Before 1963, no company seriously considered the thought of creating dolls and action figures for boys. Instead, Mattel had a stranglehold on the hearts of consumers with only Ken representing the male presence. However, Stanley Winston envisioned a new product that allowed boys to dress their favorite characters in military uniforms. With this thought in mind, the first inkling of G.I. Joe was born.
After convincing Hasbro to take a chance on a toy that was not Mr. Potato Head or color-by-number sets, Winston agreed to fully sell the rights to G.I. Joe to Hasbro with a $100,000 payday. Dan Levine then took over the brand to lead the charge into the line’s groundbreaking popularity.
While the G.I. Joe toys of the 1960s quickly gained attention, the real wars of the seventies tarnished the attraction of military-centric toys. Over the next two decades, G.I. Joe changed, eventually downsizing into 3 ¾ inch action figures. Still, the largest change occurred in the 1980s, when the property took on a new life, where the franchise took on a new storyline where the Joes battled the evil forces of Cobra.
As fans of Hasbro’s G.I. Joe toys have gotten older, they often looked back to collect their favorite action figures and vehicles from the past. Both fans of the original toys and the rebooted 1980s version love to seek out these great vintage treasures. Then, some rare pieces have made history by selling for exorbitant prices.
Which G.I. Joe toys were the most valuable in the last ten years?
10. Defiant Space Vehicle Launch Complex (1987) (AFA graded)
As the G.I. Joes tackled the forces of the evil terrorist organization, Cobra, they traveled across the globe and even into space. To help them foil Cobra’s elaborate schemes, the Joes had access to a specialized space shuttle, the Defiant. After rocketing into space, these real action heroes had the choice of continuing in the larger main shuttle or a smaller secondary shuttle.
Thus, Hasbro released the Deviant Space Launch Complex playset in 1987 for the Real American Hero G.I. Joe toy line. Not only did this set come with the two shuttles, but it also featured an enormous crawler that transformed into the launch platform. This set also featured an array of accessories, including a crane arm and laser guns for the shuttles. When the launchpad moved into a vertical position, the interior facilities for the Joe base became visible.
As one of the largest playsets from the Real American Heroes line, the Defiant Space Shuttle has become a popular collector’s item. Thus, on June 2nd, 2010, one of these playsets sold on eBay for an amazing $8,000. In many ways, this price became possible because the shuttle had an AFA grading. For, other sealed versions of this playset have sold for as low as $1,925 on January 14th, 2022. The main difference between these two items, aside from condition, was the AFA-grading.
9. G.I. Joe Military Police Outfit (1967)
Back in the 1960s, G.I. Joe Action figures functioned very similarly to another toy line: Barbie. After purchasing the original articulated action figure, Hasbro offered a large array of accessory packs with new outfits for the toys. Thus, one soldier could become multiple different characters depending on the outfit that he wore.
Still, finding these accessory sets in one piece is a rare feat now of days. For many of these packs, children quickly ripped them open to lace the new accessories and clothing on their figures. Often, they lost pieces in the process. Thus, few sets remained in tack. Also, open sets of these accessories eventually deteriorated over the decades.
Amazingly, one of these sets, a Military Police accessory set, surfaced on eBay near June 22, 2021. This set featured a dress uniform for the G.I. Joe action figure, including a jacket, pants, scarf armband, helmet, and boots. It also included a pistol belt, holster, .45 pistol, police club, and field radio. At the end of the auction, this piece sold for $9,050.
8. G.I. Nurse Action Girl in Box (1967)
As G.I. Joe distanced itself from the military connections in the late 1960s, they introduced a unique product for the line. The G.I. Nurse Action Girl appeared in 1967, branching away from the normal military men that the line became known for. Instead, this figure featured a female who donned the clothing of a typical military nurse.
Beyond wearing the nurse uniform, cap, and shoes from the army, the G.I. Nurse came with a large array of accessories. To help her nurse the G.I. Joes to health, this action figure had a shoulder bag, crutches, bandages, splints, and many more medical tools. She even came with a plasma bottle.
