The First to Serve? Members of the Connecticut Joes (one of the first local divisions) posed for this group photo MANY years ago. Unfortunately, this pioneering club is now inactive. (Photo: John Kozin)
Hasbro’s original “Hasbro Boy” logo.
Finding Support at the Local Level Grows Difficult
As Hasbro continues to pull up its corporate stakes and decamp farther down the road from its original fan base of 12-inch collectors, catering evermore to the whims, wishes and greener($) market pastures of younger 3.75″ RAH vs. COBRA devotees, fans of so-called “vintage” (1:6 scale) GIjOEs are now largely left to fend for themselves, fandom-wise. Unsurprisingly, many “1:6ers” have begun splintering off to explore new brands of the hobby (Hot Toys, Sideshow, etc.), while others are putting 1:6 scale action figures aside altogether to engage in unrelated leisure activities (i.e. cars, motorcycles, golf, etc.).
One of the first places this emerging and inexorable brand-exodus has made itself apparent is over at the “local division” level of the GIjOE Collector’s Club (GIJCC). In the past, the GIjCC’s local divisions gathered like-minded fans together within shared geographic regions, held regular meetings, hosted annual GIjOE-related shows and encouraged overall brand-support for Hasbro and GIjOE-related products. But oh, how times have changed!
Current GIjOE Collector’s Club logo
Until recently, this was the very lucrative business model being pursued by both Hasbro and the GIJCC. And for the last couple of decades, local divisions have acted as the brand’s strongest standard bearers, keeping the flame of GIjOE passion burning and holding the torch of 1:6 scale fandom high. Sadly though, Hasbro’s current disregard for 12-inch Joes has the future of many local fan clubs looking, well, pretty bleak. Unable to find a division in their area, frustrated fans can only resort to posting pics or repetitive posts throughout scattered corners of the internet. But believe us when we tell you, such computer-centric “keypad fandom’ is NOTHING when compared to having honest-to-goodness, face-to-face “Joe-Talks” with other human beings. Unfortunately, local clubs with real members (not cyber-“likes”) are struggling to survive in 2015. For example, when we inquired about the current status of the (defunct) Central Florida GIjOE Collector’s Club, a dejected Cathy Jones replied:
GIjOE fan Cathy Jones of FL (Photo: Cathy Jones)
“I wish we had a club. I tried TWICE to get one going, but it never took hold.”—Cathy Jones, FL
“Roadblocks” Facing Local Clubs Formation
Getting a local division “officially” started in this day and age is indeed a challenge. To do so requires a great deal of time, effort, and participation from all concerned, qualities that are in short supply for many fans. And if individual members of a club can’t (or don’t) contribute equally, then its meetings and activities will suffer accordingly. Of course, this has always been the case for most volunteer organizations, and GIjOE clubs are no exception. All that being said…
It also doesn’t help when the GIjCC places unnecessary “legal” roadblocks in the way of local club formation. We’re referring primarily to their blatant attempt to increase subscriptions to their tired monthly magazine. If you’re not aware, the national club requires all prospective local divisions to faithfully record and file pages upon pages of tiresome paperwork. While it’s been many years since we had to jump through the hoops of their “start-up” procedures, I can still remember when we were first trying to form the Central Illinois local division (HERE) back in 2005-2006. In order to “qualify as a division,” we had to submit lengthy membership and meeting attendance forms along with each member’s name and mailing address for at least the first 6(?) meetings. And we were required to do so before the GIjCC would even bother to list us on their website! What the…? That was hardly helpful, gentlemen.
Meetings of the Central Illinois GIjOE Collector’s Club can become quite active with all the buying, selling, trading, talking and general Joe-fellowship going on. Remembering to fill out boring paperwork for the national club was the LAST thing its members wanted to think about! (Photo: Mark Otnes)
Of course, for the national club, requiring the local divisions to submit detailed membership lists was their way of gathering new fan names and addresses in the hopes that they (those new fans) would subscribe to and/or begin paying yearly dues back to the national club. That’s all fine and dandy for the GIJCC, but the requisite hassles at the local level were hardly conducive to a new club’s formation. Rather than help us “get the word out” about our new local division, the national club made us WAIT for over a YEAR before our paperwork was accepted and our club was (finally) listed on their website. The irony of it all? Since the recent revamp of their new website HERE, the national club now no longer lists ANY of its local divisions. So it was all pointless!
