Monday, June 26, 2017

Rarities - Funskool Complan Commandos

Collectors have long known that some Funskool figures were among the rarest figures in the line.  It was not uncommon for "new" figures to be discovered well into the early 2000's.  But, after around 2004, that seemed to end.  Sure, there were lots of new variants being found.  But, completely unknown figures seemed a thing of the past.  Still, a few collectors had found some odd parts in lots they had acquired from India.  Most were written off as discolored figures or maybe some color variant of a released figure.  But, around 2009 or so, that changed with the discovery of the Complan Commandos.

The Complan Commandos were a series of five figures released by Funskool as a promotion for a kids drink.  The set consisted of Striker, Rocker, Cross Country, Rednok and Canary Ann.  Each of the figures was made from repainted G.I. Joe parts from early waves of Funskool Joes, with the male figures all being amalgamations of multiple molds.

The figures were packaged under the Complan Commandos banner.  They were done on the cheap and feature almost no paint masks and extremely minimal accessories.  Supposedly, they were a premium related to a chocolate drink available in India.  Though, I'm not sure if they were available in stores, or just as some kind of promotional item.

High quality Complan Commandos are very rare.  With that rarity comes expense.  Mint and complete versions of some figures will top $3,000 and even more.  Even really beat up samples will fetch over $100.  But, some of the early rarity was due to collectors asking for G.I. Joe only and these figures being ignored.  As collectors learned what questions to ask, more Complan Commandos appeared.  Not enough to make them common.  But, enough to make them available to more than two or three collectors.  

The first and probably most interesting figure in the lineup is Canary Ann.  She is a straight repaint of the Funskool Lady Jaye.  As the name suggests, though, the mold is repainted in a canary yellow.  Topped with a red cap, this is the most drastic look deviation of any use of the Lady Jaye mold.  The lack of paint masks are a tough miss to overcome, though.  It appears she's wearing a yellow undershirt.  It's not completely out of whack.  But, it's odd.  Her all black waist, though, is too much.  It kind of ruins the figure.

Canary Ann included a black version of Lady Jaye's gun.  You can see her filecard below, too.  The filecard is actually rather interestingly written.  It's far and away better than the Funskool exclusive filecards we say in the Joe line in the early 2000's, even though it incorporates much of Lady Jaye's filecard info.

Next up is Cross Country.  He is an amalgamation of Scrap Iron with Zap's head.  The all red body with black highlights is rather Cobra.  He likely included a version of Firefly's gun.  You will see his filecard below.  It is heavily derivative from Beach Head's filecard.

Rocker is next.  He is a blue Firefly body with a Short Fuze head.  The blue plastic is EXTREMELY prone to discoloration and most of the few Rocker's out there are heavily discolored.  The figure included a version of Torpedo's harpoon gun.

Rednok is the second female in the 5 figure set.  She is a red repaint of the Baroness.  Prior to 2002, this would have been an extremely in demand figure.  However, we have seen many red Baroness repaints in the 15 years since then.  And, as such, this version with no painted highlights just looks cheap.  But, as it's a Baroness repaint, Rednok will always maintain collector demand.  She likely included a version of Major Bludd's pistol.  Her filecard steals from both Jinx and Low Light.  This is odd as neither of those characters ever appeared in India.  So, you wonder where Funskool got the information.  The fact that her glasses are fake are also a different character trait.

The final figure is Striker.  He is a green repaint of Gung Ho with a black haired Short Fuze head.  The figure looks a bit odd without the Marine Corps tattoo on his chest.  But, it's a different look for the mold.  (There is also an olive drab version of Gung Ho that was available as a Funskool vehicle driver that may have been a recolor using the paint masks from this figure.)  Striker included Gung Ho's grenade launcher.  His filecard steals from Big Boa.  I love that Bowling Ball was changed to Cricket Ball for the Indian audience.  The connotation changes quite a bit with this little detail.

