2020. What a terrible year! But 2021 will be better and we can take comfort in that.
My family has been doing alright. We’ve been fortunate in our health and have tried to focus on the bright side. We’ve spent more time together than we would have in any normal year, so there’s at least one positive out there amongst the multitude of negatives.
I’ve continued to buy toys throughout the year – some compensatory spending, some retail therapy, some in support of local business – and have been lucky in what I’ve been able to find.
What follows is a summary of my favourite toy acquisitions during the past 12 months.
10. Snake Eyes v2 and Baroness full Canadian cardbacks (purchased on eBay)
I have always dreamed about owning a full set of carded figures from 1982-87, plus select figures from 88-onwards. However, with prices rising so much in recent years, this is quickly becoming a pipe dream. So I’ve shifted priorities to acquiring full cardbacks of the outstanding figures. The Baroness has been near the top of my list of outstanding cards for a long time. She’s clearly an icon, but also a figure I have a personal connection to, having received her on my 8th birthday.
The second version of Snake Eyes is also an icon, obviously, but I had been lucky enough to own a Mint-on-Card (MOC) Snake Eyes v2 on Canadian card, a grail piece for any collector. I held onto him for 25 years, and finally parted with him at the end of 2019 as part of a blockbuster trade to fill a bunch of holes. Finding a full Canadian card a few months later made the decision to part with the MOC version significantly less painful.
Both were eBay purchases, two months apart, at acceptable premiums.
9. Transformers G1 Head Master and Target Masters (purchased at Cherry Bomb Toys in Victoria)
The Head Masters and Target Masters came out after I had quit collecting Transformers. I was finding it harder to keep track of all the names, was getting confused by all the sub-teams, didn’t like the futuristic, alien vehicles, and wasn’t playing with Transformers as much as GI Joe. This meant that some of the highest quality, transforming robots have found me as an adult. The gateway drugs for me were Sureshot and Highbrow, so much so that I kept returning to Cherry Bomb Toys to pick up 1 or 2 of these Transformers every month since September.
Pointblank (pictured above) has also become a favourite.
8. Tomax/Xamot and Airtight MOC (traded from a friend)
These were among a bunch of cool MOC and loose figures that came my way as part of the Snake Eyes trade. I’ve grouped them together because they’re from the same vintage, about as cool, and have become increasingly hard-to-find. Airtight was a great support troop for me, someone that was most often a crew member on the TTBP and Mauler. It was rare that my play scenarios were crafted with him as the central character, but he was always part of the action during one of the best years to be a kid.
I never owned Tomax and Xamot growing up, because purchasing them would require sacrificing two other single carded figures. But they were always a part of my childhood, given the prominent and memorable roles they played in the comics and cartoon. And now that I’m the father of twin boys – not named Tomax and Xamot, BTW – they’re just a little closer to my heart than they ever were growing up.
7. Canadian Mobat box (purchased from eBay)
I was lucky enough to acquire the Vamp, Hal, Flak, MMS, Ram and Jump boxes from a collector who was getting out of toys in 2017, so the Mobat was the missing piece from my 1982 Joe lineup. It was also the one with the most sentimental value to me, so stayed at the top of the list of boxes I was hunting for. I had almost given up hope on finding a Canadian Mobat box, until a collector from Edmonton posted his childhood collection on eBay.
6. Star Wars “Farm Boy Luke” with lightsaber (purchased at Cherry Bomb Toys)
Heading into 2020, I owned the first 84 Star Wars figures – half of which were from my childhood collection – and had added some of the final 15, over the past few years. But more recently I’ve been trying to arm each of my Star Wars figures with their correct weapons and other accessories. It’s been a fun exercise, apart from a crippling fear of buying repro parts.
“Farm Boy Luke”, the famous, first version of Luke Skywalker, had been one of my first figures as a kid, back when I was 4 or 5, and I had lost his lightsaber in short order – as I did with Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi, too. This Farm Boy’s lightsaber had become my number one priority in Star Wars figures, and finding one in better condition with most of his lightsaber intact (the tip is missing) was a stroke of luck. I had walked into Cherry Bomb Toys on the morning that he was being cleaned and readied for the shelf. Fortunately, Luke never made it that far. And my unarmed and extremely worn, original Farm Boy was soon put to pasture.
5. Star Wars Ewok Village (purchased from eBay)
Star Wars was my world before GI Joe arrived on the scene in 1982. I saw Return of the Jedi in theatres and started collecting the figures, as I had with the first two movies. I got most of Jabba’s crew, plus Endor Han and the Rebel Commando, before GI Joe drowned out Star Wars completely. I never even owned any of the ROTJ vehicles, though I did play with the Y-Wing and AT-ST at my friend, Ben’s house, and with the Speeder Bike and Ewok Village at my other friend, Corey’s.
I always loved this playset, even though Star Wars toys were so much less appealing than GI Joe when it came out. And over the years, I had always meant to grab it. It had come into Cherry Bomb Toys a few times and I had hummed and hawed because it was a bigger toy, not sure where I would keep it.
The last time it was at Cherry Bomb, I went into the store with the intention of finally buying it, right after it had been sold.
Feeling such disappointment, I started watching for it on eBay at the right price, in the right condition, from the right seller, and pulled the trigger this past summer. Canada Post delivered it to my house on a Sunday afternoon, in full view of my kids, who demanded I open the box. So although I had meant to keep it for myself, I now have the memories of them playing with it on the day it arrived, and those memories are even stronger and more resonant than the times playing with it in Corey’s basement, 37 years ago.
