20th Century Toy Collector

Yo Joe!

Archive for April, 2013

Masters of the Universe – Battle Cat

Stop a thirty-something year old dude on the street and yell ”By the Power of Greyskull!” to his face. Chances are very slim you will be beaten up. Chances are you will see him stop dead in his tracks, a smile appear on his face and a spark of nostalgia in his eyes. For the uninitiated, I am talking about a little thing called the “Masters of the Universe”. It was the shit in the 1980′s and today’s blog post is about one of the most iconic characters of that very toy line: Battle Cat!!!!!


Battle Cat (1983) Mattel Europe

“By the Power of Syndication!”

The Masters of the Universe has got to be one of the greatest toy line successes of all time. It was the proverbial snowplow that paved the way for many more toy line/cartoon tie-ins to come. At the height of its succes it made Mattel 400 million dollars a year and its success was in no small quantitites due to the popularity of the eponymous cartoon series by animation studio Filmation. In an unprecedented move for children’s programming the major US network were circumvented and a whopping total of 65 episodes was dropped into syndication in 1983. First run syndication cartoons were born. Five days a week of He-Man cartoons on TV certainly aided Mattel’s record sales.


Trade ad for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon (1983) Filmation Associates

The cartoon series had its world premiere not in the US, but on UK channel ITV on September 5th, 1983. Three weeks later, on September 26th, the series debuted on local TV stations all over the US through barter syndication. France was introduced to the cartoon shortly thereafter on January 6th, 1984 on channel Antenne 2. On July 20th, 1985 the series premiered on pan-European satellite broadcaster Sky Channel, which meant that more European countries were introduced to the cartoon like the Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway and over time even more countries as Sky Channel’s reception in Europe grew.

“Battle Cat”

Battle Cat was part of the first series of Masters of the Universe toys that were released by Mattel in the US in 1982 and was He-Man’s trusty feline friend. I don’t have exact data on other European countries, but the toy line was introduced in the Netherlands one year later in 1983. My guess is that the same goes for the rest of Europe and that 1983 was the European debut of the Masters of the Universe toy line (France maybe being the exception with a possible 1982 debut through imported Canadian bi-lingual Masters of the Universe toys).


European bi-logo

The European packaging of Battle Cat is easily recognized by the bi-logo packaging (two logos: “Masters of the Universe” and “Maîtres de l’Univers”), Although Canadian Masters of the Universe toys came with this same bi-logo packaging the European packaging will have additional German and Italian texts spread throughout, so the packaging itself is really quad-lingual, with English, French, German and Italian as the languages of choice.


European quad-lingual packaging


Distribution of this European version of Battle Cat was done by the various international Mattel subsidiaries. Mattel UK, Ltd for the United Kingdom, Mattel France SA for France, Mattel GmbH for West-Germany and Mattel SpA for Italy.


European Mattel subsidiaries

The remaining European markets where Mattel was not active themselves were mostly handled by local distributors. In the Netherlands in 1983 distribution of Mattel products was being handled by a toy wholesaler/importer called “Borka B.V.”, operating from a small town called Etten-Leur in the south-west of the Netherlands. Borka B.V. was a subsidiary of Dutch trading company Borsumij Wehry N.V., which also owned the exclusive Belgian distributor of Mattel products. Borka B.V. held the exclusive distribution license for Mattel products for many years until 1985, which is when Mattel finally founded their own subsidiaries in the Benelux countries and decided to take distribution into their own hands. (A nasty law suit followed, which dragged on until 1991 and went all the way to the Dutch Supreme Court).


Article on Borka’s 1984 product line (Speelgoed + Hobby) April 1984

“The Recycling Machine”

It might come as a shock to some, but Battle Cat was not really an original toy. Mattel was certainly known for its predilection for re-using moulds. The first recorded occurrence of this mould is from Mattel’s 1970s toy line Big Jim. It was released in 1976 as Big Jim On the Tiger Trail.