These figures exude cheapness and would be hated were they not among the rarest figures ever released anywhere in the world.  Even then, they aren't appreciated for their quality but their rarity and value.  The card artwork and filecards are, for me, the most interesting part since they take so much from around the Joe world.  But, for the hundreds to thousands of dollars these guys cost, those traits aren't enough to get me really interested in the figures.  Sometimes rarity trumps something cool.  Other times, though, it masks something that's kind of lame.  And, in the case of these figures, were they common, no one would touch them.  But, since they are extremely rare, collectors care and give them due they would not earn on their own design merits.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Rarities - 1995 Ninja Commando Road Pig

Road Pig was far and away the oddest choice for the Ninja Commandos subset.  How did a muscle bound schizophrenic find the time to become a ninja?  I'd have loved to have seen the filecard that explained that one.

As a figure, Road Pig isn't great.  The face and chest are well detailed, but uninteresting.  He's just a guy with no shirt on.  His legs lack any real details or definition.  The only real highlight is the head.  It is true to Road Pig and well detailed.  But, even it isn't that much different from the 1988 sculpt.

Hasbro actually did release part of this figure.  The chest and arms were used on the Mortal Combat Movie Edition Liu Kang figure.  So, the mold did get some use.  Liu Kang gave customizers a chance to interpret this figure and make their own.  That was rare for unproduced concepts.  But, in looking at this figure, he's definitely a case where collectors didn't miss out on much by him being cancelled.

Ninja Commando Road Pigs exist both in unpainted and fully painted production level form.  In the mid 2000's, quite a few of these unpainted figures showed up from Asian sellers.  They were likely overstock that had been sitting around for a while and was discovered when the market for Joes took off.  Being a Ninja Commando, either form still fetches a decent price.  But, many collectors are not keen on the subset and are less keen on Road Pig as a ninja.  So, you will also see this figure sit unsold at prices that are similar to other characters from the same set who do sell.  While 1995 would have had some amazing new figures that would have been well liked by collectors to this day, it would also have given us a ninja Road Pig.  So, we did dodge a few bullets, too.

1995 Ninja Commando Road Pig, Unproduced, Prototype

1995 Ninja Commando Road Pig, Unproduced, Prototype

1995 Ninja Commando Road Pig, Unproduced, Prototype

Friday, June 23, 2017

Rarities - Alternate 2004 Cobra Urban Strike Set

In 2004, Hasbro came through for collectors of vintage Joe molds.  The year started with the highly anticipated Cobra Infantry and collector favorite Night Force sets.  This lead to great speculation that the follow up sets would be similar.  When the Cobra Urban Strike set was announced, collectors quickly got angry that Hasbro had abandoned the 6 army builder theme that was used for the Cobra Infantry.  In their rage, they overlooked a quiet gem of the repaint era.  The Urban Strike set was a nice mix of molds that hadn't been seen in a while coupled with excellent repaints of collector favorite molds.  But, the original design for the set was quite different.  And, many of these original figures showed up and were available from Asian Joe sellers in the mid 2000's.

The set below showcases the differences for the figures.  The main inclusion is the red color on Firefly, Night Creeper and the Nullifier.  While red is a standard Cobra color, Hasbro was seemingly on a quest to crimson-fy every Cobra character during the repaint era.  It was annoying.  So, them removing it from this set was a huge improvement.

In the end, this is definitely a set that was improved before it went to production.  The red creates flaws on each of figures on which is appears.  And, the superfluous cammo on Scrap Iron and the Alley Viper overly complicated otherwise solid paint jobs.  The grey Stormshadow is nice.  If that mold didn't suck and hadn't been used so many times in 2004, I might have a stronger opinion of it.  But, since it was generally a bad figure either way, I call it wash between the two versions of that character.

These figures were readily available from 2004 - 2006 or so.  Usually, they'd sell for under $20 each with the characters getting even cheaper.  Like all these figures, the alternate Urban Strike set has gotten much harder to find and more expensive in the ensuing decade.  But, it hasn't found collector interest on par with the alternate Anti-Venom figures who would have been their contemporaries.  I'm glad Hasbro made the modifications to the set that they did prior to production.  These figures are interesting.  But, they are also inferior to the production set.  And, the Urban Strike had so much good stuff in it that it remains one of the few bright spots for ARAH molds from that era.

