So far, our collector interviews have been extremely toy and collection focused. And rightfully so, there are members of the Transformers collecting community who have poured their souls and fortunes into amassing the most unbelievable collection of pre-Transformers, sealed vintage items, prototypes, variants and rarities. They deserve recognition for their achievements and contributions to the furthering of the hobby and its collective knowledge. This month, however, we are shining the spotlight on a collector who has dedicated himself to creating a remarkable South American Transfan community and giving back as much to the fandom and his fellow community members as anyone I have ever met. This kind of selfless drive is rare in our community and those achievements should be celebrated. David has no shortage of toys either…
1) Who are you and what do you collect?
My name is David Buenaño Hochman. I Live in Perú – South America. I am an organizational psychologist and I work for different companies as a consultant and professional motivational trainer so I travel a lot (I’ve worked all over my country, and every time I travel I carry one of my Transformers with me as a lucky charm). I have a very understanding family (that otherwise should already had me killed because all the time I devote to Transformers) and a beautiful girlfriend who is a Bumblebee fan.
My nick in the different internet transfan communities is “The Last Autobot”. I chose it more than a decade ago as an homage to the last direct creation of Primus in the original Marvel G1 comics. I am the Founder and Leader of The Cultural Association Transformers Perú, one of the oldest and most organized fan communities in Latin America. This year we celebrate our tenth anniversary!!! Our main fronts are our forum-web, Facebook, blog and online radio across which we permanently inform fans about everything related to the brand. We also have different regional sites created through years in charge of organizing events (in important Peruvian cities like Arequipa, Chiclayo, Trujillo and Piura).
10 years ago I took upon myself the task of finding all the transfans in my country and later in all of Latin America (my not so secret world domination plan). In Transformers Perú we’ve co-organized all the Transformers live action movie premieres here and we’re constantly putting on events to spread the word of Primus. I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve appeared on television or written for different magazines and newspapers about Transformers. We work closely and have a very good relationship with the people at Hasbro Perú (we help each other in what we can).
Aside from my work in TfsPerú, I’m one of the founders and administrators of the Latin American Transfan Community that gathers the main Latin transfan communities together, founder and administrator of the Transformers Spanish Wiki “Primuspedia” and co-administrator of two of the biggest Facebook Transformers fan pages with several thousand users: Dark of The Moon and Transformers Prime.
It’s definitely a 24/7 job!!
Regarding of what I collect, I think it´s easier to say what I don’t. So in summary, I am a damn completist. I collect all Transformers from 1984 up to the latest releases (including variants). I am a purist so I neither purchase 3rd party products nor knockoffs (KO). I would rather be dead! To this day I have a collection of approximately 3000 Tfs (1000 MISB/MIB/MOSC/MOC and 2000 loose). My favorite character is Sideswipe!!!
But If I like Transformers it is because of the love I have for the various details of its multiverse. Toys are very important for me but more because of the personalities and stories of their respective characters. That is why I have the majority of comics, animated series and books to date. From the G1 series to Budiansky and Furman stories in Marvel G1 US and UK of the 80′s to the current ones in IDW of Roberts, MTMTE and the most recent series Transformers Prime. I consider myself to have extensive knowledge of the franchise as a whole (the majority of transfans have specialized in one topic or only like a part of it), this gives me the advantage of assessing the evolution of the franchise from the beginning to the present day.
2) How has the collecting scene changed in the last 10 years?
I´ve been a transfan all my life, since I was a kid when I watched the G1 series and had the first toys and comics. Fast forward to the late 90′s and I’ve dedicated myself to finding the Transformers I couldn’t have as a child. Later on, in the 2000′s at the internet peak it helped a lot to unite the dispersed transfans and discover an incredible amount of information. I remember when I checked the Lukis site (I still use it as a checklist along with tfu.info), tfrid, bigbot, Fred’s Variations Page, obscure characters or pages that were in geocities and are now defunct. Sometime later I started not only to read but to post on various boards like transfans.co.uk (I still do) and on TFW2005. In those times, in the heyday of Beast Wars and Beast Machines, the fandom started to grow exponentially and the first death battles started (“TRUKK NOT MUNKY”) but nonetheless the franchise wasn’t the monster that it is now.
