Achtung! After Being Stored and Forgotten in a Cellar For Decades, 1,000 Vintage N.O.S. Hasbro “Action Team” and Mattel “Big Jim” Figures and Equipment Sets Finally To Be Sold to the Public

Imagine finding original factory shipping cartons from the 1970s, FULL of vintage, NOS, NMIB action figures and their related uniform and equipment sets. Well that fantasy recently became a REALITY in Germany, where nearly 1,000 items of unsold, unopened nostalgic treasure was recently found and will be brought to auction in October, 2014. (Photo: Uwe Winkler)

We’ve heard of “holding back stock,” but THIS is ridiculous: Imagine finding a mountain of original factory shipping cartons from the 1970s, all FULL of vintage, NOS, NMIB action figures and their related uniform and equipment sets. Sounds like a toy lover’s dream, right? Well, that exact fantasy has recently became a hardcore REALITY in Germany, where a horde of almost 1,000 items of never-sold, never-opened, nostalgic treasurse has been discovered and will be put up for sale—for the first time EVER—during a worldwide auction to be held on October 18, 2014. (Photo: Uwe Winkler)

Auctioneer Uwe Winkler (Photo: Landsberger Spielzeugauktion)

Toy auctioneer Uwe Winkler of Germany. (Photo: Landsberger Spielzeugauktion)

Donnerwetter! Time Travel IS Possible.

In a stunning revelation made today by famed toy auctioneer Uwe Winkler, a horde of long-ago forgotten (vintage) Action Team and Big Jim action figures and related equipment sets have just been discovered in Germany and are about to be sold to the highest bidder(s) in an upcoming worldwide auction. Regular readers of The Joe Report will be excused if they feel a sense of deja vu, because this event seems reminiscent of a similar find (detailed HERE) in which we reported on the discovery and sale of another unbelievable cache of NMIB GIjOEs, ones that had been hidden away in a museum—in Dearborn, Michigan—since 1965!

With almost 1,000 items in the NOS auction, Winkler dumped out a pile of assorted pieces to serve as an example of what might be expected. Keen-eyed collectors will spy items from Action Man, Action Team, Big Jim, and many others. What a find! (Photo; Landsberger Spielzeugauktion)

Holding the Past in Your Hands: With almost 1,000 items in the NOS auction, it’s impossible to show them all here. Nevertheless, Winkler has dumped out a pile of assorted pieces to serve as an example of the treasures included. Keen-eyed collectors will spy items from Action Man, Action Team, Big Jim, Mr. Double Action, Fighting Furies and many other action figure lines. You could stock an amazing recreation of a 1970’s toy store if you bought them all! Click to enlarge. (Photo; Landsberger Spielzeugauktion)

If you wanted to buy a brand new GIJOE in 1974-77, one of your best bets was an "Action Team" figure from Germany. Click to enlarge. (Photo: at-hq.blogspot)

If you wanted to buy a brand new GIJOE in 1974-77, one of your best bets was an “Action Team” figure from Germany. Click to enlarge. (Photo: at-hq.blogspot)

Apparently the Unimaginable
—Is Now Imaginable!

What makes Winkler’s upcoming NOS sale so exciting is the untouched, never-sold, mint-condition of the items being offered. You can tell by looking at their packaging that they simply haven’t been handled or probably even touched for decades. These are highly desirable vintage ’70s toys that have never been owned by any child or adult toy collector; never been played with, and never even exposed to sunlight. In fact, many items are still packed in their original factory shipping cartons. Holy minty-fresh, Batman! For action figure collectors, handling such “virgin” vintage merchandise—manufactured over 40 years ago—is about as close an experience to time travel as we could ever hope to experience. Hello, Marty McFly?


Imagine being able to hold vintage perfection— This photo of NOS, NMIB ’70s Big Jim figures reveals picture-perfect packages with razor-straight, crease-free flaps and no bent corners or scuffed windows. There are multiples of numerous extremely rare Mattel figures including Big Jim, Big Jeff, Dr. Steel, etc. These would instantly make everything else in your current Big Jim collection look worn and OLD by comparison. What a Time Tunnel trip! Click to enlarge. (Photo: Landsberger Spielzeugauktion)

We asked Herr Winkler to fill us in on his backstory and this upcoming NOS auction. He replied:

If you can make to Germany to attend the auction in person (lucky!), here's what the auction room looks like. Have fun! (Photo:

If you can make to Germany to attend the auction in person, this is what the auction room will look like. But don’t worry. If you can’t attend in person, you can still view the catalog online and place your bids via phone or email. Have fun! (Photo: Landsberger Spielzeugauktion)

“After leaving the Army, I studied economics and business taxation and worked as a tax consultant. I am now the owner of the auction house Landsberger Toy Auctions in Germany / Bavaria where I’ve sold vintage toys since 2000 (as a sole proprietor), mainly tin-toys and die-cast cars from the 1940s to the 1960s. During my 31st auction (April 2014), I offered many mint and boxed action figures from Mattel (Big Jim) and Action Team (Hasbro’s German GIjOE) and will do so again in my 32nd Toy Auction on October 18th, 2014. I am happy to offer almost 1.000 items from the 1970s. We present every lot in a high-quality catalog, fully pictured on the internet, and give bidders the opportunity to place their bids by phone, email, writing, or in person.

As to this upcoming toy auction, the consignee is an elderly gentleman. He told me that he bought all of these toys in the 1980s from a wholesaler (in Germany) and then stored all of them in his cellar—for decades! On the one hand, he likes old toys. On the other hand, he’s expected an increase in value over time. He also told me that he has a lot of early Star Wars Figures from Kenner from the 1970s and 1980s. But that’s a story for the future. I’ll keep in touch!” —Uwe Winkler, Germany

Bottom Line: It boggles the mind how almost 1,000 unopened, NOS (new old stock), NMIB (new mint in box) Action Team and Big Jim toys from the 1970s were squirreled away in an old man’s cellar in Germany and are only now (finally) emerging for a modern-day resurrection and resale. Gott im Himmel!—That’s almost 40 years!

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Ailing James DeSimone Chooses to Speed Up Sale of G.I. Joe Collection, “Selling it All” in Final Auction

"GIJOE's #1 Fan," James DeSimone (Photo: James DeSimone)

“GIJOE’s #1 Fan,” James DeSimone (Photo: James DeSimone)

“I most likely will not live long enough to deal with selling single items.”
James DeSimone

In a sad scenario that thousands of toy fans and GIjOE collectors will have to face someday (some sooner than others), GIjOE’s #1 Fan,” James DeSimone, is currently in the process of divesting himself of his beloved vintage GIjOE collection. It’s a depressing and devastating process that most of us don’t even want to consider, but when someone you know personally (or someone famous such as DeSimone) is facing this issue, the rest of us are forced to take heed.

As we reported back in October of 2013 (see HERE), Mr. DeSimone, perhaps the world’s best-known GIjOE fan, advocate and collector, recently suffered a heart attack and felt he needed to begin selling off items from his famous toy collection in order to help pay medical bills, etc. With the able aid of his son, Jonathan DeSimone, the two began the slow and arduous process of placing small groups of related items up on ebay. Now, almost a year later, the ailing DeSimone has decided to speed up the divestment process dramatically by putting ALL of his remaining GIjOE items up for sale in one big, final auction. This decision prompts the question that most of us dread considering…

Need some vintage backpacks? How about some pup tents? Now's your chance! (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

Need some vintage backpacks? Or pup tents? James DeSimone’s collection has at LEAST a couple a dozen each! Click to enlarge. (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

What should WE do with our GIjOE collections when we’re…”Done?”

