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‘Real American Hero’ turns 50

‘Real American Hero’ turns 50

G.I. JOE: This Jan. 31, 2014 photo shows a Gen. George Patton G.I. Joe action figure, right, and other G.I. Joes in a display at the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. A half-century after the 12-inch doll was introduced at a New York City toy fair, the iconic action figure is being celebrated by collectors with a display at the military museum, while the toy's maker plans other anniversary events to be announced later this month. This Jan. 31, 2014 photo shows a Gen. George Patton G.I. Joe action figure, right, and other G.I. Joes in a display at the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. A half-century after the 12-inch doll was introduced at a New York City toy fair, the iconic action figure is being celebrated by collectors with a display at the military museum, while the toy's maker plans other anniversary events to be announced later this month. Photo: Associated Press/Mike Groll

CHRIS CAROLA, Associated Press

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) — G.I. Joe is turning 50.

The birthday of what’s called the world’s first action figure is being celebrated this month by collectors and Hasbro Inc., which introduced it in 1964.

G.I. Joe was introduced at the annual toy fair in New York City in early 1964 and hit the shelves in time for the 1964 Christmas shopping season. It soon became a big seller at $4 apiece, identifying him as “America’s Moveable Fighting Man.”

Don Levine, Hasbro’s head of research and development, came up with the idea while returning home from combat as an Army infantry sergeant in the Korean War. “We protected each other and loved each other,” Levine said this week. “Something had to be done to honor these people.”

Sales sank in reaction to the Vietnam War, leading to a line “Adventure Team” G.I. Joes that played down the military connection. Production was halted in the 1970s. In the early 1980s, G.I. Joe was reintroduced as 3¾-inch figures. It was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2004.

The action figure has an official G.I. Joe Collector’s Club, which holds an annual “GIJoeCon” convention. This year it’s in April in Dallas.

Collectors will mark the toy’s 50th birthday this Saturday by displaying some of their G.I. Joes at the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs.

Hasbro says it intends to announce details of its 50th anniversary plans during this year’s fair in New York on Feb. 16-19.

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