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A Tribute to “Tribute to Valor”

There are hidden gems in any areas where collectors abound.  In the area of collecting 1/6th scale figures, there is a line of hidden gems under the title “Tribute to Valor.”  The brand name changed, so you will also see “Americans of Valor” on some packages although the graphics are almost the same.

These are very hard to find as they were only sold in limited locations; which is tied into the fun back story on this product line.

Please note, as mentioned in the earliest articles from Twelve Inch Treasures, I am not listing the names of the individuals since most toy people shy away from wanting their names publicized.

When Hasbro started to leverage broad themes for GI Joe to help advertise it, the first one they chose was “The Pearl Harbor Collection.” This theme was chosen, not only for its magnitude of importance but for its upcoming 60th anniversary in 2001.  To get the details and facts straight, Hasbro sent the GI Joe Design Manager over to the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Hawaii (of course we ALL wanted to go, but that would have racked up quite a bill.)

While there, he met with the staff from the memorial and a few of the survivors from both sides of the battle. One of the amazing stories the manager back with was about how many of the survivors had been torn up with hatred from that event. It was so debilitating for some that they chose to find a way through it and reached across the ocean to join in the sorrow but bury the hatred.

The Pearl Harbor Collection included some great figures from many points of view: “Hawaiian Territorial Guard,” “Wake Island Defender,” “Wheeler Field Pilot,” “Battleship Row Defender,” and “Diamond Head Lookout Invasion Alert.” If you are a collector of Historical GI Joes, these should all be in your collection as each piece was carefully designed to be as accurate as possible for those price points.

At this time, the mass market GI Joe Classic Collection was designed in Cincinnati with the Kenner team while the specials were designed in Pawtucket at the main offices.  In keeping with the modern trend among large American companies, the smaller purchased company often gets closed down to combine efficiencies with the main office.  This was the case with the Kenner offices. Hasbro offered relocation to many employees.  Some accepted the offer, and some did not.  In this case, the current design manager chose not to relocate so left Hasbro’s employ.

However, this did not extinguish his respect and passion for the men and women who served that was ignited by meeting the Pearl Harbor survivors.  He leveraged his manufacturing contacts in Asia and opened discussions with his new contacts at Pearl Harbor to create product to honor the people who served. Part of what was produced was very detailed replicas of planes and ships which were key to the battle. For the 1/6th figures, I was fortunate to be one of the people he brought in to create the soft goods uniforms for a couple of figures.

Part of his drive to create a tribute was his passion for telling the story and educating those who did not know about the event or people. Therefore, the backs of each package and sometimes side panels, tell the story of that figure in detail.  He spent much time getting the wording just right.  The early packages are branded as “Americans of Valor” and noted the name of a series with plans to expand. One of the unusual aspects of the packaging is a location on the back for a survivor to sign and date the figure; since some of the parks and museums have survivors in regular attendance to help people understand the event.

Battleship Row Crewman

As all the items were created to be sold in gift shops at museums and National Parks, they needed to hit reasonable price points to fit impulse purchase range so they could not afford to have every detail, bost but it was surprising how much detail each figure contained. The first figure created was the Battleship Row Crewman.

Originally, he was planned to wear a sewn sailor hat in 1/6th scale.  Part of the drive was to be able to tell a story from December 7th, 1941 and a survivor’s four oranges he had been carrying in his hat that morning. The detailing on the hat was exquisite. However, it forced the production cost up too high to keep. The figure has a sewn shirt, pants, and “Mae West” life vest. Note that the pants even have the front pockets with the angled corners. I did not think the factory could manage that, but they did.  The shoes, the pan helmet, and the cannon round are molded plastic.  The sculpted head and figure are just as good as a GI Joe since it was sculpted and painted by a former Kenner sculptor.

Sargent Alvin C York

It was interesting that this figure was made since the GI Joe WWI Doughboy was made by all of the people in this article, but it was originally intended to be Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. York.  When we were suggesting people to honor with a GI Joe, Sgt York fit two important criteria which we all agreed on. Firstly, he is the quintessential hero most remembered from WWI.  His basic story is of a pacifist who was drafted and overcame his concerns when he saw his friends being killed. He snuck into German lines to took out the soldiers who were shooting his friends, and then he captured the rest with his then empty rife.  Also, he qualified even more as he spent the rest of his life continuing to be a hero by using his new status to work hard for literacy and other issues affecting underprivileged. Unfortunately, for the GI Joe version, we could not get permission from the appropriate foundation due to the limited times of year the directors met and the schedule we needed to keep to ship the figure.

The uniform on this figure was made as close as possible to make in 1/6th scale.  I used a real uniform from my wife’s great uncle who was part of the WWI American Expeditionary Force.  Every seam in the uniform that was reasonable in 1/6th scale was included. We do not often get such perfect reference, so I took advantage of the opportunity to make it as right as possible.  The leggings were even made just like the real ones.

Once again, the sculpting was great.  The other plastic parts include books, .45 pistol, Lee Enfield rifle, and a pan helmet.

Rosie the Riveter

This figure was specifically made for one of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. The figure has a soft goods jumpsuit, welding apron, and goods bandana. Her plastic parts include shoes, pan helmet, and welding helmet.  She was designed to match the look of the famous “We Can Do It!” poster.  I believe the plan was to have various hair color for the sculpted hair on the dolls, but I am not sure if that happened or not.

The Wright Brothers

This set was not created by the same designer. However, it was created by other former Kenner employees.  The main person behind this set was Kenner engineer who did the Starting Line-up action figures assisted by the lead engineer on GI Joe.  I think they used the same sculptor also. Those two did one other 1/6th figure together of Pope John Paul II which was also very nicely done. 

When they heard about The American’s of Valor line, they met with their previous coworker who allowed them to use his branding while he created the package for them. 

They were created to sell at the 100th Anniversary of Flight celebration in Dayton, OH. Due to various issues, the figures shipped too late to make it to the event honoring the Wright Brothers and missed their biggest selling opportunity.  Even if you are not huge fans of the Wright Brothers, these figures make excellent villagers for WWI or WWII dioramas.

While the figures are now only available on eBay and with toy collectors/dealers, they are hard to find, but the quality of each of these is well worth the hunt and outstanding.

What other heroes would you like to see in 1/6th scale?

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