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It has always been a popular topic of discussion to rank the convention sets since the 3.75″ scale was re-introduced in 2002.  What often gets lost are the convention EXCLUSIVES that are part of the set.  For those of you who are not familiar with this, the Exclusives are separate from the con set.  They are typically an extension of the con set story line and normally are more remembered than the actual set itself.  The con exclusives normally are highly sought after in the secondary markets and they really cause a lot of collector angst if they decided to pass on it the first time to only see the prices triple or quadruple later down the road.  These things are expensive enough, but have to pay four times as much can put a real pinch in your hobby.  In my list, I did not include the convention attendee free exclusive.  Technically, I consider those part of the con set. Basically, if it is anything I had to stand in line for in the club store, that is what is on this list.  On that basis, I did include the para-drop figure  even though they were given out a freebies early on, but now are either charged for or guarded by lock and key and David Lane.  Let’s take a look at the past 8 years a’la cmderinchief:
2002: Paratrooper Dusty – Well, considering this is the only offering for 2002, this will finish last by default, but you can see how far Justin’s blogging skills have some with this old skool review.
2003: Firefly 2-Pack, HISS IIb, Air Viper – This is when the club really started to dabble with 3.75″ souvenir exclusives, and the offerings were not bad.  All of the exclusives from this year have held their value pretty well.  The Firefly set always proves tough to get if you missed it the first time.  The Air Viper is also hard to find.  Despite the HISS IIb’s odd coloring, it rarely shows up in the secondary markets making all of the 2003 items pretty tough to come by.  Let’s go retro and read Justin’s review of these here.
2004: Morphing Zartan 3-Pack, Dreadnok Thrasher & Zanzibar 2-Pack, Dreadnok Stun, Tiger-Ray Hydrofoil (Dreadnok Mobile Headquarters) – Despite the convention set from this year being agreed upon by the Joe fandom as being the worst set from the club, the extras were fairly notable.  Well, the club is nothing but consistent as the offerings seem to keep getting better and better.  With the exception of the 1:18th scale Dreadnok Mobile Headquarters, which was a die-cast Streamliner 5th wheel trailer, all of the items were pretty respectable offerings.  I was at the peak of my uber club support back then and if they sold it, I bought it so I got suckered into buying that stupid arse “Mobile Headquarters” and I regret ever buying it.  I think I ended up throwing it away.  Anyway…  Most people did not like the Morphing Zartan 3-Pack.  I did like the fact that I got a Tiger Force Hawk.  The Stun was unique in the way it has custom tooled wheel “hubcaps”; a nice touch by the club.  While Thrasher and Zanzibar were unremarkable, the Tiger-Ray was the best item of the set.  The hydrofoil was always a diamond vehicle in the GI Joe universe, so to have another, and a Tiger Force vehicle to boot was quite awesome.  The hydrofoil box was also branded with the convention logo, to make it a bit more one-of-a-kind for those folks who enjoyed keeping their boxes.  There was not a parachute drop this year, so no paratrooper figure for ’04.  Sadly, ’04 will always be remembered for long lines, muggy humid weather and the Billy Bob convention set.  These exclusives get buried and tied with the set sadly.  How does time effect the review back then?  Fire up the Delorian and lets go back in time.
2010: Red Shadows Staff Car, Red Shadows Secret Base, Q-Force 2-Pack, Z-Force 3-Pack –  To quote another famous Brit to describe Natalie Poole, “Its a man baby, yeeeah.”  That pretty much sums up the latest club offerings.  Good ideas – average execution.  These exclusives keep dropping on the list every time I edit this thing.  Why?  Really it is just the reuse of Lucas themed stuff.  Did the club really need to give us items from Star Wars and Indiana Jones?  My Red Shadows Secret Base has never been taken out of the package and my Staff Car holds my Modern Era Argen 7 members because I needed a place to stash them real quick.  Odd scale of the head sculpts were the theme of these exclusives.  Were the tools available THAT lacking?  No AF Vamp?  No AF SNAKE?  I mean, us vets know there are two sides to every story, so I am sure there is a reason the club did not OR COULD NOT use these better suggestions.  We ALL know if it is a COULD NOT situation, it means two things; Hasbro or the tools were bad.  If it is a Hasbro COULD NOT situation, then shame, shame, shame on you Hasbro for stifling the club’s creativity.  At least we didn’t get another FANG or JUMP rehash.  Gaucho and Jammer were cool though.  This is still fresh on our minds, so review the review here.