Urban Strike, Firefly, Scrap Iron, Nullifier, Flak Viper, Storm Shadow, Alley Viper, Night Creeper, Toys R Us Exclusive, TRU, Midnight Chinese, unproduced, variant

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Target Exclusive Hit and Run - Parachute Pack

As 1988 wound down, Hasbro produced a few special figure releases that were repacks of some of their 1988 figure offerings.  These special packs were marketing gimmicks to entice gift givers to choose something G.I. Joe for their recipients.  There was a special Voltar vs. Muskrat pack that featured exclusive packaging.  The option that is most familiar to me, though, is the Target exclusive Parachute Pack Hit and Run figure.

This exclusive showed up at some point in 1988.  The Hit and Run figure itself was no different than the standard version that was still available on a single card.  In addition to his traditional accessories, though, the figure also included Parachute Pack that was taken from the same mold as the long time mail away premium.

MOC, this figure is rather hard to find and extremely expensive.  Loose, the figure is easily made from a Hit and Run and common Parachute Pack.  So, you don't often see the figure command a premium.  But, the cardback did include a unique, orange backed filecard.  You will see this exclusive bio sell for substantially more than all but the rarest filecards in the line.

Hit and Run was one of the last figures I purchased at retail in early 1988 before I quit collecting Joe.  However, my youngest brother continued buying figures through the year.  And, at some point, he acquired this figure.  I remember as I found the Hit and Run lying around the house and I thought he had stolen mine from the closet in my room again.  However, I found mine safe in his plastic baggie inside a Lego container on the floor.  I then found the packaging for this figure and realized he was something different.

For some reason, I had not saved the filecards from my 1988 figure purchases.  (Still don't know why that was since I had been religious about filecard clipping since 1983.)  So, I cut the orange file card off of the packaging and added it to my Hit and Run that was saved away.  That proved fortuitous in later years when the filecard got scarce and pricey since I already had one.

Hasbro didn't really do re-releases like this Hit and Run again.  Any later special offers were packaged with an exclusive figure to make them more enticing.  But, this figure serves as a somewhat pre-cursor to Sky Patrol who would debut two years later.  It is also an excellent pairing of figure and gear that Hasbro would move away from as the line sputtered out.

1988 Hit and Run, Target Exclusive, Parachute Pack, Mail Away, 1985, MOC, Filecard, Carded

1988 Hit and Run, Target Exclusive, Parachute Pack, Mail Away, 1985, MOC, Filecard, Carded

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Rarities - Early Wave Funskool Figures

The early years of Funskool figures featured collector favorite molds in colors that were supposed to be close to the look of the American figure release.  In most cases, Funskool followed this pattern.  But, in some cases, they departed from the character's established look rather radically.  We'll start off with a Funskool catalog that was inserted with many vehicles of the day.

Early Funskool Figures, Catalog
Funskool Figure Catalog Insert
You will notice that Stalker is black (and appears to be wearing a backpack), Zap is straight arm holding the early bazooka that was only released in the U.S. and that many of the figures appear to be stock photography of American figure releases.  However, you do see Cobra Commander with the Crazylegs with which he was released in India.  So, you have a mix.  What you don't see here, though, are the multitude of variants that accompanied many of these figures when they were released in India.

Of the 6 Joes shown, three of them (Zap, Short Fuse and Stalker) all have many Funskool variants, all of which are very different from one another.  Gung Ho, Hawk and Chuckles still have variants.  Though, they are minor in comparison to their counterparts.  Below you can see examples of a Red Stalker (with caucasian skin) and an Emerald Green Zap figure.

The Cobras shown have equally dramatic variants available.  Of the 10 figures, 4 have major variants. (Scrap Iron, Buzzer, Ripper and Major Bludd)  The rest are somewhat different from their American counterparts, but are designed after the iconic appearance.  There are lots of small variants within each figure.  But, none as major as those for the four listed above.  Scrap Iron has a very rare green trimmed figure.  Ripper has a purple trimmer variant that is also tough to find and very famous which is shown.  You'll also see examples of a blue and yellow Major Bludd as well as a dark haired, red vested Buzzer below.

In addition to these catalog figures, Funskool also had a wide variety of other characters who were released, some in drastically different colors.  Below you will see the yellow Torpedo, the black version of Snake Eyes with silver highlights as well as some examples of the hard to find Funskool Clutch figure.  There were many more rare variants, too.  Included in these are blue versions of Hawk and Short Fuse, the yellow and red Beach Head and the blue Snake Eyes.  All of them have become highly sought after these days and high quality specimens command premium prices.

