2002 Headman

Although nothing seems more repetitive than 80‘s and 90‘s anti-drug messages, the DEF and Headhunters were some pretty cool toys to come from the era. They’re a bit corny, but also a real world topic that’s interesting to inject into a military toy line. In the 2000‘s however, anti-drug messages in children’s shows and product largely went away and even seemed to take somewhat more of a taboo status. So when Hasbro brought Headman back in the GI Joe vs. Cobra line, he was somewhat of a departure from his prior form to say the least.

The original Headman was a sweet figure. The black pin-stripped suit was a great look for a drug dealer, among other features I found that made the figure charming.There was little to do in the way of improving the original, and sadly the ‘02 Headman could be seen as quite the down grade. Now he wears a solid orange suit that looks quite a lot like The Mask, which I’d be a little insulted to know if that was really the inspiration for this figure.

There’s nothing much to say about the figure other than that. He’s Headman, but in orange. In all fairness I think certain details of the sculpt are a little easier to see in this color than in black, but that doesn’t really justify the poor color choice here. Oddly, his hair color has been changed to black as well, a design choice I still don’t quite understand.

HEADMAN started out robbing convenience stores, then learned the ropes of high-end thievery while serving time in prison. A hardened criminal, HEADMAN doesn’t think twice about removing anyone who gets in the way of his plans. He steals anything for the right price—government secrets, weapon system specifications, and priceless art treasures. His thefts have undermined the safety of countries and satisfied greedy private art collectors at the expense of museums around the world. He has managed to escape GENERAL TOMAHAWK time and again, but the relentless G.I. JOE commander has caused him to abandon some plans, losing money. He wants to remove the threatening general from his trail, once and for all.
“I am a master of crime who can steal anything, and never get caught.”

-Headman’s Filecard

The filecard’s from this era tend to be pretty worthless, and Headman’s is no exception. Interestingly, they’ve completely overhauled his character in this one. No longer is he a drug dealer and the leader of the Headhunters, but instead a robber and expert thief. The portrayal seems especially childish and simple, and even steps on the toes of a few other Cobras who already fill similar roles (Firefly and Zartan). Again, I suppose at this point drugs were a topic they simply preferred to avoid, but they could’ve found a more appropriate role for the Headman than one as blase as this.

Gijoe vs cobra hasbro headhunters def action figure vintage

They also really phoned in the accessories on this figure. Instead of his highly interesting G11 riffle, he now includes the grenade launcher and knife from the V1 Range Viper, as well as the pistol from ‘91 Dusty (the one they would eventually include with different figures more than twenty times.). What gets me about these accessories isn’t that they’re horribly generic, but that absolutely no thought was put into them for the character. A big, noisy grenade launcher for a guy who’s supposed to be a thief now?

Despite all of this, I like using this figure every now and then just because no one else really does that much. I’m also a big Headhunters fan, so he has appeal to me for that alone. But this isn’t a good figure and his value sixteen years later reflects that. Complete figures can be had for around $5, but if you look around, the sealed set with General Hawk (Tomahawk) can be had for almost as much.

Gijoe vs cobra hasbro headhunters def action figure vintage Gijoe vs cobra hasbro headhunters def action figure vintage

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Half the Battle

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2004 Convention Buzzer

Among the many Joecon sets that came and went, one of the most memorably lackluster was the 2004 set. Among the many figures FunPub could have made, they opted instead for some Dreadnok repaints that were at best, novelties. This Buzzer figure is a perfect example.

To preface this, I suppose I’m developing a habit of hating Joecon exclusives on this blog. I really don’t, at least not generally. But, most of the Joecon exclusives that inspire my comments are ones that I view as being somewhat flawed. This Convention Buzzer figure is flawed, but also represents one of the worst Joecon sets ever made.

The figure himself looks fine enough. It’s Buzzer, with the contemporary 2000‘s ARAH flesh color. He now is in mostly red, and has some camouflage on his pants. A modest, and different look for Buzzer. The problem that arises is that outside of looking different and being mildly limited in production, that’s all this figure has to offer: colors. Just colors. These colors aren’t based on some niche appearance he once had, or an old prototype, or even some bizarre foreign release. They are simply new colors applied to an old action figure to make a new, novelty collectible. The lack of any creativity here and forced nature of figures like this were something I had a great disdain for with FunPub’s Joe and Transformers exclusives.

