As JoeCons go, this was a pretty good one. Everyone understood that it was to be the last, and therefore attendance was strong and fan spirits were high. Longtime friends gathered again, some for the last time, while new friends were easily made and mutual memories shared. Despite the loss of future JoeCons, “America’s Moveable Fighting Man”—or “Real American Hero” (depending on your age)—has clearly made a lasting impact upon a great number of people and they wanted to say a final THANK YOU to Hasbro, Fun Publications, Brian Savage and the GIjOE Collector’s Club.
25 GIjOE Collectors SPEAK OUT Regarding the
25th (and Final) Hasbro-Sponsored “JoeCon”
Fortunately, the future of GIjOE shows seems assured. To commemorate the end of Hasbro-sponsored GIjOE conventions, we asked 25 die-hard fans attending the last-ever JoeCon to reveal to us their most inner thoughts and feelings regarding the loss of the club and its annual JoeCon shows. We also wanted to know their personal plans for GIjOE collecting and fandom going forward from this point, sans the club and any official Hasbro support. Some were optimistic about the future, others—not so much. Regardless of all the emotions and uncertainties involved, here’s what they had to say—transcribed from EXCLUSIVE Joe Report recordings made at JoeCon 2018:
“It’s the end of the ‘official’ JoeCon era, but I think you’ll see fan gatherings pop up and grow over the next couple of years. And honestly, this is less about the toys for a lot of folks, it’s more like a high-school reunion with people you actually want to see! So, I think that spirit will continue. For example, I’m the administrator of JoeBattlelines.com (see HERE) and I’m still going to keep doing reviews. And I’m also on a bi-weekly podcast and we’re going to keep that going as long as people want to listen. GIjOE has evolved over time and it’ll keep evolving.” —Fred Meyer, Pekin, IL
“It’s really bittersweet for me. I’ve been coming to JoeCons for 11 years. I’ve met a lot of great people and everybody’s like family. Coil Con is in Ohio and the Kentucky GIjOE show is coming up in July, so there’s definitely some variety of shows still out there. I’ve gotten really into the cosplay aspect of Joe fandom lately. ‘The Finest’ is a costuming group I’m in and we help raise money for different military charities. Right now, we’re raising money for K-9s for Warriors, which takes dogs out of shelters and trains them up to be support animals to help veterans with brain injuries.” —Erik Naville, Floyds Knobs, IN
“You hate to see anything end. There’s a lot of camaraderie with a lot of guys here. But the good thing is that there’s still other shows throughout the country and there’s still opportunities for guys to get together and celebrate each other and what we love to do with toys and stuff. I’ll continue to work on my collection. I typically collect vintage 12-inch. Everybody has a different way of collecting. I try to just center on what I had as a kid.” —Chet Peters, Falmouth, KY
“I hate to see it go. It’s been fun. I’ve met a lot of good people here and had a lot of fun at these shows. This was the last show that was officially endorsed by Hasbro with Brian Savage and his crew and the great job they’ve done. But I think the Joe-spirit will live on in shows like Joelanta and the upcoming Louisville, Harrisburg and Dallas shows. So while it’s the end of one show, it’s not the end of the hobby or tradition. I run the Louisville show—so we’ll be doing that every year. As a dealer, we’ve been setting up at Joelanta for quite some time, so we’ll always do that and enjoy that. We’re also going to try out the Harrisburg show this year, which is the first time for it. So I think there’s a nice calendar of Joe shows from March throughout the Summer. We’ll be covered!” —Steve Stovall, Louisville, KY
“It’s a little sad, because of all the conventions, this one (JoeCon) was connected to Hasbro more than any of the others. But most of the people I see here I’ll also see at Joelanta, sorry, it’s called ‘Toylanta’ now, and at other local shows like the Dallas/Ft. Worth show and the Kentucky show. As far as what else I’ll be doing with my JoeCon ‘show dollars’ from this point on, since there hasn’t been a lot of Hasbro 12-inch going on, so I’ve begun doing ‘my own thing.’ For example, it’s currently the 50th anniversary of the ‘Outer Space Men.’ They were a set of 7 aliens created by Colorforms in the late 1960s and they’re now being produced in 12-inch. I’ve also been collecting certain types of Joe bodies, head-swapping them and dealing a lot with customizers. God knows I don’t have the talent to make custom figures myself, so I have what I want MADE by someone who can!” —Ralph Gaudiuso, Yardley, PA
“I’m a little disappointed that this is the last one, but I have a good feeling that it’ll come back. They’ll keep it alive—somehow. It probably won’t be branded “JoeCon,” but THIS (gesturing to the crowd around him) will never die. Hasbro sees the money. I mean just LOOK at this place! I think it would clearly benefit them (financially) to keep it going. I’m a cosplayer too, and I’ll absolutely keep doing this (aspect of Joe fandom). I’m in a group now called ‘The Finest,’ the GIjOE costuming group, and we have ‘garrisons’ all over the world. So that part is never going to go away. It’s too much fun. Meeting people, getting in touch with their kids… when I was growing up, I had the 12-inch GIjOEs that I played with and it’s so nice to see parents bringing their kids to these shows, getting them into it, too. It’s all just a lotta fun!” —Chuck Pierce, Atlanta, GA
“Yeah, I’m a little sad. I’ll miss the people I see each year. It’s been 21 years that I’ve been doing the JoeCons, and it’s bittersweet that this is going to be the last one.
