Monthly Archives: August 2014

5th Grade Teacher is Also a Master Customizer and Creator of 1:6 Scale “Natural Environment” Props, Structures and Dioramas For G.I. Joes

Angelo D reveals how he manages to store extra figures and props above and below his current diorama display table. Absolutely ingenious! (Photo: Angelo )

Angelo D’Annibale of New York reveals how he utilizes a wide and DEEP display table (much like a model railroader) to arrange and display two levels of indoor dioramas, while simultaneously storing extra 1:6 scale figures, vehicles and props on the shelf up above. Ingenious! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

One of D'Annibale's handcrafted bamboo cages works perfectly with this "Capture of the Pygmy Gorilla" scene. Outstanding! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

One of D’Annibale’s handcrafted bamboo cages works perfectly with this “Capture of the Pygmy Gorilla” scene. Outstanding! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“What an incentive positive feedback is!”

—Angelo D’Annibale

Years of Collecting Frustration Finally Give Way to an Adulthood Full of Creative Achievement

Many of the master customizers profiled here on The Joe Report stand out not only for their expertise, creativity and artistic prowess (they ALL have those in spades), but also for their uncanny ability to incorporate natural “found” objects and materials into the creation of ultra-realistic 1:6 scale miniature dioramas. Rather than buy everything pre-made and display something everyone else already has, they prefer to put their imaginations and creativity to the ultimate test—customization.

If you’re unaware, examples of found materials would include such items as scraps of wood, rope, metal, riverbed gravel, boulders, stones, sticks, straw, sand and even good ol’ fashioned dirt. Yes, we said DIRT. Remember when playing down in the dirt seemed as natural as breathing? Well, for many GIjOE fans, customizers, and kitbashers of 1:6 scale, that feeling has never gone away!

A "recycled" child's backyard swingset, once repainted and detailed is transformed into a stunningly realistic 1:6 scale WWII bridge photo op. WOW! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo’s “recycled” backyard swing set, once repainted and detailed, is miraculously transformed into an uber-realistic 1:6 scale WWII bridge—and a GREAT place for photos. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

What? Don't you have your own realistic 1:6 foot-bridge? If not, why not MAKE one? Look at what Angelo did with simple scraps. WOW! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

What? You say you don’t you have your own realistic-looking 1:6 scale foot-bridge? Why not MAKE one, just like Angelo? WOW! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

But of course, there’s nothing wrong with utilizing modern or “artificial” materials as well, including items such as styrofoam blocks, paper towel rolls, sheets of styrene plastic, tin cans or any cheap “junk” you can find at a local dollar store. In fact, developing a keen eye for what qualifies as usable 1:6 scale props and building materials is one of the defining traits and hallmarks of a budding “master miniaturist.”

The outstanding customizer we’re profiling today is Angelo D’Annibale of upstate New York, who has really begun to make a name for himself in the 1:6 scale community. Photos his unique “natural” creations have been setting fan forums on fire and prompting many to attempt to duplicate his distinctive handcrafting techniques. We tracked Angelo down recently and asked him to share his backstory regarding his GIjOE collecting addiction, customization methods and display techniques. He generously replied:

“I was born in 1969, so I missed the heyday of GIjOE. By the time I was old enough to understand and play with GIjOEs, the 12″ figures were very hard to find. I recall many afternoons watching in horror as my older cousins tortured poor Joe and used fireworks to maim and disfigure the toy I so badly wanted.”

What an evocative, realistic scene. Superb camera placement and use of perpective, Angelo! At first glance, you'd swear this was a real horse and rider on a REAL bridge. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

What an evocative, realistic scene. Superb camera placement and use of perspective, Angelo! At first glance, you’d swear this was a real horse and rider on a REAL bridge. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“I was determined to have one of my own. Since my cousins littered the grass and sidewalk with disembodied Joe parts, I was able to collect the results of their carnage, one piece at a time. And like a young Dr. Frankenstein, I’d soon pieced together my own, 12-inch, 1:6 scale ‘FrankenJoe.’ In 1978, my family made an overseas trip to Italy. We needed to bring some gifts for my male cousins, so we went shopping at a local Schenectady ‘Two Guys’ department store. Unfortunately, GIjOEs were absent from most store shelves by that time and any hope I had of finding one on the store shelves was non-existent.”

