Sunday, October 11, 2020

[YouTube] G.I. Joe 1980's Mail-In Offers

This is primarily a look at some of the G.I. Joe items only available by mail order directly from Hasbro during the 1980s. The offers for many items appeared numerous times in different catalogs or on their own inserts through one or more years. I'm including as many as I have and I'll also leave a link to's collectibles archive here as that site is a great reference. does have a mail-in offer tab on that linked page that includes a few other things but that section is mostly paperwork and it places what I'm showing here into other categories. 

I've scanned a lot catalogs so you can also see the variety of retail items that were made available by mail. Hasbro made it quite easy to acquire the early vehicles and some of the action figures this way, however, vehicles never included the driver when ordering by mail. The retail boxed vehicles or carded action figures were not in their original packaging when acquiring them via mail either. Instead, plain boxes and plastic bags were used but a nice bonus was that the action figure file cards were cleanly cut rectangles so kids didn't need to take a pair of scissors and butcher them as they did when clipping them from retail packages.

The catalogs might be tough to read since I kept them as one long page in most cases. That results in some pages being upside down since most of them aren't traditional booklets as they unfold in a few directions and are double-sided. I'm dividing them below by offer and for the items I don't own I'm grouping all the paperwork together, and that group has scans with multiple offers of the items I own as well. For example, the 1982 and 1983 catalogs only have fan club offers so those are grouped under Mobile Strike Force. At the very bottom I've included a bonus from the '90s that appears in the second video. 

Mobile Strike Force (Fan Club)
The fan club was offered on an annual basis and the included items did change over time though the early years often had the same things. I subscribed in 1984 and received a membership card, belt, poster, iron-on, newsletter, and dog tags. Unfortunately, the dog tags are not labeled G.I. Joe anywhere, it's simple my name and address that I provided when subscribing. 

Parachute Pack
The Parachute Pack includes a plastic parachute that can be folded (or crumpled) up and placed (or forced) into a green backpack that attaches to an action figure. It also has a helmet and oxygen mask. Although this was never sold in stores on its own, there was a Target store exclusive that bundled the pack with the action figure Hit & Run in 1988. Grunt is modeling the pack in the photos and he actually did lose his hand in a parachuting accident but I think it may have been with a Fisher-Price parachute rather than this one.

MANTA is an acronym that means Marine Assault Nautical Transport; Air Driven. It's basically a sailboard with a rocket. It can be disassembled and placed into a backpack allowing an action figure to carry it across land. In the photos I didn't pack up the sail as I didn't want to take it apart. I'm either missing the gun or have the correct gun with the remote extension and clips broken off (see instruction sheet).

Hooded Cobra Commander
This is probably the best known and most popular G.I. Joe action figure mail-in offer. It's of Cobra Commander wearing a dark blue uniform and a hood rather than his usual helmet. He comes with the same gun as the light blue counterpart and it can be attached to his back as well. 

This character is an amalgamation of other action figure's parts repainted and the parts vary based on when he was ordered. You either get Recondo or Duke's torso and Recondo or Iceberg's waist with Flint's arms and Roadblock's legs. The copyright on the legs can either read 1984 or 1988. My Starduster has Duke's Torso and Iceberg's waist with the 1984 copyright on a leg. His accessories are always a silver version of Gung-Ho's grenade launcher, a helmet with star on it, and a black visor, and sometimes a jetpack was included. Starduster could also be ordered in a bundle with the Pocket Patrol Pack (carrying case that clips to a belt). As you can see I'm missing the black visor.

Sgt. Slaughter
The real-life wrestler turned action figure was first offered as a mail-in offer in 1985. This is the most detailed version with "USA" across his chest and a G.I. Joe logo on his right leg.  In 1986 a different version was sold in stores with Triple-T Tank vehicle and in 1988 yet another version was packaged with the Warthog A.T.F.V. A baton accessory is included with the first two versions but I could not locate either one for the pictures. File cards varied between the version and I'm including some comparisons to the Triple-T Tank version.

The Fridge
This action figure is based on the the NFL football player that won a super bowl with the Chicago Bear. William "The Refrigerator" Perry features his uniform number (72) on his chest and is equipped with a steel football attached to a chain. There are some color variations on the figure's belt and wrist bands.

Steel Brigade
Steel Brigade is a unique action figure that fans named and created their own file card for that is a sheet of paper rather than cardboard. A patch and weapon accessory are included too. You can see on the order form what selections were available and then Hasbro generated a couple paragraphs to describe the character. I'm not entirely sure what I was thinking with my choices but I'd most definitely make some different selections if I were able to order one today. The name I chose is Countach after the sports car from Lamborghini. This was 1987 and I'm sure I had a hard time coming up with a name. It's not terrible but doesn't make a whole lot of sense either. Countach is from the Piedmontese dialect and there isn't a direct translation for it in English. Sources indicate its's a vulgarity though often used to express astonishment too. 

Catalogs and Other Scans

Joseph Colton
In 1994 Hasbro celebrated the 30th anniversary of G.I. Joe with  3 3/4" and 12" action figures modeled after classic toys. It also offered a mail-in exclusive for the character Joseph B. Colton who was created as the basis for G.I. Joe's backstory. I ordered one of each and fortunately received them. Apparently, the offer was so popular that Hasbro ran out and did not produce any extras to meet demand. However, it ran out of accessories for the 12" version before running out of the doll so some people received him in arctic gear rather than army fatigues. The 12" one also has four hair color variations: brown, black, blond, and red. I don't have the actual order form so the scan only has the top portion of the paper that was on display at retail stores.

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