Like grisly mementos from some forgotten battlefield, the GI Joe heads arrive at Craig Blanken-ship’s home every day. “They come torched, tattooed; kids cut off their noses,” says Blankenship. “Some kids do their own haircuts.”
They’ve come to the right place. Blankenship, 41, founder and only paid employee of Club Hair for GI Joe, takes the balding veterans—from as far back as 1970—and replaces hair that has fallen victim to simple wear or childhood terrorism. “Craig is absolutely the best,” says Vincent Santelmo, author of GI Joe: The Official ID and Price Guide. “He has mastered the technique.”
To give the dolls that Rogaine look, Blankenship scrapes off any remaining strands, smooths out gashed scalps with a sander, then glues on “hair”—nylon fiber, called flocking—mixed to match the various GI Joes. “Even though the Sea Adventurer had red hair,” he says, “he has a lot of black and a bit of blond added.” A secret process using static electricity makes Joe’s GI buzz cut stand at attention.
Blankenship, who by day is an engineering technician in Yakima, Wash., where he lives with his wife, office manager Kristina, 42, and her son Tyler, 13, began renovating GI Joe heads in 1998; to a collector, a new $15 head of hair can increase a doll’s value by half. (The rarest old Joes, in pristine condition, can fetch $100.) Blankenship, who fondly recalls the GI Joes he had when he was a kid, has found more than an occupation. “He’s been searching his whole life,” says Kristina, “for something to bring back his childhood.”