Category Archives: Unique & Rare Items

Rare 1966 G.I. Joe Sea Sled “Salt Water” Instruction Sheet Variant Discovered

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Dust to Dust— This unusual 2-color variation of the vintage (1966) GIjOE Sea Sled instruction sheet is now clearly showing its age. The left side has been eaten away (yikes!) by tiny insect bite holes and yellowing is overtaking what was once bright, white paper. Regardless, this fragile, folded page remains an exciting find for any fan and/or collector of GIjOE “ephemera.” Its belated addition of red type and graphics describing solutions to dealing with salt water damage, lost pontoon gaskets and escaping air from a scuba diver’s “pant legs,” make it very desirable and collectible. Original versions had none of this material, and intermediate versions had only a hand-applied stamp referring to those pesky pant legs (see at bottom). This third version was likely written, revised and then reprinted after early consumer feedback (and complaints?) made the additions necessary. In this condition, the ancient instruction sheet (50 years old!) now looks and feels like a treasure map— to GIjOE’s past! (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

It Pays to Search Your Collection Now and Then

I’d received a customer request recently asking for an original (or reprint) of a vintage 1966 GIjOE Sea Sled instruction sheet. I didn’t think I had such a thing, but I promised him that I’d look into the matter and search through my personal GIjOE collection to see what (if anything) I could find. If nothing else, perhaps I could scan or photograph my precious framed copy and send him a photo?

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Lost at Sea— What would happen if you placed your Sea Sled out in the ocean? Say goodbye to your Scuba Joe, that’s what! The sled’s anemic, battery-powered motor would have no chance of keeping up with oceanic tides and/or wave pressures. Your 1:6 watercraft would be gone in seconds, probably never to be seen again. BUT…if you were so foolhardy as to have attempted such a voyage, at least your trusty “salt water” variation of the Sea Sled’s instruction sheet would’ve reminded you what to do when you got home. Yes, that’s right—WASH IT! As this closeup reveals, the so-called “saltwater” version of the 1966 instructions included (newly inserted) red type in a bold box. (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

After sifting through piles (and piles!) of my miscellaneous GIjOE “ephemera” collection (i.e. paper goods such as flyers, ads, instruction sheets, etc.), I finally came across the sadly decaying, fragile page you see photographed above. Now over 50 years old(!), this forlorn instruction sheet has clearly not been well cared for. Numerous insect (or mice?) bites have eaten away at one side, splits and tears run along its fold lines, and just holding it in my hands made me feel it was falling apart.

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Was Joe Cutting the Cheese?— This red addition to the rare “salt water” variation instruction sheet reminded its owner to allow air to escape from the scuba diver’s “pant legs.” Just what was going on under those frogman wetsuits? HA. Perhaps children complained they were having trouble getting Joe to sink down in their pools or bathtubs. Otherwise…P-U! (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

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Stamp Me Sea Worthy— This super-tight closeup of my framed (non-saltwater) instruction sheet shows that the only red type added to this earlier version clearly came from a hand-applied rubber stamp pad, most likely pressed on AFTER the page had been printed. (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

Bottom Line: I do own a second vintage Sea Sled instruction sheet that was lovingly framed and preserved under glass long ago in near-mint condition. Sadly, it lacks most of the “red” text additions apparently added to later saltwater versions. This unusual variation has been in my basement stacks for years, but I only really acknowledged and studied it closely today. Hmm… I wonder if my customer would prefer a photo of a (bug-eaten but rare) saltwater variation or a nearly perfect (but more common) specimen? Which version would YOU be most interested in seeing?

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G.I. Joe “Classic Collection” Artist Releases New Military Art Calendar For 2016 Holiday Season

This will BLOW YOU AWAY— Can you imagine a better way to decorate the wall of your Joe Room than a new 2016 calendar from famed GIjOE artist, Larry Selman? Out-STANDING! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This will BLOW YOU AWAY— Can you imagine a better way to decorate the wall of your Joe Room than a new 2016 calendar from famed GIjOE artist, Larry Selman? Out-STANDING! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Bottom Line: Heads up, GIjOE and military history fans! A great new 2016 calendar has recently been released by Classic Collection artist extraordinaire, Larry Selman, just in time for this holiday shopping season. Much to our surprise, Selman sent us a free sample (THANKS, Larry!) and we have to tell you, it is freakin’ AWESOME! What better gift can you give a Joehead (or loved one) than a calendar ($20) that’s chocked full of iconic GIjOE packaging artwork? And who better to purchase one from than the artist himself? Here’s the link to get one for YOUR Joe Room. Enjoy!

