Gold Plastic Syndrome Viper

Image stolen from Google

Above is the G.I. Joe figure, Cobra Viper v3. It was released in 1990, as part of the “Sonic Fighters” assortment of figures — this line came with huge battery-storing backpacks with buttons that would play sound effects like machine gun fire, or the character yelling stuff like “Yo Joe!” or “Cobraaa!”, depending on their alignment.

If you’re interested, click this sentence to read more about this guy over at

While all the classic Cobra Viper toys look pretty cool, there was something about this color scheme that always struck me. Maybe it was the bright red face shield. Maybe it wad the unusual combination of reddish-brown and gold. Not entirely sure, I just liked it. But I never has this toy as a kid. I never had very many of the 80s/90s G.I. Joe figures, as I was always more interested in other toy lines. But this guy always intrigued me.

So I figured, hey, maybe I should buy one. I have a new job that’s paying me pretty well (hence the lack of updates the last couple weeks), I could just go on eBay and get one if he’s not too expensive.

What I discovered was that there were very few Sonic Fighters Cobra Vipers on eBay. They were all still in packaging, and all going for significantly more than the other Sonic Fighters figures. Why would that be?

Well it turns out this guy suffers from what’s known as Gold Plastic Syndrome. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, toy companies (particularly Hasbro) started using a particular type of gold plastic that, after about 20 years or so, becomes very brittle and snaps or crumbles very easily.

“Why would they use that plastic?” I’ve has people ask me when explaining GPS to them. And the answer is, they didn’t know the long-term outcome of this specific chemical composition. It wasn’t until the mid-2000s when some of these toys started breaking down that fandom started to realize the gold plastic they all had in common.

The Transformers Wiki has a much more in-depth article about GPS, as well as which Transformers toys utilize this specific type of gold plastic:

As for me, it looks like I probably won’t ever own a Sonic Fighters Cobra Viper that I can play with. Not unless Hasbro decides to release the new 5-inch G.I. Joe Classified Viper in red and gold.