he was a kid.
Just to see for himself, DeSimone went to a Toys R Us to check out
the smaller version.
In the same phone conversation with the collector, DeSimone
learned that the 12-inch action figures were being sold at swap meets
and garage sales. So, still curious, DeSimone started going to them.
"I started finding them," he said in a voice still laced with
surprise. At first, he admitted, it was more like a challenge, trying
to find them. "I don't know why I wanted the 12-inch doll. It brought
back memories. When I found one, it was like reliving my childhood."
From then on, he said he was hooked, and three years later, he had
built a collection of more than 500 original GI Joes.
Now he shares his hobby with collectors of all ages by presenting
toy shows every three months at the Ramada Inn in Burbank. The next
show is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
The adults at his shows, he said, are often looking for things
they had or wanted to have as a kid. A lot of the children who attend
are collectors and are collecting what dad or other relatives have.
"Or they try to recreate or reenact current movie things,"
DeSimone said. "My son finally built his first diorama of "Black Hawk
And, surprisingly enough, he said, women and girls collect GI Joe,
because moms wouldn't let them play with them when they were little.
Their brothers had them.
For DeSimone, his hobby has grown into a business. He has
published four books on GI Joe, which are available on ebay.com and
amazon.com, and sells GI Joes to collectors. Selling the toys from
home, he said, has allowed him to become a stay-at-home father to his
two children, Jonathan and Melissa, while his wife, Honor, works at
Seeing all the toys from childhood is a great outlet for adults in
these times of hectic lifestyles, DeSimone said.
"The '60s and '70s were a good era in life. There was lots of
stability and not a lot of worries like there are today," he said.
"Kids had a childhood. They were not forced in a situation where both
parents worked, or in one-parent homes. There were no video games,