Unfortunately, there’s no single, clear-cut “collection divestment strategy” that applies to everyone’s needs. Most collectors will try to sell their collections, but others may not have the requisite time, ability or desire. Fortunately, there are other options one can consider, including:

Willing It to Descendents: This is an easy choice to make. But is it the best option for everyone? Should collectors declare everything in their wills as inheritance to be divided equally among potentially apathetic and/or openly disinterested relatives or offspring? Perhaps not. GIjOE fans care too much about their collections to dispatch them off to an unknown fate, and would prefer to see them go somewhere they know they’ll be appreciated—and loved. If your family never cared much about your “doll collection” before, then they’ll probably resent having to pay inheritance taxes on them, and/or having to cart them off to Goodwill. Surely, there must be a better way!

With over 100 figures, we couldn't begin to show them all, but here's a nice group of vintage sailors, just waiting for the loving attention and TLC of a devoted collector! (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

Some of DeSimone’s vintage sailors, just waiting for the loving, restorative attention of another devoted GIjOE fan to come along. Could that person be YOU? (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

There's enough medical supplies and equipment here to outfit your next MASH diorama. WOW! (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

Look at all this AWESOME vintage medical equipment! Click to enlarge. (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

Donating to Museums: Okay, how about donating your collection to a toy museum? Unfortunately, there are only a handful of such places around the country (you can probably count them all on your fingers). And even if you do find a reputable museum that’s willing to accept and care for your pile of precious playthings, how many other collections could they hope to absorb afterwards, before having to turn away the rest of us? There are at LEAST hundreds of thousands of GIjOE/Action Man/Action Team/Geyperman collectors around the world. Oh well, have you considered…

With over 100+ figures in the auction, we can't show them all to you here. But take a look at this second batch of vintage sailors and everything they come with. Click to enlarge! (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

With over 100+ figures in the auction, we can’t show them all to you here. But take a look at this second batch of vintage sailors and everything they come with. Click to enlarge. (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

Throwing it Away: Sacrilege? Well, yes. But let’s face it, depending on the collector’s age, physical health and subsequent mental state at the time, he or she may simply decide to put everything out on the curb—with their TRASH. As inconceivable as that nightmare scenario may sound, it happens ALL THE TIME. Just imagine what’s buried out there in our landfills. It’s enough to break your heart! Your smartest move is, of course…

Selling it Piecemeal—or All Together: Fortunately, most collectors will never drag their collectibles to the curb, but opt instead to deal with the hassle of selling their beloved treasures to the highest bidder—until their patience and/or time runs out. Let’s face it, setting up and organizing large collections at flea markets or posting it all online and then spending precious life hours/weeks/years haggling over prices is a tedious game for the young (and healthy). Unfortunately for Mr. DeSimone, the luxury of TIME is one he apparently no longer enjoys. According to the auction description written by his son, Jonathan (edited for length):

Jonathan DeSimone, son of James DeSimone (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

Jonathan DeSimone, son of James DeSimone (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

“My Dad, James DeSimone, has failing health. He actually flatlined (died) for 10 whole minutes! But yes, he still functions (somewhat) OK. We are selling what he has valued and kept of his GIjOEs. As you know, the stories are legendary of the tons of stuff Dad has traded over the years. Nothing rare, just good ol’ common stuff you played with as a child.

We have 50 photographs…If you go to Dad’s website at GIjOEInformation and look, he still has 2 or 3 of the 8′ long diorama boards and the 8′ long ship. If you buy this collection, those items are included ONLY if you want to pay to ship them. Nothing… is duplicated or photographed twice.”

Selling off a collection often provides unique insights into a collector’s personal preferences as well. One such intriguing example is revealed below:

“There is so much stuff that it was hard to sort it all out in advance. For instance—Jeep shells. We kept finding more and more! Dad couldn’t buy them fast enough or get enough of them, so they are in several different pictures.

When DeSimone found something he liked, he often bought multiple copies of it, as this photo of assorted vintage weapons reveals. (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

DeSimone clearly likes 1:6 scale ordnance and collected multiples of 5-star Jeep shells, ammo boxes, grenades, mortar rounds, bazooka shells, etc. BOOMMM!! (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

Fascinating! Why James DeSimone has such a yearning for tiny 1:6 ordnance remains a mystery, but the proof of his attraction to them is obvious. Additionally, the condition of the items in his collection reflects his personal approach to their care, use and display. While many fans take pride in storing their collections in airtight, dust-free, glass cabinets, DeSimone clearly preferred to play with his GIjOEs in giant indoor and outdoor dioramas. Jonathan confirms this view, stating:

“A lot of stuff has years of dust on it. We can assure you Dad never repaired, doctored or cleaned a single thing. There was tons of stuff on the ship diorama. Most of it is dirty, from 20 years of dust exposure and neglect, plus the past 2 years since Dad’s health issues.”

Bottom Line: DeSimone’s collection is known worldwide and despite its current “dusty” condition, is highly regarded for its authenticity and vintage, unaltered status. Here’s a direct link to the auction. It’s not likely to remain unsold as collector interest appears to be widespread, strong and growing. Expect many “snipers” to jump in with deep pockets on the last day. But we recommend you also heed this final bit of “insider-intel” from Jonathan:

“We have just started to reach out to Dad’s numerous contacts and collectors. A collector from Ohio is coming out to see the collection next week so we reserve the right to end this auction at any time. We are hoping that there is one person out there that understands the magnitude of what it took to collect and obtain all this stuff and appreciate what it means to also lay claim to owning the world’s largest diorama of GIjOEs.

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1:6 Scale E.O.D. Robot “BLOWOUT” Sale at Amazon

Joe prepares his new EOD robot for use in searching suspicious cars and packages. (Photo: Sean Huxter)

GIjOE prepares his new 1:6 scale EOD robot for duty. (Photo: Sean Huxter)

Sean Huxter, a 3D animation professional, is one of many fans dubious of Paramount's decision to convert their new GIjOE film to 3D. (Photo: Sean Huxter)

Sean Huxter, GIjOE fan and collector. (Photo: Sean Huxter)

Let’s jump straight to the Bottom Line: If you hurry, right now over on Amazon, you can find these cool little “Lunar Robotic Rovers” made by Wild Republic that look EXACTLY like the EOD bomb disposal robots used by the U.S. military. If you’re not already aware, EOD stands for “Explosive Ordnance Disposal.” Rather than risk the lives of servicemen, EOD personnel will send these little beauties into harm’s way, remotely controlling them from a safe distance to inspect suspicious cars or packages for hidden bombs and other booby-traps. Fortunately for GIjOE fans, Wild Republic’s lunar rovers double perfectly as 1:6 scale EOD ‘bots. As soon as we heard about this amazing offer, we jumped right on it and purchased 2 for ourselves—at $12 shipped. WOW!

Our sincerest thanks go out to eagle-eyed Field Reporter “Super” Sean Huxter for providing the exciting and timely intel on this nifty new item. Jump HERE NOW to order one for yourself over on Amazon. At these “BLOWOUT” prices, we recommend you pick up at LEAST two. OOHrah!


The “Lunar Robotic Rover” from Wild Republic is a perfect 1:6 scale EOD ‘bot for GIjOE. (Photo: Amazon)

G.I. Joe Fan Sets New (Unofficial) World’s Record By Building World’s Tallest 1:6 Scale “Fire Tower”

Chris Rowland's unbelievable 1:6 scale fire tower (well, half of it anyway) dominates the entryway to Joelanta 2013. If you look carefully, you can see a few 12-inch GIjOEs placed on the tower for a sense of size and scale. OutSTANDING! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This is only the top HALF of Chris Rowland’s incredible 1:6 scale fire tower (yes, you read that correctly). There are 2 larger bottom sections that normally go below these levels. Even at only half its full height, Rowland’s structure clearly dominated the entryway at Joelanta 2014. Look closely and you can see a few 12-inch GIjOEs placed on the tower to provide a better sense of its immense size and scale. Absolutely Phenomenal! (Photo: Mark Otnes)


Chris Rowland, master carpenter and customizer. (Photo: Chris Rowland)

Chris Rowland, master carpenter and customizer. (Photo: Chris Rowland)

Blurring the Line Between “Real” and “Miniature”

GIjOE fan and collector, Chris Rowland of Macon, Georgia, strode purposely down the wide hallways of the Marriott Century Center in Atlanta. It was almost time for the world-renowned, 3-day Joelanta 2014 show to begin and Rowland was clearly a man on a mission. His mission? To set up one of the world’s largest and most detailed hand-built structures ever created—for use with 12″ GIjOE action figures.

