The Crunch: Children of the 1980s lived through the peak of G.I. Joe popularity, but one website that focuses on fostering a community for collectors is still thriving. YoJoe has developed a robust database of toys and memorabilia from every era of Hasbro’s famous action figures. What was once a place to discuss all things G.I. Joe has added a marketplace to help enthusiasts trade and complete their collections. With plans for integrating social elements into its online marketplace, YoJoe is doing its part to keep love for the brand alive.
Christmas morning was about one thing for 6-year-old me: After waking my parents up at the first hint of daylight and pretending I hadn’t already checked the stockings and shaken all the boxes that Santa had left under the tree, it was time for presents.
During my pre-emptive search, I’d noticed several boxes that fit the profile of what I wanted most. I could tell you that, even in childhood, I knew to save the best for last, but that would be a lie.
I shredded open the first box I suspected contained a G.I. Joe and found Gung-Ho wearing his Marine dress blues. The next one was Outback. Then Chuckles, or “Miami Vice,” as I later named call him. Then came the grand finale — Cobra Commander, the ultimate bad guy in the G.I. Joe universe. There would be a serious battle in the middle of the living room that afternoon, and stopping Cobra Commander would be the primary objective.
I was far from alone in my love for G.I. Joes. All of my friends would be comparing the new additions to our collections when school started back up in early January. In fact, appreciation for the brand stretches back to 1964 when a previous generation was introduced to the original 12-inch action figure.
A group of collectors has built an online community and marketplace around Hasbro’s popular toys over the past couple of decades. We recently spoke with the team behind YoJoe, which is responsible for the world’s most complete database of information on G.I. Joe figures and collectibles. While G.I. Joe merchandise can be quite valuable — for instance, a 1963 prototype of the original 12-inch G.I. Joe sold for $200,000 in 2003 — YoJoe is driven by nostalgia and fondness for the brand.
“It’s a very tightly knit community,” said Terry Dizard, Chief Administrator for YoJoe. “G.I. Joe is a passion project for most people. This is very much a large aspect of their lives.”
Hasbro’s Toys Created Generations of ‘American Hero’ Enthusiasts
Terry’s obsession with G.I. Joe started around the same time as my own.
“In the 1980s, you couldn’t avoid being exposed to G.I. Joe,” Terry said. “You had comic books, cartoons, toys, lunchboxes, school clothes, and on and on. It was an enormous phenomenon in its time. With a footprint that large and a social impact that big, it became a large part of pop culture.”
The toys, television shows, and memorabilia were big wins for Hasbro, the toymaker behind the brand. When the company first released its 12-inch figures in 1964, it changed the game by creating a form of dolls acceptable for boys by marketing them as “men of action” or “action figures.” Inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2004, more than 400 million G.I. Joe figures have been sold since the toy’s debut.
In 1982, G.I. Joe saw a serious resurgence with the release of the 3-¾ inch figures.
“If you grew up in the 1980s, that was one of the top-five toys you played with,” Terry said. “G.I. Joe was the most successful brand for Hasbro in its history. On two separate occasions, G.I. Joe has saved Hasbro from some rather tough economic times.”
The brand even hit the big screen with the release of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra in 2009 and its sequel, G.I. Joe: Retaliation in 2013, generating renewed interest thanks to Hollywood stars like Dwayne Johnson and Channing Tatum bringing the toys to life.
The G.I. Joe community is still very much active, participating in an annual International G.I. Joe Collectors’ Convention, where enthusiasts come together to celebrate the brand. With the most relevant information and robust databases, YoJoe is a common sight on convention goers’ mobile devices.
“We’re a fairly large focal point in the community,” Terry said. “You’re not going to go to a G.I. Joe show and not see a collector who doesn’t have YoJoe up on their phones, digging through items and referencing.”
From Database to Marketplace, YoJoe Remains a Place for Collectors
While YoJoe has been around since the early days of the internet, the past several years have seen a shift into finishing a complete database of all things G.I. Joe.
“We tried to make it the place people come to find out about all things about the brand,” said Jim Dolan, the owner of Action Online Publishing, which runs YoJoe and Figures.com.
After completing exhaustive databases on 3-¾ inch and 12-inch figures, YoJoe developed a content management system known as YoeJoe Pro. The CMS allows users to subscribe to services to better manage their collections and look for other collectors or dealers with whom to trade or purchase from. A new version of the marketplace is in the works that will better connect buyers and sellers.
“What we’re doing is we’re focusing on more of a social aspect, where we supply the links between buyers and sellers,” Terry said. “Through our system, a collector can say ‘I want a particular item.’ So if another person has it available, there are notifications that get passed back and forth. It’s sort of our own in-house social media system that links buyers and sellers interactively.”
While the $200,000 prototype is at the extreme end of the spectrum, G.I. Joes can be quite valuable depending on their rarity and whether they’ve been removed from their original boxes.
“Depending on condition, a large G.I. Joe collection of 12-inch figures is going to run you tens of thousands of dollars,” Terry said. “In the 3-¾ inch world, which is the second generation, there were literally thousands of items made. Getting into collecting a comprehensive collection of those, you’re looking at a very sizable investment.”
A Passionate Community Continues to Sustain Website Growth
YoJoe, which takes its name from the familiar battle cry of G.I. Joe members, has fostered a community of enthusiasts on its site while innovating ways to facilitate the trading experience through a robust marketplace.
G.I. Joe is one of the world’s iconic toys and has brought joy to the lives of many. I can still remember my own collection and all of the time I spent planning battles on my bedroom floor.
The G.I. Joe brand means a lot to multiple generations, and the team at DealCrunch wants to recognize YoJoe for doing its part in nurturing Hasbro’s flagship brand.
“So many hundreds of millions of people know who and what G.I. Joe is,” Terry said. “Collectors start in their childhood, and they pass it on to their children. Now, I’m seeing people pass it on to their grandchildren, and that’s a result of lasting more than 50 years as a brand.”