Exclusive toys, available at conventions and through official fan clubs, can be a double-edged sword for collectors. On one hand, they offer the opportunity to own unique toys tailored to a fandom. That’s great if you happen to be among the few that get them; extremely limited production numbers and high after-market prices can make these items a collector’s fevered nightmare, especially when they’re awesome toys that any collection would feel incomplete without.
G.I. Joe is notorious for having a lot of essential yet rare and exclusive collectibles that torment the majority of its fanbase – Hasbro has produced many fantastic toys that were only released at San Diego Comic-Con and even more obscurely through the Official G.I . Joe Collectors’ Club and its annual G.I. Joe-specific conventions. But these toys are released in such small quantities that they can barely sustain the demands of a convention room let alone collectors across the world and throughout the years. Sure, some incredible Joe toys have managed to retain fairly reasonable prices – like this Comic-Con 12″ Baroness figure, and this club-exclusive Man-Eating Plant that you can affordably track down whenever you develop a burning need to feed Serpentor to something that isn’t your dog. But some of the best G.I. Joe exclusive toys remain elusive and, when you do find them, might require you to mortgage your children to obtain them.
And trust us, they’re worth it. With a new G.I. Joe movie, Retaliation, coming out (finally) on March 29th and this year’s International G.I. Joe Collectors’ Convention happening April 4-7 in Indianapolis, there are sure to be plenty of new fans and plenty of new exclusive toys to torment them in upcoming decades. Here are 12 great G.I Joe exclusives that are currently among the most painfully rare and expensive to obtain.
12. Continental Guard
What do you do when it’s a cold winter’s eve in 18th-century New Jersey and Cobra has set up camp in your capital city, probably planning to overtake the world with a hypnotic flute band or a futuristic cotton gin that can control the weather or something? You call in these guys, the Revolutionary War-era version of G.I. Joe, to cross the Delaware River and layeth down the Colonial smack. These two 12″ G.I. Joe figures wear the powdered wigs, tri-corner hats and detailed costumes of the Continental Army (technically from 1784, but peace time is less fun). It’s a desirable set for both G.I. Joe fans and history buffs.
Released way back at the 1999 G.I. Joe Convention, it’s an uncommon find that can run you hundreds of dollars to obtain. If only you could barter for this with the kind of payment most valuable to George Washington’s men – a few pairs of warm socks.
11. Tanks for the Memories
This 15-figure boxset released at the 2007 Joe-Con depicts an intriguing adventure in which several of the original Joes (and by original, we mean the first line-up of the “Real American Hero” team from the 3 ?” toyline’s debut in 1982) come into conflict with an army of sexy, female Cobra troopers dressed up in black S&M gear. It’s a little mind-boggling and is probably the fuel for a lot of pervy G.I. Joe fan-fiction, but who are we or the collectors who gobbled up this set to argue? God bless the original Joes, for we don’t remember later stars like Duke and Snake Eyes getting into suck kinky pickles. Also included in this set was the first (and so far only) toy of Sparks, a Joe created exclusively for the original cartoon series, and a female version of Doc, which Hasbro had once considered releasing but never did.
10. Big Lob
G.I. Joe admitted a couple of football players and a baseball player into their ranks seemingly just because of their special, sports-related powers. So, why not introduce a basketball player, too? Sure enough, Big Lob showed up to fill that much-needed role on the team in G.I. Joe: The Movie and appeared nowhere else, failing to wow just about everyone. But the crucial thing here was that he never got a toy, leaving an obvious, very tall hole in the collection of every G.I. Joe completist.
The Official G.I .Joe Collectors’ Club finally rectified this glaring omission in 2010 by releasing Big Lob as a membership exclusive. He was even produced in the style of the 1980s Joes to look like he had been released at the time of the movie. This surely means that a modern Big Lob, probably limited to a two-hour window at a 7-11 in Boise, can’t be far behind.
