Back in 1964, Hasbro broke from its game board mold to shake up the toy market with a newfangled idea - action figures. GI Joe was the first of its kind, and with spy stories like James Bond and patriot series like the Six Million Dollar Man, kids couldn't resist. Today, vintage GI Joe action figures are worth well over their selling prices. Which of these popular GI Joes could you never put down?
1964 GI Joe Prototype Action Figure
To date, the most valuable GI Joe action figure ever sold is the 1964 prototype. With a stylized painted face and an army ensemble that only underwent a few changes before its public debut, the prototype comes from Don Levine's personal collection. Levine was Hasbro's Creative Director at the time and pitched this new action figure concept. It sold in 2003 for a whopping $200,001.10.
1965 African American GI Joe Action Soldier
GI Joe action figures debuted in the 1960s and were thrust into a socially tumultuous time. The Vietnam War was beginning to overtake American culture, and the Civil Rights Movement had been working tirelessly for years. Yet, Hasbro was more inclusive at the time than many other toy companies and manufactured more than just white GI Joe action figures.
Granted, it would still be decades before anyone considered that these characters deserved their own names and backstories. Yet, it was a small step towards racial inclusivity, and because of this, far fewer of them are still around.
When you find ones that are from the 1960s, they can be beaten up and still be worth a few hundred dollars. At the most, Black GI Joe's from the 1960s can sell upwards of $1,000. A few years ago, one boxed Black GI Joe from 1965 sold for $1,207.50.
1964 GI Joe Action Sailor
When you think about GI Joe action figures, you probably think of the classic Army soldier, but they emulated Barbie with the number of different roles these soldiers took on. One early type from 1964 was the action sailor equipped with a bag, flag, helmet, life vest, binoculars, and more. A true US Navy operative, these action figures came in the same slender boxes the original GI Joes did.
Because these toys don't evoke the same immediate sense of nostalgia as the more recognizable Army action figures do, you won't see these selling for more than about $500 at auction. Which is still quite a lot for a small toy from your parents' or grandparents' childhood. One fully boxed action sailor from 1964 sold at Heritage Auctions for $334.60.
1976 GI Joe Eagle Eye Action Figure
Interestingly, the 1970s isn't the most prolific time for vintage GI Joe toys. They reflect that unique illustration style and 'left in an attic on a hot summer day' look. But if you can find them completely boxed, you're in luck. Unopened carded GI Joe action figures from the 1970s can pull in anywhere between $100-$500.
The more kitschy or unique the figure, the more it'll be worth. Take this 'moving eyes' action figure from 1976. It sold in a 2022 auction for $475.
1982 GI Joe Snake-Eyes Straight Arm Action Figure
Jumping ahead to the 1980s when GI Joe made his way into your Saturday morning cartoon regimen, there's one action figure from this period you should look for. The first iteration of the Snake-Eyes character came with straight arms that didn't swivel side-to-side, and it's hard to find. The most valuable of these early Snake-Eye figures wasn't even graded mint condition, despite being unopened, and it sold for $26,400 at Heritage Auctions.
So, keep a lookout for these blister pack GI Joe action figures from the 1980s because the ones you find just might be worth thousands of dollars.
1984 GI Joe Baroness Action Figure
Although GI Joes are remembered as a vintage boys' toy, don't discount the countless girls who enjoyed suiting up them up and fighting imaginary villains. By the 1980s, there were a number of female characters in the GI Joe lineup that were created to draw in a new demographic. One of these was the Cobra operative Baroness.
At her most valuable, the Baroness action figure comes in an unopened blister pack. Often categorized as the 'peach series' because of the back of the cardboard's peach coloring, these action figures can sell for around $1,000 in the best condition. One sold in 2021 for $1,320 online.
1989 GI Joe Night Bomber Jet
Action figures aren't the only vintage GI Joe toys to be on the lookout for. There was also a wonderful collection of gadgets and transportation vehicles that you could buy to really set your toys off on an adventure. Some of the most valuable today are the Toys R Us exclusive toys, like the 1989 Night Bomber Jet. Even unboxed, these fighter jet toys can sell for around $1,000, like this Night Bomber that's hardly been used, which sold for $1,000 on eBay.
Valuable Things to Look for in Vintage GI Joe Action Figures
GI Joe made action figures cool, and it's this rough-and-ready marketing that makes them still popular today. Yet, if you're browsing through a thrift store or your parents' storage bins for a valuable vintage GI Joe, make sure to keep these characteristics in mind.
- Look for original boxes. Hasbro packaged GI Joe action figures from the 1960s and 1970s in slender boxes. So, the vintage action figures with their original boxes are worth more than those without.
- Check for carded action figures from the 1980s. The smaller, plastic action figures from the 1980s that were packaged in blister packs are the most valuable when they're unopened.
- Find toys in mint condition. Even if they're not a rare piece, they can still be worth something so long as they're in almost mint condition.
Complete Your Mission With Vintage GI Joe Action Figures
Whether your mission assignment is to preserve some of the coolest action figures from the mid-century or to make a nice profit off of them, you can complete it without any bumps on the road with the right vintage GI Joe action figures. Or, you can go on your adventures with them by your side and relive some of those raucous childhood nights.