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HALT! Who Goes There?———G.I. Joe Collector’s Club Announces Limited-Edition “Boutique Item”———Air Security Figure With Uniform and Accessories

This all-new GIJCC

This excellent, all-new “boutique” USAF Air Security figure is now available and for sale to GIJCC members only. Hurry! Quantities are described as “VERY limited.” (Photo: GIJCC)

Sorry, Scalpers. Figures Are Limited to 1 Per Membership!

Take a look at this surprise figure recently announced by the GIjOE Collector’s Club. It’s a 2015 12” Air Security Figure complete with Uniform and Accessories. Out-STANDING! According to the club’s official product description:

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“In the grand tradition of the GIjOE Backyard Patrol accessory sets from the 1970s, this vintage-styled reproduction 12” figure is a VERY short run ’boutique’ item put together by a GIJCC designer and features hard hands, standard ’60s head sculpt, air force dress jacket and pants, tall black boots, 45 pistol with white holster and belt with shoulder strap, an ALL-NEW white ascot, and ALL-NEW blue Air Security helmet. This is a great entry-level figure for new collectors and older kids alike. Even long-time collectors will get a kick out of the old/new feel of this piece. Quantities are VERY limited.”

According to GIjOE fan and collector, Greg Eaton, the GIJCC's new USAF Air Security Joe

Just as expected— According to GIjOE fan and collector, Greg Eaton, the GIJCC’s new USAF Air Security Joe “met expectations.” (Photo: Greg Eaton)

Bottom Line: These sharp “boutique” USAF Air Security figures look FANTASTIC. Yes, you could probably put it all together yourself via kit-bashing, but buying one would be an enjoyable way to support your beloved GIjOE club. So…Get yours HERE or forever hold your peace! Go, JOE! 

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WWII “Treasure Train” Hidden by the Nazis May Have Been Discovered in Poland———Believed to be Very “Dangerous” and “Armed With Explosives”

This massive, 1:6 scale locomotive, created by NAME HERE of Kampfgruppe Von Abt in the UK, likely bears a strong resemblance to the missing

An Adventure Fit for Indiana Jones— This massive, 1:6 scale up-armored German locomotive, hand-built and recreated in perfect 1:6 scale by master miniaturist, Peter Shaw, likely bears a strong resemblance to one of the legendary “Treasure Trains” Nazis used toward the end of WWII to move (and hide) gold, artwork and other (stolen) Allied treasures. (Photo: Kampfgruppe Von Abt) Click to enlarge.

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“This is a find of world significance, on a par with discovering the Titanic.” —Jarosław Chmielewski, lawyer (discussing the discovery of a WWII Nazi “Treasure Train” in Poland)

Peter Shaw of the UK, one of the world's most famous and highly revered customizers of 1:6 scale. (Photo: Peter Shaw)

Peter Shaw (85) of the UK, is a world-famous customizer of 1:6 scale trains and WWII-related dioramas. (Photo: Peter Shaw)

Real-Life Events Now Unfolding in Poland Remind 1:6 Scalers of the WWII Train-Centric Dioramas Created by Famed “Kampfgruppe Von Abt” Customizer, Peter Shaw of the UK

When we read the recent AP story announcing the possible discovery of a WWII “treasure train” in Poland (see HERE), we were struck by the intriguing scenario’s similarity to a well-known series of photos taken by the UK’s famous 1:6 scale club—Kampfgruppe Von Abt (KVA) and thought we’d combine the two subjects into one article for today’s edition of The Joe Report.

The 1:6 scale custom trains, vehicles and photo-realistic dioramas produced by the KVA club’s membership have become almost legendary among action figure collectors and customizers around the world. And at the heart of many of the club’s most famous photographs rests the work of one VERY talented man—Peter Shaw.

