For generations of boys, GI Joe was the quintessential All-American toy—the model of masculinity and hero worship in backyard adventures. Produced by toy company Hasbro, the line of action figures adopted the roles of Action Marine, Action Pilot, Action Sailor, and Action Soldier. The original prototypes were named "Rocky" (marine/soldier) "Skip" (sailor) and "Ace" (pilot), before the more universal name G.I. Joe was adopted. The line of toys was created in 1964, and is still being produced today—nearly 50 years later. The action figures were revolutionary for their time—as little boys did not play with poseable dolls. But Hasbro saw an opportunity, and invented their GI Joe line, marketing him as a “Moveable Fighting Man."
And now, the handcrafted mock-up of GI Joe, the original 12" tall Real American Hero is being auctioned off on August 10, 2013. The prototype, carefully constructed of hand-shaped and shaved plastic, hand-crafted metal, and hand-sewn fabric, was the brainchild of Don Levine, Creative Director at Hasbro in the mid-1960s, who developed an idea first proffered by licensing guru Stan Weston, that little boys would play with a doll as much as little girls would — it simply had to be the right doll, and it had to be called an "action figure."
"There are few more hallowed pop culture artifacts that could come up for auction than this," said Ed Jaster, Executive Vice President at Heritage Auctions. "Ten years ago when we sold this piece at Heritage it realized slightly over $200,000, which we believe it may bring or exceed again. To help make sure that it finds a new steward, however, we've joined with the consignor and placed what we feel is a conservative $125,000+ estimate on it."
Also being offered in the auction are the prototype for the first G.I. Joe dressed in an Air Force uniform (Palitoy/Hasbro, 1964) and an early production model G.I. Joe Navy Talking Action Figurine (Hasbro Circa 1967), both formerly from the collection of G.I. Joe creator Don Levine, and both estimated at $12,500+.
"The two rare Joes, while not as historically important as the prototype, both mark important evolutions in the toy," said Jaster. "Not only do you have GI Joe branching out into the other U.S. Military branches, these also represent the broadening of the character that would lead to the entire world of G.I. Joe characters that exists today."
GI Joe is an irreplaceable iconic artifact, and these prototypes and early toys are clearly part of history, and of interest to both collectors of personal memorabilia, and toy history.