Collectors Group Learns to Apply “Teamwork Strategies” to Achieve Greater Success When Searching Flea Markets For “Lost” G.I. Joes

Searching for anything as small as a GIjOE at a flea market is much like looking for a needle in a haystack. But by applying various teamwork strategies, members of GIjOE collector clubs can efficiently "canvas" the giant sale events. This giant, hand-painted, vintage "freak show" banner heralding "Nina, the Headless Wonder" was visible to everyone from hundreds of yards away. Unfortunately, GIJoes are MUCH harder to locate. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This giant, hand-painted, freak-show banner heralding “Nina, the Headless Wonder” was easily spotted by attendees at the recent “Third Sunday Market” in Bloomington, IL. By contrast, locating 12-inch action figures at such massive public sales can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Again, "size matters" when you're looking through literally MILLIONS of objects for only a few certain ones. In this case, what looked like a GIJOE from across one of the pavilions, turned out to actually be an over-sized Douglas MacArthur doll measuring approximately 18" or more in height. While he was close, ol' MacArthur wasn't QUITE the sort of GIjOE we were looking for. Our search went on! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

“Size matters” when you’re looking through literally MILLIONS of objects for only a few certain ones. We wondered why this “Joe” stood out so well from across the pavilion. It turns out he’s not a GIjOE at all, but rather an over-sized Douglas MacArthur doll measuring approximately 24″ or more in height. Definitely cool, but Ol’ Mac wasn’t exactly the type of GIjOE we were looking for. We decided to leave him for some doll collector or military history buff. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Learning to Search for “Lost” Joes—As a TEAM

Five months ago, we documented a typical search and rescue mission for a “lost” GIjOE. In that case, it was a Talking Adventure Team Commander in very good condition in his original box. Somehow, the poor guy had become trapped and “paralyzed” within a display case. Nooooo!!!!! When we learned he was going to be put up for auction, an urgent call went out for his immediate “rescue” and all loyal Joeheads in the area quickly came his aid (see story and photos HERE).

In this, the second of our “Searching for Lost GIjOEs” articles, we decided to tag along with members of the Central Illinois GIjOE Collector’s Club (CIGCC) and document their day at the Third Sunday Market (TSM). If you’ve never heard of it, TSM is a massive indoor-outdoor flea market held (as you might expect) every third Sunday of the month on the sprawling grounds of the massive Interstate Center in Bloomington, Illinois. With hundreds of dealers and thousands of buyers in attendance, we felt it would be a perfect opportunity to witness several successful GIjOE “search and rescue” missions. However, the day did not go quite as the club expected…

Big Crowds Mean Big Delays

Learn from the mistakes of others, dear readers. If you plan on attending a flea market, understand right off the bat that they are popular—and crowded—events. Allow plenty of extra time for travel, parking and dealing with the crowds. Originally, the members of the CIGCC had told us that they hoped to gather at the front entrance to the market at 9 AM. Unfortunately, heavy attendance created longer traffic delays in the parking areas, longer walk-up times and congestion.

As a result, club members arrived at widely different times, some over an hour later than the first. And repeatedly, rather than wait the morning away at the entrance, eager members (understandably) would begin the day’s search on their own, leaving latecomers to their own devices. Upon reflection, it would have been much better for everyone to rally at an outside location, such as a nearby Walmart parking lot, before driving the final mile to the market together, thereby ensuring everyone could park and arrive together (Oh well, live and learn).

So close! And yet... As we walked up, this Marine-Cowboy LOOKED like he might've been a GIjOE, but he turned out to be a Big Jim character or other something. Disappointed, we didn't stick around to find out. Adios, Cowboy! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

At first glance, this oddly attired “Cowboy Marine” looked like a GIjOE, but turned out to be some sort of smaller “Big Jim” character instead. Disappointed, we left the scowling (and handless) figure behind for someone else to “rescue” and continued searching for REAL GIjOEs. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Creating a Cell-Phone “Hotline”

After an erratic and disappointing start, the club regrouped and decided to utilize smarter and more efficient “teamwork strategies” to improve their search prospects. Early arriving members had already perused the grounds for over an hour and imparted their advanced knowledge to the newcomers much as a “scout”would do. Such intel can be an invaluable timesaver when facing a large, crowded sale.

