Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Remembering Keith Zang

If there were a Sandbox Hall of Fame, I believe one name would certainly qualify for induction. The creator of Zang's Chat, Victor Keith Zang joined the Sandbox in January of 1997. For the next 5 years we learned to appreciate his love for his war veteran father, his devotion to his wife and daughter, his passion for the 1/6 hobby, and his obsession with creating the perfect metal M1 helmet in 1/6 scale.

In the following post, Keith introduces himself shortly after the birth of his daughter Mallory:
"Who are you?(lengthy)

From: V. Keith Zang
Date: Sun, Jul 30 2000

Keith Zang
AKA WindJammer at Zang's Chat.
Born Salisbury MD
Age 35
Location: South Western PA

My job at a local University permits me the income to continue collecting Joes. I work with a talented bunch of folks and our combined goal is to provide students and faculty with a fruitful computing lab experience.

My lovely wife permits me access to my income for GI Joes with stipulations- ( after all she is the clearer thinker) My lovely daughter is now 9 days old and knows nothing of GI Joe. She will- I assure you!

I received my first Joe in 1969. The Talking Astronaut. My mother did not want me to have "war toys", so after seeing the GI Joe TV commercials I had to win my dad over and persuade him to "get" me one. I guess mom and dad came to an agreement and the Talking Astronaut was the "non violent" victor.

Growing up on the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland I was fortunate to have parents who were able to discuss "issues" like adults, and come to agreements on things like which toys I should play with and what was for dinner. It also didn't hurt my "Joeless" situation that my dad was the manager of Taubman's. Taubman's was an Auto parts / Toy store (not unlike Western Auto was). Taubman's had the Joes, my dad had Taubman's, and I had my dad.

As store manager, my dad was able to do inventive things with the store sales. Well, more aptly, as a street smart hustler who grew up during the depression, my dad was able to call upon his life's experience to implement inventive pricing schemes within the store's seasonal sales. One Christmas sale ad that appeared in the Salisbury Times, the town newspaper, was GI Joes $2.50. Grant's was selling them for $3.50 I believe. As the more thrifty of you have by now figured out, Taubman's quickly became the place to buy GI Joe.

Mom later relaxed her anti-war toy stance and I was allowed Action Soldier GIJoe. She said she relaxed but I know that she succombed to my relentless barrage of "Please mom, the other kids won't let me play GI Joe with them if I don't have a soldier." Astronauts- as cool as they were could not engage the invisible enemy behind the wooden blocks in Mrs. Robinson's AM Kindergarten.

Well, somewhere down the line, it was age 7, my parents lost that ability to discuss "issues" with each other in an adult like way. Issues such as "which toys I should play with", "what's for dinner?", "why did you spend that much money?" and that all time favorite "I can't stand you- I'm leaving!" So- I ping ponged between the two parental units for a number of years, school districts, friends, etc etc etc.

I woke up one morning in a ditch. There I was, 24 years old, single, drunk, and wondering how I got in this ditch. Did I get lost and pass out on the way home? That had happened once before and I ended up sleeping in a dugout at a softball feild. But surely I had learned enough to not repeat that idiotic mistake. Nope- wait! Ahhhh! I see tail lights- no I did not repeat that idiotic mistake. I topped it! I fell out of a moving car. Well, I fell off a moving car. I had fractured a vertebrae (C3) in my neck. I was put in an erector set looking contraption called a "halo" for 4 months.

Two months after I was extricated from the erector set-like halo I meet an angel. The angel's name is Angel.

If you are still reading this, thank you. For your patience I will try and tie this up quickly for you.

Angel and I "hit it off" very well. We talked about growing up and what were our favorite toys. I told her how I had been collecting GI Joes. I showed her the RAH 3 3/4 fellars I had. I told her how in the sixties and seventies they were a great deal larger. I told her about my dad's store. I told her of my best friend David Taylor and how he, Kevin Parsons, John Clark, Robbie and Eric Brittingham (future bass player for Cinderella) and I played Joes together and got in some pretty serious amounts of trouble to boot.

She smiles and endures the lengthy monologue about my life and the toys and joys that filled it. She tells me about her favorite toy. And if you are still reading this part is important to me - her favorite toy was a talking lion. Leo the lion? He had a pull string (sort of like talking astro joe) and one of the things he said was "I will protect you". If you know anything about this toy please tell me- One day I will find this talking lion for her and give it to her as a surprise. At least I hope to.

Months pass. 2 years pass. Angel comes to me one day with a paper bag. She and her mom had been yard saling all day. Angel always brings home something cool from her yard sale shopping excursions. I opened the bag and inside was a blue, rectangular box. It said:

Hasbro GIJoe
Air Adventurer
with Life like hair and beard.

Inside is one good looking AT guy! I was overwhelmed with joy. Weeks later- I was in KB toys and I spot a 12 inch Hall of Fame Duke. Angel bought him for me. Wow! By my side was a woman who would supply me with Joes!

With a fledgling collection of 2 Joes, Angel and I made it through the next six years till finally we married. Then we bought a house. I soon found that the room I had claimed for the Joe collection was too large. I would have to buy more Joes. I did.

Because, in the sixties, my dad complained that the GI Joe plastic helmet was nothing like the one he wore in WWII- it became my lifelong pursuit to make a real steel helmet for Joe. So, In 1999 I started a company dedicated to the memory of my father, a company that makes steel helmets in 1/6 scale.

So now I have this nine day old baby girl and I am reading this thread asking myself , "Who am I?"

I used to think I knew who I was but now I do not have the slightest idea. I am sure that I will one day realize my purpose, self actualize, and then upon completion of my divine task, no matter how infinitesimally insignificant it may be, pass on.

This little girl has made me stop and think. Amazing

A month later, the Zang family received a pleasant surprise from a fellow Sandboxer. Keith made sure to praise the kindness of this young teen:
"La la la Frederic is a Great Joe! La la la

From: V. Keith Zang
Date: Wed, Aug 23 2000

Just had to sing the praises for Frederic Richter.

Our little girl just turned a month old and today she received her first package sent via UPS. Addressed to Miss Mallory H Zang- I let her mom open it. So, Angel looks on the package to find out who sent it. It came from Nordstrom's. Inside was a cute Tommy Hilfiger Dress with matching Hat. There was a card inside written to Mallory, welcoming her to the world, and letting her know that she was better than the best GI Joe. Signed - Love Frederic

Fred- I can not agree with you more. Thank you very much from Mallory, Angel, and me.

By the way, not too many collectors get to be interviewed by the local paper, but Keith did!:
"GiJoe make the Newspaper!

From: JFB1500
Date: Sun, Oct 18 1998

GiJoe made a full-page spread in the Sunday Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper in the "VoicesEast" section (as in, East of Pittsburgh, PA). Keith Zang < z...@lm.com > got a full-page talking about his GiJoe collection and GiJoe in general. Great read! (Especially his wife's thoughts on heir having a GiJoe & Barbie dressed like the bride and groom at their wedding!)

Take a look at Keith's web page -- http://www.telerama.com/~zang - it's pretty nice.

Joe B."
In 2002, an action figure company announced the production of an Osama Bin Laden figure. As one can imagine, this created quite a debate in the Sandbox. Angry words and insults were tossed about. Keith was not shy about offering his own opinion of the matter:
"'Bin Ladin' Figure - Insult to Americans

From: KeithZang
Date: Mon, Oct 14 2002


I didn't get past the part where you started answering your questions in my voice. I call into question no ones manhood. I found it colorful to make the manly parts reference as I felt it would help make the point that I think felt folks were emasculating someone else's belief with their sharp wit.

The pen, being mightier then the sword, may fall upon each one of us someday. There by emasculating us, cutting out our hearts, or severing our brains from our comapassion. Where ever it is that we think, feel, and emote from.

I felt folks were too quick to pen with logic and not even think about what Jim was saying. If any one can go back and read what he said and still come away with feeling that Jim is trying to somehow control what you can have then I say please- pull your head out of the sand.

I do not stand in the way of democracy. I do not think profiting from the making of villainous DOLLS of any time period is right. The law says you can make them- and the law says that I can disagree with you for making them.

But it should not take a court case for you to be able to tell right from wrong.

All Jim was doing was raising his voice to say he disagreed with this doll being made, and many folks here called him names for his belief. My perception was that in the minds of many in this group they were emasculating Jim with their words, dismissing what he believes to be the unraveling of the fabric of our society, calling Jim's beliefs the blatherings of an idiodic fascist.

