WWII “Treasure Train” Hidden by the Nazis May Have Been Discovered in Poland———Believed to be Very “Dangerous” and “Armed With Explosives”

This massive, 1:6 scale locomotive, created by NAME HERE of Kampfgruppe Von Abt in the UK, likely bears a strong resemblance to the missing

An Adventure Fit for Indiana Jones— This massive, 1:6 scale up-armored German locomotive, hand-built and recreated in perfect 1:6 scale by master miniaturist, Peter Shaw, likely bears a strong resemblance to one of the legendary “Treasure Trains” Nazis used toward the end of WWII to move (and hide) gold, artwork and other (stolen) Allied treasures. (Photo: Kampfgruppe Von Abt) Click to enlarge.

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“This is a find of world significance, on a par with discovering the Titanic.” —Jarosław Chmielewski, lawyer (discussing the discovery of a WWII Nazi “Treasure Train” in Poland)

Peter Shaw of the UK, one of the world's most famous and highly revered customizers of 1:6 scale. (Photo: Peter Shaw)

Peter Shaw (85) of the UK, is a world-famous customizer of 1:6 scale trains and WWII-related dioramas. (Photo: Peter Shaw)

Real-Life Events Now Unfolding in Poland Remind 1:6 Scalers of the WWII Train-Centric Dioramas Created by Famed “Kampfgruppe Von Abt” Customizer, Peter Shaw of the UK

When we read the recent AP story announcing the possible discovery of a WWII “treasure train” in Poland (see HERE), we were struck by the intriguing scenario’s similarity to a well-known series of photos taken by the UK’s famous 1:6 scale club—Kampfgruppe Von Abt (KVA) and thought we’d combine the two subjects into one article for today’s edition of The Joe Report.

The 1:6 scale custom trains, vehicles and photo-realistic dioramas produced by the KVA club’s membership have become almost legendary among action figure collectors and customizers around the world. And at the heart of many of the club’s most famous photographs rests the work of one VERY talented man—Peter Shaw.

No Detail Left Out— When you consider how much work creating this 1:6 scale masterpiece required, you gain an instant and immeasurable respect for the Shaw's skills as a master modeler. (Photo: Peter Shaw)

Inspecting Perfection— Here, an engineer of the “Deutsche Reichsbahn” conducts a preliminary mechanical inspection of Shaw’s 1:6 scale locomotive. Ja! Das ist gut! (Photo: KVA) Click to enlarge.

Shaw’s customs are peerless and stand atop the highest pinnacle of 1:6 scale achievement.

Once you learn about Shaw and what other members of the KVA have accomplished, practically everything else you’ve seen before (in 1:6 scale) begins to pale by comparison. Because of their sheer size, the club’s dioramas are always situated outdoors and most of them have utilized Shaw’s hyper-realistic WWII locomotives with fully loaded rolling stock. In addition, the club adds a plethora of supporting 1:6 props including train track, water towers, telephone poles, station houses, artillery pieces, V2 rockets, lifting cranes, Panzer tanks and all sorts of supporting vehicles. Combined, each mighty collection enables the club to accurately and realistically portray places and activities one would have witnessed—including Nazi treasure trains—from over 70 years ago.

When you stop to realize that the scene you're looking at is in full, accurate 1:6 scale, it practically STAGGERS the imagination! (Photo: Peter Shaw)

Photoshopping is NOT Required— When you realize Shaw’s train yard diorama (above) is in full 1:6 scale (remember, that Dragon figure is 12″ tall!), it literally STAGGERS the imagination. Peter works on a whole other level of 1:6 excellence and achievement. WOW! (Photo: Peter Shaw) Click to enlarge.

It’s easy to draw quick comparisons between Shaw’s 1:6 train-dominated dioramas and the original 1:1 scale WWII “treasure train” purportedly found recently in Poland. If you haven’t read the AP article yet, here’s just a snippet of what it revealed:

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Two men in Poland claim they have found a legendary Nazi train that according to local lore was loaded with gold, gems and valuable art and vanished into a system of secret tunnels as the Germans fled advancing Soviet forces at the end of World War II. Historians say the existence of the train has never been conclusively proven, but authorities are not passing up this chance at possibly recovering treasures that have sparked the imaginations of local people for decades.”

Unidentified men (Polish slaves, perhaps?) loading Shaw's 1:6 scale train with boxes full of, what..? Possibly bars of gold, stolen artwork; who knows? (Photo: KVA)

Four unidentified men (Polish POW slave laborers?) are depicted loading crates full of stolen artwork, gold and other treasure onto Shaw’s 1:6 scale boxcar. Gotten Himmel! (Photo: KVA) Click to enlarge.

A subsequent article published in The Guardian (see HERE) also added these stunning facts:

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“A deathbed confession from an unnamed man had led officials to the site…and the dying man was involved in the operation to hide the train 70 years ago.”

Holy, Hollywood! This is the sort of story that begs to be made into a Spielbergian-esque major motion picture. And it’s easy to imagine the screenplay’s opening scene reading something like this:

Project: GIANT—The Treasure Train
A screenplay by Mark Otnes

FADE IN: A very old, frail man reclines on his deathbed, somewhere in Germany. Weakly crooking a finger, he gestures to his eldest son, urging him to lean in and hear his final, barely audible words…

Little does the son know, but his father is about to break a life-long vow of secrecy and recount an astonishing tale that reveals the final resting place of some of the world’s greatest “lost” (i.e. stolen) art treasures and over $2,000,000,000 in Third Reich gold bars.

Before his secrets are lost forever, he’ll finally reveal the TRUE STORY behind one of Hitler’s legendary, almost mythical—Treasure Trains.

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Tubes full of rolled-up art canvasesses wait to be loaded aboard Shaw's

Under heavy guard— Tubes full of rolled-up paintings, jewelry and other looted items are shown stacked on a platform, during loading aboard Shaw’s 1:6 scale “Treasure Train.” (Photo: Kampfgruppe Von Abt)

The Modern-Day Dangerous Realities of 1945’s “Project GIANT”

Of course, it’s common sense to believe that if the Nazis were stashing billions of dollars worth of gold and treasure somewhere, they would also have been determined to hide it well and deploy numerous booby traps around its location to deter the potential for its discovery. Such are (still) the fears haunting authorities in modern-day Poland. In the initial AP article, would-be treasure hunters thinking about approaching Hitler’s “Treasure Train” were seriously warned:

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“Not only could it be armed with explosives, but methane gas underground could add to the risk of an explosion… The train is said to have gone missing in May 1945. Legend says it was armed and loaded with treasure and disappeared after entering a complex of tunnels under the Owl Mountains, a secret project known as “Riese” (or Giant) which the Nazis never finished.”

Dangers Abound— In a dark, sealed train tunnel like this one, the potential for deadly traps including land mines, trip wires and other powerful explosive devices are all too likely. (Photo: Dailymail)

Dangers Awaiting Would-Be “Treasure Train” Hunters— If a Nazi treasure train is indeed sealed within a dark, mountainside tunnel (like this one) somewhere in Poland, then the likelihood of that tunnel being rigged with real-life WWII anti-personnel devices such as land mines, tripwire explosives and other similar dangers remains all too likely to this day. (Photo: Dailymail)

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While gazing upon the marvelous images created by Peter Shaw and other members of Kampfgruppe Von Abt, we hoped that someone in the esteemed UK club would comment on those creations and the coincidental discovery of a treasure train purportedly found in Poland. To our delight, KVA’s Peter Shaw replied and kindly provided the following exclusive insider intel:

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“I read the news item and the two men who say they have found an AT (armoured train) but what is not known is if they have the knowledge to tell the difference. If I had been given the task of hauling a load of gold (which was to be hidden from the Allies), I would have used a Class 52 with 2/3 heavy trucks behind it so that it would be easier to hide. That’s just my thoughts.”

Gettin' Ready to Roll— Reichsbahn engineers prepare to depart the station with their illicit load of stolen Allied treasure, headed for a top-secret destination somewhere deep inside Poland. (Photo: KVA)

Gettin’ Ready to Roll— Shaw’s 1:6 scale Reichsbahn locomotive engineers prepare to depart with boxcars full of stolen Allied treasure, destined for a secret destination. (Photo: KVA) Click to enlarge.

