Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Rarities - Funskool Calcium Sandoz Figures

Funskool is notorious for producing their figures for a variety of corporate tie ins.  As they are owned by a rubber company who makes its fortune in tires, they have a bit different approach to product tie ins that a major American toy company may have.  In many ways, Funskool's corporate partnerships in the 1990's and early 2000's were reminiscent of Hasbro's and Kenner's from the 1970's and 1980's.  Along with Pepsodent, Complan and TV marketing deals, Funskool also worked with Calcium Valdoz for a series of figures based on G.I. Joe molds.

I'm not sure what Calcium Sandoz is.  It's a supplement of some sort that was discontinued in the UK in 2015.  But, in an effort to get children in India to take it, the company that produced the product worked with Funskool to offer some G.I. Joe figures as a promotional opportunity.  The figures were different from classic Funskool releases in two ways.  First, most of the figures are unique color schemes to the Calcium Sandoz premium.  But, more interestingly, all of the figures have a new pair of straight arms on them.  Below you can see some samples of the figures and the exclusive color schemes that go with them.

Hydro Viper:

The Hydro Viper is one of the best recolors of the line.  This blue version would be a great crew-member on a Moray.  The terrible arms, though, mostly ruin what should be a classic repaint.  It's too bad that this color scheme was never offered with the swivel arms on the standard cardback.

Funskool Calcium Sandoz Stormshadow Figures, Big Boa, Blaster, Captain Grid Iron, Psyche Out, Deep Six, Desert Scorpion, Lifeline, Sci Fi, Hydro Viper


You can see a sample of Stormshadow in the photo below.  He is missing the classic cammo pattern from the 1988 mold.

Funskool Calcium Sandoz Stormshadow Figures, Big Boa, Blaster, Captain Grid Iron, Psyche Out, Deep Six, Desert Scorpion, Lifeline, Sci Fi
Funskool Calcium Sandoz Stormshadow Figures
You see that the arms are not the original Hasbro molds for straight arms.  For some reason, these figures were all given these new arms.  This is odd as the copyright for these figures is from 2003: a timeframe when we know that Funskool was still producing carded G.I. Joe figures and had full access to the original molds.  Below you can see a Captain Grid Iron figure with the exclusive coloring as well as the back of the insert card showing not only Grid Iron's bio, but the copyright date, too.  Also note that his colors are drastically different than the carded figure variants.

Funskool Calcium Sandoz Stormshadow Figures, Captain Grid Iron
Funskool Calcium Sandoz Captain Grid Iron Figure
Funskool Calcium Sandoz Captain Grid Iron Insert & Bio


There are a lot of different figures in the set.  I'm not sure of the entire roster.  I have included the figures of whom I am aware in this post.  But, please let me know of additional figures in the comments below.

Blaster:

Here you will see Blaster with a body colored like the "Vehicle Driver" Blaster that was found bagged inside of specific vehicles in the early 2000's.  It's appearance here actually helps us understand how such a variant came to appear in vehicles.  But, this figure also uses the color scheme from the 2001 Funskool General Hawk.

Funskool Calcium Sandoz Stormshadow Figures, Big Boa, Blaster, Captain Grid Iron, Psyche Out, Deep Six, Desert Scorpion, Lifeline, Sci Fi


Deep Six:

Deep Six is colored very similarly to the single carded figure.  There are some variants on this figure with plastic that's more translucent or opaque.

Funskool Calcium Sandoz Stormshadow Figures, Big Boa, Blaster, Captain Grid Iron, Psyche Out, Deep Six, Desert Scorpion, Lifeline, Sci Fi


Desert Scorpion:

This Desert Scorpion is an interesting combo.  He has unique lower arms that are still the straight arms.  The figure's general base colors are similar to the single carded figure.  But, the figure lacks highlights and has some color differences such as the color of the figure's head/antenna.

Funskool Calcium Sandoz Stormshadow Figures, Big Boa, Blaster, Captain Grid Iron, Psyche Out, Deep Six, Desert Scorpion, Lifeline, Sci Fi


Star Brigade Sci Fi:

Again, Sci Fi has unique lower arms.  But, the figure is colored almost identically to the single carded version of the figure.

Funskool Calcium Sandoz Stormshadow Figures, Big Boa, Blaster, Captain Grid Iron, Psyche Out, Deep Six, Desert Scorpion, Lifeline, Sci Fi


Lifeline:

Lifeline uses base colors similar to the carded figure.  But, this version is missing all the paint applications.  The Funskool Lifeline has very intricate paint masks an their absence here makes the figure look unfinished.