Determined, the members dispersed and began their search anew. Spreading out through the masses of shoppers, the individual club members all shared one common goal: “Rescue Lost GIjOEs!” As we followed along, we noticed that their cell phones soon began to buzz back and forth. Whenever a member located a dealer with some sort of “lost Joes,” he described what the items were, and where they had been found.

If interested, the other members would quickly make a bee-line to the site. And if not interested, they would simply continue on their own way. As the club’s search party strategy began to play out, its cleverness became obvious in terms of both simplicity and efficiency. Cell phones were indispensable to the plan’s outcome and are a must-have tool for its successful implementation. Indeed, it was clear to us that being able to fan out and yet remain in constant contact with other members had given the club tremendous advantages over the search capabilities of an individual. One member put it this way:

“Flea Markets like this are just too big for us all to stay together. This one had 2 indoor pavilions, 4 outdoor pavilions and all of the surrounding grounds, FULL of booths and people sellin’. You have to use a cell phone if you’re going to stay in touch. Tell your readers to be sure they share their cell phone numbers with other club members so they can all keep each other updated.

For example, I just found a great booth waaay over there in the corner of this field, and it had about 20 Classic Collection Joes plus a bunch of Jeeps and other 1:6 scale vehicles and stuff. I put out a call, and suddenly —WHOMP! All the other club members descended on it like locusts. Now THAT’S successful teamwork strategy! “

This all-metal "footlocker" was misleading stickered as being "GIjOE" by its seller, but in actuality it was MUCH larger '60s-ish knock-off. Its condition and graphics were in pretty fair shape, and looking back at it now, we regret not making an offer for it. Oh, well! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

As our search progressed, this all-metal “footlocker” caught our attention. It was misleading labeled as being “GIjOE” by its seller, while in actuality it was a MUCH larger ’60s-ish “knock-off” trunk. Its overall condition and graphics were pretty nice, and we regret not making an offer on it when we had the chance. Once cleaned up, it would have made a VERY cool “treasure chest” for any vintage GIjOE collection. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This elaborately carved wooden bench is actually in perfect 1:6 scale! It was missing only that one little piece in its back rest. The dealer told us it was a miniature music box and that it still worked. What a great prop this would make for any 1:6 diorama. His asking price? $400. Oh well... (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This elaborately carved wooden bench is actually in perfect 1:6 scale! It was missing only that one little piece in its back rest. The dealer told us it was a miniature music box and that it still worked. What a great prop this would make for any 1:6 diorama. His asking price? $400. Oh well… (Photo: Mark Otnes)

We found a few of these wooden doll swings for about $35 each, perfect for 1:6 scale figures. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

We found a few of these wooden swings for $35 each, perfect for 1:6 scale figures. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

As members began to close in on GIjOE, CIGCC member, Brad Curry, was the first to hit paydirt when he snagged this superb Super Joe "Terron" monster for only $5. What a deal! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

