We all have moments from our life of which we are not proud. For many people, they have more of these moments when they are young than when they are old. At least, that's supposed to be the way people grow. One of the moments from my life that I regret involves the 1989 Snake Eyes figure. It is, perhaps, a testament to the figure's quality that I have this lament. But, my first acquisition of this figure was under less than honorable circumstances. As such, it has left this figure with a stigma that has precluded him from ever being used much in my collection. But, a more rational examination reveals this figure to be of superb quality and something that should have more prominence in the Joe world.
On a Friday in February of 1989, my mother and her friend decided to take all their kids grocery shopping. The Cub Foods was just a short walk away from the Toys R Us store on the north side of Indianapolis. And, being the oldest and freshman in high school, I was able to walk to TRU while the rest of the pack had to peruse food. Ostensibly, I went to TRU to look for new packs of baseball cards. (Amazing how buying sports cards was OK for a 15 year old, but buying toys was not.) But, while I did, eventually, look at the cards, my first stop was the G.I. Joe aisle. I had not bought any figures for a year. So, this was, really, my first jaunt down a Joe toy aisle in quite a while. Immediately, I was enthralled by the assortment of new figures. Many classic characters were updated in new uniforms while the new characters were outfitted with amazing new accessories. It was pure sensory overload.
Naturally, it was the Snake Eyes that most captured my attention. I looked it over multiple times. I didn't use my 1985 Snake Eyes any more since I was on my third version and did not have any outlets to acquire another. So, the thought of having a new Snake Eyes was very appealing. For whatever reason, the notion of buying the figure and throwing away the packaging never entered my mind. Instead, I slowly lifted the corner of the figure's bubble from the card. After doing this, I left the figure sitting on the shelf and walked around the aisle to see if anyone was around. I then went back to the figure and slid my finger along the bubble to create enough space to remove the figure. Again, I took a short walk. The final time I returned, I removed the figure, his uzi, backback and sword. I put them into my coat pocket. No alarms sounded and no security came running. I casually went to the baseball card section and purchased several packs of 1989 Donruss cards.
When I went to the check out aisle with my multicolored wax packs in hand, I heard a voice say "Hi, Mike.". It was my Freshman English teacher! She was there checking out with her kids. I didn't know which was more embarrassing: being seen by a teacher at a Toys R Us on a Friday night. Or, being seen by her when I knew that I had stolen goods in my coat pocket. It was like she knew what I had done. I said hello and jumped aisles to buy my cards. I exited the store and opened the cards on the curb, waiting for a security guard to come out and bust me. But, that never happened. I got a Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card in the packs, my mother came to pick me up and I went home without incident, an ill-gotten Snake Eyes figure burning a hole in my coat pocket.
Once I had the figure home, though, I had another dilemma: where would I keep him? As soon as either of my younger brothers saw the figure, the questions would start: When did you get this figure? Why did you buy this figure? Can I use this figure? To avoid the juvenile interrogation, I kept the figure hidden away. So well hidden that I never took him out to even start to enjoy him. Sure enough, after a few months, my youngest brother did find the figure. (Which means he was really digging into the stuff in my room. But, that's another story...) Sure enough, the questions came. But, I told him to shut up and then hid the figure in the basement for a while so no one else would find or use him.
The result, is that my illicit Snake Eyes ended up being as if I did not own him at all. I couldn't use him. I couldn't enjoy him. I knew I had him, but could not take him out for any length of time. I suppose this was the lesson I learned about stealing toys. Having a figure I really couldn't use was much worse than not having him at all. I would sneak down to the basement from time to time and pull the figure out of hiding to look him over and wish I was a few years younger and could still play with toys without being "weird".
Due to the dubious origins of this figure in my collection, I never really appreciated the mold, even as an adult. After I acquired many more versions of this figure through legitimate means, I simply never really used him at all. It was like a shroud of guilt surrounded the figure whenever I would view him. But, 23 years after the fact, I think I can finally appreciate this figure on his own. Simply put, this is an awesome version of Snake Eyes. It is intricately detailed, true to the character and includes great accessories. Really, what more could you ask for?
