The USA has been the target of terrorism due to terrorists’ innate jealousy of our democracy. Within the past 20 years, we have dealt with both al-Qaida and ISIS, but there is one terrorist group that has been striking fear throughout the globe for much longer. They are known as Cobra. Cobra is a ruthless terrorist organization that is determined to rule the world. Sadly, neither SEAL Team 6 nor the CAG (Delta Force) have been able to handle Cobra. Thank goodness the United States of America has GI Joe … toys.
G.I. Joe is the codename for America’s daring, highly trained mission force, and its purpose is to defend human freedom against Cobra. If you are a military buff and have not heard of this elite military agency, please Google it, since knowing is half the battle.
OK, all kidding aside, G.I. Joe has been around since 1963 (designed by Stan Weston, who eventually sold to Hasbro). It started life as a 12-inch toy. Yes, the original G.I. Joe was a 1-foot-tall toy, and it was the first toy for boys that coined the term “action figure.” (Since we all know that boys do not play with dolls.)
The original G.I. Joe action figures represented a soldier from each branch of the military. While these GI Joe toys were popular for quite some time, Hasbro discontinued them as the Vietnam War started to unfold.
Now these toys are collectibles. A beat-up, out-of-the-box figure can fetch $40, and a complete figure minus the box can draw a few hundred dollars. Meanwhile, a graded and sealed action figures can sell in the thousands. But here is the funny part: The originals are not nearly as desirable as the G.I. Joes that we know and love from the 1980s.
After a 14-year hiatus, Hasbro brought back the G.I. Joe figures in 1982 but shrunk them down from 12 inches to 4 inches and upgraded the team from representing each military branch to being solely an elite team that fought terrorism. Originally, you had a great balance of male and female action figures for the boys and girls who wanted to play with them. These toys were highly articulated, detailed and came with different weapons.
The first popular G.I. Joes of this era to come out consisted of Hawk (team leader and general), Scarlett (a red-headed female that used a crossbow as her weapon), Breaker (a communication specialist), Rock ’n Roll (a machine gunner) and Snake Eyes (who was the coolest, BTW). Yes, there are other G.I. Joe figures that we know and love—Duke, Flint and Sgt. Slaughter. (The names above were the originals before the cartoon.) On average, you can find these toys for $25 to $50 depending on their condition, except for Snake Eyes, which averages around $80 for an opened-up, played-with toy. (I told you he’s the coolest.)
Now pay attention, because here is where the real money making comes into play. There’s a company called Action Figure Authority that inspects, grades and encapsulates your G.I. Joe action figures for a fee. If you’re a nerd like myself and keep these toys in mint condition, some of these action figures can go for hundreds all the way up to thousands of dollars. A Snake Eyes action figure in high-grade condition from the 80s just sold for $6,000 — that’s more than my first car cost me! And trust me when I tell you that you can still find G.I. Joe figures out there from the 80s, 90s.
My personal favorite is the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero 25th Anniversary from 2007 in the original packaging if you look hard enough. (Personally, I feel the 25th Anniversary figures will be very collectible, since they are the most detailed in packaging and best-articulated figures. They also directly relate to the G.I. Joe cartoon and movies.)
Hasbro in the 1980s enlisted the help of Marvel Comics to take these toys to the next level and to help them with a comic book and a cartoon for marketing purposes, not realizing they were going to blow up in popularity the way they did. This is where the marketing genius of Marvel Comics kicked in. They created Cobra, the terrorist organization and nemesis to G.I. Joe. Cobra was led by the nefarious Cobra Commander, along with his right-hand man Destro (a weapons dealer), Baroness (Destro’s hot girlfriend), Zartan (a master of disguise), and Tomax and Xamot (identical twins that led the Cobra elite team).
Hasbro was very concerned with putting time and effort into villains. However, it turned out that Cobra made up roughly 40 percent of the sales of the G.I. Joe toy line. Just like the G.I. Joe Team, Cobra action figures are quite collectible. Their most valuable action figure is Storm Shadow, the bad-guy opposite number to Snake Eyes. Storm Shadow prices run from $80 all the way up to $3,500 for a mint, graded one. Of course, you can still find Cobra figures on eBay in decent shape for $25-$50. Or you can also focus on buying the 25th Anniversary G.I. Joes for under $25 before they shoot up in price.
As you read some of these prices and shake your head in disbelief, remember folks, the G.I. Joe franchise is here to stay and will only continue to grow. Comic book sales are still strong, movies are still coming out (a new stand-alone “Snake Eyes film” is even in production), and besides, these GI Joe toys are so well made that they are just fun to look at. So quit reading this article, hit eBay or Amazon, and get some G.I. Joes and Cobra figures and then send them to Action Figure Authority to make some money. Yo, Joe!