Funskool likely had to change these alternate versions to something more similar to the American releases so that the characters matched their appearances in cartoons and print ads.  Funskool was obligated to follow Hasbro's color palette for characters that Hasbro deemed important.  That's why all of these major characters have Funskool versions that are nearly identical to the American release.  But, figures like the 1991 Grunt and Wild Bill were no deemed important by Hasbro and Funskool was able to produce those figures in any color scheme they desired.  Thus, we have so many wacky repaints from the early 2000's era.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Rarities - Clear Shadow Ninja Prototypes

A great many collectors hate the Shadow Ninjas.  Actually, that's probably not overly accurate.  It's more correct to state that most collectors are indifferent to the existence of the Shadow Ninjas.  They may own a couple that were acquired in lots of better figures.  But, few people actually collect them and fewer still consider them an integral part of the Joe line.

It appears, though, that the Shadow Ninja concept morphed a bit in the design process.  Instead of the color changing plastic that was released at retail, Hasbro originally considered clear figures for the series.  A few samples of these clear version made it out into the world and you can see examples of Snake Eyes, Stormshadow and Night Creeper below.

While the idea of clear figures would have been novel at the time, the design would have run its course quickly.  Maybe if one of the figures in the set had been "invisible", it would have been a cool gimmick.  But, a whole series of them quickly showed the fad's limitations.  You can see the inner workings of the figures.  And, since these molds all had spring loaded features, there's a lot of guts to see.

There's no real info as to why this concept was abandoned for the color changing plastic.  We can speculate that the color changing gimmick was better received than the clear plastic.  But, we don't know for sure.  These figures are an interesting look into what might have been, though.

1994 Shadow Ninja Stormshadow, Translucent, Clear, Prototype, Unproduced, Night Creeper, Snake Eyes
Night Creeper Unreleased Figure

1994 Shadow Ninja Stormshadow, Translucent, Clear, Prototype, Unproduced, Night Creeper, Snake Eyes
Clear Snake Eyes Unreleased Figure

1994 Shadow Ninja Stormshadow, Translucent, Clear, Prototype, Unproduced, Night Creeper, Snake Eyes
Clear Stormshadow Unreleased Figure

Monday, June 19, 2017

Rarities - Alternate 2002 BJ's Snake Eyes

I've showcased 6 figures in the BJ's 8 figure set who had alternate figure designs.  Today is the seventh: Snake Eyes.  The unproduced version of Joe's iconic character has a decidedly different look.  This body is in a base of faint green.  It is a stark new look for Snake Eyes and gives him an odd appearance.

Hasbro was fairly protective of Snake Eyes' iconic black base for a long time.  So, it is unlikely that this figure was ever seriously considered for release.  But, the fact that it is fully painted shows that it was part of a color sample and did get far enough in the process to be a late rejection.

During the heyday of the these alternate figures' availability, Snake Eyes wasn't too popular.  The 1989 mold was overused by Hasbro and collectors soured on it: even in unproduced forms.  While the Firefly and Roadblock from this set fetched high prices, this Snake Eyes was relatively forgotten.  He would often go unsold or sell cheaply.  What interest there was in the mold was mostly focused on the better unproduced Wal Mart Sky Patrol version of the same mold that was also available at the time.  Like all of these alternate, unproduced Asian figures, though, this Snake Eyes has gotten harder to find and more expensive.

As an oddity, this guy is actually kind of interesting.  The gold looks better on the green than it did on the production black.  You will note this figure is missing the terrible GI JOE logo on the figure's leg.  And, the production figure features a 2nd, silver paint mask over the knives' blades that is missing here.  But, this figure also has paint armbands and grenades that were left black on the production piece.  So, it's definitely a mishmash of a few designs.

As an oddity, this figure is interesting.  But, as a fully released figure, I think he'd be as forgettable as the retail BJ's set figure is.  The green would have been a short topic of conversation during the time.  But, the purple release in 2003 would have stolen all the focus off of this figure had it seen production.  It is, definitely, a relic of that era's unproduced figures.  But, isn't anything that really catches a collector's eye.