With that said, Buzzer is still an excellent classic sculpt and I even find the colors to be attractive in a few ways. The flesh tone on this figure somehow seems more appropriate than his pastier vintage tone. As an Australian biker currently hanging out in the Florida Everglades, it seems right that his skin would be a bit darker. The red color coupled with the camouflage has a good urban appearance too, I think he’d look alright with the Alley Viper V6 to name one example.

With all that said, I can’t be the only one indifferent to this figure. I acquired my example sans accessories for a whopping $3. A weird example, but you rarely encounter anything from a convention that cheap. Even as of this writing, complete examples of this figure are easy to find under $20, if you hunt I’m sure you could even get this figure for less than $15. If you really want a Joecon exclusive, he’s not a bad option for that novelty. Beyond that, it’s a really shallow figure for a convention exclusive.

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Funskool Flint

With Christmas having recently passed,  I couldn’t help but find it necessary to talk about a Joe that was a Christmas present of mine. The funny thing is, prior to my teenage years I never really had any GI Joe items I got for Christmas. It wasn’t that I didn’t like GI Joe, but I never seemed to get any as presents. A combination of the DTC and 25th Anniversary lines brought me back into Joe hard around 2007, and in light of that my brother snagged me a Funskool Flint as a present the next year.

Despite the quality of Funskool figures and their cards, opening Flint up that morning was a fun and somewhat surreal feeling. Mind you, I’m a kid of the mid-90‘s, so I totally missed out on most of ARAH, but I still had this feeling of having just time traveled. Those ARAH cards were visually striking in a way that I feel was almost timeless.

The figure itself was also my first time owning a vintage Flint figure. This was just a bit before I began hunting down actual vintage figures off eBay, so I was really excited to have this figure in my collection. As a big fan of the Sunbow cartoon, I always desired having more figures in their classic appearances as opposed to many of the redesigns from the late 80‘s and 90‘s. That’s not to say Flint’s Eco-Warriors or Battle Corps toys weren’t any good, but to me as a kid they didn’t look enough like Flint. It really makes me regret having no prior knowledge of the Funskool figures, as I certainly would’ve bought a lot of them. I wanted things like this during the 2000‘s a lot more than Spy Troops and Valor vs Venom.

As for the figure itself, it’s a fairly decent representation of V1 Flint. So much so that I’ve been content with the figure for a whole decade and never bothered with a Hasbro Flint. The colors are very similar, and although the paint is notoriously messy on certain runs of Funskool figures, I seemingly lucked out and got a fairly clean looking Flint save for the gold paint.

Hasbro Gijoe ARAH Flint parts funskool action figure

In another nice event, Funskool Flint comes with parts that are remarkably similar to Hasbro’s. Mind you, the plastic is of course somewhat cheaper but visually they do the job rather well. Back in the 2000’s these figures were so cheap that an example like Flint or Scrap Iron was worth buying just for the parts at the humble $3 they ran. For a collector on a budget, this was a great way of getting good parts to give to a Hasbro figure.

I really loved getting this figure a decade ago, especially coupled with a few other Funskool items I got at the same time. Back then however, these figure were dirt cheap. As Funskool figures now routinely run between $10 to $20, I find it increasingly hard to say if they’re worth it most of the time. A few figures provide something unique, but with figure’s like Flint at today’s prices, you’re probably better off sticking with the American version.

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1997 Storm Shadow

The 1997 GI Joe line has a weird status with fans at the moment. People remember it, some of the figures have gained popularity they probably didn’t have upon release 20 years ago. But, there’s figures no one talks about still, such as the Storm Shadow this profile is about.

As a kid in the nineties, I had a few options for a Storm Shadow figure, not all of them decent. My brother had a Ninja Force Storm Shadow, which I liked decently, but never stood out to me. Then there was the Shadow Ninja version which I owned, but those toys were terrible for a lot of reasons. Finally, there was this figure. Even back then, the V1 sculpt appealed to me a lot more than the Ninja Force variations, plus he could hold his accessories a lot better, making this my go-to Stormy all the way up to my teenage years.

