Imagine getting a Vintage-style "Timeless" 12" G.I. Joe, a very decent reproduction of the original G.I. Joe from the 1960's, along with a ton of accessories, uniforms, and/or equipment, all in replica packaging, and all wrapped up in one big commemorative box. Doesn't surprise me that these sets were as well-received as they were.
It also doesn't surprise me that, when the 12" line was cancelled at the beginning of 2005, and the 40th Anniversary Sets with it, the outcry from the collectors was considerable. But their return, directly from Hasbro, anyway, simply was not meant to be.
Enter the Official G.I. Joe Collectors' Club. If there is one organization on the face of the planet that truly has the interests and concerns of all established G.I. Joe collectors at heart, both 12" and 3-3/4", it is this Club. For ten years they've staged the best G.I. Joe Conventions you could ask for. Their exclusive sets and special figures have been nothing short of fantastic in both sizes. And -- they weren't about to let the 40th Anniversary Collection fade away.
The G.I. Joe 40th Anniversary Collection is now being produced and offered by the G.I. Joe Collectors' Club, and they're turning out some truly amazing stuff. The packaging is the same, so collectors can basically just pick up where they left off without any hassle whatsoever. That, in my opinion, is the epitome of serving the collecting community.
One of the new sets is number 23 in the collection. And to show you that, really, I haven't been following this series on my own that much, I was stunned to see it had gotten that far. But it's an amazing set.
It's officially called ACTION SOLDIER WITH ACCESSORIES. Now, that sounds simple. But in and of itself, it is the perfect description of what Hasbro set out to do with G.I. Joe in the first place, way back in the 1960's.
It tends to be called the "razor/razor blade" principle. Frankly, I always thought that was a silly name. Then again, I use an electric shaver. But the principle is based on the fact that if you buy a razor, you need blades for it. And you're likely to need more blades for it before the razor itself actually wears out, unless you're using a disposable one.
I think a more contemporary comparison would be computer printers and cartridges. A computer printer, at least some of the basic ones, is not generally an expensive piece of merchandise. But a computer printer without a printer cartridge isn't going to do you much good. And have you priced cartridges lately?! That's where the companies tend to get you.
Now, a G.I. Joe without accessories, unlike a razor without blades or a printer without a cartridge, is still a very cool action figure. Nothing wrong with it whatsoever. But with additional accessories, he's going to be that much cooler. And that was one of the principles behind the original G.I. Joe.
(Interestingly, the philosophy was sort of reversed for the 3-3/4" line. As former Hasbro exec Kirk Bozigian once explained it, Hasbro tended to see the Real American Hero as an action figure vehicle line, and the individual figures were the "razor blades". Given the personality and detail put into the figures, which have certainly come to dominate the hobby, I wonder if he was kidding, or if at some point they realized that the characters were the guiding force of the line.)
Hasbro, back in the 60's, turned out four basic figures -- an Action Soldier, Action Sailor, Action Pilot, and Action Marine. Each figure was dressed in a basic uniform and came with just enough equipment to function on his own if that was what was desired. But here's where the "razor blade" principle came into practice -- there was also no shortage of separately packaged (and separately purchased) accessory sets that you could buy for your G.I. Joe, in an astoundingly wide range of products.
This particular 40th Anniversary Set exemplifies this principle as well as anything that's been seen in -- well, probably close to 40 years.
The set includes, of course, a superb 12" Action Soldier. This is G.I. Joe in his most traditional, basic, original form. What we have here is a truly excellent 12" G.I. Joe, dressed in a straightforward but well-made olive-drab uniform. There's a fabric cap and a plastic helmet visible in the package, as well as a reproduction of a "Department of Defense" manual. The figure also has dog tags and an insignia sheet. This is how you would've received a G.I. Joe in his basic "long box", which is also reproduced here, in 1964.
Ah, but the rest of this set! Here's where things get interesting. G.I. Joe needs EQUIPMENT, and here it is! No less than FOUR original accessory sets have been beautifully reproduced here, complete with reproducition packaging. With the exception of the "Anniversary Edition" line on the package cards, if you'd gone to a toy store in the 1960's, looking for more equipment for your G.I. Joe, this is what you would've encountered.
Each accessory set has been individually packaged. First up, there's the HELMET SET. This set includes a really nice helmet with a cloth strap, some fabric netting, and some plastic leaves and branches for camouflage.
