Finding Support at the Local Level Grows Difficult
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!
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:
“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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!”
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 ClubINACTIVE: Central Iowa GIjOE Collectors ClubINACTIVE: Chicago, IL DivisionINACTIVE: 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 ClubINACTIVE: New Jersey GIjOE Collectors ClubDISBANDED: NORALA GIjOE Collectors ClubDISBANDED: NorCal GIjOE Collectors ClubDISBANDED: Ottawa 1:6 Scale Collecting groupDISBANDED: Space City Houston GIjOE Collectors Club
“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
Stuck Somewhere In-Between Active and Inactive
“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).”
“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.”
“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!”
Local Division Clubs Known to be ACTIVE:Atlanta GIjOE Collectors Club (Website)Club de Coleccionistas de Figuras de Accion P.R. Inc. (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)