As with most toys from the 1960s, collectors rarely find an instance of their favorite toys in mint in box condition. So, when one of these toys popped up on eBay around April 13, 2018, it ended up selling for a whopping $9,800. Even before this instance, loose versions of this action figure sold for $5,600 back in 2015. However, this one stood out for its near pristine condition.
7. Blizzard Artic Attack Soldier (1988) (AFA 95)
Sometimes, the lesser-known characters are the ones to net the highest amount of interest from collectors. While everyone in the 1980s sought out a Snake Eyes or a Destro, few picked up characters like Blizzard. Then, even fewer of these figures survived in their packaging to sell on the market today. So, there is little surprise that this character managed to become one of the most expensive G.I. Joe action figures to sell in the last ten years.
The Blizzard Arctic Attack Soldier action figure first appeared on store shelves back in 1988. Unlike the traditional G.I. Joe, this character specialized for cold-weather missions, loving the challenging icy environments. Thus, the toy came with an array of accessories that helped him with cold-weather missions. Not only did he come dressed in a snowsuit with a white helmet, but he also came with black skies that strapped onto his back or feet. He also carried a white pistol and rifle.
As one of the rarer figures, Blizzard earned the distinction of selling for $10,000 when he went up on eBay around June 18, 2021. Helping him achieve this price, this figure had earned a 95, which is a near-perfect rating, from the AFA. In comparison, another version of this figure that sold on January 30, 2022, only sold for $216.17 since it only had an AFA rating of 75.
6. Missile Command Headquarters (1982 Sears Exclusive) (AFA 80)
As Hasbro reinvented their G.I. Joe toy line to become Real American Heroes, they released several memorable playsets. However, the only set that represented Cobra’s base of operations only appeared in Sears stores. Furthermore, this playset was created completely out of pieces of cardboard, which quickly degraded over the years. Thus, the Missile Command Headquarters easily became one of the rarest sets for G.I. Joe collectors to hunt down.
To create the Cobra Missile Base, users pieced together the pieces like the control panel, movable elevator, work platform, and seats. Beyond the cardboard cut-out of the Cobra Missile Base, this set also included three action figures from Cobra’s ranks. First, there was the “Mickey Mouse” version of Cobra Commander. Then, the set also came with a Cobra Officer and Trooper.
Thanks to the rarity of mint examples of this set, there is little surprise that one sold for $10,384 on November 3rd, 2021, when it went up for auction at Hake’s Auctions. To help this one reach this price, it sported an AFA rating of 80, an excellent condition.
Luckily, for collectors who do not have thousands of dollars to spend on a cardboard playset, Hasbro rereleased this set in 2017 as a San Diego Comic-Con exclusive. For the most part, Hasbro remained faithful to the original with this reissue. Unfortunately, it still sells for around $200 on eBay.
5. Magnum Power Adventure Team (1976)
During the 1970s, Hasbro attempted to distance the G.I. Joe brand from military connections by giving it a secondary name: Adventure Team. Rather than reminding the public of the horrors of the Vietnam War, Hasbro emphasized the adventures that military personnel find while on missions. Still, they continued to release military-themed sets and accessories for their figures.
One of the hardest-to-find sets from this era was the Adventure Team Magnum Power from 1976. This set came with a large array of accessories for the G.I. Joe action figures of the era. For instance, it included a rifle with three different scopes. Then, there were the map and case, binoculars, and walkie-talkie. It also featured a jacket, bullet-proof vest, and pants for the figures to wear.
As this set is hard to locate, finding a mint-in-box version of it is even rarer. So, when one popped up on eBay around August 4th, 2021, it netted $10,798 by the end of the auction. Like the Missile Command Headquarters, this set has seen a rerelease in the modern era. Back in 2008, Hasbro released a faithful reissue of this same set. Thus, collectors can find the 2008 version for under $150.
4. Series 2 Destro (1983) (AFA 95)
While many who are unfamiliar with G.I. Joe only think of Cobra Commander when recalling the forces of evil, there was another major player. Behind the scenes, the weapons dealer Destro helped fuel Cobra’s quest for power. Thus, the Joes frequently combatted against this man as they strived to achieve worldwide peace. Amazingly, Destro was able to remain under the radar while having a full-metal head that stood out from the crowd.