A carpenter by trade, Rowland looks every bit like a man who works outdoors all day with his hands. He’s tall, fit, rugged and muscular, embodying the same sort of physical attributes one might also apply to his most recent custom creation: an astonishingly accurate 1:6 scale “Fire Tower.” Utilized in forests throughout the world, fire towers enable park rangers (as well as military and civilian “fire spotters”) to climb high above canopy level and sight smoke or forest fires in every direction (Smokey the Bear would be VERY proud).

A closeup of this section of the tower while still under construction reveals how the knowledge and skills gained being a real-life master carpenter can come in VERY handy when building such an intricate structure as a fire tower at 1:6 scale. AMAZING work, Chris! (Photo: Chris Rowland)

Like a GIANT Puzzle—This closeup reveals how the knowledge and skills Rowland acquired as a master carpenter came in VERY handy. The extremely complex 1:6 structure required the precision-cutting and custom-fitting of hundreds of different pieces and sizes of wood, painstaking assembled with wood-glue and tiny (scale-correct) nails and screws. After that, it would all be painted and then finished out with windows, furniture and miniature equipment. Absolutely AMAZING! (Photo: Chris Rowland)

The expression on Chris' daughter's face reveals her surprise as she poses next to the tower during its construction. NOTE: The top-most level and "Spotter's Shack" is still missing and would add even more height to Rowland's construction. (Photo: Chris Rowland)

Beauty and “The BEAST”—Posing next to the tower during an early phase of its construction, Rowland’s daughter expresses obvious surprise and disbelief at its size. NOTE: The uppermost (4th level) “Spotter’s Shack” is still missing in this picture and added even MORE height later. WOW! (Photo: Chris Rowland)

Has a World Record Been Broken—or Set?

At its fully assembled height (including the spotter’s shack) of 17′, Rowland’s amazing 1:6 scale fire tower is, indeed, an awe-inspiring sight. And we’re not sure, but we also believe that he may have unknowingly set a new world record for the tallest hand-built structure ever created for use with 12″ or 1:6 scale action figures. (Anybody have a Guinness book handy?)

Unfortunately for attendees of Joelanta 2014, the lower ceilings of the Marriott restricted the display of only 2 of the fire tower’s 4 sections, shortening it to half of its normal size. To assuage his obvious disappointment, show promoters decided to award Chris their highest possible honor—allowing him to display his massive creation at the event’s primary focal point, the “visual nexus” of Joelanta itself—the Main Entry Hall. It was high praise from his peers that Chris well and truly deserved.

Besides his obvious high accumen as a carpenter, Rowland also proved himself to be extremely knowlegable about his other passion—GIjOE—by winning the always ardous GIjOE Trivia Contest at Joelanta 2014. Here is poses with fellow contest winners,

Flexing Their “Mind Muscles”—Besides the obvious strengths and acumen he possesses as a carpenter, Chris Rowland (far right, above) also proved himself to be extremely knowledgable about his other great passion—GIjOE—when he became one of the top winners of Joelanta 2014’s famous “fan face-off” known as the GIjOE Trivia Contest. Here Rowland poses with fellow 2014 winners (from l) Robert Browning, Jack Hall, Doug Gamble, and Alex Massey. (Photo: Jack Hall)

He's going to need a bigger ladder—In this pic, Rowland takes a breather to show off additional progress and the completion of the tower's zig-zagging staircase. INCREDIBLE! (Photo: Chris Rowland)

He’s Going to Need a Bigger Ladder—Rowland and his tower’s “zig-zagging” staircase. (Photo: Chris Rowland)

Indeed, after enduring months of arduous construction, the enormity of such a LARGE custom project surprised even its creator. In an exasperated update posted on Facebook, Rowland admitted:

“I finally finished all the stairs! Over 150 steps. Glad to be done with that. Today I’ll put the tower back up to check how everything fits and I have some minor adjustments to one section. Considering math wasn’t my strong suit in school, it could’ve been a lot worse. The only bad thing about the build thus far is that I’m learning better ways to do things as I get closer to the top. They say hindsight is 20/20, and I have to agree. There’s going to be a lot of tedious measuring and cutting in my future.”

Getting His Exercise—Joe begins his 170-step climb to the top of Chris Rowland's 1:6 scale fire tower, aka the world's best 1:6 scale "Stair-Master!" (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Let’s Skip the Gym Today—Joe begins his 150-step climb to the top of Chris Rowland’s altitude-challenging fire tower, aka the world’s greatest 1:6 scale “Stair-Master!” (Photo: Mark Otnes)

How DId He Do It?—We're always interested in how these "Master Miniaturists" produce their handiwork. In this extreme closeup (taken from 3 inches away), you can see that Rowland has actually assembled some of the tower using tiny screws painted to match the tower's beams for a realistic metal effect. Superb! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

How DId He Do It?—We’re always interested in how “Master Miniaturists” produce their handiwork. In this extreme closeup (taken from just 3 inches away!), you can see that Rowland assembled sections of the tower using real screws painted to match the tower’s beams, creating a realistic metallic effect. Superb! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Rewarding Hard Work With Honor and Praise

Although Rowland was only able to display 2 of the tower’s 4 sections at Joelanta 2014, his one-of-a-kind handiwork was breathtaking nonetheless. After setting up, as a final touch, he carefully posed 3 GIjOEs along its railings and staircases to illustrate its 1:6 scale perfection.

Then, stepping back to take it all in, Chris crossed his arms in satisfaction and breathed out a long sigh of relief as fans began to slowly and respectfully gather around him. At that early pre-show hour, only dealers and event coordinators were allowed in the area, but to a man (and woman), they found themselves stopping dead in their tracks, eyes agog, and grinning uncontrollably at the sight of it all.

The comment heard most often was, “Can you imagine how big the entire thing must be?” Indeed. Heads shook in disbelief. Whistles of admiration echoed down the hallway. Envious murmurs, followed by repeated offers of congratulations, respect and outright astonishment were proffered to Rowland, as the reality of what we were witnessing sank in. We knew we were seeing something truly unique. This was a record-breaking MASTERPIECE of miniaturization!

Joe Scans the Horizon Looking for Smoke—The "gem" of Rowland's fire tower has to be its intricately detailed "Spotter's Shack" at the very top. Yes, it also features a fully decorated and realistic interior. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Joe Scans the Horizon Looking for Smoke—The “gem” of Chris Rowland’s fire tower has to be its intricately detailed “Spotter’s Shack” set atop the mammoth structure. And yes, the shack features a fully decorated and realistic interior. GIjOE is always prepared! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This is AMAZING, isn't it?—Joe ponders the immensity and realism of his new fire tower while he looks down on attendees of Joelanta 2014. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

A View From Above—Joe ponders the immensity and realism of his new 1:6 scale fire tower while looking down towards attendees of Joelanta 2014. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

The Story Behind the Tower

We asked Rowland to recount the inspiration for his masterpiece and any additional insight he had about its construction and possible future. He kindly replied:

“As far as WHY I built it, let’s just say that I remember one near my house as a kid and thought it was UNBELIEVABLE. I’m a carpenter by trade, so finding the materials was no problem, and I’d been wanting to build one for a few years now. I’m always making things and I decided to combine my love for GIjOEs with my creative side. That’s all it took to get started!