9. “Pimp Daddy” Destro
Hasbro released some commemorative “Real American Hero” sets in the ’90s that paid tribute to the original ’80s toys, an exercise that apparently was momentarily influenced by some strange mushrooms in the cafeteria salad bar. The version of Destro they offered was sporting a red jumpsuit and a large, leopard-print collar like he had just strutted out of a grindhouse movie screen. Hasbro quickly realized their odd choice of style and modified the figure, making the few original figures that got out into the wild a rarity lovingly dubbed “Pimp Daddy Destro” by fans. To pay tribute to this infamous variant, Hasbro released a modern version as another limited exclusive at Comic-Con, this time sporting either a silver or gold head. Why not expand his funkadelic wardrobe even further? Next time he should come with a furry fedora and a ho-thumping cane.
8. Search for the Sasquatch
It’s been said before with just as much insensitivity, but the Vietnam War was the best thing to ever happen to the original 12″ G.I. Joe. The uncoolness factor of the war forced Hasbro to retire its G.I. Joe dolls from their tired, old military format and instead send them on many globe-trekking odysseys with tons of amazing accessories as the Adventure Team. Oozing all that 1970s toy aisle charm and imagination, this 2008 G.I. Joe Convention exclusive pits the jetpack-flying Air Adventurer against a really furry and pissed off Bigfoot. Even with Joe’s bazooka and giant net, we’re putting our money on Sasquatch. You just don’t mess with Sasquatch.
7. Rowdy Roddy Piper
Hasbro and the official G.I. Joe Convention must have a secret, insidious plot to drive collectors into personal combat for their own amusement. In 2007, Hasbro and the convention finally gave G.I. Joe’s Sgt. Slaughter a fellow wrestler to combat by enlisting the legendary Rowdy Roddy Piper to train Cobra troops. Despite knowing that just about every G.I. Joe and wrestling collector in the known universe would burn with desire for this, they limited the exclusive to 1,000 figures.
A G.I. Joe version of Piper was an idea so perfect that it boggles the mind that it didn’t happen in the ’80s where it belonged. Of course it succeeded in sending collectors into a frothing frenzy. Now no G.I. Joe collection will feel complete without a kilt. There was also talk back in those crazy 1980s of a Rocky Balboa G. I. Joe figure, so it’s certainly only a matter of time before he shows up in low numbers to menace Cobra’s own resident boxer – weighing in at 210 pounds of pure ridiculousness, Big Boa!
6. Figure Subscription Service
The good news is that the first wave of the Official G.I .Joe Collectors’ Club monthly Figure Subscription Service is still in the process of being released, two a month, so you might be able to pick them up on eBay without first auctioning off your soul. (Your bodily organs are another matter.) The bad news is that this 13-figure subscription was only available for a limited time to paying club members and includes some heavily-demanded characters that Hasbro never released at mass retail in the modern body style.
These include resident G.I. Joe sexpot and tank driver Cover Girl, Cobra boxing instructor Big Boa, G.I. Joe Extreme baddie Iron Klaw and evil ninja Dice, among others. There is even a special mystery figure whose identity won’t be revealed until he/she shows up in subscribers’ mailboxes. If you’re not already in a collector’s panic, the club has also announced that a second wave of subscription figures is on the way!
5. Crimson Strike Team
This 15-figure exclusive was so awesome that the G.I. Joe Convention made it twice, first in 2002 in the classic 3 ?” G.I. Joe body style and then in 2009 in the modern 3 ?” body style. Both versions are still in red hot demand. Taking the name of Cobra’s elite Crimson Guard literally, each set includes the Baroness, twins Tomax and Xamot, and 12 Cobra Vipers in matching red outfits that are probably the coolest color scheme ever seen in the G.I. Universe. And this is a world where the Village People are the ironclad style template for a top-notch terrorist-fighting force.
4. Starscream Sky Striker
G.I. Joe and the Transformers were roommates in 1980’s toyboxes, but on TV they were kept tantalizing apart aside from a few vague references. It was like being forced to eat one piece of Wonder Bread that was covered in Smucker’s before you could eat the other piece covered in Jif. Kids knew G.I. Joe and Transformers belonged together but Hasbro tended to keep their two cherished properties from crossing paths.
