting a few years back but the news came as a complete surprise to me. I honestly thought the line would truly go on forever by then.

    I think Power Rangers has probably surpassed the ARAH brand by now even as it helped kill it 20 years ago.

  • @ Clutch
    Well, 13 years is a long time, and, while some collectors break into different camps over what they like/hate, 1982-1991 was filled with quality figures each year, a whole decade and the line had its merits to the very end. Transformers (G1) by contrast ran 7 years and only 4 1/2 of those years are considered any good. It ended in a far more undignified manner than even all-space, neon-bedecked GI Joe did (which wasn’t that bad by comparison). I mean, Transformers that don’t transform? Pretenders? Micro Machines? Oh, pardon me, Micro Masters. TMNT had a very solid run for a few years before they became plagued by endless variations of the core figures. IIRC 1992 was the turning point on that front for them. And years later Beast Wars had a solid 4 year run (enough to bring the TF brand almost in after a long time in the wilderness, though it took Robots in Disguise to cross that border out of the wilderness). Other than Beast Wars in 1999, GI Joe in 1993 & 1994 looked better than Transformers in 1989-1990 or TMNT in 1993-97.

  • Bitter anniversary for 3 3/4″, though for 12″ fans it was part of their seconding coming. Now we know it was behind the scenes shenanigans that ended 3 3/4″, the in-house competition between the Kenner people and Hasbro people.

  • @Little Boa
    Transformers G1 actually ran from 1984 to 1992. The last couple of years of the line were actually re-releases of earlier stuff and abscure Japanese toys [like the Turbomasters and Predators]. My guess as to why the 1991-92 stuff was never released in the U.S was probably down to saftey restrictions and the abysmal sales of the Action masters.

    I seem to hate power rangers more with every passing day. It irritates me that something so cheap and stupid can still be so popular. It also irritates me that numerous other toy lines who had great concepts or creativity were overshadowed and defeated by the stock footage thats power rangers. Also, speaking as someone who had reletives who fought in the Pacific [i hate to sound racist] but i’m not too keen on things named “Sentai”

  • @ Skymate
    It was declining sales. I recall Transformers section sizes in toy stores/aisles shrinking considerably going into 1989 and then 1990, the Action Masters were on clearance by Summer 1990, a mere few months after being released. If that doesn’t say failure for a toy then I don’t know what does.

  • I’ll add, I did find images of a pre-1986 Toy Fair Hasbro catalog which had case assortment info for some of 1986. The figure case assortments came with 48 figures (at least in 1986 when there were 3 new case assortments/year, which was how GI Joe shipped from 1985-1991). The new figures divide out into sets of 5, 6, 6 from what I’ve seen of the case asst. numbers on cardbacks. I have all 1985 holdovers’ assortments except 6 figures. I wonder if they shipped 7 of the new figures (so, 42) with 1 each of the holdovers (so, 6) or if they shipped 6 of the new figures (so, 36), with 2 each of the holdovers (12). A few years were 6/6/5, making me suspect those cases short 1 figure might’ve shipped extra of one new figures, meaning more of them available than the other figures from their year. Guess who’s in the case assortment with only 5 new figures in 1989? Yep, Dee-Jay. That might explain why there might’ve been so many of him- combine shelfwarmer with shipping double the other figures. Though the other years don’t have any stand out figure that might’ve been shipped more (unless all new figures in a 5-new case shipped with some extra to fill the gap?).

  • I did some more research- Back to 1983 at least, case assortments shipped with 48 figures each, Tiger Force too (7 into 48 won’t go. So who was shortpacked?), but Slaughter’s Marauders, Eco-Warriors, D.E.F. shipped with 24 per case, and Battle Corps in 1993 shipped 36 per case. Air Commandos in 1991 were 12 per case and it appears they all (or some) shipped in 1992 as well. From what I’ve seen, the “After 1990, figures were only around for 1 year” pattern doesn’t entirely hold.

    Also found 1987’s catalog. Vehicles fit on a scale of 12/6/3/1 per case, wih Mobile Command Center being 3 and Terror Drome, Defiant being 1 (chariot figures, like Serpentor, Zanzibar, Zartan came 24 per case). Transformers had a similar scale with their large figures. I found a point in support of perhaps 2 per case of older figures- Battle Gear (AKA the accessories) shipped in a case of 48 and the catalog explicitly says 36 of Battle Gear Pack V & 12 of Pack IV). If they shipped old battle gear in that ratio out of 48, it stands to reason older figures also shipped 2 per case and newer figures tended to come with 6 per case.

    Someone fortunately uploaded Hasbro’s 1993 catalog. Here it is for those who are interested-

    So many forgotten toylines- Cowboys of Moo Mesa, Conan (anyone remember that cartoon?)

  • @Little Boa
    I remember those. I had no idea Cowboys of moo mesa had toys!
    Anyway. The area i lived in as a kid was pretty terrible for kids tv shows. Of the two kids shows that ran :Agro’s cartoon connection [1980 something to 1998] and Cheez tv [1995-2004] usually only ran whatever their sponsers would let them. Agro was sponsored by Hanna Barbara so most of his stuff usually an assortment of Scooby doo with a few other odds and ends thrown in. I do remeber he ran Robotech from ’94 to 95 [because is still have some of those old vhs tapes with periodical adds including an update on Tonya Hardings bad sportsman ship]. He did run G.i joe at one point but i must have been too young to remeber. Cheez tv was sponsered by Mattel. They ran Conan, C.O.P.S, Transformers G2, Eek the cat, Thunderlizards, Garfield and friends, Dragonflyz, Streetsharks, Biker mice from mars and a few other things i dont really remember off the top of my head. I noticed in 2003 when Transformers Armada was doing really well, its time slot changed from 8:30 to 6:00 but He-man [2002] was running at 8:00. Clearly someone was jealous of how well Transformers toys were selling over the He-man ones so the schedule was changed in order to help sell He-man figures [Well thats my theory anyway]

  • @Little Boa
    I forgot to mention the Cowboys of moo messa was run in weekday afternoons in ’95. I never saw any of the toys where i lived and not many people i knew watched it. So i’m guessing it never made much of an impact.
    Oh and did anyone else notice Deluge on the Transformers colour changers page was mistransformed?

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