FOREWORD • In the 1980s, the world economy functioned very differently. Hasbro is now a global company that directly overseas production and distribution of GI Joe toys worldwide. In the 80s and 90’s, Hasbro licensed out the rights for production and distribution of GI Joe to various manufacturers around the world. The result was a staggering variety of availability, design, and quality of GI Joe product. As collectors, these international versions of our beloved GI Joe products can be among the rarest, most expensive, and ultimately most satisfying toys to collect. FOREIGN PRODUCTION
• Argentina (Plastirama) • Australia (Toltoys) • Brazil (Estrela) • China • Egypt and South Africa (Nilco) • Europe (Hasbro) • India and Russia (Funskool) • Japan (Takara) • Korea (Young Toys) • Mexico (Auriken) • UK (Palitoy) • Venezuela (Rubiplas) Funskool • Around 1988, Indian companies Funskool and MRF teamed to produce GI Joe figures and vehicles in India. Earliest versions of figures found have date stamps of 1988 and were produced with very similar quality to their US counterparts. • After a few years of production, the quality seemed to lower and strange colored vehicles and figures were produced in very small numbers around 1993. These figures and vehicles would become some of the rarest items in the international collecting community as well as some of the most valuable. • Funskool produced figures and vehicles from 1998 to 2004, and again from 2010 to 2011 with reissue figures on cards with explosion back artwork.
Europe/UK • The manufacturing and distribution of 3 ¾” GI Joe products was already in place with Palitoy thanks to the existing relationship and the continuing product development of the 12” line through Action Man. Up until 1985, as part of the Palitoy era of the Action Force, products were manufactured in the new territories of Hong Kong and in France through Meccano under their owner General Mills. • After the demise of Palitoy, Hasbro industries UK Ltd relaunched the toy line in 1987 using their existing Hasbro network for manufacture as well as setting u a new facility in Ireland. • While there are subtle differences in color for vehicles during the Hasbro era, it was Palitoy that produced the widest variants, creating all new characters from existing product designs through applying new decoration that differed greatly from US domestic releases.
Brazil (Estrela) • In 1984, Hasbro licensed the rights to distribute GI Joe product in Brazil to Estrela. Estrela would be the most prominent licensee in South America of GI Joe product, releasing over 100 figures and about the same number of vehicles under the Comandos de Acao label. • Early Estrela figures are easy to identify because the company etched a maker’s mark into the molds, and series one Estrela figures will actually say “ESTRELA” across their backs. This practice was discontinued after the first series. Generally, Estrela releases will have brighter paint colors than their US counterparts, and most Estrela figures have a “shine” that releases from other countries lack. Estrela also marked all of its vehicles with the Estrela SA company mark. • Outside of Funskool, Estrela probably produced more unique variants than any other licensee. Notable Estrela variations include Python Patrol versions of Ripcord and Airborne, Tiger Force versions of Shipwreck and Airtight, and the Snake Eyes/Flash mash up “Cobra De Aco”. • Estrela would also create its own sub-teams such as “Forca Fera” (which included plastic animal companions unique to Brazil) and “Forca Bruta”. Estrela would also occasionally switch a character’s allegiance, notable with the Cobra Version of Snake Eyes (called Invasor) and the Battle Corps version of Beach Head who was released as a Cobra in Brazil. • Estrela vehicles frequently differed from the US versions. While other South American countries trended toward darker greens, many Estrela vehicles were a brighter shade of green. Tans and Browns often varied as well. The most notorious Estrela vehicles though were the Python Patrol Swampfire, the red Water Moccasin, and the silver Rage tank. • After Plastirama ceased production, Estrela would export GI Joe product to Argentina as well. Estrela also produced some mail-away releases for the US market, notably the mail away version of Heavy Metal (Rampage). • By 1995, the GI Joe line had come to an end in the US, and Estrela also ceased production of Joe product. However, unlike other former Joe licensees, Estrela remains in business to this day.
Mexico (Auriken) • Around 1986, the toy company Auriken received the license to produce Joes for the Mexican market. Auriken also distributed other Hasbro/Kenner properties, such as My Little Pony and Real Ghostbusters during this time. • Many of the molds that had been used by Estrela were forwarded to Mexico. Some early Auriken releases will still have the “Estrela” stamp on the back of the figures, and others will show a rough patch where the makers mark was hastily removed from the mold. Additionally, many of the early wave figures have reversed upper arm joints, easily distinguishable from the back. • Early releases of Auriken figures had a black “wash” effect on the shoulder rivets, but later releases had standard silver rivets. Plastic quality was similar to other South American releases. As with other foreign releases, the skin tones and shades of green were often different on Auriken figures from the US versions. The biggest difference though is that Auriken figures were packaged in shadow boxes, making them some of the most unique Joe releases. Curiously, Grunt’s box reflected Footloose’s card art, and though the Snake Eyes figure released was V1, his packaging used the V2 card art. • The third wave of Auriken figures came packaged with motorized Action Packs. This wave was several figures deep, but only three were newly released. Wave 3 Barbecue, Shipwreck, and Bazooka are the hardest to find figures from this line, along with Mutt from wave 2. In all, Auriken produced 23 different figures and around 30 vehicles. • By 1990 or so, Hasbro began to market directly to the Mexican market and Auriken ceased production of GI Joe and other Hasbro properties and eventually went out of business altogether.