Add another bridge and you double the detail and level of realism. Superb! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

D’Annibale’s custom bridges, roadways, vehicles and figures create unique worlds of imaginative play. Imagine the possibilities! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“I searched for something that would be small enough to place in a suitcase, yet cool enough for my young Italian cousins. As I rounded the next aisle, I was stunned when I saw what I thought was a figment of my imagination— AT G.I.JOEs! It couldn’t be! I had to be dreaming! But no (thankfully), I wasn’t dreaming. There were indeed, several AT figures, in their coffin boxes(!), just waiting for me up there on the shelves. I could hardly contain my excitement! My parents agreed to buy them, they fit perfectly in my suitcase and they definitely had that “cool” factor I had hoped for.”

Annidale proves you don't need a fancy "art studio" or garage to create in 1:6 scale, just desire—and TALENT! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

D’Annibale proves you don’t need a fancy “art studio” or garage to work in 1:6 scale, just desire, determination—and TALENT! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

A closeup of Angelo's new

This closeup of Angelo’s newest structure reveals the use of appropriately sized pieces of bamboo, a variety of wood scraps, string, scaled maps, photos and other props. WOW! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Cheap "dollar store" items such as skulls and alien monsters can also be painted and detailed to work perfectly in D'Annibale's dioramas. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Cheap “dollar store” items such as skulls and alien monsters can also be painted and detailed to work perfectly in D’Annibale’s dioramas. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“My lucky cousins in Italy (Sergio, Rocco and Victorio) all got their GIjOE gifts, but I didn’t get one! My mother told me, ‘These are for family. Not for you.’ I was devastated. Here had been a perfect chance to own my very own, brand-new-in-the-box GIjOEs, but now it appeared that dream would NEVER come true. Of course, two days after arriving in Italy, those new Joes had all lost their pistols, clothing, and one had even plunged to his ultimate demise from the third story of our apartment complex onto the top of my uncle’s car. After that experience, I vowed that I would someday own my own GIjOEs and that I would take VERY good care of them.”

Inspired by the ammunition cart by Dragon (on the right), D'Annibale decided to make one of his own (left). OutSTANDING work, Angelo! Which one do YOU prefer? (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Inspired by the ammunition cart made by Dragon (above, right), D’Annibale decided to make his own (above, left). OutSTANDING work, Angelo! Which one do YOU prefer? (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

The comic that "started it all" for Angelo. Issue #5 of Marvel's GIjOE. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo has a very special attachment to this specific issue of Marvel’s “GIjOE” comic book series and credits it with reigniting his love for the action figure line as he entered adulthood. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“Fast forward 4 years: My parents enjoyed taking long Sunday drives up to Lake George. The car ride was usually boring to me, so I asked for a comic book to read from the local Del Gros Deli convenient store (Sgt. Rock, Sgt. Fury, and The Haunted Tank were all my favorites). That particular Sunday, though, something else caught my eye: a new title showing a tank moving through a park, with men running from it with the name ‘GIjOE’ in bold letters at the top of the cover. I grabbed it and savored every page as we drove to Lake George that day. When I finished reading, I realized that this was the 5th issue. I had missed 4 already! Finding those back issues took some time, but I eventually managed it and purchased every issue from that day forward. Even while I was away at college in Central New York, my mom would go to a comic book store and buy me the latest issue.”

Angelo's creativity doesn't stop at structures or custom figures. He also enjoys building and detailing custom 1:6 scale vehicles, such as this superb German halftrack. AchTUNG! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo’s creativity doesn’t end with structures and custom figures. He also enjoys building and detailing 1:6 scale vehicles, such as this superb German halftrack. AchTUNG! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

How about a custom truck, converted from a 21stC Patton staff car? If you want it, BUILD IT! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

How about this cool, 1:6 scale custom truck, up-converted from a 21st Century Toys Patton Staff Car? Superb work, Angelo! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“I can still remember the comic’s 6th issue in particular. It has such a cool cover! It depicted a medic (Doc) sitting behind a Snow Trooper (SnowJob) on a snowmobile. I thought how cool it would be if they actually made these Joes into toys. Well, the next Sunday, we were at Mohawk Mall and I (of course) had to visit the Kay B toy store. While walking down the action figure aisle, what did I see? A GIjOE ‘Polar Battle Bear!’ That SAME snowmobile on the cover!”

This closeup of Angelo's halftrack reveals he also chose to detail the vehicle's interior with weapons, a floor mat, radioman's chair and assorted other details. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

This closeup of the interior of Angelo’s halftrack reveals he detailed it with weapons, tripod, ammunition, wooden floor mat, radioman’s chair and other details. EXCELLENT! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Angelo briefly collected the 3.75" version of GIjOE but soon realized it limitations and refocused his efforts on 1:6 scale. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo also collected 3.75″ GIjOEs (his first, shown above), but eventually refocused his efforts on finding the original 12″ versions. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“Thus began my renewed obsession with collecting GIjOE toys. I collected many of the new 3.75″ figures, vehicles and accessories, even when I was getting too old to enjoy imaginative play. I simply had to have them. I had missed out on collecting Joes the first time around. I wasn’t going to let that happen again.