Before beginning, I thoroughly researched fire towers online (to find a design that I liked) and then started in on all the math. The tower is about 90 ft. at 1:1 scale and is a little over 17 ft. at 1:6 scale. I’m not a modeller, so I’m sure I might offend some purists out there, but I built this thing to have FUN, not to win any awards.”

You Won't See THIS Anywhere Else on the Web—It's a very rare sight indeed, to look down upon the roof section of Chris' tower. Fans normally see this part of the structure only from below. Notice how even here, a place no one even sees, Chris has taken the time and effort to create a realistic metal roof with all the correct details. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

You Won’t See This Anywhere Else on the Web—It’s a very rare sight indeed, to look down upon the roof section of Chris’ fire tower. Fans would normally never see this part of the structure, but we caught this exclusive shot of it while Chris was disassembling and returning the sections to his U-Haul trailer. Notice how even here—a place no one even sees—Chris took the time to create an accurate, realistically peaked “metal” roof with all the correct details. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

“The lookout building sits in the middle of the top platform and has a railing going all the way around. That was the trickiest section to build because the last section of stairs had to go through the tower and to the outside. I must say again that I wish I would have paid more attention in math class!

The handrails were a major pain to do too, but definitely needed. It’s all made entirely out of 90% recycled wood materials from a local sawmill, and held together with wood glue and 23-gauge brad nails. Before I built the little building on the top, I put all the sections together so there wouldn’t be any ‘bad surprises.’

Now that it’s completed, I’ll probably set up scenes and take more pictures. I also plan on having a zipline coming off of it somewhere and make a short video of Joe taking the plunge. Beyond that, I haven’t really given much thought to what else I’ll do with it.

I would probably give it away if it went to the right place. For now, it’ll just go back in my basement. It’s built in 4 removable sections that mortise together, so it stores away fairly easily. 

Finally, I remember that I couldn’t stop laughing as I stepped back and looked at it all for the first time. Yes, 17′ sounds tall, but standing right next to it is a whole different story. It…is…TALL. Now the fun really begins!” —Chris Rowland, Macon, GA

Bottom Line: Since “official” records are not actually kept regarding such things, we don’t really know if Chris Rowland has broken or set a new World’s Record with his fire tower, but it’s more likely than not that he has. Over the past few decades, we’ve witnessed hundreds of customizers around the world creating 1:6 scale trains, rail guns, aircraft, bunkers, vehicles and other GIjOE-related items of all sizes and types, but NOTHING quite as tall, elegant and intricate as Rowland’s tower. Our sincerest congratulations to Chris on his amazing achievement and our thanks too, for his generous contributions to this article. Absolutely SUPERB work, Chris!


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5th Grade Teacher is Also a Master Customizer and Creator of 1:6 Scale “Natural Environment” Props, Structures and Dioramas For G.I. Joes

Angelo D reveals how he manages to store extra figures and props above and below his current diorama display table. Absolutely ingenious! (Photo: Angelo )

Angelo D’Annibale of New York reveals how he utilizes a wide and DEEP display table (much like a model railroader) to arrange and display two levels of indoor dioramas, while simultaneously storing extra 1:6 scale figures, vehicles and props on the shelf up above. Ingenious! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

One of D'Annibale's handcrafted bamboo cages works perfectly with this "Capture of the Pygmy Gorilla" scene. Outstanding! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

One of D’Annibale’s handcrafted bamboo cages works perfectly with this “Capture of the Pygmy Gorilla” scene. Outstanding! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“What an incentive positive feedback is!”

—Angelo D’Annibale

Years of Collecting Frustration Finally Give Way to an Adulthood Full of Creative Achievement

Many of the master customizers profiled here on The Joe Report stand out not only for their expertise, creativity and artistic prowess (they ALL have those in spades), but also for their uncanny ability to incorporate natural “found” objects and materials into the creation of ultra-realistic 1:6 scale miniature dioramas. Rather than buy everything pre-made and display something everyone else already has, they prefer to put their imaginations and creativity to the ultimate test—customization.

If you’re unaware, examples of found materials would include such items as scraps of wood, rope, metal, riverbed gravel, boulders, stones, sticks, straw, sand and even good ol’ fashioned dirt. Yes, we said DIRT. Remember when playing down in the dirt seemed as natural as breathing? Well, for many GIjOE fans, customizers, and kitbashers of 1:6 scale, that feeling has never gone away!

A "recycled" child's backyard swingset, once repainted and detailed is transformed into a stunningly realistic 1:6 scale WWII bridge photo op. WOW! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo’s “recycled” backyard swing set, once repainted and detailed, is miraculously transformed into an uber-realistic 1:6 scale WWII bridge—and a GREAT place for photos. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

What? Don't you have your own realistic 1:6 foot-bridge? If not, why not MAKE one? Look at what Angelo did with simple scraps. WOW! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

What? You say you don’t you have your own realistic-looking 1:6 scale foot-bridge? Why not MAKE one, just like Angelo? WOW! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

But of course, there’s nothing wrong with utilizing modern or “artificial” materials as well, including items such as styrofoam blocks, paper towel rolls, sheets of styrene plastic, tin cans or any cheap “junk” you can find at a local dollar store. In fact, developing a keen eye for what qualifies as usable 1:6 scale props and building materials is one of the defining traits and hallmarks of a budding “master miniaturist.”

The outstanding customizer we’re profiling today is Angelo D’Annibale of upstate New York, who has really begun to make a name for himself in the 1:6 scale community. Photos his unique “natural” creations have been setting fan forums on fire and prompting many to attempt to duplicate his distinctive handcrafting techniques. We tracked Angelo down recently and asked him to share his backstory regarding his GIjOE collecting addiction, customization methods and display techniques. He generously replied:

“I was born in 1969, so I missed the heyday of GIjOE. By the time I was old enough to understand and play with GIjOEs, the 12″ figures were very hard to find. I recall many afternoons watching in horror as my older cousins tortured poor Joe and used fireworks to maim and disfigure the toy I so badly wanted.”

What an evocative, realistic scene. Superb camera placement and use of perpective, Angelo! At first glance, you'd swear this was a real horse and rider on a REAL bridge. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

What an evocative, realistic scene. Superb camera placement and use of perspective, Angelo! At first glance, you’d swear this was a real horse and rider on a REAL bridge. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“I was determined to have one of my own. Since my cousins littered the grass and sidewalk with disembodied Joe parts, I was able to collect the results of their carnage, one piece at a time. And like a young Dr. Frankenstein, I’d soon pieced together my own, 12-inch, 1:6 scale ‘FrankenJoe.’ In 1978, my family made an overseas trip to Italy. We needed to bring some gifts for my male cousins, so we went shopping at a local Schenectady ‘Two Guys’ department store. Unfortunately, GIjOEs were absent from most store shelves by that time and any hope I had of finding one on the store shelves was non-existent.”

Add another bridge and you double the detail and level of realism. Superb! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

D’Annibale’s custom bridges, roadways, vehicles and figures create unique worlds of imaginative play. Imagine the possibilities! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“I searched for something that would be small enough to place in a suitcase, yet cool enough for my young Italian cousins. As I rounded the next aisle, I was stunned when I saw what I thought was a figment of my imagination— AT G.I.JOEs! It couldn’t be! I had to be dreaming! But no (thankfully), I wasn’t dreaming. There were indeed, several AT figures, in their coffin boxes(!), just waiting for me up there on the shelves. I could hardly contain my excitement! My parents agreed to buy them, they fit perfectly in my suitcase and they definitely had that “cool” factor I had hoped for.”