As to the future, I’ll still collect. I’ll still meet my friends. I’ll see them at other different conventions and I’ll find them on the internet. The club can stay strong and GIjOE is still going good.” —Randy Bloom, Boca Raton, FL
“While I think this is the last GIjOE show that’s sponsored by Hasbro, I also think that it’ll still go on. GIjOE is a toy that will live on through collectors and the people who play with it. When we’re gone, we still have our kids. My son is 33 and he collects 3.75″ figures. We’ve also got a real solid 12-inch collection hobby out there. We’ve got the Dragon, Cotswold and Sideshow lines, plus all the Star Wars 12-inch collectibles. You’re always going to have the Comic-Cons, toy shows and other things. The only thing you WON’T have is Hasbro’s official backing. My buddies and I will continue to do this (gestures around). It gives us a chance to keep in contact with each other and meet old friends. We’re kind of a tight-knit community and we’ve been doing these conventions since 1994. We’ll keep doing this. It’s a good way to make friends too, and it’s good, clean, happy fun.” —Burt Montague, Lawton, OK
“I’m actually a little tired and overwhelmed. This is my first official JoeCon EVER. I used to get the (convention exclusive) sets when I was working for the club, but I was never able to travel. This is the first time they’ve been close enough for me to attend. I’m also surprised at all the 3.75” stuff. I’m a 12-inch guy, you know? It’s sad. I’d like to see some way for JoeCon and the club to continue, but I can understand Brian (Savage) being a little tired after all the time he’s put into this. As for the future, Mego’s being revived this year. Captain Action has the new uniforms coming out. There’s all kinds of new Marx stuff coming out. Captain Cosmos from France and Felipe Monaco from Brazil are both doing incredible work. There’s the Falcon resurgence down there, too. There’s plenty of new stuff to collect—so I’m fairly optimistic about the future. I think that it’s entirely possible that in the next few years we’re going to see a massive GIjOE resurgence when the kids who collected the Classic Collection and Ultimate Soldier figures become old enough to start having nostalgic feelings (and the disposable income) to reclaim THEIR childhood toys.” —Rudy Panucci, Charleston, WV
“I have mixed emotions about all this. I’m really sad. I can’t believe this is the last one. This is something I’ve been doing on and off since 1994. My friend Burt Montague and I have been playing with Joes since we were 4 years old, so this is REALLY disappointing. There’s no ‘somewhat’ about it. But I understand—I understand where Brian’s at personally. He’s not old enough to retire, but I understand that there also comes a time in life when you can’t keep doing everything, you know? And Brian’s done these shows since 1997, I believe. That’s a long time. Burt and I went to the first one in 1994, that was pretty fun. And boy, how they’ve changed over the years—they really have changed. It’s certainly a 3.75″ focused show now, but there’s still 12-inch guys that love it and there’s always new guys getting in. It’s fun to see the excitement on kids faces, too. I don’t think the hobby’s dead. I think the hobby’s just starting. I think that we’re going to get into a ‘golden age’ of vintage GIjOE. I think for the next 20 years it’s going to be awesome.
