Monthly Archives: September 2014

Ailing James DeSimone Chooses to Speed Up Sale of G.I. Joe Collection, Selling All in Final Auction

“GIJOE’s #1 Fan,” James DeSimone (Photo: James DeSimone)

“I most likely will not live long enough to deal with selling single items.”
James DeSimone

In a sad scenario that thousands of toy fans and GIjOE collectors will have to face someday (some sooner than others), GIjOE’s #1 Fan,” James DeSimone, is currently in the process of divesting himself of his beloved vintage GIjOE collection. It’s a depressing and devastating process that most of us don’t even want to consider, but when someone you know personally (or someone famous such as DeSimone) is facing this issue, the rest of us are forced to take heed.

As we reported back in October of 2013 (see HERE), Mr. DeSimone, perhaps the world’s best-known GIjOE fan, advocate and collector, recently suffered a heart attack and felt he needed to begin selling off items from his famous toy collection in order to help pay medical bills, etc. With the able aid of his son, Jonathan DeSimone, the two began the slow and arduous process of placing small groups of related items up on ebay. Now, almost a year later, the ailing DeSimone has decided to speed up the divestment process dramatically by putting ALL of his remaining GIjOE items up for sale in one big, final auction. This decision prompts the question that most of us dread considering…

Need some vintage backpacks? How about some pup tents? Now's your chance! (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

Need some vintage backpacks? Or pup tents? James DeSimone’s collection has at LEAST a couple a dozen each! Click to enlarge. (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

What should WE do with our GIjOE collections when we’re…”Done?”

Unfortunately, there’s no single, clear-cut “collection divestment strategy” that applies to everyone’s needs. Most collectors will try to sell their collections, but others may not have the requisite time, ability or desire. Fortunately, there are other options one can consider, including the following four methods:

Willing It to Descendents: This is an easy choice to make. But is it the best option for everyone? Should collectors declare everything in their wills as inheritance to be divided equally among potentially apathetic and/or openly disinterested relatives or offspring? Perhaps not. GIjOE fans care too much about their collections to dispatch them off to an unknown fate, and would prefer to see them go somewhere they know they’ll be appreciated—and loved. If your family never cared much about your “doll collection” before, then they’ll probably resent having to pay inheritance taxes on them, and/or having to cart them off to Goodwill. Surely, there must be a better way!

With over 100 figures, we couldn't begin to show them all, but here's a nice group of vintage sailors, just waiting for the loving attention and TLC of a devoted collector! (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

Some of DeSimone’s vintage sailors, just waiting for the loving, restorative attention of another devoted GIjOE fan to come along. Could that person be YOU? (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

There's enough medical supplies and equipment here to outfit your next MASH diorama. WOW! (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

Look at all this AWESOME vintage medical equipment! Click to enlarge. (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

Donating to Museums: Okay, how about donating your collection to a toy museum? Unfortunately, there are only a handful of such places around the country (you can probably count them all on your fingers). And even if you do find a reputable museum that’s willing to accept and care for your pile of precious playthings, how many other collections could they hope to absorb afterwards, before having to turn away the rest of us? There are at LEAST hundreds of thousands of GIjOE/Action Man/Action Team/Geyperman collectors around the world. Oh well, have you considered…

With over 100+ figures in the auction, we can't show them all to you here. But take a look at this second batch of vintage sailors and everything they come with. Click to enlarge! (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

With over 100+ figures in the auction, we can’t show them all to you here. But take a look at this second batch of vintage sailors and everything they come with. Click to enlarge. (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

Throwing it Away: Sacrilege? Well, yes. But let’s face it, depending on the collector’s age, physical health and subsequent mental state at the time, he or she may simply decide to put everything out on the curb—with their TRASH. As inconceivable as that nightmare scenario may sound, it happens ALL THE TIME. Just imagine what’s buried out there in our landfills. It’s enough to break your heart! Your smartest move is, of course…

