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G.I. Joe MB 1987 product numbers Europe

The availability of the original vintage 3.75-inch action figure toy line G.I. Joe in Europe in the 1980′s and 1990′s was everything but a uniform affair. If you thought that the availability of Transformers in Europe in the 1980′s was confusing, with all the various distributors involved, the G.I. Joe line takes this to a whole new level and way up into the stratosphere. Part of this is due to the way that the G.I. Joe line’s European history is entwined with another toy line called Action Force from a British company called Palitoy. The two lines ran from 1982 to 1994 and were available in most west-European countries during this time span in some way or another. 1987 was a landmark year in European G.I. Joe history, because that is when Hasbro took over the reigns from Palitoy and properly introduced the G.I. Joe line in Europe.

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Article on G.I. Joe introduction in Netherlands in trade magazine Speelgoed + Hobby, March 1987

I’ve been investigating the availability of G.I. Joe toys in Europe during said period and I currently have a mountain of information, which I am structuring and compiling into an all-encompassing article that will be published on this site. Although it’s probably going to take many weeks before I will be able to publish that article I would like to share some information today with you on that landmark year of 1987 and specifically on the mainland European area, because that year and region holds most nostalgic value to me.

“Hasbro takes control”

Before Hasbro truely launched the G.I. Joe line in Europe, the British company Palitoy had been active selling 3.75-inch action figures under the name of Action Force. During their very succesful run Palitoy even imported several of Hasbro’s G.I. Joe action figures and vehicles (sometimes repainted or with different stickers, which makes for very nice variations!) and sold them under the Action Force name as well to further flesh out the line.

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Action Force – Cobra Water Moccasin (1985) Palitoy

Due to a shift in strategy from Palitoy’s parent company the line all but died in 1986 and Hasbro seemingly saw their chance and acquired the intellectual rights to the Action Force line. The time now seemed right for Hasbro to properly launch their G.I. Joe toys in Europe themselves instead of going through Palitoy and this is what occurred in the spring of 1987.

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G.I. Joe – Dutch pack-in catalog: G.I. Joe side (1987) MB International B.V.

The line was (re)-launched by Hasbro and MB in the following countries:

  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • Benelux
  • Italy
  • Switzerland (unconfirmed)

 

Distribution in the UK was done by Hasbro Industries (UK), Ltd and the toyline there retained the name Action Force, while France, the Benelux, Italy and Switzerland were introduced to the G.I. Joe brand, distributed by the various MB subsidiaries, as was common in mainland Europe in the 1980′s for Hasbro toys. Notable absentees here are two other major markets where MB was active and those are Spain and West-Germany. Spain was introduced to the G.I. Joe line a year later (in 1988), while West-Germany had to wait until 1989 and saw the line introduced under the Action Force name instead of the G.I. Joe name, along with a different background story (Action Force was a futuristic fighting force that defended Earth against enemies from both outer space and from Earth itself).

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G.I. Joe – Dutch pack-in catalog: Cobra side (1987) MB International B.V.

But today I would like to focus on 1987 and specifically the roll out of the line in continental Europe, i.e. in France, the Benelux, Italy and Switzerland. I was particularly interested in the product codes of all the toys from this first release. I like making lists and sometimes patterns will emerge from looking at the number sequences, as they did in this case! Before we look at the list of product codes, here’s a short explanation of what these numbers mean.

“MB product codes”

Milton Bradley (MB) was the company that was responsible for the distribution of Hasbro toys in continental Europe from 1985 until the early 1990′s. MB used to be an independent company and had a presence in Europe that dates back to 1968 with the opening of their first international subsidiary MB International B.V. in Ter Apel, the Netherlands. MB was taken over by Hasbro in September 1984. By that time MB had expanded their presence into a total of nine European countries and possessed a distribution network that covered a large chunk of Europe. Because MB had their own methods of distributing and numbering products the MB product numbers on Hasbro branded toys were often different from the numbers that Hasbro used.