But then interestingly, I did lose interest. Those new GIjOE weapons were all pink(?) and orange and blue, and the 3.75″ figures and vehicles just didn’t have the same appeal to me as the original 12-inch versions. It almost seemed (to me) as if Hasbro was trying to end the GIjOE line. So eventually, I just stopped collecting. To make matters worse, the Marvel GIjOE comic series had ended too!”


Angelo created this outstanding (and unusual) outdoor diorama with a clever combination of dollar store tiki poles, plastic plants, Mayan calendar disk, working waterfall and…an egg? Yes, here, Joe prepares to examine the mysterious orb before whatever giant creature laid it returns and stomps him into the ground. Both frightening—and WEIRD at the same time. Look out, Joe! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

SUCCESS! Angelo's first 12-inch GIjOE was this veteran Adventurer who now mans the lofty perch atop the AT training tower. Go, JOE! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

SUCCESS! Angelo’s first 12-inch GIjOE was this veteran Adventurer who now mans the lofty perch atop D’Annibale’s AT training tower. Go, JOE! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“A few years later as I was walking through the mall (again), I stopped by the Kay Bee Toy Store, just for old times’ sake. Sure enough, as I rounded the corner I saw what looked like a 12″ GIjOE. Yes! But while the lettering on the package said GIjOE, the packaging and figure inside seemed…odd. Something just wasn’t right. First of all, Joe’s hands were HUGE. He had a giant, oversized weapon that made weird noises and lit up. And his face…well, it just wasn’t the same. His body was built more like…a Barbie…with little to no articulation. ‘That’s pretty lame,’ I thought to myself. But I ended up buying one anyway. As we all know now, that particular Joe’s name was ‘Duke.’ But he wasn’t the Duke from the 3.75″ line, nor was he a 12″ GIjOE (at least like the Joes I remembered).”

The lower-level diorama currently on display in Angelo's Joe Room is this superb homage to the Battle of the Bulge. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

The lower-level diorama currently on display in Angelo’s Joe Room is this amazing homage to the famous WWII battle known as The Battle of the Bulge. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

One of Angelo's upper-level dioramas features this exciting Search for the Mummy's Tomb set-up. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

One of Angelo’s upper-level dioramas features this exciting Secret of the Mummy’s Tomb set-up. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“More figures from the unusual “Hall of Fame” line soon appeared, but I simply had no interest in them. However, later on, when other toy companies began getting into the 1:6 scale market, such as 21st Century Toys (and their awesome WWII stuff) and Dragon (even better detail, articulation and realism), I quickly developed a WWII action figure obsession that has continued to this day.

During WWII, my Uncle John had fought in the Ardennes. He fought with the 28th Infantry Division and his weapon was an 81mm mortar. I would talk to my uncle about the war and he would tell me stories. Some were sad, some were funny, and some were downright SCARY. For example…”

Angelo's Uncle John as he appeared during WWII. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo’s Uncle John as he appeared during WWII. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“One tale I remember quite vividly was about how one night while asleep, he was awoken by hands that were feeling about his boots. He looked up and was startled to see a large Moroccan soldier holding a BIG knife—and smiling.

The soldier was identifying Uncle John (in the dark) as an Allied soldier by feeling the leggings and laces of his boots. If the boots had been the smooth leather type of a Nazi…then the end of his story would not have been so pleasant!

Inspired, I chose to create my first 1:6 scale diorama about my uncle. It would be for his birthday and I wanted to give him something different—something SPECIAL.”

Angelo's custom figure and diorama of his Uncle John, preparing to load a mortar round into his weapon. SUPERB! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo’s custom figure and diorama of his Uncle John, preparing to load a mortar round into his weapon. How great is THIS?! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“I selected a Dragon figure that I thought looked like him during the war, found a mortar that could almost pass for an 81mm mortar and used an old picture frame to build a mortar pit. To finish it all off, I added real twigs, straw and sand using techniques I’d seen and read about in various military modeling magazines (see photo at right).

I began to focus on collecting WWII figures and vehicles of the European Theater and quickly amassed quite a sizable collection. Soon, I had TOO many things and nowhere to display them. And I’m the sort of collector who’s always felt that toys left in their boxes would have a sad, ‘unloved’ existence. Something had to be done!”

