Fateful Decision Denies Stan Weston, Creator of G.I. Joe, Millions of Dollars in Future Profits

Stan Weston's creation has made Hasbro over a BILLION dollars in profits...and $100,000 for Stan. (Graphic: Jason Liebig)

GIjOE creator Stan Weston’s concept for a “rugged-looking scale doll for boys” has netted Hasbro over one BILLION dollars in profits so far….but only $100,000 for Weston. (Graphic: Jason Liebig)

stanweston

GIjOE creator, Stan Weston
(Photo: Jay Weston)

For those not familiar with his name, Stan Weston is GIjOE’s largely unsung, original concept creator; the man who first came up with the idea that would ultimately become “GIjOE: America’s Movable Fighting Man,” the most popular toy in the world.

Mr. Weston’s crowning achievement in toy history netted him a tidy short-term profit and great fame in his profession. But unfortunately, Stan would make a regrettable business decision that later denied him millions of dollars of guaranteed income. Let’s look back on this intriguing story; the very FIRST chapter of GIjOE’s long, 50-year history…

Imagine you’re Stan Weston. As an up and coming product developer, you’re trying to break into the toy business. You’ve come up with a new idea for a children’s military toy line that includes a “rugged-looking scale doll for boys.” It seems promising enough that you spend $52 of your own money on some art supplies and props to create an official business presentation to Hasbro.

Executives at the toy company, including the eventual “Father of GIjOE,” himself, Don Levine, approve your ideas and greenlight a new product line that ultimately becomes GIjOE. In return for your initial pitch (and personal investment of $52), Hasbro offers you a fair choice of compensation: a small royalty on sales in perpetuity (i.e. forever), or a one-time, “complete buyout” payment of $75,000. Which should you choose?

This is the letter that confirms Stan Weston as the creator of GIjOE, netting him a one-time payment of $100,000. (Photo: Jay Weston) Click to enlarge.

This is the letter that confirms Stan Weston was the creator of GIjOE, netting him a one-time payment of $100,000. (Photo: Jay Weston) Click to enlarge.

Tough negotiator that you are, you decide to hold out for $100,000. “Deal!” Hasbro replies. You go home, cash in hand. with NOTHING to be ashamed of and EVERYTHING to proud of. Your “rugged doll” concept jumpstarts the creation of what is now recognized as, “The World’s Most Popular Toy.” Pretty good for a couple of days work!

Unfortunately…while the $100,000 you received was a LOT of money back in 1963 (it really was!), your decision to accept Hasbro’s buyout offer quickly proves to be one of the biggest missed opportunities of anyone’s lifetime; ultimately resulting in your loss of MILLIONS and MILLIONS of dollars of guaranteed income.

The original protoype figure for GIjOE, created by Don Levine and Hasbro. (Photo: Don Levine) Click to enlarge.

The original protoype figure for GIjOE, created by Don Levine and Hasbro. (Photo: Don Levine) Click to enlarge.

Bottom Line: Over the next 50 years, Hasbro goes on to sell over a BILLION dollars worth of GIjOE merchandise. With no end in sight, the loss in income to Mr. Weston is literally staggering. Fortunately, Stan appears to have few regrets and prefers not to dwell on the past. In an article over on The Huffington Post found HERE, Stan’s brother, Jay Weston, describes Stan’s outlook this way:

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“Stan once told me a story, about how he was introduced at a convention as “The Father of G.I. Joe,” and a young boy came up to him and said, “Thank you. Joe made me a better student and a better boy.” That’s probably worth more in the realm of heaven than any royalty.”


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6 thoughts on “Fateful Decision Denies Stan Weston, Creator of G.I. Joe, Millions of Dollars in Future Profits

  1. kneonknight says:

    Ouch! I’m not sure I could be so accepting of such a personal error, but on the other hand, Mr. Weston had no way of knowing whether Joe would be a success or a catastrophic failure. I have heard that even some of the people on the project were less than optimistic about Joe’s chances in the marketplace.

    In retrospect, I think he made the right choice by accepting a guaranteed sum rather than speculating on the always uncertain future, but still…ouch.

    • Greg says:

      I would agree. The monetary risk was with Hasbro. That concept could have really tanked and they would have been out of quite a bit of dough, while Mr. Weston still had $100,000 in his bank account. Fortunately, the consumer base responded favorably, and G.I. Joe became a profitable brand…

  2. Wayne Faucher says:

    I wonder what the percentage offer was and how that translated into the number of units sold. That is, how long before his percentage cut would have equalled $100,000. It was obviously an astronomical number; Apparently unbelievable, at least to Weston. Like anything, it was a gamble. He certainly didn’t get stiffed, which happens all too often in the idea business. It actually speaks pretty highly of Hasbro’s business practices….

    • kneonknight says:

      Considering the average retail price for one of the basic figures was right around $2.50, they would have had to sell 40,000 units just to reach the $100,000 goal. However, the figures themselves were sold to retailers for considerably less, so the actual number of units may be twice or even three times that. Now, we have no idea what the original royalty offer was, but Jay Weston (Stan’s brother) says that it was “insignificant” and followed some negotiations that were “difficult and disturbing”.

      As this was 1963, I can only imagine that the original offer was for less than $.05 on the dollar, not even enough to buy a cup of coffee. Call it $.03, and Hassenfeld Brothers would have had to sell 3,333,333. 33 (repeating, of course) G.I. Joe figures, at retail prices, before Mr. Weston would have gotten to the $100,000 mark. Of course, the carded and boxed accessories would have contributed to this, and probably would have provided the bulk of the royalties, but the numbers illustrate what a daunting proposal it would have been for an untested and unproven concept.

      Now, here’s the kicker…during his first year, G.I. Joe netted the company $7 million in sales, and quadrupled that to $28 million the second year, for a total of $35 million! That would have netted Mr. Weston $1,050,000 using the hypothetical numbers above.

      OUCH!

      But I have a feeling it all worked out okay. Mr. Weston went on to create Captain Action for Ideal, and was deeply involved in “The World’s Greatest Superheroes” from Mego, and we all know just how popular those were and still are.

  3. kneonknight says:

    Quick addendum: Does the name Brad Weston ring any bells? Hint-he was the President of Production at Paramount Studios who greenlit the G.I. Joe movies. Odd coincidence with the last names, right? Well, it so happens that young Brad is Stan Weston’s son!

    Talk about keeping it in the family…

  4. hilzabub says:

    Interesting post. I do object to your use of the term “guaranteed”. He took the only guaranteed option. The only way ongoing licensing would have been guaranteed is if he had a time machine, in which case he wouldn’t need the petty cash from G.I. Joe.

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