Nowadays almost everything is a couple of clicks away. Be it buying transformers or obtaining info. Before the only ones we “knew” were a few, but now because of the live action movies, Transformers are a global phenomenon. Names like Optimus Prime and Bumblebee are part of pop culture. Now you can have almost any Transformer in the world, or let the world know what you think of any aspect of the franchise. Because of this, you have to watch out for info that is not always accurate or real. For instance, a couple of months ago I came across a YouTube channel with a lot of G1 video reviews, and all the Transformers were KOs. But in no video did he mention that. The curious thing is he rated the toys, gave technical details and characteristics but never said they were KO, and he proclaimed he was an “expert”. He only analyzed counterfeits! A lot of rookie posters assumed that for example it was very easy to find a MISB 84 Pre Rub Optimus Prime or inaccuracies such as a Minibot in an 84 style blister came with a rubsign. Things like this create a really big tidal wave of disinformation. When I told him what I thought of this and that he couldn’t state things that the actual original toys didn’t present he deleted all my posts. The monoformer son of a glitch!!!
Like that guy there are a lot of people on the ‘net that try to pass their ignorance as knowledge and a few even have a big legion of followers. Now that we have everything at hand we have to be more diligent in finding actual true information and the oldest fans should teach and somehow orient the newest. We definitely have to accept that some of us know more of certain aspects of the franchise and appreciate the ones who were here before us.
From a collecting point of view, now everything is easier to find. But a lot of vintage Transformer prices are too prohibitive. Many years ago it was more common to find cheap stuff, but now a lot of sellers as soon as they have a Transformer (or something resembling it) raise their prices automatically. In a certain way, we are the ones to blame for it. I’ve witnessed many auctions in which beginner transfans that look for a piece offer immediately a high sum and end up damaging the market for it. Even for things like that we have to show common sense!
Also, because of Transformers’ growing popularity there are many scalpers and sellers that try to deceive people with overpriced stuff. The growing demand has also generated the emergence of many KOs that are sold as the real McCoy. Some transfans argue they are almost the same, but any experienced collector knows this is not true. There are so many collectors out there looking for KOs that they are now more KOllectors with a ‘K’ than anything else.
The last decade also started the trend of homages and official reissues, which has allowed those previously holy grails to become reachable for a wider audience (poor Stepper passed from being a legend to an 80% discount toy in his reissue). Another interesting point is that in the 80s’ if you wanted a Megatron or Soundwave you had to buy the only one available, now Hasbro and Takara think more of their potential buyers and there are a lot of different size options for the same character (if it’s popular). We have to always take into account that we are not the target audience, but the kids who buy the 50 different redecos and remolds of Bumblebee.
The non-official toys or 3rd parties have also appeared with a lot of strength. And even If I don’t care about them, I have to accept they are a viable option for many collectors of having certain toys in a more stylized form. Although I can say this, we also have to be objective in that many are not the marvels people think and quite a few have material and quality problems. But this is not always accepted by some fans that use them as their platform to show their disgust with Hasbro.
Talking about the stories, we have to thank Dreamwave for the initial resurgence of Transformers and for the introduction of a whole new generation of artists (like Don Figueroa or Guido Guidi) and the return of legends like Simon Furman. A couple of years later, after The Pat Lee implosion (and explotation!) IDW took the reins, with such good stories like Last Stand of The Wreckers or MTMTE or the continuation of Marvel’s G1 in the form of Regeneration 1. Speaking of animated series, Transformers Prime is a very good show with many incredible moments and having one of the best season finales I have seen in the last few years.