2002, Unproduced, BJ's Exclusive, Snake Eyes, Midnight Chinese, Alternate, Variant

2002, Unproduced, BJ's Exclusive, Snake Eyes, Midnight Chinese, Alternate, Variant

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Rarities - Coming Soon Explosion Back Cardbacks

1980's toy marketing was completely different than anything we know today.  Then, there were few ways to get information to your customer.  You could take out expensive TV advertising either on local channel weekday afternoons or on the national networks' Saturday morning cartoon blocks.  You could team up with a food promotion.  You could advertise in comic books.  Or, you could use your sales packaging as marketing cross promotion.  Kenner achieved this with great success with their Star Wars line.  And, Hasbro emulated it with G.I. Joe.  On the back of every figure package was a visual representation of pretty much every figure that should have been available at retail in that given year.  It was a great way to let kids know that there was a whole lot more to the line than the one figure they might get as a present.  At various times, though, Hasbro blocked out some upcoming characters with a 'Coming Soon' explosion.

These explosion backs occurred in two different years, 1983 and 1987.  In 1983, the characters of Trip Wire, Torpedo, Major Bludd and Destro were exploded out.  I recall that both Trip Wire and Torpedo figures were almost non existent until the late summer of 1983.  So, they might have been a case where Hasbro didn't want kids looking for them until they were released.  Destro and Major Bludd are, likely, the same thing.  Destro's look was some of secret until his full appearance in the comic.  They hinted at him, but didn't show him for a few months.  Bludd, though, was a mail away.  So, any kid who collected Joe was aware of him.  But, his carded figure may have been delayed until the mail away was done, so he was blocked out, too.  You will see a carded Destro, though, with Destro exploded out on the back.  So, it may have just been a marketing ploy.

The reasoning behind the coming soon explosions isn't fully known.  In the case of Kenner's Star Wars line, Lucasfilm specifically didn't want anyone to see the Ewoks (or Jabba the Hutt) prior to the release of Return of the Jedi.  So, they were blacked out on the earliest cardbacks.  (I got a Chief Chirpa figure that had him still blacked out on the back.)  But, G.I. Joe didn't have a movie to spoil.  (Well, it kind of did in 1987.  But, the most prominent movie characters like Falcon and Jinx are showcased while other, more obscure characters are not.)  It could have been that the artwork wasn't ready at the time when the cardbacks were done.  But, this seems like an unnecessary rush.

In December of 1986, my mother took me to Toys R Us.  While I always looked at the Joes, I didn't figure I'd find anything really new.  But, among the carded figures were newly released 1987 characters.  I bought Falcon and Cobra Commander.  I have no memory of who else they might have had on the shelves.  It is likely, though, that because the 1987 figures were seeing a slightly early release for the 1986 Christmas season, Hasbro saw an opportunity to bring back the explosion backs.

Explosion backs are rare.  MOC examples are very pricey and can be ridiculously expensive if you find a highly desirable character on one.  Even loose explosion back cardbacks can be tough to find.  But, once you have one, you kind of have them all for a given year.  To me, the interesting part is the inconsistency of Hasbro's usage of them.  Why just those two years?  Maybe they didn't test well either time and were never brought back.  Regardless the reason, they are a footnote in Joe's retail history.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Rarities - 1992 Recalled Roadblock

In 1992, Hasbro released a new version of Roadblock.  The figure was true to the character and a nice update of a favorite Joe that had not appeared at retail in a few years.  The first issue of the figure featured some unique accessories.  The first was an updated heavy machine gun.  This massive weapon was ideal for Roadblock and matched his prior appearances.  The second accessory was a two part spinning launcher that shot a helicopter disk into the air.  It sounds innocuous enough.  But, the launcher would break if it was wound too tightly.  Hasbro quickly "recalled" the figures.  Though, it's doubtful they actually went out to shelves and pulled them down.  More likely, they simply didn't make any more and he was pulled from the remainder of the 1992 case assortments.  They replaced the figure in 1993 assortments with the same figure: only now packaged with a weapon tree and a new spring loaded accessory that wasn't as powerful.

If you have a loose version of the 1992 Roadblock, there is nothing about the figure that denotes he was the recalled version or not.  The figure itself remained unchanged.  It was only an accessory and packaging change.  First hand accounts from collectors who owned or own the figure are that the launcher is EXTREMELY powerful if wound tight enough.  For years, it was believed that the strength of the launcher was the reason for the recall rather than the susceptibility of breakage.  However, you will find that many loose launchers are broken from kids trying to maximize the height they could attain from the device.