With Angelo's ultra-wide display table, he can even accommodate an entire Italian piazza, or courtyard. Look how BIG this is! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

With Angelo’s ultra-wide display table, he can even accommodate an entire Italian piazza, or courtyard. Look how BIG this is! Click to enlarge. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

A closeup of Angelo's city center reveals the use of real mini-bricks, a candlestick holder converted into a table, complete with record player and cards. FanTASTIC! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

A closeup of Angelo’s diorama reveals his use of real bricks, miniature statuary, a candlestick holder that’s been converted into a table, a custom 1:6 scale record player and playing cards. Fan-TASTIC! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Now THIS is powerful. The use of that scale-correct T-Rex head charging Angelo's Mobile Support Vehicle is simply breathtaking! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

WOW. The use of a giant (scale-correct) T-Rex head charging towards Angelo’s Mobile Support Vehicle is simply breathtaking. Look out, Joe! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“Fortunately, our home was over 125 years old and in a few years we decided to put on an addition. You can imagine my excitement! I drew up plans and designed how I wanted to set up the new 20′ x 20′ room. I added built-in tables as well, because I knew I wanted to showcase as much as possible, especially the GIjOEs that started it all for me—the Adventure Team!

The main table in my new Joe Room is currently dedicated to my favorite, the ‘Search for The Stolen Idol’ Adventure Team set. I installed a wallpaper mural that had a huge Buddha on it as the backdrop and designed the rest if the display table around it. The other tables are ‘fluid’ and allow me to change their set-ups to display a wide variety of scenes and figures.”

Large props like this Mayan calander can be used to create almost "instant dioramas." Plunk it down amidst rocks, plants and dirt, and you're good to go—EXPLORING! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Large props like this Mayan calendar can be used to create almost “instant dioramas.” Plunk it down amidst rocks, plants and dirt, and you’re good to go—EXPLORING! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Making the most of current outdoor conditions, D'Annibale routinely stages excellent "photo ops" such as this exciting snow rescue scene. (Photo: Angelo Annidale)

Making the most of current outdoor conditions, D’Annibale routinely stages excellent “photo ops” such as this exciting Snow Rescue Adventure. (Photo: Angelo D’Annidale)

“I continually look for new ideas online, especially over at The Trenches and Patches of Pride. I’ve discovered that there is a huge following for GIjOE and that what people are doing with 1:6 scale customs is amazing. Last year, I saw a post on the Trenches about a rope bridge that someone had made out of a wooden laundry drying rack. Boy, that was cool! A few days later, I was at one of my favorite spots for finding diorama ‘stuff’ (a local $1 store) and I found some bamboo garden stakes. They were the perfect diameter to make an AWESOME bridge. It would be some work, sure, but I was up to the challenge.”

If you can dream it, you can do it! Angelo's handcrafted, 1:6 scale bamboo and rope bridge sure verify that. Simply mind-BOGGLING! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo’s handcrafted, 1:6 scale bamboo and rope bridge verifies the veracity of that age-old customizing truism: If you can DREAM it—you can BUILD it! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“First, I cut the bamboo into 4” lengths and then drilled tiny little holes into each one. I was determined that my bridge would be big—REALLY big. I have a small creek in our backyard and I thought, ‘Hmm, if I could just make it long enough, I could stretch it all the way across (it’s 10 feet wide so that’s a ton of bamboo)!

Well, after cramped hands, and many bamboo splinters, I finished the bridge. I was SO excited. Cut to A.C.Moore, another awesome store for dioramas. I am looking at the plastic animals that they have and spot what appears to be a gorilla that is (almost) 1:6 scale. I thought, it’s ‘GIjOE AT Pygmy Gorilla’ adventure time!

This incredibly powerful image was created with Angelo's outstanding bamboo/rope bridge...and a rubber gorilla. But BOY, is it GREAT! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

This powerful image of Angelo’s 1:6 scale Pygmy Gorilla was artfully posed and photographed utilizing his outstanding bamboo bridge—and a little rubber gorilla. Simple? Yes. But BOY—does it look GREAT! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“When I got home, I ran to the backyard with iPad in hand and after taking a bazillion pictures, I decided to share what I had created. I post the bridge with Joe and the gorilla on The Trenches…and I received a great deal of positive feedback! What an incentive positive feedback is! You want my advice? SHARE what you have, what you have done, and what you are proud of. People should see what you can do!”