Big Jim on the Tiger Trail (1976) Mattel

Then in 1978 Mattel decided to cash in on the popularity of the Tarzan cartoon (also from Filmation) and released a Tarzan and Jungle Cat set which re-used the same tiger mould, but now as an all black feline:


Tarzan’s Jungle Cat (1978) Mattel

And then 1982 rolled along and Mattel needed something for their Masters of the Universe toy line. “Hey, why not re-use our tiger mould again?!” And thus it was that Mattel re-painted this mould once more, but this time in its iconic green with yellow stripes. Battle Cat was born:


Battle Cat (1982) Mattel

But Mattel didn’t stop there. One year later in 1983 they decided that Skeletor needed a feline of his own. It was called Panthor and guess which mould Mattel used for that. Yep…. Check it out:


Panthor (1983) and Battle Cat (1982) Mattel

“One Cool Cat”

Despite the fact that this mould has been recycled over the years, Battle Cat has a style of its own and this is in no small amount due to the cool armour it came with. Anyone who grew up with the Masters of the Universe cartoon instantly recognizes this cool colour scheme. I mean, just look at Battle Cat fully armoured up:


Battle Cat fully suited up

And if you thought that looks cool, just look how awesome Battle Cat looks together with a He-Man action figure!


Battle Cat and He-Man

Doesn’t it look fantastic? I can tell you it looks just as cool in real life. I was setting up He-Man and Battle Cat for this photo session and was simply struck by how cool the scene looked. I took multiple photos from several angles and they all looked great!


Battle Cat and He-Man

“Mesmerizing Artwork”

There’s one more thing I’d like to touch upon regarding this “Tigre de Combat” and that is the awesome, amazing, fantastic art work. I mean, just look at how mystical and awe inspiring this looks:


Battle Cat artwork (by Rudy Obrero)

The Masters of the Universe toy line was blessed with many talented artists doing the packaging artwork. This mesmerizing depiction of Battle Cat with its helmet off is by a talented artist called Rudy Obrero. It’s a sight that regular visitors to this website will immediately recognize, because it is often visible in the randomly changing header of this very website!


I hope you enjoyed this little look at Battle Cat. Masters of the Universe was certainly one of my favourite toy lines when I was growing up and I plan to feature more of my MOTU collection in the near future. For now, please enjoy the additional photos I made of Battle Cat below. See you back soon!


  • Topless Robot for the Big Jim Tiger photo
  • Bigjimforum.com for packaging of Big Jim on the Tiger Trail photo
  • Plaidstallions.com for the Tarzan Jungle Cat photo


posted by 20th Century Toy Collector in He-Man and have Comments (8)

Blackstar – Ice Castle

Nearly every 1980′s toy line had that one item that was on top of every kid’s wish list. Most often that would be some kind of playset like G.I. Joe’s “USS Flagg” carrier or Masters of the Universe’s “Eternia” playset. Today I would like to discuss another fine example of such playset über coolness, which is a playset from Galoob’s Blackstar toy line: The Ice Castle!!!


Blackstar – Ice Castle (1983) Galoob

It is by far the coolest item of the Blackstar toy line and it’s really tough to find. There are some photos online of the Ice Castle, but nowhere have I ever found a very detailed look at all the parts it consists of and what it looks like assembled from the inside. If you’re interested in a detailed look at the Ice Castle, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s go!

“John Blackstar”

Blackstar was a toy line that debuted in the US in 1983. It was based on a cartoon series created by animation studio Filmation, which premiered two years earlier (in 1981) on American network CBS. The Blackstar cartoon also started airing in some European countries from the fall of 1985 through satellite broadcaster Sky Channel. I loved the Blackstar cartoon. It was a lot like the He-Man cartoon, but somehow darker and more mystical!


Assorted Blackstar toys from my collection

I never even knew a Blackstar toy line ever existed until much later in my adult life. When I learned of the toy line’s existence I was blown away by the awesome design of the packaging and realized straight away I would want to collect those! Over the past couple of years I’ve added quite a few Blackstar action figures to my collection along with some cool “vehicles” like Triton and Blackstar’s Space Ship. I never really actively pursued any of these items, but picked them up here and there whenever they crossed my path and when the price was right.

“Cool as Ice”

Of all the items in the Blackstar toy line, the gigantic Ice Castle is really the most fascinating one. It’s just a drop dead awesome playset and has some of the coolest 1980′s toy packaging artwork I’ve ever seen. It is also one of the hardest to track down inside its original packaging, complete and undamaged. I certainly did not expect to find one any time soon and at an affordable price at that.