MB used a 4-digit code, followed by a 2-digit suffix code. This code can be found on the packaging of all MB distributed toys and in their dealer/trade catalogs. Generally, the first 4 digits represent a unique number, which is assigned to a specific toy. The 2 digits that follow, which are usually printed in a smaller size, generally indicate the language variation(s) of the packaging. Here is an example of the packaging of the 1987 Cobra Water Moccasin (with Dutch language on the packaging).

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MB product code of Dutch Cobra Water Moccasin – 9608 04

As you can see the unique code for the Cobra Water Moccasin is 9608. The 2-digit suffix code is 04, which means this packaging comes with Dutch language on it. Whether the packaging of the European Water Moccasin is French, Dutch or Italian, they are all 9608. Only the last 2 digits will differ. Here’s a table of all the suffix codes you will find on 1987 continental European G.I. Joe toys packaging (and other European Hasbro products from that time!) and what they mean:

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Selection of MB language codes (1987)

There are obviously more language codes in use, but the 1987 line up only came in these languages, so I’ve kept the list down to just these four codes here. Here’s the breakdown by country for 1987:

  • France obviously got toys packaged with language code 02, which is French. Distribution was done by Hasbro S.A. and/or MB France S.A.
  • Italy got toys packaged with code 03, which is Italian. Distribution by MB Italy S.r.l.
  • The Netherlands got packaging with code 04, which is Dutch. There are also several reports of some Dutch toy stores also carrying toys with code 98, which is the bilingual French/Dutch packaging. Distribution by MB International B.V.
  • Belgium primarily got packaging with code 98, which is bilingual French/Dutch packaging that was specifically made for Belgium. (Dutch and French are the two main languages spoken in Belgium). Belgium apparently also got the 04 code packaging, which is the all-Dutch packaging, because the Belgian Hasbro-MB office address is specifically mentioned on the Dutch packaging. This 04 code packaging was probably primarily available in stores in Flanders, the Dutch speaking part of Belgium. Although there is no mention on the 02 code French packaging about Belgium, it’s quite possible that the 02 code French packaging might have also been officially available in Wallonia, the southern, French speaking part of Belgium. Distribution by Hasbro-MB N.V./S.A.
  • Official languages of note in Switzerland are German, French and Italian. I have no confirmation yet that Switzerland was included in the 1987 G.I. Joe launch. If it was, the Swiss would probably have had to settle for the 02 and 03 code packaging, which is French and Italian, because there was no German G.I. Joe packaging manufactured in 1987 (due to the absence of West-Germany from the 1987 roster). Distribution would have been done by MB (Switzerland) A.G.
  • Little is known about the situation in Luxembourg, but the most likely scenario is that Luxembourg got the same packaging as Belgium did, which is code 98 with French and Dutch on the packaging. Distribution in Luxembourg was probably done from Belgium through Hasbro-MB N.V./S.A.

 

“The 1987 line up”

So what was the inaugural 1987 line up for continental Europe? Well, as you might have gathered from the catalog scans above it consisted of 20 action figures and 19 vehicles and sets. What I was most interested in is if there was any way to determine what sort of assortments were available, because (unlike Hasbro) MB never printed assortment numbers on their packaging. Dealer catalogs are usually the only source for assortment codes and unfortunately I do not own any 1987 Hasbro/MB dealer catalogs for the France/Benelux area. What’s an assortment? Well, some toys (usually the smaller toys) cannot be ordered on an individual basis by retailers and are only available as part of an assortment, i.e. a mix of several same-class items. By writing down all the product numbers on the packaging I was able to create the following list, which I was able to group into 4 sections. Have a look at the list. You can click on it for a closer look.

 

“Action Figure Assortment 1″

By looking at the numbers that MB allocated to the G.I. Joe toys in 1987 it becomes apparent that the 20 action figures came in two different assortments of 10 action figures each. The lowest product number of all is 9150 and has been assigned to Storm Shadow. You can see that there’s a total of 10 action figures, which have been assigned numbers sequentially counting up from 9150 to 9159:

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G.I. Joe action figure assortment 1 (1987) MB

I’m pretty convinced that these ten action figures were part of one and the same assortment, because I have a 1988 Spanish dealer catalog from MB, which also has 20 action figures nicely grouped into two assortments of 10 each. This same catalog shows that each assortment came with 36 action figures, so it’s a pretty safe bet that these 1987 assortments in France, Italy and the Benelux also came in a factory case of 36 pieces.

