Exclusive toys, available at conventions and through official fan clubs, can be a double-edged sword for collectors. On one hand, they offer the opportunity to own unique toys tailored to a fandom. That's great if you happen to be among the few that get them; extremely limited production numbers and high after-market prices can make these items a collector's fevered nightmare, especially when they're awesome toys that any collection would feel incomplete without.
G.I. Joe is notorious for having a lot of essential yet rare and exclusive collectibles that torment the majority of its fanbase - Hasbro has produced many fantastic toys that were only released at San Diego Comic-Con and even more obscurely through the Official G.I . Joe Collectors' Club and its annual G.I. Joe-specific conventions. But these toys are released in such small quantities that they can barely sustain the demands of a convention room let alone collectors across the world and throughout the years. Sure, some incredible Joe toys have managed to retain fairly reasonable prices - like this Comic-Con 12" Baroness figure, and this club-exclusive Man-Eating Plant that you can affordably track down whenever you develop a burning need to feed Serpentor to something that isn't your dog. But some of the best G.I. Joe exclusive toys remain elusive and, when you do find them, might require you to mortgage your children to obtain them.
And trust us, they're worth it. With a new G.I. Joe movie, Retaliation, coming out (finally) on March 29th and this year's International G.I. Joe Collectors' Convention happening April 4-7 in Indianapolis, there are sure to be plenty of new fans and plenty of new exclusive toys to torment them in upcoming decades. Here are 12 great G.I Joe exclusives that are currently among the most painfully rare and expensive to obtain.
12. Continental Guard
What do you do when it's a cold winter's eve in 18th-century New Jersey and Cobra has set up camp in your capital city, probably planning to overtake the world with a hypnotic flute band or a futuristic cotton gin that can control the weather or something? You call in these guys, the Revolutionary War-era version of G.I. Joe, to cross the Delaware River and layeth down the Colonial smack. These two 12" G.I. Joe figures wear the powdered wigs, tri-corner hats and detailed costumes of the Continental Army (technically from 1784, but peace time is less fun). It's a desirable set for both G.I. Joe fans and history buffs.
Released way back at the 1999 G.I. Joe Convention, it's an uncommon find that can run you hundreds of dollars to obtain. If only you could barter for this with the kind of payment most valuable to George Washington's men - a few pairs of warm socks.
11. Tanks for the Memories
This 15-figure boxset released at the 2007 Joe-Con depicts an intriguing adventure in which several of the original Joes (and by original, we mean the first line-up of the "Real American Hero" team from the 3 ¾" toyline's debut in 1982) come into conflict with an army of sexy, female Cobra troopers dressed up in black S&M gear. It's a little mind-boggling and is probably the fuel for a lot of pervy G.I. Joe fan-fiction, but who are we or the collectors who gobbled up this set to argue? God bless the original Joes, for we don't remember later stars like Duke and Snake Eyes getting into suck kinky pickles. Also included in this set was the first (and so far only) toy of Sparks, a Joe created exclusively for the original cartoon series, and a female version of Doc, which Hasbro had once considered releasing but never did.
10. Big Lob
G.I. Joe admitted a couple of football players and a baseball player into their ranks seemingly just because of their special, sports-related powers. So, why not introduce a basketball player, too? Sure enough, Big Lob showed up to fill that much-needed role on the team in G.I. Joe: The Movie and appeared nowhere else, failing to wow just about everyone. But the crucial thing here was that he never got a toy, leaving an obvious, very tall hole in the collection of every G.I. Joe completist.
The Official G.I .Joe Collectors' Club finally rectified this glaring omission in 2010 by releasing Big Lob as a membership exclusive. He was even produced in the style of the 1980s Joes to look like he had been released at the time of the movie. This surely means that a modern Big Lob, probably limited to a two-hour window at a 7-11 in Boise, can't be far behind.
9. "Pimp Daddy" Destro
Hasbro released some commemorative "Real American Hero" sets in the '90s that paid tribute to the original '80s toys, an exercise that apparently was momentarily influenced by some strange mushrooms in the cafeteria salad bar. The version of Destro they offered was sporting a red jumpsuit and a large, leopard-print collar like he had just strutted out of a grindhouse movie screen. Hasbro quickly realized their odd choice of style and modified the figure, making the few original figures that got out into the wild a rarity lovingly dubbed "Pimp Daddy Destro" by fans. To pay tribute to this infamous variant, Hasbro released a modern version as another limited exclusive at Comic-Con, this time sporting either a silver or gold head. Why not expand his funkadelic wardrobe even further? Next time he should come with a furry fedora and a ho-thumping cane.
8. Search for the Sasquatch
It's been said before with just as much insensitivity, but the Vietnam War was the best thing to ever happen to the original 12" G.I. Joe. The uncoolness factor of the war forced Hasbro to retire its G.I. Joe dolls from their tired, old military format and instead send them on many globe-trekking odysseys with tons of amazing accessories as the Adventure Team. Oozing all that 1970s toy aisle charm and imagination, this 2008 G.I. Joe Convention exclusive pits the jetpack-flying Air Adventurer against a really furry and pissed off Bigfoot. Even with Joe's bazooka and giant net, we're putting our money on Sasquatch. You just don't mess with Sasquatch.
7. Rowdy Roddy Piper
Hasbro and the official G.I. Joe Convention must have a secret, insidious plot to drive collectors into personal combat for their own amusement. In 2007, Hasbro and the convention finally gave G.I. Joe's Sgt. Slaughter a fellow wrestler to combat by enlisting the legendary Rowdy Roddy Piper to train Cobra troops. Despite knowing that just about every G.I. Joe and wrestling collector in the known universe would burn with desire for this, they limited the exclusive to 1,000 figures.
A G.I. Joe version of Piper was an idea so perfect that it boggles the mind that it didn't happen in the '80s where it belonged. Of course it succeeded in sending collectors into a frothing frenzy. Now no G.I. Joe collection will feel complete without a kilt. There was also talk back in those crazy 1980s of a Rocky Balboa G. I. Joe figure, so it's certainly only a matter of time before he shows up in low numbers to menace Cobra's own resident boxer - weighing in at 210 pounds of pure ridiculousness, Big Boa!
6. Figure Subscription Service
The good news is that the first wave of the Official G.I .Joe Collectors' Club monthly Figure Subscription Service is still in the process of being released, two a month, so you might be able to pick them up on eBay without first auctioning off your soul. (Your bodily organs are another matter.) The bad news is that this 13-figure subscription was only available for a limited time to paying club members and includes some heavily-demanded characters that Hasbro never released at mass retail in the modern body style.
These include resident G.I. Joe sexpot and tank driver Cover Girl, Cobra boxing instructor Big Boa, G.I. Joe Extreme baddie Iron Klaw and evil ninja Dice, among others. There is even a special mystery figure whose identity won't be revealed until he/she shows up in subscribers' mailboxes. If you're not already in a collector's panic, the club has also announced that a second wave of subscription figures is on the way!