Is this how we take care of one another here? Make each other feel wanted, welcomed and valued as part of the collecting community- the Joe community?

You guys are better than that. No one is trying to take away your toys. Come on now. What would the accessories for a Bin Laden DOLL be. Nothing good. Because he is no good. What does he do for his people. He leads them to their death to do his bidding. What has he done for this hobby? Why won't you tell the toy company that wants to profit from him that you disagree with them. That the timing of this DOLL would do SO much damage to the 1/6 hobby. "
Collectors who are geographically near to one another sometimes enjoy getting together and forming clubs. It's disappointing when that club and comraderie starts to fade away. Here's a bit of advice Keith once offered to someone wanting to keep their club alive:
"Need CPR for dying Joe Club

From: V. Keith Zang
Date: Tues, Jan 30 2001


Sorry to hear that about your group. Ours went on hold hear in Pittsburgh as there just was not the time for the few of us to get together. When you are a small group and have an attendance problem that can be the death bell tolling.

Sooo- losers advice is - go on field trips. We went on a WWII submarine- made a donation of a custom WWII Joe submariner and they gave us the sub- Well they gave us more that the nickle tour. Our Joe is still on display- that was 2 years ago.

Community involvment is a good way to bring some notariety to the group and can get your recruitment numbers up. If you have a police officer in the group or know one that will help you- then find a tie in and find a location where you can hold some sort of community awareness or child safety seminar. Build a custom police officer Joe and donate it to your local police department- have them show you all the goodies they use while you are at it. By your host and the club a pizza or two- can't hurt.

The point here is involvement- trading Joes and stuff can be the first or last hour of your meeting- what you do in between that time will be where the memories are built for the members of your club. It will also be the deciding factor for attendance.

Joes in themselves are interesting but they are after all plastic. They can't be our hero and sustain a club too- that's just asking too much.

Good Luck!

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, one of Keith's obsessions was the production of the perfect 1/6 scale metal helmet. The following are a few the first messages posted about this new business venture.
"Real Steel Helmets 1/6 scale

From: V. Keith Zang
Date: Mon, Dec 29 1997

Hi all,

How would you like an "M-1 Real Steel Helmet with liner" in one sixth scale?

I need to gauge response for this before going into production. Response will determine production method. The estimated release date is approximately March 01, 1997!

To respond please go to my Web Page "The Perimeter"

Once there you will see a short, impassioned story of why I want to do this and there are a few questions for you to ponder and respond to.

I thank you for the read!

References are available here in the box. Or you can talk to me in person just about any night on Coop's chat page. Thank Again!

"From: V. Keith Zang
Date: Mon, Dec 29 1997


Release date is aproximately March 01, 1998---say it with me 1998, 1998, 1998, 1998!

aka WindJammer"
Apparently, there was quite a positive response:
"From: V. Keith Zang
Date: Wed, Dec 31 1997

Hello Sandbox,

Thanks to all of you that have sent responses to me regarding the Real Steel Helmet Project! Your support and input have been tremendous.

Here is an update on the project as of December 30, 1997.

The Prorotype page is up:

http://www.lm.com/~zang then follow the link to Helmet page then link to prototype!

The pictures shown are various views of a CAST ALUMINUM helmet (no liner). I painted it and used putty to fill voids and give extra shape-

I have two meetings scheduled December 31st with a couple of manufacturing companies. Discussions on production and tooling costs will be the order of the day.

I still need your opinions on this project. I do not have an educated price estimate to offer as of yet. I will know more tomorrow.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

V. Keith Zang
aka WindJammer"
Of course, not everybody was so positive:
"From: Mike Leon
Date: Wed, Dec 31 1997

Good morning Keith,

That sounds great, i'd buy a couple. But I got to tell you, there is someone already making steel helmets, his mane is Glen Michaels. He works at a machine shop outside of Chicago. He e-mailed me last year about his helmets and if I would be interested in buying one from him, these things are awesome. I bought 2 for $30.00 each. He's a lurker to the NG and he didn't think he could sell any to the group because of the price. I don't think he is making them anymore, i lost his phone number and his mail gets bounced back.

But I think if you want business from this group you better get them below $30.00. Face it, for the $30.00 most here will buy 2 21st sets and have left over to buy a Cotswold helmet.

Here is a picture i posted last year but got 0 replys because of the price I guess. It's very well done including the lip around the helmet.

So put me down for a couple.

Scouts out!
If the name sounds familiar, you may remember a previous article about Mike (see the archives).

Keith did indeed produce and sell Sgt. Zang's steel 1/6 helmets. They are unique and highly praised by 1/6 collectors all over the world. Keith did make his dream come true.

In December of 2002, however, the members of the Sandbox received shocking and bitter news. The obituary published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted the following:
"Mr. Zang hanged himself in the family room of his home early Thursday, apparently overcome by depression on the seventh anniversary of his father's death. He was 38."
It was unexpected and tragic. Among the many messages posted in response to this painful announcement was this one. I feel that it does a more than adequate job of describing what Keith meant to many in the Sandbox:
"Keith Zang...

From: Rob Woozle
Date: Fri, Dec 20 2002

In the olden days (When the Classic Collection was new) we all hung out in a Chat Room called "Coop's Chat". It was a helluva place - always a place to do a Joe deal, chat to Joeheads and coordinate defending the Sandbox from trolls.

Then one day it was gone. Coop had to move on and the chat room went as well.

Keith Zang stepped in and set up a new chat room, the one you all know as Zang's Chat. Over a period of about 3 years I averaged about a couple of hours a day in there - it was like a second home to me.

DUG was there - the Sandbox CNS, doing AT deals and winning all the AT Commanders on ebay as we watched.

THOR was there - stealing out Joes, eating Chik-Fila and making us laugh.

Freddie was there - the most enthusiastic kitbasher I have ever met.

John Eddy was there despite almost getting a plywood enema from Big Daddy K - he was there too sometimes.

John Kozin was there - with his Ken Kollection and his extensive motor pool.

Torch was there - I "crashed" his Schwimmwagen at least once a day by driving on the worng side of the road.

The FULL METAL Brothers were there - having a helluva time and defending the free world against anything and eveything. The Knights who say PING!

Ken "Arrow" Davis was there. And I still love him like a brother although we have never met.

Greg Brown was there - doing the big Cots buys and just being a great guy to chat with.

Winch was there too - he was a good guy back then regardless of what has happened since.

Tasha Yar was there - I think I still owe her a Joe!

Molly was there scoring Joes stateside for DUG as well as tracking trolls

Scott45 was there, da** I enjoyed chatting to him!

And there were a ton of others as well, too many to list. TUT, KevHead, JuryMan, Yamil, Stephen Chan, Tamara (The Wack), Griffworks, Aaron Luck and many I jut can't remember at the moment.

So what's my point? Well, without Keith Zang, none of that hilarity and friendship would have happened.

And now Keith is gone. Words fail me. He was in his own Chat Room sometimes, not that regularly but when he was he was great to have a chat to. Usually he'd had a couple of drinks and was very good humoured and funny.

I'm going to miss Zang a lot.

I'm not a praying kind of person - but my thoughts are with Angel and Mallory at this time. They are also with Keith.

Rob "Woozle" Marshall"
Zang's chat is still around and every Friday and Saturday evening will find a motley collection of 1/6 fans hanging out and having fun there. Sometimes they even manage to talk about GI Joe. Angel sometimes drops in to fill us in on how she and Mallory are doing. Sgt. Zang's helmets are still being sold. So in a sense, Keith is also still around, or at least nearby. For those of us who had the priviledge of chatting with him, doing business with him, or somehow interacted with him in the Sandbox, we consider it an honor to have done so. We miss him.

Here is a link to an archived version of Keith's original website, THE PERIMETER:

A recent newspaper interview with Angel dated 3/3/2005:

The full text of the obituary (12/22/2002) is at this link:

Sgt. Zang's main website with info on the metal 1/6 helmets:

Zang's Chat:

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Joe Chat - Part 2

As the year 1999 began, Coop's Chat came to an end. The quest for a replacement started right away.
"From: Yamil R. Sued
Date: Fri, Jan 8 1999

Don't panic!!!

Let's meet tonight at:


It's my sorta one time Job's chat room!!

Meet there arround 20:00 Mountain time in the IPSC room!!



From: tasha212
Date: Sat, Jan 9 1999

If you have a more recent browser (or if not try anyway) drop on by..


Yes it is parachat, but I have a more recent applet than Coop's and it has been more reliable. So far we have people from 4 countries here now!!!

