The passage of time continues to bring us brand new discoveries in the vintage world of Transformers and pre-Transformers collecting. We’re nearing the 30 year anniversary of the first release of The Transformers, and we’ve already surpassed that mark for Diaclone and Micro Change, and despite those milestones this amazing hobby and area of toy collecting still present gems, gifts, mysteries and oddities never before seen or documented. While this must surely end one day, that day is not today.
Last year I wrote an article for Source Blog that highlighted a number of variants or oddities I’d never heard of before (White Mexican Cliffjumper, Ceji Dirge etc), thinking that I could use that trick just once for the ongoing weekly articles. As it turned out, I found enough material for a second part and now even a third part to that unofficial article series. There’s no dragging up of old discoveries here either, a few of them are genuinely earth-shattering. As with the previous installments, there’s a healthy mix of early European G1, South American minibots, US Transformers packaging and toy variants as well as a pre-Transformers shock.
Starting off with something quite familiar, a couple of months ago for the first time I spotted a 1984 boxed early pre-rub Jazz on eBay. Now pre-rub Jazz is not a rare toy by any means or a new discovery, and neither are early Transformers Jazz specimens with a Diaclone-style “TAKARA JAPAN” copyright stamping in circle only. What made this one special was that the box fell into that special early Transformers packaging variety referred to as “No-grey-border”. This refers to a lack of grey-coloured cardboard separating the character box art from the cellophane window on the box front. Instead, the uniform grid pattern of the rest of the box can be seen between the art and the window. All of the specimens found in this type of box have been “TAKARA JAPAN” stamped, Japanese Diaclone style. The No-grey-border jets have no copyright stamping at all, again, Japanese Diaclone-style.
Since awareness of these early packaging variants has grown in the last 5 or so years, more have been spotted and advertised as such, but this Jazz almost slipped under the radar. I have personally seen No-grey-border versions of Prowl, Bluestreak, Ironhide, Trailbreaker, Sunstreaker, Mirage, Starscream, Skywarp and Thundercracker, but this was the first appearance of Jazz that I was aware of. It’s not inconceivable that all 1984 series 1 Autobot cars come packaged like this, it’s just a matter of documenting and confirming them. Hound, Ratchet and Sideswipe are out there waiting to be found. It’s also not a stretch to say that the error-box Optimus Primes from 1984 are of the same category.
Staying in North America, this is another very recent find by a resourceful pre-Transformers collector. The Powerdashers will be familiar to most Transformers collectors as mail-aways during the US Transformers line, but they were originally Japanese Diaclone toys and the group consisted of 3 pull-back transforming vehicles; a drill dasher, an F1 dasher and a jet dasher. These Japanese Diaclone toys were released in Italy as well by GiG, at first boxed and in styro (like Japan) and then carded. They saw further release in mainland Europe in 1984 by Ceji Joustra as carded “Diaclone” toys and in 1983/1984 in the US as carded Takara “Diakron” items.
Once more, the existence of these toys in the Diakron line was not a surprise, but to find them actually on their original cards…it was one of those moments when something looks familiar but you realise that you have never seen them in their original packaging before. Carded Diakron “Power Dashers” are a revelation, and how interesting that these pre-Transformers are called “Power Dashers”. You can see how they share almost the precise same card and design layout as the second release GiG “Scatter” toys, but are slightly different to the Joustra Diaclone versions in terms of bubble shape. It’s also worth noting that Joustra Powerdashers always have a yellow bubble as do most GiG, and so much so that discolouration has almost been ruled out in favour of a plastic colour choice by the manufacturers, but the Diakron ones have a clear bubble. Notice how Takara Diakron, GiG and Ceji Joustra all refer to the individual toys as “Cromar”, “Zetar” and “Aragon”, casting a tiny little doubt on the originally held belief that the Joustra Diaclone artists came up with those names.
I promise the good stuff is still to come, we still have some unfinished business in North America. I’ve always been a fan of the coneheads and Decepticon jet Ramjet has a very special place in my heart. Some of you may be aware of my writings on the Hasbro early production sample Ramjet which had the smooth orange canopy (as seen on the box) and misplaced rubsign on the diecast shoulder which came from an ex-Hasbro employee (read HERE , Part 3), but last year I found an honest-to-goodness production version of the same variant!
It’s not unusual to find early G1 Ramjets, Thrusts and Dirges with the rubsign on the diecast shoulder where it would be covered up by stickersheet labels, but it had been thought up until now that the orange canopy Ramjet was a proto/sample only feature. Apparently not! Bought in the UK, this Ramjet was advertised as a regular one but had the smooth orange canopy and misplaced rubsign, just like the sample. This is one step further along the chain though, actually having factory stickers on the wings and a Hasbro stamping. Not surprising if it was a proper production item. He does look glorious with that canopy, even if it is not particularly show accurate.
