The very first handcrafted mock-up of GI Joe, the original 12″ tall Real American Hero and simply the most prized collectible there could be for generations of men, will cross the block at Heritage Auctions on August 10 as the centerpiece of the company’s Entertainment and Music Memorabilia event. It carries a starting bid of $125,000.
“There are few more hallowed pop culture artifacts that could come up for auction than this,” said Ed Jaster, Executive Vice President at Heritage Auctions. “Ten years ago when we sold this piece at Heritage it realized slightly over $200,000, which we believe it may bring or exceed again. To help make sure that it finds a new steward, however, we’ve joined with the consignor and placed what we feel is a conservative $125,000+ estimate on it.”
Also being offered in the auction are the prototype for the first G.I. Joe dressed in an Air Force uniform (Palitoy/Hasbro, 1964) and an early production model G.I. Joe Navy Talking Action Figurine (Hasbro Circa 1967), both formerly from the collection of G.I. Joe creator Don Levine, and both estimated at $12,500.
The two rare Joes, while not as historically important as the prototype, both mark important evolutions in the toy,” said Jaster. “Not only do you have GI Joe branching out into the other U.S. Military branches, these also represent the broadening of the character that would lead to the entire world of G.I. Joe characters that exists today.”
The prototype, carefully constructed of hand-shaped and shaved plastic, hand-crafted metal, and hand-sewn fabric, was the brainchild of Don Levine, Creative Director at Hasbro in the mid-1960s, who developed an idea first proffered by licensing guru Stan Weston, that little boys would play with a doll as much as little girls would — it simply had to be the right doll, and it had to be called an “action figure.”
“In 1964, Hasbro’s proposed 12″ GI Joe toy line flew in the face of conventional wisdom,” said GI Joe expert Mark Bellomo. “The company defied a nation of traditionally-minded consumers who considered poseable dolls a product expressly made for girls. Hasbro saw an opening and invented their GI Joe line, marketing him as a ‘Moveable Fighting Man.’ The rest is history.”
Adopting the roles of Action Marine, Action Pilot, Action Sailor, and Action Soldier, GI Joe became the central figure in countless backyard adventures. Thanks to Hasbro, boys could now commandeer a strike force of realistic, 12″ tall, fully-articulated GI Joe action figures, all of them descendent from this single example.
The prototype is crafted and consists of a plastic body with wire-spring joints, a hand-painted plastic head that was created by pulling a temporary mold from a carved wooden original and a completely hand-sewn uniform of olive-drab fatigues and requisite four-pocketed field jacket with a set of hand-stitched, superbly-detailed three-tiered chevrons worn on each shoulder, reflecting the rank of E-5 [sergeant].
The GI Joe brand has rightly been inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame (ca. 2004), and this irreplaceable iconic artifact exists as one of the most important cultural touchstones on the planet. The toy is about to celebrate its’ 50th anniversary and has seen an upsurge of popularity in recent years with a variety of licensed toy properties, television programs and movies.