What’s happening is you’ve got guys whose kids are going off to college and they’ve got grandkids and they’ve got a lot of spare time. They’ve got a lot of boxed Joe stuff in their basement that they’re going to start going through and playing with again. I’m not kidding you. I’ve noticed a trend in the last 2 or 3 years that there were more guys starting to get into it (the GIjOE hobby) again. I think that there is a GREAT future for 12-inch GIjOE. I think that—as always—there are people trying to get in—and out—of their collections. What’s interesting to me is that the ‘common’ stuff is still common, but the ‘rare’ stuff STILL tends to drive a really high price. Watch ebay. See what tends to go for crazy money. It tends to be the harder-to-find. And rare—is still rare.
As for my own future, I’m looking at the next stage of my life as more of a GIjOE-focused time. I think there is still a market out there for toy shows. I think Joelanta is an amazing experience. I’m still maintaining my own collection. My collection is not going anywhere. I’m actively buying and selling. I feel that there’s still a very positive market in the collector marketplace and I am excited about the future. I think that we’ve got a bunch of guys that are going to be retiring and they’ll have a lot of free time and this what they’ll do. You know, someone put this out there—the great thing about GIjOE collecting is that it brings you back to when you were 9 years-old and the happiest time in your life. And when you’re 70 years-old, what are you going to do? You’re going to go back to the happiest time in your life and that’s when you were playing with your GIjOEs.
I gotta tell ya—every show—EVERY show—I’ve got a handful of people who come up to me and say, ‘You know, I’ve been collecting 3.75″ for a long time and I’ve got everything. I want to get the ‘Dad’ of GIjOE.’ That’s what they think of 12-inch GIjOE. It’s kinda like me and 3.75″, you know? You start getting a couple, you go to shows, some guy hands you one, you get another one, your kid picks up one, and the next thing you know you go, ‘Hey, those things are pretty damn cool! Those aren’t as bad as I thought when I was 25, you know?’ And at the same time too, you understand that we are ALL collectors and that we all have that desire—and that hunt—and as soon as you fill up with what you got, you start looking for what you don’t have and what else is out there.” —Ace Allgood, Minneapolis, MN
“This is kind of bittersweet for me. I went to three JoeCon conventions already, and this one is—by far—it’s kind of sad, because you’ll never see it again. I’m enjoying everything and I’m a 12-inch collector, but the 3.75” guys look like they’re having a GREAT time. They OWN this show. And that’s fine. It’s good enjoyment for the family, kids are enjoying themselves, everybody’s having a great time. I’m gunna miss it, because it’s not going to be around anymore. But who knows? Someone else might pick this up and we’ll just go from there. I’m going to focus more on local venues. There’s Kane County, Illinois, we do a lot of Joe-hunting there. The Kentucky Expo is also a great show, I’ve been there. It’s not a far drive for me, so that’s a fun venue to go to. Steve Stovall puts on a great show. He has some great people and great vendors. It’s gunna be a great time.” —Christopher Tucci, Oak Lawn, IL
“This is my first JoeCon and my feelings are that while I’m so excited to be here, I’m also so sad that it’s going to be the last one. I’m sad because I’ve been collecting on and off since ’94 when people starting collecting again. But I’m excited too, that at this show I’ve seen a little bit more of the 12-inch figures than I expected. It’s really bittersweet though. This is a sad situation. We’re now FORCED to start going to local, self-promoted shows. It’s our only choice. They’re forcing us to do that. I’m going to start going to Joelanta. I’m more focused on original Hasbro-only stuff. I’m not into custom stuff, but I’ll support it because it helps keep the hobby alive.” —Billy Reynolds, Signal Mountain, TN
