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10 Neat Facts About G.I. Joe

To celebrate its homegrown hero, Rhode Island governor Donald L. Carcieri proclaimed today to be "G.I. Joe Day." And to help you celebrate, here's a quickie 5 Neat Facts about G.I. Joe, only from Neatorama:

1. G.I. Joe owes its existence to Barbie. That's right - in 1963, toy creator Stan Weston thought that since Barbie was so popular, he could come up with a similar toy for boys: a line of Barbie-sized dolls with military theme to be marketed for boys. He brought the concept to toy manufacturer Hassenfeld Brothers (who later shortened the name to Hasbro).

Three prototypes were created: "Rocky the Marine", "Skip the Sailor", and "Ace the Pilot."

2. G.I. = "Government Issue"

3. The name G.I. Joe itself came from a 1945 American war film called The Story of G.I. Joe, starring Ernie Pyle and Robert Mitchum.


Four original G.I. Joe action figures released in 1964, plus the black soldier who followed in 1965. Source: Hasbro

4. World's First Action Figure. Because they thought that boys wouldn't play with dolls, Hasbro coined the words "action figure" to market the toy.

5. The first G.I. Joe product, G.I. Joe: America's Moveable Fighting Man has 21 points of articulation, which is actually patented.

6. G.I. Joe has a scar across his right cheek. This enables Hasbro to copyright its toys, because otherwise the human figure itself cannot be copyrighted.

7. In 1967, Hasbro introduced its first female Joe: G.I. Nurse Action Girl. It was a spectacular failure ... and is now one of the world's most sought-after collectible:

In 1967, Hasbro expanded the line to include a series of talking figures, and Hasbro Canada produced a Canadian Mounties set. That year also saw the release of the fabled G.I. Nurse Action Girl, a doll so rare that certain models mint-in-box can bring up to $6,000 on today’s collectors’ market.

"The G.I. Joe Nurse is so valuable today because it was released for only one year," says Sharon Korbeck, editorial director of Toy Shop, a biweekly magazine aimed at toy collectors. "The figure didn’t do very well because boys weren’t interested in a female doll, and girls weren’t interested in anything related to G.I. Joe."

Sales also suffered because toy store managers didn’t know how to position the doll. Some put her with the G.I. Joe action figures, while others stocked her next to Barbie and her friends. Either way, 50% of the prospective market was lost.

8. In the wake of the Vietnam War, Hasbro dropped the military-theme and rebranded the line as "Adventure Team."

9. Bullet Man, the weirdest G.I. Joe ever


From Plaidstallions, which has a lot more fun G.I. Joe catalog pages from the 70s

In 1976, to compete with the superhero toy craze, Hasbro added a superhero to its G.I. Joe line up: Bullet Man, the Human Bullet. Collectors didn't like it then (Joe's enemy was a caveman from outer space!), but given its rarity, Bullet Man is now highly valuable.

10. "Knowing is Half the Battle" - The G.I. Joe catchphrase came from its cartoon series in the 1980s. At the end of each episode, there was a public-service message showing kids in a situation where they did something wrong and Joes giving advice. The PSA always ended with the phrase "Now we know!" "And knowing is half the battle!" Joe Headquarters has a list of these PSAs.

If knowing is half the battle, what's the other half? Your choices are "unbridled violence," porkchop sandwiches, or this T-Shirt from Nerduo.


GI stands for general infantry. GI joe hence was the standard name for general infantry soldiers back in the day, the everyman soldier if you will.
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Bullet Man's insignia and helmet looks suspiciously like those of the superhero "Bullet" from the PC video game "Freedom Force" and its sequel.
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Actually GI Fan, G.I. is for Government Issue.

From Wikipedia: G.I. is a term describing members of the U.S. armed forces or items of their equipment. It may be used as an adjective or as a noun. The term is now used as an initialism of "Government Issue" (or often incorrectly "General Infantry").
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Actually (?), G.I. stands for neither Government Issue, nor General Infantry. Both are folk etymologies -- the real origin of the term is Galvanized Iron, from which army equipment was made in WWI.

Don't believe me? Check Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G.I._(military)

Now you know. And knowing is half the battle.
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I had all of those guys on the adventure team. They went well with the bionic man stuff I had too. They are buried in an Egyptian sarcophagus play set somewhere in the backyard of my childhood home. At some point the play area was cemented over so the search would be too expensive to dig them up now.
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From the research I've done on the G.I. Joe action figures, the way they got the patent on the "human figure" was to put the thumbnails on the bottom where the prints should be. A lot of people have scars, but no one has thumbnails on the bottom
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Never use Wikipedia as a source. According to the OED, it means either Government or General Issue, and originates in the 1930s. 'Nuff said.
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