1987 Crystal Ball

1987 Crystal Ball

Originally, I was going to take a new photo of Raptor for this week’s post and write about him, but I forgot where I put him. So instead, I’m looking at a figure of similar quality and status among the collecting community: Crystal Ball.

1987 was the start of a different chapter in the life of the vintage ARAH line. With the GI Joe movie leading the push, the toy line took a deeper step into the sci-fi and fantasy elements of the line. It would seem fair to say that most of these concepts never took off well, and Crystal Ball’s a good example of that.

It may even be fair to say that Crystal Ball was one of, if not the most unpopular figure from the original line. Of course, there’s nothing but old stories and anecdotes to back up that claim, but it’s pretty common you hear about how badly this figure peg-warmed upon release. My older brother who had this figure, wasn’t even old enough for toys until closer to 1990. Let that paint an image in your head of how long these lingered at retail while all of the other ‘87 and ‘88 figures had long sold out.

With his infamous nature being said, I find that Crystal Ball really isn’t that bad of a figure, at least not compared to a few of his contemporaries. The paint is rather well detailed on the figure, especially his head. His hair is painted black and white, I suppose to represent graying; his eyelashes and irises are separately painted black and red too. The rest of the figure’s design may not make the most interesting Cobra agent, but at the very least it’s nicely colored and detailed.

Crystal Ball has two major weaknesses, the first being his character. He’s a hypnotist, and he interrogates Joes by reading their minds… I mean I guess it’s only as crazy as aliens, monsters, Serpentor and whatever else I’m fine with in Joe, but Crystal Ball just seems hokey on a conceptual level. It’s commonly said that Stephen King and his son Owen were either involved with, or directly created this character, which explains it enough for me.

“Born of a Romalian father (who supposedly had “second sight”) and an American mother from Bangor, Maine, Crystal Ball actually was the seventh son of a seventh son . . . and such men, the gypsies of old believed, were possessed of supernatural powers. That may or may not be true, but Crystal Ball can sometimes read minds, making him a unique addition to the Cobra forces, especially as an interrogator of captured Joes. Cobra doesn’t use torture to interrogate their prisoners; when Crystal Ball is having one of his good days, they simply don’t need to.
“When Crystal is around, ya don’t just have to watch what you’re sayin’; you have to watch what you’re thinkin’!” ”

Crystal Ball’s other major weakness, is his parts. The only thing he includes is a holographic shield that clips on his wrist. It’s a boring part/gimmick and I doubt it held the attention of children back then for long. Interestingly, most of the 1987 Cobra’s don’t include a gun, and Crystal Ball is no exception.

As you may know, the market for vintage figures has seen a lot of bizarre pieces shooting up in value recently. That’s certainly not the case for Crystal Ball, as this guy is as worthless as ever. Often you can find mint, complete Crystal Ball’s going at auction for around $5. If you don’t care about his silly shield, his value seems to plummet further to only a dollar or two. It’s very telling as to what collectors feel about the figure. Personally I don’t think he’s that bad, but I can’t think of a reason why anyone would really need him.

gi joe hasbro arah 1987 worst figure cobra gi joe hasbro arah 1987 worst figure cobra

1987 Crystal Ball Links:

Yo Joe

Half the Battle

Diorama by Cradea2


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3 Responses to 1987 Crystal Ball

  1. A-Man says:

    Must’ve been something off-putting about him. I think he was among the first 1987 figures I saw in stores but I did not want him…at all. (And this is someone who likes Raptor.) My older brother got one and, while still being interested in GI JOE, he’d grown out of toys at that point. Later, as in much later, I got one of the many still lingering at Wal-Mart and kept it MOC as my brother’s was the one I was already using. Not even sure they’d clearanced Crystal Ball out, either. I don’t dislike him anymore.

    Was it the Vincent Price look? The lack of accessories? The red eyes? All of the above? They really did linger in good numbers until the early 90’s, but people didn’t often take photos of toy aisles back then. As much toys shipped back then (toy aisles are pathetic now), that says a lot about how undesired he was.

    Mind control was common theme in the cartoons and comics, so Crystal Ball seems like a good fit, but maybe he was too much? When just the year before gave us a Master of Mind Control who is a scientific genius, the sideshow hypnotist with red eyes seems superfluous.

    I think Hasbro learned from 1987 that kids preferred masked enemy troopers over weird super villains. Cobra proper wouldn’t get any new non-dreadnok/non-IG characters until 1990’s Overlord (who is more obscure than Crystal Ball). It’s almost a shame.

    As for other unpopular characters at retail, I found Dee-Jay at a small town Wal-Mart in summer of 1993. But that store also had Range Viper, whom I don’t think was unpopular. Hard to recall anyone in GI JOE peg warming like Crystal Ball.

  2. Matt says:

    I think Crystal Ball is a more interesting figure in hand than on card. He has a great sculpt and cool red eyes but his dumb name and lack of weapons really hurt the guy at retail.

  3. Jester says:

    “As for other unpopular characters at retail, I found Dee-Jay at a small town Wal-Mart in summer of 1993. But that store also had Range Viper, whom I don’t think was unpopular. Hard to recall anyone in GI JOE peg warming like Crystal Ball.”

    The earliest memory I have of seeing G.I. Joe on the store shelves was a lone Zarana in a small-town Saskatchewan hardware store, circa 1992?

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