“Action Figure Assortment 2″

The next list of sequential numbers ranges from 9250 to 9259 and is undoubtedly another action figure assortment, which starts with Ripper and ends with Eels:

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G.I. Joe action figure assortment 2 (1987) MB

If you look closely you can see that there are 11 G.I. Joe action figures and 9 Cobra action figures. These have been divided quite nicely over the two assortments. Assortment 1 contains 5 G.I. Joe action figures and 5 Cobra action figures and assortment 2 contains 6 G.I. Joe action figures and 4 Cobra action figures. But hold on! Aren’t the two Crimson twins Tomax and Xamot action figures too? Well, technically they are action figures, but they were not sold as part of an action figure assortment as we will soon see. This, by the way, brings the balance between the Joe’s and the Cobra’s to an equal 11 vs 11.

“Battle Stations Assortment”

The next logical grouping of product numbers seems to be another assortment, which is the battle stations assortment. These are boxed items, but were probably considered too small to sell seperately so they were grouped together in an assortment:

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G.I. Joe battle stations assortment (1987) MB

The battle stations have numbers 9450, 9451 and 9452 and contrary to the action figures assortment I have confirmation from that same 1988 dealer catalog that these were sold as an assortment by MB España in 1988. Here’s a scan of that particular page that I made:

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G.I. Joe battle stations assortment (1988) MB España S.A.

As you can see these battle station assortments came with 12 pieces inside a factory case. But what’s even more interesting is that we see mention of an assortment number, being 9033. This is the assortment number that MB España S.A. used for this particular battle station assortment in 1988 and there’s quite a good chance that this assortment number was used by the remaining MB countries as well. Notice also how all three battle stations photos in the 1987 pack-in catalog are directly copied from this particular single diorama photo! Cool.

“Vehicles and sets”

The last sequence of grouped numbers starts at 9600 and is a listing of all the 1987 vehicles and sets. These items were large and expensive enough to be ordered on an individual basis by retailers, so no assortments here, just single items:

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G.I. Joe vehicles and sets (1987) MB

As you can see Tomax & Xamot are part of this listing with product number 9601, same goes for Zartan and his Chameleon Swamp Skier. As you can see the items are also arranged from small to large, with the Transportable Tactical Battle Platform and the Cobra Hydrofoil closing the list.

“More Joe”

I really enjoyed taking apart this first wave of early G.I. Joe releases in Europe. If anything it gave me some insight into the way that these toys were available to retailers back then. Stay tuned for the afforementioned article on Action Force and G.I. Joe in Europe in the near future and see you back soon. From the eleven Joe’s from the 1987 European line up : “Yo Joe!!” ;-)

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2-page spread from MB España 1988 dealer catalog

 

posted by 20th Century Toy Collector in G.I. Joe 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.

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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 :

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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

“Collection”

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).

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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.:

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

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

“Distribution”

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.

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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.

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Distributed by Hasbro-MB NV, Brussels, Belgium

“SKU”

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!)

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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

 

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9602 01 – French Cobra F.A.N.G.

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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.

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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!

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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:

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Louizalaan address in Brussels, Belgium

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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)

G.I. Joe – Two Dutch Chung-Ho variants

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).

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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. 

“Chung-Ho Too!”

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.

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G.I. Joe – Chung-Ho (1988) MB International B.V.

“Double Dutch”

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).

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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!

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Chung-Ho (made in China)

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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?

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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.

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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.

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Chung-Ho in Dutch G.I. Joe catalog (Spring 1989)

“Super Trooper”

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.

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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:

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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! ;-)

 

posted by 20th Century Toy Collector in G.I. Joe and have Comments (4)

The 1980s had the Best Toys!

Every generation will look back with fondness at their childhood. For me -and I will wager for the majority of the male audience visiting this website- the decade called the 1980s was the decennium where most of our childhood years were spent…. and that was an awesome time to be alive and growing up! I was born in 1975, so for me the 1980s started when I was almost 5 and they ended when I was almost 15. Those are very important and formative years for a boy growing up. The 1980s had some of the coolest toys and cartoons ever!