The best part of this figure is the deco. The black pattern on his torso is directly taken from Ninja Force Storm Shadow, making this figure him in redux form. Like that figure, this Storm Shadow is also a GI Joe team member, hence why he’s sold in a team with Lady Jaye and Snake Eyes. It’s a small touch, but it makes the figure a lot more interesting now than if he’d just been a remake of the original, in a similar vein to the 2005 comic pack figure. The deco is subtle enough that it adds visual appeal to this version, but it doesn’t prevent you from using him as either a Joe or Cobra. As there’s no markings on the figure tieing him to either side, he’s still workable as a Cobra, a role he infrequently adopted when I was a kid, but one that worked none the less. Lastly, he features some grey and beige details the original didn’t have, which highlights the sculpt nicely.

The sculpt is exactly the same as the original figure, which is good. By ‘97, a lot of ARAH molds were already gone or degrading (The shoulder swap on ‘97 Snow Job being one good example, of many) so it was nice to see V1 Storm Shadow still fully intact. Hasbro wouldn’t go on to use this mold very much through the 2000‘s, certainly not to the extent of figures like V1 Firefly. After this, the figure only showed up twice more in the Ninja Cobra Strike Team set as the Black Dragon Ninja and Red Ninja Viper, and once after that again as Storm Shadow in 2005 (but with different shoulders). I see this figure as Hasbro’s best ninja sculpt, so it’s disappointing that it saw so little use. Even more so when you consider the Ninja Force tooling was being used in favor of it. I’m sure that made collectors of the time happy, given how unpopular Ninja Force figures were.

storm shadow 1997 Gijoe ARAH Ninja Force Hasbro action figure toy

I suppose I could comment on his parts rather than take them for granted. He comes with a katana, wakizashi, nunchucks, bow and quiver/backpack. Exact same parts as the original, which is perfect. All of the parts work well with the figure, as they were intended, but I sometimes forget to appreciate how nice it was for a figure to have his original parts. Later in the 2000‘s Hasbro would start including more random and varied parts that rarely worked with the figures, let alone look good. To my memory, this figure was the last Storm Shadow to include these parts.

All in all, I like this figure a lot. He’s not the original Storm Shadow, but he’s fun and a little unique. He’s also a lot easier to find in pristine white condition than the original, so that’s another plus in his favor. Like other ‘97‘s though, he’s getting a little tougher to find. He tends to float around $12 when one shows up for auction, which seems like a fair price. If you’re okay with ninjas, I think he provides enough qualities to be worth owning alongside the original.

storm shadow 1997 Gijoe ARAH Ninja Force Hasbro action figure toy

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1994 Blackstar

As 1994 is the infamous year that “killed” GI Joe, there are many figures from that year that are well known for their goofiness. The Lunartix aliens, Shadow Ninjas, and the unfortunately named Ice Cream Soldier are all examples of figures that a lot of GI Joe fans know, but in a fairly negative way. Blackstar is in my opinion, possibly the most obscure Cobra character ever made, and he’s not a terrible figure, either. Unlike the other guys, he’s just not outrageous enough to stand out.

When people look at 1994 figures, only what’s stupid or silly stands out to them. Anything that’s less than that falls between the cracks, which leaves figures like Blackstar being severely overlooked. Additionally, his bio is one that leaves him somewhat poorly defined as a character. It refers to the Blackstar as some sort of space mercenaries, but then to this figure as “This particular Cobra Blackstar”. It’s a little confusing as to if he’s a generic soldier or a unique character, but I suppose that’s up to the owners imagination. In either case, it’s another element adding to his obscurity.

The most redeeming quality of this figure is his sculpt. He has a very detailed and cool looking chest and helmet, albeit the details are lost somewhat amid the black plastic. His legs are reused from Barricade, and I think it’s fair to say they’re a decent match. His head was later reused for a Joecon Steel Brigade figure, but it would have been nice if Hasbro could’ve done something with the entire mold in better colors.

Speaking of colors, the figure has an only passable palette. There’s a decent combination of yellow, neon green, silver and black, colors that aren’t terrible, but really do the sculpted details no favors. Sans the green, it’s the same scheme as the 1986 BAT, so as a Joe fan I think the colors are at least forgivable. The BAT’s sculpt was more simplistic in the black areas though, so it didn’t suffer from obscuring it’s own details in the way Blackstar does.