Annidale proves you don't need a fancy "art studio" or garage to create in 1:6 scale, just desire—and TALENT! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

D’Annibale proves you don’t need a fancy “art studio” or garage to work in 1:6 scale, just desire, determination—and TALENT! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

A closeup of Angelo's new

This closeup of Angelo’s newest structure reveals the use of appropriately sized pieces of bamboo, a variety of wood scraps, string, scaled maps, photos and other props. WOW! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Cheap "dollar store" items such as skulls and alien monsters can also be painted and detailed to work perfectly in D'Annibale's dioramas. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Cheap “dollar store” items such as skulls and alien monsters can also be painted and detailed to work perfectly in D’Annibale’s dioramas. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“My lucky cousins in Italy (Sergio, Rocco and Victorio) all got their GIjOE gifts, but I didn’t get one! My mother told me, ‘These are for family. Not for you.’ I was devastated. Here had been a perfect chance to own my very own, brand-new-in-the-box GIjOEs, but now it appeared that dream would NEVER come true. Of course, two days after arriving in Italy, those new Joes had all lost their pistols, clothing, and one had even plunged to his ultimate demise from the third story of our apartment complex onto the top of my uncle’s car. After that experience, I vowed that I would someday own my own GIjOEs and that I would take VERY good care of them.”

Inspired by the ammunition cart by Dragon (on the right), D'Annibale decided to make one of his own (left). OutSTANDING work, Angelo! Which one do YOU prefer? (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Inspired by the ammunition cart made by Dragon (above, right), D’Annibale decided to make his own (above, left). OutSTANDING work, Angelo! Which one do YOU prefer? (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

The comic that "started it all" for Angelo. Issue #5 of Marvel's GIjOE. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo has a very special attachment to this specific issue of Marvel’s “GIjOE” comic book series and credits it with reigniting his love for the action figure line as he entered adulthood. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“Fast forward 4 years: My parents enjoyed taking long Sunday drives up to Lake George. The car ride was usually boring to me, so I asked for a comic book to read from the local Del Gros Deli convenient store (Sgt. Rock, Sgt. Fury, and The Haunted Tank were all my favorites). That particular Sunday, though, something else caught my eye: a new title showing a tank moving through a park, with men running from it with the name ‘GIjOE’ in bold letters at the top of the cover. I grabbed it and savored every page as we drove to Lake George that day. When I finished reading, I realized that this was the 5th issue. I had missed 4 already! Finding those back issues took some time, but I eventually managed it and purchased every issue from that day forward. Even while I was away at college in Central New York, my mom would go to a comic book store and buy me the latest issue.”

Angelo's creativity doesn't stop at structures or custom figures. He also enjoys building and detailing custom 1:6 scale vehicles, such as this superb German halftrack. AchTUNG! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo’s creativity doesn’t end with structures and custom figures. He also enjoys building and detailing 1:6 scale vehicles, such as this superb German halftrack. AchTUNG! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

How about a custom truck, converted from a 21stC Patton staff car? If you want it, BUILD IT! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

How about this cool, 1:6 scale custom truck, up-converted from a 21st Century Toys Patton Staff Car? Superb work, Angelo! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“I can still remember the comic’s 6th issue in particular. It has such a cool cover! It depicted a medic (Doc) sitting behind a Snow Trooper (SnowJob) on a snowmobile. I thought how cool it would be if they actually made these Joes into toys. Well, the next Sunday, we were at Mohawk Mall and I (of course) had to visit the Kay B toy store. While walking down the action figure aisle, what did I see? A GIjOE ‘Polar Battle Bear!’ That SAME snowmobile on the cover!”

This closeup of Angelo's halftrack reveals he also chose to detail the vehicle's interior with weapons, a floor mat, radioman's chair and assorted other details. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

This closeup of the interior of Angelo’s halftrack reveals he detailed it with weapons, tripod, ammunition, wooden floor mat, radioman’s chair and other details. EXCELLENT! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Angelo briefly collected the 3.75" version of GIjOE but soon realized it limitations and refocused his efforts on 1:6 scale. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo also collected 3.75″ GIjOEs (his first, shown above), but eventually refocused his efforts on finding the original 12″ versions. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“Thus began my renewed obsession with collecting GIjOE toys. I collected many of the new 3.75″ figures, vehicles and accessories, even when I was getting too old to enjoy imaginative play. I simply had to have them. I had missed out on collecting Joes the first time around. I wasn’t going to let that happen again.

But then interestingly, I did lose interest. Those new GIjOE weapons were all pink(?) and orange and blue, and the 3.75″ figures and vehicles just didn’t have the same appeal to me as the original 12-inch versions. It almost seemed (to me) as if Hasbro was trying to end the GIjOE line. So eventually, I just stopped collecting. To make matters worse, the Marvel GIjOE comic series had ended too!”


Angelo created this outstanding (and unusual) outdoor diorama with a clever combination of dollar store tiki poles, plastic plants, Mayan calendar disk, working waterfall and…an egg? Yes, here, Joe prepares to examine the mysterious orb before whatever giant creature laid it returns and stomps him into the ground. Both frightening—and WEIRD at the same time. Look out, Joe! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

SUCCESS! Angelo's first 12-inch GIjOE was this veteran Adventurer who now mans the lofty perch atop the AT training tower. Go, JOE! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

SUCCESS! Angelo’s first 12-inch GIjOE was this veteran Adventurer who now mans the lofty perch atop D’Annibale’s AT training tower. Go, JOE! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“A few years later as I was walking through the mall (again), I stopped by the Kay Bee Toy Store, just for old times’ sake. Sure enough, as I rounded the corner I saw what looked like a 12″ GIjOE. Yes! But while the lettering on the package said GIjOE, the packaging and figure inside seemed…odd. Something just wasn’t right. First of all, Joe’s hands were HUGE. He had a giant, oversized weapon that made weird noises and lit up. And his face…well, it just wasn’t the same. His body was built more like…a Barbie…with little to no articulation. ‘That’s pretty lame,’ I thought to myself. But I ended up buying one anyway. As we all know now, that particular Joe’s name was ‘Duke.’ But he wasn’t the Duke from the 3.75″ line, nor was he a 12″ GIjOE (at least like the Joes I remembered).”

The lower-level diorama currently on display in Angelo's Joe Room is this superb homage to the Battle of the Bulge. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

The lower-level diorama currently on display in Angelo’s Joe Room is this amazing homage to the famous WWII battle known as The Battle of the Bulge. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

One of Angelo's upper-level dioramas features this exciting Search for the Mummy's Tomb set-up. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

One of Angelo’s upper-level dioramas features this exciting Secret of the Mummy’s Tomb set-up. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“More figures from the unusual “Hall of Fame” line soon appeared, but I simply had no interest in them. However, later on, when other toy companies began getting into the 1:6 scale market, such as 21st Century Toys (and their awesome WWII stuff) and Dragon (even better detail, articulation and realism), I quickly developed a WWII action figure obsession that has continued to this day.

During WWII, my Uncle John had fought in the Ardennes. He fought with the 28th Infantry Division and his weapon was an 81mm mortar. I would talk to my uncle about the war and he would tell me stories. Some were sad, some were funny, and some were downright SCARY. For example…”

Angelo's Uncle John as he appeared during WWII. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo’s Uncle John as he appeared during WWII. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“One tale I remember quite vividly was about how one night while asleep, he was awoken by hands that were feeling about his boots. He looked up and was startled to see a large Moroccan soldier holding a BIG knife—and smiling.

The soldier was identifying Uncle John (in the dark) as an Allied soldier by feeling the leggings and laces of his boots. If the boots had been the smooth leather type of a Nazi…then the end of his story would not have been so pleasant!

Inspired, I chose to create my first 1:6 scale diorama about my uncle. It would be for his birthday and I wanted to give him something different—something SPECIAL.”

