July 4, 2004 in Nation/World

G.I. Joe action toy turns 40

Mike Branom Associated Press
 

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – G.I. Joe fans think it’s about time the iconic action figure took its rightful place with the likes of Barbie, Silly Putty and Mr. Potato Head.

The little soldier’s absence from the National Toy Hall of Fame prompted something of a war cry this weekend at the International G.I. Joe Collectors’ Convention in Lake Buena Vista, where triumphant shouts of “Yo, Joe!” gave way to “Why no Joe?”

“G.I. Joe has more name recognition than virtually any other toy in America,” said Brian Savage, director of the G.I. Joe Collectors’ Club.

G.I. Joe is marking the 40th anniversary of his debut, fittingly, on the same weekend the nation celebrates its birthday.

The toy, introduced by Pawtucket, R.I.-based Hasbro in 1964, was the world’s first action figure and towered over the tiny plastic or lead toy soldiers that preceded it. About 400 million G.I. Joe figures have been sold.

“We like to say G.I. Joe has saved the world a million times over, one back yard at a time,” Savage said.

G.I. Joe is “an interesting landmark in American toy history,” says Christopher Bensch, director of collections at the Strong Museum in Rochester, N.Y., home to the National Toy Hall of Fame.

Bensch, who oversees the nomination process, notes that a toy must reach icon status to be worthy of induction.

Twenty-eight toys have been inducted since the Hall of Fame was founded in 1998. It will take nominations into September, and two inductees will be announced Nov. 12.

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