His accessories are also rather poor, even for a late 90‘s figure. Blackstar includes a unique, backpack mounted missile launcher and a black Rock Viper pistol. The Rock Viper pistol looks better in black and does have a rather spacey look to it, but other than that the lame launcher is all you get. I suppose he’s a pilot of some sort, so the lacking parts can be overlooked, but still.

Ultimately, Blackstar is useful as a blank-slate Cobra. His background is poorly detailed and his character is nonexistent, so it’s easy to use him as anything you like. He could pass for a next gen BAT, a spare Eco Warrior, or he could even look really good paired with the V2 Alley Viper. He has an excellent look that could easily work in a number of different ways.

Like a lot of 1994 figures, he’s pretty hard to find, and his value tends to vary greatly. Some, especially partless or in lots, go as low as around $6, but others edge towards upwards of $30. This figure could add a lot of novelty to a collection when you find him on the cheaper end, however, he’s certainly not worth paying an exuberant amount for.

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2004 Cobra Officer (Comic Pack)

Amid waves of excellent Cobra trooper repaints from The Black Major and a few from Hasbro, there’s bound to be some figures that become overlooked. One such figure is the Comic Pack Cobra Officer, a figure that was rather well appreciated at one time, that has now fallen into otherwise obscurity.

Army builder mania was still strong in 2004, and Cobra Troopers that had been absent from the GI Joe line since it’s reboot were staunchly demanded. That year the popular Cobra Infantry Forces set was released and quickly sold out, leaving plenty of demand for another Cobra Trooper/Officer release, which came in the form of the comic packs. Mind you, most collector’s vastly preferred the Infantry Forces to these figures, but it wasn’t uncommon to see where people had army built these back then.

The figure makes some unfortunate mold changes from the Cobra Infantry Forces Officer that hurt it comparatively. The Thunder arms from that figure have been swapped for V1 Roadblock’s, and the waist has been changed to Roadblock’s as well. The arms, while being seen generally as a poor replacement, aren’t horrible. Likewise, I feel the waist works reasonably well, but the question that remains is why they would switch parts in the first place. It’s possible the entire part recipe was made in error for this figure given the penchant Hasbro had for such mistakes at the time. If my memory serves me correctly, the head was intended to be the new sculpt from the Infantry Forces set and was swapped due to a miscommunication with the factory.

The detail is fairly good on this figure with a few subtle touches I like rather well. On the sides of the helmet there is a Cobra sigil, and a good amount of silver detailing on the buckles and buttons of his web gear. Combine that with the vibrant, comic-based colors of the figure and you do end up with both a fairly unique and moderately attractive figure. A downside here is that the paint you do get is rather thick and poorly applied, a sad quality issue that is hard to overlook in some instances.

It’s almost not even worth mentioning the parts for this figure, as like most figures from this era he includes a small group of poorly chosen parts. The Baroness riffle that nobody likes, the large AK47 from Red Star, and the V3 Dusty pistol. This is a load out of parts ranging from decent to awful and it’s the same parts that a few too many figures included. That Dusty pistol was packed with more than twenty figures through that era!

All in all, this is a figure with a few flaws that was a mediocre stand-in for the vintage version back in 2004. Nowadays however, there’s so many Cobra Trooper/Officer repaints that this one has ended up with somewhat of it’s own niche, one that it really used to not have. The bright colors and mold changes make him very different to the vintage figure and there’s certainly no bootlegs that resemble him, so he provides something different in his own way. If you look around for him, you can get these for $5 a pop, sometimes less. For that much, it’s an alright figure to have around and provide some variety to the collection.

cobra officer comic pack 2004

Cobra Officer V3 2004 GI Joe comic pack ARAH

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Python Patrol Copperhead

Among the more strange repaint ideas Hasbro came up with during ARAH, Python Patrol Copperhead was one of the most unusual. An oddball vehicle driver from the early years of the line, revisited in new colors for the Python Patrol. Personally, I’m really charmed by oddball repaints like Python Patrol Copperhead, and as a figure I think he has some strong qualities. At the same time, he’s also somewhat flawed.