Angelo's scratch-built wagon is a real show-stopper. He researched it, planned it—and MADE it! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo’s scratch-built wagon is a real show-stopper. How did he do it? First he researched it, then he planned it—and then MADE it. Any more questions? (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“I constantly search the internet for pictures of WWII scenes and I look through magazines every time we go to Barnes and Noble. I can’t believe all the talented individuals out there! The One Sixth Division and Sixth Army Group are two online forums that have given me MANY ideas and inspired me to create ever-better dioramas. Nevertheless, I feel my work pales in comparison to some of the more talented folks whose work I have witnessed and have to give them all credit for helping me.”

Angelo also built this smaller pull-cart, but it is no less detailed or well-made than the wagon. Absolutely WONDERFUL! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo also built this smaller push-pull cart, but it’s no less detailed or in any way inferior to the larger wagons. He even made the little potatoes himself. WONDERFUL! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

It's amazing what Angelo can do with a rather lame Max Steel helo, some flat-black paint and a lot of creativity. WHOOSH! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Wouldn’t you buy one of these if Hasbro offered it? WOW! It’s amazing what Angelo can do with just an old Max Steel helo, some flat-black paint and a dash of creativity. WHOOSH! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Do you walk past cool props like this Buddha head and not give them a second thought? Well, slow down and THINK. How cool is THIS?! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Do you ever walk right past nifty props like this garden Buddha head? What a great piece for outdoor adventures! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

It's amazing how effective 2-D wallpaper backdrop can be to create an instant mood for your foreground action. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

It’s amazing how effective a simple 2-D wallpaper backdrop can be in creating an instant mood for your GIjOE’s 1:6 scale foreground action. Superb! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Take time to take it all in: The palm trees, the walls, the desert, the camel, the pyramid, it's a MAGNIFICENT! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

That’s right…Take all the time you need to take this all in: The palm trees, the walls, the desert, the camel, the pyramid, it’s all MAGNIFICENT! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Planet of the Apes? Angelo's jungle bridge masterpiece is the stage for a tense stand-off between a mighty silverback gorilla and Adventurer Joe (who's beginning to question hi decision to bring a camera instead of his trusty sidearm). D'oh! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Planet of the Apes? D’Annibale’s stunning 1:6 scale jungle bridge provides the perfect setting for a tense stand-off between his “Pygmy” Silverback Gorilla and intrepid “Adventurer Joe” (who’s now beginning to question his decision to pack a camera INSTEAD of a .45 sidearm). D’oh! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks to Angelo D’Annibale for his help with this article. Normally, we’d close with a few witty words of summation, but today we turn it over to Angelo, who writes:

“Hello Mark, I wanted to end by thanking you again for allowing me the opportunity to share what I have done. I feel very strongly about the 1:6 hobby and wanted to share how it all started with me and where it has gone. Thanks for all you do for the hobby with your sites. Have fun, be creative, ask questions, look and research, and always (and most importantly)—NEVER grow up!” —Angelo D’Annibale


Shades of “Indiana Jones”———After 49 Years Locked Away In a Museum Storage Room, a Collection of Vintage, Unopened G.I. JOEs Is Discovered And Then Sold on Ebay To Anonymous Collector For $5,977!

The end of the "Dearborn Joes" Action Soldier box reveals the original price paid for this "Lost Joe" by the museum's 1965 curator. (Photo: City of Dearborn)

The bottom panel of this Action Soldier box from the “Dearborn Joes” collection reveals the original price paid for this “lost”action figure. Welcome Home, Soldier! Click to enlarge. (Photo: DHM)

Absolutely MINT USAF equipment set. Wow! (Photo: City of Dearborn)

Absolutely MINT USAF equipment set. Wow! Click to enlarge. (Photo: DHM)

Treasure Trove of ’60s NRFB Vintage Figures and Equipment Sets Sold to Highest Bidder

Heads up, Treasure-Hunting Adventurers! Another stunning “Lost GIjOE Collection” has been discovered. Just when we thought every possible GIjOE action figure from the 1960s and ’70s has been accounted for, along comes another WILD story like this. AND… In a clear and definite indication that vintage, NRFB (unopened) GIjOEs are still commanding hefty respect (and even heftier prices) among collectors, their recent sale at an auction conducted by—get this—the City of Dearborn, MI, sold the entire 33-item lot for—$5,977.78!

The Indiana Jones-ish story behind this astonishing vintage GIjOE discovery is as intriguing as the identity of its new anonymous owner. Fans and potential buyers were immediately enthralled by the collection’s ebay listing description which dropped the following enticing hints:

A mint, unopened "Combat" set from the collection. Click to enlarge. (Photo: City of Dearborn)

An NRFB “Combat” set from the “lost” collection. Click to enlarge. (Photo: DHM)

“The City of Dearborn is listing a collection of unopened, original GIjOE Action Figures and accessories. The collection was found at the Dearborn Historical Museum (DHM). There are 33 pieces in total; 30 of which are from 1964; 1 piece is from 1965; and 2 pieces are from 1996. The collection ranges from GOOD to MINT condition.  The pieces are UNOPENED! An appointment can be made to view the collection.”