Much that has happened so far is because of the live action movies. Many transfans hate Michael Bay, but we have to accept that the actual success of the franchise is because of him. If Optimus Prime is now an icon it is because of his portrayal in the movies. We can only expect that in the future some of the next movies can have better stories and show a little more respect to the characters portrayed.
Now if we talk about knowledge, we definitely have grown a lot. There are many good websites and wikis with info from all the different continuities of the franchise. But what I’ve seen also is that in many forums there are transfans that only dedicate time to criticising. Transformers is at its core a line that shall transform and change with the passage of time. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “That toy sucks” only to see that everyone bought him later, or that series is a “disgrace” and a few months later everyone was sad it ended. Sometimes we have to take time to assimilate the changes in our beloved brand.
Finally, we all know each other. But at the same time we don’t know anybody (deep, I know!). That is why I advise that once in a while you stand up and know other transfans live and direct. That is how bonds get stronger. And even though there is sometimes trouble (I know!), nothing equals the chance of doing and achieving great things together like at events, conferences or exhibitions.
3) How do you see the scene changing in 5 years’ time?
With more movies every 2 or 3 years I don’t think the brand will have a lack of new transfans or collectors. More and more Transformers will be available and collector oriented lines will still appear (like Masterpieces or reissues) and definitely we will see more homages in other lines (like Generations or the excellent video game toys). For the 30th anniversary of the brand and the 4th live action movie we’ll see a lot of surprises that will keep the brand fresh.
Definitely there will be more 3rd party toys, although I hope Hasbro someday annihilate them.
4) What has been your single biggest success as a collector, or your greatest ever find?
Even though I have one of the best Transformers collections in Latin America (and dare I say, the world!) and many sought after Transformers, I think that I stand apart from many transfans that only look after themselves and their collections. My major pride is the creation and existence of my community. Many transfans only know each other online and through boards, and only see each other once a year at BotCon or at a couple of events. In our case the forum and Facebook are just ways of communicating for our transfans. But we are very active in organizing and participating in different events (an average of 18 per year, in which we put on exhibitions, conferences, contests) and in our monthly meetings. I don’t know many other communities who can say that. We’ve worked a lot to keep Transformers alive in our country.
I can say that my (our) biggest achievements in Transformers Perú so far have been:
- The first and obvious one is to be celebrating our tenth anniversary this year!!!
- Our first exhibition with hundreds of Transformers in the gallery of a local district.
- Co-organising each of the 3 live action movie premieres. Seeing our logo alongside Hasbro’s and the rest of sponsors is something indescribable. Almost as exciting as being in front of everyone (with my admins) talking to a full transfan audience minutes from seeing each movie for the first time.
- Being capable of writing the 3 articles for the 3 movies in one of the most renowned newspapers in the country.
- We’ve been interviewed a lot of times on nearly every TV channel. And one of the most memorable ones, when I appeared in a very important prime time TV show for more than 20 minutes. At that time it was very unusual for a programme that mostly interviewed politicians. That day the bandwidth of our web collapsed due to the visits generated by that appearance.
- Being able to put on an exhibition, conference and projection of the 1986 movie (that was never shown in theaters in Perú in the 80′s) in the main conference room of the National Library of Perú. Not only once, but twice! Also seeing a gigantic banner with our logo on it.
- Having many articles (with my friend and fellow admin Jose “Black Convoy”) in the first and oldest animation magazine in Perú (Sugoi).
- When my Transformer Blog won the award of best blog in the fiction category in Perú in 2009.
- The first time our Optimus Prime costume appeared in an event and the faces of the people when they saw him and seeing how Eddy (our Optimus Prime) keeps improving it..
- The first time (thanks to Hasbro Perú) we had the truck resembling Movie Optimus Prime for one of our events and having the chance to “drive it”.
- One of my dear transfans went on a trip to Egypt and he took a couple Transformers from us. So my G1 Sideswipe went on my behalf and was in the same spot where everything happened in Revenge of The Fallen. That was great!!