Copperhead is a cool character. A gambler who fights to pay off his debts to Cobra, it’s an interesting choice that helps flesh out the organization and break away from the generic radicals and Mary Sues there were a lot of. Despite this however, he’s never been very prevalent in too much of the GI Joe mythos. According to Half the Battle, Copperhead had a measly two minutes of screen time in the Sunbow episodes, and appeared for a little more than four minutes in Operation Dragonfire. With all that said, it certainly made him an obscure choice for a character that Hasbro could bring back.

The figure is rather colorful and attractive. A few of the Python Patrol figures didn’t receive flattering interpretations this pallete (such as the Python Guard), but thankfully Copperhead is mostly green and black with some yellow and red details. There are some issues with his deco, however. Noticeably, there’s no Cobra symbol on this version of the figure, which just seems somewhat strange to me. Second, his waist. His waist is a solid, unpainted piece of yellow plastic. It certainly looks odd and sadly is a mar on an otherwise great looking figure. It seems understandable that budget constraints might’ve stopped them from painting this piece, but it would’ve been better if at least it wasn’t yellow.

Unlike V1 Copperhead, Python Patrol Copperhead includes some parts. He included both the m-16 and backpack from V1 Leatherneck in black. The backpack is a nice sculpt and I enjoy it’s inclusion with Copperhead, however, the M-16 is a piece I don’t enjoy so much. The sculpt has always felt overly bulky to me, and the grip is also really long and looks weird. On the brightside, at least it’s a real gun he can hold well.

On another interesting note about this figure: his filecard is slightly rewritten. Originally, it was “presumed that Copperhead is native to or otherwise intimately familiar with the Florida Everglades.”. For Python Copperhead, they changed it to the “rain forests of the Amazon basin”. This version also explicitly states he is indebted to Cobra and not simply working for them to pay a different debt, though amusingly one could assume this to mean he’s actually racked up more debts between figure releases. Either way, these small filecard revisions really showed how much care Hasbro was putting into line and characters at the time.

These days Python Copperheads can go for a lot. For a complete figure they range between $12 and $18, which seems like a little more than I paid for mine, but the market is pretty dry at the moment so that could be why. Despite that I think this is a pretty good figure, I think one’s enjoyment of him is entirely dependant on what you think of the Python Patrol. If you love the Python Patrol (like I do), he’s a must have. Howver if you dislike them, the figure doesn’t provide much over the original.

Python Patrol Copperhead ARAH GI Joe Cobra vintage figure Hasbro Python Patrol Copperhead GI Joe Cobra vintage figure ARAH Hasbro

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Tiger Force Tripwire (1988)

When it comes to Tripwire figures, there’s a few everyone talks about. The original, for obvious reasons, but after it the most popular seems to be the Funskool figure and Listen & Fun Tripwire, for their rarity and exotic qualities. Rarely spoken of, however, is the Tiger Force version of the toy.

The Tiger Force was an odd mixture of characters for a Joe team. You have your A-tier stars, like Duke, Flint and Roadblock mixed with stranger choices like Lifeline, Frostbite and Tripwire. Frostbite feels hard to reason, but Tripwire seems like a good fit for the team. Given that the Tiger Force does their combat in jungle locations, there’s ample opportunity for booby-traps and IEDs. There really isn’t a better team Tripwire could have been placed in, so while he’s odd, he does fit in.

The figure itself is attractive and interesting without pushing it. He’s predominately brown, with a lighter green shade on his helmet, gloves and belt. The orange tiger camo pattern is limited to his body gear, which certainly stands out a bit, but also prevents the figure from appearing too bland. He also features some gray and silver details that are minor, but do highlight some of the nice sculpted details that might be missed on the original version.

For parts, he includes the same mine detector, mines and backpack as the original only in black. Black parts never seem like a bad thing, although on such a colorful figure I sometimes think the green backpack is actually a better match. Like with the original, these are fun parts that make up a good amount of the figure’s charm. The mines give him something to do, but they can also be placed as traps during play, by him or Cobra. I think they certainly make up for the lack of a weapon given how much fun they could provide. The mine detector is also a great part. It’s usage is straight forward, but the variety it provides gives it an appeal that was common in the early Joe line.