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Orko says hi!

“1980s rule!”

Yeah, I know that’s a bold claim and some will say that every generation will say the same about their childhood decade(s). But there really is something different about the 1980s and I think I can back that up with facts. The 1980s were the decade where some of the most classic toy lines were launched. Some of these have seen numerous reissues and relaunches since then and some of them still exist to this day!!! The 1980s were also the first decade where toy based cartoon series exploded onto our television screens!!

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Your childhood says hi!

While pessimists might claim that these cartoons were nothing more than 30 minute advertisements for the toy lines they were based on, the kids of the 1980s will tell you a whole different story!!

“Soapbox”

Allow me the priviledge to step on my soap box and to be so bold as to represent a whole generation of kids worldwide, who grew up in the 1980s, whether they grew up in Europe, the Americas or Asia….. These cartoons and toys were a fucking blast! They have stimulated our imaginations like nothing else and for some of us they still resonate profoundly in our adult lives and still fill our lives with pleasure! Hands up all of you who consider Optimus Prime a personal hero. Hands up all of you who got all choked up inside when Optimus Prime died in the 1986 Transformers Movie. Hands up all of you who still get goose bumps every now and then when He-Man holds up his magic sword and says “By the Power of Grayskull!”. Hands up all of you who think the intro theme to the M.A.S.K. cartoon is one of the coolest pieces of music written evah!! :-)

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Yo Joe!!

“The 1980s are still rockin’!”

I guess some sceptics might still claim that the 1980s are nothing different from the decades before and the decades after. Well, I beg to differ. Let’s have an objective look at some of the 1980s properties that are still alive today, shall we? The Transformers exploded onto an unsuspecting planet in 1984 and have remained with us ever since! The toy line just never stopped and kept being reinvented and has recently reached new levels of awesomeness in the 21st century with three major motion pictures and no end in sight yet!!! Next up: G.I. Joe! In the 1980s Hasbro relaunched their G.I. Joe line and it became a major, major hit worldwide. Again, today we still have G.I. Joe toys being released and two succesful blockbuster motion pictures!

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Memories….

But those are not the only 1980s properties that saw re-releases or re-issues. How about the numerous Masters of the Universe re-issues and relaunches over the years and the MOTU Classics line still going strong? How about the Inspector Gadget movies? How about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles revival around the corner? How about the Battle Beasts trademark being brought back by Diamond Select Toys and Takara gearing up to release the true successor to the Battle Beasts line: Beast Saga! There’s probably loads more examples you could come up with.

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Kick ass packaging design

“Wonder, magic and adventure”

That’s one of the many reasons I like to collect vintage toys from the 1980s. They’re so frickin’ cool! Another reason is that it recaptures some of the enthousiasm and joy that I felt when I was a kid. I would certainly not want to give you the impression that I don’t feel joy and enthousiasm in my adult life, far from it. But there’s just something about that sense of wonder, magic and adventure that you would feel as a kid that rarely happens anymore in your adult life. Coming home and opening a package that arrived from the US, the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands or any other place on this planet makes my heart beat faster and I feel like I’m 10 years old and it’s my birthday when I’m tearing the package open! And that’s a good thing if you ask me.

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My childhood friends!

Thank you for allowing me to get all emotional on you and to indulge in a little personal nostalgia here. I’ll step off my soapbox now. Normal blogging will resume shortly. ;-) I’ve added a lot of goodies to my collection in the past few weeks that I hope to feature here as soon as I can get them photographed.

 

“Gallery”

 

posted by 20th Century Toy Collector in G.I. Joe,He-Man,M.A.S.K.,Majokit,MB Transformers,Transformers and have Comments (9)

G.I. Joe – Havik and Dragonfly

Two vintage G.I. Joe items in Dutch packaging that I added to my collection recently. First off, another action figure on a Dutch backer card! Woohoo! This one is Havik, which is the Dutch name for Hawk (a literal translation). “Havik” is basicly the same figure as the U.S. release of the v2 Hawk from 1986.

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G.I. Joe – Havik (1988) MB International B.V.