No Detail Left Out— When you consider how much work creating this 1:6 scale masterpiece required, you gain an instant and immeasurable respect for the Shaw's skills as a master modeler. (Photo: Peter Shaw)

Inspecting Perfection— Here, an engineer of the “Deutsche Reichsbahn” conducts a preliminary mechanical inspection of Shaw’s 1:6 scale locomotive. Ja! Das ist gut! (Photo: KVA) Click to enlarge.

Shaw’s customs are peerless and stand atop the highest pinnacle of 1:6 scale achievement.

Once you learn about Shaw and what other members of the KVA have accomplished, practically everything else you’ve seen before (in 1:6 scale) begins to pale by comparison. Because of their sheer size, the club’s dioramas are always situated outdoors and most of them have utilized Shaw’s hyper-realistic WWII locomotives with fully loaded rolling stock. In addition, the club adds a plethora of supporting 1:6 props including train track, water towers, telephone poles, station houses, artillery pieces, V2 rockets, lifting cranes, Panzer tanks and all sorts of supporting vehicles. Combined, each mighty collection enables the club to accurately and realistically portray places and activities one would have witnessed—including Nazi treasure trains—from over 70 years ago.

When you stop to realize that the scene you're looking at is in full, accurate 1:6 scale, it practically STAGGERS the imagination! (Photo: Peter Shaw)

Photoshopping is NOT Required— When you realize Shaw’s train yard diorama (above) is in full 1:6 scale (remember, that Dragon figure is 12″ tall!), it literally STAGGERS the imagination. Peter works on a whole other level of 1:6 excellence and achievement. WOW! (Photo: Peter Shaw) Click to enlarge.

It’s easy to draw quick comparisons between Shaw’s 1:6 train-dominated dioramas and the original 1:1 scale WWII “treasure train” purportedly found recently in Poland. If you haven’t read the AP article yet, here’s just a snippet of what it revealed:

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Two men in Poland claim they have found a legendary Nazi train that according to local lore was loaded with gold, gems and valuable art and vanished into a system of secret tunnels as the Germans fled advancing Soviet forces at the end of World War II. Historians say the existence of the train has never been conclusively proven, but authorities are not passing up this chance at possibly recovering treasures that have sparked the imaginations of local people for decades.”

Unidentified men (Polish slaves, perhaps?) loading Shaw's 1:6 scale train with boxes full of, what..? Possibly bars of gold, stolen artwork; who knows? (Photo: KVA)

Four unidentified men (Polish POW slave laborers?) are depicted loading crates full of stolen artwork, gold and other treasure onto Shaw’s 1:6 scale boxcar. Gotten Himmel! (Photo: KVA) Click to enlarge.

A subsequent article published in The Guardian (see HERE) also added these stunning facts:

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“A deathbed confession from an unnamed man had led officials to the site…and the dying man was involved in the operation to hide the train 70 years ago.”

Holy, Hollywood! This is the sort of story that begs to be made into a Spielbergian-esque major motion picture. And it’s easy to imagine the screenplay’s opening scene reading something like this:

Project: GIANT—The Treasure Train
A screenplay by Mark Otnes

FADE IN: A very old, frail man reclines on his deathbed, somewhere in Germany. Weakly crooking a finger, he gestures to his eldest son, urging him to lean in and hear his final, barely audible words…

Little does the son know, but his father is about to break a life-long vow of secrecy and recount an astonishing tale that reveals the final resting place of some of the world’s greatest “lost” (i.e. stolen) art treasures and over $2,000,000,000 in Third Reich gold bars.

Before his secrets are lost forever, he’ll finally reveal the TRUE STORY behind one of Hitler’s legendary, almost mythical—Treasure Trains.