Funskool Calcium Sandoz Stormshadow Figures, Big Boa, Blaster, Captain Grid Iron, Psyche Out, Deep Six, Desert Scorpion, Lifeline, Sci Fi


Psyche Out:

Like Blaster, this Psyche Out is in the colors of the mysterious "Vehicle Drivers" set.  But, this version has the terrible straight arms.  This color scheme for Psyche Out, but with the swivel arms, has been found in Funskool Halibna and Maldova promotional figures, too.

Funskool Calcium Sandoz Stormshadow Figures, Big Boa, Blaster, Captain Grid Iron, Psyche Out, Deep Six, Desert Scorpion, Lifeline, Sci Fi


Big Boa:

Big Boa is blue.  As a figure, this is probably his best base coloring.  The head is also more silver than the grey version from the single carded figure.

Funskool Calcium Sandoz Stormshadow Figures, Big Boa, Blaster, Captain Grid Iron, Psyche Out, Deep Six, Desert Scorpion, Lifeline, Sci Fi


The Calcium Sandoz figures have gotten to be stupidly expensive.  Bagged versions can run upwards of $500.  But, like most foreign Joes, these guys were easier to find just a couple of years ago.  And, now, many characters have all but disappeared.  However, as these were 2000's era releases, it's likely that there are more of them out there that will show up as kids from that time start looking to liquidate some toys. Until then, though, these guys are hard to find and expensive.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Rarities - Canadian Consumer Distributing Cobra Combat Tank

Hasbro was always looking for ways to expand the Joe brand.  And, even in the early 1980's, retail partners were keen to cozy up with Hasbro to produce exclusive toys.  In the early days, these items were heavily focused on retailers with large catalog business.  In the U.S., both Sears and JC Penny's were able to carry specially packaged Hasbro products.  And, Sears was even able to secure exclusive toys for sale in their catalog and in their stores.  Sears was even able to secure an exclusive toy for their Canadian stores: the infamous Cobra M.S.V.  And, it is to Canada we look for another exclusive vehicle: the Cobra Combat Tank.

In 1984, the Consumer Distributing chain of stores was able to secure a Hasbro exclusive.  They got an all black repaint of the MOBAT.  This was named the Cobra Combat Tank and included a swivel arm version of the helmeted Cobra Commander figure.  It has since become one of the rarer vehicle repaints and is highly sought by many collectors.

Consumer Distributing was a warehouse store.  It seems to be most analogous to Service Merchandise in the U.S.  You ordered from a catalog in the store and waited for employees to bring it out to you.  (My Service Merchandise store had a conveyor belt on which your items would slide from the back of the store to the front where you picked it up.  So, it is this image I associate with this model of retail...even if other chains may have looked differently.) They were large enough to secure an exclusive repaint.  It would be interesting to know how many of these items were produced.  It's likely that the total number is quite small.

Consumer Distributing tanks are expensive.  It's rare to find one in mint and complete condition.  They aren't as rare as the M.S.V.  And, they only have one really small, easily lost part whereas the M.S.V. has several.  As a repaint, it's kind of boring.  It's just a black MOBAT.  And, the MOBAT, in general, sucks.  But, as a rarity, the tank is somewhat useful.  It matches well with Hiss Tanks and Stingers and would be an excellent addition to a pre-1985 Cobra army.

In 1985, Hasbro repainted the MOBAT for the U.S. market with the Sears exclusive CAT Tank.  Hasbro got their money out of the MOBAT mold.  But, it's somewhat odd that Cobra actually got more releases of the MOBAT than Joe did.  So, you can make a case that it's actually a Cobra vehicle, now.

Canadian Consumer Distributing Cobra Combat Tank

Here you can see inside of the battery compartment.

Canadian Consumer Distributing Cobra Combat Tank


Below are the blueprints for the CDT.  You will note that they still feature Steeler being placed into the turret.  You can see the instructions in both English and French.

Canadian Consumer Distributing Cobra Combat Tank

Canadian Consumer Distributing Cobra Combat Tank

Canadian Consumer Distributing Cobra Combat Tank, blueprints

Canadian Consumer Distributing Cobra Combat Tank, blueprints


As a cheap novelty, I'd love to get a couple of these to match up with my classic Cobras.  But, as an expensive, hard to find item, I have no interest in the Cobra Combat Tank.  I never liked the MOBAT and don't see an all black repaint of it being worth the hundreds of dollars or so it would cost to get a nice one.  Many collectors like the MOBAT, though.  That, and the fact that it was a Canadian exclusive, keep this item more desirable and expensive than I will ever find it.  But, this item is a great reminder of both how strong toy lines used to be and how powerful retail chains once were to commerce.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Rarities - Unproduced 1998 "Chocolate Chip" Dial Tone