“I’m excited but also disappointed that all this ‘big stuff’ is coming to an end. But that opens up new doors, too. I’m looking forward to seeing who’s going to step up and take over and take charge and ‘steam forward’ with this stuff! As for me, I’m going to continue to refine my own collection with what I need and want, while getting rid of other frivolous stuff. I’m into those oversized ‘Men of Honor’ figures now. I love ’em! That is definitely going in my direction. For example, I made a giant ‘Smoke Jumper’ box (see photo). I like making custom boxes for them. That’s where I’m going now. Turning Men of Honor figures into giant Adventure Team members!” — James Heinen, Middleton, NY
“I guess I have mixed feelings. It’s a little sad, because we’ve kind of made this our family vacation for the last four years. It’s going to be sad to see JoeCons go. You won’t be able to hang out with other dealers and people you’ve become friends with, you know? I’ve never really been to any of the other shows and Joelanta is too far for us. It’s a pretty big trip from Massachusetts down to Atlanta. We have to rent a trailer. As for what I’ll do in the future, I pretty much collect all the 3.75″ stuff from 1982 up to the present. I brought a list of parts that I’m missing for vehicles and figures and was hoping to have some more time to get out there on the floor and look for them, but it’s been such a huge convention with so many people flowing in that I haven’t had much of a chance to do that. I’m a dealer, so I have to stay here in my booth most of the time.” —Ethan Bancala, Holden, MA
“It’s 20 years ago now that I did my first JoeCon in San Antonio. I was hooked after that. Got to meet a lot of great guys. In fact, a lot of people I met at the 1998 show I’m still good friends with today. It’s kind of sad to see the collector’s club and JoeCons go, but they helped spawn smaller shows from other members. So Joe fandom will carry on in different incarnations around the United States. We’re pretty happy about that. As for my own future in GIjOE collecting, I’m about 95% done with my Adventure Team and so now I’m slowly going backwards into the ‘Adventures of’ figures from 1969. I just bought my first four ‘Super Joe’ sets, so Steve Stovall and I will be pretty good buddies from now on. (HA) We’re already good friends. I also went to England a few years ago, so now I’m hooked on Action Man. I LOVE Action Man! They kept on going where Hasbro stopped and made some REALLY beautiful stuff.” —Greg Brown, Ennis, TX
“I hate to see JoeCon end. But hopefully something will rise from its ashes and we’ll have something new or better in a year or two. We’ll see. As a collector, there’s still plenty of opportunities at local and regional shows like Kentuckiana, Joelanta and the DF/W GIjOE Action Figure Show. As a collector, there’s still going to be lots of outlets. As a dealer, there’s probably not going to be as many. But it’ll all be fine. There’ll still be places to show our wares to GIjOE collectors.” —Matt Stevenson, Dallas, TX
“My feelings about the end of JoeCon and the club are mixed. Mostly I’m happy that we’ve had a lot of years of experience doing these shows. It’s also sad because I’ve made a lot of friends here and it’ll be very hard to see them at other shows. This is a BIG show. I’ve enjoyed Brian’s shows a lot. I’ve enjoyed the smaller shows too, but you know, everyone’s different and some guys won’t travel that far. So it’s tough. I might do a couple more shows, not just because this one’s going away, but because it’s nice to get out and see people and friends. I like talking to people. It’s also nice when they haven’t seen your art before and they get excited. That’s kinda cool. For me, I’m sort of at a personal crossroads because I’m a little older and you start thinking, ‘Okay, what’s next?’ I started out doing paperbacks. But I went to art school to do record covers. Now I have to decide whether to keep on painting soldiers or slide into something else. I’m kind of at that ‘last edge.’ I don’t want to be a very old man and not able to paint anymore or frustrated that I didn’t paint something that I should’ve.”
