I really became a Joe collector in the summer of 1995. I had touched on toy aisles through the years. I had bought a few Joes at retail between 1992 and 1994. But, in 1995, it was apparent the Joe line was done. (I didn't follow any toy news magazines so my only indications were dwindling retail stock.) As such, I decided I should buy as many Joe figures as I could find at retail before they were gone, again. So, armed with a summer internship that paid 50% more than I had ever made in my life, I spent the summer sweeping through stores wherever I could in an attempt to snatch up the last bastions of retail G.I. Joe. As the stock was still fairly plentiful when I started, I was choosy and bought the figures I felt were the coolest first. As I acquired those, I went down the rungs and picked up any figure with black weapons and finally anyone I could find who wasn't Armor Tech or Ninja Force. However, as I usually searched for toys on my lunch hour, my time was limited and that usually meant stops only at Toys R Us or Target. One weekend, though, I was near the mall and decided to check out KB Toys. They still had a small section of Joes left. But, their stock featured several figures I had not seen before. Among them was the 1993 Frostbite figure.
One of the nostalgic bents for this figure is I have still have the stack of cardbacks from all the figures I found at retail in the mid 1990's. I kept them all and saved them first in the box of a Razor Blade and later in the discarded box from the Cobra Parasite. They remain bundled together even today, more than 20 years after their purchase. In pulling out Frostbite's card, I see the $3.49 price tag for the figure. KB Toys was always more expensive than either Toys R Us or Target when it came to Joe figures. But, the $3.49 price was closer to the $2.79 price tags from the other stores than I thought. Still, I recall balking at paying the higher prices, even back then. But, since I had never seen Frostbite before (nor the Backblast or Keel Haul who I also purchased that day) I bit the bullet in the chance I'd never see the figure again. And, sure enough, this remained the only 1993 Frostbite figure I would ever see at retail. So, his purchase was fortuitous.
Upon opening the figure, I found a signature accessory: the figure's mask. When I was a kid, I was always a fan of removable helmets or masks. Frostbite's mask was unlike anything I had seen before on a Joe. The faceless expression left the figure as a perfect arctic army builder. And, since he included a white version of my favorite MP-5 inspired rifle from that era, this Frostbite became an army of troopers capable of defeating Snow Serpents. When I found the Blockbuster a while later, this Frostbite joined the crew of Windchill and various Snow Storm repaints and they became a wrecking crew capable of mowing through any well equipped army of 1994 Vipers and 1993 Crimson Guard Commanders who comprised the entirety of my Cobra forces at the time.
As a mold, though, this Frostbite is more than just the mask. He is not overly detailed with tons of extra items that make him cluttered. The figure has a well textured winter coat complete with a fur collar, some web gear and three grenades strung across it. He's interesting enough without being too far gone. Sure, the aqua blue webbing and orange grenades are somewhat gaudy and don't make much sense in a snowy environment. But, it was 1993 and a figure that was mostly properly colored with just some splashes of brightness was OK. Besides, the colors broke up what had, traditionally, been similarly colored figures. The figure's head is a bit large, but that was how Hasbro was sculpting Joes at the time. It allows for greater detail on the face and beard.
For gear, Frostbite featured a white weapon tree. I can accept white weapons for an arctic themed figure. Plus, the tree used for Frostbite included the 1988 Muskrat Shotgun, the Tracker submachine gun and a machete. (It also included the 1991 Grunt's weapon. But, I've never liked that gun and left it on the tree.) He has the requisite missile launcher and missiles, too. The mask was what made the figure stand out. But, getting some weapons whose color matched the figure and his specialty was also useful. While many of the 1993/1994 weapon tree colors didn't make much sense, all of the arctic figures included white weapon trees which complemented the figures very nicely.
While 1993 can be classified as a year full of repaints, the reality is that most of the newly molded figures to be released that year never saw another repaint. Frostbite is among them. This was the only appearance of this mold in the vintage line. We know that Frostbite was going to return in the first wave of the Battle Corps Rangers line in 1995. But, that figure would have been an all new mold that featured a removable hat. (You can see him on the box art of the Battle Station and Sea Wolf.) So, it's unlikely that Hasbro had any further plans for this mold. In 1997, though, this Frostbite mold made a surprise appearance in the Toys R Us exclusive 3 packs, though named Blizzard. (He was a last minute replacement when Hasbro couldn't find the 1988 Blizzard mold.) This figure features far better paint but worse accessories. So, a combo of the 1993 and 1997 releases will get you the best version of the figure. The mold never appeared again, despite Hasbro releasing a couple of arctic vehicles and figure sets. But, at least the lone repaint was decent.
Frostbite follows the pattern of most Battle Corps Joe affiliated characters. Dealers will sell the figure for around $10. And, the figure sells at that point. On the open market, though, Frostbite will fetch close to $8. So, you don't have a huge disparity between dealer and market pricing. Carded Frostbite's can be had for around $20. And, you can easily find the figure in lots where you'll pay only a couple of bucks for each figure if you don't mind picking up some other brightly colored '90's Joes in the deal. On some levels, I feel those prices are high for a late release, unpopular Joe figure. But, at the same time, collector ranks are now comprised heavily of adults who grew up in the 1990's and for whom figures like this Frostbite are their childhood favorites. So, that plays a big part.
For me, had I now found this figure at retail when I did, it's likely he would have slipped through the cracks. As a post retail collector, I've always lived in places where arctic figures don't have tremendous use. (Finding a way to photograph this figure when it's 110 degrees outside certainly doesn't help!) So, I would have missed a quiet gem had I not stopped into that KB Toys that summer 23 years ago. Looking back at this figure helps me remember why I started and why I still collect Joe figures. A lot has happened in the ensuing decades from this figure's release that makes this hobby difficult. But, looking back to a simpler time helps to put that into perspective. This Frostbite represents a time when I collected for the sheer joy of the hobby. It's important for me to recall that every now and then.