Selling it Piecemeal—or All Together: Fortunately, most collectors will never drag their collectibles to the curb, but opt instead to deal with the hassle of selling their beloved treasures to the highest bidder—until their patience and/or time runs out. Let’s face it, setting up and organizing large collections at flea markets or posting it all online and then spending precious life hours/weeks/years haggling over prices is a tedious game for the young (and healthy). Unfortunately for Mr. DeSimone, the luxury of TIME is one he apparently no longer enjoys. According to the auction description written by his son, Jonathan (edited for length):

Jonathan DeSimone, son of James DeSimone (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

Jonathan DeSimone, son of James DeSimone (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

“My Dad, James DeSimone, has failing health. He actually flatlined (died) for 10 whole minutes! But yes, he still functions (somewhat) OK. We are selling what he has valued and kept of his GIjOEs. As you know, the stories are legendary of the tons of stuff Dad has traded over the years. Nothing rare, just good ol’ common stuff you played with as a child.

We have 50 photographs…If you go to Dad’s website at GIjOEInformation and look, he still has 2 or 3 of the 8′ long diorama boards and the 8′ long ship. If you buy this collection, those items are included ONLY if you want to pay to ship them. Nothing… is duplicated or photographed twice.”

Selling off a collection often provides unique insights into a collector’s personal preferences as well. One such intriguing example is revealed below:

“There is so much stuff that it was hard to sort it all out in advance. For instance—Jeep shells. We kept finding more and more! Dad couldn’t buy them fast enough or get enough of them, so they are in several different pictures.

When DeSimone found something he liked, he often bought multiple copies of it, as this photo of assorted vintage weapons reveals. (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

DeSimone clearly likes 1:6 scale ordnance and collected multiples of 5-star Jeep shells, ammo boxes, grenades, mortar rounds, bazooka shells, etc. BOOMMM!! (Photo: Jonathan DeSimone)

Fascinating! Why James DeSimone has such a yearning for tiny 1:6 ordnance remains a mystery, but the proof of his attraction to them is obvious. Additionally, the condition of the items in his collection reflects his personal approach to their care, use and display. While many fans take pride in storing their collections in airtight, dust-free, glass cabinets, DeSimone clearly preferred to play with his GIjOEs in giant indoor and outdoor dioramas. Jonathan confirms this view, stating:

“A lot of stuff has years of dust on it. We can assure you Dad never repaired, doctored or cleaned a single thing. There was tons of stuff on the ship diorama. Most of it is dirty, from 20 years of dust exposure and neglect, plus the past 2 years since Dad’s health issues.”

Bottom Line: DeSimone’s collection is known worldwide and despite its current “dusty” condition, is highly regarded for its authenticity and vintage, unaltered status. Here’s a direct link to the auction. It’s not likely to remain unsold as collector interest appears to be widespread, strong and growing. Expect many “snipers” to jump in with deep pockets on the last day. But we recommend you also heed this final bit of “insider-intel” from Jonathan:

“We have just started to reach out to Dad’s numerous contacts and collectors. A collector from Ohio is coming out to see the collection next week so we reserve the right to end this auction at any time. We are hoping that there is one person out there that understands the magnitude of what it took to collect and obtain all this stuff and appreciate what it means to also lay claim to owning the world’s largest diorama of GIjOEs.

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1:6 Scale E.O.D. Robot “BLOWOUT” Sale at Amazon

Joe prepares his new EOD robot for use in searching suspicious cars and packages. (Photo: Sean Huxter)

GIjOE prepares his new 1:6 scale EOD robot for duty. (Photo: Sean Huxter)

Sean Huxter, a 3D animation professional, is one of many fans dubious of Paramount's decision to convert their new GIjOE film to 3D. (Photo: Sean Huxter)

Sean Huxter, GIjOE fan and collector. (Photo: Sean Huxter)

Let’s jump straight to the Bottom Line: If you hurry, right now over on Amazon, you can find these cool little “Lunar Robotic Rovers” made by Wild Republic that look EXACTLY like the EOD bomb disposal robots used by the U.S. military. If you’re not already aware, EOD stands for “Explosive Ordnance Disposal.” Rather than risk the lives of servicemen, EOD personnel will send these little beauties into harm’s way, remotely controlling them from a safe distance to inspect suspicious cars or packages for hidden bombs and other booby-traps. Fortunately for GIjOE fans, Wild Republic’s lunar rovers double perfectly as 1:6 scale EOD ‘bots. As soon as we heard about this amazing offer, we jumped right on it and purchased 2 for ourselves—at $12 shipped. WOW!

