You had it—And threw it away.
An often overlooked aspect of GIjOE collecting is the accumulation of Joe-related paper materials, also referred to as “ephemera.” Somewhat different from amassing a collection of books (see previous article HERE), this category of collecting includes a variety of “lesser” paper goods such as product brochures, instruction sheets, club newsletters, magazines, comic book ads, catalogs, posters, print advertisements, etc.—wherever GIjOE has appeared in printed form.
Let’s begin by admitting there’s NO WAY for any one person to know everything about GIjOE ephemera. As its name implies, most of it was intended only for short-term use, before being thrown away and forgotten. The reality is there’s simply been too many products created over too many years, in too many languages (and variations) to know about them all. “Lost” items are constantly discovered by collectors. It’s AMAZING how much material is out there!
Our goal in this article will simply be to discuss the more familiar examples of GIjOE ephemera; their origins, rarity and importance. From there, we’ll open the floor up to YOU, our readers, in hopes that you will suggest your own unique ephemera findings and/or their previously unknown variations.
The Origins of GIjOE Ephemera Collections
Fans of “Golden Age” ’60s and ’70s GIjOEs all began their ephemera collections as children. Instruction sheets, service manuals and GijOE club newsletters were regularly provided by Hasbro during those heady early years, and from 1964 to 1978, it was difficult NOT to accumulate a wide variety of printed Joe materials. Fans who came of age during the “Silver Age” of the ’80s and ’90s (aka the “Classic Collection and RAH Era”) enjoyed another avalanche of new products and related ephemera.
During both periods, ephemera-collecting fans will remember leafing through the full-color ads of their Sunday paper and coming across new GIjOE “store exclusives” advertised in Sears, JCPenney, Target or Walmart inserts. “I’m gunna keep this!” you may have wisely decided; perhaps if only to remind yourself to make a quick “Joe Run” later in the week. Then, months later, long after the advertisement’s usefulness had expired, instead of throwing it out, you decided to KEEP that piece of flimsy newsprint. Years later, those old ad are some of the rarest examples of GIjOE ephemera. If you saved them… Smooth move, EX-LAX!
The Catch-22 of Ephemera Collecting
Once a collector realizes all those little pieces of paper are a bona fide part of GIjOE’s “history,” it becomes a simple matter to get caught up searching for them. In no time at all, you find yourself scrapbooking every GIjOE ad, catalog, and brochure you can lay your hands on.
Foreign-based Joes such as Action Man, Geyperman and Action Joe are suddenly fair game. Some ephemera collectors even compile notebooks full of ’80s RAH trading cards and backing data sheets. It’s amazing what people will collect, store and archive.
To take a closer look at this burgeoning segment of GIjOE collecting, I enlisted the aid of fellow Joehead and vintage-fanatic, Robert Findlay. Together, we went through piles of various GijOE ephemera to search for a general representation of this category of collectibles. Here’s just a FEW of the examples we found:
We can hear you now…”What about all those Andy and George comic book ads from the 1960s? And how about those ‘Your Mom Threw Them Away’ types of posters?” Yes we know there are MANY more pieces of Joe ephemera out there. Much more than we could ever hope to list here.
If you’re interested in joining the search, you can find photos of a multitude of other pieces in various price guides and GIjOE books, but none of them are ever going to be 100% complete. It’s simply impossible for any one source to show them all!
Well then, you may ask, where does GIjOE ephemera collecting end? It doesn’t! But if the producers of TV’s “Hoarders” ever ring your doorbell, peer in your windows, and see a 10-foot high pile of precariously balanced Joe papers in your livingroom…it may be time for you to slow down a bit.
Bottom Line: GIjOE ephemera may be trashed, but it will NEVER be forgotten, thanks to the borderline-hoarding nature of many GIjOE collectors. If you think of any more categories or unique examples of “Joe papers,” please leave a comment here on The Joe Report for other collectors to read. Who knows? Your tip may lead to the next great GIjOE ephemera discovery!