As one of the major villains of the franchise, many fans love to get their hands on Destro from the second series of Real American Hero toys. The artwork from the card back also draws collectors to this figure. So, when one appeared on eBay with an AFA score of 95 around April 11, 2021, it sold for $11,099. As with many G.I. Joe figures, the AFA grading became the driving force for this high sale price. For instance, those with AFA ratings of 85 have sold for up to $2025 while one without any rating sold for $1,027.
3. U.S.S. FLAGG Aircraft Carrier (1985)
G.I. Joe became infamous for its gigantic playsets in the 1980s, and none were larger than the Aircraft Carrier, the U.S.S. FLAGG. This gigantic toy easily becomes the talking point of any collection with its 7-1/2-foot-long length. Luckily, Hasbro chose not to scale it with a real aircraft carrier, or it may have been even longer.
This playset included a few accessories, like a tow vehicle and an admiral’s launch. While the box art proudly displayed a Skystriker taking off from the carrier, Hasbro sold it separately. Still, the playset easily had room to accommodate the Joes’ vehicle. Likewise, there was no Dragonfly available inside of the box.
As one of the largest toys ever sold, few parents agreed to buy this product. Thus, it easily became one of the rarest pieces in a G.I. Joe collection. When a mint-in-box version of this playset popped up on eBay around December 20, 2018, it secured a sale of $12,650. Even examples of this playset with no box have sold at around $2,500.
2. G.I. Joe Series 2 Commando Code Name: Snake Eyes (1983) (AFA 90)
Sometimes, the highest-grossing toy from a toy line is the one that everyone would predict. Somehow, one of the simplest paint jobs to ever hit store shelves wormed his way into the hearts of G.I. Joe fans. In a bid to save money and keep things simple, Hasbro opted to not apply any paint to Snake Eyes. Thus, the figure remained purely black. Since his debut in 1982, Snake Eyes has been a popular character from the toy line.
Notably, when Hasbro first released Snake Eyes to store shelves, there were two versions available. One featured simple straight arms. Meanwhile, the other figure sported a “swivel-arm battle grip”, allowing it to naturally hold its rifle. This action figure came with few accessories, just a black uzi and a black pack of exclusives.
On April 04, 2021, Snake Eyes made waves as one of his action figures sold for $12,900 on eBay. This Swivel Arm version of the action figure had received a 90 grading from the AFA, boosting its value. In stark contrast, loose versions of this same toy have sold for under $200.
1. Classified Series Cobra Island Baroness with C.O.I.L. (2020)
Sometimes, the greatest selling force behind all purchases is one that has been catching on in the last few years: Fear of Missing Out. FOMO is a real condition that leaves reason and logic outside the window. It then boards it up so that no one could talk it down from the plunge. Then, that person spends $50,000 on a product that becomes widely available a couple of years later.
As Hasbro began to revive the G.I. Joe brand with the Classified series, they released an exclusive version of Baroness with a Cobra C.O.I.L. motorcycle that only appeared in Target stores. As with many exclusive pre-orders, they vanish as soon as companies announce their existence. Likewise, these same products arrive on eBay in mass at that same time. It is a real mystery.
The same occurred for this figure on August 25, 2020. Announced on July 27, 2020, the presales began on August 1st, where it quickly sold out. With nowhere else to go, some buyers turned toward eBay. Not knowing that the figure would resurface again, this figure managed to sell for $50,000 not once, but twice. It also sold for $13,500 during this time. This was a huge profit over the toy’s selling price of $41.99. Currently, this figure has sold for around $50 to $60, testifying to the unnecessary expenditure.
What G.I. Joe toys do you hope to get your hands on?
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Bio: I am the founder and owner of Wheeljack’s Lab pop Culture and Toy Shop. My vision has always been to reunite customers with their favorite childhood toys and pop culture, triggering fond memories, and reigniting their imaginations. Every day, I work in the “lab” where it’s Christmas 365 days a year. I scour the internet, like when we had the Sears Catalog of yesteryear, for the next great treasure. Then, I await the arrival of the postman as if he were Santa Claus himself and helping collectors worldwide with their own versions of Christmas. Every day as a vintage toy buyer is an absolute joy!