Our sincerest thanks go out to eagle-eyed Field Reporter “Super” Sean Huxter for providing the exciting and timely intel on this nifty new item. Jump HERE NOW to order one for yourself over on Amazon. At these “BLOWOUT” prices, we recommend you pick up at LEAST two. OOHrah!


The “Lunar Robotic Rover” from Wild Republic is a perfect 1:6 scale EOD ‘bot for GIjOE. (Photo: Amazon)

G.I. Joe Fan Sets New (Unofficial) World’s Record By Building World’s Tallest 1:6 Scale Fire Tower

Chris Rowland's unbelievable 1:6 scale fire tower (well, half of it anyway) dominates the entryway to Joelanta 2013. If you look carefully, you can see a few 12-inch GIjOEs placed on the tower for a sense of size and scale. OutSTANDING! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This is only the top HALF of Chris Rowland’s incredible 1:6 scale fire tower (yes, you read that correctly). There are 2 larger bottom sections that normally go below these levels. Even at only half its full height, Rowland’s structure clearly dominated the entryway at Joelanta 2014. Look closely and you can see a few 12-inch GIjOEs placed on the tower to provide a better sense of its immense size and scale. Absolutely Phenomenal! (Photo: Mark Otnes)


Chris Rowland, master carpenter and customizer. (Photo: Chris Rowland)

Chris Rowland, master carpenter and customizer. (Photo: Chris Rowland)

Blurring the Line Between “Real” and “Miniature”

GIjOE fan and collector, Chris Rowland of Macon, Georgia, strode purposely down the wide hallways of the Marriott Century Center in Atlanta. It was almost time for the world-renowned, 3-day Joelanta 2014 show to begin and Rowland was clearly a man on a mission. His mission? To set up one of the world’s largest and most detailed hand-built structures ever created—for use with 12″ GIjOE action figures.

A carpenter by trade, Rowland looks every bit like a man who works outdoors all day with his hands. He’s tall, fit, rugged and muscular, embodying the same sort of physical attributes one might also apply to his most recent custom creation: an astonishingly accurate 1:6 scale “Fire Tower.” Utilized in forests throughout the world, fire towers enable park rangers (as well as military and civilian “fire spotters”) to climb high above canopy level and sight smoke or forest fires in every direction (Smokey the Bear would be VERY proud).

A closeup of this section of the tower while still under construction reveals how the knowledge and skills gained being a real-life master carpenter can come in VERY handy when building such an intricate structure as a fire tower at 1:6 scale. AMAZING work, Chris! (Photo: Chris Rowland)

Like a GIANT Puzzle—This closeup reveals how the knowledge and skills Rowland acquired as a master carpenter came in VERY handy. The extremely complex 1:6 structure required the precision-cutting and custom-fitting of hundreds of different pieces and sizes of wood, painstaking assembled with wood-glue and tiny (scale-correct) nails and screws. After that, it would all be painted and then finished out with windows, furniture and miniature equipment. Absolutely AMAZING! (Photo: Chris Rowland)

The expression on Chris' daughter's face reveals her surprise as she poses next to the tower during its construction. NOTE: The top-most level and "Spotter's Shack" is still missing and would add even more height to Rowland's construction. (Photo: Chris Rowland)

Beauty and “The BEAST”—Posing next to the tower during an early phase of its construction, Rowland’s daughter expresses obvious surprise and disbelief at its size. NOTE: The uppermost (4th level) “Spotter’s Shack” is still missing in this picture and added even MORE height later. WOW! (Photo: Chris Rowland)

Has a World Record Been Broken—or Set?