A quick trip south to Latin America before we get to the real stunners, this red and yellow Peruvian minibot Huffer released by Lynsa is not news, they’ve been known about for some time. While Huffer in these colours is tremendously rare, again, not a recent discovery. What made this find so very special was the fact that unlike nearly every Lynsa minibot that has been found in Peru or abroad, it was not broken, came with packaging and was actually carded. Beyond that it was still unpunched!
Now, while it is still technically MOSC as it cannot be removed from the bubble, the bubble has experienced crushing and significant damage allowing dirt to seep in. The shelf peg hole is circular like the Rubiplas Venezuelan minis and is still intact, so this item never made it to a store shelf. Just last week another one turned up on eBay in similar condition, so there could well have been a recent find! Eitherway, seeing a carded Lynsa minibot, and a spectacular variant like this one, was a genuine highlight of 2012 and worth mentioning.
Finally, the good stuff, and something I’ve been dying to share for months. What you see before you is the European G1 1985 release of what Hasbro Bradley believed could be passed off as “Sideswipe”. Clearly the toy inside is a Sunstreaker. What makes this such a wonderful item, beyond being one of the largest mix-ups in Transformers toy release history, is the fact that it has a magnificent back story as to why it came about. The full details of this story can be explored HERE and HERE, but I’ll give you a short summary of the essentials behind the MB ‘Sunswipe’.
In 1985 Milton Bradley had already released a wave of Transformers in mainland Europe, these would have been toys that were not previously licensed to French company Ceji Joustra for release as mainland European “Diaclones”. Those particular moulds were off-limits to Milton Bradley until Hasbro and Milton Bradley obtained the rights and stock from Ceji to sell those “Diaclone” moulds as Transformers in mainland Europe as Ceji were heading for collapse. Among the gems that came out of that series of events are the MB Red Tracks and MB Thundercracker-as-Starscream. ‘Sunswipe’ is another such beauty. Since Ceji Joustra only had the pre-Sunstreaker Countach on their books for their second wave of “Diaclone”, MB could only release this mould in its Diaclone styro insert with cardboard supports stuffed into a Transformers Autobot car box. But why a Sideswipe box and paperwork? For that you’d have to go back to the original agreement between Hasbro and Takara to release a “No. 1 Countach (Red Sunstreaker)” and a “No.15 New Countach – Yellow (Yellow Sideswipe)”, which would explain the Hasbro Sunstreaker/Sideswipe tech spec mix up and why MB thought that this yellow Countach was a Sideswipe! A simply wonderful series of mix-ups and events that have led to one of the most awesome-looking variants in G1 history.
It doesn’t look particularly earth-shattering does it? It’s just a Japanese Micro Change Series MC-07 Browning Gun Robo. But where’s the Japanese text? There is none, so it must be an Italian or Joustra Diaclone release. But where’s the GiG logo or exclusive Joustra artwork? Ah, it must be a Kingdam fake, a bootleg, a knockoff, you can see the English writing all over. But then why does it have official “Microman” and “Takara” logos, chrome guns and Takara copyrights? Why? I’ll tell you why! It is an official MC pre-Transformers Browning…from Finland!
It took so many glances before I finally cottoned on to what I was looking at, deciphering features such as the unique “Gunrobot” and “Microman” English language text and the precise use of those words, the official Takara logo, and of course the Finnish language instructions. We’ve all heard about the infamous Finnish Diaclone Black Tracks and its brethren (see HERE) which were store exclusives in Finland, but this toy was evidence that Finland also received at least both colour variants of Microman Browning too, hinting that there might be an entire undiscovered line of Finnish Takara Micro Change Series toys out there. While Finnish collectors had generally known about those exclusive Diaclones from their youth, I have found it very hard to find anyone with any sort of information about the Finnish Microman toys, or this Browning and how it was released.
Significant discoveries like this Finnish Browning are exactly the kind of thing that will keep vintage Transformers and pre-Transformers collectors busy for years to come, and unable to say that they have seen or done it all. A whole new door has been opened by its arrival, so I’ll say it again, sometimes we don’t realise how lucky we are to have a hobby like this that just keeps on giving nearly 30 years on from its genesis. Enjoy it, cherish it, one day all the mysteries will be solved.
Many kind thanks to my friends RpChristope for Diakron Dasher pics and Jon Krause for NGB Jazz pics.
All the best