See ya there!


"From: Winch
Date: Sat, Jan 9 1999

ATTN Colonel Tamara,

All Allied Forces (and Axis) will be welcome in the Speak Easy this is a Free City deal no weapons, no politics just kick back and relax.
Best Regards

Winch (Alan Dawson)

“Fear not my Lord, for Baldrick has a cunning plan”
Check out my homepage at http://www.rivendel.force9.co.uk/index.htm
& SPEAK EASY for AM chat at http://www.rivendel.force9.co.uk/chat.htm"

"From: Yoon Lim
Date: Fri, Jan 8 1999

I got a chat page, mainly used for domestic spanish chatting.
Anyway, if you want to use it


In the meantime, a well-known Sandbox regular decided to create a "memorial" chat in honor of Coop's.
"From: Thor
Date: Mon, Jan 18 1999

Hey gang,

I am currently making a page dedicated in memory to Coop's Chat. There is no Thor's Reich Logo or anything that says it's Thor's Reich...it's simply Coop's Chat.

By no means am I trying to undermine other Joe Chats and I'll say if you like them then use them.

I miss Coop...I miss Coop's Chat, and until he returns I'll have a page with his name on it using the same Chat Software he used.

At 8PM EST I will update my site to include the Coop's Chat Page.

The direct link is:

WARNING: Do not use the CHAT on my homepage during this time or you will get seriously booted. IF you have visited my site recently (today), you will need to close your web-browser and return to see this site updated.


It was THOR's homage to the original Coop's Chat that made it a popular spot to chat. Meanwhile, in another part of the web, another chat was getting its start.
"Where has COOPs Chat Room gone?

From: busman
Date: Sat, Jan 9 1999

Try this:
Should quench your thirst for Joe Chat!


"Joe Chat is Moving . . .

From: John (Scalpel 6)
Date: Sun, Jan 10 1999

Trying lots of different places while Coop's Chat is down. Check out this site:



"From: DUG
Date: Sun, Jan 10 1999

I endorse Zangs as the "Offical" chat spot of "DUG"......................DUG
ITFC #67"

"From: busman
Date: Mon, Jan 11 1999

Also the "official" BUS stop!

"From: molly
Date: Mon, Jan 11 1999

MOST IMPORTANTLY!!! the official chat site of the MISTRESSofCHAT molly"
For the first few months of 1999, the new place to hang out and chat was either Zang's or "Coop's Chat in Memorial" (CCIM) at THOR's Reich.

Around April though, there was an attempt to move chat to Talk City. Zang's had occassional problems with people not being able to log in. Others had trouble accessing THOR's chat through their firewalls and such. Talk City, however, was easy to use and access, but for some reason never caught on.

Zang's remained the popular place to chat while THOR's CCIM was used as a backup. Eventually, the CCIM also disappeared and only Zang's was left. In fact, Coop himself came by one day to endorse Zang's as a successor to the original Joe chat.

Things sometimes got a little wild in chat. At other times they could get way out of hand. One such occassion was when an upstanding youth known to everyone as Freddy became the target of some verbal abuse. The members of the Sandbox rallied to Freddy's support. Keith Zang took this opportunity to post the long message below. I could find no better way to describe Zang's Chat than this.
"08/30/00 About Zang's from Zang

From: V. Keith Zang
Date: Wed, Aug 30 2000

Hello folks,

My name is Keith Zang. Some of you know me as WindJammer from Zang's GI Joe chat. Others know me form here or TheFrontLine mailing list.

Since 1997 I have been following the posts in the Sandbox. Back then Michael Cooper ran a chat page called Coop's. Some of the best times I ever had online were spent at Coop's.

The regulars then were DUG, Greg Brown, Michael Cooper, THOR, TM64, Scott45, Boomer, Wingnut and Ron, KevHead, Replica, and many others who I have forgotten. I think in my next post to the box I am going to call out some of you old lurkers and ask if you remember Coop's.

Anyway, at Coop's we'd joke around, talk military talk, and trade Joes. Ask DUG about his sea sled collection as he was the wheeler dealer of Chat. Greg Brown would remind us about the Cotsdwold's mass buys he was heading up- Eklypse was but a dream then- I believe.

As it turns out Coop had too many commitments to keep running the page. One day I went to the URL and got the dreaded 404 Error Page Not Found. Coop's was gone. I needed a Chat Fix. I quickly set up a chat page. I went with a military theme and called it Sgt. Zang's.

I posted to the Sandbox that I had set up a temporary chat page until we figured out where Coop was. Later on Coop showed up at Zang's and basically handed me the reins.

Since then, I have tried to pay tribute to Michael and his chat page by running a very friendly place to come and talk Joes, blow off steam, trade, laugh, and what ever you can think of. I wanted it to be as fun as his page was and I wanted a seamless transition. Well - I wanted to see my name in big flashy letters too- so much for seamless!

I wanted folks to know that I ran the page but it wasn't just my page. It is no more mine than it is theirs. I established the regulars wall. I started out buy using chevrons as the icon for each name. Then folks asked if they could have their own icon and I said "Yep -send it along in an email along with the spelling of your handle!" There are now 82 names on the regulars wall.

I have just seen the thread about bullies at Zang's and I am surprised. The first thing I need to say is that Frederic Richter is a good Joe, no make that a Great Joe! He does get teased, he does take it very well, and if you ever met him you know you cannot dowse the flame of
enthusiasm that is "Freddy."

No harm will ever come to Fred while he is in Zang's Chat. There are quite a few folks who have administrators rights besides myself- and if things get truly out of hand they will act in accordance with rules of good conduct and remove a user, and ban his IP address if necessary. I have not received any reports of folks getting booted. Believe me- when an administrator boots someone - they do tell me about it.

Taking into consideration the heatedness of this discussion I feel that someone or a group of someones have let a joke get the better of them and that others have taken a joke too far. I am asking that all parties calm down, take a breath, go back to chat and have fun. If HOOLIGANISM abounds and someone yells "Uncle!" then you gotta stop. Cool?

I am by no means gonna tell people what to say, or how to say it. I made that mistake once with DUG. I told that salty sailor he shouldn't swear in the chat room. Folks, a word to the wise, NEVER TELL A SAILOR NOT TO SWEAR! It's sacrilege.

Yes, the language can get ripe. IT'S REAL-TIME!!! Short of booting someone or privately asking them to bring down the intensity I cannot censor and wouldn't if I could. Its a place to hang out and to meet people. People who are into the same thing you are. Its not some vague 21 and over page, or Metal page, or Punk and its many interpretations. (BTW Flock of Seagulls ain't PUNK!) This is a page that is about GI Joe, his 1/6th kind, and most importantly- the people that collect. People- like - YOU.

You will notice when you go to the chat page, in red letters, it says
"Welcome to YOUR GI Joe Chat Page"

I say to you - all of you -come on by and share in the craziness. Bring your kids, if you are a kid let people know that too.

If you really want I will be happy to set up a second chat page where you can talk to people who do not swear. Another one for those who do not drink, and one for those who do drink but only lite beer, one for AT folks, one for vintage, one for 21st Century, Dragon, Canadians,
Ohioans, Pittsburghers, Polish folks, girls, boys, cats and dogs. This is all tongue -in- cheek but I do hope you take my point.

Just come on by- meet someone- and maybe invite them over to Instant Messenger if the room gets too outta hand or crowded. It is a good place and it is yours.

Thank you for your time,

Keith Zang
aka WindJammer"
Zang's Chat has since changed url but it continues to be the favored hangout of Sandboxers and still as fun as ever. You can join the frivolity on Friday and Saturday nights. Sadly, Keith tragically took his own life in December of 2002. The website and chat page are now maintained by Keith's wife, Angel.

Here is the link to Zang's Chat:

Blog Title Change

To better reflect the content and intent of this blog, I've decided to change the title. From now on, instead of "The Sandbox Wars" the blog will be known as "The Sandbox Chronicles". Feel free to share your comments about this change.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Joe Chat - Part 1

Posting messages on a newsgroup is a great way to share information, trade stuff, and in general, communicate with others in the online community. It's also fun to be able to have a real-time conversation with people who share your interests. In other words, a place to "chat". Chatrooms have been around for a long time, so it was only natural that the members of the Sandbox would also want one of their own.
"From: Keven T. Chapman
Date: Sat, Nov 23 1996

Greetings Joe Enthusiasts,

Just thought I would propose the idea of maybe establishing a GI Joe chat room somewhere. Unfortunately, I do not have the knowledge-base or experience to establish such a resource. I was wondering if there were any Joe enthusiasts which might be able to offer their expertise. I'm not sure what hoops one might have to jump through to establish such a resource, so I thought I would try to get some of the more WWW experienced folks involved.

