What a difference one word can make.
Was it built to be a toy “FAIR,” toy “SHOW,” or toy “STORE” display? That is the important, defining question. The answer, which may never be substantively proven without official Hasbro documentation or first-person, “I built it” testimony, makes a world of difference in the value of a recently uncovered, somewhat offbeat, one-of-a-kind GIjOE collectible.
Here’s what we do know:
The item in question is a GIjOE figure display or “diorama,” built to show five GIjOEs in various action poses. It contains one each of the four original figures, plus an extra sailor who has been assigned “Signalman” duty (as a SeaBee?) repairing a telephone line.
By most accounts, fans and collectors seem to agree that this is indeed a vintage, 1960s-era display (of some type), and that closeup analysis of the figures confirm they are vintage 60s types and that their uniforms are of vintage 60s production. The display itself is undoubtedly a handcrafted construction made out of old materials including wood, wire, a printed backdrop, and assorted other items. No modern materials (made later than 1965) appear to be present.
The problem is, it’s been almost 50 years since the display was constructed and there is no official documentation attached to it to confirm its true origins. So where did this thing come from? At first, current owner, Chris Voegelin, was only able to provide vague, tantalizing, technical tidbits in his 2011 ebay description, saying…
“We have at auction a very nice, hard to find and one of a kind 1965 G.I.Joe Toy Show Display. This display is handmade of all types of many types of materials. The main base is made of wood and plywood. The stones are styrofoam and the rocks are cork. All of the Joes are wired to the base. The back and sides are paper litho over plywood. The base is 39″ long, 20″ deep and 21″ high. The red G.I.Joe sign looks authentic Hasbro. All of the figures are T.M. Joes and are in excellent condition.”
Intriguing… But most of Voegelin’s description was already evident from the photos. The key phrase that REALLY got fans interested came next, when Voegelin revealed…
“I purchased this from a toy dealer friend about ten years ago who bought it from a Hasbro ex-employee. The dealer was offered $10,000 for this in the late eighties! I have no written documentation on this piece.”
WOW. Now we were getting somewhere! But “no written documentation?” That’s not good. Without some sort of official verification from Hasbro or a trusted Hasbro employee, $10,000 would definitely be an unrealistic price for this item. But… It is a unique display. And it is old. And it does feature 5 very minty, vintage GIjOEs! Clearly then, it’s worth something—but not even close to $10K.
Fans Debate the Display’s Origins
(Editor’s note: At this point in our story, Voegelin’s word-choice of Toy “SHOW” is unintentionally replaced with Toy “FAIR” in a well-meaning online post. This word change may seem subtle to non-fans, but it makes a HUGE difference to collectors.)
Over on the Trenches forum, a fan who had seen the display on ebay and was wondering what other collectors thought about its purported origins, mistakenly used the word Toy “FAIR” when asking:
“I found an auction that claims to be a 1965 Hasbro Toy Fair Display. I’m not saying it is or isn’t, but I am curious what other collectors think about it. I’m most curious about the logo. It’s no G.I. Joe logo that I’ve ever seen, but I could see it as one that Hasbro might have considered. I find it most curious that it does not have any trade mark or copyright indicated.
Other things I find odd: Why 5 Joe’s instead of 4? Why are only 3 hair colors represented? Why are 3 of them laying down, rather than upright and dynamic? All things considered, there’s not a lot of accessories either. For being in the military, they sure are doing mundane things.
Seems to me that if this was a Toy Fair display those are all specific things Hasbro would have wanted to feature. The display doesn’t exactly scream “Fighting man from head to toe.” Thoughts? Especially on that logo?”
To GIjOE collectors, there’s a BIG difference between a Toy “Show” and a Toy “Fair.” Suddenly, Voegelin’s “1965 Toy Show Display” had been blurred into a 1965 Toy FAIR display. The consensus from other fans was mixed, but then respected GijOE collector, David Howard, chimed in with his own specific insight…
“I can say with absolute certainty that the display shown was not the 64 toy fair display. How do I know? I had this discussion with Sam Speers at one of the Joe Cons, RI I think.
At the Con, I asked Sam about the display. He said it was a huge display, about 8′ x 12′ and had at least 25 – 30 figures on it. They were set up in poses based on some of the info in the military’s actual training manuals. He even mentions some of the details in a letter in one of the reference books that has been published.
That is why I asked him when we visited, because the book said he spearheaded the project for the fair. They even used real large rocks, dirt, etc. from his yard in the display. He said they wanted it to be as realistic as possible to how a boy would play in the yard with Joe.
Even without that personal knowledge and conversation I would have said that it probably wasn’t it. The logo head is some kind of cartoon and if you look at all the prototypes Hasbro did back in the day the logo always has the soldier or marine head in the words, even when hand painted, never some kooky looking cartoon image.
Being in the business of marketing/advertising myself I wouldn’t think Hasbro would have ever gone to Toy Fair with their logo being misrepresented like that on a project this huge. This is indeed a display made by hand but not ‘the’ original display. I have been interested in rebuilding that display for myself for a number of years now if I can only find some real tangible photos or drawings. Still neat to look at though and is obviously a vintage display of some sort. Like Roy said, it may have been a Mom and Pop toy store display.”
Finally, I contacted Voegelin myself and asked him if the display (originally listed on ebay at $2,500) had ever been sold and if he had any further information he could provide for this article. He replied that no, it had not been sold, and that…
“It looks professionally made and has a faint 1965 mark on the base. I wish I had a pic of it at a show.”
Bottom Line: There is little doubt that the famous (and very large) 1964 Toy Fair display was disassembled and trashed after the show and is therefore lost to fans forever. It is also CONCEIVABLE that for the 1965 Toy Fair, Hasbro decided to utilize smaller, more manageable tabletop displays such as this one. But this one’s odd logo, poorly posed figures and overall amateurish construction make it a long shot that it had ever been produced by Hasbro.
MOST LIKELY, this display was created by an “artistic someone” working for an east coast “brick-n-mortar” toy store for use in a display window. But for now, the mystery lives on. If you’re interested in purchasing this unusual display, Chris is still accepting offers and you can reach him HERE.