My Joe experience in 1982 began in October. In that time, my brother and I managed to acquire pretty much all of the Joe toys released with few exceptions. The MOBAT was the most glaring since it was the flagship vehicle of the time and included an exclusive figure. One of the other missing items, though, was the JUMP Jet Pack. I'm not sure why this playset was absent. We had multiple FLAKs, VAMPs and duplicate figures from birthday and Christmas gifts. But, for some reason, the JUMP never showed up. But, since it didn't include a figure and Cobra didn't have any airborne vehicles, the missing jet pack never really crossed my mind.
If you flash forward to 1984, the JUMP was still somewhat out of mind. There were enough new items in 1983 and 1984 to completely occupy me. But, at a local Service Merchandise store, I found something of which I wasn't aware: a JUMP with an exclusive Grand Slam figure, only colored in silver instead of red. It was this figure that got me interested in that version of the JUMP. Not, necessarily, for the playset, but for the Grand Slam. Even then, I had an interest in obscure Joes that were not part of the collections belonging to any of my friends. I looked over this JUMP and Grand Slam combo for several months. There were times when I had the money to buy it, but just didn't pull the trigger as I was saving for something else. My parents, though, must have seen me staring at the toy. And, for my birthday in 1984, I received the JUMP and Grand Slam.
That 1984 birthday was probably my favorite from childhood. It was unseasonably warm that day and my friends and I were able to play outside well into the evening. Once it was dark, we moved inside where we had an epic battle using my new JUMP, WHALE, Scarlett and Stormshadow figures. This was my introduction to the JUMP and instantly locked the playset into one of those associative memories where looking at the toy simply brought back feelings of happiness and joy that were imprinted during that first day of ownership.
For me, the JUMP playset features two main components. The first is the launchpad. It's just a platform, but works very well for its purpose. The second component is the one that mattered to me: the actual jetpack. The jetpack plugs into a figure like a normal figure backpack and is interchangable with any vintage Joe. This little piece, though, was the crux of the toy. With it, any Joe could not "plausibly" fly. That was a huge play element. I had adventures where the JUMP was used to spot the enemy from miles away, as an escape for a desperate messenger who had to relay Cobra operations and as an attack mechanism which Cobra was hard pressed to repel. In short, it brought a new dimension to every figure and didn't require flight to be confined in an expensive and bulky vehicle.
The jetpack was a key accessory for me. For a while, the jetpack served as an emergency escape device for top Joe commanders. It would be on a vehicle or in a base and strapped to Hawk should Cobra over run the base so that he could escape to fight another day. Over the years, I developed a nameless, faceless legion of jetpack troopers. It was represented by various figures through my childhood. Most famously, though, the jetpack became the domain of Maverick and he then represented these crazy jetpack jockeys until I stopped collecting.
While most of the 1982 vehicles would make their way around the world, the JUMP did not. This is odd as it's the only 1982 vehicle that did not have a non-Hasbro made international release. The jet pack did appear as an accessory in the European Action Force line. This red colored pack is fairly obscure and a cool find. But, the red doesn't really match any Cobra colors. But, it can work with the Action Force Joe repaints of the time. The JUMP was available as a mail in until around 1985. And, we all know the jet pack would appear around 1987 with the mail away Starduster figure and would continue to be released with that character until at least 1993. This could explain why the playset never appeared anywhere else since Hasbro never really took the actual jet pack out of production.
What's more odd, though, is that Hasbro didn't re-use the mold in the 2000's. Despite the jet pack being a collector favorite and Hasbro having the mold, they never bothered with including it with any figures from that era of toys. It's a shame as even one or two jet packs could have turned mediocre releases into something awesome. In 2007, the jet pack, blaster and cord made their final appearance as accessories to a convention release of Starduster and Grand Slam. The club tried to release the entire JUMP set. But, the mold was damaged. A few "feet" from the set were available at the 2007 convention as leftover pieces, reminding collectors of what could have been. In the anniversary era, though, the jet pack was redone and has appeared many times, proving what a solid accessory it is. In 2017, factory custom makers introduced the jet pack, blaster and hose in various colors as part of their Starduster repaints. You can now find the jet pack in blue, red, white, chrome and other colors to augment your armies.
JUMPs are weird to price. Because the set included a "rare" Grand Slam figure, there are people who believe the whole set is rare. So, you'll see mint and complete with blueprints sets sell in the $50 range with an alarming frequency. At the same time, you can get a perfect pad, pack, computer and gun for about $10 far more easily. Even if you want a complete with blueprints set, you can find them regularly in the $20 range. So, for such a popular item, you can still get the JUMP for decent prices and even pick up a few spares to have sitting around. This is a great thing since the JUMP is a cool toy that works well in dioramas and individual scenes. It's a rare piece that allows you to display a couple of figures in a small footprint and always looks cool doing so.