Ace Allgood Discovers Rare, Vintage, “Japanese Yellow-Body” Prototype G.I. Joe at Joelanta 2013

Widely respected collector and renowned authority on GIjOEs, Ace Allgood, holds up a vintage 1960’s Japanese “Yellow-Body” skin-color prototype figure recently discovered at the Joelanta 2013 toy show in Atlanta, GA. According to Allgood, the figure is 1 of only 3 known to exist. (Photo: Mark Otnes)


“Officially, this figure NEVER existed.” —Don Levine

In this side-by-side comparison, a standard mass-produced vintage Japanese GIjOE appears to console his much rarer "yellow-bodied" cousin. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

In this side-by-side comparison, a standard mass-produced vintage Japanese GIjOE (left) appears to console his much rarer “yellow-bodied” cousin. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Ace Allgood could barely contain himself as he ushered me over to his dealer booth last Sunday, at Joelanta 2013.

“Mark! Come here and take a look at THIS!” he said, excitedly.

Although I’m used to seeing Ace all “hyped-up” at GIjOE shows (he REALLY loves GIjOEs), I couldn’t help but wonder what he had found.

“What is it?” I replied, curiously.

“Check it out, dude! A Japanese Yellow-Body! Ever hear about these? Betcha haven’t seen one before!” he said, by now practically squealing with delight.

For those of you who’ve never met Ace, he is truly a great guy and one of the leading “unofficial ambassadors” of the GIjOE-collecting hobby. A widely respected authority on vintage-era figures, Allgood believes this figure is an ultra-rare, “Japanese Yellow-Body” skin-color prototype that GIjOE’s “father,” Don Levine officially declared “never existed.” But clearly, this rare Joe DID exist.

Despite its superb headsculpt, Hasbro's difficulty reproducing accurate Japanese skin tones was evident again over 40 years later with its odd "clay-colored" Nisei figure. (Photo: amazon)

Over 40 years later, Hasbro again attempted to create an accurate Japanese skin tone for its 442 ID Nisei figure. Despite a superb headsculpt, the figure’s skintone received mixed reviews from collectors. (Photo: amazon)

The obvious difference between this unproduced prototype Japanese figure and any later, mass-produced version, is its sickly, jaundiced-looking yellow body color. It seemed clear to the fans who had gathered around to discuss the rare piece, that Hasbro must’ve produced a small batch of them for a quick series of pre-production skin-color tests.

The prototype’s too-yellow color must’ve seemed controversial or “fake” and therefore was deemed unacceptable for public sale. But how such a rare test figure (typically discarded) had ended up in a hotel conference room in Atlanta, GA over 50 YEARS LATER was anybody’s guess. But there it was. And Ace couldn’t have been happier!

Bottom Line: Something new and intriguing about GIjOE’s history is always being discovered. According to Allgood, this prototype “yellow-body” is just 1 of 3 that are now known to exist, making it a very rare collectible indeed. Congratulations…and BONZAI!

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12 thoughts on “Ace Allgood Discovers Rare, Vintage, “Japanese Yellow-Body” Prototype G.I. Joe at Joelanta 2013

  1. kneonknight says:

    Nice catch, Ace! I always thought the vintage Japanese head with its grim scowl looked a bit like Toshiro Mifune. I’m just hoping the ‘yellow body’ doesn’t cause as much ruckus over on The Trenches as ‘amber goggles’ apparently did.

    As for the 90s 442nd Nisei headsculpt, that was a big bucket of fail. He looked like he had not only jaundice, but Down syndrome and microcephaly as well. I finally ended up buying a Cotswold Elite figure and “Keiji” head to display the uniform on because I just couldn’t stand to look at that awful thing. I have seen many, many fine examples of Asiatic head sculpts, but Hasbro only seems to have managed it one time, nearly 50 years ago.

  2. GIJOEBILL says:

    Very cool rare variation.
    I could not be happier that Ace has one of these in his collection.
    Cant think of anyone in our hobby who’s Joekarma should end up with one of these.

  3. kneonknight says:

    The whole ‘yellow body” thing is kind of puzzling…if this was a test shot, then why was the head produced in the ‘normal’ skin tone? And if they already had the normal skin tone for the head, why not just slap it on one of the bodies already in stock?