- That I can without a doubt affirm that my country has quite a lot of knowledgeable collectors, and part of this is because of Transformerrs Perú.
- The day Transformers Perú became a Cultural Association registered legally in our country.
- Interviewing Hironobu Kageyama (one of the main Japanese singers of Transformers).
- THIS INTERVIEW!
- Too many events, stories, effort, time and sacrifice. Not only from me, but by my beloved transfans.
5) What is the most surprising or outrageous collecting story you have heard?
I’ve got enough stories to write a few books. I’ve had many interesting things happen to me looking for Transformers, like once when I found various G2 minibots in a butcher´s shop. Or on more than one occasion that I’ve looked for Transformers through rumors and I’ve felt like a special commando looking for a criminal. Or a couple of times after some TV programmes I was recognized in the street (felt like a celebrity!).
If I talk about other people’s stories, finding G1/Diaclone deadstock after all these years, or the dead husband million dollar ebay collection, the KO AFA minibots incident, or the time a well known TF board member and collector scammed many transfans.
6) If you could pick one item from your collection to keep, what would it be?
My favorite character is Sideswipe, so if the world ends after a zombie apocalypse I’ll take them all with me and a couple other TFs for emotional reasons (my first TF, G1 Warpath, or the two Bumblebees my girlfriend gave me).
7) If you could have one item out of someone else’s collection, what would that be?
I think there are no more Transformers I “need”. With patience and a good attitude everything appears when it should.
8 ) What advice would you give a new collector starting out today?
Being a collector is not cheap, but it shouldn’t be that expensive either. That is why you have to be informed. If you are just starting to collect, look for something you like and that is accessible.
If you have to choose between two Transformers, think:
- Which one is more difficult to obtain later?
- Which one is in better shape/made/complete?
- Which is older? (for instance a G1 Wheeljack is worth more than a Prime Arcee).
- Are any of them exclusives?
- Try to buy the bigger transformers first, moreso if you are in a place where there is not a lot of stock.
- Usually Japanese Tfs are a lot more difficult to obtain than American ones.
If you like old TFs and are not too picky, you can opt for official reissues. You won’t spend too much and you will have “new” old TFs. But be very careful as there are a lot of KOs around and many sellers without a conscience are willing to sell them. Always establish contact with reputable sellers and from other countries.
Try to buy complete TFs. If you don’t, sometimes to complete them it can take years or it can end up being more expensive than just waiting to have them in that state (unless it is a very difficult or rare one).
Everything (almost) is obtainable!! So don’t be desperate, unless it is a lucky draw or a TF of whom there are only 5 in the world, everything will return someday. Many times I’ve been asked if I had a TF that just went out. The usual answer is “no” because on many occasions you find them later at better prices and not at the “novelty” price. Depending on the country you are in, you can find them at “2-for-1″ or with heavy discounts if you wait (but not wait so much that you don’t find him at all!!). If you buy recent TFs, you’ll have plenty of places to look for good offers.
Each collection is unique and we are the ones at the end that give them the value they have. But at the same time, understand that the market gives average estimates for each Transformer and although you love your little G1 Firecon, it won’t be worth that much even If you want it to be. In my opinion, a collection is worth as much as how much the collector knows about it. If not, they are only expensive pieces of plastic. You can have 5 or 1000 Transformers, but always remember to inform yourself of what you have and what you look for. You don’t have to know every little detail of their comic appearances, but by knowing their names and a couple other details, it helps a lot not only in understanding the market, but in talking with other collectors.
Always keep in mind that even if Hasbro and Takara go out of business today, there is an incredible quantity of TFs available and information to learn. So you are entering a complete and extensive multiverse!!
Finally, two things:
If you are in Latin America, we are here, we are waiting!!!
And sincerely, for the love of Primus. Don´t be a completist! It is a lot of work!!!
Many kind and gracious thanks to David Buenaño Hochman for words and photographs, and for making me learn the Alt code for ‘ñ’.
All the best