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Tubes full of rolled-up art canvasesses wait to be loaded aboard Shaw's

Under heavy guard— Tubes full of rolled-up paintings, jewelry and other looted items are shown stacked on a platform, during loading aboard Shaw’s 1:6 scale “Treasure Train.” (Photo: Kampfgruppe Von Abt)

The Modern-Day Dangerous Realities of 1945’s “Project GIANT”

Of course, it’s common sense to believe that if the Nazis were stashing billions of dollars worth of gold and treasure somewhere, they would also have been determined to hide it well and deploy numerous booby traps around its location to deter the potential for its discovery. Such are (still) the fears haunting authorities in modern-day Poland. In the initial AP article, would-be treasure hunters thinking about approaching Hitler’s “Treasure Train” were seriously warned:

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“Not only could it be armed with explosives, but methane gas underground could add to the risk of an explosion… The train is said to have gone missing in May 1945. Legend says it was armed and loaded with treasure and disappeared after entering a complex of tunnels under the Owl Mountains, a secret project known as “Riese” (or Giant) which the Nazis never finished.”

Dangers Abound— In a dark, sealed train tunnel like this one, the potential for deadly traps including land mines, trip wires and other powerful explosive devices are all too likely. (Photo: Dailymail)

Dangers Awaiting Would-Be “Treasure Train” Hunters— If a Nazi treasure train is indeed sealed within a dark, mountainside tunnel (like this one) somewhere in Poland, then the likelihood of that tunnel being rigged with real-life WWII anti-personnel devices such as land mines, tripwire explosives and other similar dangers remains all too likely to this day. (Photo: Dailymail)

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While gazing upon the marvelous images created by Peter Shaw and other members of Kampfgruppe Von Abt, we hoped that someone in the esteemed UK club would comment on those creations and the coincidental discovery of a treasure train purportedly found in Poland. To our delight, KVA’s Peter Shaw replied and kindly provided the following exclusive insider intel:

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“I read the news item and the two men who say they have found an AT (armoured train) but what is not known is if they have the knowledge to tell the difference. If I had been given the task of hauling a load of gold (which was to be hidden from the Allies), I would have used a Class 52 with 2/3 heavy trucks behind it so that it would be easier to hide. That’s just my thoughts.”

Gettin' Ready to Roll— Reichsbahn engineers prepare to depart the station with their illicit load of stolen Allied treasure, headed for a top-secret destination somewhere deep inside Poland. (Photo: KVA)

Gettin’ Ready to Roll— Shaw’s 1:6 scale Reichsbahn locomotive engineers prepare to depart with boxcars full of stolen Allied treasure, destined for a secret destination. (Photo: KVA) Click to enlarge.

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“What does concern me is the definition of an Armoured Train. I did make an AT with a couple of trucks to go with it. I don’t think we had a specific diorama based on it, but it was used as back up for other scenarios. I think the locomotive you like is one of my Class 52 Krieglokomotive with splinter camo of Dunkelgelbe on a grey background. But it’s not an Armoured train.”

Every Detail Counts— The hallmark of the famed Kampfgruppe Von Abt is that every photo diorama they create is full of period-accurate details, including the requisite 1:6 scale action figures, equipment and vehicles. Simply out-STANDING! (Photo: KVA) Click to enlarge.

Every Detail Matters— The hallmark of the famed Kampfgruppe Von Abt is that every photo diorama the club creates is full of period-accurate details including superb 1:6 scale Dragon Wehrmacht and SS action figures, weaponry and related WWII vehicles. Simply out-STANDING! (Photo: KVA) Click to enlarge.

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“As to my own background, I was a Marine & Aviation Underwriter in the insurance industry in the City of London. I retired at age 60 (I’m now 85), so I’ve had plenty of time to indulge myself in my hobbies. I started building WWII infrastructure in 2000, when Dragon started to produce 1/6 figures.” 

Planning the Route— Accurate maps and plans detail every inch of the train's secret route through the mountains. Where it will stop is the big question. And where it will be hidden for the next 70+ years! (Photo: KVA) Click to enlarge.

Planning the Route of a 1:6 Scale Treasure Train— KVA troops and officers consult maps and plans that detail every inch of the train’s secretive route throughout the Polish mountains. The big questions: Where is it going and where will it be hidden for the next 70+ years? (Photo: KVA) Click to enlarge.