2006: Carded Sgt. Slaughter, Carded Sgt. Slaughter’s Renegades 3-Pack, Ferret ATV 2-Pack, Warthog APV, Blue Nullifier – While we have got boxed vehicles before, this was the first time the club offered the figures CARDED.   Having Slaughter come to the con and sign these was pretty nice too.  The Renegades were presented nicely on a 3 bubble card.  The Ferrets were a nice touch, one in Coil colors and the other Skull Squad colors.  The Warthog was the icing on the cake with enough room to hold Slaughter and his Renegades.  The Nullifier para-drop figure was just a blue repaint of the free club figure for that year.  A big vehicle, a big name Joe guest and carded exclusives make this year remarkable, but not the best yet.  You’ve seen Slaughter now, check him out then
2009: Crimson Command Copter, SAF Copter w/ Blades, International JUMP Jet 2-Pack, International Team 3-Pack – When the set itself lacked in originality and imagination, the exclusives made up for it.  It was cool to see the FANG back in action, but in a short amount of time, we were flooded with FANGS, from the 25th/Modern Era to the Adventure Team version – ENOUGH ALREADY! Blades was a great representation of what he was for the O-ring collectors – a repainted Tripwire.  The JUMP 2 pack was good, but again, done once before.  Starduster is still Starduster.  The 3 pack figures were a home run and really saved these exclusives.  They were a simple reuse of existing parts, but they work and they work well enough.  The Crimson Command Copter was a odd use of a complementary vehicle next to the RHINO.  Here it has to stand on its own.  There is a reason why my RHINO copter stays docked with the vehicle.  Its just odd looking.  Read up on the Mysterious Stranger Chris’ review as he pinch hit for Justin last year.
2007: Starduster & Grand Slam JUMP 2-Pack, Carded Rowdy Roddy Piper, Steeler, Rip It – The “could-have-been” exclusive year.  Steeler and Rip It were supposed to be Mauler drivers, but due to tool issues, the Maulers never made it to the collectors’ hands.  What puts these exclusives in the upper mid-pack is the fact that all of these souvenirs have remarkably held their value.  Rarely you can find Piper or the JUMP 2-Pack for less than $150, and if you do, it is a steal.  While the club sold out of all the exclusives, for whatever reasons, die hard collectors decided to skip out on Piper.  Their loss is other collectors’ gain.  I managed to get two.  One to open and one to keep carded and to have Piper sign; and I don’t feel guilty ONE BIT.  The number of people who got only one is frightening and learned a valuable lesson this year.  When it comes to club stuff, never hesitate because the next guy won’t.   You snooze, you lose, ‘nuf said.  The parachute figure this year was a Sigma Six figure, a line which I selfishly boycotted like an absolute fanboy, so reluctantly, I am not including it.  Some good stuff in this review.
2008: Hotwire’s Mech with Hotwire, SWAT RTV with Bullhorn, SWAT 3-Pack, Sky BAT –  What do you get when you mix a new character, something we missed with the cancellation of Robot Rebellion, three very cool repainted figures and a sturdily built large vehicle to put them all in?  You get the 2008 exclusives!  I admit, the Headhunters, the Bodyguards, the BATs or even Gristle did not do anything for me.  I rank the set itself, pretty low, but these exclusives were truly special.  The Mech was a hold over from the canceled RR line, so that was a nice rescue the club performed.  Hotwire was a mix-mash of parts featuring Blanka’s head, but the fact they pulled the character from TCG, that really works for me.  I like new and I like unique and that defines a con exclusive to me.  The drab olive deco of the SWAT three pack TOTALLY works and actually IMPROVES the figures.  Sure, the RTV may be a reuse of something from late in the RAH line or from JvC (for those newer collectors), the repaint works well and the fact that you can put two figures in the front, two more in the back and two on the door guns makes this vehicle AWESOME to display ALL of your Dallas Convention Joe Team members in one convenient setting.  The Sky BAT was a little odd and the club must have got a good deal on them that year as I seem to remember them being passed out like candy.  I know the Sigma Six fans like them because they reflect back to the taller S6 version.  But for me, they looked like a bright baby blue target for Low Light to pick off from miles and miles away.  Who knew in 2008 that this would be the last great O-ring con souvenir release.  Ah…memories…
2005: Steel Brigade Trooper 2-Pack, Steel Brigade Commander, Gung Ho & Dragonsky 3-Pack, Iron Mech, Steel Brigade Skyhawk 3-Pack, Blue Cobra Moray Hydrofoil Deck, Jungle Viper Parachute Figure – Everyone loves the Steel Brigade.  What is better?  TWO Steel Brigade troopers and a Steel Brigade Commander.  Toss in the first con release of Gung Ho AND an Oktober Guard member you get a little bit of gold.  But wait, there is more.  An AFFORDABLE Skyhawk THREE pack?  Are you kidding me.  In a day and age when the club charges just about anything they want for this stuff, and we typically buy it, the Skyhawks were a STEAL for what they were offered at.  The Iron Mech this year was actually presented and sold in-box.  Check out the review when the club pretty much was firing on all cylinders for this year.
Well there it is folks, while we’re STILL waiting on the club to announce a site for us, these are just a few of my thoughts to pass the time.  Feel free to put yours thoughts and choices below.