Welcome to the first day of The 2023 PopCult Gift Guide. Every day for the next three weeks we will run the best pop culture gift ideas that we can find for you.

This year we’re cutting back a bit, so that we only suggest the very finest gift ideas, and our weekend selections will be flashbacks to previous years and recommendations of different retailers, both local and online.  On Black Friday we’ll post the Master List, and we’re leaving open the option to do some bonus picks the first week of December.

During the course of our Gift Guide we’ll group our suggestions by themes, types, genre or just random collections of stuff. Today we’re doing Toys, because we always start with toys. You can also expect one or two “Big Ticket Tuesdays” where the gift ideas will exceed the hundred-dollar mark.

All of our regular features will also run during this time, so you’ll have to check PopCult twice as often for the next few weeks.

And now we begin, as always, with this year’s HESS Holiday Truck…

The HESS Holiday Truck: 2023 Police Truck & Cruiser
Available exclusively from Hess Toy Truck.com

For the eleventh year in a row, we include the new HESS Holiday Truck in our Gift Guide. This time it’s a bit of an odd choice, a huge pseudo-military police truck, with a little police cruiser inside. I’m a little put off by the fact that it’s a police vehicle, since HESS is an oil company and I didn’t know we had Oil Police, but once you get past that, this is a really cool two-vehicle set.

The 2023 Hess Police Truck and Cruiser is a highly specialized law enforcement response team that will make you wonder why an oil company has a law enforcement team. Still, it looks really cool…

2023 Hess Police Truck & Cruiser! from Hess Toy Truck on Vimeo.

The heavy-duty, dual axle Police Truck is a geared-up, green-colored tactical transport enhanced with bold white striping, emblems, and glistening chrome embellishments, including a fully chromed front end with push bar, cab mounted emergency light bar, bumpers, fuel tanks, mirrors, wheels, and exhaust pipes. Cab top buttons activate 4 realistic sounds (horn, engine start, and traditional and European emergency sirens), each in tandem with a different animated flashing light pattern from an amazing array of 55 brilliant red, white, and blue emergency lights. A switch on the chassis underside enables the lights to operate silently in steady or flashing mode. Clear paneled windows reveal an internally illuminated cargo hold for the Cruiser, accessed via a quick release button that unfolds the dual-purpose rear door into ramp position for loading and unloading.

The Cruiser is a white armored-response vehicle accented with bold green striping, emblems, and chrome embellishments including front and rear window louvers, front bumper, and hubcaps. A total of 19 switch operated red, white, and blue steady-on lights includes 2 spotlights enclosed in a 270˚ rotating roof mounted turret. An under-chassis panel conceals a slide-out battering ram. A speedy ‘rev up and release’ pull back motor propels the Cruiser in either flat or wheelie position for a quick response to any emergency!

Despite HESS Oil recently being bought up and absorbed by Chevron, provisions have been made for the HESS Toy Truck line to continue, with three or four releases each year. I’m hoping that next year we get something a little less police-y, and maybe see them do a cement mixer with a revolving drum, or a working crane, or perhaps an oil tanker. Still, with all the light features and cool extras, plus the fact that batteries and shipping are included,  The 2023 HESS Holiday Truck is still a great gift idea for the collector or toy lover on your shopping list.

GI Joe: The Military Years 1964-1968: The Unauthorized Action Figure and Accessories Checklist
by R.J. Jones
Independently published
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8863087832
$12.99 from Amazon

Full disclosure time here: R.J. is an old friend of mine, and I contributed a back-cover blurb and did a little graphics work on the cover of this book. I was glad to do this because this is a much-needed book for the GI Joe collecting hobby.

In time for the 60th anniversary of GI Joe, this book is a straightforward checklist of all of the figures and accessories of the Military era of the original GI Joe. It’s a handy, portable list for the collector trying to complete their collection.  This checklist breaks down the figures and accessories by the branch of service (with the Soldiers of the World getting their own section) and promises to be the first of several books that will present a detailed list of figures and accessories, complete with their catalog number and a list of all the parts included.

That’s important because some of the accessory sets only included one piece, while others might have a dozen.

Being a checklist, there is no history to interpret or analysis to consider here. That’s refreshing because there have been some very good books already written about the history and creation of the original action figure, GI Joe. There have also been some books that have gotten so many details wrong that they’re basically useless. This book is just the cold, hard facts of what figures and accessory sets were released, and what was in them. And each item has a convenient checkbox next to it so that collectors can keep track of what they have and what they need.

GI Joe: The Military Years 1964-1968: The Unauthorized Action Figure and Accessories Checklist is an invaluable reference work for any vintage toy collector or dealer and would make a great gift for any fan of America’s Moveable Fighting Man.

The Member’s Mark Elite Adventure Corps 4-Action Figure Pack
Exclusive to Sam’s Club

I wrote about this cool action figure set and did a photo review less than a month ago, but since then it has become available to order online, and is still a great value, so it lands in our Gift Guide today.  You can check out my earlier review HERE.

Sold under the Sam’s Club brand, Members Mark, this is a set of four 11.5″ action figures: An Outdoor Explorer; An Airborne Ranger; A Fire Fighter; and A Space Explorer. This is a nice return from Lanard Toys who haven’t been quite as visible as they once were of late.  Their signature lines, The C.O.R.P.S. and its 12″ counterpart, Ultra C.O.R.P.S have been a little harder to find, so it was great to see this set show up because it’s such a great value.

The figures themselves are typical of current 1/6 scale action figures aimed at kids. They have eleven points of articulation, molded-on clothes, and not a great range of motion. They are poseable and have lots of play value for kids, but they also have a lot of customizing potential for adult hobbyists who are willing to be creative.  All four figures have gloved, gripping hands which are sturdy and flexible. Each figure also comes with headgear or a helmet, three of which have working visors.  And there are accessories. Each figure gets three or four accessories, which are wrapped in tissue paper, tucked away in a small box in the middle of the packaging, and they are a really nice bonus for the price.

The Member’s Mark Elite Adventure Corps 4-Action Figure Pack is NOT a high-end collectible for adults. It’s a nicely-priced kid’s toy that makes a great gift for kids and for adult collectors who aren’t obsessive about detail, accuracy or articulation.