It would be great if a GI Joe chat room could be established in which folks could drop in and out anytime to discuss GI Joe. What does everyone think? Anyone have any ideas, or suggestions?"
It was no more than a couple of days later that someone came up with a solution.
"From: Michael Cooper
Date: Sun, Nov 24 1996

Hey pals...

Some of you asked for this, so here it is.

Joe Chat is a WWW chat room for G.I. Joe enthusiasts (us.)

This is on my website, and free for all to use. You do need a JAVA-enabled browser (like Netscape.)

Try it out...LMK if it's worth keeping up.

http://home.earthlink.net/~mtcooper/joe_chat.htm [dead link]

The feedback was positive:
"Check out the GI Joe chat room Michael has provided. Let's get some Joe talk going.
Keven T. Chapman"

"Why don't we set up a time to hold Presidential meetings. Or a time for the Joints Cheifs to get together. Maybe we can rap at the same time every week or something like that................................DUG"
"Sounds like a good idea to me. Right now I'm having trouble using the Old Sage's Chat.
Of course, the first Sandbox chatroom wasn't without its share of bugs:
"From: Michael Cooper
Date: Mon, Dec 2 1996

1. Thanks to all who have tried out the chat room and provided me feedback on its operation.

1a. This is in Alpha testing, which means it aint perfect yet.

2. If you log into the chat room now you will get a message about a possible "Imposter Chat Room". There is no cause for concern. This is a result of an IP re-route at my ISP; Both EarthLink and ParaLogic have been notified, and are working to correct it. This message will in no way affect the operation of the chat room. The short version is: "don't worry about it."

3. It appears that Windows '95 is a requirement for the Joe Chat Room in addition to a "3.0" browser. If anyone has successfully logged on using a different operating system than WIN95 please LMK and I will stand corrected.

4. I propose a general get-acquainted Joe Chat on Wednesday, 04 December at 2100 EST (9 p.m. on the east coast - or 2 a.m Thursday in Greenwich...)

5. I know KTChapman and ProfessorX have sucessfully logged on, 'cause I talked to them both there. Has anyone else had a conversation on the chat room?

6. You do need to "connect" in order to see who else is logged on. If you just pull up the page on your browser, you could be missing a raging fight and never know it unless you connect.

8. In case you missed the URL:
http://home.earthlink.net/~mtcooper/joe_chat.htm [dead link]

9. When connecting, you only need to type in your username, the first line in the dialog box. Don't bother with real name, email address and password. These are for someday down the line when SSA secure capabilities are added for commerce purposes.

10. I want to publically thank [Maria Lee Bisonnette] for putting a link to the chat room on her excellent Joe page. Salute!

11. POC this memo is the undersigned.

Initially a shedule was proposed for every Wednesday at 2100 EST. This seemed to work for a while. By August of 97 though, "Coop's Chat", as it came to be known, had evolved into an everyday habit for some.
"From: Greg Brown
Date: Wed, Aug 13 1997

Hey everyone, if you are wanting to talk Joe on Coop's Chat Room, four of my buds and I have been meeting at 9ish p.m., central standard time. Drop in and let's talk Joe. Over and out...

"From: Robert Sorrels
Date: Thurs, Aug 14 1997

What day?
"From: Greg Brown
Date: Fri, Aug 15 1997

Every evening at 9 cst. Hope to see you there. Bigger crowd tonight (lost count). Lots o Joe-heads.

Over and out..

Another Sandboxer, Leo Sutedja, organized the first ever Sandbox Halloween figure contest that year. Coop's Chat became an important part of those proceedings:
"From: Leo Sutedja
Date: Fri, Oct 17 1997

...Dave, are you gonna make one for Halloween ? I've heard from 10 people so far, some will even make more than one halloween Joe :) All of the entries will be unveiled midnite 31st oct, and meet up at Coop's Joe Chat then ..

-Leo Sutedja"
For a long time, Coop's Chat was the place for deals and trades to be made, for fellow Joe collectors to shoot the breeze, and in some instances for general mayhem to occur.
"From: Rob Marshall
Date: Mon, Nov 3 1997

Just a quick note to say that I lurked for a while in Coop's chat room and found it to be fun, entertaining and really friendly.

Great idea Coop.

A few months later, a change of server was announced:
"From: Michael Cooper
Date: Thurs, May 7 1998

Joe Chat has moved, as have I.

http://www.c2i2.com/~mcooper/joe_chat.htm [dead link]

Still fun, still free, still open to all.

Everyone followed the move to the new url. There were also some new folks joining the fun. Here is a sample "thumbs up" from one of the newbies of the time:
"From: Ken Davis
Date: Sat, Sep 26 1998

Last night, Friday Sept 25 I checked out the on-line "party" at Coop's Chat for the first time. Wow-- what alot of fun. All the famous and favourites from the Sandbox were there- countless conversations going on all at the same time--wild. If any of you haven't tried this out, DO so. These folks are swell people."
"From: Griffworks
Date: Sat, Sep 26 1998

And Ken was very entertaining as well! A good time was had, and several trade deals were accomplished, too! If you've not been the URL is: http://www.c2i2.com/%7Emcooper/joe_chat.htm [dead link]

I won't be there tonight, myself. However, go on by and have a great time! Party usually starts about 9pm EDT.

Jeffrey Griffin ITFC #0024"
Things continued to go well for several more months. Then at the beginning of the following year something happened to Coops.
"From: KevHead
Date: Fri, Jan 8 1999



Coops Joe Chat is down!!!
Says not found on this server!!

Thor and the A**es sorry, Axis forces have done something!!!

Coops Chat is Gone, all hope is lost, lost I tell you......."
Date: Fri, Jan 8 1999

It's true,

Coop's Chat cannot be found ("URL not found on this server").

I hope this is some kind of internet burp.

Heck, I just re-designed my tin-foil helmet and got my "battle-armor" from the cleaners.

I'll be lighting a circle of candles around my computer and bowing to the cyber-gods as I attempt (and re-attempt) entry into Coop's Chat.

CHK6...See Ya!

(donning tin-foil Chat helmet now)"
It was true. No-one really knew why, but tin-foil helmets not withstanding, Coop's Chat was gone. Nevertheless, Sandboxers are a resourceful bunch and it wasn't long before other chat solutions were offered. In the next article, we'll see the various places Sandbox chat went to and where it finally found a home.

For the curious and nostalgic here is a link to an archived copy of Coop's Chat:
Coop's Chat @ Archive.org

(Caution: Watch out for pop-ups on the above link)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Mike Leon and the Venture Toys Scandal

For collectors who were accustomed to paying 50 to 100 dollars for custom uniform sets from the likes of Cotswold, Circle Home Studios, and Tripwire Toys, 1998 was a year of great promise. The grotesque poorly articulated bodies of the 12" Hall of Fame figures made way for an all new GI Joe body design with much better articulation in the Classic Collection series figures. 21st Century Toys was a new kid on the block with Viet Nam era military uniform sets selling for around $15 each and with rumors of their own figure as well. Then there was the announcement that yet another outfit was getting ready to produce and sell an entire line of highly detailed police and military uniform sets for similarly low prices.

Unfortunately, what started out as a dream come true turned out to be nothing more than a pipe dream, and even a nightmare for some. Here is one of the more infamous of the Sandbox scandals.

It began with the following Sandbox post from February of 1998 with what was incredible news!:
"From: Mike Leon
Date: Tues, Feb 3 1998

As you know I was at the NorCal show,.... I'll stick by my observations about Tripwire, he wasn't selling very much, how could he with 21st toys rep (Rex Adams) across the hallway selling box after box of gear at full retail ($16.95). It's not hard to figure out that people are going to spend $16.95 for 21st Tiger strip uniform complete with gear vs a $75.00 Tiger strip uniform from Tripwire. Besides a good clue about how he's really doing could clearly be seeing by the size of his display. All the big customizers always rented a room to themselves, this year was no exception. Auggie had is own so did Major midnite, Mike Stannard but this time Tripwire was sharing a room, did you notice, all he had was just one small table.