At its fully assembled height (including the spotter’s shack) of 17′, Rowland’s amazing 1:6 scale fire tower is, indeed, an awe-inspiring sight. And we’re not sure, but we also believe that he may have unknowingly set a new world record for the tallest hand-built structure ever created for use with 12″ or 1:6 scale action figures. (Anybody have a Guinness book handy?)

Unfortunately for attendees of Joelanta 2014, the lower ceilings of the Marriott restricted the display of only 2 of the fire tower’s 4 sections, shortening it to half of its normal size. To assuage his obvious disappointment, show promoters decided to award Chris their highest possible honor—allowing him to display his massive creation at the event’s primary focal point, the “visual nexus” of Joelanta itself—the Main Entry Hall. It was high praise from his peers that Chris well and truly deserved.

Besides his obvious high accumen as a carpenter, Rowland also proved himself to be extremely knowlegable about his other passion—GIjOE—by winning the always ardous GIjOE Trivia Contest at Joelanta 2014. Here is poses with fellow contest winners,

Flexing Their “Mind Muscles”—Besides the obvious strengths and acumen he possesses as a carpenter, Chris Rowland (far right, above) also proved himself to be extremely knowledgable about his other great passion—GIjOE—when he became one of the top winners of Joelanta 2014’s famous “fan face-off” known as the GIjOE Trivia Contest. Here Rowland poses with fellow 2014 winners (from l) Robert Browning, Jack Hall, Doug Gamble, and Alex Massey. (Photo: Jack Hall)

He's going to need a bigger ladder—In this pic, Rowland takes a breather to show off additional progress and the completion of the tower's zig-zagging staircase. INCREDIBLE! (Photo: Chris Rowland)

He’s Going to Need a Bigger Ladder—Rowland and his tower’s “zig-zagging” staircase. (Photo: Chris Rowland)

Indeed, after enduring months of arduous construction, the enormity of such a LARGE custom project surprised even its creator. In an exasperated update posted on Facebook, Rowland admitted:

“I finally finished all the stairs! Over 150 steps. Glad to be done with that. Today I’ll put the tower back up to check how everything fits and I have some minor adjustments to one section. Considering math wasn’t my strong suit in school, it could’ve been a lot worse. The only bad thing about the build thus far is that I’m learning better ways to do things as I get closer to the top. They say hindsight is 20/20, and I have to agree. There’s going to be a lot of tedious measuring and cutting in my future.”

Getting His Exercise—Joe begins his 170-step climb to the top of Chris Rowland's 1:6 scale fire tower, aka the world's best 1:6 scale "Stair-Master!" (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Let’s Skip the Gym Today—Joe begins his 150-step climb to the top of Chris Rowland’s altitude-challenging fire tower, aka the world’s greatest 1:6 scale “Stair-Master!” (Photo: Mark Otnes)

How DId He Do It?—We're always interested in how these "Master Miniaturists" produce their handiwork. In this extreme closeup (taken from 3 inches away), you can see that Rowland has actually assembled some of the tower using tiny screws painted to match the tower's beams for a realistic metal effect. Superb! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

How DId He Do It?—We’re always interested in how “Master Miniaturists” produce their handiwork. In this extreme closeup (taken from just 3 inches away!), you can see that Rowland assembled sections of the tower using real screws painted to match the tower’s beams, creating a realistic metallic effect. Superb! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Rewarding Hard Work With Honor and Praise

Although Rowland was only able to display 2 of the tower’s 4 sections at Joelanta 2014, his one-of-a-kind handiwork was breathtaking nonetheless. After setting up, as a final touch, he carefully posed 3 GIjOEs along its railings and staircases to illustrate its 1:6 scale perfection.

Then, stepping back to take it all in, Chris crossed his arms in satisfaction and breathed out a long sigh of relief as fans began to slowly and respectfully gather around him. At that early pre-show hour, only dealers and event coordinators were allowed in the area, but to a man (and woman), they found themselves stopping dead in their tracks, eyes agog, and grinning uncontrollably at the sight of it all.

