Back in 1964, Hasbro produced a 12" action figure and named the line "G.I. Joe".
The initials "G.I." are commonly understood to refer to "Government Issue", "General Issue" or "General Infantry", but according to wordorigins.org, it originally referred to "Galvanised Iron", which was used by the United States Armed Forces...but what about "Joe"? Well, in 1944, there was a series of radio dramas by the name of "They Called Me Joe". Each episode focused on a different fictional American soldier and he was always identified as a G. I. named Joe. Over time, the term "G.I. Joe" came to be used to describe American soldiers.
So, when Hasbro decided to make the world's first action figure, they made American soldiers and named them "G.I. Joe". They were originally 12" tall and were poseable (hence the term "action figure").
But I wasn't around in 1964.
The G.I. Joe action figures, that take me back to my childhood, are the vintage 3 3/4" figures that lasted from 1982 - 1994 (with several reissues and 'modernising' of characters in the years since). There were over 500 figures and 250 play sets / vehicles produced during that time!
There are many theories behind why the figures were reintroduced to the market in the smaller scale (from cost saving to the success of other 1:18 scale figures from the 70s, such as Star Wars and Micronauts). Whatever the reason, a fresh new toy line was created, accompanied by comics and cartoons, which helped bring the characters to life!
As an 80s kid, I remember playing with these small figures, creating stories for them and putting on their interchangeable weapons and accessories. Most characters came with a file card, which contained a picture, code name and other background information including a quote that sums up the character's personality! And of course, one of the best things (like many 80s toys) was the artwork on the packaging! G.I. Joe were the good guys, and cried out "Yo Joe!" whenever going into battle with Cobra (the bad guys).
What great memories! In fact, some my best childhood memories are of my G.I. Joe figures and I want to share that nostalgia with others who also grew up playing with these great toys! That is one of the reasons why Alfy's New and Vintage Toy Shop has a "Toy Museum" section at the back of the store, which houses toys that will bring back those great memories! Within that museum, there are around 70 original packaged 3 3/4" G.I. Joe figures on display for you to enjoy, including some rare Canadian and Japanese versions!
So next time you are in Sydney, Australia, please visit and relive your best childhood memories!