In 1998, Hasbro planned to release a repainted 1983 G.I. Joe Headquarters.  It would be in a desert color scheme and would have been the flagship item in the 1998 Toys R Us exclusive line.  The HQ was slated to include 5 figures: Outback, Dusty, Law, Pathfinder and Dial Tone.  Hasbro, though, was unable to procure the HQ mold.  And, the showcase item for 1998 could not happen.  It seems, though, that Hasbro tried to resurrect at least three of the figures from this set in Dial Tone, Outback and Pathfinder.  They may have been for a planned 5th 3 pack of figures.  If this were the case, it is possible that the case logistics for 1998 would have been too skewed.  (The three packs shipped in 6 set cases with 2 each of the Oktober Guard and G.I. Joe Divers and one each of the Cobra Infantry and Cobra Polar Assault.)  Whatever, the reason, the figures were cancelled and a very few samples of the unproduced items made their way into the collecting world.

Of the three figures in the set, Dial Tone remains the rarest.  But, since you can count the number of each figure on your hands, rarity is relative.  But, you can see the intricacy of the Dial Tone design in the photos below.  Dial Tone is full of intricate paint masks, even if the colors are somewhat obscured by the camo pattern. (I'd have preferred some of the straps and pads on the figure to be black so they better stood out against the pale tan of the figure's base.)  The camo pattern is unlike anything we'd seen up to that point.  If you compare these figures to the 1993 Duke (a recent desert figure) you can see the upgrade in paint technology that Hasbro employed on these figures.

The Dial Tone would have included a black version of his gun and a black version of Firefly's walkie talkie.  In some ways, this makes sense.  Dial Tone should have his gun.  But, when the figure finally showed up in 2000, Dial Tone's original rifle was gone and replaced by a 1991 Dusty weapon.  His packmate, General Tomahawk, though, included a silver version of the Dial Tone rifle.  It was a shame the figure didn't include the signature backpack.  But, none of the future releases included it, either.  So, it's possible the mold was lost or damaged.

Collectors really missed out by these figures not being released.  Aside from the fact that Outback never returned to retail, the entire set featured a look that would never appear again in the Joe line.  (The 2004 Desert Patrol had some similar figures and the Stalker would have been a great companion to this set.)  While Hasbro did release all of the characters except for Outback in the 2000's (and, the mold was sort of used on the awful Big Brawler character) none of them were in a paint scheme as intricate or unique as these unproduced "Chocolate Chip" versions.  While I love all the 1998 3 figure pack figures, I'd gladly trade either the Oktober Guard or Joe Divers for these three figures.  And, I think collectors would have, too.  The two retail packs lingered at Toys R Us stores well into 2001.  It's hard to imagine that this unproduced pack would have suffered the same fate.  But, we'll never know.

If you can find a version of this Dial Tone, you'll probably drop a couple of grand on him.  The figure is incredibly rare and has always been pricey.  A complete three figure set would set you back $5,000 in 2007.  I can only imagine what such a set would command today.  This figure is far, far rarer than the Pimp Daddy Destro.  He's so rare that his unavailability works against him.  No one knows he exists because there are so few of them out there. It's a cool figure because there is nothing else really like him in the history of the line.  So, he stands apart from many other post vintage unproduced repaints for that reason alone.  Of all the figures we didn't get in the repaint era, this version of Dial Tone and his packmates are the ones I lament the most.

1998 Unproduced Chocolate Chip Dialtone

1998 Unproduced Chocolate Chip Dialtone

1998 Unproduced Chocolate Chip Dialtone









Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Rarities - European Force Knock Offs - Round 3

European Force figures remain one of the most popular rarity items I've posted.  They've appeared in Rarity Months in 2016 and 2017 and are now showcased for the 3rd series in a row.  This year, there is some info that enlightens us as to what these figures included.  But, it also muddies the water as it introduces the reality that the figures had construction, color and accessory variants.  For something so rare, that makes tracking them down that much more difficult.  But, for items that are, essentially, bootlegs, such inconsistency is to be expected.  The good news is that a lot of new images of these figures, especially carded samples, came to light in the past year.  So, we now have a lot more reference material from which to gather information about this line.

Below you will see some images of carded European Force figures.  They provide a great insight into what accessories were included with each figure.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando


Based on the various carded images I've been able to find, the figures' accessory complement is as follows:

Eclair includes a black rifle based on the 1986 Leatherneck's M-203.  He also has a marbled green backpack from the 1986 Hawk figure as well as binoculars from the 1984 Duke.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando


Randon includes a remade 1984 Baroness rifle and a General Hawk backpack.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando


Mirage includes a Dragunov sniped taken from the Cobra Trooper and a version of Dial Tone's backpack.  (I can not tell if it has the microphone, though.)