This figure seems to fetch around $8 to $12 at the moment, which is a pretty fair price. Sans parts you can even get this guy around $4 which really isn’t bad if you already have a few other versions of Tripwire with his parts. For that much, it’s a fun figure to have around and displays nicely with the rest of the Tiger Force.

Tiger Force Tripwire GI Joe V3 1988 ARAH

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1991 Mercer

Although 1991 gave birth to some of the worst GI Joe vehicles in the line, the figure assortment was nicely different. Amid cool new figures like the Crimson Guard Immortal, Desert Scorpion and Red Star, you also had some rather decent updates of a few older characters. A few of these updates like the Cobra Commander from that year were rather questionable, but in my eyes Mercer at least is a solid upgrade over the original.

The original Mercer is a figure I have mixed feelings over. His head looks goofy to me, his colors aren’t great, and his identity as a character feels permanently tied to the Renegades. V2 Mercer has a cool and fairly distinct head sculpt, great colors, and as his filecard states he “Recently transferred into the main body of the G.I. Joe team”. I feel like this figure represents the character in a more interesting way and stands better on his own.

Mercer’s sculpt is one of the best parts of this figure. His vest is adorned with straps, buckles and a lot of good details. His pants are also well detailed and bear a strong resemblance to the legs of an 86′ Viper, which is another nice touch the original Mercer didn’t have. Another interesting part of this figure is the arm with a metal sleeve on it. I don’t really know why he wears this, but the look is very cool. When I was kid, this detail was the one I was the most fond of, as I thought he was a cyborg.

His weapons are also pretty interesting at the very least. For a long time, I had thought his larger gun was something the designers of the figure had just made up. Turns out, it’s a real gun called the Calico M960. It’s supposed to be a submachine gun although it appears they upscaled it somewhat generously. His smaller gun is a laser riffle that’s a bit less interesting than the Calico, but can look charming when paired with certain figures. Lastly, he also came with a backpack mounted missile launcher, a rather boring requisite part I have no sentiments of.

As far as I’m concerned, this Mercer is one of the better figure’s from the nineties. Which is good too, as he’s common and readily available. A complete example can be easily acquired for less than $10 from a dealer, and if you forego the guns, the figure usually only runs a few dollars by himself. That’s not much for a figure that’s so nice generally.

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Funskool Tiger Force Lifeline

Weird is a synonym for Funskool, and like any other Funskool figure, Tiger Force Lifeline is pretty strange. If his colors were based upon the original 1986 Lifeline, I imagine this would be a mostly mundane release, but that is not the case here.

Lifeline is a favorite figure of mine, like most of the figures from 1986. It was a year of figures with fun gimmicks that provided interesting roles for GI Joe and Cobra. Tiger Force Lifeline provided an interesting version of the character in team specific colors that were also a fun alternative to the original. This version however, looks almost nothing like either of those toys.

The colors are very bright on this figure, palette wise they resemble the 1993 Cyber Viper more so than Tiger Force Lifeline. The differences are exacerbated if you look at the green chest variant I’m showing here. Compared to the Hasbro version, the Tiger stripes have far less definition and look almost more like cheetah spots. Interestingly, there’s some red paint applications on his pouches that the American release never had. It’s pretty nice they painted them, although I think the red on top of his other colors actually serves to make him look even gaudier.

He includes the same parts as the Hasbro release omitting the oxygen mask, albeit in worse colors. Now his case is solid orange, while the gun and backpack are flat grey. Really nothing much to see here, but at least he has most of his original parts, which you can’t say for every Funskool figure. With that said, I don’t think you’ll miss these parts very much if you get one from a vehicle pack-in as I did.

This figure is a novelty, if you want something exotic and foreign looking he does the job well. However, Funskool figures have become something you have to hunt for if you want one at a remotely fair price. Back in the day, I got this figure for something akin to $1, but these days Funskool figures commonly sell for $15 to $20. For that much, it feels hard for me to justify figures like this, but that’s only because I can remember the way things used to be in terms of Funskool pricing. Still, this figure’s appeal is limited to his novelty as a brightly colored international variant, so unless you think that’s cool he’s an easy pass.

GI Joe action figure vintage international variantGI Joe action figure vintage international variant

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