Awesome, awesome, awesome!

I happened to be on vacation in Florida with my girlfriend late last year when I stumbled upon a Blackstar Ice Castle that was for sale back in the Netherlands. One of the reasons I had refrained from from buying an Ice Castle internationally was because of the frailty of the plastic that the Ice Castle is made of. If you were lucky to find an intact Ice Castle online you would run a realistic risk of having it break in transit. The irony was not lost on me. I finally found an Ice Castle in the Netherlands and here I was on vacation in the US, unable to pick it up myself. I decided to risk an overnight domestic shipment and after a few sweaty hours I managed to strike a deal with the seller, which also included a couple of carded Blackstar action figures and a carded G.I. Joe action figure. It felt awesome to finally have bagged this amazing gem! I got a great deal on the castle considering its condition, because the going rate for a Blackstar Ice Castle was probably at least 4 times as much as I paid.


Awesome, awesomer, awesomest!

When I got back from vacation another couple of sweaty moments followed after I picked up the package from my parents’ house. Thankfully the Ice Castle box and its contents were still in unused A-number-1 condition! The box looks so much bigger in real life than I had expected and the artwork is just stunning. We see the Ice Caste depicted against the signature dark orange Blackstar sky in the background with a mountain range surrounded by clouds.



Blackstar Ice Castle packaging (front)

We see Overlord at the castle’s entrance waving his Power Sword angrily in the air, while on the far left we see an awesome depiction of Neptul holding his shield and trident, with a goblin next to him. What an amazing scene. I just can’t find enough superlatives to describe how cool this artwork is. Wow.

“Production info”

If we turn the box around we can find some simple assembly instructions on the back of the box, including some manufacturing info. Apparently the Ice Castle was not made entirely in Hong Kong like the rest of the Blackstar toy line. The main body of the castle itself was manufactured in the US, while the remaining smaller parts, including the gun assembly, were manufactured in Hong Kong.


Blackstar Ice Castle packaging (back)

The stock number of the Ice Castle is 5507 as is evident from both the back and the front of the box. This number is also found on a smaller box inside the packaging, which seems to contain the parts that were manufactured in Hong Kong.


Ice Castle – SKU # 5507


Ice Castle – SKU # 5507

Enough of looking at the packaging. Let’s see what’s inside the box and what the assembled castle looks like!

“The Towering Ice Castle”

So what does it look like in real life? Well, it looks bloody amazing, that’s what! One of the first things you’ll notice if you see one of these in person is just how tall it is. Blackstar action figures are not small to begin with. They’re approximately 14 centimeters tall (5.5 inches), so just imagine how high the Ice Castle towers above them. This must have been one awesome playset for any lucky kid who owned one back in the day.



That’s one big castle!

“Glow in the Dark”

The front of the castle looks impressive. It has a working door that functions as the main (and only) entrance to the castle. It is surrounded by three green demons attached to the front of the castle, which glow in the dark!


Entrance to the Ice Castle

“Gun Tower”

Another key feature of the Ice Castle is the gun tower, which is the tower on the left. The gun assembly uses a spring mechanism to fire an arrow with one of those safety suction cups for a head. I was curious whether the gun assembly would still work. Although the Ice Castle looks like it is completely unused and brand new, you can’t help the fact that this is a toy that is almost 30 years old! Well, I am pleased to say that the gun tower was still alive and kicking. The arrow flew out of the gun like a bat out of hell and landed 3 meters (10 feet) away from the castle!


The awesome Gun Tower

The front of the castle also has a spot right in front of the right tower with space for one action figure. I placed Neptul, Lord of Aquaria here as you can see from the photo below. It only seemed befitting to include Neptul in this little scene, because he adorns the Ice Castle packaging.


Neptul on guard duty

“Inside the Castle”

Now let’s turn the castle around and see what we can find there! As you can see it looks pretty cool from the inside too. I decided not to apply the stickers in order to keep everything as untouched as possible, but you get the basic picture.


The Ice Castle on the inside

“Overlord’s Throne”

As you can see the Ice Castle comes with a throne for Overlord. It looks kind of weird, because the action figure is supposed to stand inside the throne and not sit, but that’s probably because the Blackstar action figures aren’t really able to sit down without looking totally ridiculous (or break apart) so an understandable move there from Galoob.