4. Relampago and Gatilho (purchased through G.I. Joe Collector’s Club Canada on Facebook)
When I first got back into collecting in 2014, my plan for GI Joe was to track down all the domestic releases of 1982-87 figures and 1982-86 vehicles and playsets. As that plan neared completion, I had a variety of other directions I could take my collection: going deeper in Star Wars and Transformers, troop building my Cobras, newer Joe releases, or foreign figures. Instead, I accidentally went in all directions at once.
The foreign releases are the biggest rabbit hole, for sure, because there are so many foreign figures, they’re poorly documented (i.e. no guidebooks and spotty information online), and they can be so damn expensive. But grabbing a select few at not-quite exorbitant prices added a lot of excitement to my collection this year.
Gatilho was one of the first I was interested in because he was a high quality, vibrant recolouring of Airborne, my favourite Joe. I grabbed a beaten-up version last year, but that neutered experience only encouraged me to seek a better conditioned, more complete Gatilho.
Relampago was purchased on a whim, after a near-miss on Gatilho over the summer. He then became an overnight favourite of mine, even as I added the MLC Gatilho I had been dreaming about, a short time later.
3. Destro MOC (purchased through a friend)
Destro is in a tier of figure that has become incredibly expensive, an upper echelon, fan favourite and cultural icon – like the first two versions of Snake Eyes, and the first versions of Cobra Commander, Destro, Firefly and Storm Shadow. Even dreaming about an MOC Destro can negatively impact your bank account. I had connected a friend with some hard-to-find MOCs, and he had felt compelled to offer me first dibs on an MOC Destro at a reasonable price.
I jumped. After walking away from Firefly earlier in the year, I had no option. And the result is an MOC Destro has become one of the feature pieces in my whole collection.
I’m still not sure I believe it’s mine.
2. Cobra Soldier MOC (traded from a friend)
It all started with a Crimson Guard and Cobra Viper in 2014. Next came a Tele-Viper in 2015, and a long pause before grabbing Eels, Snow Serpent and BATS in 2017, and an Iron Grenadier in 2018.
Within four years, I had acquired so many key troop builders, MOC. It hadn’t even been intentional, but I loved putting that group together on my display wall.
The original Cobra Soldier became an aspirational target. He was my favourite trooper, after all, and parting with Snake Eyes allowed him to join the crew. It was a big price to pay, but clearly this wasn’t a one-for-one trade.
I look at this MOC every day and don’t feel one ounce of regret.
I had spent 25 years with Snake Eyes, after all. It was time for us to move on.
1. Steel Brigade V1A (traded from a friend)
This has been the top of my want list for as long as I’ve been collecting. I had it as a kid and I feel an emotional attachment to it.
Version 1A with Airborne chest is extremely rare.
I had a search set up on eBay for years, looking through every Steel Brigade listing worldwide and had barely seen any version 1A. The ones that were available were only around for short periods and sold for ridiculous prices.
Frustrated and looking to save money, I went through a break from eBay and deleted all my searches three years ago. And the next day, a version 1A showed up and sold for $50. I noticed the transaction when I rebuilt my searches, one day later, having fallen off the wagon.
I was so pissed. SO pissed.
That was probably my only near-miss, because the next time version 1A showed up and went to auction – one year later – I decided to pull the trigger and pay whatever I had to for it. No one was going to outbid me…!
But it sold to someone else for $500+ (way more than I was willing to pay) and I just got more pissed.
Needless to say, this version of Steel Brigade was something I wanted to secure in any deal involving Snake Eyes. When connected to a Canadian filecard I picked up two years ago, this is probably my favourite loose figure to own. He’s got some battle wear, but that just means he was well-loved before he came to me.
Honorable Mention 1: Complex Base System (purchased from Smalljoes.com)
I started ordering parts for a Complex Base when I launched this website, and have already added more walls and doors since then. Paying shipping from the States hasn’t been the cheapest but the system itself is so amazing that it was worth it.
Honourable Mention 2: Fisher Price Medical Set (purchased from Cherry Bomb Toys)
This is something I saw at Cherry Bomb in December, shortly after my kids got their flu shots and some bloodwork. Anything Fisher Price is amazing, but this is on another level. I actually hadn’t given it to them right away, because it was so close to Christmas and we had already finished all our shopping.
I finally did so today. And the first time they saw it, I half expected them to ask which instrument was used for giving COVID tests.
It was a successful year for me as a collector, despite the immensity of shit we humans have been putting up with. Trust me, I never take for granted that I have been fortunate, and that things could have been way worse for me and the people close to me. I hope you were every bit as fortunate. More so, actually!
2020 was also the year that I joined the greater GI Joe community. I had been hiding my collection from all but my family and closest friends, and now I don’t care who knows.
I had always been active locally, growing a decent collection, being one of the top customers at Cherry Bomb Toys, buying figures and vehicles to get one piece and cycling my doubles back into the community, going to collectible shows whenever possible, being active in a local GI Joe club and helping friends complete their collections. But this year I went harder on social media and launched this blog.
The joy of re-experiencing my collection made this shithole year so much more bearable. And to feel the love back from the collecting community has been incredible. Thank you.
I want to offer my gratitude to everyone that has helped with likes, retweets and kind words. It’s been invigorating.
And, for the love of all that’s holy, follow these guys. They are the best: