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The Real American Hero Collection was a toyline released in 1997 to coincide with the fifteenth anniversary of the original toys' 1982 debut. It is part of Generation 1 of the A Real American Hero toyline.
The year 1997 was the fifteenth anniversary of the 3¾" line, as well as the tenth anniversary of G.I. Joe: The Movie. The rise of the internet among college students and other young adults had ignited fan fervor for everything '80s. The Star Wars: Special Edition releases created an interest in toy collecting in general, so a number of G.I. Joe price guides were also released this year.
Nostalgia turned to elation when Hasbro-Kenner announced plans to release 3¾" figures that summer in honor of the line's 15th anniversary. The original idea was to produce three boxed sets of four figures, repaints from the early days. The planned sets were:
- Roadblock, 1982 Scarlett, 1985 Snake-Eyes (with Timber), and Grunt
- 1983 Duke, 1983 Gung-Ho, 1984 Roadblock, and Lady Jaye
- 1982 Cobra Commander, 1984 Firefly, 1986 Viper, and Alley Viper
Unfortunately, the release was delayed until fall, and the production ran into problems. Some fans began to wonder if the figures would be released at all. First, the boxed set idea was scrapped in favor of 3-packs and vehicles, plus an 8-figure set of the surviving original team members. Because most collectors were interested in figures, no vehicle would be sold without one. Second, many of the older molds could not be located or else were unusable. Cards, boxes, filecards, and related art were all completed before the mold problem became evident.
Of the nine figures released in three-packs, four of them had to be made from molds other than those pictured on the cards: Blizzard, Cobra Commander, Destro, and Snake-Eyes. (Timber was likewise not to be found, despite being on Snake-Eyes' card.) The Joe figures included with vehicles fared better, although the Cobra molds needed to borrow some additional parts.
Snake Eyes, Cobra Commander, Destro, and parts of Alley Viper had to be made from other molds, and the new Blizzard would actually be a repaint of 1993's Frostbite. Fortunately, the vehicles could be released as planned, and the line was released in Toys "Я" Us stores in October. While the line was not perfect, it was a return to what many considered the "good ol' days" of G.I. Joe, without neon colors, spring-loaded weapons, monsters, or aliens.