Overlord’s throne

“Weapons rack”

To the right we can find another accessory, which is the weapon rack. Most of the Blackstar action figure weapons will fit inside this rack, like Neptul’s trident. Notice also the very cool floor board that comes with Ice Castle. Next to the weapon rack in the photo below we can see what looks to be some sort of cellar door, no doubt used to hold enemies of the evil Overlord!


Weapon rack and cellar door

“Vizir the Wizard”

Inside the right tower (shown on the left in the photo below) we can see none other than Overlord’s right hand man Vizir -the evil Ice Castle Wizard- just chilling out the only way he knows how: by looking paranoid.


Vizir – the Ice Castle Wizard

“The Balcony”

The last noteworthy feature from inside the castle is the balcony. It holds what looks like a mega super advanced computer console, with all kinds of controls, levers and dials and a big screen, which is no doubt used by Overlord to track his enemies and hey, what a surprise! We can spot Blackstar on the main screen atop his dragon Warlock! If only Blackstar knew! Look out Blackstar! :-)


The Ice Castle balcony


All joking aside, this is one very cool playset and is definitely somewhere in my top 10 list of coolest toys of the 1980′s! This playset embodies what was so frickin’ cool about 1980′s toys. It’s big, it’s cool looking, it’s got lots of ways for the action figures to interact with the playset and best of all, it stimulates imagination! It is without a doubt the coolest item from the Blackstar toy line. You will not regret picking one up if you’re a Blackstar collector. The Ice Castle can be hard to track down, but it’s not impossible to find. Just watch out for any broken parts on the castle itself. Stay tuned for more Blackstar stuff in the near future! I’m working on an article on the wacky way that Blackstar was introduced in the Netherlands, which is going to be a cool read. Have a great weekend!

posted by 20th Century Toy Collector in Blackstar and have Comments (14)

Madballs Water Squirters!

Here’s another blast from the 1980′s. Remember Madballs? They were these tennis ball sized rubber balls with gross and gruesome faces and were all the rage in 1986! I remember buying one of these back in late 1986. I’ve been looking for Madballs sealed inside their original packaging for quite some time and two months ago I managed to score a complete set of three Madballs Water Squirters still sealed in their original packaging!


Complete set of Madballs Water Squirters (1986) Wonderland

“A Gross-out Hype!”

Madballs came from AmToy, which was a subsidiary of American Greetings Corporation, Inc., who were also responsible for other memorable 1980′s properties like the Get-Along-Gang, the Care Bears, the Popples and Strawberry Shortcake. The original Madballs series came with 8 different Madballs, which are to me the most “memorable” of the bunch. It was expanded a year later with 8 more Madballs and there was even a Madballs vehicle! Lots of third party stuff was released as well. There even was a comic book and a (short lived) cartoon series!


Madballs comic #1 (1986) Star Comics

It might sound strange that such a weird and freaky toy even had its own comic book, but there was definitely a hype going on in 1986 with anything that could gross you out. I know I dug that vibe as an 11-year-old, because I also owned one of those plastic buckets full of green slime (remember those?). Madballs was released around that same time and the toy line was supported with lots of ad campaigns. Here’s a video of the U.S. commercial :

Madballs U.S. commercial

“Madballs in the Low Countries”

I think this same commercial was shown on Dutch television in late 1986, although translated in Dutch. The first series of Madballs was released in the Netherlands by Dutch toy wholesaler Otto Simon. It was featured in the September 1986 issue of Dutch trade magazine Speelgoed & Hobby, which had an article on Otto Simon’s fall line up of that very year.



Apparently Belgium had their own packaging for these same first series Madballs. They were bilingual (Dutch and French) and the funny thing is that the Dutch names for the Madballs on the Belgian cards are often different from the Dutch translation available in the Netherlands! Here’s a list of all the Madballs names of the first series. The first column is the original English name of the Madball, the second column is the Dutch translation as used in the Netherlands and the third column is the Dutch (or Flemish) translation as used in Belgium.


Various Madballs translations (series 1)

“Water Squirters”

Apparently at some point in time three special Water Squirters were made, which added the gimmick of allowing the Madballs to be filled up with water. Kids could then squeeze the ball and make water squirt out the Madball’s mouth. Hilarity would ensue. The three Madballs that got the water squirter treatment were Screamin Meemie, Oculus Orbus and Slobulus.