Of course, though, collectors ask for a lot. And, this Snake Eyes version committed the ultimate sin: he is not the 1985 Snake Eyes. While this version of Snake Eyes is certainly a top 100, and maybe top 50 figure in the vintage Joe line: the 1985 figure is a certain top 5 figure and is generally considered the most popular figure in the entire vintage line. When that precedes you, how can any figure live up to the legacy? As such, this Snake Eyes version is relatively forgotten. On his own, it is a great mold. But, it's not even the best Snake Eyes figure. So, how can it be all that great? It is derivative of the '85 (which, let's face it, was derivative of the '82....) and doesn't have a better overall mold. But, it is different.
At it's core, the figure is both a commando and a ninja. The '85 figure is more commando than ninjitsu master. But, this version begins Snake Eyes' transformation into more ninja than man. The chest is equipped with overly large sheathed knives. Frankly, they make the figure a bit frightening as what kind of man wears weapons like that on his chest? The are well complemented by the head and goggles. To be truthful, the head appears to be somewhat small for the body. But, I always chalked that up to the knives throwing off the proportions. The slim, silver goggles are a new look for Snake Eyes, but give him a somewhat otherworldly appearance. Seeing just the eyes and knives coming at you in the night would be a terrifying prospect. The rest of the mold is decently detailed with, again, overly large grenades on his arms. Most of the details are lost to the black coloring. But, there are enough elements here to keep Snake Eyes somewhat true to his Commando roots.
The figure isn't without its problems, though. There are many unpainted details on the mold. But, part of Snake Eyes' charm was the all black motif. The accessories are very well done and perfectly detailed. But, the uzi is over sized and is difficult for Snake Eyes to hold. (The 1988 Iron Grenadier Uzi with a smaller handle is a better fit for this figure.) The nunchucks are extremely large and awkward to hold. While the pack will hold the sword, there is no place to put the nunchuks or the blowgun. The blowgun itself is hyperbolically large and does not fit into the figure's hands at all. But, despite all that, the figure still works. Just the gun, pack and sword are enough for the figure to be perfect. The nunchucks can be a fun addition to the figure. But, to this day, I have never used the blow gun.
This Snake Eyes mold was very popular with Hasbro during the modern repaint era. It appeared with his full complement of accessories in 2000. The same mold appeared again in 2002 in the BJ's gift set. (There is also a green version of this figure available from Asia.) It was slated to be part of the ill-fated Wal Mart exclusive parachute packs in 2003. But, when those were cancelled, the mold was, for all intents and purposes, retired. (You can get unproduced Wal Mart Snake Eyes figures, though. Hundreds to thousands of them were sold to collectors through Asian sellers from 2004 through 2007.) Hasbro found the 1991 Snake Eyes mold in 2005 and used it as the default for the remaining ARAH style Snake Eyes figures. Really, there isn't much Hasbro could do with the mold and the 2 repaints that were released weren't overly popular. The vintage black and silver version is far and away the best and there isn't much reason to attempt any new releases when it was done so right the first time.
For whatever reason, the collecting world has never warmed to this figure. Sure, collectors like it. But, it has nowhere near the cache of the 1985. Despite the fact that this is Snake Eyes, the figure includes tons of accessories and the mold is highlighted by easily chipped silver paint, mint and complete versions of this figure are cheap, cheap, cheap. Today, you can have this figure for $10 or less with ease. There are stories floating around that 1989 and 1990 were the two highest production run Joe years. If that's true, then there are substantially more of these 1989 Snake Eyes figures than there are of the 1985's. But, I think the main reason for this figure's relatively cheap pricing is that he is usually the third vintage Snake Eyes mold considered by collectors. People will pay for the V1 or V2 Snake Eyes figures as those are the most iconic looks for the character. But, they are also the versions that defined Snake Eyes. While this figure certainly continues that legacy, it is behind the others. Sure, were it the only Snake Eyes figure ever released, this would be a much more expensive item to acquire. But, it was not. So, the figure will forever suffer "little brother" syndrome and not be as popular as his older relatives. But, collectors can rejoice as this leaves an extremely well done version of the line's most popular character much more affordable than he probably should be.