What G.I. Joe Taught Us About Money

They are heroic, they are courageous, their fully bendable bodies allowed them to strike poses, lead troops, and kick butt—all before bedtime. And at just 12 inches tall, the plastic icon known as G.I. JOE continues to strike a chord in the hearts of kids and adults alike. 

Given they are one of the most successful toys ever made, it’s no surprise that they can also teach us a thing or two about money.

After its  debut in 1964, G.I. JOE became an instant hit and paved the way to a billion-dollar niche in the toy industry. Lovingly touted as the “Father of all action figures,” this tiny American hero could be found in toy boxes throughout the country and through generations, giving young boys a role model worth looking up to. 

Let’s take a walk down Memory Lane and explore four of the top money lessons we can learn from the original American Hero:

Money Lesson #1: Value is in the Eye of the Beholder

According to one report, the original G.I. JOE prototype from 1963 sold on eBay for over $200,000! Not too shabby for our 12 inch American hero’s, but the wealth doesn’t end there. 

Certain G.I. JOE action figures, such as the 1982 Bazooka Soldier or the highly coveted Para-Drop figure, can fetch anywhere from $349 up to $5,000 or more from the right collector.  

Many of those that held onto their GI Joe’s for sentimental reasons are finding their cash value sky rocket. And those of us who practically gave our old G.I. JOE figures away the moment we outgrew them are “Kung Fu” kicking ourselves right now. 

The takeaway: Some see old toys, while others see memories of a childhood well spent. Don’t be so quick to judge the value of what you don’t understand.

Money Lesson #2: Value Changes Over Time

Another way to look at Lesson #1 is to realize that, just like any investment, an object’s value can change over time. The cost of a G.I. JOE action figure back in 1964 was a mere $4. Today, vintage G.I. JOE figures are selling for thousands of dollars, depending on their condition. 

The takeaway: It’s important to consider the long-term effects of purchasing and investing decisions. 

Money Lesson #3: Money Needs to Be Protected

G.I. JOE earned their own television series, and it’s in the 1985 Season 1 episode titled “Money to Burn” that we receive their most valuable money lesson of all: Money is vulnerable. 

To recap this episode that debuted on October 14, 1985, a device owned and planted by Cobra (a criminal organization that served as G.I. Joe’s arch-nemesis) causes every piece of paper currency in America to ignite, sending the country into an economic tailspin. Naturally, Cobra had already created a new currency—freshly minted gold coins were available, provided you surrendered everything you owned. 

The takeaway: This was in the 1980s, so cold hard cash was all the rage. Nowadays, we have plastic and computers to back up our finances, but even so, the lesson remains valid. There’s always someone out to get your money, and you should do your due diligence in protecting your wealth.

Money Lesson #4: Adapt to New Ways to Spend and Access Money

Pivoting off that same episode, the new currency introduced by Cobra signaled a massive shift in the way people were now expected to spend money and trade goods. We won’t spoil the ending of that episode for you, but it’s worth mentioning that we’ve experienced our shift of sorts when it comes to making purchases.

Think about it: most people nowadays don’t carry much cash. Credit cards are accepted just about everywhere, and now people are using mobile apps to make payments. 

The takeaway: Financial technology continues to shape the methods in which we spend and access our money. The best thing we can do is to learn to adapt.

As it turns out, G.I. JOE might have taught us more about money than we give him credit for. What do you love or remember most about this classic American hero?

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G.I. JOE: G.I. JOE and all related characters are trademarks of Hasbro and are used with permission. © 2020 Hasbro. All Rights Reserved. Licensed by Hasbro.