In an interview in a toy magazine in 1993, Kirk Bozigian made a statement that 80,000 Roadblocks were produced.  Based on the fact that the figure is pretty hard to find and you rarely see loose versions show up in original collections, the 80,000 number seems high.  In the early 2000's, you'd occasionally see a loose version of the figure show up in a random lot.  But, they were much less common than the Eco Warriors variants of Snow Storm and Outback.  It's possible that a lot of unaccessorized Roadblocks were recalled versions and the gear was lost.  But, due the size of the gun and the launcher, this is also an unlikely scenario since those were not accessories that were likely to be lost.

It is likely that Hasbro produced the full batch of 1992 Roadblock figures in late 1991 and, possibly, into 1992.  When they stopped shipping the figure in the 1992 cases, they kept the overstock that had yet to be packaged with the recalled accessories.  When it came time to release the 1993 Roadblock figure, they first used up all the 1992 overstock.  Once that ran out, they then started packaging the 1993 repainted Roadblock figure onto the 1993 card.  You will notice that 1992 Roadblocks on 1993 cards have card art that matches the 1993 repainted figure.  So, the intention was likely to only release a repainted Roadblock in 1993.  But, since they had the 1992 overstock already made up, they used them first before moving to the new 1993 deco.

While the launcher is the dangerous part of the figure's equipment, the gun is more interesting.  The rifle was large and fit with the figure nicely.  Why Hasbro chose to remove this from the "fixed" Roadblock's is a mystery.  That weapon was actually the more desirable part of the recalled pieces...until 2001.  In 2001, Funskool figures became rather ubiquitous among American based Joe dealers.  Among the figures they sold was an Indian repaint of the 1992 Roadblock.  Included with this figure was the recalled Roadblock machine gun.  This gave collectors easy access to cheap versions of the weapon and helped to reduce it's desirability.  (The weapon was also available with a couple of other Funskool figures of the time, making it even more common.)  Now, the figure remains popular for both the gun and spinner, but it's the spinner that draws attention.

Time was, this was a $100 figure.  Since you don't see them that often, it's tough to nail down specific pricing, though $200 seems too high.  The carded figures, though, have skyrocketed from their ~$100 price from two decades ago and will often fetch nearly $700 if they are nicely conditioned.  That's a lot for a spring loaded spinner, gun and knife.  Personally, I think the story is worth more than the figure and this isn't a variant I have any desire to track down.  Getting Funskool versions of the gun were enough to sate my desire for anything related to this figure.  But, the catchy name of "Recalled Roadblock" connotates 1990's toy hysteria better than anything else and has given this figure a lot of life in the collecting world.

1992 Recalled Roadblock, MOC, Carded
1992 Recalled Roadblock MOC

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Rarities - Unproduced Wal Mart Duke

Duke is one of the most iconic characters in the G.I. Joe mythos.  How much of this is due to Hasbro's persistent pushing of him and how much is actual collector appreciation, though, is unknown.  But, since 2002, Hasbro has made it so Duke appeared at retail frequently.  Often, this was to great collector angst and the figures were not all that great.  However, in 2003, Hasbro planned a Duke release that collectors were looking forward to.  A series of ARAH style three packs were given to Wal Mart as an exclusive.  They were going to be Sky Patrol themed and include working parachutes.  The figures appeared at conventions and in Hasbro photography.  However, the parachutes could not pass the safety standards for a retail release.  Instead, Hasbro gave Wal Mart an exclusive set of desert Joes and Urban Cobras.

This Duke is one of my favorite unproduced figures.  It had a decent color scheme and the most common versions featured Duke's blonde hair.  He included an exclusive black helmet, a black version of Beach Head's rifle and a black Snow Serpent backpack.  It was a decent set of gear for a figure of that era.  He has the terrible G.I. Joe logo on his leg, though.  And, that is a big detriment to the figure.  This figure was relatively easy to find for many years and remained relatively cheap.  But, the series has since dried up and has gotten a lot more expensive.  This Duke is the second most popular unproduced Wal Mart figure behind the Hiss Driver.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Rarities - Alternate 2003 Army Builder Pack Viper and Alley Viper

A lot of alternate and unproduced figures came out of Asia in the early 2000's.  For a time, it seemed every single figure Hasbro took to retail had at least one Asian variant.  In time, though, this slowed down.  It might have been tighter factory controls.  Or, it may simply have been a function of Hasbro drastically reducing their product line and the diminished volume allowed for stronger quality control at the source.