Madballs – Screamin’ Meemie Water Squirter (1986) Wonderland

I scored this set of three Madballs Water Squirters from a UK seller back in February. They appear to be the European versions of the Water Squirters, because they contain both English and French on the packaging. It’s not a Canadian release, because it explicitly lists a French address in Orly belonging to “Wonderland”, which is probably the company responsible for the distribution of these European packaged Madballs Water Squirters.


Madballs – Slobulus Water Squirter (1986) Wonderland

The copyright blurb on the left side of the card shows that these were manufactured by Arco Toys, Ltd. which is the same company that produced Water Squirters for the North American market. The difference between these European cards and the American cards is that the latter came with English only on the packaging and they also had the “Arco” logo on the top left of the card instead of the Wonderland logo, which is shown on these European cards.


Madballs – Oculus Orbus Water Squirter (1986) Wonderland


I fondly remember owning “Dustbrain” of the first series of Madballs. He was called “Mummie” in the Dutch translation and there was almost no hesitation when I needed to make my pick in my favourite toy store back in 1986. Dustbrain it was!


Meet the lovely Dustbrain

My mom and my sister were grossed out by it, but I loved it. There was something transcendent about his smile that I latched onto for some strange reason. He rocked. For many, many years Dustbrain was always lying around somewhere in my room. Through the good times and through the bad times, there was always Dustbrain in a corner, on the windowsill, under the bed or on my desk… smiling. I think I must have been at least 18 years old before my mom finally got rid of it one day or maybe I threw it away myself. I can’t really recall, but I do know I regret not having that original Madball around anymore. I’d love to find a Madball in Dutch packaging one day, especially if that were to be Dustbrain, a.k.a. Mummie. Here’s hoping. :-)

posted by 20th Century Toy Collector in Madballs and have Comments (8)

It’s a Dutch F.A.N.G.

My introduction to G.I. Joe occurred in early 1987, which is when I received the very first G.I. Joe mini-catalog showing the inaugural wave of G.I. Joe toys that would hit Dutch toy stores in the spring of 1987. The catalog was included as an insert in the number 16 issue of the weekly Dutch Donald Duck comic in mid-April of 1987.


Donald Duck 1987-16 with Dutch G.I. Joe catalog

“The 1987 catalog”

The Donald Duck comic had an impressive number of subscribers in the Netherlands running in the hundreds of thousands and that’s not counting newsstand and supermarket circulation. So it was often used as an effective method by advertisers to reach many Dutch boys and girls in the 1980′s (though inserts like these were probably only available to subscribers). I can’t recall exactly whether I was still a Donald Duck subscriber in early 1987, because my parents cancelled the subscription at some point in time, but I definitely got this catalog in the mail and I suspect it was sent to me directly by MB, because I was on their mailing list (I sent in my Transformers cut out points for the S.T.A.R.S. mail away offer in 1986). The catalog was also available as a pack-in with all the boxed G.I. Joe items that debuted in 1987. If you’re interested, a high resolution scan of the complete catalog can be found in a blog post I made here.

Dutch G.I. Joe catalog (spring 1987) MB International BV

Man, I fondly remember this catalog. I knew every centimeter of this catalog by heart. Most of my buddies and class mates also got this catalog through the mail around the same time (which is a testament to the effectiveness of MB’s advertising campaigns in the 1980′s, I guess). I remember some of us sitting in the school yard staring at this catalog and trying to determine which action figure was the coolest. Most of us agreed that Flint (or ‘Kei’ as he was called in the Netherlands) was the coolest of the good guys and he is still one of my favourites today!

“My Mission…”

A couple of years ago I decided I would try and collect all the items shown in this catalog in their original Dutch packaging and I almost have all the vehicles complete. One of the small vehicles that I scored first was the Cobra F.A.N.G., which is shown below :


Cobra F.A.N.G. shown in 1987 Dutch G.I. Joe catalog

F.A.N.G. stands for Fully Armed Negator Gyrocopter and it was released for the first time in the US in 1983 as part of the second wave of G.I. Joe toys. It was re-released in 1984 and 1985, before being discontinued in 1986. The F.A.N.G. was released in the Netherlands (and the rest of mainland Europe) in 1987 as part of the first wave of G.I. Joe toys.