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“What does concern me is the definition of an Armoured Train. I did make an AT with a couple of trucks to go with it. I don’t think we had a specific diorama based on it, but it was used as back up for other scenarios. I think the locomotive you like is one of my Class 52 Krieglokomotive with splinter camo of Dunkelgelbe on a grey background. But it’s not an Armoured train.”

Every Detail Counts— The hallmark of the famed Kampfgruppe Von Abt is that every photo diorama they create is full of period-accurate details, including the requisite 1:6 scale action figures, equipment and vehicles. Simply out-STANDING! (Photo: KVA) Click to enlarge.

Every Detail Matters— The hallmark of the famed Kampfgruppe Von Abt is that every photo diorama the club creates is full of period-accurate details including superb 1:6 scale Dragon Wehrmacht and SS action figures, weaponry and related WWII vehicles. Simply out-STANDING! (Photo: KVA) Click to enlarge.

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“As to my own background, I was a Marine & Aviation Underwriter in the insurance industry in the City of London. I retired at age 60 (I’m now 85), so I’ve had plenty of time to indulge myself in my hobbies. I started building WWII infrastructure in 2000, when Dragon started to produce 1/6 figures.” 

Planning the Route— Accurate maps and plans detail every inch of the train's secret route through the mountains. Where it will stop is the big question. And where it will be hidden for the next 70+ years! (Photo: KVA) Click to enlarge.

Planning the Route of a 1:6 Scale Treasure Train— KVA troops and officers consult maps and plans that detail every inch of the train’s secretive route throughout the Polish mountains. The big questions: Where is it going and where will it be hidden for the next 70+ years? (Photo: KVA) Click to enlarge.

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“I started with tanks up to a half-size Tiger and went on to build 1/6 scale, mainly German infrastructure. A look at our club’s website will give you an indication of what I’ve achieved. The ‘Dora’ rail gun was the largest item I built in 1/6, at 27 ft long. It’s now in a military museum in Holland.”

Peter Shaw's Masterpiece— Shaw's 1:6 scale

Peter Shaw’s 1:6 Masterpiece— Shaw’s 1:6 scale “Dora” rail gun is without a doubt his crowning achievement. Here, Shaw poses alongside the mammoth model in its final, breathtaking form. This “holy grail” of miniaturists is now on permanent display at a military museum in Holland. (Photo: KVA)

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“The Von Abt group was started by me and although we’re now down to 3 members, we still produce 3 or 4 photo shoots a year, with 2 in the can to ‘publish’ soon. As age has taken its hold, I’ve downsized to 1/30 scale.” —Peter Shaw, UK

The Master at Work— Peter Shaw, possibly the world's greatest living modeler of 1:6 scale, is shown here working on his most massive and famous achievement, a 1:6 scale version of the infamous WWII

From Insurance to Master Modeling— Peter Shaw, shown here working at home on his 1:6 scale masterpiece, the WWII “Dora” rail gun, has rightly achieved a reputation as one of the world’s greatest living modelers. His creations are now legendary among 1:6 scale hobbyists. (Photo: KVA)

Superb Staging— German troops carefully unload crated paintings and other

Superb Staging— German troops carefully unload crated paintings and other “loot” for transfer to the boxcars of Shaw’s 1:6 scale treasure train. Note the club’s amazing “staging” of this scene and its extremely realistic figure posing. It looks like WWII newsreel footage! (Photo: KVA) Click to enlarge.

Big, Bad Boxcars— A train is more than just a locomotive, andthe KVA knows that. As a result, Shaw also added superbly crafted boxcars and other rolling stock. Are you blown away yet? (Photo: KVA) Click to enlarge.

Big, Bad Boxcars— A 1:6 scale treasure train is made up of more than just a locomotive, and the KVA clearly appreciates that fact. As a result, Shaw built superbly crafted boxcars and various other rolling stock as well. Well, are you blown away yet? WOW! (Photo: KVA) Click to enlarge.

Bottom Line: By now you’ve probably suspected we used the AP “treasure train” story simply as an excuse to talk about the amazing work of Peter Shaw and the Kampfgruppe Von Abt. And of course, you’d be correct. We are HUGE fans of those gentlemen! Our sincerest thanks go out to all past, present and future members of the vaunted KVA and especially to its founding member and master modeler, Peter Shaw. Through their combined efforts, they’ve produced a body of work that is rivaled by few others, revealing the absolute epitome of what can be created in 1:6 scale.

The Full Crew— In this photo of the KVA's original membership, you can see

The Men Behind the Magic— In this old photo of the KVA’s “full crew” (or original membership), you can see that the club peaked at about 10 members. That’s Peter over on the far right-hand side. (Photo: KVA)

(Editor’s Note): For more photos detailing Mr. Shaw’s masterpiece (the 1:6 scale “Dora” rail gun), we highly recommend you view its slide show found HERE. And to view more pics of Mr. Shaw’s amazing 1:6 scale trains and other stunning creations of the KVA membership, go to their website HERE. Finally, we’ve embedded a short video of a rail gun with actual WWII footage, below:

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Target to Further Diminish Allure of Toys With its New “Gender Neutral” Aisle Decor Strategy?

Are toys losing their allure? When children walk the aisles of Target, Toys 'R Us and Walmart, are they even interested in what they see? Will the gender-neutralification of aisle colors and displays further reduce the allure of toys for upcoming generations? What is THIS little boy thinking about all this? (Photo:

When children walk down the aisles of Target, Toys ‘R Us or Walmart, what do they see? Will Target’s “gender-neutralization” of toy aisles negatively impact overall sales—or boost them? (Photo: myyp.com)

Stores Becoming Reluctant to Differentiate Between Boys and Girls; Fearing Online Backlash

targetlogoGoodbye “Barbie Pink” aisles. Adios, “GIjOE Green” aisles. As far as execs at Target are concerned, there’s no longer a need to differentiate between humanity’s two sexes with such pejorative color decor schemes. In a timely follow-up to our recent story on the dwindling appeal of Barbie (see that story HERE) and Mattel’s once-famous “pink aisles,” Target recently announced that they’re going to remove all gender-indicative backing papers from their toy aisles and replace them with “gender-neutral” (wait for it…) wood paneling. <yawn> Here’s how the top minds at the store explained their thought processes behind the decision:

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“…Over the past year, guests have raised important questions about a handful of signs in our stores that offer product suggestions based on gender. In some cases, like apparel, where there are fit and sizing differences, it makes sense. In others, it may not.”

Whoa. Before we proceed any further, let’s pause for a moment to ask a reality question: exactly how MANY “guests” are we really talking about here, Target? One? Two? Or were hundreds (or thousands) of color-possessed consumers losing sleep over this subject? Target continued:

“…we know that shopping preferences and needs change and, as guests have pointed out, in some departments like Toys, Home or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary.”

How insulting! Toys 'R Us dared to go all pink in this aisle of toys, a move that apparently offends...someone. (Photo: Brent Cross)

Is THIS Insulting? In this undated photo, Toys ‘R Us clearly dared to go “all pink” in its decor strategy for this particular aisle of toys; a move that will certainly offend…someone. (Photo: Brent Cross)

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The “Tweet” that started a color-revolution at Target showed a sign that indicated both “Building Sets” and “Girl’s Building Sets.” Does this bother you? (Photo: Abi Bechtel)

So…let’s get this straight:

The grouping together of toys that are likely to be of greater interest to one market segment than another via color-unifying backing panels is now considered to be “unnecessary?” If so, are product display strategies, window decorating traditions and store product “flow” analyses also now considered to be passé? Or is it just the use of COLORS that some see as offensive and outdated? If not, where will this all end?

For example, in the near future, is it possible that products placed on higher shelves will somehow offend shoppers who deem such placement as showing preference to “taller guests?” Of course we’re being facetious here (or at least trying to be), but Target goes on to explain how it intends to “help” beleaguered customers with the matter of offensive aisle colors, by revealing:

“We heard you, and we agree. Right now, our teams are working across the store to identify areas where we can phase out gender-based signage to help strike a better balance… In the Toys aisles, we’ll also remove reference to gender, including the use of pink, blue, yellow or green paper on the back walls of our shelves. You’ll see these changes start to happen over the next few months.”

