The Transformers and pre-Transformers community is made up of some of the most interesting, diverse and dedicated people I’ve ever met in my life. I’ve taken more enjoyment out of their company, knowledge and experience than any toy, cartoon or comic related to Transformers. This week we continue our series of collector interviews with another outspoken and well known collector who I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know much better in the last 12 months. We hope you enjoy his insight into a more specific side of the collecting community, the prestigious pre-Transformers. Prepare yourself for more forthright opinions and strong views…
1) Who are you and what do you collect?
My name is Francesco Ristori, I’m a 35 year old Italian professional photographer living in Florence, Italy. I collect vintage stuff in general, from Chogokin to Jumbo Machinders. But the main part of my collection is represented by Takara toys (whose logo has been tattooed on my leg). I basically collect everything you see in the Takara SF Land book: Henshin Cyborg, Microman, Diaclone and anime series toys. Getting closer to the point, Diaclone rules my world. From the classic robotic series to the later Car Robot and Real & Robo series. My problem is that I collect nearly ALL of the versions and variants: GiG, Kronoform, Diakron, Convertors and Finnish stuff. For every variant I usually need 3 specimens due to my “final display mania”.
I like the G1 Transformers cartoon and comic books but I honestly don’t care about the toys, since they look like an American rip-off of original Japanese projects, mashing up Microman and Diaclone and making up a story from nowhere, while the two series themselves had been kept pretty separate by the original Takara designers, and that’s why there are implausible problems with the scale of the characters in the cartoon. Even inserting a Macross Valkyrie between them really sucked, in my humble opinion.
2) How has the collecting scene changed in the last 10 years?
I started collecting Micronauts in 1995-96, then started with Chogokin and only in 2005 I started collecting transforming Diaclones. During these years I have to say that prices went crazy. I think the Transformers movies helped because many collectors started hunting Diaclones, foolishly, as very rare Transformers. Italian collectors in the beginning only wanted to collect GiG’s stuff, then they opened up to Japanese models, the ones not distributed in our country at the time. Internationally GiG stuff has been considered inferior to Takara’s for years and I myself too used to think so, then I just wanted to complete my Italian variants roster of “Trasformer” and satisfied my feelings. Now italian stuff, like Joustras or Finnish Diaclones, are crazy expensive.
Now we have a lot of acknowledgement of our beloved toys. Networks like TFW2005 and Facebook have also made us aware of what we were collecting and made us more focused. Of course Maz has been one of the prime movers and his info helped me a lot to understand this world better (together with Himawari and Fred’s variants website). Several collectors of the first wave quit collecting and a few are soon going to complete huge collections after many years of sacrifice, myself included.
3) How do you see the scene changing in 5 years’ time?
Mmmm, that’s a good question. I don’t think prices are gonna be crazier than now….the MIB stuff will be always crazier but the loose or not-C10 items are gonna lose value if not in 5 years, in 10 for sure. Unless we’re good at keeping alive the story of these toys and creating newbies. Maybe another Transformers movie will be good for that!
4) What has been your single biggest success as a collector, or your greatest ever find?
Hard to say, definitely the Finnish Diaclone toys gave me great satisfaction. I am the only owner on Earth of a boxed Finnish Cherry Vanette (pre-Ironhide). I think I own the best condition Finnish Fire Truck and I’ve recently found a Black Corvette…actually I’ve found 2 in a month! But that’s another story! People told me I was a fool paying high prices for PCDX and Marlboor Stratos at the time, now they tell me I’m a genius because you would pay 5 times more for the same items today. Another great find, for my interests, are the meteor robo color variants.
5) What is the most surprising or outrageous collecting story you have heard?
This year another Diaclone collector attempted to sell me a Finnish Diaclone Black Corvette for $2800, but the item was a custom made fake with specially cast parts designed to fool me. With the help of Maz and a number of fellow concerned collectors I was able to prove this deceit, publicly reveal the fraud, obtain a confession from the seller and get a full refund. I just could not imagine that another collector in such a small community would believe they could get away with such a thing, or even carry it out in the first place. It’s not the first time that I face someone who thinks they are smarter than everyone else, but he was not smart enough to create a perfect crime. It is import to unmask and humiliate them for the damage they do to our hobbies.
6) If you could pick one item from your collection to keep, what would it be?
I would keep the Finnish Diaclone Black Corvette and buy a real black Corvette Stingray to keep the toy inside of it. Otherwise I would keep my Blue 4WD Hilux that I still have boxed from my childhood.
7) If you could have one item out of someone else’s collection, what would that be?
We’re talking about my wishlist then Japanese Diaclone Truck Crane for sure, Diaclone Trainrobo special color variants or a Micro Change Series 44 Magnum chrome barrel variant.
8 ) What advice would you give a new collector starting out today?
DON’T EVEN START! IT’S A FIERCE WORLD!
Many many kind thanks to Francesco Ristori for words and pictures.
All the best