Next, we have the FIELD PACK. This superb set includes a superbly well- made backpack, complete with fabric straps and metal buckles. There's also a smaller pouch with a metal snap in it, and a nicely made plastic shovel.
Then there's the RIFLE SET. Somewhat more than a rifle, it does indeed include a very nicely designed and painted rifle (given some of the paint quality problems Hasbro has been having lately, I am delighted to report that everything here seems to be very neatly and properly painted), a small knife, an ammo belt, and some grenades. I have the feeling that this was probably one of the more popular accessory sets back in the day.
Finally, we have the FIELD JACKET. This is just what it says it is -- a nice thick jacket with a working metal zipper for those nippy nights out on bivoac or whatever.
I have to give Hasbro credit for an innovative package design idea here, that the Club has carried over. They want to show the Joe, but they also want to show the packaging. Well, the front of the Anniversary Set showcases the reproduction figure box and whatever accessories the figure comes with. But turn the box over, and there's a window on the back so you can get a good look at the G.I. Joe that's actually inside his own reproduction "long box".
Overall, this is an incredibly cool set, that is truly, in my estimation, representative of what the original 12" G.I. Joe was all about.
Another of the new sets is number 25 in the collection. This is the ACTION PILOT WITH DRESS UNIFORM.
Now, when G.I. Joe figures were sold in their basic form -- that is, the individual figure in his "long box" with minimal accessories, they were sold with a basic uniform as they might wear in combat. The soldier was dressed in a basic olive drab uniform, the sailor had a typical sailor's outfit for the day -- sailor's cap, light blue shirt, dark blue trousers; the Marine had on a camouflage uniform, and the pilot was wearing a very basic flight suit.
So it is here. The Action Pilot packed in this set is wearing a very basic, one-piece, yellow flight suit. According to the packaging listing, he comes with a fatigue hat, dog tags, training manual, and an insignia sheet, as well. That's pretty much what you would've gotten back in 1964.
But sometimes, even a hardened, active military man like G.I. Joe needs to come in off the battlefield and maybe rub shoulders with the top brass. Get a medal pinned on, accept some sort of commendation, whatever. And you don't do that in your fatigues.
And not all of the accessory sets made for G.I. Joe were for use on the battlefield. Case in point -- the DRESS UNIFORM Set included with this particular G.I.Joe.
No military pilot is going to show up for a formal ceremony in what looks like glorified long underwear. He wants to look like a proper officer. And the Dress Uniform set will allow this G.I. Joe to do exactly that. This Dress Uniform set includes a very snappy dress jacket, dress pants, dress shirt with a necktie attached, dress shoes (I don't see socks in the package offhand), a garrison cap, metal insignia which according to some reports online are not the easiest little buggers to attach to the uniform, and an Air Force Manual.
Outfitting your G.I. Joe with this uniform will ensure that he is properly ready to receive that medal for bravery and valor or whatever when he appears before the top brass. The uniform has been superbly well made. All of the decorative buttons on the jacket are actual matel (although the jacket itself is fastened by two snaps), the shirt has cuffs with snaps, and a real shirt pocket (so he can carry those insignia if he can't figure out how to attach them to his uniform) and the necktie even has two ends sticking down from the shirt.
The Dress Uniform Set is presented in an authentic replica of the original 1960's box, much as the pilot himself comes in a repro "long box", which is how G.I. Joes were sold back in the 1960's. All very effective and authentic looking. Really a beautiful and impressive presentation.
I can't imagine any longtime G.I. Joe collector who started picking up the line back in the 60's, or has taken an interest in it since then, wouldn't want these sets that the Club had chosen to continue. They're amazing. And while they may no longer be available at Toys "R" Us or Target or Wal-Mart, they are available through the Collectors' Club, and clearly they've maintained the same high standard of quality that made G.I. Joe such a legend in the first place. It's nice to see that this sort of quality still exists somewhere in the toy world.
For anyone who is a fan of the original G.I. Joe -- you want this set, and this one, with its Action Soldier and four-count-em-four very cool accessory sets, has got to be one of the coolest in the series. I may be mostly a 3-3/4" collector, but I know impressive when I see it in ANY G.I. Joe, and the 40th ANNIVERSARY ACTION PILOT WITH DRESS UNIFORM, Set #25, is impressive, and it most assuredly has my highest recommendation! You can order them at gijoe.com/shop.