Looking Back: G.I. Joe “RAH” Wave 1
September 28, 2013

We all have vivid childhood toy memories. One stands out for me. I was out shopping with my mom and we stopped at a store called Bradlees on Rt. 23 in Wayne, NJ. Bradlees was a discount department store. In North Jersey, where I grew up, Bradlees and Jamesway were the predecessors to Target and Walmart. Both are now, predictably, out of business. Anyway, as a kid there was only one place in these stores that was worth a damn and that was the toy isles. You walk in, hightail it back taking whatever shortcuts you needed to, and spent the duration of your parents shopping trip checking out the glorious toys.



Well, on one auspicious day in 1982, my nine year old self turned the corner to the Bradlees toy section action figure isle and froze like a deer in the headlights. Hanging on the pegs was the brand new first series of a line of action figures that would run uninterrupted for the next twelve years: G.I. Joe, A Real American Hero. Now, I wasn’t the kid who got a toy every time we went shopping. I got toys pretty much on two dates, March 3rd and December 25th. But somehow my mom must’ve seen my enraptured face and taken pity, for that day I went home with Rock ‘n Roll. Funny how we went about making those choices. I guess I liked how he had ammo wrapped around his chest or something. Please, if you recall your very first RAH G.I. Joe, ┬álet us know who it was in the comments!

This first wave of RAH Joes are cool for the fact that they’re just, well, army men (and lady) soldiers. Olive green fatigues. Specialties like: Infantry Trooper, Ranger, and Bazooka Soldier. It wouldn’t be long before the Joe team needed to recruit some pretty unique skill sets!

I’m a collector of vintage 3 3/4″ scale figures. Most vintage lines had fairly limited runs. Maybe a dozen figures at most. G.I. Joe? Endless. But these figures were such a huge part of my childhood that I couldn’t leave them out of my collection. Since wave 1 is so burned into my nostalgic brain I decided to piece together all the figures from that series. Some, like my original Rock ‘n Roll, I still had. Well, recently I completed my little collection. Now, granted, most are swivel-arm which means they are not technically series one. So please overlook that bit of inconsistency as you read on!

I’m sure much has been written and photographically catalogued about this iconic wave of figures. All I’d like to do in this blog is introduce the “good guy” characters and then exhibit what pieces each figured shared. Let’s start with the cast:



Oh, yeah, this guy too:



OK, nowadays its pretty uncommon to get 16 figures in a debut wave. (Not part of this blog are Cobra, Cobra Officer, and Cobra Commander.) But in 1982, if you collected all the single carded figures and vehicles with a pack-in figure and mailed away for Cobra Commander, that’s what you got. No doubt, in an effort to save some moolah, Hasbro created this small army by mixing and matching a few common pieces. Below is my effort to identify which pieces were reused in creating wave one. Let’s start with the heads…

The aloof four.


The “cool” crowd. (To be cool you had to have: a beard and rolled up sleeves.)


The Brooklyn accent three.


And now, torsos:


Good example here of how using the same piece can be camoflauged (no pun intended) so that you don’t really notice.


Obviously, Flash and Grand Slam called each other before leaving the house.


OK, now the guns!






Pretty much a G.I. Joe A Chorus Line going on here…


So, what parts does that leave in the line that are unique? Well, for starters, Scarlett – head to toe. Also, Rock ‘n Roll and Clutch’s torsos. Steeler’s torso and arms. Stalker’s head. Snake Eye’s head and upper legs. Again, if I’ve neglected something or made the extremely uncommon error, please let me know!




Perhaps for a future blog I will write about the one other vivid staring-at-a-brand-new-line-on-the-pegs memory I have.
Location:Rockaway Mall K-B Toys
Toy Line: Masters of the Universe.
Whew, that one is seared in my mind, too.

Now ya know…

Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann
Action figure anthropologist, Professor Cantina Dan Neumann has been a scholastic contributor to the online community studying the complex world of parumplasticus populus {little plastic people} since the turn of this millenium. His primary focus is the visual cataloging of species exhibits through photo-journalism.
Read other articles by Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann.





  • whakojacko says:

    Heh. I can remember going into a Woolworths store inside my local mall once and seeing an empty blister card for the ’93 Destro that someone had ripped off. Hanging right on one of the front pegs. The funny thing is that empty card hung there for about 3 months. No joke. Right out in front. It might not have been right but if it was anything like my local Woolworths I doubt they missed the dollar you saved by switching tags lol.

  • Derek says:

    I’m almost 100% sure that my first figure was Short Fuse. I remember getting him, and shortly after his thumbs broke. Common problem, I know. Well, I went back, got a second one, only to have his mortar break!

  • Kevin says:

    I remember seeing these guys for the very first time in their original (open) box/case on the floor of the local Woolworths, just waiting to be hung on the pegs. My mom was friends with the lady who managed the toy section and they were shooting the breeze as this woman was stocking the shelves. The first figure out the box was Flash and he was in my hands before he even had a chance to reach the pegs. I still have that guy sitting on my computer desk looking at me right this very second – right next to his 25th Anniversary upgrade – and he’s as mint as he can be after all of the battles he’s seen. He spent a week with Han as co-pilot of the Falcon since he was the only Joe I owned.

    Flash has been and will always be my favorite Joe and he never missed an adventure with his fellow Joes during my playtimes. He was always the first guy to ride shotgun in a new vehicle or the first Joe capture by the newest foe.

    As a kid, I eventually replaced the originals I owned with the swivel arm battle grip versions but not Flash. He had the pads on his upper arm painted in the swivel arm version and I would not stand for such inferior treatment of Anthony S. Gambello. Other Joes lost thumbs and found their crotches broken or their paint worn off but Flash was treated with the utmost care.

  • […] even without the book there’s fun to be had with G.I. Joe. The latest example? Action Figure Insider’s latest post about G.I. Joe and the parts reuse of […]

  • Patrick says:

    My mom worked at a Richman Gordman store for most of my childhood, which was AWESOME for a kid in the late 70s – early 80s heyday of toys. She was usually able to get new Star Wars figures for us (me, my brother, and occasionally my dad) when they first arrived, and her employee discount helped allowances and birthday money go just a little farther. I remember that I had it calculated – my weekly allowance could cover a 3 3/4″ figure, with just enough left for a pack of Hubba Bubba or a comic later.
    We had gone to pick Mom up after her shift on a Saturday afternoon when I first saw G.I. Joe. I had memories of my brother’s Adventure Team toys that had gone into the garage sale when Star Wars took over our lives, and still had the book and record sets from that era, so the name was familiar. I was swept away by these figures (they didn’t have any vehicles in yet) and spent a good half-hour deciding which one to spend my allowance on. I finally decided on Flash – he looked the most interesting. I really liked Rock N’ Roll, but Flash’s pile of accessories won me over.

    My birthday followed a few weeks later, which added Snake-Eyes, Stalker, the RAM, and the VAMP to my collection. The RAM became Flash’s signature ride. I still have those original Flash, Stalker, and Clutch figures from back then, although poor Stalker has no thumbs…

  • Michael says:

    I picked up Rock n Roll as my first RAH figure. Before that I was obsessed with the toys in any way shape or form. I had early memories of the 12″ figures from my childhood and had Star Wars figures which were cool. But these blew Star Wars out the water! To this day, I still remember the thrill seeing the comic book commercial and seeing Hawk and Christmas of 1982 when my late aunt had scored me the M.M.S. BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER.

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