Abi Bechtel, the Tweeter who targeted Target for their encamps and aisle colors. (Photo: Abi Bechtel)

Abi Bechtel, the Twitter Mom who targeted Target for its “Girl’s Building Sets” aisle endcaps. (Photo: Abi Bechtel)

A Twitter Tweeter Targets…TARGET 

This all began when one woman, Abi Bechtel, posted a “tweet” about Target on Twitter. As we all know, millions of individuals take to the blogosphere or “Twitter-verse” daily to speak in favor of (or against) whatever they find to be laudatory (or offensive). It’s everyone’s right and free speech in its most basic form. Bechtel’s tweet (with the aisle sign photo) read as follows:

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“Don’t do this, @Target”

Whenever ANY comment or tweet goes “viral” online, the results can often become a public-relations nightmare for the specific person, business or institution being discussed. With the power of the internet behind a comment, a high-tech “blacklisting” of the person/business/institution can also occur, with the offended parties refusing to patronize said establishments until their feelings have been placated and/or their demands met. For Bechtel, her tweet was largely met with support, but a backlash also occurred, and she found herself the target of angry and derisive personal comments.

Do kids REALLY care about colors used in store displays? Or are toys—just TOYS? (Photo: tampabay.com)

Subliminal or Superfluous? Do today’s kids care—or even THINK—about the colors used in toy aisle displays? Or is that something only parents are concerned about? (Photo: tampabay.com)

Whenever retail stores find themselves in the crosshairs of negative social media, they often find it easier to deploy the standard compensating strategy of a corporate apology followed by a store-wide policy change that accommodates the accuser. When Target ultimately removed the offending signage and aisle colors, a clearly relieved Bechtel told the StarTribune (see HERE):

“That’s fantastic. I think it’s great they are paying attention and re-evaluating how they are doing this kind of marketing. I didn’t expect it to become the center of this entire discussion about gender and the way toys are marketed. But Caitlyn Jenner’s pictures had just come out. And the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage came out soon after. So there was a whole lot of discussion about gender and gender roles anyway. The tweet just landed at the right time.”

Bottom Line: The power of a simple tweet in this age of the internet is not to be underestimated. Bechtel’s timing was indeed fortuitous, and the resulting effect of her statement has resonated throughout many retail chains. Target VP, Kathleen Waugh, confirms Abi’s victory, stating:

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“There are no gender-specific toy sections in our stores. Toys are merchandised by product category, so customers can easily see the breadth of assortment.”

What (if any) effects Target’s toy aisle changes will have on actual toy sales (good or bad) remains to be seen. But for Bechtel, that was never the point. It was always about how toys were being marketed to children. Do you approve or disapprove with Target’s response to Bechtel’s tweet? Regardless, please let Target and the world’s toymakers know YOUR thoughts by leaving a comment to this article below. Thanks! PS…Perhaps the best-known “rant” against color-coding toy aisles came from little adorable “Riley” in her famous video over on YouTube. Take a look:

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SHOCKER! Secret “Hasbro Morgue” Contained Treasure Trove of Vintage ’60s & ’70s G.I. Joes

Floor to ceiling shelves filled this warehouse in Pawtucket, RI, with the entire history of GIjOE. Sadly, anything placed on the lower levels was likely destroyed during a major flood. What happened to the remaining vintage, NMIB sets remains to be fully determined. (Photo: Wayne Faucher) Click to enlarge.

Floor to ceiling shelving once filled this secret Hasbro warehouse (located somewhere in Pawtucket, RI) with multiple examples of the entire history of GIjOE product production. Sadly, any of the items placed on lower shelves were likely destroyed during a past major flooding incident. What happened to the remaining NRFB sets on the upper shelves is unknown. (Photo: Wayne Faucher) Click to enlarge.

Fan Suspicions CONFIRMED—Legendary Toy Storage Site DID Exist!

Here’s another of those “Just when you thought you’d heard it all” stories about GIjOE’s historic and colorful past. It’s an Indiana Jones-esque tale built on previously unconfirmed secondhand accounts of a fabled storage site or “treasure trove” wherein it was rumored that untold numbers of original, vintage GIjOE figures, equipment sets and vehicles were stored. The fanciful tale has been bouncing around the internet and GIjOE fandom for decades now, only to FINALLY be confirmed this week by famed Marvel inker and artist, Wayne Faucher.

Fans and regular readers of The Joe Report will recall our in-depth profile of Mr. Faucher (see that story HERE) as well as numerous articles trumpeting his outstanding accomplishments as a master customizer of 1:6 scale (see HERE). But now, with the release of this outstanding series of “Hasbro Morgue” photos, Wayne has entered yet another realm of GIjOE fandom, that of unofficial GIjOE historian. In an account over on The Trenches fan forum, Faucher first announced his exciting news, confirming the reality of Hasbro’s legendary toy “morgue,” saying:

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Artist and action figure customizer Wayne Faucher (Photo: Wayne Faucher)

Artist and 1:6 customizer Wayne Faucher (today) in his studio. (Photo: Wayne Faucher)

“Around 1990, I was given a tour of the Hasbro Morgue by an administrative employee who was about to retire. He knew of my interest in GI Joe so invited me to take a look. At the time, I was only interested in pre-AT Joe and was disappointed at the lack of the military line’s presence in the warehouse. I was told most of the older stuff had ‘walked away’ years before. I took some pictures, but really didn’t know the AT line that well. As a result, I didn’t know what was important from what was common. On top of that the focus was lousy. Of course, those were the days when you didn’t know that until your film was developed weeks later. If it makes you feel any better, think of this: Just before I left, I was asked ‘If I could have any one piece in there, what would it be?’ I replied, ‘There’s just so much, I could never choose.’ So I didn’t. How’s that for frustrating?”

Like an archeologist peeling back the layers of time— In the mysterious

Like an archeologist peeling back the layers of time— Faucher delicately lifts a bit of torn cellophane on this NRFB medic set to give it a closer examination. (Photo: Wayne Faucher) Click to enlarge.

When asked about the location of Hasbro super-secret “morgue,” Faucher replied:

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“Well, I know it was in Pawtucket. Exactly where, I can’t recall. Of course, 25 years later, it may not be there anymore. It was a large warehouse; only a small section was dedicated to GI Joe. Mr. Potatohead and Lincoln Logs were well represented too. The last time I related this story (sans pics), someone mentioned a flood badly damaging the Hasbro Morgue. I have no idea if that was before or after I was there.”

Almost beyond imagination— So many vintage GIjOE toys, so little time. What an amazing memory! (Photo: Wayne Faucher) Click to enlarge.

Almost beyond imagination— Take a close look at the items on these pegs. So many vintage GIjOE toys! What an amazing vault of memories! (Photo: Wayne Faucher) Click to enlarge.

When asked about his once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit Hasbro’s Morgue, Wayne said:

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“Honestly, these were just some old pics I found in a box yesterday. I wasn’t even gonna bother to put ’em up! But now that I think about it, I guess not many people were ever set loose in there with a camera. Now that I’m more into the AT end of things, I’m impressed myself. I wonder how many Magnum Power sets are in those stacks!? I believe the guy who brought me through there moved to Florida and has long since passed away, unfortunately. A very nice fellow who, despite being TOTALLY baffled by a grown man’s interest in this stuff, was willing to spend half a Saturday walking the aisles with me.”

On and on it goes— Where it stops, nobody knows! The amount of product stored in Hasbro's Morgue was staggering at the time of Faucher's visit. Today it must be almost like the Smithsonian! (Photo: Wayne Faucher) Click to enlarge.

On and on it went— and where it stopped, nobody knows! At the time Faucher paid his visit (1990) the amount of vintage GIjOE products being stored in “Hasbro’s Morgue” was literally staggering. Today…who knows what remains behind those high-security doors? (Photo: Wayne Faucher) Click to enlarge.