That finally changed when Marvel Comics released a limited series allowing the two universes to collide, with the Decepticons joining forces with Cobra to ultimately fail spectacularly against G.I. Joe and the Autobots. The landmark event was finally commemorated in toy form at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con with this pairing of Cobra Commander and a Sky Striker jet painted up like the treacherous Decepticon Starscream. (Of note, both characters were voiced in the original cartoons by the same actor, Chris Latta.) A tiny Megatron in gun form was even included so that Cobra Commander could wield the Decepticon leader! Even though this version of Starscream could not actually transform, this nostalgia-heavy set was so popular that it now commands hefty prices.
It also inspired an awesome sequel set in 2012 featuring Destro, a H.I.S.S. tank painted like the Decepticon Shockwave, a tiny accessory of cassette player Soundwave (with tapes!) and a Cobra B.A.T. colored to resemble the Decepticon combiner Devastator. As of this writing the latter set is still easier to find and the prices aren’t TOO outrageous, but don’t count on that to last long.
For G.I. Joe’s 25th Anniversary, Hasbro heavily revamped the classic toys by ditching the O-ring construction and vastly improving the detail and quality of the sculpts. Suddenly, whole collections of classic Joes looked inadequately like the squat, gimpier cousins of modern Joes. Hasbro proceeded to remake the gamut of classic characters in their famous duds but there were a few glaring omissions like Zarana, the pink-haired co-commander of her brother Zartan’s band of Aussie pirates, the Dreadnoks. She was a major character whose original 1980s version looked a bit like Bea Arthur attending a punk rock concert with her (embarrassed) grandkids.
There was also a later Zarana who looked like an extra from the movie Hackers and boasted shoulders too wide to pass through most standard doorways. Again, Joe fans were lacking a Zarana figure that fit into their collection of modern era Joes. So, Hasbro finally gave in and released a much sexier Zarana rocking her classic outfit and rock-hard abs. There was even an alternate version wearing a black outfit with a shirt promoting hypnotic Cobra rock band Cold Slither. The only problem was that these figures that EVERY G.I. JOE TOY COLLECTOR WOULD FIND ESSENTIAL were restricted to being very limited Comic-Con exclusives. I know, first world problems, right? But sometimes being a toy collector really blows monkey wang.
2. Oktober Guard vs. Iron Grenadiers
The Oktober Guard was the Soviet version of G.I. Joe that appeared in both the original comics and cartoon as allies to their American counterparts. Credit is due to Hasbro for showing positive cooperation during a time when American kids were just waiting for nuclear missiles to rain down on the playground. The Oktober Guard have gotten various toys over the years, but in 2012 the G.I. Convention dropped a bomb of their own by releasing the whole team in http://www.gijoecon.com/no2012/RAH12set-preview.cfm a massive 15-figure set that also included a battalion of Destro’s badass Iron Grenadiers and their wacky bird-themed general, Voltar. All of these were amazingly detailed, designed in the modern G.I. Joe style, and not available anywhere else. All in all, a formula designed to make wallets bleed. That pretty much sums up the self-created hell of adult toy-collecting, doesn’t it?
1. Sgt. Slaughter
I just bitched about Hasbro relegating toys of major G.I. Joe characters to being Comic-Con exclusives. Well, they don’t get much more major than Sgt. Slaughter! Sure, maybe he was a weird import of a real world fictional wrestling character into a cartoon. But the Sarge pretty much took over, becoming a major leader of the Joe team and even appearing in person to narrate the show. All kids loved him but more importantly admired and feared him, knowing that if they didn’t do their homework, Sgt. Slaughter would appear at their front door and bodyslam them straight over the house into the swimming pool. With the character appearing on the show in real live action, anything was possible and we weren’t taking any chances.
Even though Sgt. Slaughter was released in two slightly different outfits at the 2010 Comic-Con, the demand for this favorite character keeps his prices on the high end. If you feel a burning desire to put whoever makes these decisions at Hasbro into the Camel Clutch, we’d say you are completely justified.