The comment heard most often was, “Can you imagine how big the entire thing must be?” Indeed. Heads shook in disbelief. Whistles of admiration echoed down the hallway. Envious murmurs, followed by repeated offers of congratulations, respect and outright astonishment were proffered to Rowland, as the reality of what we were witnessing sank in. We knew we were seeing something truly unique. This was a record-breaking MASTERPIECE of miniaturization!

Joe Scans the Horizon Looking for Smoke—The "gem" of Rowland's fire tower has to be its intricately detailed "Spotter's Shack" at the very top. Yes, it also features a fully decorated and realistic interior. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Joe Scans the Horizon Looking for Smoke—The “gem” of Chris Rowland’s fire tower has to be its intricately detailed “Spotter’s Shack” set atop the mammoth structure. And yes, the shack features a fully decorated and realistic interior. GIjOE is always prepared! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This is AMAZING, isn't it?—Joe ponders the immensity and realism of his new fire tower while he looks down on attendees of Joelanta 2014. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

A View From Above—Joe ponders the immensity and realism of his new 1:6 scale fire tower while looking down towards attendees of Joelanta 2014. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

The Story Behind the Tower

We asked Rowland to recount the inspiration for his masterpiece and any additional insight he had about its construction and possible future. He kindly replied:

“As far as WHY I built it, let’s just say that I remember one near my house as a kid and thought it was UNBELIEVABLE. I’m a carpenter by trade, so finding the materials was no problem, and I’d been wanting to build one for a few years now. I’m always making things and I decided to combine my love for GIjOEs with my creative side. That’s all it took to get started!

Before beginning, I thoroughly researched fire towers online (to find a design that I liked) and then started in on all the math. The tower is about 90 ft. at 1:1 scale and is a little over 17 ft. at 1:6 scale. I’m not a modeller, so I’m sure I might offend some purists out there, but I built this thing to have FUN, not to win any awards.”

You Won't See THIS Anywhere Else on the Web—It's a very rare sight indeed, to look down upon the roof section of Chris' tower. Fans normally see this part of the structure only from below. Notice how even here, a place no one even sees, Chris has taken the time and effort to create a realistic metal roof with all the correct details. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

You Won’t See This Anywhere Else on the Web—It’s a very rare sight indeed, to look down upon the roof section of Chris’ fire tower. Fans would normally never see this part of the structure, but we caught this exclusive shot of it while Chris was disassembling and returning the sections to his U-Haul trailer. Notice how even here—a place no one even sees—Chris took the time to create an accurate, realistically peaked “metal” roof with all the correct details. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

“The lookout building sits in the middle of the top platform and has a railing going all the way around. That was the trickiest section to build because the last section of stairs had to go through the tower and to the outside. I must say again that I wish I would have paid more attention in math class!

The handrails were a major pain to do too, but definitely needed. It’s all made entirely out of 90% recycled wood materials from a local sawmill, and held together with wood glue and 23-gauge brad nails. Before I built the little building on the top, I put all the sections together so there wouldn’t be any ‘bad surprises.’

Now that it’s completed, I’ll probably set up scenes and take more pictures. I also plan on having a zipline coming off of it somewhere and make a short video of Joe taking the plunge. Beyond that, I haven’t really given much thought to what else I’ll do with it.

I would probably give it away if it went to the right place. For now, it’ll just go back in my basement. It’s built in 4 removable sections that mortise together, so it stores away fairly easily. 

Finally, I remember that I couldn’t stop laughing as I stepped back and looked at it all for the first time. Yes, 17′ sounds tall, but standing right next to it is a whole different story. It…is…TALL. Now the fun really begins!” —Chris Rowland, Macon, GA

Bottom Line: Since “official” records are not actually kept regarding such things, we don’t really know if Chris Rowland has broken or set a new World’s Record with his fire tower, but it’s more likely than not that he has. Over the past few decades, we’ve witnessed hundreds of customizers around the world creating 1:6 scale trains, rail guns, aircraft, bunkers, vehicles and other GIjOE-related items of all sizes and types, but NOTHING quite as tall, elegant and intricate as Rowland’s tower. Our sincerest congratulations to Chris on his amazing achievement and our thanks too, for his generous contributions to this article. Absolutely SUPERB work, Chris!


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