Faucher also speculated about the supervision of the toy warehouse, saying:

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“Though it was called ‘the morgue’ by employees, it was indeed an archive, though woefully incomplete by the time I got there. I had fully expected a complete collection, but found what was a mish-mash of Joe items. It wasn’t run like an actual archive and didn’t appear to be kept track of. At the time, my wife was Malcolm Forbes’ personal archivist, so she knew what it SHOULD have looked like. We were both pretty surprised at how incomplete and disorganized it seemed to be. Which leads me to wonder if there was indeed a flood (as others have said), it may have been before my encounter with the place, which would account for what was missing. I just don’t know.”  

Anybody need this set? Faucher holds up a mint, NRFB

Anybody need one of these? Faucher holds up a mint, NRFB “Eight Ropes of Danger” window-boxed equipment set. It is (or was) absolutely mint and PERFECT. (Photo: Wayne Faucher) Click to enlarge.

Finally, one member of the Trenches forum named “BRJoe,” responded to the question of the current-day status of Hasbro’s Morgue with the following exciting (unconfirmed) update:

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“IT’S STILL THERE! My current vice president for the corporation I work for used to be a V.P. at Hasbro from about 2009-2012. When I told her I was a G.I.Joe collector, she said, ‘Well, you know near Hasbro’s headquarters in Pawtucket there are warehouses where they store three examples of every toy Hasbro has ever made!’ She had visited them a few times and said up until about 2010, a couple of the older warehouse areas weren’t even climate-controlled (no air conditioning) and that this was one thing she pushed to have corrected. Unfortunately, Hasbro has pretty tight security and these archive warehouses are not open to the public.”

Hammana-hammana-hammana! Who wouldn't LOVE to unbox and hold the contents of a NRFB GIjOE

Hammana-hammana-hammana Who wouldn’t love to examine the contents of an NRFB Sea Sled? And look! Someone actually wrote “morgue” on that Jeep box! (Photo: Wayne Faucher) Click to enlarge.

Bottom Line: What an exciting story! Wayne Faucher has become the “Indiana Jones” of GIjOE historians by confirming the existence of such an extraordinary toy “morgue.” Our sincerest thanks go out to Wayne for sharing all of this wonderful information and historic photographs with readers of The Joe Report—and the worldwide GIjOE collecting community. You’re the BEST, Wayne! PS: To view the entire collection of Faucher’s fabled photos, we recommend you visit the equally legendary, “Vintage3DJoes” website found HERE and prepare to be BLOWN AWAY!

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Ding-Dong! “G.I. Joe, Calling!” Earliest G.I. Joes Were Promoted by 1960s Grocery Deliverymen

50 years ago, groceries were delivered to your door, along with EXCLUSIVE catalog items including GIjOEs. Imagine how kids would look forward to THAT! Would you like a GIjOE with your eggs and milk? Why, YES, please! (Photo: easy)

A simpler time—50 years ago, groceries were delivered right to your door, along with Jewel Tea Company catalog exclusives including GIjOEs. Thank you, SIR! (Photo: etsy)

Milk, Eggs, Bread—and G.I. Joes?

In another example of how times have changed, unofficial GIjOE historian Les Batten posted an intriguing account over on the newswires today recalling how “the Jewel man” used to deliver groceries to customer’s homes as well as, get this—GIjOEs! When we heard about this charming story of yesteryear, we felt obliged to pass it on to the rest of the world of GIjOE fandom. Here then, is Batten’s written account, expertly illustrated with outstanding historic photos provided by Joe Zeta. Enjoy!

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“A while ago we were discussing Joe Zeta’s boxed Green Berets with the coupon on the back. Since then, I’ve been in contact with a man who is purported to have the world’s largest collection of Jewel Tea Company memorabilia. Jewel Tea was the parent company of the Jewel Home Shopping Service that is named on the coupon. He was kind enough to search through all of his paperwork for me and to send me the catalogs I was missing for the period 1964 to 1977. After the search, and many long phone calls, he was able to tell me where he believes the Green Beret fit in the Jewel history. I’ve already told Joe Zeta and now I’ll share what he had to say…”

GIjOE fan and collector, Les Batten (Photo: Les Batten)

GIjOE collector Les Batten remembers when “exclusive” GIjOEs were home delivered with the morning groceries. (Photo: Les Batten)

“First, a little bit about the Jewel Home Shopping Service. For those of us old enough to remember when the milkman delivered to your home daily, you’ll recognize that the Jewel man worked the same way. He would have a daily route, with established customers, who received their groceries and other items from him. 

The other items were listed in a twice annual catalog that the shopper could order from when the Jewel man was at their door. The most popular items, important to Jewel Tea collectors (but not to us) were a Jewel exclusive line of dishes. Some of those sell for over $1000 today.

 After an extensive search through all of his paperwork, the expert found no mention of Joe’s Green Beret. He didn’t even find a copy of the coupon and was very interested in seeing it. After I sent him a copy he said he knew exactly what it was.”

If you were a kid, would this ad in the Jewel catalog get your attention? OF COURSE! What a great way to reach families, children and all potential customers. (Photo: Joe Zeta) Click to enlarge.

Holy, Home Delivery! Would this ad in the Jewel Tea Company’s “popular items of the day” catalog get your attention? OF COURSE IT WOULD! (Photo: Les Batten) Double-click to enlarge.

“According to him, in order to keep the customers buying between catalog issues, the Jewel Tea Company placed exclusive orders for ‘popular items of the day.’ These would be thrown in the route man’s basket for him to sell and were known as ‘Basket Specials.’ As exclusives, these items would NOT be available in any other way. He told me his luckiest find was a ‘Basket Special’ sugar bowl that he sold for over $2000.”

Talk about your RARE

This is an example of truly rare GIjOE “ephemera”— It’s a 1960s-era coupon from the Jewel Home Shopping Service for $1 off a GIjOE set. That’s about as obscure as it gets in the GIjOE collecting universe. In fact, this may be the only such copy of this coupon left in existence! (Photo: Joe Zeta)

Want ad from the past— If you answered this want ad back in 1966, you ended up making a lot of young children VERY happy by delivering GIjOEs right to their door. Grocery deliveries were never so exciting! (Photo: Joe Zeta)

Want ad from the past— If you answered this ad back in 1966, you made a lot of children happy. (Photo: Les Batten)

“Without duplicating Joe’s coupon (see above), I’ll tell you that it offered a discount on an item in the upcoming Christmas catalog. It stated that the discount could be ‘applied towards the purchase of a MC0124C Giant G.I. Joe Set or a MC0132X Official G. I. Joe Jeep and Trailer Set featured on page 54 of the Jewel 1966 Christmas Catalog on or before December 31st, 1966.’ Finally, here is a want ad for a Jewel salesman from June 1966 (at right). The big ad (see above coupon) was from page 54 from the 1966 Christmas Catalog.”

Bottom Line: Yes, times have certainly changed, but in some ways, they remain the same. In the not too distant future, Amazon drones will be dropping off groceries and other items at our doors, but that won’t replace the charm of yesteryear’s milkmen and grocery delivery boys. In fact, it puts them out of work! Regardless, it’s always fascinating to look back at GIjOE’s earliest days and learn more about the myriad ways Hasbro initially promoted its new toy line. Our sincerest thanks go out to Les Batten for his superb story and to Joe Zeta for the wonderful photos. You guys are the BEST!

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Latest Mock-up Pics of 2016’s Club Exclusive “Mike Power the Atomic Man” 12″ G.I. Joe Reveal Much-Anticipated Changes and Improvements

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What a difference a few improvements can make! GIjOE’s 12″ Mike Power figure has never looked so…AWESOME. Wow! And it’ll be nice to own one that doesn’t have cracked, yellowed hands. Sweet! (Photo: GIJCC)

Look Into My Eye…ZZZAP!!!

For those of you who missed it, the GIjOE Collector’s Club recently released two new photos of their highly anticipated club exclusive figure for 2016, Mike Power the Atomic Man. To GIjOE fans and collectors, the changes and improvements over the original figure are obvious. In place of the original’s goofy “Ken doll” head, there’s an all-new “angry” GIjOE head sculpt with a working light-up LED eye. Mike also (finally) gets TWO atomic-powered legs, making his daily runs on that mountain hideout treadmill MUCH easier. And in lieu of his old camo shirt and brown shorts, Mike will be attired in a more modern white AT t-shirt, dark shorts and white tennis shoes. Atomic Tennis, anyone?