—Larry Selman, Waynesboro, PA
“This is my first JoeCon. I’m really a Joelanta guy. I wish I would’a come to more. Especially the one in Springfield (Illinois). To be fair, I don’t discriminate. I love ALL GIjOEs. I’ve had a good time at this JoeCon. I wish that I’d come for more than just one day, but we gotta get back home. From my perspective, Toylanta will be the show we go to now, and a lot of the regional shows like the Toy Man Toy Show. I’m also seeing a lot of people getting together on Facebook and groups like that. When a ‘Hascon’ comes out, I might look into it because like I said, I like all GIjOEs and I also like Transformers. The thing that scares me is that GIjOE might get drawn out by the Transformers. I think that’s a bigger property.” —Bob Stram, Belleville, IL
“This is the last JoeCon ever and I’m not happy about it—AT ALL! I’ve just gone 25 years and I want to go at least for the Golden Anniversary at 50! I’ve enjoyed every bit of it. It’s been great. I appreciate Brian and the crew. I’ve made some fantastic friends. They’re people I’ll remember the rest of my life. They call me ‘the guy with all the IDs’ and I’m gunna just keep on goin’. I guess now I’ll have to find new places to buy the stuff. That’s it. Short ‘n sweet!” —Steve Pennington, Raymore, MO
“I’m sorry to see it all come to an end. I’ve been coming to JoeCons since 1994—not all of them—but quite a few, so it’s kind of sad. I’ve always enjoyed getting together with other GIjOE collectors and just talking about Joe and reminiscing about Joe and of course buying and getting new things for my own collection. I’m kind of going to go into more ‘oddball’ stuff now; unique things that I’m interested in like some of the GIjOE knock-off stuff from the ’60s and ’70s that were just as nice quality as Hasbro. Some of it is pretty hard to find. I’m definitely always on the lookout for that sort’a stuff. In fact, the TOP-quality knock-offs are actually harder to find in many cases than the real Hasbro Joe stuff, so it’s kind of unique to search for, nowadays.” —Brad Curry, Monticello, IL
“This is the final JoeCon, and actually, I think it’s about time! I think a lot of us 12-inch Joe collectors have come to an end—and I think we’re going to have to be happy with what we’ve got. I don’t believe they’re going to make anymore. And I don’t think there’s going to be anymore conventions. Having said that, my daughter has two boys and I’ve sent them some GIjOEs and they love them! (Leans in and whispers) I believe they (the grandsons) are going to end up with my collection. And my collection includes over 300 GijOE figures!” —Dale Harris, Peru, IL
“JoeCon’s were great. While this last one is still going on, I’m going to take full advantage of it and enjoy it. Afterwards, I’m going to continue making my own dioramas and having fun with my own GIjOEs. Personally, I would like to see the Central Illinois GIjOE Collector’s Club perk up a little more (gives Mark a little ‘skunk eye’). How about a little more action there? Hmm? I have a Joe Room. It’s small, but I do have one and I plan on making even more dioramas in the future.” —“Stormin’ Norman” Harris, Princeton, IL
“It’s been great. It’s been fun. It’s been packed. I’ve been talking toys all weekend, as I have for almost the last 20 years, and it’s starting to set in that THIS—is IT. But I try to look on the bright side. I’m very depressed. It’ll be a long drive back to Texas because this is it and there’ll never be another Con like this—EVER. People may have had problems with Brian and Fun Pub, but I’ve never had ANY issues with them because they’ve brought so much enjoyment and collectibles to the hobby. The way most conventions go now, they’re such ‘money grabs.’ You’re paying $300 for celebrity autographs. You’re paying $100 to get in. THIS show, buying the boxed set, which no other con is going to have, you get the dinner, the casino, the panels, everything that they pack in. I’ve heard people complain about the price, but you get EXCLUSIVE figures you can’t get ANYWHERE else, plus access to everything at the Con. And they move it around. What other Con is going to tour the country and actually make it viable to do things other than the Con? They had the tours—I personally never did the tours—but I loved that they offered them. You know? And for families it’s perfect. My wife and I did our own tours. We still went to Ruby Falls, yesterday. At Disneyworld, we went to Universal Studios.
