USS Flagg, Hasbro
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Credit: Hasbro, Netflix

History's hottest holiday toys: The largest G.I. Joe toy ever made, 1985's USS Flagg

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Dec 18, 2018

After showing a girl his extensive toy collection of dinosaur Transformers and the coveted Castle Grayskull of Masters of the Universe fame, little Adam Goldberg on The Goldbergs runs to reveal the crown jewel of his collection exclaiming, "Behold, the USS Flagg."

Covering just about half of the ground floor of his bedroom, the girl is clearly unimpressed while muttering, "That takes up... uh... a lot of room," Adam replies, "Well, yeah. It's an aircraft carrier. It's meant to hold aircrafts."

Adam thinks he's done it. He's shown her the crowning achievement of all toys for kids in 1985 and he's sure this will be the thing to win her over. But then, she utters the heartbreaking truth: "Uh... I gotta go."

There was no greater status symbol for fans of G.I. Joe in 1985 than the USS Flagg aircraft carrier from Hasbro. Named after General Lawrence J. Flagg, the comic-book character who created the G.I. Joe team and was later slain by Cobra, and inspired by the actual USS Nimitz Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Flagg was a towering hunk of plastic measuring just over seven feet long and three and a half feet wide.

During its initial release, it was the largest playset aimed for boys in existence and sold for $109.99 ($258.50 in today's dollars). With a box itself that measured 42 inches wide, it remains the largest G.I. Joe toy ever created.

"That there was even a conversation at Hasbro where someone suggested making a seven and a half foot long aircraft carrier is worth noting," Dan Larson of Toy Galaxy says in his video love-letter to the USS Flagg. "That it wasn't dismissed as an utterly ridiculous, logistical nightmare, the definition of impossible, is itself a miracle."

While the aircraft carrier had plenty of features like electronic public address system, allowing broadcasting of the player's voice, a two-piece utility vehicle, radar, missile launchers, an "Admiral's Launch," an elevator deck, and an arrestor cable making playtime worthwhile, its main purpose was to house and hold the other G.I. Joe vehicles, planes, and helicopters. Meaning, this playset was more of an interactive storage container and glorified status symbol.

"This is not a toy, this is not a vehicle, this is not a playset, this is the USS Flagg, a thing so great that your collection must be built around it, near it, or on it," Larson says.

The USS Flagg was not a toy that was traditionally played with on its own, rather, this was a gift catering toward the wealthier children. Not only did you need the accessories to make the USS Flagg worthwhile, but you also needed to have the bedroom or playroom space to make playing with the carrier manageable.

"It doesn't move," the G.I. Joe expert collective known as G.I. Joburg told SYFY WIRE. "Assuming you have a room large enough to move it around, you can't. Once you lay it down, it's there to stay."

In addition to the monstrous structure, the USS Flagg came with what the people behind G.I. Joburg consider to be one of the greatest action figures ever produced by Hasbro's G.I. Joe vintage line.

Admiral Keel-Haul, the driver of the entire USS Flagg aircraft carrier, has the highest rank of any member of the G.I. Joe squad. With a wholly original body mold, Keel-Haul is one of the most uniquely designed figures. "Weigh him against anything else produced in the vintage line, his details are top notch," G.I. Joberg says.

Originally exclusive to the USS Flagg, Keel-Haul was later sold individually in 1986 but was discontinued domestically in 1987. He was made available via mail-order as part of a "Special Missions Drivers" set in 1989, and left-over figures would later pop-up in arcades and carnivals across the United States as a prize option in 1993. According to G.I. Joberg, "It's toy history...it's a killer parking space for some of the best G.I. Joe toys ever produced."

According to Larson at Toy Galaxy: "If your dreams are as big as the absolute undeniably greatest action figure playset vehicle ever in the history of machinable plastics, this was a must-have." Today, ​​​​​USS Flagg playsets in poor condition are sold for a few hundred dollars, with mint-condition/unopened boxes selling for several thousand.

As for the kids who were gifted this gargantuan beast during the Christmas of 1985, the year that was the height of Cabbage Patch Dolls, Transformers, and Care Bears, they were the luckiest ones of them all.


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