To collect is to complete, or at least it is for some. Certain corners of the Transformers toy-buying community are happy to pick up whatever figure takes their fancy from time to time, others choose to focus their collecting and aspire to complete either a particular run of figures, sub-line or category. A small minority challenge themselves even further with simpler and more profound goals; everything and perfection.
I asked a number of well-known experts in their field of Transformers collecting how conceivable they felt certain lofty goals were to achieve in order to gauge just how much of a task it would be to complete a specific type of collection. This week, Jon Krause, Cromagnus, Eric Warren and TFsource’s own Curt were quizzed on goals within MISB AFA G1 Transformers. Over the next few weeks we will also be looking at Japanese Transformers, minibots, pre-Transformers and prototypes. Our experts’ answers are as fascinating and insightful as you would expect from such esteemed gentlemen.
“Is it conceivable that someone could have a full run of high AFA-graded MISB G1?”
Cromagnus certainly believes so, but with a few exceptions. “It’s not only possible but I think it really has been done before by a handful of long time collectors. I remember seeing the Hartman collection for sale at BotCon 2006. As an AFA collector it was pretty inspiring to see the whole G1 run completed in sealed condition. I was convinced that anything could be done at that point. It didn’t take too long before I saw photos of the complete collections of several other AFA enthusiasts. However AFA items vary in the degree to which they are sealed. Some G1 characters are quite easy to find in MIB condition, like Jazz for example, but finding a MISB AFA 85 specimen with the tape sealed on both ends is quite difficult. Even the best of the completed G1 collections that I have seen included several MIB AFA graded examples to fill the gaps. Defensor, Piranacon and Menasor are notoriously rare in tape sealed high grade condition.“
So it appears to depend on your definition of what constitutes a high grade. Jon Krause makes reference to Cromagnus’s collection when giving his opinion on the above question: “Cromagnus is close. We were even talking at one point of doing a book with great pics of all the pieces we both have combined in our collections. I guess I offer up series 1 and he takes the rest! There’s probably a couple of people in China that are close as well but they are more mysterious…Cromagnus is definitely your guy. He hasn’t gotten there yet, but it is conceivable. I guess you need a ton of time, patience, and it is inevitable that even the savviest buyer will have to spend on certain items. I would say if you wanted to do an all AFA 80 graded, that could be done with relative ease over a couple of years.“
Supporting that last thought on having to spend a pretty penny, Curt Fignar says “It is conceivable, with $1,000,000 anything is possible. I can’t remember the official count on G1 Transformers but it’s something like 758, and at prices on many of the popular figures fetching $1000 a piece you’re talking a lot of cash.” But it’s not all about money, what about availability and rarity? “Looking at the AFA database, it’s really surprising just how few figures have been AFA graded. Many G1 figures you would think there are dozens of, there may be just 1 or 2 graded, and not necessarily high graded. Transformers aren’t like Star Wars where thousands were collecting them back when originally released on the market, and an AFA US Defensor high grade giftset…good luck. Transformers are a lot more about the hunt than other toy lines and getting one of everything would take lots of time, or lots of money and probably a combination of both.“
Eric Warren raises the point that money, patience and rarity are not the sole deciding factors: “I think the real question becomes ‘is a goal like this practical or even attainable?’. I think if I had the financial means I would pursue this goal with a passion, but of course it is not only purchasing the figures themselves but building a display to house everything aesthetically. But short of having millions of disposable dollars at your doorstep, this becomes a much more difficult question to answer. I have seen two collectors who have approached this goal however, one being ChristianTroy (aka sonofayoda on eBay) and Cromagnus. Both of their collections are (or in ChristianTroy’s case were) large enough to see an end to this goal. Apparently ChristianTroy decided that enough was enough and sold off most of his collection a couple of years ago. Cromagnus however is still pecking away, looking for those few figures to round out his set. “
Eric continues to say that “Fortunately from what I can tell there is at least one of every G1 US figure out there graded. The exceptions may be the giftsets (as I have never seen a sealed Defensor giftset) and the KMart Legends figures but obviously those figures are attainable in other ways through individual members or the Pretender versions of the same characters. Also I have not seen some of the Micromaster patrols graded however they are usually out there sealed, people just don’t grade them“. So it is within the realms of possibility, but are there limits?
Cromagnus believes so: “If we are really being true to the completist mentality, a complete collection would have to include variants. These variations would include poster box, no grey border, pre rub, rub, mini-spy, decoy, iron-on, tech spec error, and the running mold changes. I highly doubt that such a collection could ever exist in one place, in truly sealed condition. I’d quit collecting if I ever were to see that collection“.
Again, Eric’s words back up that sentiment “Now just because these figures are graded of course doesn’t mean they are in the best of condition, or even sealed. I don’t know how familiar you are with the grading system but 85 and above is the premium goal for most collectors, while most items out there are 75 to 80 which are in the mediocre range. AFA also grades opened and loose items now, but for simplicity’s sake I won’t even speak about loose graded items. If you were to ask me if it were conceivable that a complete sealed AFA 85 US G1 collection could exist I would have to say no. There are no 85 or above Fort Max figures (that I am aware of), and even some of the individual Aerialbots are tough to come by as 85 and above. Not to mention things start getting really expensive at the 85 mark. An 85 Megatron can run in the $3K+ range. I know Jon Krause has his AFA 90 Megatron and I don’t even want to know what that cost him.
“There is also the variant/error issue to consider. Does a complete collection include all pre-rub versions of the figures as well as the rub versions? Does it include all the mini spy and decoy variants? If so, then I would definitely say it is not possible. There are too many different combinations of figures that would need to be obtained and there just aren’t that many samples out there. The Throttlebots came with both red and purple Decepticon decoys, I can’t even imagine the hell of trying to obtain all those variants. I’m still looking for one red Decepticon decoy loose!“.
So what about some advice for those who are keen to pursue such a mammoth target?
Curt suggests that “If you aren’t concerned with time the route to go, one would hope for a warehouse find or ex Hasbro employee. 10 years ago I had within 2 months of one another a Hasbro employee who had one of everything for sale from his personal collection, and a toy collector on the East Coast with a whole warehouse looking to sell his Transformers as he thought they were never that great a line compared to GIJOE, He-Man, Silverhawks (yes he said Silverhawks was a better line…blasphemous I know) etc. Between the two I acquired much of my collection today, but have never had the same scenario happen again, either personally or being offered to TFsource via the Sell us Your Collection webform. Also back then I was a college student and was more concerned with rent and could barely afford to buy more than a dozen or so pieces, but in both situations, every piece was as close to case fresh as you can get and each had one of every figure and available at a fraction of the market price. Now if you went that route, you’re still probably looking at $70-$100K in AFA grading fees. But then you could open your own Transformers Museum and that would be priceless…“.
So, is it conceivable? The final word goes to Eric: “I would say that if you were to limit a complete US G1 collection to one copy of each figure (giftsets are not included, but the Targetmaster versions of Hot Rod, Kup, etc. are included) and keep the AFA criteria to a minimum of 80 then I would say it is probably conceivable, but not practical. Again in many cases there are only one or two of these figures out there and in order for someone to obtain them for this collection they would have to pry them from the cold, dead hands of their current owners“.
MISB G1 USA Defensor giftset owners, you have been warned.
Immense thanks to Cromagnus, Jon Krause, Eric Warren and Curt from TFsource for their time, insight & contributions, and to Jon Krause and Marco Van Leeuwen for pictures.
All the best