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“I started with tanks up to a half-size Tiger and went on to build 1/6 scale, mainly German infrastructure. A look at our club’s website will give you an indication of what I’ve achieved. The ‘Dora’ rail gun was the largest item I built in 1/6, at 27 ft long. It’s now in a military museum in Holland.”

Peter Shaw's Masterpiece— Shaw's 1:6 scale

Peter Shaw’s 1:6 Masterpiece— Shaw’s 1:6 scale “Dora” rail gun is without a doubt his crowning achievement. Here, Shaw poses alongside the mammoth model in its final, breathtaking form. This “holy grail” of miniaturists is now on permanent display at a military museum in Holland. (Photo: KVA)

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“The Von Abt group was started by me and although we’re now down to 3 members, we still produce 3 or 4 photo shoots a year, with 2 in the can to ‘publish’ soon. As age has taken its hold, I’ve downsized to 1/30 scale.” —Peter Shaw, UK

The Master at Work— Peter Shaw, possibly the world's greatest living modeler of 1:6 scale, is shown here working on his most massive and famous achievement, a 1:6 scale version of the infamous WWII

From Insurance to Master Modeling— Peter Shaw, shown here working at home on his 1:6 scale masterpiece, the WWII “Dora” rail gun, has rightly achieved a reputation as one of the world’s greatest living modelers. His creations are now legendary among 1:6 scale hobbyists. (Photo: KVA)

Superb Staging— German troops carefully unload crated paintings and other

Superb Staging— German troops carefully unload crated paintings and other “loot” for transfer to the boxcars of Shaw’s 1:6 scale treasure train. Note the club’s amazing “staging” of this scene and its extremely realistic figure posing. It looks like WWII newsreel footage! (Photo: KVA) Click to enlarge.

Big, Bad Boxcars— A train is more than just a locomotive, andthe KVA knows that. As a result, Shaw also added superbly crafted boxcars and other rolling stock. Are you blown away yet? (Photo: KVA) Click to enlarge.

Big, Bad Boxcars— A 1:6 scale treasure train is made up of more than just a locomotive, and the KVA clearly appreciates that fact. As a result, Shaw built superbly crafted boxcars and various other rolling stock as well. Well, are you blown away yet? WOW! (Photo: KVA) Click to enlarge.

Bottom Line: By now you’ve probably suspected we used the AP “treasure train” story simply as an excuse to talk about the amazing work of Peter Shaw and the Kampfgruppe Von Abt. And of course, you’d be correct. We are HUGE fans of those gentlemen! Our sincerest thanks go out to all past, present and future members of the vaunted KVA and especially to its founding member and master modeler, Peter Shaw. Through their combined efforts, they’ve produced a body of work that is rivaled by few others, revealing the absolute epitome of what can be created in 1:6 scale.

The Full Crew— In this photo of the KVA's original membership, you can see

The Men Behind the Magic— In this old photo of the KVA’s “full crew” (or original membership), you can see that the club peaked at about 10 members. That’s Peter over on the far right-hand side. (Photo: KVA)

(Editor’s Note): For more photos detailing Mr. Shaw’s masterpiece (the 1:6 scale “Dora” rail gun), we highly recommend you view its slide show found HERE. And to view more pics of Mr. Shaw’s amazing 1:6 scale trains and other stunning creations of the KVA membership, go to their website HERE. Finally, we’ve embedded a short video of a rail gun with actual WWII footage, below:

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Vintage AM Equipment Sets Opened at VAME Meet 5

Imagine the THRILL of being the first persons to open sealed 1970s shipping cartons packed full of NMOC (new mint on card) vintage Action Man Frogman suits. Well, that thrill was realized recently by two of Action Man’s “founding fathers,” Bob Brechin (the former chief designer at Palitoy) and famed Action Man packaging illustrator, David Barnacle.

The two hobby giants appeared together at the recent VAME Meet 5 (held in the UK) to carefully open two of these precious “time capsules” from Action Man’s venerated past. Fortunately, Action Man fans around the world can now share in the thrill of those exciting moments by watching the video captured at the event (see clip above).

We’ve also received a wonderful “after action report” from VAME 5 representative, Michael Acton, who penned the following exclusive intel for readers of The Joe Report. Enjoy!

