When Impel first released the megaton nuke of a card set known as Marvel Universe (Series 1) in 1990, they must’ve known that a cash cow was born because the company quickly scooped up several other major franchises for card series—all using the same general layout/designs as with MU. And while knowing is half the battle, Impel apparently intended to win the trading card wars when it acquired the rights to G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.
Like I stated earlier, the structure of this set is almost exactly the same as the Marvel Universe cards… there’s your friendly Joe’s, Cobra Enemies, Honor Roll (i.e. hall of fame), 1991 Recruits (similar to Rookie Cards), Famous Battles and Special Missions which showcase comic covers, vehicles and bases. Similarities aside the base set is a rather nice size in comparison to some of the other sets covered in this column, at a massive 200 total card count. The packs only contained 12 cards and with some cards being more rare than others, you can imagine collectors purchasing packs in bulk to chase down the complete set. I still have a ridiculous amount of doubles from left over.
The card designs themselves aren’t to shabby. Each card has a crisp white border that trims to a color or schemed camo print around the main image. The art on these guys is consistent and mirrors the imagery that was used in the comic books (published by Marvel at the time). The backs are loaded with a lot of awesome Joe knowledge. However, the content doesn’t stick to the comic series. Instead, it portrays Joe lore that was never mentioned in the comics, like the fate of Cobra La and Cobra’s Crystal Ball. I love how they kept to a militarized theme, though, in making them appear like filed dossiers.
While slightly dated in appearance, this is still a super fun set to go through. Any kid who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s can completely relate to these cards—I know the Joe’s were a pretty big staple of my childhood. Currently, the set goes for between $15 to $20 on the collecting market and that seems pretty fair considering how large the set is… hell, it’s a steal compared to what I probably invested in it 20 plus years ago. Go Joe!