Cobra F.A.N.G.

“The Gyrocopter”

The Cobra F.A.N.G. was called the same in the Dutch release, although the acronym didn’t really mean anything. The Dutch translation for F.A.N.G. was “Volledig Bewapende Vernietigings- Gyroskopische Helikopter”. I don’t exactly understand why the F.A.N.G. is called a gyrocopter, because gyrocopters usually have free floating main rotors and a smaller engine powered propeller at the back that creates the forward motion which is needed for the main rotors to start spinning and to create lift. The F.A.N.G. though looks like it has an engine powered main rotor (the engine is located right under the main rotor).


Cobra F.A.N.G. (1987) Dutch blueprints

The blueprints also tell us that the F.A.N.G. weighs 1,000 kilograms (2200 lbs), can reach speeds up to 320 kilometers/hour (197 mph) and has an operating range of 900 km (550 miles). It also comes with capacity for a total of four heat-seeking air-to-air missiles (two on either side of the F.A.N.G.) , a bomb and a nose mounted movable 30mm rapid firing cannon. Man, I just frickin’ love the detail that went into these toys. These enormously detailed vehicle blueprints combined with the character tech specs really stimulated my imagination when I was a kid (and still do!) Hasbro certainly nailed the execution of this toyline in the 1980′s in my book.


Donald Duck 1988-09 with Dutch G.I. Joe catalog

“1988 Re-release”

The Cobra F.A.N.G. was re-released in the Netherlands in 1988. Here’s a photo from the Dutch spring 1988 catalog, which was (again) included as an insert with Donald Duck issue number 9 from early March 1988. Here’s a close up of the F.A.N.G. from said catalog, this time with Sneeuwzoeker (Snow Serpent) at the helm.


Cobra F.A.N.G. shown in spring 1988 Dutch G.I. Joe catalog


I scored my first Cobra F.A.N.G. in Dutch packaging in September of 2010 together with a boat load of other 1987 G.I. Joe vehicles in Dutch packaging. The F.A.N.G. and its packaging were in reasonable condition, but the bomb and missiles were missing as you can see in the photo below. I also placed a loose Cobra action figure inside the F.A.N.G. to match the artwork on the box (the F.A.N.G. did not originally come with any action figure).


Cobra F.A.N.G. (1987) MB international BV

Lucky for me I scored an upgrade for my F.A.N.G. about a month ago! The cool thing about it was that the toy was still unassembled, with unapplied stickers and accessories still on the tree! Contrary to Transformers, G.I. Joe vehicles often had to be partly assembled out of the box, so it’s not easy to find those untouched. Here’s a snapshot of the complete contents of my new F.A.N.G.:


Cobra F.A.N.G. (1987) MB international BV


Cobra F.A.N.G. (1987) MB international BV


The Cobra F.A.N.G. was distributed in the Netherlands by MB International B.V. The G.I. Joe toys carried the Hasbro logo on the packaging, but the truth was that at that time Hasbro was nothing more than a division of MB International B.V. in the Netherlands. According to records I pulled from the Dutch Chambers of Commerce it was not until late 1991 that Hasbro Netherlands was truely founded as a private, limited liability company (or as is called in Dutch, a BV, a “besloten vennootschap”). Hasbro acquired MB in 1984 and in many European countries the various MB subsidiaries were used to distribute Hasbro toys, before everything was truely vertically consolidated in the early 1990′s under the Hasbro name.


Distributed by MB international BV, Utrecht, Holland

This particular version of the Cobra F.A.N.G. in Dutch packaging was also available to retailers in Belgium (in Flanders, the Dutch speaking parts of Belgium), which we can glean from the other side of the box. Distribution in Belgium was done by Hasbro-MB N.V., which was a subsidiary of MB International BV.


Distributed by Hasbro-MB NV, Brussels, Belgium


The stock number (SKU or stock keeping unit number) for the Cobra F.A.N.G. was 9602. MB International numbered all their products with a 4-digit code, which was a seperate numbering scheme from the one used by their American parent Hasbro, Inc. An additional 2-digit suffix was also used that could serve several purposes, although it was primarily used to indicate the language variation of the product (thanks for this info, Martin!)