First up is the Alley Viper.  Ostensibly, this figure isn't much different from the production figure. The blue is a little brighter.  Unaccessorized, the figures are rather bland.  But, it's not hard to find Alley Viper gear from this era (there were a lot of them released) so if you can track down the figures, they aren't hard to get up to speed in terms of gear.

2003 Unproduced Viper, Alley Viper, Prototypes, Midnight Chinese

The Viper figure, though, has some significant changes.  While the base colors are slightly brighter than the production figure, it is the black face mask that is the most striking difference.  Hasbro never released a Viper with a black faceplate and it is a powerful look for the figure.  In the right context, it could have been a very strong Viper repaint.

2003 Unproduced Viper, Alley Viper, Prototypes, Midnight Chinese

2003 Unproduced Viper, Alley Viper, Prototypes, Midnight Chinese

The Viper figures were fairly popular for a while and tended to fetch decent prices.  The Alley Vipers, though, did not fare as well.  Today, you still see the Vipers for sale, often for significant amounts.  But, the Alley Viper variant remains relatively obscure.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Rarities - European Force Knock Offs - Redux

One of the most popular rarities from 2016 was the write up on European Force.  There's still not much out there on the line and the figures remain incredibly difficult to track down.  But, I've found some more photos and decided to post them as more examples of the line.  It's unfortunate that something so interesting is both incredibly hard to find and also poor initial quality.  It likely lead to many of them being destroyed.  Were these figures slightly more available, they would likely be substantially more popular among collectors.  But, for now, they remain on the fringes of the Joe world.  Beacons for a lucky soul who stumbles upon them.

Below is a group shot.  In the top row from left to right you will see Eclair, Tonnerre, Mirage, Longue Vue x2 and Le Colonel.

In the second row, you have: Acarie, Randon, Thomis x2 and Scorpion x2.  You can see the color difference on Thomis in these two samples.  This is likely discoloration.  But, it's common to see this figure in either shade.  So, there may be a variant.

An additional group shot along with other figures.

Here's another up close view of Le Colonel.  You can see the Mercer head coupled with the other Joe parts.  It doesn't appear that these figures use Hasbro paint masks.  It's likely the creating company produced very generic masks to give the figures color.

Another Scorpion up close picture.  Funskool has make the Caucasian Red Dog head more common.  But, this was the first appearance of such a race change.

Longue Vue is a combo of Flint and Falcon: two figures often confused for each other.

The bright red Randon figure used a lot of Dial Tone.  But, his mustache wasn't painted.  Sadly, this was a trait Hasbro picked up in 2000, too.

Below is the Mirage figure.  Mirage uses Duke's body, but all in black with white highlights.  You will notice this sample has two left arms.  But, that appears to be a function of this piece as others have shown the correct arms.  A Duke all in black should be a collector favorite repaint as it's a not a color that Hasbro used with the mold.  But, the figure's rarity has kept him obscure enough to stay off collector radar.  But, this repaint is a fairly solid design.

Here is another off condition MyGal figure.  The Tarantula is heavily worn.  What's very odd about this figure is that he uses the swivel Buzzer head, but the ball jointed Falcon body.  It looks like they may have altered the Falcon body to accomodate Buzzer's head.  I'd love to get one of these to review to see the construction.

These figures haven't gotten any easier to find.  A few popped up before the 2016 profile.  But, I haven't seen any offered for sale since then.  So, they remain of the great Joe rarities out there.  You will note from the 2016 pictures and these that most, if not all, of the figures are available with variant waists.  So, you have really rare pieces that all have individual variants.  Good luck with that!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Rarities - Palitoy Action Force G.I. Joe Figures

In the grand scheme of things, carded Palitoy Action Force figures are not rare.  In fact, many are quite common and will sell for only a slight premium over the cost of a gem mint and complete version of the figure inside.  But, rarity is forgiven in this instance for the sake of the oddity of the figures and the package design.  While not overly dynamic, the Action Force card designs have some cool aspects.  And, there are a couple of figures who feature European exclusive accessory variants as well.

