Sometimes I just can’t believe my luck with collecting vintage toys. As every collector will probably know from first hand experience there are usually a couple of items in your collection you paid just a tad too much (or way too much) for, but the flip side to that coin is that there’s bound to be several highly desirable items in your collection that you got real cheap, so in the end it probably evens out. That’s part of the fun of collecting hard to find stuff, I think. I’ve certainly had more than my fair share of good luck in finding rare items and some of them for peanuts. Case in point: I recently scored two first wave vintage G.I. Joe action figures in Dutch packaging: Alpine and Barbecue! And they only cost me 10 euros a pop!
G.I. Joe – Alpinist & Barbecue (1987) – MB International B.V.
A while ago I bought a vintage Zartan in Dutch packaging and when the package arrived at my doorstep I found that the seller had included two empty backer cards of the Dutch versions of Alpine and Barbecue! I try to collect early vintage G.I. Joe’s in Dutch packaging and those are pretty hard to find. Of those the action figures are the hardest to find inside their packaging. Imagine my surprise when I saw these two backer cards which were in great condition and even more, the bubbles where still largely attached to the cards without any noticeable damage or tearing to the backer cards!! So I started looking for a very nice and complete Alpine and Barbecue to put inside! I took me a while, but last week I found a local seller here in the Netherlands who had a C9 Alpine and Barbecue for sale 100% complete with accessories who sold them to me for 20 euros.
The loose figures arrived yesterday and what better way to spend my Friday night then to geek out and put these two great looking action figures back in their original packaging! I cleaned the action figures and their accessories and dusted off the backer cards and bubbles. I then carefully placed them inside their respective bubbles and resealed the bubbles with some hobby glue that I carefully swiped along the edges of the bubbles. I placed some weights on the bubbles over night and this afternoon I cleaned up the dust and excess glue from the packaging with Goo Gone (a great little tool for removing dirt and sticker residue etc). I am quite pleased with the results, because they look great as display items! Let’s have a detailed look at both of them.
Alpinist is the Dutch name for Alpine. Alpine was originally released in the US as a wave 4 action figure in 1985 and was released in the Netherlands around April of 1987 by Hasbro as a wave 1 figure (G.I. Joe wasn’t properly introduced in most of Europe until 1987) and was distributed here by MB International B.V. Alpine saw a simultaneous release in most other West European countries that year as well, most of them also distributed by local MB subsidiaries. Hasbro had taken over toy giant MB in September 1984.
Alpinist – an international hero
I like to believe that Hasbro leveraged MB’s experience with the fragmented European market in the 1980′s. MB probably knew what was best for their local markets and part of this was to make sure the packaging of their product was localized as much as possible. This resulted in specific translated packaging for all the European countries where MB was active, similiar to MB’s original product like board games and puzzles. Even small countries like the Netherlands and Belgium got their own specific packaging. As a vintage collector and Dutchman myself I highly appreciate these all-Dutch releases.
“An International Hero”
Another thing that MB probably realised was that the moniker “A Real American Hero” would not sit well with all European countries. Now, I know that the Dutch would’ve been pretty ambivalent about this. The French on the other hand would probably have been a bit more chauvinistic about a toy line of Real American Heroes being released in France. So Hasbro and MB quite cunningly rebranded the line as an international fighting force for Europe (hey, whatever sells more, right?)
Alpinist’s file card
The cool thing about this is that most of the European G.I. Joe action figures had altered bio’s. Names and birth places were often changed to European and international alternatives. I always like to compare the Dutch releases in my collection to the American releases. Alpinist’s bio is largely the same as that of the American release. His name is Albert M. Pine in both the American and European releases. But his place of birth is different. The US release of Alpine shows us he was born in Minidoka, Idaho. As Alpine’s file card states “from the middle of the flat dusty Snake River Plain where Alpine was born he could see the mountains on the horizon in almost every direction”.
The Snake River Plain, where Alpine was born
According to the Dutch file card Alpinist was born in Grenoble, France. Also, although no specific mention is made about his parents in the US file card, the Dutch file card says that his parent were originally from Algerian descent, which would explain his dark complexion. This is not an entirely arbitrary choice either, by the way. Algeria used to be a French colony and there’s a large Algerian community still living in France.
Grenoble, where Alpinist was born
Also, while the US file card states that Alpine graduated from Ranger School in Fort Benning, the Dutch file card shows that Alpinist got his education in Toulouse, France.
Next up is Barbecue, who is named identically in the Dutch release. If we compare the US and Dutch file cards we can see that they are largely the same, but again the place of birth of Barbecue has been altered as has his surname. The US file card says Barbecue’s real name is Gabriel A. Kelly, born and bred in Boston, Massachusetts.
G.I. Joe – Barbecue (1987) MB International B.V.
Now, if we look at the file card on Barbecue’s Dutch packaging we see that he was born and bred in Naples, Italy. Kelly is not exactly an Italian sounding name, so his name was changed to Gabriel A. Garibaldi, which sounds pretty cool (Babylon 5 FTW!!). The rest of the file card is a pretty accurate translation of the US file card.
BBQ, Italian style
“Four Down, Sixteen to Go”
With these two additions I now have a total of four wave 1 vintage G.I. Joe action figures in Dutch packaging. Hasbro released a total of 20 action figures in the Netherlands in early 1987 (wave 1), which can all be seen on the back of Alpinist’s card here, including their sometimes colourful Dutch translated names.
G.I. Joe – Netherlands wave 1 (1987)
I don’t think I will ever be able to complete this first Dutch wave inside its original packaging, because these are even harder to find than the MB Transformers that I also like to collect, but a guy can hope. For now, I am going to sit back and feel rather content with myself for scoring these two items and being able to restore them to their original retail state as much as possible. Good times! Have a great weekend!
Thanks to alaskan dude and cotitoo for the use of the photos of the Snake River Plain and Grenoble. Used in accordance with CC-BY 2.0 and CC-BY-NC 2.0 license respectively.