The second photo reveals Mike’s unique “Field Mission Alpha” accessory set (sold separately), which will come with a short-sleeved jumpsuit, bright red belt, and a passel of other weapons and equipment. Overall, this set appears to strike all the right chords and should please most 12″ club members. According to the official GIJCC website’s press release:

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The NEW Atomic Man from the G.I. Joe Collectors’ Club will feature kung-fu grip hands, clear legs, a clear arm and an ALL-NEW head design which will include an electronic LED light-up eye activated by tugging on his Adventure Team dog tag! The figure will come dressed in t-shirt, shorts, and white shoes based on the RARE vintage uniform from the Secret Mountain Outpost for Atomic Man produced in the 1970s. To add to the fun, there will be an accessory uniform set for Atomic Man available for separate purchase! To get the NEW Electronic Mike Power Atomic Man 12″ figure, be sure to join the G.I. Joe Collectors’ Club by March 16th, 2016. With the NEW Atomic Man as a member of the Adventure Team, evil (and Doctor Isotope) won’t stand a chance!”

Mike Power's "Field Mission Alpha" accessory set would be a welcome addition to any collection. Let's GO, Adventurers! (Photo: GIJCC)

Mike Power’s “Field Mission Alpha” accessory set. (Photo: GIJCC)

Bottom Line: We like what we see here. The new Mike Power 12″ figure and his nifty uniform and equipment set will make welcome additions to all GIjOE collections. In Hasbro’s absence, the club continues to step up and take charge of new “official GIjOE” figure production. Thanks, GIJCC!

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Barbie Suffering Same Fate as 12-inch G.I. Joes: Will Future Children No Longer Play w/ Toys?

Are we looking at a future without Barbie? A world where children no longer have the interest, desire or attention span required to keep the iconic toy line afloat? Plummeting sales at Mattel appear to bear an ill harbinger of things to come. (Photo: clayzmama)

A future without Barbie? In a world where children appear to be losing the interest and attention spans required to creatively play with dolls, how will Mattel keep its iconic toy line “alive?” (Photo: clayzmama)

The memories of playing with his GIjOE and his

The 1970s were a busy time for children fortunate enough to have grown up playing and creating adventures with GIjOEs and other imagination-dependant toys. Above, Scott McCullar (now an adult) plays with his GijOE’s “Troubleshooter” play set. (Photo: Scott McCullar)

The Future of Some Toy Lines Certainly Growing—UNcertain

If you’re an adult over say, 45, you may be a member of a dying breed. We’re not talking about your health or lifespan, we’re talking about the fact that you’re a human (man or woman) who can still remember when “childhood playtime” meant interacting with dolls, action figures and other toys. You may not realize it, but you could be a member of one of the last generations who’ll remember those youthful pursuits as the carefree activities they were and how they required one of life’s most precious gifts—imagination.

This conclusion is easily understood by simply observing the children of today’s societies and how their evolving behavior patterns have begun to affect the “bottom line” of an already struggling toy industry. Yes, it’s a different world (today) than the one you grew up in, and that reality is forcing toy giants (i.e. Hasbro and Mattel) to push for changes that will usher in a new era, one that may be largely devoid of the past’s traditional or “imagination-dependent” toys.

We're sorry, but today's largely PC-approved, non-gender specific,

We’re sorry kids, but today’s largely politically correct, non gender-specific, “discovery” type toys are, in our opinion, a poor substitute for the more creative toys of the past; specifically those from the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Today’s bland, generic toy fodder, such as this “MentalBlox” game will do little to instill the sort of life-long toy memories once so common among children and adults. Today’s children are moving on to hand-held electronic devices at earlier and earlier ages which quickly stunt their desire to play with traditional, imagination-dependent toys. (Photo: discovery toys)

Robert's sons Gus (l) and Ben (r) hold up their 1st-place winning custom figure of

An exception to the rule— It’s becoming a rare sight to see children who are actively interested in 12″ GIjOEs. In this case, longtime collector Robert Browning and his two sons Gus (l) and Ben (r) keep their love of toys alive by attending conventions (such as Joelanta) together as a family. Here, the boys hold up their 1st-place winning custom figure of “The Shadow” and their prize, a Sideshow “Cobra Ninja” action figure. Such activity encourages camaraderie and the creation of life-long toy-related memories. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Children are ChangingBuying Behavior is Changing—The Toy Industry is Changing

In the past, toy manufacturers used to be able to count on keeping a child’s interest and faithful patronage until about the age of 13 or so. Once the teenaged years kicked in, it was understood that kids began to switch over to more “grown up” interests such as sports, dating and music. While it was a shame to lose them as customers, toy companies knew there would always be more children coming along and more profits could be made from them. But now…that predictable mode of forever selling toys appears to be changing. Dramatically.

At earlier and earlier ages, children are visibly turning away from traditional toys. Once their first computer, video game system or <shudder> “smart” phone enters their lives, there’s really no looking back. In fact, the very idea of playing with traditional, non-electronic toys is becoming positively quaint to children of today (of both sexes). Even casual observations at toy shows and toy stores have confirmed they already perceive GIjOEs and Barbies as stiff, almost unrelatable artifacts of bygone age; something that their Mommy or Daddy “used to play with” very long ago, but is now—boring.

So what does all this mean? It means that now, in 2015, toy companies can no longer afford to do business as usual. New solutions to newly emerging problems must be found, before sales and stock values plummet any further. It means that once impervious toy lines of the past are now at risk of being ignored (read Derryl DePriest’s commentary on the fate of GIjOE HERE) or canceled altogether. As children continue to grow up faster and switch to non-toy pursuits at younger ages, they’re truncating a once lengthy consumer-provider relationship. Profits from toys therefore, are now harder to predict, forcing changes in marketing strategies that, while helping boost the bottom line, may actually increase the growing gap between children and traditional toys—even further.

Is there anything sadder or less interesting to young girls nowadays than a pile of pulled-apart Barbie bodies? Probably not. (Photo: buzzfeed)

Playing with Barbies— Is there anything sadder than a pile of pulled-apart Barbies or GIjOEs? Unfortunately, young boys and girls (nowadays) could probably care less. (Photo: buzzfeed)

Logo-MattelIn a stunning admission, Mattel recently disclosed that Barbie’s sales figures have fallen for the last SEVEN CONSECUTIVE QUARTERS. It’s hard to imagine how much longer the toy giant will want to support such a steadily declining “loser,” but it’s harder still to imagine a world where Barbie no longer exists—at ALL. In a recent article in the The Wall Street Journal, business analyst Cassandra Jaramillo reported:

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“Mattel Inc.’s sales of the doll fell 19% in the second quarter, as the toy maker swung to a quarterly loss and posted a 7% drop in overall net sales. The stronger U.S. dollar drove a large chunk of the decline, but Barbie’s sales would still have fallen 11% when stripping out currency swings.”

Bad news Barbie fans, but hardly a surprise to the bean counters at Mattel. The article continues:

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“Sales of the doll have dropped by DOUBLE DIGITS for seven straight quarters—underscoring the deep challenges facing new Mattel Chief Executive Christopher Sinclair as he looks to right the world’s largest toy maker by sales. Barbie is Mattel’s largest brand and a big driver of profits, but its long slump has cost it shelf space at retailers that Mattel will have to work hard to earn back.”

How long has it been since you've seen BOTH sides of the aisle in a toy store devoted solely to Barbies? The famed

Valuable Shelf Space LOST— How long has it been since you’ve seen BOTH sides of a toy store aisle devoted solely to Barbie? Those famed “Pink Aisles” are unlikely to return, and in the future, may only reside in your memory. (Photo: artisancomplete)

Currently, the profit pendulum is clearly swinging backwards in a negative arc for Mattel. Its stock value went down by 3 points and the WSJ article ended with THIS sobering total:

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“The company posted a LOSS of $11.4 million in the most recent quarter, compared with a profit of $28.3 million a year earlier.”

