THE G.I. JOE MUSEUM
Learn With Us Today About the #1 Boys Toy Brand of the 20th Century!
We have a very important mission here at the G.I. Joe Museum: To educate and enlighten our visitors about the history behind a pop-cultural phenomenon. We believe in educating the community (both young children and seasoned collectors) and passing on the joy we carry for such an iconic toy.
However, our work is never complete—there is always something new to learn!
A BRIEF HISTORY OF G.I.JOE
What began as a generic term to describe millions of "GI's" in World War II, "G.I.Joe" became a ubiquitous term in American culture for anything military related. G.I.Joe's was a well known military surplus store on the West Coast, a comic series and then comic books by Ziff-Davis Publishing, novel by World War II journalist Ernie Pyle detailing the "grunt" work in WWII which itself was later adapted into the 1944 movie, The Story of G.I. Joe.
One late night a creative genius at toy manufacturer Hasbro, searching for a name for their next toy line to compete with Mattel's Barbie saw the movie and knew instantly what their toy solider would be called: G.I. Joe. But he wouldn't be a "doll" to compete with Barbie, he would be an action figure! Beginning in 1964 Hasbro totally transformed the boys toy market for millions of kids and generations to come. By building innovation into their toys and timed perfectly for the coattails of WWII parents, a 12" action figure would crush sales for the next decade. But then, rising oil prices cut into the profits of this plastic toy, and "soldiers" became out of fashion during Vietnam. Despite re-marketing G.I. Joe into a 1970's "Action Adventure Team," just as Star Wars began to take off G.I.Joe seemed destined to retire.
In 1982, a group within Hasbro longed to bring G.I.Joe back to market. What no one knew was that the 1960s were just the start. A new 3 3/4" size let children put hundreds of character action figures in a huge assortment of vehicles for the first time, they used the Marvel comic books to skirt FTC advertising restrictions against advertising toys on TV by advertising the comics instead, and a hugely popular cartoon by Sunbow Productions brought the toys to life every week right as school go out. Hasbro licensed the brand to thousands of products crushing Star Wars records and becoming the #1 boys toy in all of the 1980s.
If you grew up in the '80's not only did you know G.I.Joe, you had an army of good guy soldiers against bad guy terrorists, inside forts, tanks, airplanes and boats. And maybe the largest toy ever made, a 7 foot aircraft carrier! As those '80's kids grew into High School, G.I.Joe again had to face the music and sank deeper into the toybox by 1994 when Hasbro ceased further line production.
As the saying goes, 'Old Soldiers Never Die..." Well, neither do G.I.Joes (though their o-rings may break). The brand recreated itself as a new fanbase began to take over in the internet age with resource websites, Facebook and eBay. By the early 2000s Hasbro pushed out hundreds of new characters and figures. Celebrity marketing campaigns tried to build momentum. Different "sizes" of toys were brought to market to different age groups. New animated series were edgier to captialize on anime. Fan Clubs drawing thousands of visitors to locations all over the U.S. along side Sgt. Slaughter throwing parachute Joes from hotel rooftops, dealers on dealers of toys, camaraderie amongst collectors, and stacks of new books behind the brand. And the long desired blockbuster rejuvenation by Paramount Pictures sold millions in tickets to GIJOE: Rise of Cobra and GIJOE: Retaliation.
WHY A MUSEUM EXHIBIT?
Learning about the creative process of bringing a toy literally to life, from concept to presentation, to sculpture, and final productions are like reaching into every childhood memory of kids from 1964-present! Hundreds of characters were created and everyone had their favorite. G.I.Joe was cast in the classic struggle of "good" Joes fighting "evil" villainous terrorist "bad guys" which continued in every facet of the brand's marketing, whether on file cards by long-time writer Larry Hama, or in comics, or with the cartoon series. G.I. Joes have been produced for over 50 years now, impacting millions of people. Almost every guy has a memory of G.I.Joe, playing with friends, a birthday or Christmas present, or that time when they bought one for their child as an adult coming full circle.
One of the earliest super-fans, James DeSimone longed for a museum since he created a G.I. Joe Collector's Club in 1985. Since our organization's inception in 2006 by several super fans, we have been trying to bring to a wider audience the real history of the G.I. Joe pop culture phenomenon in a curated fashion. As eBay and online marketplaces gave birth to a huge collecting boom, and fan clubs brought thousands of collectors together yearly, the need for a brick and mortar museum remained an elusive goal held by many. However, exhibits have already been hugely popular at traditional and non-traditional institutions alike.
We hope that as the years grow on, collectors will continue to reach out to one another and share the joy from their childhoods, their finds, their knowledge, and time. What our parents and Hasbro taught us about play we're now passing these lessons onto our children, and for generations to come. Our online museum and exhibition company, American Hero History Group, hopes to bring this knowledge of creativity, struggle, design, art, storytelling, marketing and play, into your institutions for tens of thousands of new visitors.