April 1, 2011 / 9:56 PM / 8 years ago

G.I. Joe action figures parachute into collectors' hearts

ORLANDO, Fla (Reuters) - In a spectacular display of military might on Friday, about 300 soldiers parachuted from the rooftop of a nine-story building and, within moments, were surrounded and taken prisoner.

One catch: The soldiers were all plastic action figures named Joe.

And they fell from the sky to their poolside beachhead at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort as part of a showy kickoff for this weekend’s 2011 International G.I. Joe Collectors Convention in Orlando.

“When you’re a boy, you play army. You destroy them,” said Jason Jones, 33, an Orlando actor who dressed in camouflage and a black beret for the parachute drop.

“Then when you’re an adult, you come here and pay three to four times what they cost to get them back again,” he said.

Organizers said they expect between 500 to 1,000 attendees at the convention, which includes a costume contest, dealers selling collectibles and a film fest for screenings of amateur G.I. Joe movies.

Jerry Einhorn was also among those watching G.I. Joe toys rain from the hotel roof.

But in March 1963, Einhorn was one of a handful of employees in the product development department of toymaker Hassenfeld Bros. Inc. (now Hasbro) who brainstormed ideas for the next big thing.

“One sentence was said that started the whole thing: ‘How about a soldier with all the equipment?’” Einhorn, now 79 and retired in Delray Beach, Florida, told Reuters.

“I sat on the edge of my seat and looked at the department head and said, ‘We’ve got it.’”

Yet despite his role in creating the action figure, Einhorn found himself on Friday in the same situation as nostalgic fans who sold off their G.I. Joes in garage sales decades ago and now are buying them back at a premium.

“I do not own an original G.I. Joe,” Einhorn said. “I had 13 of them, but I gave them to the kids in the neighborhood to see if they would play with them.”

Edited by Colleen Jenkins and Greg McCune

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