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando


Thomis includes Dial Tone's gun and Buzzer's pack but does not include the gas can that attaches to the frame.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando


Le Colonel includes a Mainframe backpack, Major Bludd's pistol and a rocket launcher from Footloose.  It's difficult to tell if all Le Colonels include the pistol.  As you'll see below, it's common for the smaller accessories to move around.  So, some of the carded Le Colonels appear to be missing the pistol.  It's possible, though, that the weapon is simply behind the figure or other accessories after moving in the bubble.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando

Tonnerre includes a black Leatherneck M-203 and a green Dial Tone backpack.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando

MyGal includes the same Buzzer backpack frame as Thomis but also adds in the Dr. Mindbender electric prod.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando

Acarie includes a green and brown version of Airborne/Duke's backpack and Iceberg's long rifle.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando

Longue Vue includes the Duke binoculars, a Falcon pack and a 1986 Beach Head rifle.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando


Mains Dancier includes a Falcon pack with antenna, the gas can from Buzzer's pack (but no frame), a Low Light sniper rifle and a Low Light uzi.  You'll note how the uzi moved around and is hidden by the figure.  These smaller accessories tend to float.  So, check around and get lots of pics if you can find a MOC version to ensure what gear is included.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando



Scorpion includes a 1987 Falcon shotgun as well as an Airborne/Duke backpack.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando


The final figure is Comando.  This Flint/General Hawk hybrid is the only figure of which I have been unable to find a carded photo.  The cardback shows the figure with a 1986 Viper rifle.  I have images of a loose version.  So, the figure does exist.  But, for now, he remains the elusive, final figure from this series for which I need to verify his gear.

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando


However, it's important to note a few things.  There is a carded Eclair figure that does not include a rifle.  But, it includes a marbled green version of Falcon's backpack and Duke's binoculars.  As such, it seems that there might be variants among the accessories of these figures.  With so few carded samples to go from, though, it's extremely difficult at this time to determine the scope of the variances within each figure.

Here is a cardback showing the figures:

European Force, France, Bootlegs, MyGal, Tonnerre, Mirage, Le Colonel, Thomis, Scorpion, Longue Vue, Eclair, Acarie, MOC, Carded, Rendon, Mains Dancier, Commando

You'll notice the weapons mostly match up with the carded figures.  Le Colonel and Mains Dancier are notable exceptions, though.  Both are show with weapons that were not, otherwise, included in this set of figures.  With so few carded samples being available, it's possible there are examples of these characters with the alternate weapons.  So, if anyone has any additional information regarding them, please contact me.

These figures are rare.  But, as they're not branded as G.I. Joe figures, they do slip by the wayside and you can find them, mislabeled, from time to time.  But, loose figures that are in decent shape will still fetch over $100.  I'm sure some of the rarer figures would go for more.  Carded versions are few and far between.  Though, more have appeared in the past year.  But, anyone after a complete set is going to spend quite a bit of money along with a great deal of effort to track these figures down.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Rarities - Carded Rubiplas Topson From Venezuela

We all know about the second series of Plastirama figures released in Argentina.  The six figures are stuff of legend and remain among the rarest and most expensive figures released anywhere in the world.  But, there are even rarer versions.  The Rubiplas toy company in Venezuela also produced the figures from this series.  Most of the figures have slight differences.  They are even rarer than the Argentine versions of the characters.  Below, though, is a carded sample of a Rubliplas Topson figure.

There is an obvious difference with this figure: the Recondo rifle.  This is interesting for a couple of reasons.  The Plastirama Topson (as far as we know) came with a version of Grunt's M-16.  We know that Recondo was sent to Brazil for release there around 1987 or 1988.  Recondo appeared on the cardbacks of Plastirama figures: but was never released in Argentina.  So, it's possible that Plastirama had the mold and Rubiplas got ahold of it.  But, why use the gun for this Topson?  Was the Grunt M-16 separated from theses figures and not available?  You'll also note he has a helmet mold originally from Blowtorch.  The Plastirama version has been found with the classic 1982 helmet, molded in grey instead of this Blowtorch version.  But, it's possible that both helmet combos were released in Argentina, too.

The card artwork for this figure is a combination of classic Joe excellence with a bit of foreign silliness.  We see Topson clearly holding the ammo pack originally included with Snake Eyes.  But, it has an added antenna to it to make it appear as a radio.  This Topson figure includes an unaltered ammo pack.  There is some disagreement as to what the Plastirama version of Topson includes in regards to the radio.  We'll have to find a carded version from Argentina to be sure.  But, the different Recondo rifle opens up the door that other accessories were changed between the countries, too.

Rubiplas Topson, Venezuela, Argen 7, Plastirama, ARgentina