Toy Companies—Media Companies—Will There Be a Difference in the Future?

hasbrologonewMattel’s not the only toy giant to see one of its oldest toy lines struggle to remain relevant and profitable in this modern age. Hasbro too, now considers its once industry-leading brand, 12″ GIjOEs, to be practically null and void. Without the “little Joes” (3.75″ sized), the world’s most famous toy brand would have vanished from stores by now.

But Hasbro has demonstrated amazing vision. Anticipating the evolving market realities and changing interests of children, they’ve diligently built-up their business from its basic toy origins into a full-blown media and entertainment powerhouse; producing blockbuster brand-offshoot motion pictures such as The Legos Movie, Transformers, etc., while simultaneously working alongside other film industry giants (see HERE) to coordinate massive merchandising efforts. Despite all the vitriol many fans continue to spew in its direction, Hasbro has clearly shown them (and Mattel) that there IS a future for toy production. And while that future may not include GIjOEs or Barbies, it will certainly include profits made from toy sales—LOTS of them.

Playing with toys in the near future may look something like this. With virtual reality, the need for (and use of) real objects that you actually touch and hold would be lost, but the interaction with similar “virtual” objects would remain the same. The question is…Would you WANT to play this way? (Photo: TIME)

Move Over Traditional Toys—Virtual Reality is Here NOW

On top of everything else we’ve discussed, we’d be remiss not to mention the impending arrival of virtual reality (VR) systems. Recent breakthroughs have solved the majority of nagging technological and biological hurdles (4K resolution refresh rates, dizziness, headaches, etc.), and promises of very near future “life-like” immersion will make playing with traditional toys seem as obsolete as newsprint is to the internet. The latest TIME magazine goes into this subject in great detail (see cover above) and VR’s impact on the future of entertainment and toys promises to be profound.

You think today’s video games are addictive? With the arrival of virtual reality systems, it’s hard to imagine a future wherein children would be satisfied playing with traditional, “imagination-dependent” toys. Question: Is a “virtual” GIjOE still a GIjOE? (Photo: YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

Bottom Line: We’ve discussed the topics of shifting consumer buying habits and evolving toy preferences many times over the years. The days of children playing with imagination-dependent toys may largely be behind us as a society; or at the very least, are becoming seriously endangered. The future of 12-inch Hasbro GIjOEs is already known. The future of Mattel’s 12-inch Barbies now falls into question. Fans have to wonder, what exactly will children of the future be playing with? And what effects will those toys (both traditional and virtual) have on their shrinking attention spans, imaginations and overall cognitive abilities? Will kids be jumping for joy like the dude in the TIME cover photo? Or will they be drooling over in a corner without an original thought inside their impressionable little heads? Let us know what YOU think. Please leave a comment today. Thanks!

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UK Artist’s Love of “Product Design From a Less Cynical Time” Results in Creation of Unique Art

The

The “EYES” Have It— These stunning (life-sized) sculptures of a pair of VERY famous faces appear to have begun a “stare-off” at the home of UK artist, John Barton. Their amazing likenesses were hand-crafted and are now being sold to collectors around the world. (Photo: John Barton) Click to enlarge.

Are you talking LOOKING at me?

Robert De Niro may have been talking to himself in the film, Taxi Driver, but you might be saying something similar to a familiar face—with repositionable eyes—mounted up on the wall of your “Man Cave” or “Joe Room” someday soon. Thanks to UK artist, John Barton, a pair of new 1:1 scale head sculptures (or “busts”) based on the heroic visage of Palitoy’s most famous fighting man are now available for purchase. We contacted Barton and he kindly provided the following intel:

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TJR: Absolutely amazing work, John. We LOVE your new toy-inspired busts!

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“I’ve invested a fair amount of time and effort on these so I’m really grateful to receive such positive feedback.” 

In addition to setting on a shelf or table, Barton's busts are designed to hang or mount up on the wall as shown above. (Photo: John Barton) Click to enlarge.

Just hanging around— In addition to setting on a shelf or table, Barton’s art busts are designed to hang or mount up on the wall as shown above. (Photo: John Barton) Click to enlarge.

TJR: Please tell us about your new “Man of Action” (MoA) sculptures. What initially prompted their creation? What were your inspirations?

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“I’ve always had a keen appreciation for good design and illustration, which is perhaps why I was so drawn to Action Man in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The packaging illustrations by David Barnacle are classics (is there a book available featuring his work?).

My inspirations come from multiple sources: a love of pop art, ephemera, product design from a less cynical time (’70s action figures weren’t ‘ripped’ on protein drinks), classic cinema posters (of which I am also a fan) and my own childhood.

This ultra close-up reveals the quality and craftsmanship of Barton's MoA busts. Just look at those eyes! (Photo: John Barton) Click to enlarge.

I SEE YOU— This ultra close-up reveals the quality and craftsmanship of one of Barton’s MoA busts. Just look at the paint-job and those amazing eyes. Outstanding! (Photo: John Barton) Click to enlarge.

TJR: Where else do you draw inspiration for your work?

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“Toy and model shops used to be full of outstanding packaging design. Tamiya produced beautiful product illustrations and graphic design, Airfix box paintings were action-packed (now sadly retouched and sanitized) and of course, Action Man’s boxes. They’ve always set the tone for ADVENTURE!”

YES! The eyes are poseable! You can make your MoA look in any direction. AMAZING. (Photo: John Barton) Click to enlarge.

YES! The eyes are poseable! MoA can look in any direction. (Photo: John Barton) Click to enlarge.

TJR: How did your work and interest in 1:6 scale action figures come together?

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“I’m a graphic designer. I’ve always loved creating things in three dimensions (as well), so the creation of my ‘Man of Action’ sculptures was bound to happen one day. I’m now what I’d call a ‘professional creative.’ I still turn my hand to graphic design and photography, but my real passion is for art.”

Left, Right or Straight Ahead— The choice is YOURS. (Photo: John Barton) Click to enlarge.l

Look Left, Right or Straight Ahead— The choice is YOURS. (Photo: John Barton) Click to enlarge.

TJR: What else should potential buyers know about your MoA sculptures?

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“Each is handmade to order and is intended for display, NOT play. Many hours go into the creation of each piece and no two are the same. It was really important to me that the eyes were positionable. It would have been so much easier to create the mould and castings without eye sockets, and have static eyes, but I’m stubborn and I refused to compromise on this.

The eyes are independently positionable from inside the head allowing each MoA to stare intently in any direction you wish. My initial thought was to engineer an inner ‘eagle eye’ mechanism, and for a one-off this would be fine, but it’s just not replicable in numbers at a sensible cost.

As each piece is made-to-order, every customer is kept fully informed of progress with emails and photos. I may even create other versions and special editions in time. I hold out the vain hope that as a handmade, numbered piece, my MoAs will one day become collectibles in their own rights.”

Your Barton Bust will instantly become the focal point of any room. (Photo: John Barton)

Your “Barton Bust” will instantly become the focal point of any room. (Photo: John Barton)

TJR: What kind of response have you been getting from AM collectors so far?

“I only posted the MoA to a couple of forums for the first time yesterday and I’m really humbled with the positive reception received so far from aficionados. Thank you ALL for your enthusiasm and support!”

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks go out to John Barton for his assistance with this article and our best wishes to him in all of his future endeavours. We know quality work when we see it, and these new busts of his are top-notch—all the way.

Who knows how long he’ll be creating them? For that reason alone, we highly recommend you contact Barton SOON if you’re interested in adding one (or more) to your collection. For complete information on cost, shipping and options, visit his website HERE. These handsome lads would make stunning gifts for any fan who believes that he (or she) already owns “one of everything.” Talk about your “limited-editions.” This is it!

Artist John Barton poses with two of latest creations. Absolutely superb work! (Photo: John Barton)

Artist John Barton poses with two of his creations. Absolutely superb work! (Photo: John Barton)

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Happy Birthday, USA! Happy Independence Day!