9602 04 – Dutch Cobra F.A.N.G.

As you can see from the photo above the 04 suffix indicated that this product was the Dutch language variant. From looking at some of the other European G.I. Joe items I have lying around I also figured out that 01 means French packaging and 97 means bilingual French/Dutch packaging. So that means that the SKU numbers for the Benelux and France were:

  • 9602 01 – F.A.N.G. in French packaging
  • 9602 04 – F.A.N.G. in Dutch packaging
  • 9602 97 – F.A.N.G. in bilingual French/Dutch packaging



9602 01 – French Cobra F.A.N.G.


9602 04 – Dutch Cobra F.A.N.G.

“Manufacturing info”

As you can see from the two photos above the European Cobra F.A.N.G. was manufactured in Waterford, Ireland. This used to be the location of the Irish subsidiary of Milton Bradley (MB Ireland). The Waterford plant was used a lot for the production of the early vintage G.I. Joe vehicles for the European market. The G.I. Joe action figures were made in Asia, but the vehicles were all made in MB’s Waterford factory in Ireland. This explains the differences which are often found between the American G.I. Joe vehicles and the European ones. The American G.I. Joe vehicles were usually made in the Americas, Hong Kong or China, while the European vehicles were manufactured in Europe by MB.


MB Ireland factory (Waterford, Ireland)

“Viva MB España”

If only things were as “simple” as that. Just last week I found a collector who was selling off a couple of Dutch G.I. Joe boxes and I cleaned him out, because I could use some of the boxes he was selling as upgrades. One of the boxes that was part of the lot was another Cobra F.A.N.G. box. I compared this new box to the one I already had and dammit, there’s a difference…. It appears that there was a second production run of Cobra F.A.N.G.’s in Europe and this one was in Valencia, Spain!


9602 04 – Dutch Cobra F.A.N.G. (made in Valencia, Spain)

Are you still with me? :-) Well, it appears we once more have two European G.I. Joe variants of the same toy on our hands (just like the two Chung-Ho variants in post number 94). We have a Cobra F.A.N.G. made in Waterford, Ireland and another made in Valencia, Spain.

It is not a real surprise that the second variation was made in Valencia, because guess what! MB also had a manufacturing plant there. MB International B.V. used to have a Spanish subsidiary called MB España S.A. based in Valencia. MB España S.A. was responsible for the production of various Hasbro products for the European market and distribution in their domestic market in the mid to late 1980′s. Amongst other things they manufactured G.I. Joe vehicles, Jem dolls and Battle Beasts (or “Bestias de Combate” for the Spanish market).

“That Dating Game Again”

So now that we have established that there were two Cobra F.A.N.G variants made in Europe, one in Ireland and one in Spain, which one came first? Well, I think I have the answer to that one. I think the Waterford, Ireland made F.A.N.G. was released in 1987 and the Valencia, Spain made F.A.N.G. was available in 1988. How do I think I know? Well, the answer lies in the Belgian contact information on both boxes, because it is different:


Louizalaan address in Brussels, Belgium


Vaartdijk address in Brussels, Belgium

If you look closely you can see that the address information has changed. The Waterford, Ireland made F.A.N.G. has an address in Brussels at the Louizalaan 386, while the Valencia, Spain made F.A.N.G. has an address at the Vaartdijk 109-111 in Brussels. It just so happens that I know that Louizalaan address of Hasbro-MB N.V. is from 1987, because I have a Benelux Ultra Magnus from 1987 that has the same contact information (discussed in post number 90). So the logical conclusion would be that the Waterford, Ireland made F.A.N.G. is the 1987 release and that the Valencia, Spain made F.A.N.G. is a second production run available in 1988!

“Behind the Curtains”

So that’s the Cobra F.A.N.G.! Although I already knew that most (or all?) of the European G.I. Joe vehicles were made in Europe instead of Asia, I did not realize that production was moved from Waterford to Valencia. If anything, it gives an insight into the production and distribution side of things, which is like peaking behind the curtains to me. :-) It will be an interesting exercise to compare the production/manufacturing info on the packaging of the other G.I. Joe vehicles I have and see if any other patterns come to light. Nerdy fun!


posted by 20th Century Toy Collector in G.I. Joe and have Comments (8)