The story of the first action figure ever, G.I. Joe, began back in the early 1940s. Determined to create a toy that could accessorize like Mattel’s Barbie, Don Levine, Vice President and Director of Marketing and Developing at Hasbro, got to work. He eventually drew inspiration from a wooden mannequin and realized that the toy needed to move as a real body could. Knowing that soldier toys have been a classic hit, he felt confident that a military-themed toy with great articulation was the right way to go. His idea transformed into the highly successful G.I. Joe, with a 1945 movie inspiring the name, action figures which debuted in 1964. The first toys available to the market were the Action Soldier, Action Sailor, Action Pilot, and Action Marine.
The durability and articulation of G.I. Joe made it a smash hit, managing to generate around two-thirds of Hasbro’s profits for a time. However, its popularity began to wane as anti-war sentiment grew during the Vietnam War. By the early 70s, Hasbro made several attempts to refresh the brand with a more generic action appeal. So, Hasbro attempted to rebrand the toys with the G.I. Joe Adventure Teams. Despite the attempt to emphasize the action over the military, sales steadily declined. So, by 1978, G.I. Joe vanished from store shelves as Hasbro discontinued the brand.
The story of G.I. Joe did not end in 1978, for Hasbro’s Vice President of Boys’ Toys Marketing, Bob Prupis, fully believed that there was more life in the line. However, he alone could not figure out how to make the toys more exciting for the 80s child. After several failed presentations, he finally hit gold as his ideas lead to a partnership with Marvel Comics. With the promise to promote the comic books, Marvel assigned Larry Hama to create the characters and universe of the new G.I. Joe line-up: A Real American Hero. Larry Hama’s notecards further inspired the line by influencing the creation of collectible file cards. In addition to a comic book, the new line also earned a cartoon series that children also fell in love with.
Throughout the 80s, A Real American Hero gained several sublines. For instance, Cobra bulked their ranks with the B.A.T.s, Evil Headhunters, Ninja Force, Python Patrol, and many more. Meanwhile, the Joes fortified their team with the Desert Patrol Squad, Night Force, Slaughter’s Mauraders, Tiger Force, and more. There were also teams on both sides like the Sky Patrol and Star Brigade. The line even gained a cross-over with Street Fighter II in 1993. It even celebrated the success of the brand with a Hall of Fame line that ran from 1991-1994.
During this time, several international companies licensed G.I. Joe to introduce the action figures to their markets. For instance, Palitoy created many of the official toys for the European market. There were also Estrela in Brazil, Funskool in India, and Plastirama in Argentina. Not to mention, Takara had licensed G.I. Joe decades ago, leading to several modified toys like Microman.
Over time, the popularity of A Real American Hero waned, so Hasbro once again reinvented the brand in 1995 with G.I. Joe Extreme. This line replaced the 3 ¾” scale figures from A Real American Hero with 5” figures. Hasbro once again turned to Sunbow to produce an exciting cartoon series to help sell these toys. Despite the 90s refitting, Extreme only lasted until 1997.
Feeling that customers were thirsting for a return to the old days, Hasbro next decided to appeal to older fans with the G.I. Joe Classic Collection. Once again, the 12” action figures had various collectible outfits that they could wear.
The next reenvisioning of G.I. Joe came in 2005 when Hasbro introduced the Sigma 6 team. Once again, the scale of the toys changed to an 8” scale. Like the prior two series, a cartoon series was produced to help promote this toy line.
G.I. Joe gained another boost in popularity as the feature-length live-action film debuted in 2009. While G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra had a mixed reception, it helped lead to future projects. This film also gained an exclusive toy line from Hasbro. The brand once again returned to movie theaters in 2013, with G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Like the prior movie, Hasbro once again produced toys to help capitalize on this take on the brand.
From 2014 until 2016, G.I. Joe celebrated its 50th anniversary with another wave of rereleases of the toys from the 80s. Once again, these toys were created with a 3 3/4th” scale. This line brought back most fan favorites including Baroness, Destro, Duke, and Snake-Eyes.
Recently, the characters from A Real American Hero have once again gained new life with the G.I. Joe Classified Series. As it entered the market in 2020, it brought the excitement of the 80s line with modern engineering. This time, the toys were produced at a 6” scale, much larger than the original run. Thus, these toys easily stood out with highly detailed painting and detailing while maintaining the large range of articulation the line is known for.
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How to use the Identification Tool to find your action figures and toy lines
Do you have an old-school G1 Transformers toy you are trying to identify? Don’t know the name? No problem! I’ll help you use this identification tool. For example, just type in “jet” in the figure name field and hit search. You’ll see all the Transformers G1 Toys that are jets. Maybe try “car” and select the color “blue” and a list of Transformers matching those results will appear. Maybe you don’t know what the finished vehicle will make, so try searching by “red” only. Did you forget to remove “car”? Now search just the color “red”. Perhaps you know the name, but can’t spell it try “Wheljck” instead of “Wheeljack” and all the Wheeljack characters are listed for you.
We have all the G1 Transformers list of characters in our database. You can search by Transformers name, as well as just line or subgroup. You can identify Transformers that are all red or all the figures that are orange. The Transformers toy list can even be sorted by package type. You can identify which came with a sticker sheet, or which came without instructions. Want to know all the 1984 Transformers toys and none of the others from 1985-1990? No problem, just select the release year from “1984” to “1984”. Perhaps you just want to know the list of G1 Transformers “Autobots”, or just the “Decepticons”, our ID tool can do that.
Mostly we made this so you could see if your action figures were missing some accessories or parts. So you can see that too.
If you need additional help, please Contact Us. If you’re here for Transformers identification because you’re about to sell, note we also buy toys. Thank you for stopping.