Gigantic US Flag, Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, FL (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Gigantic US Flag, Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, FL (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Vintage AM Equipment Sets Opened at VAME Meet 5

Imagine the THRILL of being the first persons to open sealed 1970s shipping cartons packed full of NMOC (new mint on card) vintage Action Man Frogman suits. Well, that thrill was realized recently by two of Action Man’s “founding fathers,” Bob Brechin (the former chief designer at Palitoy) and famed Action Man packaging illustrator, David Barnacle.

The two hobby giants appeared together at the recent VAME Meet 5 (held in the UK) to carefully open two of these precious “time capsules” from Action Man’s venerated past. Fortunately, Action Man fans around the world can now share in the thrill of those exciting moments by watching the video captured at the event (see clip above).

We’ve also received a wonderful “after action report” from VAME 5 representative, Michael Acton, who penned the following exclusive intel for readers of The Joe Report. Enjoy!

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Michael Acton, UK Action Man fan and collector (Photo: Michael Acton)

Michael Acton, UK Action Man fan and collector (Photo: Michael Acton)

“Just a postscript to this after the event: VAME Meet 5 really was extraordinary this year and was hectic from start to finish. We were quite taken aback by the numbers of collectors that came and supported the event, so thanks to all, including some that had travelled very long (by UK standards!) distances to make it.

Too many highlights to mention here, but it included a display of Dave Barnacle’s original AM art work by the man himself, Bob Brechin joining us for the day and patiently answering all those questions and Vectis auctioneers bringing along items from the recent sale of newly discovered unopened Palitoy Action Man stock hoarded by a former salesman. The BBC film crew were very unobtrusive and commented on the sheer enthusiasm of the collectors they spoke to.

We had a bit of fun at the end of the day when a couple of trade boxes of AM frogman sets from the 1970s, that were found untouched and still sealed, were opened by Bob Brechin and Dave Barnacle. There’s a video HERE (or see it above).

The suits were as fresh and supple as the day they left the factory and not perished at all (even though the glue had dried on one or two of the cards so that the blister covering had detached from the card). It’s going to be a challenge to beat this for Action Man’s 50th in 2016, but we’ll try!” —Michael Acton, UK

Bottom Line: Sounds like a great time was had by all. And yes, Action Man fans here in the U.S., Australia and elsewhere around the globe are all VERY jealous. Thanks for the regular updates, Michael. Our best wishes to everyone in the UK who helped make VAME 5 such a ripping success!

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Captain Action Exec Responds to Fan Queries Regarding Uncertain Future of 1:6 Products

Go, Captain Action! Despite his popularity, ol' Cap faces an uphill struggle to remain relevant and profitable in the future. (Art: Jusko/CAE)

Fighting For His 1:6 Future— Despite Captain Action’s popularity among collectors of a certain age (50+), ol’ Cap faces an uphill struggle to remain relevant and profitable at 1:6 scale. (Art: Jusko/CAE)

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“We need to show the depth of this license. Captain Action cannot survive as a one-trick-pony, 12-inch action figure.”
Joe Ahearn, Captain Action Enterprises 

This odd little Lego-ish rendition of CA is yet another example of a product that many fans simply could care less about. And what's with the Mickey Mouse ears? (Photo: CAE)

Captain Action for Today’s Generation— This odd little Lego-ish rendition of CA is yet another example of a multitude of recent CA licensed products that fans of 1:6 scale could simply care less about. And what’s with those Mickey Mouse ears? (Photo: CAE)

We’ve already reported on Captain Action Enterprises’ (CAE) current controversial efforts to expand the appeal of the iconic Captain Action (CA) brand though licensing and the release of a plethora of non-1:6 scale products (see full story HERE). CAE reps, Joe Ahearn and Ed Catto, have also confirmed (to The Joe Report) many times, that they believe their business strategy remains the best hope for capturing a younger market and repositioning the 49-year old brand towards a more profitable business future.

Predictably though, their plan has met with open derision from many 1:6 collectors who lament the loss of additional 1:6 scale CA product. Others have grudgingly accepted CAE’s plans as necessary steps that must be taken if ANY beloved CA brand toys are to survive and/or remain relevant to current and future generations that know little (to nothing) about Captain Action and his schizoid superhero proclivities.

As with Hasbro (and their GIjOE brand), CAE is now openly admitting concerns that its original fan base is clearly aging. And the sad truth is, both of these toy companies have begun looking at adult-aged toy collectors as customers of their past, rather than of their present—or future.

Prototype photo of a proposed 1:18 scale version of Captain Action and his Silver Streak. Is THIS the future of CA? (Photo: CAE)

The Future is Looking… Smaller— A rendering of ZICA Toy’s prototype for a 1:18 scale version of Captain Action and his Silver Streak vehicle. Pretty nice, but is THIS the future of CA? (Photo: CAE)

In our recent interview with Hasbro’s Derryl DePriest, many GIjOE fans were stunned to learn that Hasbro now openly disdains its original “razors and blades” marketing strategy (see story HERE). Captain Action, by comparison, was a toy line heavily advertised on that self-same strategy. It was predicated on the idea that a child needed only ONE CA figure and that he (or she) could then change that ONE figure into a wide variety of superheroes simply by changing its costumes. Indeed, Ideal’s original CA became better know for its costume sets than its figures (see commercial below).

Whether or not CAE’s efforts to reinvent and reinvigorate the CA brand succeed still remains to be seen. Meanwhile, its existing customer base of “maturing” collectors, will continue to stand by patiently waiting, money in hand, and hoping against hope for the release of ANY new 1:6 scale products. (Remember the highly anticipated Rocketeer, Batman and Superman costume sets?)

In this closeup of a package mock-up for an upcoming CA Batman set, assorted DC Direct parts and simple cardboard cutouts are used to indicate the sort of contents fans can expect to see. (Photo: Toygodd)

Don’t get your hopes up, Bat Fans— In this closeup of a package mock-up for a proposed 1:6 scale Batman costume set, assorted DC Direct parts and simple cardboard cutouts were used to indicate what fans might expect to receive. Sadly, this set is now on indefinite HOLD. (Photo: Toygodd)

In a recent face-off with fans, CAE executive, Joe Ahearn, responded (once again) to comments from discouraged fans in a revealing back-n-forth online discussion that proved quite illuminating. It’s wonderful what we can learn when a bunch of well-educated toy executives and collectors all get together in the same place online. In this case, the discussion in question took place over on the CA Yahoo fan forum found HERE and began with a heartfelt post left by nevergrewup_90:

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“I won’t make assessments regarding anyone’s efforts. I’m sure that a lot of hard work has been done to get us to this point. I’ll just state my interests. I’ve been a Captain Action fan since the beginning. I have all of the original costume sets and enough Captain Actions, Action Boys and Dr. Evils to wear them all. I even have Captains wearing a jet pack and a parachute. I have all of the Playing Mantis and Round 2 costume sets and figures as well.

I’ve never had any interest in owning a Silver Streak, even as a child. Comic books were never an interest either. My only interest for the future would be in the form of 1:6 figures and costumes. I would include Lady Action in that, but the Phicen-based Lady Action is well beyond what I would be willing to spend. Besides, with the various incarnations of Captain Action being slightly less than 1:6, I would imagine she would be noticeably out of scale there.

Smaller figures and novelties don’t interest me either. My fear is that the 1:6 line has already reached the end without the beloved Batman and Superman costumes, along with an Action Boy to sport a Robin costume.” —nevergrewup_90

Fortunately, CAE’s head honcho, Joe Ahearn, saw the above post and offered this candid reply:

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Joe Ahearn, founder of Captain Action Enterprises (Photo: CAE)

Joe Ahearn, founder of Captain Action Enterprises (Photo: CAE)

“Gentlemen, I would like to just say a couple of things. As far as 1/6 scale product is concerned, we of course would love to have all the stuff we all want to see out there. But due to circumstances beyond our control, it has not been able to come to pass. 

We are trying to look into a lot of different options, but all of these things take a lot longer than we would like them to. As soon as we can get some more 1/6 scale product out there, we most certainly will. It is certainly not a dead line for us by any stretch of the imagination.

