Sunday, November 6, 2022

The First Man to Orbit the Backyard

 The mid 1960s was a prime time for iconic toys. Last week's entry was certainly one, as is this week's. Throughout the 60s, the United States was locked in a massive space race with the Soviet Union. The Soviets were winning at first, but like the 1980 Miracle on Ice, in the end, the winner was the good ol' U.S.A.!

The U.S. manned space program went through three phases- Project Mercury, Project Gemini, and Project Apollo. Hasbro's space program had one phase...sort of a cross between Mercury and Gemini. They outfitted their best man, G.I. Joe to take on the awesome responsibility. 

The G.I. Joe Space Capsule is as iconic as a 60s toy can get. I got one for Christmas in 1967! That one left me many mom-generated garage sales ago, but thanks to eBay, I got a new one in pretty good (but not perfect) shape! Here she is!

Looking straight at the beast. This thing is big! Something you realise when you think that the guy that fits it in is 12 inches tall!

Looking at the side, you can see one flaw. The sliding plastic hatch has a pretty good crack in it. It must have been hit by space debris. Still, it works fine.

The proud "United States" sticker on the other side.

The nose is a great place for all of the legal info. Plus, it just looks cool.

The retro rockets on the back. 

The control panel. If it looks like it's been wet, it probably has. You see, these floated to simulate a slashdown. The one I actually had as a kid didn't float because I dropped it on the hard floor and knocked a hole in one of those retro rockets. 

Joe's couch doesn't look too comfortable. There are also supposed to be two handles that he could hold onto, but these are missing. Still, it's not too bad. You can tell this is an original release because of all of the blue plastic. Later releases were molded in pale green glow-in-the-dark plastic.

Another view of the dials and fiddly-bits. That's a technical term. Really.

I say this is an iconic toy because just about every guy in their late 50s to mid 60s seems to have either had one, or knew someone who had one. Really, other that the "more Gemini-like" large hatch, it's a pretty good copy of a Mercury capsule. And, as I mentioned before, its rather large and heavy, standing almost 14 inches tall and over 9 inches in diameter. Great attributes for a toy!

I keep meaning to get a period correct "Joe" and space suit to go with it, but I haven't found exactly what I'm looking for yet. Someday!

I was going to include a picture of me in 1967 opening gifts with the capsule sitting beside me, but for the life of me I can't find the photo album. Check back, though, because when I find it, I'll add it. I was a darn cute kid!


Here I am at age 5 opening up my really cool Christmas presents at my grandparents' house! It's a really good picture of the space capsule box! The capsule is peaking out from behind the box. I have the Marx train set. I have no idea what I'm opening...

Here's a better view! That's also my Incredible Edible machine on the right. They tasted like erasers. They were wonderful! That's also my cousin who is five months older than me. I never let her forget that.

So there you have it! Until next time, keep searching for treasure!


  1. Wow, too cool! And it's in great shape considering it's an actual "played with" model that got a lot of loving use. I love both the printed and molded control panels. I really wanted an Astronaut Barbie when they came out with a new design in the 1980's, but it was a bit above my parents' toy budget so my more generic dolls had their outer-space adventures in the old cardboard box space shuttle.

    "Another view of the dials and fiddly-bits."

    Whenever I direct a show I call the instrumental introduction to any song "the twiddly bits." "Ladies, enter stage left during the twiddly bits." "How many measures of twiddly bits do we get?" "Eight measures, but they're pretty twiddly so get on quick."

  2. Has any other object given kids more joy than a common cardboard box? Nay, I say! And cats dig them too! Your cardboard box was probably more "detailed " in your imagination than any toy could have been!

    "Fiddly bits" was born out of a huge rocket club project where we had to build 50 Saturn IB rockets for the 40th anniversary of Apollo 7. I met Neil Arrmstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Walt Cunningham, Gene Hrantz, etc. A once in a lifetime thing! However, the Saturn IB has a tin of tiny details that we dubbed "fiddly-bits."

    I like Twiddly-bits! I might have to steal it for my bands!

  3. Opps, that was Stu...

  4. Nice update! That must have been quite a Christmas, and you and your cousin ARE pretty cute kids. I love the artwork on the space capsule box.

    1. Thanks! It was a great Christmas. Probably remembered so well because of these pictures of it. Pictures really do save the precious times of our lives!

    2. Stu, I’m focused on the Incredible Edibles — I had one, too. I can still taste those weird flavors. Licorice, Cinnamon and more. They had a nice plastic aftertaste.

      Thanks for sharing your toys!

  5. Stu, this is such a cool item! Do you know how long they continued to make it? I got my G.I. Joe (with lifelike hair!) probably sometime around 1972 or '73, but I never had any of the vehicles or play sets for him. I want to say that I remember this item being sold at the time, but it might be that I just remember seeing it years later, online or in a vintage catalog. Congrats on finding a replacement!

    Oh, and I still have my Incredible Edibles "cooker" and metal trays/molds. I remember my mom taking me to the toy store to get replacement gel, and the clerk told us that the product had been discontinued. It seems that little kids kept burning themselves on the hot surface of the cooker. I never burned myself! Leave it to a few reckless kids to ruin it for the rest of us! ;-)

    1. Sorry for the late response!
      I know they had a later version of the capsule called "Space Walk Mystery" (or something) where the interior glowed in the dark, so that one could be the one you're thinking of?
      EDIT: OK, you forced me to do actual research, lol! Spacewalk Mystery came out in 1970, and was the last capsule offered (at that time- there was a Mercury astronaut edition that came out in about 2000.)

  6. Thanks for that information, Stu! That 1970 version might be the one that I remember seeing.

    1. No amount of easy research is too much for my readers!


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