• In late 1998 or early 1989, Plastirama acquired the rights to distribute GI Joe toys in Argentina. • Used many of the same molds that had been provided to Estrela and later Auriken • Plastirama released three waves of figures and vehicles in the Argentine market before ceasing production of GI Joes around 1992 and sending the molds to Venezuela for use by Rubiplas. • About 40 figures and 30 vehicles were released during Plastirama’s production run. • Plastirama figures are distinguished by a slightly lower plastic quality than their US counterparts and often had different color tones to both the skin and uniforms, particularly in the early series. Plastirama vehicles were often different from the US versions as well, particularly in the shade of green used for vehicle bodies. Plastirama versions will generally be a darker green than the US versions. The Plastirama release of the Ferret is in a brighter shade of blue that matches the US mail away version. • The second wave from Argentina included the infamous “Argen 7” (a term coined by Aire Devon). These were dramatically repainted versions of Snake Eyes, Scarlett, Short Fuze, Rock & Roll, Breaker, and Stalker. Other significant releases from Plastirama’s production run include Satan and Ninja Ku – red and black versions of the iconic V1 Storm Shadow figure. Plastirama also produced a blond haired Zap figure that was released with some versions of the Falcon Glider. • Several years after production ceased, old Plastirama overstock items began to appear in odd unlicensed packaging under the COPS, Trincheas, or Jhony Ques lines. These figures were packaged with random accessories and occasionally even random vehicle parts. • There is a company operating in Argentina today under the Plastirama name; however, they sell plastic bags and packaging products and do not appear to be related to the company that produced toys in the 80s.
Venezuela (Rubiplas) • Venevision, a Venezuelan television station, began airing Spanish-dubbed adventures of G.I. Joe around 1987. The cartoon was immensely popular, but no G.I.Joe toys were being sold in Venezuela. To fill the demand, G.I.Joe toys were imported/smuggled from other countries. • From 1990 to 1992, Rubiplas in Venezuela licensed G.I. Joe from Hasbro and began production of G.I. Joe toys. Rubiplas produced figures and vehicles using molds from Argentina, and issued similar assortments. They began by producing and selling toys that had been made from 1982 through 1985. The plastic used by Rubiplas was cheaper and quality control was sub-par, leading to many accessory mistakes. Eventually, the cost of producing exceeded the cost of importation, and Rubiplas ceased G.I. Joe production. Rubiplas is now Faventoys importers. • Rubiplas produced approximately 50 figures, most notably a White Mortal similar to the one from Brazil. Grunt, Scarlet, and Glenda are rumored but not confirmed. Rubiplas also produced about the same number of vehicles and playsets, the most noteworthy being the tan Thunder Machine. • Identification: Rubiplas figures have cheaper plastic similar to Argentina. Generally unpainted and non- anodized silver metal rivets. Many have markings or date stamps removed.
China • While China began producing GI Joe figures in 1982, it wasn’t until the early 1990’s that Hasbro introduced GI Joe to the China/Taiwan marketplace. Toys were produced in the Hasbro plants in Hong Kong as opposed to Taiwan (where US bound toys were produced). • Figures were produced in two waves. The first wave came on a unique cardback almost entirely in Chinese. The second wave cards were very similar to US releases. • Only 3 Chinese figures have significant variation from US releases: Major Bludd, TF Flint, and Destro. Most Chinese Storm-Shadows are in fact knockoffs. • Only 25 vehicles have been confirmed, all from the 1988 to 1993 era.
Japan (Takara) • In 1986, the Takara toy company licensed the Hasbro GI Joe brand for release in Japan. It lasted only one year. • However, it’s failure should not be associated with a lack of promotion. Takara relied on it’s marketing of the Transformers brand to guide it’s push of GI Joe. The Sunbow cartoon was dubbed and aired in Japan. comics were printed, magazine stories run, books distributed and cross-marketed, novelty and candy items sold. • When Takara released the GI Joe line in Japan they made few changes in the designs. Aside from a minor change in Duke’s arms (cuffed full-length sleeves, found originally on the 1982 Stalker and Grunt), the construction mimics the US toy line. Another interesting change to note is Zartan. Normally released with his Swamp-Skier, Takara released him individually carded. • The packaging was unique to Japan and some of the code-names printed on it were as well, such as the renaming of the Stinger to the Night Attack. Japan saw the release of 24 carded figures and 15 vehicles.
Special Thanks • Jamie Baker (Figures and text) • Tony Lin (catalog images and text) • Matt Dillon (images and text) • YoJoe and Terry Dizard • Ron Connor and Derek Anderson • John Kent