Angelo's custom figure and diorama of his Uncle John, preparing to load a mortar round into his weapon. SUPERB! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo’s custom figure and diorama of his Uncle John, preparing to load a mortar round into his weapon. How great is THIS?! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“I selected a Dragon figure that I thought looked like him during the war, found a mortar that could almost pass for an 81mm mortar and used an old picture frame to build a mortar pit. To finish it all off, I added real twigs, straw and sand using techniques I’d seen and read about in various military modeling magazines (see photo at right).

I began to focus on collecting WWII figures and vehicles of the European Theater and quickly amassed quite a sizable collection. Soon, I had TOO many things and nowhere to display them. And I’m the sort of collector who’s always felt that toys left in their boxes would have a sad, ‘unloved’ existence. Something had to be done!”

With Angelo's ultra-wide display table, he can even accommodate an entire Italian piazza, or courtyard. Look how BIG this is! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

With Angelo’s ultra-wide display table, he can even accommodate an entire Italian piazza, or courtyard. Look how BIG this is! Click to enlarge. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

A closeup of Angelo's city center reveals the use of real mini-bricks, a candlestick holder converted into a table, complete with record player and cards. FanTASTIC! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

A closeup of Angelo’s diorama reveals his use of real bricks, miniature statuary, a candlestick holder that’s been converted into a table, a custom 1:6 scale record player and playing cards. Fan-TASTIC! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Now THIS is powerful. The use of that scale-correct T-Rex head charging Angelo's Mobile Support Vehicle is simply breathtaking! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

WOW. The use of a giant (scale-correct) T-Rex head charging towards Angelo’s Mobile Support Vehicle is simply breathtaking. Look out, Joe! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“Fortunately, our home was over 125 years old and in a few years we decided to put on an addition. You can imagine my excitement! I drew up plans and designed how I wanted to set up the new 20′ x 20′ room. I added built-in tables as well, because I knew I wanted to showcase as much as possible, especially the GIjOEs that started it all for me—the Adventure Team!

The main table in my new Joe Room is currently dedicated to my favorite, the ‘Search for The Stolen Idol’ Adventure Team set. I installed a wallpaper mural that had a huge Buddha on it as the backdrop and designed the rest if the display table around it. The other tables are ‘fluid’ and allow me to change their set-ups to display a wide variety of scenes and figures.”

Large props like this Mayan calander can be used to create almost "instant dioramas." Plunk it down amidst rocks, plants and dirt, and you're good to go—EXPLORING! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Large props like this Mayan calendar can be used to create almost “instant dioramas.” Plunk it down amidst rocks, plants and dirt, and you’re good to go—EXPLORING! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Making the most of current outdoor conditions, D'Annibale routinely stages excellent "photo ops" such as this exciting snow rescue scene. (Photo: Angelo Annidale)

Making the most of current outdoor conditions, D’Annibale routinely stages excellent “photo ops” such as this exciting Snow Rescue Adventure. (Photo: Angelo D’Annidale)

“I continually look for new ideas online, especially over at The Trenches and Patches of Pride. I’ve discovered that there is a huge following for GIjOE and that what people are doing with 1:6 scale customs is amazing. Last year, I saw a post on the Trenches about a rope bridge that someone had made out of a wooden laundry drying rack. Boy, that was cool! A few days later, I was at one of my favorite spots for finding diorama ‘stuff’ (a local $1 store) and I found some bamboo garden stakes. They were the perfect diameter to make an AWESOME bridge. It would be some work, sure, but I was up to the challenge.”

If you can dream it, you can do it! Angelo's handcrafted, 1:6 scale bamboo and rope bridge sure verify that. Simply mind-BOGGLING! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo’s handcrafted, 1:6 scale bamboo and rope bridge verifies the veracity of that age-old customizing truism: If you can DREAM it—you can BUILD it! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“First, I cut the bamboo into 4″ lengths and then drilled tiny little holes into each one. I was determined that my bridge would be big—REALLY big. I have a small creek in our backyard and I thought, ‘Hmm, if I could just make it long enough, I could stretch it all the way across (it’s 10 feet wide so that’s a ton of bamboo)!

Well, after cramped hands, and many bamboo splinters, I finished the bridge. I was SO excited. Cut to A.C.Moore, another awesome store for dioramas. I am looking at the plastic animals that they have and spot what appears to be a gorilla that is (almost) 1:6 scale. I thought, it’s ‘GIjOE AT Pygmy Gorilla’ adventure time!

This incredibly powerful image was created with Angelo's outstanding bamboo/rope bridge...and a rubber gorilla. But BOY, is it GREAT! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

This powerful image of Angelo’s 1:6 scale Pygmy Gorilla was artfully posed and photographed utilizing his outstanding bamboo bridge—and a little rubber gorilla. Simple? Yes. But BOY—does it look GREAT! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“When I got home, I ran to the backyard with iPad in hand and after taking a bazillion pictures, I decided to share what I had created. I post the bridge with Joe and the gorilla on The Trenches…and I received a great deal of positive feedback! What an incentive positive feedback is! You want my advice? SHARE what you have, what you have done, and what you are proud of. People should see what you can do!”

Angelo's scratch-built wagon is a real show-stopper. He researched it, planned it—and MADE it! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo’s scratch-built wagon is a real show-stopper. How did he do it? First he researched it, then he planned it—and then MADE it. Any more questions? (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“I constantly search the internet for pictures of WWII scenes and I look through magazines every time we go to Barnes and Noble. I can’t believe all the talented individuals out there! The One Sixth Division and Sixth Army Group are two online forums that have given me MANY ideas and inspired me to create ever-better dioramas. Nevertheless, I feel my work pales in comparison to some of the more talented folks whose work I have witnessed and have to give them all credit for helping me.”

Angelo also built this smaller pull-cart, but it is no less detailed or well-made than the wagon. Absolutely WONDERFUL! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo also built this smaller push-pull cart, but it’s no less detailed or in any way inferior to the larger wagons. He even made the little potatoes himself. WONDERFUL! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

It's amazing what Angelo can do with a rather lame Max Steel helo, some flat-black paint and a lot of creativity. WHOOSH! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Wouldn’t you buy one of these if Hasbro offered it? WOW! It’s amazing what Angelo can do with just an old Max Steel helo, some flat-black paint and a dash of creativity. WHOOSH! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Do you walk past cool props like this Buddha head and not give them a second thought? Well, slow down and THINK. How cool is THIS?! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Do you ever walk right past nifty props like this garden Buddha head? What a great piece for outdoor adventures! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

It's amazing how effective 2-D wallpaper backdrop can be to create an instant mood for your foreground action. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

It’s amazing how effective a simple 2-D wallpaper backdrop can be in creating an instant mood for your GIjOE’s 1:6 scale foreground action. Superb! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Take time to take it all in: The palm trees, the walls, the desert, the camel, the pyramid, it's a MAGNIFICENT! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

That’s right…Take all the time you need to take this all in: The palm trees, the walls, the desert, the camel, the pyramid, it’s all MAGNIFICENT! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Planet of the Apes? Angelo's jungle bridge masterpiece is the stage for a tense stand-off between a mighty silverback gorilla and Adventurer Joe (who's beginning to question hi decision to bring a camera instead of his trusty sidearm). D'oh! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Planet of the Apes? D’Annibale’s stunning 1:6 scale jungle bridge provides the perfect setting for a tense stand-off between his “Pygmy” Silverback Gorilla and intrepid “Adventurer Joe” (who’s now beginning to question his decision to pack a camera INSTEAD of a .45 sidearm). D’oh! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks to Angelo D’Annibale for his help with this article. Normally, we’d close with a few witty words of summation, but today we turn it over to Angelo, who writes:

“Hello Mark, I wanted to end by thanking you again for allowing me the opportunity to share what I have done. I feel very strongly about the 1:6 hobby and wanted to share how it all started with me and where it has gone. Thanks for all you do for the hobby with your sites. Have fun, be creative, ask questions, look and research, and always (and most importantly)—NEVER grow up!” —Angelo D’Annibale


Shades of “Indiana Jones”———After 49 Years Locked Away In a Museum Storage Room, a Collection of Vintage, Unopened G.I. JOEs Is Discovered And Then Sold on Ebay To Anonymous Collector For $5,977!

