Another week means another dose of LRM’s Retro-Specs! This week I hope you are ready as we dive back into the toy scene, but this time from 1985-1989. Coming off of last month’s Masters of the Universe playsets, G.I. Joe battles their way in to try and claim toy dominance with the USS Flagg.
Hasbro released the USS Flagg in 1985. The name is from the comic book character General Lawrence J. Flagg. The company would combine this character with the actual Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz, with the ship’s initial launch was on June 30, 1975. The real inspiration can be seen visually in the toy’s appearance in comparison with the actual ship. Also, the USS Nimitz is one of the largest warships in the world and is the oldest active aircraft carrier still in service.
Playsets for toy lines became a mainstay during the 80s and while each franchise was looking for how to be bigger and better, G.I. Joe would blast the competition out of the water. Maybe you never had the chance to own the aircraft carrier. However, you may remember commercials, pictures, etc., but they do not do the toy justice. The box itself is 42 inches wide! That’s clearly before assembly. Once you put this bad boy together it boasts being over seven feet long and three and a half feet wide!
Originally seen as impossible, Hasbro would produce the toy. Is it a playset? A vehicle? Where does it fit? Actually, it’s in a class of its own. It is not really made to move. Once it is set up, that is usually where it stays and is meant to bring all other toys to it.
This is actually a concept I can attest to. I did not personally own the USS Flagg myself, but my neighbor two houses down sure did! They assembled the aircraft carrier on their back deck and literally would throw a huge blue tarp over it when not using it, and put weights on the ends so it would not blow off. The USS Flagg would stay on their back deck for a couple years. It was a sight to be seen!
The Price Tag…
You were the real deal with all of the bragging rights if you had the USS Flagg. Another understandable reason why I did not have this gem would be the price. In 1985 this can be found hovering around a pricey $130-$150. You may say that for all you get that price isn’t bad, but remember, that is the 1985 price. By today’s standards that would run anywhere from $250-$280…
Today if you are to look for the USS Flagg it will set you back a little under or over $1000. In pristine condition, it can be worth $3000! Oh, and if for some reason you want the empty, original box, it can set you back $350 on eBay…
When it comes to playsets from the 80s there is always a curiosity as to what the primary toy may be bundled with. A ship of this size has to come with someone to drive it, right? The USS Flagg originally comes with Admiral Keel-Haul. While this character may not initially seem like a major coup he is actually quite the elusive find.
After his initial bundle with the USS Flagg, Admiral Keel-Haul finds an individual release in 1986, but is then discontinued in 1987. After a brief hiatus, you could find the figure again in 1989 through mail-order (Amazon before Amazon). Oddly enough there was a slight resurgence of the character in 1993 and could be found at carnivals or as arcade prizes which was a way for companies to push through some of their character storage.
The Community Toy
While major bragging rights clearly goes to the owner of this toy master piece, Hasbro is extremely smart when it comes to the concept. Clearly not everyone would be able to buy such a massive, expensive toy. The idea is not for the USS Flagg to be enjoyed alone, but to bring in the entire neighborhood to enjoy! Can’t afford the USS Flagg? No need to feel bad. Go ahead and buy other figures, vehicles, etc. that you can contribute to hours of imagination and play. Those not being able to obtain the USS Flagg could then go invest in other GI Joe toys as a byproduct still bringing money into the toy company.
Maybe you could just afford the USS Flagg, but not the accessories. No worry, invite over a bunch of friends and have them bring their contribution for hours of fun! I had a couple vehicles that honestly did not go with the USS Flagg, but we made it work. This did lead me to asking for some type of flying vehicle to properly contribute. Well done, Hasbro. Well done.
What was seemingly impossible, Hasbro made work. I mean look at the thing. You could probably squeeze eight to ten children around the USS Flag. Even if you never had the gigantic toy, or had connections with anyone who did, 80s kids are well aware of its existence. Whether it is a slumber party or neighborhood get together, something that seemed improbable worked. It forever cements itself in toy history.
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Did you own the USS Flagg? If so, where did you store it? Did you know anyone who had it? Also, is there a toy from 1985-1989 you would like us to cover? Leave your thoughts in the usual spot, and thanks for reading!
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