We have tried to keep 1/6 items out there through our convention variants, the new Lady Action figure, the footlockers and most recently, custom heads from Marshall Made Collectibles. In the meantime, as businessmen, we need to keep the Captain Action brand moving forward in other ways to keep it growing and viable.

Do you need to like all of those other things? No you do not. If they are not your cup of tea, that’s cool, but we need to keep doing these things. Because otherwise, if we have NOTHING going on, no one will see Captain Action as a viable property, and any negativity about these other things also reflects back to our ability to do 1/6 scale stuff as well.

We need to show the depth of this license. Captain Action cannot survive as a one-trick-pony 12-inch action figure. We are still also working very hard on the animation side and are hoping to have a NEW ANNOUNCEMENT to share in a couple of weeks at SDCC.

I hope we get some Bad Guys Customs for our figure contest from a lot of you out there who are so hungry to play in the 1/6 scale sandbox. It would be a great show of support for 1/6 scale  that we can use to help move things forward! Thanks always for your support of Captain Action.”Joe Ahearn, CAE

CA fan and collector, Al Hartman, represented fans who choose to remain optimistic, stating:

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Al Hartman, Captain Action fan & collector (Photo: Al Hartman)

Al Hartman, Captain Action fan & collector (Photo: Al Hartman)

“I want to add this to what Joe just wrote… Please don’t assume that the current state of the 1/6th line is going according to some purpose and plan by Joe and Ed. The first two people who want to see the DC wave on store shelves are CA’s premiere fans; Catto and Ahern (notice the first two letters of their names? huh? huh?).

They are not playing ‘keep away.’ They want to move forward, but are depending on R2 and the factories in Asia. We have to be patient and hope that the sets we want will show up under our trees someday.

Until then, they are trying to bring us other goodies. I appreciate that. Thanks guys! —Al Hartman

CA collector, Paul Dodd, represented frustrated fans with such questions and comments as:

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“Al, I appreciate your opinion, and for beating the CA bandwagon drum. But, unless you work for R2, how do you know any of this to be true? It’s been a very long time since the DC license was announced, and a very long time since Wolverine & Iron Man.

And since then, we have heard from Joe & Ed several times, (and seriously guys, I’m not calling you out here) and the story has been the same. Never anything concrete, just a lot of dancing around the issue, without revealing the real meat & potatoes of the problem.

Have the licenses expired? Has R2 severed its relationship with CAE? (or vice versa)Is there some sort of stalemate between the two? Is it a production issue? Or, POS problem?

There has been multiple crowd funding efforts for other non 1:6 C/A figures. Why can’t something like that be done for a DC uniform/equipment set? There is a reason, we just don’t know what the big secret is.

Me personally, I would like to know more. But I know these things are not my business. What I do know is other similar superhero lines are being produced on time, and with pretty high standards. Even the little GIjOE Collectors Club produces new, classically styled 1:6 product a couple of times a year. (Did you see their ‘Fantastic Freefall’ convention set?)

There is way more to this than just ‘circumstances beyond our control.’ And to me at least, it’s a cryin’ shame.” —Paul Dodd

Toy Expert and Pop-Culture Blogger, Rudy Panucci (Photo: Rudy Panucci)

Toy Expert and Pop-Culture Blogger, Rudy Panucci (Photo: Rudy Panucci) Click to enlarge.

Toy industry expert, Rudy Panucci, offered his own professional viewpoint of the current CA dilemma, stating:

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“I might be able to shed a little light on this as an impartial observer who’s offering educated guesses. In order for Captain Action to have DC and Marvel costumes sold, they have to be in the mass market at an affordable price, or be premium-priced low-production run items. Obviously the goal is to hit the mass market. In order to sell to the mass market, there have to be retailers willing to sell the costume sets, as well as a supply of figures. They have to be willing to sell these items at a price that allows everyone to make aprofit.

Due to the toy licenses held by Mattel and Hasbro, DC and Marvel costume sets can never be sold in the same package with a figure. In essence,they are “model kits.” Retailers would prefer dressed figures. They are running away, screaming, from the “razors and blades” concept. It’s even hurting Mattel’s Barbie line. Costume sets are a hard sell. The license to sell DC and Marvel model kits (and other items) is held by Round2. For CAE to produce DC and Marvel product, they have to go through Round2 to piggyback on their license. Effectively, Round2 is licensing from DC, Marvel and CAE to produce their figures. CAE is shouldering some of the risk, in order to get the product made.

The license has not expired. There are no production issues any tougher than any other small toy company experiences. The problem is finding a retail partner. Round2 is willing to go back into production as long as CAE has retailers lined up. They’re still working on that. TRU has had a management and philosophy change. They are no longer open to the idea of carrying Captain Action (at least not right now, maybe in a year things will change). Walmart would be perfectly willing to carry Captain Action if they could buy them at a wholesale price that would be slightly below the cost of production.

Target is gun-shy on exclusives from smaller companies these days. They’d be interested in online-only sales, but they don’t want to give up shelf space. Sears and K Mart are barely in the toy business at all anymore. Diamond Select is not only a distributor, but also a manufacturer, and their customer base is comic book shops and TRU. If they try to sell Captain Action through DST, and every comic shop orders two of each item–that will only amount to five or six-thousand orders. That’s not enough to turn a profit due to the license fees.

Remember that, in the case of Superman and Batman, DC gets paid first.Then Round2. Then returns and defective units are deducted. Then CAE gets whatever’s left… if there is anything. If they go through Diamond, the wholesale price is probably 40% of theretail price. Then the licensors get paid. Then the manufacturer. If they crowd-fund, they may not be able to go through Round2 and use thelicense. Even if they did, you’re still looking at comic-shop numbers.

To be honest, I’m surprised that Ed and Joe are still managing to keep the character viable. By dealing with smaller licensees like Marshall Made Collectibles, 3rd Son Books, Airship 27, Dynamite Comics, Zica and the other folks who have ‘borrowed’ Captain Action for various figure lines, they’ve managed to keep Captain Action alive as a property that more and more people know. You’d never see Hasbro or Mattel invest this much time in a revival of a toy from fifty years ago. Just look at how Hasbro bungled the fiftieth anniversary of GIjOE! Mattel only keeps the Major Matt Mason trademarks because they hope someone will make a movie someday.

This is obviously a labor of love for Ed and Joe, and I think us fans need to realize that and be patient. They’re working hard on this in an industry that is more secretive than the military industrial complex. They can’t tell us every detail of every ongoing negotiation because that would probably kill any deal that they’re working on. They can’t really risk complaining in public about retailers when they’re trying to convince them to carry their product.

My advice to Ed and Joe is to maybe look into less conventional retailers. Cracker Barrel Restaurants (630 stores) have large “general stores” loaded with retro toys and 1960s TV shows on DVD. They may beopen to a fiftieth anniversary product, if the price is right and the right characters are involved. That one deal won’t be big enough for a whole line, but it could attract the attention of a larger retailer. Just my two cents.” —Rudy Panucci

Cracker Barrel's toy shelves are nothing to sneeze at. Take a look at this recent photo. WOW! (Photo: wideopencountry) Click to enlarge.

A Future Home for Captain Action? Rudy Panucci’s idea of slotting CA products on the shelves at Cracker Barrel restaurants is nothing to sneeze at. Take a look at this recent photo of some of the chain’s great “retro” toys for sale. WOW! (Photo: wideopencountry) Click to SUPER enlarge.

In closing, CAE’s Joe Ahearn sought to reassure fans of 1:6 scale Captain Action by saying:

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“We are certainly not dancing around the issue. I’m sure you can understand that as businessmen under contract with different project partners, we are not always at liberty to discuss things in exact details with the public.

I tried my best to give an overview to give everyone the gist of the current scenario. It shouldn’t really matter what the exact details are, rather knowing that we are not giving up on getting new 12-inch stuff out to you guys should be the big take away. When that will be, we cannot say. But it is still on the table.” —Joe Ahern

Bottom Line: An emotional tug-of-war continues to be waged between frustrated collectors and manufacturers of 1:6 scale Captain Action products. Our sincerest thanks to those who continue to keep Cap’s legacy alive through such well-informed discussion. Let Justice Be Done!

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