(Not Quite) Like It's 1989
May 22, 2009

25th Anniversary G.I. JOESo my girlfriend and I encountered something peculiar at a local Wal-Mart on May 1st. This particular store had previously reduced the space dedicated to G.I. JOE figures to one peg for singles and one peg for comic book two-packs, in addition to its glut of Combat Heroes sets. When I walked into the action figure aisle that evenening, however, they had expanded JOE’s area to five pegs for single figures and two pegs for the comic packs. What was really interesting, though, was what was on those pegs.

What I found when I started flipping through the figures was a nearly complete collection of 25th Anniversary, all on 25th cards. Available for purchase were:

Wave 1
Snake-Eyes w/ Timber
Storm Shadow
Cobra Commander

Wave 2
Lady Jaye
Cobra Trooper

Wave 3
Red Ninja

Wave 4
Cobra Commander
Cobra Air Trooper

Wave 5
Crimson Guard
Snow Job

Wave 6
Cobra Commander
Rock ‘N Roll

Wave 7
H.I.S.S. Driver
Duke w/ jet pack
Wild Bill (this was the only figure they had on a 25th card a week earlier)

That’s just ten figures short of a complete single-carded collection. They also had a Tomax and Xamot pack that hadn’t been there before and one each of the 25th G.I. JOE five-pack from 2007, the Cobra five-pack from 2007, and the Cobra Legions five-pack. The store moved the newer Resolute five-packs to the bottom shelf to make room for these, and they were priced at $24.88. I thought at first that they must have received some cases that had been sitting around somewhere, but that wouldn’t explain the selection at all. Cases from the first couple of waves would have resulted in multiple Snake-Eyes and Cobra Commander figures, and what are the odds that one case of each wave was nearly forgotten in a warehouse? The availability of one each of the three five-packs certainly wouldn’t fit that theory, either, considering the case assortments in which those were shipped. Our best guess was that someone brought his/her collection and returned it to the store, either haggling to get a cash refund for the merchandise or perhaps to exchange for store credit. In our current economic conditions, it’s not all that difficult to imagine someone exchanging luxury items for groceries.

This was the scene on May 8th, one week later. A few of the single figures were gone, moving JOE’s space back down to four pegs, and the Cobra Legions five-pack had disappeared, as well. Someone even bought Buzzer! The price of the remaining older five-packs had been lowered to $13.00. Everything on a 25th card is gone now, except for that stubborn Wild Bill figure.

25th JOEs at Wal-Mart
Figures from several waves in stock at once.

It’s been a long time since I’ve walked into a store and found older action figures that had pretty much disappeared from retail hanging on the pegs, or at least desirable figures, anyway. I’m not talking about old pegwarmers at Kmart that should have been clearanced off after the 2005 holiday shopping season. It reminded me of a place I used to love twenty years ago. While I was buying Toy Biz DC Comics Super Heroes at Circus World, there was an independent toy store in a shopping center called Cotswold Mall here in Charlotte that still had carded Super Powers figures for sale at their original retail prices. I even remember a guy at the store going into his back room to fetch more of them so that I could get the characters I wanted. Just imagine, a toy store that’s happy to help you find figures they don’t have out on the sales floor. I don’t recall the name of the shop, but I’ve seen it mentioned in a couple of forum posts on a popular STAR WARS collecting site. It’s a shame that those kinds of stores could not thrive today. It seems like the only local toy stores these days are collectors’ shops with prices you can usually beat by shopping on eBay. The situation at Wal-Mart wasn’t nearly as cool of a find as a carded Super Powers Batman in ’89, three years after the line had come to an end, but it was a G.I. Jackpot for anyone who would want to start a collection after missing the original release of those figures. It definitely brought back some fond memories for me, too.

Jon "Caped Crusader" Edwards
Born in April of '77, Jon quite literally grew up with STAR WARS. His mother took him to see it barely two months later and started buying him the figures before he was even old enough for them. G.I. JOE and Super Powers came along in the '80s, and an action figure addict was created. The moment he decided he was "too old" to play with his toys, he started to collect carded figures, beginning with Super Powers. No longer in possession of the toys or comics of his childhood, he rediscovered collecting with The Phantom Menace, and has moved on from STAR WARS to JLU, DC Direct, G.I. JOE, Marvel Universe, and various characters from movies, television shows, and comics.
Read other articles by Jon "Caped Crusader" Edwards.





  • Oddjob says:

    There’s some old 25th Card Vipers hanging out at one of my WalMarts. The worst offender is the one with the K-Mart price tag.

    • Now that’s funny. I noticed several carded Vipers being returned to local retailers once the latest five-pack was released, but that was fine with me, as I was looking for a couple for customs. Unfortunately, I’ve also noticed some of those five-packs being returned with the older Vipers repacked in place of the newer ones.

  • Danny Cantina-Dan says:

    Wow, that’s crazy. If it was a guy returning them you have to wonder why he didn’t first try and sell the set on eBay. No doubt he would have done better than just returning them to the store?

    I used to visit a local toy store in Pompton Plains, NJ called Marco’s. Not sure if its still there as I left NJ 6 years ago. The Walmarts and Targets do kinda just get old and sterile.

    • That was one of the first things that occurred to me when thinking about this. In fact, I even checked on it. Considering most of these would have cost $4.88 if originally purchased at Wal-Mart, and they’d be getting nearly $7 back, I’m not sure it would have been all that much better to go the eBay route. Sure, a few of them would have fetched a premium, but some would have only sold for two or three bucks, though. After the hassle and expense of fees, packing everything up, and taking it to the post office for mailing, returning them to the store may have made the most sense. I guess it depends on how immediate the need for cash is.

  • Lt. Clutch says:

    Cool story. There are mysteries in the toy world that man was not meant to understand…

    Back in 1990, I went to my local K-Mart searching for the newest Joes that were out at the time. Next to the Sky Patrol figures I found around two cases worth of – get this: LJN’s Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. It was the first wave with Strongheart, Warduke, Zarak, and so forth, all on mint cards. These were the common versions, before the Battle-Matic action was added near the line’s end. I snapped up a couple but kept wondering how the heck they’d gotten there at all. Warehouse stock? From way back in 1983??? And at a point where LJN was off the toy business radar?

    Strange stuff indeed, but just one of the many joys involved in collecting toys.

  • Monte says:

    My local Rite Aid has a couple figures from the 2002 He-Man series.

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