The end of the "Dearborn Joes" Action Soldier box reveals the original price paid for this "Lost Joe" by the museum's 1965 curator. (Photo: City of Dearborn)

The bottom panel of this Action Soldier box from the “Dearborn Joes” collection reveals the original price paid for this “lost”action figure. Welcome Home, Soldier! Click to enlarge. (Photo: DHM)

Absolutely MINT USAF equipment set. Wow! (Photo: City of Dearborn)

Absolutely MINT USAF equipment set. Wow! Click to enlarge. (Photo: DHM)

Treasure Trove of ’60s NRFB Vintage Figures and Equipment Sets Sold to Highest Bidder

Heads up, Treasure-Hunting Adventurers! Another stunning “Lost GIjOE Collection” has been discovered. Just when we thought every possible GIjOE action figure from the 1960s and ’70s has been accounted for, along comes another WILD story like this. AND… In a clear and definite indication that vintage, NRFB (unopened) GIjOEs are still commanding hefty respect (and even heftier prices) among collectors, their recent sale at an auction conducted by—get this—the City of Dearborn, MI, sold the entire 33-item lot for—$5,977.78!

The Indiana Jones-ish story behind this astonishing vintage GIjOE discovery is as intriguing as the identity of its new anonymous owner. Fans and potential buyers were immediately enthralled by the collection’s ebay listing description which dropped the following enticing hints:

A mint, unopened "Combat" set from the collection. Click to enlarge. (Photo: City of Dearborn)

An NRFB “Combat” set from the “lost” collection. Click to enlarge. (Photo: DHM)

“The City of Dearborn is listing a collection of unopened, original GIjOE Action Figures and accessories. The collection was found at the Dearborn Historical Museum (DHM). There are 33 pieces in total; 30 of which are from 1964; 1 piece is from 1965; and 2 pieces are from 1996. The collection ranges from GOOD to MINT condition.  The pieces are UNOPENED! An appointment can be made to view the collection.”

That would have been a cool experience for any collector of vintage GIjOEs. Imagine going into the curator’s office of the museum and being allowed to handle 33 items untouched by human hands since 1965. What a TRIP! Just looking at the photos of the items arrayed on a table is enough to give most fans goose-pimples. Here are some more photos provided by the museum:

Some, but not all of the collection displayed on the curator's desk at the museum. Oh, MAMA! (Photo: City of Dearborn)

Some (but not all) of the collection displayed on the curator’s desk at the museum. All untouched, unused and PERFECT. You can’t get closer to a time-machine than this! (Photo: DHM)

Of main interest to most fans, the three un-played with GIjOE Action Soldiers stand ready for action in a diorama display about the Korean War which, unfortunately, the museum's previous curator never created. These poor guys spent the next 5 decades in the darkness of their boxes, locked away and forgotten. (Photo: City of Dearborn)

Of main interest to most fans and collectors, the 3 stars of the “Dearborn Joes” collection would have to be this amazing trio of never-played-with GIjOE Action Soldiers. The poor guys spent almost 5 decades, untouched, in the darkness of their boxes, locked away—and forgotten. (Photo: DHM)

Beautiful, unused, unopened Air Force equipment sets from the Dearborn Joes collection. Out-STANDING! (Photo: City of Dearborn)

Do you have your “drool cup?” You’ll need it when you look at these beautiful, unused, unopened GIjOE Air Force sets from the “Dearborn Joes” collection. WOW! (Photo: DHM)

So…what exactly was included in this amazing vintage GIjOE discovery? According to the DHM:

“The following is a line by line listing of each piece in the collection:

Action Soldier:  1964 (7512 x 350) BIVOUAC
Action Soldier:  1964 (7517 x 400) Command Post
Action Soldier:  1964 (7500) Action Soldier (Blonde Hair)
Action Soldier:  1964 (7500) Action Soldier (Red Hair)
Action Soldier:  1964 (7500) Action Soldier (Brown Hair)
Action Soldier:  1964 (7502 x 350) Combat
Action Soldier:  1964 (7501 x 350) Combat
Action Soldier:  1964 (7530 x 350) Mountain Troops
Action Soldier:  1964 (7525 x 100) Ike Pants
Action Soldier:  1964 (7524 x 180) Ike Jacket
Action Soldier:  1964 (7523 x 120) Duffle Bag
Action Soldier:  1964 (7523 x 120) Duffle Bag
Action Soldier:  1964 (7707 x 100) Helmet
Action Soldier:  1964 (7526 x 120) Helmet and Small Arms
Action Soldier:  1964 (7527 x 180) Ski Patrol
Action Marine:  1965 (7719 x 400) Medic
Action Marine:  1964 (7701 x 400) Communications
Action Marine:  1964 (7701 x 450) Beachhead
Action Marine:  1964 (7704 x 160) Flags
Action Marine:  1964 (7721 x 180) First Aid
Action Marine:  1964 (7715 x 100) Fatigue Pants
Action Marine:  1964 (7714 x 120) Fatigue Shirt
Action Marine:  1964 (7507 x 100) Helmet Set
Action Marine:  1964 (7708 x 100) Tent Camouflage
Action Sailor:  1964 (7607 x 300) Navy Attack
Action Sailor:  1964 (7618 x 120) Machine Gun
Action Sailor:  1964 (7610 x 100) Attack
Action Sailor:  1964 (7619 x 120) Dress Parade
Action Pilot:  1964 (7801 x 325) Survival
Action Pilot:  1964 (7812 x 180) Communications
Action Pilot:  1964 (7813 x 160) Air Police
Other: 1996 (27596/27519) Dress Marine – Caucasian
Other: 1996 (27635/27541) Battle of the Bulge Soldier – Caucasian

These items are in USED condition and HAVE NOT BEEN authenticated or certified, and are being sold as is.”

The Marines Have Landed! Look at these beautiful Marine equipment sets that were included in the "Dearborn Joes" collection. SEMPER FI! (Photo: City of Dearborn)

The Marines Have Landed! Look at all of the beautiful, untouched USMC equipment sets that were included with the “Dearborn Joes” collection. SEMPER FI! (Photo: DHM)

As might be expected, fan reaction to this stunning auction was brisk and the bidding was fierce. Curious about the origins of this unique vintage lot and the addition of the two ’90s figures, a storm of buyer questions ensued. Eventually, the City of Dearborn posted an addendum to their original auction listing, revealing the following additional intel:


The Army Bivouac set was a simple but popular equipment set that evokes instant memories with millions of GIjOE collectors. Click to enlarge. (Photo: DHM)

“Quite a few people have been interested in the story behind this collection. Here it is:

In 1965, the museum curator purchased the GIjOEs (31 of the pieces) in order to make a Korean War Exhibit at our museum. The curator was very fond of collecting various items for the museum. Unfortunately, he did not keep very good inventory lists. The exhibit was never actually put on display. As a result, the Joes and their accessories were left in their packaging and placed into a box. This box was then put into one of our storerooms (of which we have three buildings of items yet to be inventoried). After they were placed into storage, they were FORGOTTEN.”

Jack Tate, curator of Dearborn Historical Museum (Photo: DHM)

Jack Tate, the current curator of the Dearborn Historical Museum. (Photo: DHM)

“Several months ago, our current curator began to inventory the storage buildings. He happened to find the box and was quite surprised at what was inside. He found our 33-piece collection. Thirty 1964 pieces, one 1965 piece and two 1996 pieces. At some point, someone (who knew the collection existed) added the two pieces from 1996 to the box. However, the story behind those pieces is not known.

