Sunday, April 13, 2014

1998 Volga - Oktober Guard

In 1997, Hasbro decided to bring back a small run of collector targeted G.I. Joe figures to celebrate the line's 15th anniversary. After selling the concept to Toys R Us, Hasbro realized that many of the people who had worked on the vintage Joe line were gone. So, they turned to some collectors in order to help them choose the characters, design the paint schemes and even update the filecards. The 1997 Joe line was a modest hit for Toys R Us, even though collectors were not overly enamored with the figure quality, mold choices and many paint schemes. But, the sales numbers were enough to warrant another set of figures in 1998. The 1998 figures followed the same template with collector input, but the second year offerings were more generally accepted by collectors due to the inclusion of some well designed army builders and a long missing element from the vintage Joe line: the Oktober Guard.

Was Volga meant to be Daina? Possibly. Based on the custom figure that was submitted by collector Thomas Wheeler, it was intended for Volga to be Daina. But, for reasons unknown, Hasbro changed her with a new head, new hair color and hew name. This is probably for the best as Volga's head would have been a poor representation of the Daina character. This also allowed Hasbro to make the very well done Daina in 2005 and not have it be too much of a retread. But, if I can only use one female Oktober Guard figure based on Lady Jaye, it's going to be Daina and not Volga.

Volga uses the standard Lady Jaye body, but has a newly sculpted head. This was the first head Hasbro sculpted since 1994 and the lack of experience shows. The head has...issues with an overly large nose and imperfect proportions to the rest of the body. Plus, there was no reason to sculpt a hat onto the figure as it made Volga too similar to Lady Jaye. But, there remains a charm to the figure where it is so bad that it has some cachet. The pasty skin tone and red hair really gives Volga a look that is distinctive. It's not a great look, but it can be used as part of her character.

From a paint application standpoint, though, Volga is nothing short of excellent. Her uniform is fully decked out in an array of fall cammo colors with green, brown, grey and cream all offset by the dazzling silver of her zippers, buckles and belt. It is a paint job on par or better than those seen on convention figures. But, in some ways, this makes the head more troublesome as this is a great figure until you get above the neck. The colors are distinctive, the paint applications are crisp and the overall colors blend near perfectly together to create an aesthetically pleasing figure. She fits with the other Oktober Guard of her time

Volga included the full assortment of Lady Jaye accessories. Done in all black, the spear gun, pack and camera had all been released the year before with Lady Jaye. As such, it made Volga appear even more like a last minute knock off. Had Hasbro attempted at least some different accessories, Volga might have been more interesting and garnered more collector attention. But, with the same gear as the Lady Jaye figure that was still pegwarming at the time of her release and the sculpted hat, Volga was just too similar to Lady Jaye to really take off in the collecting world.

The Oktober Guard set was an incredible pegwarmer. For some reason, Hasbro packed 2 Oktober Guard and Diver sets per case with only one Cobra Polar Assault and Cobra Infantry Team. With three separate production runs (late 1998, summer 1999 and winter 1999), the overpacked sets lingered at retail well into 2001 in many markets. As such, collectors generally were able to acquire all the Volgas they wanted. For many years, the 1997 Lady Jaye figure hovered at a $15 price tag while Volga would sell for 1/2 that. Today, the Lady Jaye figure has fallen while Volga has remained about the same. While she tends to be cheap to acquire, though, the figure has gotten somewhat hard to find. Not too many collectors stockpiled extra Oktober Guard sets since they were so common at retail. So, Volgas aren't as easy to find as they once were. But, for the price, she's a worthwhile pickup.

1998 Volga, Oktober Guard, TRU Exclusive, 1985 Mauler, 1983 Steeler, 1984 Ripcord

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