Which goes back to what I was talking about, Tripwire having to go in other directions in order to survive (police and firefighters). As you saw the pictures I posted from the show, he seems to be going in that direction. But I think he may have some troubles here, there's another big company on the horizon that wants to enter the 12 action figure market. This company already has a very successful line of non military action figures. They want to start making accessory packs similar to 21st toys but dealing with non military services and accessories. I was asked to head up the marketing of this project. They flew me up to Seattle last week for several days of discussions. I came back on Saturday to think about it. After calling Merk and a few others friends from this NG to discuss this project, and with a high urging from Merk I called them today to accept their offer, so I faxed in my contract.
Stay tuned.

Scouts out!
So, who was this Mike Leon? In his own words:
"From: Mike Leon
Date: Wed, Oct 1 1997

Hi all, i'm still here, I just got back from Florida where I was over seeing the final work to my dream house. I was also down there to be interviewed for an upcoming article in a vintage military aircraft magazine, about the restoration of "Stonewall" my Bell UH-1B (huey) and how this particular vintage firebird was used in Nam. I'll let you all know when it comes out.

Also, at the same time I got interviewed for an upcoming article for Home Office Computing magazine about how I use my digital camera for my business and paintball in general. All in all i've been very busy this month with travel. I've been to L.A. to visit Mike Maceda and went to the Desimone show (I have pictures of his tank), from there I went back East, came back this weekend for the Bay Area Joe show in Santa Clara, and i'm getting ready to go off to the Philly show this Thursday.

Here is my completed house taken as i’m flying towards it, located outside Coral Springs Florida. The right side of the house is set up as my hobby room (Joe room) and the left side is the 4 car garage and above that the 4 bedrooms are located. The center dome is the kitchen and behind is located the living and family rooms. Oh yeah, the back wide white patio area with the cross, is where the i’ll park “Stonewall”.

Scouts Out!
Venture Games Paintball Park"
Some more background information:
"Date: Wed, Feb 25 1998

...for those that are new to this NG and don't know me too well (I travel a lot). My name is Mike Leon, I'm 40 years old and I'm semi-retired. I sold most of my businesses last year, but have my hand in several promising ventures which keeps me traveling, this is why I get to go to a lot of Joe events, and in turn you (the NG) get to see the latest (pictures) from those events."
One of his businesses happened to be the paintball park named above called Venture Games. It was only natural that the new toy company would be called Venture Toys.

It seems Mike had a fairly good reputation in the Sandbox as evidenced by these posts:
"From: rebonitz
Date: Sun, Mar 2 1997

I had the pleasure of playing on Mike Leon's Paintball field (Venture Games) with four of my buddies this past Saturday, and I have to say a good time was had by all. This was my first time meeting Mike and I must
say he is a good man.

Thank you Mike for your hospitality, you have a great field and worth visiting again. We even did a little Joe trading afterwards. We definitley got our exercise charging up and down those hills. Nothing like a little running to remind me that I'm almost 36 and can't quite do the things I did when I was a young Jarhead. Man, it sucks getting old!

Thanks again Mike. "

"From: Colin Epstein
Date: Tues, Feb 24 1998

He's picked up ME [Masterpiece Edition] Joes for me, and delivered them personally, despite my living at least an hour away from him. He showed a troop of my co-workers a great time at his paintball park without letting me pay for a thing while I was there. He's helped other Sandboxers in similar ways."

"From: JRT82281
Date: Wed, Feb 25 1998

When I first came to the Sandbox, I first thought Mike Leon was a nasty brute who showed off his knowledge and accepted no other opinions but his. Yes, his replys sometimes maybe a little heated, but this guy is one good joe who will help you at any time with anything. If you respond negatively to him, he'll do the same. It's a fair response. Since then, I've gotten to appreciate his influence. I have talked to him many times asking him advice on WWII German uniforms and I have gotten the greatest and most helpful responses. He has done a lot for the Sandbox and should be regarded as the military reference historian for the box. He is a good man and if you trash him, the whole sandbox will come crashing down on that person, guaranteed."

"From: DUG
Date: Tues, Feb 24 1998

I know Mike and he's a [darn] good Joe."
The 6th Annual Bay Area GI Joe convention was held in San Jose, CA in May of that year. Mike set up a booth for Venture Toys. The response was very positive and things were looking very good! Take a look at this enthusiastic review:
"From: Nick Corea
Date: Sun, May 31 1998

Hi ladies and gentlemen,

I was just at the Joe Show at the Airport Inn in San Jose.

Next to the 21st Century table, were some of the most detailed, highest quality gear I've ever seen in miniature.

I've been building/painting/modifying models for many years (I'm 30) and I have friends that work in the effects and model industry in the LA area, and I've seen some incredible work in small scale.

The Venture Toy's gear was VERY impressive!!! Great designs, nice (scale) hardware, durable/scale fabrics, hi quality stitch-work, realism with no compromises that I could see, these pieces look like one-of-a-kind custom pieces that should cost near $100/ set.

To be honest, I thought (at first glance) that this stuff was the next generation of 21st Century gear. To most of us, 21st C. has set new standards for quality and realism in toy accessories. (They blow away the quality of commercial 1/6th accessories seen previously.)

But, to be honest, the Venture Toy's gear blows 21st away with realism, detail and cool factor. Where 21st has solid cast pouches, Venture has tiny, velcro-assisted, very scale, working pouches.(reminiscent of Kankichi Ryotsu's SWAT outfit, but with more, smaller and more detailed parts) Their riot shield and baton are terrific. Helical (phone-cord) com wires are so scale, they hang and act perfectly. I'm not kidding, it has to be seen to be understood. The websight pictures are cool, and tell what they have (they had more at the show, than what they have on the websight), but trust me, my friend and I were huddled over the table with our mouths hanging open!!!

Don't get me wrong, I still LOVE 21st Gear. Venture will just expand my collection, and will look great next to 21st. Venture isn't competing directly, with the same outfits and scenarios.

I didn't see much in the way of weapons, I hope Venture Toys Inc spends as much time detailing weapons (different ones), at least as nice as 21st. then everything will be perfect!!!

Thanx for hearing me out, (whew)

Nick Corea"
Mike also set up a booth at the International G.I. Joe Convention in San Antonio held at the end of July. Here are a number of posts about his booth and prototype samples.
"From: Steve Costa
Date: Mon, Jun 29 1998

I received an e-mail from Mike Leon regarding the Law Enforcement Series being produced by Venture Toys. Apparently, there will be a big roll out at the San Antonio Convention. First up is going to be an LAPD Patrol Officer in standard service uniform followed by New York PD and Chicago PD Patrol Officers in their standard service uniforms with gear. In addition, there are going to be a number of State Troopers, amongst them the CHP. SWAT uniforms and gear will be available with a number of different uniform patches to semi-customize your figure. I can't wait to see these!

Steve Costa"

"From: Steven Charlton
Date: Mon, Aug 3 1998

Venture was there, and if the stuff makes it to the store looking anything like his prototypes, I think a lot of kids are going to have a ball playing Cops & Robbers with GI Joe. Mike just needs to come up with some carded perp sets."

"From: Robert W. Brown
Date: Mon, Aug 3 1998

Venture Toys is the one to watch next year. Their gear puts the other law enforcement/anti-terrorist stuff to shame. And with gear/uniform/weapon sets in the $12-$20 range, I could outfit an entire Joe police department with this stuff!"
Here are some photos of the booth on Jim (Jimbob Wan) Stelling's website: http://users2.ev1.net/~jimbobwan/tripod/gijsa13.htm

It was about this time that the new outfit launched a website. At least a few Sandboxers, Ken Clow, Robert DeCastro, and Steve Costa were providing both material and talent assistance to Venture Toys. Here is an example:
"From: Steven A. Costa
Date: Thurs, Jul 30 1998

Venture Toys will also be releasing TONS of GOOD STUFF in the law enforcement field. LAPD, NYPD, and Chicago PD regular patrol officers in addition to various State Troopers including the CHP. A whole line of SWAT and anti-terrorist gear will be available as well. Check out http://www.venturetoys.com. [dead link]

Steve Costa"

"From: Venture Toys
Date: Thurs, Jul 30 1998

Good evening Steve,

Thanks for the kind words and support. Thank you for sending us your department patch. It will be added to our long list of Department patches avilable for salse through our website. Just think about it, people around the world will know that their is a Contra costa County Sheriff dept. out their.

On a side note, you might notice some pictures from San Antonio showing our APC. If you get a good look it say C.C.C. Sheriff SWAT. Again, thanks for the technical support.