I bought Havik from a very cool collector from Spain (thanks Manu!!!) Havik’s packaging has been opened, but the bubble has been so neatly cut that it’s easy to put him right back inside. The only real damage is to the back of the card, where the promotion point was cut out. Fortunately, this has been done very carefully, so there’s hardly any damage visible on the front of the card. It’s a great display piece!

“Series 2″

Havik was part of the second wave of G.I. Joe toys to hit the Netherlands and most of the rest of Europe, west of the Iron Curtain in early 1988. The back of the card has a 1987 copyright notice, although the toy was probably primarily sold during 1988 and 1989 when it was re-released. It might have been available in late 1987 in some places, but for convenience sake it is referred to as a 1988 character.

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G.I. Joe – Havik (1988) MB International B.V.

Oh man, some friggin’ awesome art work on the packaging right there. I know I’m a bit biased, but fuck, the 1980′s gave us some of the most awesome looking toy packaging designs ever! Damn, to me Hasbro was really at the top of their game in those years.

“Sweet 16″

Here’s a look at the back of the card, which shows the complete 1988 line up. A total of 16 sweet new action figures and 14 re-released action figures from 1987 make a total of 30 action figures to choose from in 1988:

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All the characters available in 1988

“File card”

Havik’s Dutch file card is pretty much identical to the American version. He’s got the same rank, same place of birth and the short biography is a straight translation from English into Dutch. The only peculiarity is that his last name has been changed. In the U.S., Hawk’s real name is Clayton M. Abernathy, while the Dutch file card says he goes by the name of Clayton M. Springfield.

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Havik, a.k.a. Clayton M. Springfield

“Dragonfly XH-1″

Next up is the Dragonfly XH-1 helicopter! This was a 1987 release in the Netherlands (and the rest of Europe) and was part of the first wave of G.I. Joe toys to hit the market! Just like Havik, it was distributed in Holland by MB International B.V. This particular Dutch packaging variant might also have been available in Flanders, Belgium where it would have been distributed by MB International B.V.’s Belgian subsidiary Hasbro MB N.V./S.A. (Belgium also had their own specific, dual language French/Dutch packaging variants, by the way).

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G.I. Joe – Dragonfly XH-1 (1987) MB International B.V.

Yeah, the packaging has seen better days, but I think I can flatten out some of the dents by putting some heavy weights on top of it for a couple of days. I’m pretty excited with the addition of the Dragonfly helicopter, because now I finally have all of the boxed items that were released in 1987 in my collection in either Dutch or Belgian packaging! That’s everything that is pictured in the 1987 catalog here. My goal is to ultimately have all of them in Dutch only packaging. Currently, my G.I. Joe Checkpoint, Silver Mirage Motorcycle, Armadillo Mini Tank and Skystriker jet are of the Belgian variety (with French and Dutch on the packaging).

The toy itself is in much better shape than the packaging, although it suffers a little from hanging blades, which is a very common “problem” with all vintage Dragonflies. It’s easily fixed by bending them back or hanging the helicopter upside down for a while, but eventually gravity will do its work and pull the blades back down again. I don’t really mind though, because I think it gives the blades a more realistic look when stationary.

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G.I. Joe – Dragonfly XH-1 (1987) MB International B.V.

“Wilde Willem”

The Dragonfly came with helicopter pilot Wild Bill, who is called Wilde Willem in the Dutch translation. Again there’s a slight change to the character’s bio compared to the U.S. release. In the U.S. Wild Bill’s real name is William S. Hardy, who hails from Brady, Texas. Yeehaw! The Dutch file card says his real name is Wilhelm Müller and that he was born in Düsseldorf, Germany.

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G.I. Joe – Wilde Willem (Wild Bill) Dutch file card

The rest of his biography is a fairly accurate translation of the American text, but with another small exception. Wilde Willem did not follow Flight Warrant Officer School in the U.S. as is implied in the American text, but in Germany. He was trained by U.S. troops who were stationed in Germany. This is a nice and realistic twist to the translation, because there’s a huge number of U.S. military bases in Germany since the end of World War II.

Until next time… “Yo Joe!”  :-)

“Gallery”

 

posted by 20th Century Toy Collector in G.I. Joe and have Comments (2)