I love to collect vintage G.I. Joe toys in their original Dutch packaging. I was born and raised in the Netherlands and fondly remember seeing the all-Dutch packaging in my local toy store back in 1987. The Netherlands (or “Holland” as it is often colloquially referred to) is not exactly a big country in Europe. All the more exciting that we got G.I. Joe toys with fully Dutch translated packaging in the stores between 1987 and 1989 (from 1989 onwards we had to make do with bilingual French/Dutch packaging).
Vintage G.I. Joe in Dutch packaging (1987)
These early G.I. Joe releases (1987, 1988 and 1989) in all-Dutch packaging are some of the hardest to find of all the European variants, especially the action figures.
I currently own a handful of carded G.I. Joe action figures in Dutch packaging and Chung-Ho was the very first MOSC (mint on sealed card) specimen I found about two years ago. I recently stumbled upon a second Dutch Chung-Ho action figure still mint on sealed card and didn’t hesitate to pick it up. The reason I decided to purchase it is because I saw what I believed to be a sticker on the bottom left on the card that wasn’t present on my first Dutch Chung-Ho and my interest was peaked. The sticker looked like it was one of those mail-away special offers that were all the rage with Hasbro back in the 1980′s.
G.I. Joe – Chung-Ho (1988) MB International B.V.
Imagine my surprise when this second Chung-Ho arrived in the mail and I found out that it was not a sticker at all! It was part of the actual print on the card. This means that there were two different releases of this action figure in the Netherlands (possibly also in the other European countries where MB were responsible for the distribution of G.I. Joe toys).
Both Chung-Ho variants side by side
“China or Hong Kong?”
I frantically compared both items to see if there were any other differences besides the mail-in offer promotion on the front of the card. There were no easily discernible differences between the action figures themselves from what I can see without removing them from the packaging. But lo and behold, it seems these two variants do have one other difference on the packaging. The first Chung-Ho card says the product was manufactured in China, while the second Chung-Ho card (the one with the special offer promotion) says it was manufactured in Hong Kong!
Chung-Ho (made in China)
Chung-Ho (made in Hong Kong)
Note that although today Hong Kong is officially part of China, in 1988 Hong Kong was still a British colony, so these were two seperate sovereignties. It was only in 1997 that Hong Kong became part of China.
“The Dating Game”
I love finding out stuff like this. Previously I had just assumed that there was only one version of every Dutch G.I. Joe release, but this finding throws that assumption squarely out of the window. So I started pondering how these two different releases would fit chronologically speaking. Were they available in stores simultaneously? Or did one come before the other?
Back of both cards
To try and answer that question I dug up my Dutch G.I. Joe catalogs. Although Chung-Ho is primarily considered to be a 1989 release, he was already available from late 1988 according to the European G.I. Joe FAQ. The release date of the Benelux G.I. Joe catalog that first shows Chung-Ho certainly supports this, because this catalog probably debuted around the fall of 1988. The date code on the catalog mentions October 1988, while records indicate that the weekly Dutch Donald Duck magazine/comic came with a G.I. Joe catalog insert with issue 38 in late September 1988, which is almost certainly this same catalog.
Chung-Ho in Benelux G.I. Joe catalog (Fall 1988)
So it’s not entirely unthinkable that Chung-Ho, advertised in a fall 1988 catalog, was available in time for the December holiday season of 1988. Chung-Ho is also seen in the 1989 Dutch G.I. Joe catalog, which came in a comic book like form. There’s no date that I could find on that catalog, but it was probably released late February or early March 1989, because Donald Duck issue number 12 of 1989 came with another G.I. Joe insert. The catalog looks like it was co-produced with Dutch Marvel comics publisher JuniorPress, re-affirming a suspicion I’ve long had, which is that JuniorPress and MB International BV (the name of the Dutch MB subsidiary) had a more than average publisher-advertiser relationship.
Chung-Ho in Dutch G.I. Joe catalog (Spring 1989)
So Chung-Ho was probably available from late 1988 and all through 1989. But what does that tell us about the order in which the above two Chung-Ho variants were available? Well, the most important clue to dating these two variants would lie in the variant with the mail away offer. The version of Chung-Ho with the Super Trooper special offer was probably the second/later release that was only available well into 1989. Why? Well, because if you look closely at the Super Trooper offer sticker it says it’s valid until March 31, 1990. It’s much more likely that this version of Chung-Ho was released in 1989 than in late 1988, because late 1988 until late March 1990 seems like an awfully long time for a mail away offer to be valid. Most Transformers and G.I. Joe mail away offers that MB International B.V. ran in the 1980′s would usually run for about 6 months, maybe a little longer, but certainly not 18 months.
Close up of Super Trooper offer
So that probably places the “regular” Chung-Ho before the one with the Super Trooper mail away offer (at least that’s what I think with the information I have now). That would probably make the Chung-Ho without the mail away offer a 1988 release and the one with the offer a 1989 release. The obsessive nerd inside me is satisfied with this conclusion…. Oh, by the way, while I don’t have the Super Trooper action figure myself I do have its original Dutch file card that I got as part of a batch of G.I. Joe file cards that I bought a couple of years ago. Here it is:
Super Trooper – Dutch file card
This hobby just never gets old. I am going to dig into the rest of my G.I. Joe collection to see what other stuff I can find out that I may have been missing. Have a great Easter weekend and see you back soon! ;-)