Since its founding in 1999, the DFW GIjOE Collector’s Club has worked repeatedly (and well) with the national club and continues to be one of the hobby’s best divisions. (Photo: DFW GijOE Club)
Hasbro’s current indifference to 1:6ers and the GIjCC’s paperwork stall tactics are hardly the kind of support prospective local club organizers hoped (or expected) to encounter. We’ve found that 1:6 collectors are left largely to their own devices, expected to forge their own way ahead and generate their own “buzz.” That’s sad. Most fans don’t have backgrounds in advertising, marketing or public relations, so it’s easy to see why they’d become frustrated and give up trying. 50 years after our 12-inch hero’s debut, GIjOE fan club growth at the local level has now slowed practically to a standstill.
The young faces of the “Pennsylvania GIjOE Meets” club imply its members’ interests rest solidly with the 3.75″ line of GIjOEs. Their club page on Facebook HERE backs up that assertion. (Photo: PGM)
Goodbye 12-inch Profits! Hasbro and the GIjCC might as well be burning fistfuls of $100 bills. By not selling 1:6 GIjOE products, the two businesses are essentially losing out on millions in profit. (Photo: contractdoctors.com)
Missed Opportunities and Lost Profits
What’s happening in GIjOE-fandom now is truly bewildering. As many of the brand’s “original fans” begin to approach retirement age, with their pockets FULL of discretionary income, Hasbro has nonetheless (and unbelievably) chosen to IGNORE their combined and obvious financial strength. Fans all around the world are ready, willing and able to indulge and immerse themselves fully into the 1:6 scale hobby, but Hasbro wants no part of it; ignoring their requests for new (1:6 scale) GIjOE figures, equipment sets and vehicles. Of course, all sorts of cost-risk analysis arguments can be made, but in the end, the potential amount of (1:6 scale-related) profits remaining unclaimed by the company is literally staggering.
And, as Hasbro goes, so goes the GIjOE Collector’s Club. With both withdrawing their support of 12-inch figures, attendance at the annually held “JoeCon” shows around the country is on a definite downward spiral. The most striking example we’ve witnessed occurred recently at JoeCon 2013 held in Indianapolis, where the number of attending (12-inch) fans was visibly FAR fewer than in previous years (see our complete coverage of that disappointing event HERE). The good news? Overall, the attendance of collectors of 3.75″ Joes at JoeCons appears to be holding (at least for now), helping to keep Joe alive at least at that scale. But a depressing, anti-12″ trend has clearly grown with each consecutive show and many fans are beginning to feel “left out“ of the proceedings.
Changes Occurring at the Local Division Level
With two major GIjOE shows coming up in as many months (Joelanta in March and the previously mentioned JoeCon 2015 in April), we were curious about the current status of once-bustling local divisions of the national GIjOE Collector’s Club. How many of them are still operating today? How many members still attend local club meetings? In what activities do they engage? To discern the answers to these questions, we recently sent out inquiries to all of the local club’s last known “contact” email addresses, culled mostly from master lists found, you guessed it, on the internet. What we discovered was, to put it mildly—shocking.
Members of the Minnesota Division of the GijOE Collector’s Club remain active and supportive of each other’s collecting efforts, utilizing their club page on Facebook HERE as a way to share messages and trade or sell with other local club members. FAN-tastic! (Photo: MGIJCC) Click to enlarge.
Imagine our concern when message after message began bouncing back to us as “undeliverable,” with “permanent fatal errors,” or tagged with the worst of all possible auto-replies, “account inactive.” Remember! These email addresses are—or were—the MAIN contact method and communication portals for many local clubs. If fans are unable to reach a club through its main contact email address, then that’s as good as sounding the death knell for a local division. After a while, prospective new members will simply stop trying to connect, give up, and go away.
Go, Pats? Members of the New England Division of the GIjOE Collector’s Club continue to meet on a regular basis, as shown by their website HERE. (Photo: New England GIjOE Collector’s Club)
Furthermore, investigation by our crack research staff revealed that the majority of local division club websites, while still visible on the internet, had not been updated for MANY years (some as many as 10). Numerous club members had also disappeared, either having died, moved away, or otherwise left the hobby altogether. Life challenges too, including health and/or unexpected financial downturns can force a fan’s separation from GIjOE. For example, Ron Neubauer, of the (now inactive) Central New Jersey GIjOE Collector’s Club wrote to us, admitting:
“I am no longer a NJ resident, having moved out in 2011. And I had to sadly give up my Joe collection due to a nasty divorce, so I am totally out of the (GIjOE) scene. —Ron Neubauer
Chicago GIjOE Club members, Kevin Bolger (left) and Tave Lamperez (right), examine a “Skydive to Danger” set for sale at one of their previous club-hosted GIjOE shows in Algonquin, IL. Future shows are now on hold as the once busy division adjusts to its new “inactive” status. (Photo: Mark Otnes)
Chicago club President Ron Biallas posed for this pic at a show his division hosted in 2008. (Photo: Mark Otnes)
Even once busy and prominent local club divisions are now falling on hard times membership and participation-wise. We asked collector, Kevin Bolger, of the (now very quiet) 25-30 member strong Chicago Division of the GIjOE Collector’s Club, “Should the Chicago club be considered as defunct or disbanded?” Bolger optimistically opined:
“Inactive” would be a better description. A lot of our members have been busy catching up on life—with their kids, getting new jobs, working a zillion hours a week, etc. It was also harder getting a permanent meeting place as our long-time meeting place, the Schaumburg Library, put more restrictions on who could meet there. We do get together to go to the Kane County toy show. I was actually going to see if there was interest in getting a contingent to go down for the GIJCC Springfield show in April. As far as an Algonquin show, Ron (Biallas, club president) took a job at another school in the District so the HS venue was not available to us. I have no doubts that we’ll be getting together in the near future as our core members have been meeting for the better part of 20 years!”
As some divisions fall, others will rise. The Kentucky division known as KYGIJOE, recently hosted its first-ever “Kentuckiana GIjOE Toy Expo” in October, 2014. Out-STANDING! (Photo: KYGIJOE)
Looking Back in Time—This photo was taken by a member of the Colorado GIjOE Collector’s Club and dates from 2001. Such “stockpiled” imagery provides unique insight into club activities of the past. (Photo: Colorado GIjOE Collector’s Club) Click to enlarge.
Our review of local division websites was a lot like looking back in time. Rather than operate as hubs of current club activity, most now serve as silent depositories of a club’s past history, revealing details of much busier and more active times. Fortunately, many clubs are keeping their memberships active by abandoning traditional websites altogether and moving day-to-day operations onto Facebook, group emailing lists, or exclusive fan forums. Ultimately however, our attempts to contact all of the known local divisions revealed a sad truth—the number of inactive clubs is now running about equal to those claiming to be active. According to our recent survey (please contact us HERE with any updates or corrections), the following local divisions should now be considered “inactive” or disbanded:
Local Divisions Considered to be INACTIVE:
DISBANDED: Central Florida GIjOE Collector’s Club
INACTIVE: Central Iowa GIjOE Collectors Club
INACTIVE: Chicago, IL Division
INACTIVE: Colorado 1:6th Scale Collectors Club (Website)
INACTIVE: Connecticut GIjOE Collectors Club (Website)
ON HIATUS: Lone Star Scale Raiders (LSSR)
INACTIVE: Long Island Division GIjOE Club (Website)
DISBANDED: MexJoeheads (Forum)
DISBANDED: Mexico City GIjOE Collectors Club
INACTIVE: New Jersey GIjOE Collectors Club
DISBANDED: NORALA GIjOE Collectors Club
DISBANDED: NorCal GIjOE Collectors Club
DISBANDED: Ottawa 1:6 Scale Collecting group
DISBANDED: Space City Houston GIjOE Collectors Club
We had never heard of many of these clubs, including the intriguingly named, “MexJoeheads,” so we dug deep until discovering Carlos Santillan, the original founder of the club, and asked him if he’d please bring the rest of us up to date on what happened “down ol’ Mexico way.” He replied:
Carlos Santillan, GIjOE fan and collector from Mexico City (Photo: Carlos Santillan)
“Hello Mark—Thanks a lot for asking and inquiring about the local fandom of GIjOE. Back in 1995, I was the organizer of a collector’s club called: ‘MexJoeheads‘ and we had a website, a message board and even held regular meetings. It all lasted until 2005, when we parted ways due to several reasons: wives protesting about the time not spent with them, grudges between some of the members, one of the members was to create a printed magazine (but he only stole us our money!), and finally, some dishonest traders. The worst was Polo Moreno, aka “ApeJoe.” He still owes me money! Other members used the meetings to promote their own peculiar visions of WWII history (it grew wearisome to interact with other people’s pontificating), another of the members lost his job, etc., etc.
Since then, I have lost contact with all of them, but I know they used to hang around in a message board from Spain: ‘Escuadron 1:6’ HERE and some are still active and reorganized not long ago to set up a Lili Ledy exhibition in the Toy Museum in Mexico City HERE. As for me, I’m still collecting GIjOEs, Dragon Model limited figures and customizing, mainly on WWII German figures. My latest acquisition is a transparent GIjOE club exclusive that I found in a flea market here in Mexico City a couple of months ago. This is a good account of what happened. Cheers and Best Regards!” —Carlos Santillan
Lock-n-LOAD! What better place is there to set up and display a handmade 1:6 scale WWII German AA battery station than in the great OUTDOORS of Texas? This outstanding dio was set up, played with and photographed during a (long ago) gathering of the LSSR. Hoo-EEE! (Photo: Greg Brown)
Stuck Somewhere In-Between Active and Inactive
While most GIjOE clubs can easily be identified as either active or inactive, some locally-based 1:6 scale groups have been around so long, that even when they’re inactive, they still considered to be, well… active! For example, renowned GIjOE fan, collector, dealer and Cotswold Collectibles
company rep, Greg Brown
, wrote in to describe an interesting club situation down in Texas:
Greg Brown of Cotswold Colletibles (Photo: DFW Club)
“As it stands, the Lone Star Scale Raiders (LSSR) are on ‘indefinite hiatus’ until another meet is scheduled. In the beginning, we conversed via Yahoo Groups, but then migrated to Facebook. During the pre-meet discussions, we had people speak up to what they could bring and/or what they could do. Once we had the meet, those who didn’t bring anything generally got assigned “shovel duty.” In the late ’90s to 2005 (or so), we met three to four times a year. We’re lucky to meet once a year, now. Members have come and gone, but the core group is still there, including myself, Tony Tillman, Randy Thornton, Keith Holmes, Bob Welch, Jon Anders, Jeff Boutwell, Hank Dillon, Roy Smalley, Saul Friedman and Matt Stevenson (the majority of which are also active members of the DFW Chapter of the G.I. Joe Collectors’ Club).”
Historic Fandom Photo— This pic was taken at the very first meeting of the Lone Star Scale Raiders (see further description in Greg Brown’s quote below). (Photo: Greg Brown)
“The first picture (shown above) is of our very first LSSR meet, at Marco Valladares’ house. The dio was built on an assortment of folding tables, with buildings being fabricated out of cardboard boxes, foam board, and wood, and vehicles being an assortment of vintage Irwin vehicles, Hasbro Jeeps, and one Cohoon Plastics (remember them?) Kubel. We learned quickly that day that smoke bombs and cardboard buildings don’t get along.”
Details and Dioramas— This intriguing photo set-up shows German and U.S. medics working side-by-side during a rare moment of truce. Fantastic work, LSSR! (Photo: Greg Brown)
“Even though the LSSR doesn’t meet much any more, most of its members within the DFW GIjOE Club still carry the torch by building dios and displays for the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas. In fact, one of our recent builds – that of a downed WWII Waco Glider – is still on display there!”
Holy REALISM, Joe! It’s amazing what fans can accomplish when they get together and combine their collections and talents into a club. Check out THIS amazing LSSR dio pic! (Photo: Greg Brown)
What a MASTERPIECE! Take a look at this final “JUMBO” pic of the diorama built by the LSSR. Absolutely breathtaking. (Photo: Greg Brown) Click to enlarge—and be BLOWN AWAY!
Much has happened since our last report on the state of local GIjOE club fandom three years ago (see HERE
). New clubs have been formed, while others have faded away. During GIjOE’s 50th Anniversary, Hasbro all but ignored fans of 1:6 scale 12-inch “vintage” figures, prompting many to reevaluate their brand loyalties and future collecting goals. As we get used to being “left on our own,” it makes sense for fans to seek out collecting clubs. Together, we can draw inspiration and support from one another. And while it’s inevitable that some clubs will fail, others, typically those found in larger markets (i.e. Atlanta, Dallas, etc.) will undoubtedly remain strong for many, many years to come. Our best wishes to all local divisions that are still fighting the good fight. Keep up your good work and please let us know about any upcoming plans or future activities. Finally, here’s a list of all the known “surviving,” ACTIVE local divisions. Contact one today!
Local Division Clubs Known to be ACTIVE:
Atlanta GIjOE Collectors Club (Website)
Central Illinois GIjOE Collectors Club (Website—Facebook)
Club de Coleccionistas de Figuras de Accion P.R. Inc. (Facebook)
DFW GIjOE Collectors Club (Website—Facebook)
JOHIO GIjOE Collector’s Club (Website)
Kentuckiana GIjOE Collectors Club (Facebook)
Manila GIjOE Collectors Circle (Facebook)
Midwest GIjOE Collectors Club (Forum)
Middle Georgia GIjOE Action Figures Club (Facebook)
Minnesota GIjOE Collectors Club (Facebook)
New England Division GIjOE Collectors Club (Website)
Pennsylvania GIjOE Meets (Facebook)
Southern California Inland Empire Division (Facebook)