But this is bad. It’s REAL bad. It’s so unfortunate that this is, at least probably for me, the most attended Con I’ve ever been to—and it’s the last one. Obviously, the brand still has fans. It’s still viable. As far as what I’ll do from this point forward, I’ll still collect. But I hope there’s something TO collect. I hope Hasbro gets something on the pegs. I hope the movie in 2020 revitalizes the brand. That’s the hope. Maybe they can get a cartoon? Something definitely has to happen, and I don’t know what it is. I mean, you have plenty of ideas of what you want the movie to be, or if they do the ‘shared universe,’ but just be successful. You gotta have FUN with it. I personally loved the first two live-action GIjOE movies, but they both have problems. A LOT of problems. If it was easy, it’d be an easy solution. But you have to hit that tone of what Marvel seems to do so well. You stay true to the characters. You stay true to the history. But you have fun. It just has to be fun. So, we’ll see.” —Louis Simmons, Bedford, TX
“This is the last JoeCon, so yeah, it’s a little sad. I went to all of them from ’94 to ’04, when—to be honest with you—they got a little too expensive for me and I had to stop going. Since ’04, this is only the second one I’ve been to. I went to the Indy one because it was drivable. I came here because Dean Morrison asked me to help out at his booth—and I’m so glad I came—I’ve seen people I haven’t seen in YEARS. I’ll tell you, this one is more packed than the last couple of JoeCons I went to. I don’t know if that’s because it’s the last one and everyone wants to make sure they’re here, or what. I kept hoping that somewhere along the line they’d get a reprieve and stuff, but that isn’t going to happen. It would’ve happened by now if it was. I’m still trying to finish my vintage Adventure Team collection, either with stuff I can’t find or stuff I can’t afford. But at every convention and every show I find at least one piece I can add. After that, I’ve been branching off, because the ’60s stuff—that was before my time. When I was a kid, I started with the Adventure Team, so that’s kinda what I collect. Now I go to estate sales and buy other toys that I had when I was a kid—Hot Wheels, board games, whatever I had as a kid. That way, when I’m old and decrepit, I can sit in the toy room and just relive my own childhood. —Jack Hall, Wyandotte, MI
“I’m sad to see it end. I saw Brian last night and I thanked him for all he did over the years. Some people complain and moan, but even if you didn’t like what he did, without him, there wouldn’t have been ‘continuing Joes.’ I missed the last couple of Cons, but I’m really, really glad I’m here. I sold my entire personal collection at the Norfolk JoeCon in ’02, but I’ve since built up a bunch more and actually, while packing for this show, I got that vintage ‘itch’ back. I was putting together some Cadets, a German and a Brit, and I was going, ‘Oh, I do like these a LOT.'”
—Dean Morrison, Chardon, OH
TWO BONUS QUOTES FROM JOECON 2018:
“Yesterday, I said that Larry Hama gave GIjOE his soul. Today I want to say Brian Savage has given him his heart. Thank you Brian for giving me an opportunity to keep in touch with GIjOE—And I want to thank all the fans. Because without YOU, this all wouldn’t have happened—This is just going to morph into something different next year, so I’m looking forward to seeing ALL of you ‘downrange’ someday.” —Kirk Bozigian, Providence, RI
“If you’ve ever had any fun in the last 20 some years or so of doing this—it’s all my fault. We’re really gonna miss all you guys, because again without you, there is no GIjOE. It’s truly amazing what y’all do with this. We have to thank God for what he’s given to us. There’s a saying, ‘Do what you love and the money will follow.’ Here you go. And Todd mentioned this awhile ago, ‘We came for the toys and we stayed for the friends.’ So it’s as if we all collect the friends. It’s not the plastic out there. It really is all of you guys (gesturing to crowd).
The other people I want to thank are the FBI. You didn’t know this, but there’s people who’ve been undercover at this show. We’ve had extra local law enforcement. There’s been all kinds of things that have happened, because of things that happened online. One thing I want to ask people—is to be NICE. Okay? You don’t know who you’re talking to—online—you don’t know who you’re dealing with—If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything. Just be silent.—The one thing I will say in closing is—So the GIJOE 3.75″ saying is, ‘Knowing is half the battle.’ So what’s the other half? (Crowd: ‘Doing!’) Doing.—It’s not the knowing that’s important. It’s the doing. So go out, do good things, help other people and along the way, continue to collect GIjOE. Yo, Joe!” —Brian Savage, Ft. Worth, TX
Bottom Line: This was one for the history books—but now that page has been turned. On June 20-24, 2018, the last, official “JoeCon” convention was held, hosted and summarily ended by the (also soon-to-be-defunct) GIjOE Collector’s Club within the vast (yet welcoming) halls of the Chattanooga Convention Center in Chattanooga, TN. As it was before the club’s existence, and as it will be after the club’s demise, GIjOE fans once again find themselves—on their own. If you want to gather fans together for a GIjOE club meeting or host a Joe-related show or event, you’re more than welcome to do so. But from this point on, it can only be done without an official endorsement from Hasbro. Our sincerest thanks to all of the participants who made the content of this article possible and our best and sincerest wishes to Brian Savage and his talented, hardworking crew at Fun Publications for all of the pleasure they’ve given—to so many—for so long. Go (and Yo), JOE!