Venture Toys"

"From: Ken Clow
Date: Wed, Aug 12 1998

A new GI Joe Club is forming in the Southern California area. Namely in Ventura. I will be there to show off some of the new Venture Toys stuff, plus also give out some customizing tips on 21st's Utimate Soldier sets."
There was a lot of anticipation brewing in the Sandbox, looking forward to the 1999 debut of Venture Toys' products. Unfortunately, just a few months later, the Venture Toys website disappeared and signs of trouble started hitting the 'Box.
"From: Robert Decastro
Date: Wed, Oct 21 1998

What I'm about to ask may alarm some of you guys but here goes.

I've been out of contact with Mike Leon for about over a month. I mean zero contact and I'm concerned. If any of you guys out there have been contacted or if you have spoken to him recently please let me know.


P.S. If you guys are wondering why the Venture toys site is no longer up don't ask me, I'm wondering myself."

"From: Robert Decastro
Date: Wed, Oct 21 1998

Greg Claytor wrote:

> Hey Robert,
> I thought I saw some blurb on "Plastic Crash Island" about Venture
> toys. I didn't get the impression the plug had been pulled at all. To
> ad to the mystery though, Mike used to stop in from time to time
> following his exit in order to update us on his "Venture". I haven't
> seen one of those updates in what seems like forever.
> Hopefully he's just traveling, busy and cutting deals. Hope he gives us
> an update again sometime before Y2K.
> Greg--

If that was the case then I would know about it. I'm the guy
making the stuff for him and there is no move that Mike makes
without me knowing it. Atleast until now. "

"From: Ken Clow
Date: Wed, Oct 21 1998

I too have not heard from Mike Leon. I have been trying to get a hold of him since San Antonio. I checked the Venture Toys web sight and it no longer exists. He has a number of my things related to my Joes. Over $2000 dollars worth. I AM EXTREMELY CONCERNED ABOUT GETTING MY STUFF BACK!! I am even considering a reward. Can any of you help me?

Ken.. "
Another Sandboxer then posted this bit of bad news in reply:
"From: MERK
Date: Wed, Oct 21 1998

I was talking to Mike about a month ago. He told me that he WAS pullin` the plug on Venture Toys. No rumour...fact. I`m REALLY suprised that neither you, Ken nor Rob D. knows about this, but I`m sure Mike will contact you. I`m sure Mike is just caught up in some personal stuff right now.

MERK!!..................Deeds Speak!! "

"From: Robert Decastro
Date: Wed, Oct 21 1998

No Merk I did not know that Mike will shut down Venture

But with the things Ken and I just recently discovered I'm not surprised. I believe that If you hadn't said it here I would never have known that this was his intentions :(

I'm a very large part of ventures (40%) and "I" didn't know that Ventures is closing down.

I'm as confused as all of you at this moment.

Some Sandboxers were still willing to give Mike the benefit of the doubt, attributing the missing website to server problems, or the lack of communication to travel, business, or hurricane (George was a severe one at the time.) Ken Clow followed up with this post:
"From: Ken Clow
Date: Fri, Oct 23 1998

Been there, done all of that and more. I contacted the Police on Tuesday of this week and had them do a 'Check the welfare call' at his residence. No one answered. They left a message on his door for Mike to call me. Wednesday of this week I had a friend drive to his residence to see if he could reach Mike. There was no answer at the door and no note left by the Police. He stayed at his residence for 3 hours but no sign of Mike and his family.

I contacted the person who takes care of Mike's websight on Tuesday. He is some-kinda paranoid kid who is on the look out for Black Helicopters and MiBs. And by Wednesday, VTs web sight was down. For those who would like to contact him his name is David P. ... Today was last day we were going to give Mike to contact us. My next step is to talk to Robert and discuss what are next steps will be.


That same day, Robert posted a message with the subject line, "My last words about Mr.Leon and Venture Toys":
"From: Robert Decastro
Date: Fri, Oct 23 1998

It's unfortunate that what I'd hope to be a great product line was just just that. hope and an empty one at that.

I'm not going into all the details of all the thing that I've uncovered about my illustrious partner just that I'm deeply shocked and dissapointed.

But for you guys out there that got all excited about the failed V.T. line, I leave you with these final thoughts and my last words about M.Leon and V. Toys........

I may be down but I'm not out........and in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger..............................


Those may have been his last words, but every story has its "final chapter." That was the title of the thread started a few days later.
"From: Robert Decastro
Date: Tues, Oct 27 1998

Tuesday October 27/98 12:19 pm

A Fedex delivery man handed me a mediun sized box containing nearly all of the property owed to me by Mike L.

I still haven't heard from Ken C. but as for me I'm satisfied. I'm also glad that this whole mess didn't get any uglier than it had to be. Now I will just go on with my life and hopfully make a comeback in the industry. Despite all that has transpired I would like to wish Mike, good life. I thank him for doing the right thing. And to the Sandbox, I'm sorry you guys had to see the skeletons in our closets. To all the Sandboxers who was there for me, a big THANK YOU!!!! I won't forget you guys.

So now for me, I close this chapter of my life.

NOW LETS GET BACK TO JOE :) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Ken also brought closure to his end of the story in the same thread:
"From: Ken Clow
Date: Thurs, Oct 29 1998

Dear friends,
I received a call earily yesterday morning from Robert telling me he got most of his stuff back from Mike Leon. With this in mind, I waited around till noon for Victor the FedEx guy to arrive. Noon came and went with no delivery from Victor. By about 1:00 the chest pains came back so did the neck pain and the headache. Giving up hope, I went on about my day.

Around 4:00 a glint of white, purple and orange flashed in front of my eyes. Out popped Victor in his gleaming, freshly waxed FedEx truck. "Got one for ya Ken." I swore I saw a glimmer come off his teeth. He handed me the package, I think I signed with an 'X'. Well I got MOST of my equipment back. HE KEPT MY LARGE BLACK UTILITY
POUCH that I paid about $30.00 DOLLARS FOR. I guess I am happy but, getting to this point has been very stressful to me. I found myself barking at my wife and my 2 year old daughter for stupid reasons for which I am truely sorry. I love them both very much. I also owe you-all in the Sand here an apology for bringing my personal
problems to you. I love you all very much.

I learned a lot about Mike in my quest to get my stuff back. None of it good. I don't ever want to see this man again. Frankly, I think it was only your help that we got MOST of our stuff back. (Robert did not get
two of his Vests back.)

I did so want Venture Toys to work out. I feel sorry not only for you folks but sorry for the people at Safariland and Blackhawk. They were very helpful in loaning us Law Enforcement and Military equipment for
Robert to copy. Again my apoligies to them.

The future looks bright though! I know Robert has been talking with 21st Century and hopefully something great will come out of it.

If you are in Los Angeles this weekend come to the Great Western Gun Militaria Show at the Pomona Fair Grounds. 21st will have a booth in building 7. Come see them if you can.

Again my sincerist apologies and many thanks,

Kenneth Robert Clow.

P.S. Anybody got some Tumms?"

Where are they now?

After a long hiatus, Robert has recently returned to posting in the 'Box. His custom work is still astounding and the envy of many a Sandboxer.

Ken Clow continued to post in the Sandbox up until about the summer of 2003. His current whereabouts are unknown.

Mike Leon still operates his paintball park outside of Oakland, California.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


It's been a while since the last article. Work and family have been keeping me very busy. Plus, I'm battling an awful cold right now. I am working on a new article though so please stay tuned.
Thanks for your patience.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

You Know You're a Joehead When...

For many 1/6 scale collectors the term Joe, derived from Hasbro's original "G.I. Joe", is commonly used to describe any 1/6 scale figure from any manufacturer. Thus a Joehead is anyone who collects 1/6 scale figures, i.e. someone who collects Joes. So, how do you know if you're a Joehead? Every so often Sandboxers ask themselves that very question. Here are some of the many warning signs posted to the Sandbox over the years:
"You have your own Army."

"You associate the phrase 'body cavity search' with restringing muscle bodies."

"When you have to SNEAK in the next new purchase, and later disguise it as, 'oh that...that's been here.'"

"When you start looking at the stove as surface space for interim display."
Scott Crawford

"When you dream at night of finding that little old lady who has an attic full of boxed Joes."
Shannon Wiens

"When your own kids scalp the Joes back to you that you got them for Christmas after they find out how much they are worth."

"When you no longer look forward to the next baseball season, but rather the next Series II Modern Uniform sets."

"My own clothes are rags but I spend many late hours repairing old AM and Joe clothes.

Joe's the only guy I know who doesn't have holes in the toe of his socks.

The Cotswold catalog is considered literature.

