Ding-Dong! “G.I. Joe, Calling!” Earliest G.I. Joes Were Promoted by 1960s Grocery Deliverymen

50 years ago, groceries were delivered to your door, along with EXCLUSIVE catalog items including GIjOEs. Imagine how kids would look forward to THAT! Would you like a GIjOE with your eggs and milk? Why, YES, please! (Photo: easy)

A simpler time—50 years ago, groceries were delivered right to your door, along with Jewel Tea Company catalog exclusives including GIjOEs. Thank you, SIR! (Photo: etsy)

Milk, Eggs, Bread—and G.I. Joes?

In another example of how times have changed, unofficial GIjOE historian Les Batten posted an intriguing account over on the newswires today recalling how “the Jewel man” used to deliver groceries to customer’s homes as well as, get this—GIjOEs! When we heard about this charming story of yesteryear, we felt obliged to pass it on to the rest of the world of GIjOE fandom. Here then, is Batten’s written account, expertly illustrated with outstanding historic photos provided by Joe Zeta. Enjoy!


“A while ago we were discussing Joe Zeta’s boxed Green Berets with the coupon on the back. Since then, I’ve been in contact with a man who is purported to have the world’s largest collection of Jewel Tea Company memorabilia. Jewel Tea was the parent company of the Jewel Home Shopping Service that is named on the coupon. He was kind enough to search through all of his paperwork for me and to send me the catalogs I was missing for the period 1964 to 1977. After the search, and many long phone calls, he was able to tell me where he believes the Green Beret fit in the Jewel history. I’ve already told Joe Zeta and now I’ll share what he had to say…”

GIjOE fan and collector, Les Batten (Photo: Les Batten)

GIjOE collector Les Batten remembers when “exclusive” GIjOEs were home delivered with the morning groceries. (Photo: Les Batten)

“First, a little bit about the Jewel Home Shopping Service. For those of us old enough to remember when the milkman delivered to your home daily, you’ll recognize that the Jewel man worked the same way. He would have a daily route, with established customers, who received their groceries and other items from him. 

The other items were listed in a twice annual catalog that the shopper could order from when the Jewel man was at their door. The most popular items, important to Jewel Tea collectors (but not to us) were a Jewel exclusive line of dishes. Some of those sell for over $1000 today.

 After an extensive search through all of his paperwork, the expert found no mention of Joe’s Green Beret. He didn’t even find a copy of the coupon and was very interested in seeing it. After I sent him a copy he said he knew exactly what it was.”

If you were a kid, would this ad in the Jewel catalog get your attention? OF COURSE! What a great way to reach families, children and all potential customers. (Photo: Joe Zeta) Click to enlarge.

Holy, Home Delivery! Would this ad in the Jewel Tea Company’s “popular items of the day” catalog get your attention? OF COURSE IT WOULD! (Photo: Les Batten) Double-click to enlarge.

“According to him, in order to keep the customers buying between catalog issues, the Jewel Tea Company placed exclusive orders for ‘popular items of the day.’ These would be thrown in the route man’s basket for him to sell and were known as ‘Basket Specials.’ As exclusives, these items would NOT be available in any other way. He told me his luckiest find was a ‘Basket Special’ sugar bowl that he sold for over $2000.”

Talk about your RARE

This is an example of truly rare GIjOE “ephemera”— It’s a 1960s-era coupon from the Jewel Home Shopping Service for $1 off a GIjOE set. That’s about as obscure as it gets in the GIjOE collecting universe. In fact, this may be the only such copy of this coupon left in existence! (Photo: Joe Zeta)

Want ad from the past— If you answered this want ad back in 1966, you ended up making a lot of young children VERY happy by delivering GIjOEs right to their door. Grocery deliveries were never so exciting! (Photo: Joe Zeta)

Want ad from the past— If you answered this ad back in 1966, you made a lot of children happy. (Photo: Les Batten)

“Without duplicating Joe’s coupon (see above), I’ll tell you that it offered a discount on an item in the upcoming Christmas catalog. It stated that the discount could be ‘applied towards the purchase of a MC0124C Giant G.I. Joe Set or a MC0132X Official G. I. Joe Jeep and Trailer Set featured on page 54 of the Jewel 1966 Christmas Catalog on or before December 31st, 1966.’ Finally, here is a want ad for a Jewel salesman from June 1966 (at right). The big ad (see above coupon) was from page 54 from the 1966 Christmas Catalog.”

Bottom Line: Yes, times have certainly changed, but in some ways, they remain the same. In the not too distant future, Amazon drones will be dropping off groceries and other items at our doors, but that won’t replace the charm of yesteryear’s milkmen and grocery delivery boys. In fact, it puts them out of work! Regardless, it’s always fascinating to look back at GIjOE’s earliest days and learn more about the myriad ways Hasbro initially promoted its new toy line. Our sincerest thanks go out to Les Batten for his superb story and to Joe Zeta for the wonderful photos. You guys are the BEST!

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3 thoughts on “Ding-Dong! “G.I. Joe, Calling!” Earliest G.I. Joes Were Promoted by 1960s Grocery Deliverymen

  1. John Michlig says:

    I’d nearly forgotten all about the Jewel connection. GI Joe product manager Rick Behling (who started at Hasbro just before the Adventure Team era) was previously a buyer for Jewel and talked about the figure being featured in their catalog – – and the drop-off in popularity he’d seen firsthand. Great article, Les!

  2. Rick Behling says:

    Thanks for the mention, John.

    Not only was I a toy buyer for Jewel and watched as G.I. Joe sales exploded and then imploded in the 1960’s, I began my career at Jewel as a Jewel Home Shopping Service ‘route man’ in 1964, the year Joe was introduced (all management trainees began as route men so we would understand the nature of the home shopping experience). I remember full well being asked at almost every home on my route whether or not we had Joe in stock as regular retailers couldn’t keep him on their shelves.

    Great product. Great company. Great memories.

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