    I really don’t know, but the emphatic denials of the very existence of the item is rather interesting. You have to remember that not many years before the SOTW line appeared, there was a breakfast cereal called Rice Krinkles that featured a very exaggerated stereotype of an Asian boy, which changed its packaging as the U.S. became more sensitive to racial and cultural issues. Perhaps the intent was to produce a Japanese soldier that embodied the ‘yellow peril’, but it was nixed because of a) the growing civil rights movement and b) not wishing to offend our South Vietnamese, South Korean and Japanese allies – remember, we were neck deep in Southeast Asia, and these figures would have most likely appeared in the PX at our overseas bases. Again, only the persons in charge of the decison to make and the decision to cancel the yellow body know the whole story, and have decided not to share, perhaps even taking the answers to their graves.

    Finally, from personal experience, I do know that prolonged exposure to the sun will turn a vintage body a yellowish color similar to the examples shown, however, in order to produce the uniform hue seen in the known examples of the true yellow body, one would have to leave the Figure out of doors for a long period of time and assure that all sides of the figure were exposed to the sun equally. The only problem with this scenario is that the time required is on the order of years, and that the ultraviolet rays from the sun that cause the bleaching also turn the plastic brittle.

    Until someone uncovers the documents and memos pertaining to this oddity, or someone decides to speak up, it will probably be a curiosity that is much speculated about, but never explained.

    • Mike says:

      Take the body apart and then soak it in yellow dye, anything like Rit dye.. without the head of course.. and voila! you have a yellow body. The dye sets deep in the plastic and not just the surface, so if you scratch it, it will still be yellow. If Hasbro had made a special batch of yellow plastic for the body they would have done the head too. Since it was suppose to be pre-prototype right? Why create a freak with yellow body and a non yellow head? If they wanted to test how it looks, they would have gone all the way. Obviousl,y the head can’t be dipped in dye or the eyes would get tinted yellow. Those can be repainted white, but the black hair becomes amber color. Repainting the hair would be too obvious. I am more inclined to believe Don Levine.

  4. Some posts on FB are claiming there may be as many as 6 of these, but there’s probably no such thing as an official count. Whatever the total number, it’s still most likely in the single digits.

    • Steve says:

      Facebook can add at least two more complete ones which I have in my collection and three incomplete ones that I sold on E-Bay a few years back. I bought a large GI Joe collection from an original owner several years ago but at the time, there wasn’t much talk about the rarity so I didn’t pay much attention to what state I got them. I believe they were sold for a short time in a certain region, much as I believe the rare Muscle Body Figures w/Hard Hands were.

      I’m not saying they were exclusive to Hawaii or Alaska where I found two (also the original owner), but when you take into account the climate in those areas, it would stand to reason how that might have happened. The extreme temperatures can’t be good for the rubber Kung-Fu Grip hands.

      One more thing about the yellow bodies, they didn’t appear to be exclusive to Japanese figures because of the five bodies that I had, three had regular heads on them. None had Japanese heads, but I’m sure that’s what people are doing with them now.

      The astronomical prices they command is for the bodies, no matter what head is on it so why not switch them out. Anyway, those are my thoughts and that’s been my experience.

  5. kneonknight says:

    There are people on FB who claim to have seen Elvis hunting Sasquatch and Chupacabras from the front seat of a flying saucer that was being towed by Nessie.

  6. Ace Allgood says:

    What is great is an article like this brings them out of the woodwork a bit.
    I know of 6 as of now… so Im sure there are more… Great fun everyone!

  7. edude says:

    I’m aware of at least 6 of them. There are more than 6 for sure

  8. GIJOEBILL says:

    I also like the fact we do not know “everything” about GIjOE.
    Most of it, but like this Joe…who knows?

    It’s cool to have some mystery and folklore.

  9. Tom Yellow Face says:

    Is there a newer thread about the yellow head / body versions?

    I’m specifically looking for more details about this version with the yellow head at L & L Collectables:

    I have one that’s nearly identical to that. I’ve had it for about 20 years and just found out about the yellow skin possibly being a rare prototype. I’m looking for good information. Any help is welcomed.

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