When you watch the impeachment trial and all you think about is how congressman Richard Gephardt {R}Missouri looks like one of your SOTW head sculpts.

When you hear a sudden bang in the middle of the night and your wife doesn't make you get up and investigate the noise because even she knows it was the CC B-17 Crewman taking a shelf-dive.

When you sleep wrong and complain about the articulation pain in your neck.

Sculpy becomes a source of nutrition.

When you organize your Joes by era!

When you stop going out shopping and start going on 'Recons'.

When you plant a Spring Garden and your choice of vegetables to grow is based on how SCALE they'll look in a Joe photo shoot.

When you say the words, 'Not that Joe room, the other Joe room'.

When you talk military history and your source of reference is the inside lid to a [Hasbro Classic Collection] box.

When you can add to this list and it was easy!

Man do I need help!.....Naaaaaaa, I can quit anytime."

"When you put off painting your kids room for months but you've already built shelves for the 21st WW 2 sets.

When the Joe room is twice as big as the master bedroom."
Robert Decastro

"When you look forward to your honeymoon as a once in a lifetime opportunity to buy Joes overseas."

"When you look forward to each vacation as an opportunity for a Joe photo shoot.

The stores you do your daily shopping in are suddenly next door to a Target or TRU.

You build web sites devoted to Mike Power, the Atomic Man."
Anthony O.

"When you actually think you really 'know' somebody by thier posts.

When you start talking to perfect strangers in the toy aisle about Joe. And offer them advice, and keep talking as you follow them as they walk away.

When after reading every ad in Toy Shop, you say, 'DOH! I had that!'"

"When you find yourself answering an online poll from a newsgroup for middle aged men who never grew up."
Sean Finley

"There is more dollar value in your collection than your entire house and contents."
Don Garrett

"When you look in your overcrowed Joe room in your house and think 'I'm going to have to get a bigger house.'

Don't worry about trying to find that new Joe that comes out in limited numbers because you've got relatives in North Dakota where Joe collectors are not so numerous."
Lee Aanderud

"When your 3 year old son picks up a new JOE and says 'Nice Head Sculpt'.

When you`re a proud father BECAUSE he said it.

When almost everything you see is compared to JOE scale.

When you start valuing things in JOE terms ie: 'thats kinda pricey...I could get 3 CC`s or a Vintage for that money'.

When the ONLY thing you iron is JOE uniforms."

"When you and your kid goes to target and he goes to look at the CDs and tapes and you go DIRECTLY to the toys."

"When you drive 30 miles to visit friends, but your ulterior motive is to check out the Target near them.

When you need to buy a house to house your collection, but have (and will continue to do so) spent all your money for *more* Joes.

When you know more about current toys than your nieces and nephews."
Dave Jonas

"When your credit card company calls you to confirm you're still alive because there haven't been any TRU transactions in the last week.

When the number of Xmas greeting cards from Small Blue Planet, MonkeyDepot, and other Joe e-tailers outnumber those from friends and family.

When your kids have to wait until you're finished looking for 1/6 scale stuff in the holiday toy catalogs before they can look at them."

"When you start baling the twist ties that come with your new Joes into 30 pound bundles and take them to the recycling center, so you can get the money to buy the lastest FAO Exclusive and not have to pay for it on the credit card or out of the checking account so you don't have to tell your wife or husband."
Neal Silliman

"When you put your wife in a glass case so the Joes have more freedom. (I've known them longer.)"

"There's a well used coffee mug with your name in the backroom at the local TRU.

You spend more time picking out clothes for your figures than for going to work.

Your wife refuses to cuddle because 'They're watching us!'"
Finally, a test to determine if you are not only a Joehead but also a diehard Sandboxer!
"You hear something new is coming months in advance. Then scan the Box three times a day to see if it's out yet. Then watch the reports as other people get theirs, and announce you can hardly wait. Then go to the store and find one. Put it back on the shelf, come back to the Box, [complain] about the price and details. Wait for it to go on clearance. Watch the reports as other people get theirs for 75% off. Go back to your local store and find they're gone. Beg other people to pick you up on clearance, but they're all gone. Then gripe as you have to buy one on the web at 20% over chain prices plus excessive shipping."
James Steven York
So, how did you do? Yep, you're a Joehead. :-)

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Sandbox Exclusive Figure

On January 24th, 1998 the Northern California Division of the G.I. Joe Collectors Club held what was known as the annual "NorCal show". The show premium for the event was a custom designed WW2 German Mountaineer figure. Pics from the show were posted on a website and in the Sandbox (Click here for a photo) . The following Friday, J. Tucker posted the following:
"From: JRT82281
Date: Fri, Jan 30 1998

I am sitting here looking at pictures of the German Mtn. Trooper that was the exclusive for the Nor. Cal show, wondering if I could EVER possibly get a hold of one of these. Seeing as it is nearly impossible, a thought came to my mind that the Sandbox is such a close knit Newsgroup, would it ever be possible to have a Sanbox exclusive custom figure?? Maybe some unique WWII soldier that was never produced before: German U-Boat cmdr. Waffen SS Machine Gunner, German Snow troop, French Resistance, Afrika Korps soldier you think of something. The idea probvably would never fly, but who knows.........

J. Tucker"
The idea for a Sandbox exclusive figure of some sort was immediately accepted. The next challenge though, was to decide on which figure to design. There were several other opinions and suggestions made: Adventure Team desert adventurer, Smoke Jumper with working parachute, and even the Red Baron.

On Feb 1, J. Tucker put together a list of what seemed to be the most popular choices:
"Alright, here are the ideas that have been repeated since the last post of ideas. They are in order of popularity among the Sandboxers:

U-Boat Cmdr.
Indiana Jones
WWI Pilot
Mt. Everest climber
D-Day Ranger
Modern Desert Infantry
Seal Team member
Flying Tiger pilot

The U-Boat cmdr. has taken popularity and is being discussed as a high possibility. I think Greg is going to post a message I sent him about the figure, and he has also posted notes on the figure."
J. Fusco added his vote to the U-Boat Commander with this post:
"I vote for the U-Boat commander and offer this as a suggestion to the box:

One of the greatest German U-Boat commanders was Gunther Prien (1908-1941). He commanded U-47 and was credited with penetrating Scapa Flow and sinking the battleship HMS Royal Oak in October of 1939. This was considered one of the war's greates naval achievements. Prien was stopped while attacking the British convoy OB293 in March of 1941 and met his fate after sending over 28 merchant ships to the depths of the Atlantic. Prien prided himself, (as many U-boat commanders did during the war) by wearing a shabby reefer jacket (grey) with leather trousers and cork-soled shoes.

I think that Prien would make a good candidate for the exclusive figure. (or at least a good model for our rendition of a U-Boat commander)

What do you guys think?"
Greg Brown next stepped up to the plate with this offer:
"From: Greg Brown
Date: Sat, Jan 31 1998

I have already posted this elsewhere in the NG to someone's proposal, but I thought it might be notices if alone. Here it is again:

OK, I have been doing some serious thinking on this issue and here is what I think we can do for this to make the U-Boat Commander:

Get German Naval Officer's Cap from Cot's
Get either the sailor dungaress, a TON of ME pants, or the fatigue trousers
and I dye them whatever color they need to be
Get Cot's Binoculars
Get an Elite Fig with either the Zach or Frank heads with blonde hair (of
Get (God willing) Tom Calhoun to make some of those black turtlenecks
Get someone (I think I can talk to someone about this) to make a custom box

This is where I need some help:

Boxes to hold these guys
Someone who makes a naval coat (leather or otherwise).

If y'all are serious on this, I will spearhead the procurement and making of these figs. In order for them to be affordable, we need AT LEAST 50 takers.

Please tell me what you think...

Others also volunteered their talents and services. Meanwhile, the idea of having a German figure as the Sandbox exclusive didn't sit well with some members of the Sandbox. Arguments about Nazis and Germans in WWII ensued. Greg Brown even threatened to pull out of the project! If anyone wants to see some of the sparks, they can go to this link:
The Nazi controversy

Nevertheless, Greg stuck with it and more Sandboxers kept stepping forward for the cause:
"From: Aaron Luck
Date: Mon, Feb 2 1998

That is what we need. It sounds like most people are ready to just buy a bunch of pre-existing stuff, slap it together on some figure, and call it a sandbox exclusive. I think we can probably do better. We have lots of talent, some great creative minds, and people working in many different fields that could be used to our advantage.

What we need is some smart people (I am not volunteering or qualified) to form a committee, to do some research on the subject. Our figure should be as good as any other GI Joe exclusive, and IMHO should definitely be a GI Joe figure. As such, we really need to get Hasbro involved at least a little.

This is the sandbox, where all those that love GI Joe the most gather and hand out. This should be one of the best figures in the history of Joe, and the least "bought and sold". I don't imagine that we should have a lot of scalping of these figures, and sure, 20 years down the road, they might start showing up in others hands for high prices, but probably not many before that.

First, we need to figure out what we want to make. I don't really like the idea of a U-Boat captain myself, but would probably buy it because I play in the 'box, and hope for something better the next time out.

Second, we need to figure out what the figure would look like in real life, and agree on it at least partially.

Third, we put it all together in a package and show it to Hasbro. We have to find some smart guy there, who has at least a little bit of pull in the management.

Fourth, (hopefully, we can at least get figures from them), we start production (trying to keep costs at a minimum).

Fifth, we all wait anxiously for "OUR" Joes and then when we get them, we all rejoice.

Sixth, there should probably be a limit of 2-3 Joes per person, and we might want to have some sort of criteria for being part of this buy, like we do for contests. Maybe we could even make the sandbox a club or organization (although this may defeat our "open play" frame of mind, and it also requires someone who can manage a club).

Just a long thought I came up with. I think we have a great idea here, just not much direction or organization.

Remember, if you make a plan in a vacuum, your plan sucks.

A. Luck"
A month later on March 2, plenty of progress had been made. Greg posted the following update:
"From: Greg Brown
Date: Mon, Mar 2 1998

Hey all!

I am still working on the U-Boat Commander. Right now, one of our fellow Sandboxers is talking to Hasbro to see if we can use the G.I.Joe log and possibly get CC figures. I am also expecting in a sample of the box that I plan on enclosing the figure in - the twist is that it is made of wood! If anyone is game on doing the artwork for the set, please buzz me. Right now, I have two guys working on the design (anf they look exceptionally promising) but I will always honor anyone else's designs.

What I need is a person who can stay in personal contact with Major Midnite on the Jackets (save me a bundle on long distance phone bills). Someone mentioned that he does an oilskin jacket that is quite affordable. I have sent off for a catalog to get more intel.

Like I said before, I want theis to be as much a Sandbox contributed effort as possible (with the excpetion of the oilskin jacket). I need someone out there who is willing to make the pants for this poor fella. I am thinking that black slacks would be good (unless someone knows a better color - blue maybe?) The turtleneck will be of a grey variety (thanks to Tom C) and the cap will white (hopefully thanks to Byung if he is still up to it). The other accesories would be bought by me from Cot's (boots, binoculars) unless someone is willing to make em by scratch (anyone?).

If our initial plan fails on getting CC Joe bodies, then I have the back up plan of using a Cot's body with a custom head designed by none other than our own Colin Epstein (gawd, I hope you are still up for the challenge ;-)).

So if anyone can help me be my contact to Major Midnite and anyone can help me on the pants, please, please, buzz me back...

Over and out...
Another Sandboxer volunteered to pitch in:
"From: Alan Dawson
Date: Thurs, Mar 5 1998

Hi Greg,

I know I am coming to this one a bit late but I have a mould to make copies of the Takara German Panzer Commanders Binoculars if you are interested. These are a much more realistic size (big and heavy) than Cotswolds offering and beautifully detailed.

...If any of the foregoing is of interest please let me know as I would love to be involved in this project.
Best Regards

Winch (Alan Dawson)"
Around the beginning of April, Alan Dawson posted pictures of John Reiss' custom headsculpt. It was greeted with enthusiasm! A couple of weeks later, Greg was ready to start taking orders!
"From: Greg Brown
Date: Tues, Apr 14 1998

Well, I have finalized the numbers on the U-Boat Captain, and here is what the package looks like:

Cot's figure with custom head, Naval Captain's cap, white turtleneck, black leather jacket, black slacks, black boots, binoculars. Figure will come in wooden box with artwork on the front, back, and tentetively on the inside cover. A majority of the pieces were developed by Sandboxers themselves. Final price is $100 delivered - this takes care of freight and everything. We have set the deadline to have the sets available for release on May 15th. I am now taking orders for the sets. At this moment, only 50 sets will be available in the beginning, but if demand is large enough, we would consider making another run....

If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me. Thanks again for everyones' support :-)
Over and out...
Incredibly, by April 21st, there were only 3 sets left available not spoken for. In mid-May, Greg posted another update:
"Many of you have already paid for your figs. Those of you overseas, do not fret yet, I am still working on what the cost will be to ship the fig sets you you :-) For those of you stateside, if you have not mailed in your payment yet, please do so at your earliest convenience :-) - money supply is running low ;-)

Production is going well, but just a tad bit behind the anticipated date of mid May. So far, the pants are done, foam peanuts are bought, as well as the boxes (shipping ones). The wooden boxes are still being made, as well as the binocs, custom heads, and jackets. The turtlenecks are enroute and the artwork is just waiting to be glued on the boxes.

I will be sure to post to the NG on how things are coming. Again, thank you all for your support :-) "
On June 5th, however, Greg reports a snag in production!:
"Right now, I am waiting on the leather jackets and the wooden boxes. The boxes are almost finished and the leather jackets are now being made by Circlehome for Major Midnite ran out of the material to make the jackets. I have recieved 10 of the custom heads and anticipate the remaining 40 to come in within another week. My apologies on this not getting out within May - but I am confident that they will be going out within June.

Over and out...

One month later, Greg finally had some good news to report:
"Well, as some of you know, I have started shipping out the Sandbox Exclusive U-Boat Commander. So far, I have shipped 20 sets, with about 25 more to go (some have been picked up, others I am waiting on payment). I anticipate the rest to be shipped out no later than next week."
Then on July 6th, S. Charlton posted the first review of the exclusive figure:
"My God... Its full of stars. Err, no, popcorn...

I arrived home this evening to find a very large box waiting on my dining room table. I had an idea about what itwas,but any thought of what this might look like were far,far exceeded by the real thing.

First, the box: This is a beautiful piece of woodwork; slightly wider and flatter than a vintage footlocker, nice natural finish, with cool artwork on the top, with verynice hinges and a latch.

Opening the box revealed a very nice text and graphic insert in the inside lid, and a mass of popcorn packing material. A rapid brushing away revealed my cool new Unterseeboat Kommandant. He comes with a very nice slick black coat, black trousers, a white turtleneck, a white cap and some nicely sculpted binoculars.

The body is Cotswold, but the head is a new sculpt by John Reiss. The head has a very intesnee look to him; it is a bit small, but the detail and expression are wonderful.

This is really a da** fine piece. I just want to thank the folks involved in this; John Reiss, Alan Dawson, Aaron Luck, Tom Calhoun, Tim Hamilton, John Hays, Tim Hogan, Daryl Williams, Dave Kenna and Byung Yoon Lim. And most of all, Greg Brown for putting all of this together."
Eventually, all 50 figures found new homes. The Sandbox exclusive figure was a great success. The label on the box honors everyone who contributed to the project with the following text:
"Upon seeing the Mountain Trooper Set that was offered as an exclusive to NorCal Collector members, many Sandbox members thought it would be agreat idea to make an exclusive figure of our own. Many ideas were suggested on the newsgroupbut the one that stood out was a World War II German U-Boat Commander. Greg Brown took the initiative and decided to head the project, but he could not do it alone.

In order for this exclusive to have a Sandboxer feel to it, it was decided that most of the pieces to the set should be designed and built from other Sandboxers. Greg thus enlisted the help of John Reiss to design and build the custom head, Alan Dawson to do the binoculars, Aaron Luck to make the trousers, Tom Calhoun to create the turtleneck, and Tim Hamilton (of Major Midnite) to make the leather jacket. John Hays (a.k.a. Carcass) was to do all the artwork/package design and the final touch was to house it in a wooden box constructed by Tim Hogan. Also, the Sandbox logo was designed by Daryl Williams and Dave Kenna served as advisor for all legal matters. Special thanks goes out to Byung Yoon Lim for his help in the project as well.

Hopefully, this will be the first of many Sandbox Exclusives to come!

The project spanned over 3 months, but when completed, was a work of art (in our eyes at least). Only 50 sets were released, but they did not stay in one place too long for the orders were in before the first set was finished. Each set was numbered and marked with a Sandbox seal of approval to show its authenticity."
For photos of the actual set try these links:

Indeed they didn't stay in one place. This commander went half-way around the world to Japan!

Aaron Luck's website with his personal account of the story: