GI Joe – a registered trademark of Hasbro – began with an idea in the early part of 1962. The original idea was to develop a figure that boys could play with without it being a ‘doll’. After almost a year of brain-storming and design, the model was conceived for the yet to be named fully movable, military action figure. Once the final design of the figure had been approved, there was uncertainty which branch of the military should be represented. It was finally decided by Hasbro that the four military services – Marines, Navy, Army and Air Force – should be marketed all at once in an effort to keep other toy manufacturers from pirating their idea. The collective name for this toy figure – GI Joe – was chosen after the company’s creative director had watched an old Robert Mitchum movie . . . The Story of GI Joe. The rest is history.
The original GI Joe figures were 12 inches in height and built with articulated joints. This was an innovative approach and allowed total movement of the figure during play, however, it proved to be troublesome in that the feet tended to ‘pull off’ whenever the boots were removed.
Copyright marking can be found on the right buttock. Other nuances to the figure itself were designed to also provide trademark security. Two of these are the scar on the right cheek and the right thumbnail being on the underside of the thumb (a manufacturing error that was retained).
Something to look for when buying GI Joe figures – early figures were marked with G.I.Joe™ until sometime in 1965. This mark changed once G.I. Joe became a registered trademark. The mark would then look like G.I. Joe®. Figures with this later mark would most likely have entered the market in 1967.
Vintage 1964 Action Figures
Listed below are the original four GI Joe figures, notated with clothing and accessories:
- Action Marine Series – Action Marine, fatigues, green cap, boots, dog tags, insignias and manual, No 7700, 1964
- Action Pilot Series – Action pilot, orange jumpsuit, blue cap, black boots, dog tags, insignias, manual, catalog and club application, No. 7800, 1964
- Action Sailor Series – Action sailor, white cap, denim shirt and pants, boots, dog tags, navy manual and insignias, No. 7600, 1964
- Action Soldier Series – Action Soldier, fatigue cap, shirt, pants, boots, dog tags, army manual and insignias, helmet, belt with pouches, M-1 rifle, No. 7500, 1964
Based on the success of the original GI Joe series, other sets soon followed. The following are a sampling of some of the other GI Joe series:
- Action Soldiers of the World – c1966
- Adventures of GI Joe – c1969
- Adventure Team – c1970
- Super Joe – c1977
For each series, in addition to the production of the action figures, accessory sets were also manufactured. These sets allowed the action figure to have a different uniform depending on his mission, have use of other equipment, ie., weapons, tents, camouflage cover, a footlocker for storage and various vehicles for transportation. In other words, just about anything a real military soldier would have – was available for GI Joe. Certainly a new direction for a toy manufacturer back in the early 1960’s, GI Joe continues in production today with the vintage figures and accessories being highly collectable. As a tribute to the popularity, GI Joe was inducted into the Rochester, NY National Toy Hall of Fame in 2003.
For additional information on GI Joe, action figure values and identification, the following reference guides are available on Amazon.