Paul Knapp, G.I. Joe

Paul Knapp collects G.I. Joe action figures. In this edition of Collector Spotlight, he explains why he thinks toys are a bad investment, and reveals the 2 figures his collection won’t be complete without.

How do you describe your collection?

I collect 4 things: N-scale trains, 3-3/4-inch Star Wars figures, toy soldiers, and G.I. Joe figures. Those are my major collections.

I have about 100 vintage G.I. Joe figures. Vintage is usually considered figures produced between 1964 to 1976. After that, they started remaking the 12-inch figures. Those were in production from 1991 to about 2006. I have close to 500 of those.

I do have some of the G.I. Joe vehicles and playsets, like the 1966 Action Sailor Sea Sled and Frogman, the 1972 Adventure Team Mobile Support Vehicle, and the 1975 Adventure Team Sea Wolf submarine playsets.

When and why did you start your collection?

I don’t know if we really called it collecting when I was growing up.

My first G.I. Joes were hand-me-downs from my older brother, Ken, in the mid-1970s and early ’80s era. He had 2 figures from 1964 — a Marine and a Navy sailor — and those were my only G.I. Joes. The 12-inch figures were kind of phasing out around 1976 because in 1977, Star Wars started and everybody went to the 3-3/4-inch figures. I was catching the tail end of the 12-inch line.

When I was growing up, there was no Toys “R” Us. When you got toys, it was for Christmas or your birthday. That was it. Maybe once in a while, you had some pocket change and you would go to the store and get some stuff. But, most of the time, we waited all year for the Sears Christmas Wish Book and saw all the new toys that were coming out. That’s when we started looking and circling the stuff we wanted. I guess you could say that’s how collecting started for me.

It was around 1995 when my wife at the time and I were at a mall that was having a toy show. There was the old G.I. Joe stuff I had, the old Star Wars stuff. I couldn’t believe the people were buying this stuff. I got back into it.

Around 1998, Star Wars: The Power of the Force series of figures rolled around. That’s when I really started collecting the figures again and started seeing the 12-inch G.I. Joes again. I got hooked.

My mother, God bless her, she still had our childhood toys in the attic. I dug out some of that old stuff. My brother took back his old G.I. Joes. They were just hand-me-downs for me to play with, so I don’t have those. I had to start my own collection. I tried to convince my then wife that I was building the collection for our two daughters. She thought that was BS. I couldn’t fool her, but it’s all good.

I’ve been collecting for about 30 years now.

How do you display and store your collection?

Really the only thing I have on display are my modern G.I. Joes from the 1991 to 2006 era. I built shelves in my single-car garage — the figures line the garage. I also have a wall that just has my 3-3/4-inch Star Wars figures. I have almost 1,2oo of those.

That’s really all I have room for in a single-car garage. All my neighbours keep saying I need a bigger house. I say, no, I need a bigger garage! I’m looking for a 1-bedroom house with a 4-car garage — that’s really what I need so I can take all the other figures out of my attic and display them. I would definitely fill up a 4-car garage.

I have them all decked out in their uniforms and I take them out of their boxes. I know people hate that but I do take them out of the box and put all their gear on them.

The figures in the attic are in storage containers. They are all marked. Again, those are the older 1964 to 1976 figures. I don’t trust them in my garage. Even though I have security cameras and all that, the older stuff doesn’t come out to the display.

I created my own Excel spreadsheet to track the collection. I don’t use real-time software of any kind. I’m still kinda old school.

What do you consider to be the Holy Grail of your collection?

If you talk about the Holy Grail that it’s eluded me, you can just ask my older brother, Ken, because he has them — the ones I had as a kid. Those to me are the Holy Grails. Even though I have 100 vintage G.I. Joes from 1964 to 1976, it would really be nice to have the 2 figures that I played with as a kid even though they were hand-me-downs. Ken knows it — he sends me pictures of them all the time saying, “Hey, look, here are your figures.” It’s all in good fun, but I want the figures I played with as a kid.

As far as the Holy Grail that I do have in my collection, I don’t collect to get the most expensive figures. I’m just trying to collect one of each figure that Hasbro made from 1991 to 2006. That’s the whole idea.

I can’t really say that there’s one Holy Grail in my collection. I’m a completist so I’m going to get that complete set. There isn’t one figure I want more than another. I’m a little OCD. Maybe most collectors are.

What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a G.I. Joe collection?

You need to collect what you like and not what you think will increase in value someday.

As far as G.I. Joe collecting is concerned, a new collector could easily start with the modern stuff. Will they get every single figure? Probably not. Or, maybe start with the figures you grew up with.

Collect what makes you happy, the things that remind you of your childhood. Don’t simply collect for resale. I see so many people that treat their collections as an investment. If that’s why you’re collecting, you’re not collecting for the right reason. If you’re focussed on investing, buy stocks and bonds — don’t buy toys. That’s why I take my figures out of the box — they are toys, not investments. I remember when we collected Beanie Babies– look what happened to that.

People should not collect simply because they think their collection might one day be worth a million dollars, because it probably won’t. Collect what you like, enjoy it, and have fun. Take it out of the box.

See more of Paul’s collections on his YouTube channel.

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