G.I. Joe enthusiasts say the small toy has made big impacts on their lives

A Lifelong Passion for the Classic Action Figure

Sixty years ago, a new toy was introduced to the world – G.I. Joe made his debut, and the term "action figure" was born. The rest, as they say, is history. Recently, a group of DFW G.I. Joe enthusiasts got together at their annual convention to discuss how this little toy has made big impacts on their lives.

Everybody remembers their first G.I. Joe. "I got my first G.I. Joe in 1969. My grandmother gave it to me for Christmas and I still have it," said Randy Thorton, a club member. At the DFW G.I. Joe convention in Grapevine, Texas, everyone has a story about their first Joe, including Matt Stevenson. "My first Joe was an '82 breaker," he said.

Matt Stevenson is at the convention as a vendor, selling toys to fund his collection habit. "Depending on the show I probably spend as much as I sell," he said. The addiction has become a family affair, as his son, Nolan Stevenson, has been collecting for 24 years since he was four years old. "Buying more stuff than we should, then having to now tell both of our wives and hide it from both of them… It's getting harder to do that," said Nolan.

Father-son collectors are a recurring theme at the convention. "I started collecting G.I. Joes when the first came out in 1964," said Bob Welch, the president of the DFW G.I. Joe Collectors Club. "My son was born in '84, and he began collecting them soon after." Welch fell in love with the Joes because they represent the military, as his dad served 35 years in the Army and Army reserves, and his son went into the military in 2005.

"My dad served 35 years in the Army, Army reserves, which kind of led me into going into it," he said, "My son went into the military in 2005 when I retired."

Unfortunately, Welch's family has also experienced loss, as his son, Rob, was killed in Afghanistan in 2011. "Right after he got killed in Afghanistan, I was having a real hard time. So one of the things I decided to do was make a figure of him," he said. A real-life action figure for a real-life hero – not something you see at any old toy show.

G.I. Joe toy collection
A display of vintage G.I. Joe action figures at the DFW G.I. Joe Collectors Club convention.

The G.I. Joe convention is a testament to the lasting impact this classic toy has had on the lives of its enthusiasts. From childhood memories to family bonding to honoring fallen heroes, the humble action figure has made a lasting impression on those who have grown up with it.

As the convention winds down, the G.I. Joe enthusiasts leave with a renewed sense of camaraderie and a deep appreciation for the toy that has brought them together. The small action figure may be 60 years old, but its influence on the lives of its collectors is anything but small.

Father and son G.I. Joe collectors
A father and son bonding over their shared passion for G.I. Joe at the DFW G.I. Joe Collectors Club convention.

The DFW G.I. Joe Collectors Club is just one of many groups around the country that celebrate the enduring legacy of this iconic toy. From online forums to local meetups, G.I. Joe enthusiasts continue to find ways to connect with each other and share their love for the classic action figure.

Whether it's the nostalgia of childhood, the thrill of collecting rare and valuable items, or the deeper connection to military service and sacrifice, the G.I. Joe phenomenon has touched the lives of countless people in ways that extend far beyond the toy aisle.