That would have been a cool experience for any collector of vintage GIjOEs. Imagine going into the curator’s office of the museum and being allowed to handle 33 items untouched by human hands since 1965. What a TRIP! Just looking at the photos of the items arrayed on a table is enough to give most fans goose-pimples. Here are some more photos provided by the museum:

Some, but not all of the collection displayed on the curator's desk at the museum. Oh, MAMA! (Photo: City of Dearborn)

Some (but not all) of the collection displayed on the curator’s desk at the museum. All untouched, unused and PERFECT. You can’t get closer to a time-machine than this! (Photo: DHM)

Of main interest to most fans, the three un-played with GIjOE Action Soldiers stand ready for action in a diorama display about the Korean War which, unfortunately, the museum's previous curator never created. These poor guys spent the next 5 decades in the darkness of their boxes, locked away and forgotten. (Photo: City of Dearborn)

Of main interest to most fans and collectors, the 3 stars of the “Dearborn Joes” collection would have to be this amazing trio of never-played-with GIjOE Action Soldiers. The poor guys spent almost 5 decades, untouched, in the darkness of their boxes, locked away—and forgotten. (Photo: DHM)

Beautiful, unused, unopened Air Force equipment sets from the Dearborn Joes collection. Out-STANDING! (Photo: City of Dearborn)

Do you have your “drool cup?” You’ll need it when you look at these beautiful, unused, unopened GIjOE Air Force sets from the “Dearborn Joes” collection. WOW! (Photo: DHM)

So…what exactly was included in this amazing vintage GIjOE discovery? According to the DHM:

“The following is a line by line listing of each piece in the collection:

Action Soldier:  1964 (7512 x 350) BIVOUAC
Action Soldier:  1964 (7517 x 400) Command Post
Action Soldier:  1964 (7500) Action Soldier (Blonde Hair)
Action Soldier:  1964 (7500) Action Soldier (Red Hair)
Action Soldier:  1964 (7500) Action Soldier (Brown Hair)
Action Soldier:  1964 (7502 x 350) Combat
Action Soldier:  1964 (7501 x 350) Combat
Action Soldier:  1964 (7530 x 350) Mountain Troops
Action Soldier:  1964 (7525 x 100) Ike Pants
Action Soldier:  1964 (7524 x 180) Ike Jacket
Action Soldier:  1964 (7523 x 120) Duffle Bag
Action Soldier:  1964 (7523 x 120) Duffle Bag
Action Soldier:  1964 (7707 x 100) Helmet
Action Soldier:  1964 (7526 x 120) Helmet and Small Arms
Action Soldier:  1964 (7527 x 180) Ski Patrol
Action Marine:  1965 (7719 x 400) Medic
Action Marine:  1964 (7701 x 400) Communications
Action Marine:  1964 (7701 x 450) Beachhead
Action Marine:  1964 (7704 x 160) Flags
Action Marine:  1964 (7721 x 180) First Aid
Action Marine:  1964 (7715 x 100) Fatigue Pants
Action Marine:  1964 (7714 x 120) Fatigue Shirt
Action Marine:  1964 (7507 x 100) Helmet Set
Action Marine:  1964 (7708 x 100) Tent Camouflage
Action Sailor:  1964 (7607 x 300) Navy Attack
Action Sailor:  1964 (7618 x 120) Machine Gun
Action Sailor:  1964 (7610 x 100) Attack
Action Sailor:  1964 (7619 x 120) Dress Parade
Action Pilot:  1964 (7801 x 325) Survival
Action Pilot:  1964 (7812 x 180) Communications
Action Pilot:  1964 (7813 x 160) Air Police
Other: 1996 (27596/27519) Dress Marine – Caucasian
Other: 1996 (27635/27541) Battle of the Bulge Soldier – Caucasian

These items are in USED condition and HAVE NOT BEEN authenticated or certified, and are being sold as is.”

The Marines Have Landed! Look at these beautiful Marine equipment sets that were included in the "Dearborn Joes" collection. SEMPER FI! (Photo: City of Dearborn)

The Marines Have Landed! Look at all of the beautiful, untouched USMC equipment sets that were included with the “Dearborn Joes” collection. SEMPER FI! (Photo: DHM)

As might be expected, fan reaction to this stunning auction was brisk and the bidding was fierce. Curious about the origins of this unique vintage lot and the addition of the two ’90s figures, a storm of buyer questions ensued. Eventually, the City of Dearborn posted an addendum to their original auction listing, revealing the following additional intel:


The Army Bivouac set was a simple but popular equipment set that evokes instant memories with millions of GIjOE collectors. Click to enlarge. (Photo: DHM)

“Quite a few people have been interested in the story behind this collection. Here it is:

In 1965, the museum curator purchased the GIjOEs (31 of the pieces) in order to make a Korean War Exhibit at our museum. The curator was very fond of collecting various items for the museum. Unfortunately, he did not keep very good inventory lists. The exhibit was never actually put on display. As a result, the Joes and their accessories were left in their packaging and placed into a box. This box was then put into one of our storerooms (of which we have three buildings of items yet to be inventoried). After they were placed into storage, they were FORGOTTEN.”

Jack Tate, curator of Dearborn Historical Museum (Photo: DHM)

Jack Tate, the current curator of the Dearborn Historical Museum. (Photo: DHM)

“Several months ago, our current curator began to inventory the storage buildings. He happened to find the box and was quite surprised at what was inside. He found our 33-piece collection. Thirty 1964 pieces, one 1965 piece and two 1996 pieces. At some point, someone (who knew the collection existed) added the two pieces from 1996 to the box. However, the story behind those pieces is not known.

The 31 pieces from 1964 & 1965 have been together since their purchase date in 1965.  After doing research on the Joes, The City decided that they do not really hold any historical value for the Museum and therefore should be sold to a collector who can properly appreciate them.”

The Dearborn Historical Museum in Dearborn, MI. What other secrets await to be discovered within? Pay them a visit today! (Photo: DHM)

The Dearborn Historical Museum in Dearborn, MI. What other secrets await to be discovered within? Pay them a visit—today! (Photo: DHM)

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks and best wishes to Mr. Tate and the Dearborn Historical Museum. Their recent house-cleaning has released some wonderful vintage items back into the GIjOE collecting community. Hopefully, the lucky new owner of this collection will keep his (or her) “Dearborn Joes” together and continue to share the story of their unique history and rediscovery with the world. It’s always exciting to learn that such miraculous “finds” as this still occur, so PLEASE—if you were the winning bidder, leave a comment here on The Joe Report sharing your own account of this event, especially as regarding your plans for that wonderful trio of NRFB Action Soldiers. Go, JOE!

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“Tankers” Lining Up To See “FURY” November 2014

Tank, starring James Garner (Photo: Imdb)

Tank (1984), starring James Garner was an enjoyable “tank fantasy.” (Photo: IMDb)

Among the vast pantheon of GIjOE collectors, there’s a die-hard subset of fans who also know a great deal about military history and the mighty armored tanks that command such a prominent role on the battlefield. We’re referring, of course, to those ardent armor aficionados appropriately (and affectionately) known as, “Tankers.” If you’ve never heard of, or used this particular appellation before, Tankers are those zealous individuals who can accurately recite the names, weaponry, and firepower stats of practically anything heavily armored or tracked. From the smallest Kettenkrad tractor to the largest modern Abrams M1A2 (and everything else in-between) their knowledge—is unassailable.

Many Tankers are also big military history buffs that can wax rhapsodic for hours about WWII’s Montgomery and Patton, recount battlefield strategies, the proper deployment of tanks during a “Blitzkrieg,” the rise and fall of Rommel’s vaunted Afrika Korps, clashes between SS Panzer Divisions and Russian Red Army T-34s at Stalingrad and Kursk, the pivotal Battle of the Bulge, the use of tanks in the Pacific theater against Japan, North Korea, North Vietnam, and most recently, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wherever they’re deployed, tanks often prove to be THE deciding factor between a battlefield victory—or ignominious defeat. Not surprisingly then, films about tanks are almost invariably larger than life, exciting—and FUN.

Battle of the Bulge, starring Henry Fonda (Photo: Imdb)

Battle of the Bulge (1965), starring film icon Henry Fonda was good—but not great. This movie BEGS to be remade. (Photo: IMDb)

Why are we bringing this up now? Because recently, Tankers, GijOE fans and amateur military historians have all begun to discuss the impending release of a new “tank-centric” motion picture called, “Fury,” which depicts the WWII exploits of a battle-hardened U.S. Army 2nd Armored Division tank crew (watch the film’s trailer at top). As you are undoubtedly already aware, movies about (or utilizing) tanks, are not unheard of in Hollywood, but pickings can be slim. As a result, fans of this particular genre typically have to wait about a decade or two between decent offerings.

But even if the script stinks (Tank Girl, anyone?), there’s just something about a tank movie that makes it hard to dislike. Let’s face it, they’re BIG. They’re brash. And well…they’re BEAUTIFUL! For alpha-male / leading man-type actors, to have a good tank movie “in your quiver” is a rare accomplishment, nowadays; worthy of more than just a little braggadocio. OOHrah!

Some of the better tank flicks that come to mind include Sahara, starring Humphrey Bogart, Saving Private Ryan starring Tom Hanks, The Battle of the Bulge, starring Henry Fonda, Tank, starring James Garner, Patton, starring George C. Scott and most recently, Fast ‘n Furious 6, with Vin Diesel. (Take a moment to enjoy the first 3 video clips of this article before proceeding.)

Fury stars well-known Hollywood heart-throb, Brad Pitt (last seen in the farcical Inglorious Basterds) and according to the brief description we found over on the Huffington Post:

Sahara was a highly underrated 1943 tank film starring Humphrey Bogart. (Photo: IMDb)

“Pitt stars as a sergeant named ‘Wardaddy’ who leads a tank crew of American soldiers into Germany. (Jon Bernthal, Michael Pena and Shia LaBeouf are Wardaddy’s longtime battle comrades; Logan Lerman plays the group’s newcomer.) The whole thing looks comfortably familiar — a beat from “Inglorious Basterds” here, some from “Saving Private Ryan” there — but it’s never not compelling. “Fury” is set for release on Nov. 14, meaning it could either become one of Sony’s year-end awards contenders or simply a solid money-maker for the studio. Or maybe both: The last time Pitt and Sony teamed up for a film, it was 2011’s “Moneyball,” which earned $74 million at the North American box office and six Oscar nominations.”

Patton, starring George C. Scott, featured numerous tank scenes. (Photo: IMDb)

Patton, starring George C. Scott, featured numerous tank battle scenes. (Photo: IMDb)

It’s been quite a while since Tankers have seen a really good tank movie. It’s about time our heroes of the armored divisions were featured on-screen again. Heck, we were even excited to see that Abrams tank in the first episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead. Although it saw no “battle action,” it served as a main prop and temporary place of safety for the show’s beleaguered hero. Tank fan hopes are high that Fury will be a solid, well-researched and realistic tribute film to all the men who fought, died and served in the U.S. Army or Marine Corps tank divisions. Curious about what our fellow GIjOE fans are hoping to see (or NOT see) in this upcoming film, so we posed the question to everyone’s favorite GIjOE fan and resident tank expert, Dave “Tanker” Matteson (of Alabama), who kindly offered the following observations:

Dave "Tanker" Matteson in his Joe Room. (Photo: Dave Matteson)

Dave “Tanker” Matteson in his GIjOE Room. (Photo: Dave Matteson)

“Shermans and Tigers and Shermans, Oh my! I was asked by Mark to watch the trailer and then give my opinion on the upcoming movie, “FURY.” Am I qualified to review this movie? I believe so! Most people know me as “Tanker.” I spent time as a tank crewman in M1A1 tanks, about 8 years to be exact, as well as being a ‘tread head’ since the age of 8. For those who have seen Fury’s trailer (at the top of this article), the Sherman M4A2E8’s and the M4A3 are all, in fact, REAL. And yes, the Tiger Tank is also VERY real. All of the tanks used in this film are on loan from the Bovington Tank Museum in England where David Ayer, the film’s director, did most of his research.

The research Ayer undertook takes us back to WWII and inside a Sherman tank where its crew LIVED. Before filming, the crew was treated to a mini ‘Armor School’ where they had to learn the job of being a tanker. Then, once on the set, Brad Pitt actually lived with his crewmen in the tank they crewed for the duration of the filming of the battle scenes, totaling some 30 days.

Everything you’ll see onscreen is as close to real as it gets. This film is going to be for Tankers what Saving Private Ryan was to Rangers and Paratroopers. Generally, movie trailers are what doesn’t make the film. The good thing is, I have been following this production VERY closely, and it is definitely on the money. Being a tanker was the best job I ever had!” —Dave “Tanker” Matteson

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks to Dave Matteson for his help with this article. We are FIRED UP about seeing Fury on the big screen this November. Until then, we leave you with this full-length tank episode of “Lock-n-Load,” starring everyone’s favorite Gunnery Sergeant, R. Lee Ermey. So, go grab a cup of Joe, put your feet up on the desk—and Enjoy!

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