As members began to close in on GIjOE, CIGCC member, Brad Curry, was the first to hit paydirt when he snagged this superb Super Joe “Terron” monster for only $5. What a deal! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Finally! We discovered these two authentic, "Lost" GIjOEs in their old footlocker in a dealer booth in one of the outdoor pavilions. Yes, they had some broken hands, missing feet and patchy scalps, but the two veteran adventure teamers could've been easily repaired. Unfortunately, the owner was set at $175 and would accept nothing less. We whispered to the Joes told them "not to give up," and that "SOMEONE will rescue them soon." (It just wasn't going to be us!) (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Finally! We discovered these two authentic, “Lost” GIjOEs in their old footlocker in a dealer booth in one of the outdoor pavilions. Yes, they had some broken hands, missing feet and patchy scalps, but the two veteran adventurers could’ve easily been repaired. Unfortunately, the owner would only sell it all together at $150 and would accept nothing less. We whispered to the Joes to “not to give up hope” and that “someone will come along to rescue them soon.” (It just wasn’t going to be us!) (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Here's a nice little pile we located indoors, all reasonably priced. Remember, if you don't need it, don't just walk away. Call your fellow club members and then "Stand Guard!" (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Here’s a nice assortment we located indoors, all reasonably priced. Remember, if you don’t need something, don’t just walk away. Call up your fellow club members and then “Stand Guard!” That MIB Snake Eyes or Marine Corps Sniper might make someone in your club VERY happy! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Yet another booth under yet another outdoor pavilion produced yet another vintage footlocker with equipment and two MORE bearded adventurer Joes. The figures were in loose, but good condition. After doing some mental calculations on its worth, we were shocked when the owner said "$250, no less!" We notified other club members, but no one in our group was interested at that price. Regretably, we had to leave the two "lost" Joes to their uncertain future fate at the flea market. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Yet another booth under yet another outdoor pavilion yielded yet another vintage footlocker with equipment and two MORE bearded adventurers. These figures were in loose, but nice condition. It was marked at $200, and we were saddened when the dealer adamantly declared, “I’ll take $175, but no less!” We notified the other club members, but no one was interested at that price and we were forced to abandon the two “lost” Joes to their uncertain fate. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Success! The slightly smug, clearly contented expression on the face of CIGCC member, Tony Carducci, reveals his true inner feelings after "rescuing" two "lost" MIB adventurers from the "clutches" of a dealer at the Third Sunday Market in Bloomington, IL. Just before he made this score, Tony had sent out a call regarding another Joe sighting, bringing us over in time to capture this photo at Tony's "moment of triumph!" (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Success! The slightly smug, clearly contented expression on the face of CIGCC member, Tony Carducci, reveals his true inner feelings after “rescuing” two “lost” MIB adventurers ($9 each) from the “clutches” of a dealer at the Third Sunday Market in Bloomington, IL. Just before he made this score, Tony had sent out a call regarding another Joe sighting. We arrived in time to capture this photo of his “moment of triumph!” (Photo: Mark Otnes)

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While not a GIjOE item per se, this beautiful, vintage Navy ship’s signal light would make a KILLER decor item for any respectable “Man Cave” or Joe Room. Before you move on, let your fellow club members know about it. OOH-rah! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Be Systematic. Be Savvy. Be Helpful!

As our time at the flea market wound down, the success of the club’s search strategy had proven itself time and time again. By using their cell phones like walkie-talkies, the members had been able to cast the widest possible “search net.” If we learned anything from observing the members of the CIGCC that day, it was that utilizing well-planned and smartly executed “teamwork strategies” is vital to a successful Joe-search. If you haven’t already, we highly recommend that you locate and join a local division of the official GIjOE Collector’s Club in your area. If there isn’t any, start up one of your own! And then, take advantage of your new club’s “strength in numbers.”

Bottom Line: Finding and rescuing any GIjOE figure, accessory or vehicle is always exciting. But sharing that feeling with others makes it doubly so. If you locate something you don’t need, don’t just walk away. Take a moment to use your cell phone and notify other club members as to its location. If you can, wait for them to arrive, even “standing guard” over it if possible. As they walk up, point the item(s) out, and enjoy the expression of delight as it spreads over their faces. You’ll be happy, and and your fellow Joeheads will be even happier. THAT’S what spreading “Joe Karma” is all about!

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One thought on “Collectors Group Learns to Apply “Teamwork Strategies” to Achieve Greater Success When Searching Flea Markets For “Lost” G.I. Joes

  1. Joe Essid says:

    Prices that dealers ask amazes me. They don’t realize how big a hit Joes are taking as the collector-base ages. I’ve sold about 40 online, in decent unis, from $30-$60 each for AT, a bit more for military-era Joes.

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