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Michael Acton, UK Action Man fan and collector (Photo: Michael Acton)

Michael Acton, UK Action Man fan and collector (Photo: Michael Acton)

“Just a postscript to this after the event: VAME Meet 5 really was extraordinary this year and was hectic from start to finish. We were quite taken aback by the numbers of collectors that came and supported the event, so thanks to all, including some that had travelled very long (by UK standards!) distances to make it.

Too many highlights to mention here, but it included a display of Dave Barnacle’s original AM art work by the man himself, Bob Brechin joining us for the day and patiently answering all those questions and Vectis auctioneers bringing along items from the recent sale of newly discovered unopened Palitoy Action Man stock hoarded by a former salesman. The BBC film crew were very unobtrusive and commented on the sheer enthusiasm of the collectors they spoke to.

We had a bit of fun at the end of the day when a couple of trade boxes of AM frogman sets from the 1970s, that were found untouched and still sealed, were opened by Bob Brechin and Dave Barnacle. There’s a video HERE (or see it above).

The suits were as fresh and supple as the day they left the factory and not perished at all (even though the glue had dried on one or two of the cards so that the blister covering had detached from the card). It’s going to be a challenge to beat this for Action Man’s 50th in 2016, but we’ll try!” —Michael Acton, UK

Bottom Line: Sounds like a great time was had by all. And yes, Action Man fans here in the U.S., Australia and elsewhere around the globe are all VERY jealous. Thanks for the regular updates, Michael. Our best wishes to everyone in the UK who helped make VAME 5 such a ripping success!

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G.I. Joe Collector’s Club Reveals Pics of Actual Production Version of 2015 JoeCon 12-Inch Set

Exterior of main box. (Photo: GIjCC)

Exterior of the JoeCon 2015’s 12-inch exclusive’s main box. (Photo: GIjCC) Click to enlarge.

Bottom Line: If you’re a regular reader of The Joe Report, then you know all about this set already. Nonetheless, these new pics of the ACTUAL production version should be quite interesting to any of you still battling with your conscience and bank balance. Remember, although it’s not shown in these images, a 12-inch figure also comes with this set and is tucked into that coffin box with a shirt, pants, tan cap, boots, holster and pistol. Finally, according to an official post from the club:

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“The production run on these is VERY low.”

The full set revealed, with packing materials. (Photo: GIjCC) Click to enlarge.

The full set revealed. Geronimo! (Photo: GIjCC) Click to enlarge.

Closeup of left side. (Photo: GIjCC) Click to enlarge.

Closeup of left side contents. (Photo: GIjCC)

And the right side. Nothing unexpected. (Photo: GIjCC) Click to enlarge.

And the right side. Nothing unexpected. (Photo: GIjCC)

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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)

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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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“Lucky Shot Scale Leather” Creating 1:6 Holster Rigs and Related Accessories for 12″ G.I. Joes

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Lt. Colonel Aaron Luck, US Army (above), attended Joelanta 2014 and provided passersby with the rare opportunity to observe him while working, as he created actual examples of his superb 1:6 scale holster rigs and related miniature leather goods. Luck even brought his sewing machine along to stitch his tiny creations together as fans looked on in amazement. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This elaborate 4-gun rig really caught our eye. Look at all the perfect stitch work and complex assembly. Absolutely perfect! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This elaborate 4-gun rig really caught our eye. Look at all the perfect stitchwork and complex assembly. Absolutely perfect, Aaron! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Active-Duty Army Officer Stuns Joelanta Attendees With Live Sewing and Assembly Demonstrations

“Even I can do better than THAT!” —Aaron Luck

The more customizers we meet in this hobby, the more diversity we discover among their talents and creative use of materials and techniques. Indeed, if you search the “customizers” category here on The Joe Report, you’ll be rewarded with numerous articles on talented individuals, including a few dubbed as “masters of metal,” a “3D printing pioneer,” various traditional modelers working in styrene plastics, molds and resins, and even one amazing man working exclusively with wood and other “found” materials.

You may think we’ve covered them all. But as Yoda would say… “No. There is… ANOTHER.” Meet Lt. Col. Aaron Luck (active-duty, US Army). Aaron’s impressive military resume is about a mile long, but in brief (according to the LinkedIn website) Luck is currently serving as the “Deputy Chief of Combat Operations Division at Joint Space Operations Center,” and was educated at the “Naval Postgraduate School (and) United States Military Academy at West Point.” It’s not mentioned in his resume, but Luck also happens to be an avid GIjOE fan and collector, and in his spare time, enjoys creating 1:6 scale miniature leather goods—out of real leather—for use with 12-inch GIjOEs and related action figures. HOOah!

When he's not creating accessories for use with GIjOE and other 1:6 scale action figures, Luck is busy defending the United States of America. Here, Luck wears his "class A" US Army uniform during a ceremony held recently at the Joint Space Operations Command at Vandenberg AFB near Lompoc, CA. (Photo: Chad Miller)

As a real-life “GIjOE,” Luck proudly serves his country as an officer in the United States Army. Here, he’s shown wearing the Army’s impressive “class A” dress uniform at a ceremony held at the Joint Space Operations Command at Vandenberg AFB near Lompoc, CA. (Photo: Chad Miller)

A giant "Men of Honor" action figure customized into an oversized Air Commander (humorously) holds up a poster showing various gun rigs and other 1:6 creations offered from Aaron's "Lucky Shot Scale Leather." (Photo: Mark Otnes)

A giant “Men of Honor” action figure customized into an over-sized Air Adventurer (humorously) holds up a poster showing various gun rigs and other 1:6 creations offered by “Lucky Shot Scale Leather.” (Photo: Mark Otnes)

As I walked up to Luck’s dealer table at Joelanta 2014, he struck me as focused and methodical. At first, I thought he was repairing something, but then I learned he was busy CREATING something instead—a miniature 2-gun holster rig! Transfixed, I was soon joined by other fans, and we all continued to watch in rapt admiration as Aaron worked. I eventually saw that each tiny piece of (real) leather is cut out (by HAND), then carefully and skillfully stitched together using Aaron’s trusty, old-fashioned sewing machine. Finally, to finish each rig off properly, Luck carefully attaches tiny metal buckles and rings until the final 1:6 scale product looks completely realistic.

This unusual black double-rig is for a 1:6 scale "Jango Fett" Star Wars action figure. Luck created this outstanding accessory (from scratch)—during the first day of the show—in just under 4 hours. WOW!!!! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Luck created this unusual “Jango Fett” black double-rig (from scratch) during the first morning of Joelanta 2014. That’s EVERYTHING, cut, sewn, and buckled—in under FOUR hours! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

I asked Luck to comment on how he became interested in creating 1:6 holster rigs and he told me:

“About a year and a half ago, I was looking at that shoulder rig that came with the Mademoiselle Marie figure. While “serviceable,” it was bad enough that I immediately thought, ‘Even I can do better than THAT.’ So, I started making some of my own, posting pictures of the results on various GIjOE forums and Facebook. Other collectors liked what they saw and told me, ‘Hey those are great. Make me one!’ It spread from there. I just want to help other fans finish their figures!”

All of Luck's creations all completely handmade. Look at that unusual 4-gun righ on the leather-clad female spy in the foreground. And check out Bruce Willis' extended side-holster. AMAZING work! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Luck’s creations are all meticulously handmade and VERY correct. From left to right, a “cross-over’ 2-gun rig, another intricate 4-gun rig and Bruce Willis’ “Mare’s Laig” side-holster. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Bottom Line: How cool is this? In what other hobby can you get something hand-created for you by the Deputy Chief of Combat Operations Division at the Joint Space Operations Center? Just think about THAT, my fellow Joeheads! If you need to “finish a figure” and would like more information on Lucky Shot Scale Leather, you can contact Aaron directly via email HERE, visit his website HERE, or “like” him on Facebook HERE. We’d “like” to offer our own sincerest thanks and gratitude to Luck for his lengthy and illustrious military service and to his recent (and outstanding) contributions to the 1:6 scale collecting hobby. OOHrah! Go, Army! Go, Aaron!

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