“Super-Collector” Irving Santiago Awarded “GIjOE Special Forces” Ring by Hasbro Toy Company Executive, Kirk Bozigian

Irving Santiago during the Lobby Swap at Joelanta 2012. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

A closeup of one of the racks of merchandise Irving had for sale. Each vintage box had the correct vintage figure inside. It was a dream come true!
(Photo: Mark Otnes)

I recently met Irving Santiago at the 2012 Joelanta GIjOE Show in Atlanta, Georgia. It was the unofficial “Lobby Swap” and he was presiding over a large rack of vintage 12″ GIjOEs, many in their original boxes. I asked him if he had a Bulletman for sale and he quickly replied, “Oh, sure. I’ve got two of those.” Hoo-yeah. Paydirt!

After chatting a while, I learned that Irving is in sales in Miami, and has been a die-hard GIjOE fan and collector for over 35 years. You might even call him a “Super Collector,” because during that long period, he’d gathered together what is now surely, one of the world’s largest GIjOE collections ever assembled by one individual. A huge fan of all sizes and incarnations of GIjOE, Irving told me…

“At the height of my collecting, I had over 14,000 of the smaller figures and over 3,000 vehicles. I even owned TWELVE of the giant USS Flagg Aircraft Carriers. Whether it was big or small, vintage or new, if it was GIjOE-related—I wanted it, collected it and owned it!”

A closeup of Irving’s unique “GIjOE Special Forces” ring, awarded to him by Hasbro’s Kirk Bozigian. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Over those years, Irving’s collection grew so large that eventually, Hasbro’s Vice-President of Boys Toys Marketing, Kirk Bozigian heard about it and rewarded Irving for his fanatical customer loyalty by giving him a unique class ring with the words “GIjOE Special Forces” engraved in a circle around a blue jewel. Irving proudly wears that ring to this day.

Irving’s dealer area ran “wall-to-wall” at this year’s Joelanta. It was an amazing opportunity for Joe fans looking for vintage figures. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Somewhat stunned by the huge numbers in his collection, I snapped a few more photos, thanked him politely for his time and continued on my way. The next day, I saw Irving again. This time, he had set up the LARGEST dealer area at Joelanta. I call it an “area” because his merchandise racks literally lined up “wall-to-wall” in the main dealer’s room. He had hundreds and hundreds of GIjOEs for sale.

Bottom Line: Sadly, I couldn’t afford Irving’s Bulletman this year, so I just watched helplessly while other fans approached his astounding “Joe Bazaar.” We all stood there, mouths agape, literally overwhelmed by the sheer number of vintage 12″ boxed figures in front of us. It was quite a breathtaking display. Congratulations on your special ring, Irving. And best wishes, my fellow fanatic! (Hopefully, Bulletman played it smart and kept his head down so I can snag him next time!)

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5 thoughts on ““Super-Collector” Irving Santiago Awarded “GIjOE Special Forces” Ring by Hasbro Toy Company Executive, Kirk Bozigian

  1. Ace says:

    Irv is a FANTASTIC guy and a true lover of GI Joe- I didn’t know about his fancy ring… SUPER COOL!

  2. kneonknight says:

    Just from the photo, Mr. Santiago looks like he should be inducted into the “Hall of Fame” with his own personal Joe sculpt, maybe as a Marine Corps Heavy Weapons Specialist. Carry on, Irv, the hobby needs more guys like you.

  3. irving santiago says:

    thanks for all your comments …yes i’m a big fan sorry i replied so late because i was not aware of this report but one of my friends told me and send me to the link ….I’m very grateful for this gesture thank you.

  4. Merly says:

    That is awesome, Irving….Congrats..very proud of you!

  5. Johna902 says:

    A big thank you for your article. Thanks again. Great!

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