Vintage toys are an ever-changing and enormous market. Hasbro, since its modest beginning in 1923 has survived and adapted to the wants and desires of generations of children. One example is G.I. Joe. Hasbro’s successful “action figure” for boys (don’t call it a “doll”) was created in 1964 by Sam Speers who patented the “action figure” name. Mattel had already produced Barbie (1959) and Ken (1961) which became such huge successes, Mattel could not keep up with the demand. Hasbro saw a need for a comparable toy for boys and based on a World War II film, launched the “Action Man Series” representing all 4 branches of the military. At 12”, G. I. Joe was comparable in height to Barbie and Ken.
The “Action Man Series” had similar success but sales began to decline in the mid 1970’s due to the oil embargo’s effect on plastic production and growing anti-war sentiment. In 1982, Hasbro relaunched G.I. Joe in a 3 ¾” scale in conjunction with a complex story of an ongoing struggle between the “GI Joe Team” and the “Cobra Command”. Called the “Real American Hero” series, the good over evil concept was a battle of the free world over terrorism. The new line had endless accessories and vehicles while the new G.I. Joe team had expertise in martial arts, weapons and explosives. Names like “Breaker”, ”Grunt”, “Snake Eyes” and “Short Fuse” came with cards which listed their names, rank, skills, and birthplace. Most of the information on the cards is based on real people who were designers at Hasbro or their family and friends. Dave Kunitz, an independent toy designer/consultant and formerly a VP in Design at Hasbro explained to me how the designers had fun with the product and the realistic details that were added which made them so popular. He showed me a G.I. Joe modeled after himself. Okay, the face was familiar, but no man I know has a body like G.I. Joe!
The current market is largely driven by collectors born in the late 1970’s, roughly the age who played with and would have fond memories of the 3 ¾” size. Some “G. I. Joe Team” figures sell for over $1000. The collectors of the original 12” G.I. Joes are a smaller group and thus there is less demand, so a mint 12” in original box might sell in the $100 range. Only rare original G.I. Joe factory prototypes would fare better, like the one that sold for $200,000 and is now in a museum. The rare, mint-condition G.I. Nurse Action Girl sells for $6000 as the line was a marketing failure and they were produced for one year only. Most inventory for sale can be found on sites like www.yojoe.com, the Action Figure Authority’s website www.toygrader.com, and ebay. Shows like “Toy Hunter” on the Travel Channel illustrate the large number of collectors of toys and what those collectors desire.
Sterling and Salt = Corrosion
Q. I own a beautiful set of antique silver salt and pepper shakers. The salt shaker has developed a green crust on the top and I do not know how to remove it without damaging it. Any advice?
A. You have a chemical reaction going on with the salt interacting with the silver. Sterling silver tarnishes with sulfur compounds in the air as well as salts, oils and acids from your skin. Any unclean silver surface and /or dampness will create these crusty deposits. The green is actually corrosion of the copper which exists in the silver alloy of the sterling silver. Sterling silver is 92.5% silver and the remaining 5.5% is copper.
According to Jeff Herman, a nationally known silversmith from Warwick (www.jeffhermansilver.com), the best way to remove corrosion is with ammonia. Pour the ammonia (in a well ventilated area) into a container and add the salt shaker for about 10 minutes. The green will turn to black then put the silver in for another 10 minutes until all the black is gone. Wash and polish. To avoid further problems, do not store salt in the shaker. Empty and wash after each use.