The Action Force carded Joes used the packaging design from the 5 points of articulation, European exclusive series of toys that were produced by Palitoy.  The series features G.I. Joe figures from 1983 and 1984.  (The 1982 figures are all 1983 swivel arm versions.)  When Palitoy started releasing 1985 figures, they also changed the packaging to be more in line with American G.I. Joe designs.

We'll start with a couple of examples of the five points of articulation figures that were exclusive to Europe.  You will note the accessories are a mix of exclusives and repainted G.I. Joe weapons.  While some of the weapons are indistinguishable from the Hasbro releases of the same molds, many of the Action Force items are in colors that are exclusive to the European Action Force line.

Action Force, Red Shadows, Palitoy, European Exclusive, Black Major, Baron Ironblood, Doc, Destro, Scarlett, accessory packs

Action Force, Red Shadows, Palitoy, European Exclusive, Black Major, Baron Ironblood, Doc, Destro, Scarlett, accessory packs

Action Force, Red Shadows, Palitoy, European Exclusive, Black Major, Baron Ironblood, Doc, Destro, Scarlett, accessory packs

Action Force, Red Shadows, Palitoy, European Exclusive, Black Major, Baron Ironblood, Doc, Destro, Scarlett, accessory packs

One of the odd things with Palitoy figures is that Palitoy was also the European distributor of Star Wars figures.  As such, you can find carded Action Force figures that include Star Wars weapons.  Below are two Baron Ironblood figures.  One including a Kenner Han Solo Blaster and another including a Snake Eyes Uzi.  As Palitoy dumped their overstock onto the market, odd combos happened and these crossovers are an interesting intersection of Star Wars and the G.I. Joe figures who succeeded them as retail king of the action figures.

Action Force, Red Shadows, Palitoy, European Exclusive, Black Major, Baron Ironblood, Doc, Destro, Scarlett, accessory packs

Action Force, Red Shadows, Palitoy, European Exclusive, Black Major, Baron Ironblood, Doc, Destro, Scarlett, accessory packs

As Palitoy transitioned away from their exclusive figures and into G.I. Joe molds, the packaging remained intact.  Here you can see some examples of carded G.I. Joe figures using the classic Action Force packaging.  For the most part, these figures are the same as the American released versions.  There is some speculation that there might be slight accessory variants with the European releases.  You will note that some figures included extra accessories in these early Action Force packages.  I seem to recall a Cobra Trooper that included a blue or black version of Grunt's backpack.  But, all my searching could not turn up the image of that figure.  So, if you have information regarding the existence of this item, please leave the info in the comments below.  Not the awesome alternate Cobra logo that was featured on this early figures, too.

Action Force, Red Shadows, Palitoy, European Exclusive, Black Major, Baron Ironblood, Doc, Destro, Scarlett, accessory packs

Action Force, Red Shadows, Palitoy, European Exclusive, Black Major, Baron Ironblood, Doc, Destro, Scarlett, accessory packs

Action Force, Red Shadows, Palitoy, European Exclusive, Black Major, Baron Ironblood, Doc, Destro, Scarlett, accessory packs

One item that was exclusive to Europe were the Action Force accessory sets.  These are notable for a few reasons.  The first, of course, is the opportunity to get many classic G.I. Joe accessories in exclusive colors.  The second is that European exclusive accessories were often packed in the same packs.  So, collectors after exclusively colored Joe items can experience some of the exclusive weapons to the European line.  (Many of which are excellently done.)  Finally, though, is the oddity where Hasbro molds and Palitoy molds exist on the same plastric sprue.  This is notable as it implies that Hasbro and Palitoy teamed up to create these accessory packs with new molds for the weapons since it was unlikely the co-existed prior to the release of these packs.  You'll note in the photos below the exclusive colors and mix of gear.

Action Force, Red Shadows, Palitoy, European Exclusive, Black Major, Baron Ironblood, Doc, Destro, Scarlett, accessory packs

Action Force, Red Shadows, Palitoy, European Exclusive, Black Major, Baron Ironblood, Doc, Destro, Scarlett, accessory packs

If you want the real skinny on all things Action Force, visit Blood For the Baron.  It is the definitive Action Force site out there.