The 31 pieces from 1964 & 1965 have been together since their purchase date in 1965.  After doing research on the Joes, The City decided that they do not really hold any historical value for the Museum and therefore should be sold to a collector who can properly appreciate them.”

The Dearborn Historical Museum in Dearborn, MI. What other secrets await to be discovered within? Pay them a visit today! (Photo: DHM)

The Dearborn Historical Museum in Dearborn, MI. What other secrets await to be discovered within? Pay them a visit—today! (Photo: DHM)

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks and best wishes to Mr. Tate and the Dearborn Historical Museum. Their recent house-cleaning has released some wonderful vintage items back into the GIjOE collecting community. Hopefully, the lucky new owner of this collection will keep his (or her) “Dearborn Joes” together and continue to share the story of their unique history and rediscovery with the world. It’s always exciting to learn that such miraculous “finds” as this still occur, so PLEASE—if you were the winning bidder, leave a comment here on The Joe Report sharing your own account of this event, especially as regarding your plans for that wonderful trio of NRFB Action Soldiers. Go, JOE!

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“Tankers” Lining Up To See “FURY” November 2014

Tank, starring James Garner (Photo: Imdb)

Tank (1984), starring James Garner was an enjoyable “tank fantasy.” (Photo: IMDb)

Among the vast pantheon of GIjOE collectors, there’s a die-hard subset of fans who also know a great deal about military history and the mighty armored tanks that command such a prominent role on the battlefield. We’re referring, of course, to those ardent armor aficionados appropriately (and affectionately) known as, “Tankers.” If you’ve never heard of, or used this particular appellation before, Tankers are those zealous individuals who can accurately recite the names, weaponry, and firepower stats of practically anything heavily armored or tracked. From the smallest Kettenkrad tractor to the largest modern Abrams M1A2 (and everything else in-between) their knowledge—is unassailable.

Many Tankers are also big military history buffs that can wax rhapsodic for hours about WWII’s Montgomery and Patton, recount battlefield strategies, the proper deployment of tanks during a “Blitzkrieg,” the rise and fall of Rommel’s vaunted Afrika Korps, clashes between SS Panzer Divisions and Russian Red Army T-34s at Stalingrad and Kursk, the pivotal Battle of the Bulge, the use of tanks in the Pacific theater against Japan, North Korea, North Vietnam, and most recently, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wherever they’re deployed, tanks often prove to be THE deciding factor between a battlefield victory—or ignominious defeat. Not surprisingly then, films about tanks are almost invariably larger than life, exciting—and FUN.

Battle of the Bulge, starring Henry Fonda (Photo: Imdb)

Battle of the Bulge (1965), starring film icon Henry Fonda was good—but not great. This movie BEGS to be remade. (Photo: IMDb)

Why are we bringing this up now? Because recently, Tankers, GijOE fans and amateur military historians have all begun to discuss the impending release of a new “tank-centric” motion picture called, “Fury,” which depicts the WWII exploits of a battle-hardened U.S. Army 2nd Armored Division tank crew (watch the film’s trailer at top). As you are undoubtedly already aware, movies about (or utilizing) tanks, are not unheard of in Hollywood, but pickings can be slim. As a result, fans of this particular genre typically have to wait about a decade or two between decent offerings.

But even if the script stinks (Tank Girl, anyone?), there’s just something about a tank movie that makes it hard to dislike. Let’s face it, they’re BIG. They’re brash. And well…they’re BEAUTIFUL! For alpha-male / leading man-type actors, to have a good tank movie “in your quiver” is a rare accomplishment, nowadays; worthy of more than just a little braggadocio. OOHrah!

Some of the better tank flicks that come to mind include Sahara, starring Humphrey Bogart, Saving Private Ryan starring Tom Hanks, The Battle of the Bulge, starring Henry Fonda, Tank, starring James Garner, Patton, starring George C. Scott and most recently, Fast ‘n Furious 6, with Vin Diesel. (Take a moment to enjoy the first 3 video clips of this article before proceeding.)

Fury stars well-known Hollywood heart-throb, Brad Pitt (last seen in the farcical Inglorious Basterds) and according to the brief description we found over on the Huffington Post:

Sahara was a highly underrated 1943 tank film starring Humphrey Bogart. (Photo: IMDb)

“Pitt stars as a sergeant named ‘Wardaddy’ who leads a tank crew of American soldiers into Germany. (Jon Bernthal, Michael Pena and Shia LaBeouf are Wardaddy’s longtime battle comrades; Logan Lerman plays the group’s newcomer.) The whole thing looks comfortably familiar — a beat from “Inglorious Basterds” here, some from “Saving Private Ryan” there — but it’s never not compelling. “Fury” is set for release on Nov. 14, meaning it could either become one of Sony’s year-end awards contenders or simply a solid money-maker for the studio. Or maybe both: The last time Pitt and Sony teamed up for a film, it was 2011’s “Moneyball,” which earned $74 million at the North American box office and six Oscar nominations.”

Patton, starring George C. Scott, featured numerous tank scenes. (Photo: IMDb)

Patton, starring George C. Scott, featured numerous tank battle scenes. (Photo: IMDb)

It’s been quite a while since Tankers have seen a really good tank movie. It’s about time our heroes of the armored divisions were featured on-screen again. Heck, we were even excited to see that Abrams tank in the first episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead. Although it saw no “battle action,” it served as a main prop and temporary place of safety for the show’s beleaguered hero. Tank fan hopes are high that Fury will be a solid, well-researched and realistic tribute film to all the men who fought, died and served in the U.S. Army or Marine Corps tank divisions. Curious about what our fellow GIjOE fans are hoping to see (or NOT see) in this upcoming film, so we posed the question to everyone’s favorite GIjOE fan and resident tank expert, Dave “Tanker” Matteson (of Alabama), who kindly offered the following observations:

Dave "Tanker" Matteson in his Joe Room. (Photo: Dave Matteson)

Dave “Tanker” Matteson in his GIjOE Room. (Photo: Dave Matteson)

“Shermans and Tigers and Shermans, Oh my! I was asked by Mark to watch the trailer and then give my opinion on the upcoming movie, “FURY.” Am I qualified to review this movie? I believe so! Most people know me as “Tanker.” I spent time as a tank crewman in M1A1 tanks, about 8 years to be exact, as well as being a ‘tread head’ since the age of 8. For those who have seen Fury’s trailer (at the top of this article), the Sherman M4A2E8’s and the M4A3 are all, in fact, REAL. And yes, the Tiger Tank is also VERY real. All of the tanks used in this film are on loan from the Bovington Tank Museum in England where David Ayer, the film’s director, did most of his research.

The research Ayer undertook takes us back to WWII and inside a Sherman tank where its crew LIVED. Before filming, the crew was treated to a mini ‘Armor School’ where they had to learn the job of being a tanker. Then, once on the set, Brad Pitt actually lived with his crewmen in the tank they crewed for the duration of the filming of the battle scenes, totaling some 30 days.

Everything you’ll see onscreen is as close to real as it gets. This film is going to be for Tankers what Saving Private Ryan was to Rangers and Paratroopers. Generally, movie trailers are what doesn’t make the film. The good thing is, I have been following this production VERY closely, and it is definitely on the money. Being a tanker was the best job I ever had!” —Dave “Tanker” Matteson

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks to Dave Matteson for his help with this article. We are FIRED UP about seeing Fury on the big screen this November. Until then, we leave you with this full-length tank episode of “Lock-n-Load,” starring everyone’s favorite Gunnery Sergeant, R. Lee Ermey. So, go grab a cup of Joe, put your feet up on the desk—and Enjoy!

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