The law of diminishing returns dictates that beyond a certain point, there is less reward and result for an equal amount of input. In terms of vintage Generation 1 Transformers research and discovery, this basically means that as time goes by, as much as we continue to hunt for variations, exclusives or oddities from different and often obscure parts of the TF universe – or unfamilar parts of the world – there is less chance that we will turn up the next big thing. The next Diaclone Black Tracks, the next South American pink Windcharger, the next European yellow G1 Devastator – is there still anything like that out there after all these years?
This week I add another installment to the “News To Me” series, and as you’d expect, the results become less spectacular with every addition to the mini-series, but no less surprising. There are items featured this week that have already been covered on this blog or my own, but I am using this article as an opportunity to round up the most recent vintage G1 Transformers discoveries from around the globe that I am aware of. For the sake of completion, you understand.
First on the list this time is a mainland European version of the G1 Predacon “Divebomb” from 1987. The G1 Predacons were available in the US, Japan and Canada, not exactly news, but those who know their European G1 may also have seen Italian versions of these toys in GiG packaging. Those have been known about for over a decade, and there have even been rumours of production sample GiG Predaking giftsets with zero proof ever provided. What came up this year that got my attention was a mainland European version of the Predacons, sold in France in bilingual packaging, typical of post 1986 era G1 on the mainland.
There would not have been a giftset, but all 5 Predacons and formerly thought-to-be-unobtainable Euro G1 like Sharkticon Gnaw were sold in France, and they came with English language instruction books, not bilingual. While most of us in the UK spent years not getting toys like Blaster, Trypticon, Swoop, Omega Supreme, Predaking and the like, some had the inside knowledge that a trip on a ferry across to France would have yielded many of those magical unavailable TFs in catalogues we could only dream about. You can read more about this Divebomb HERE.
A Yugoslavian G1 Optimus Prime, for real. Talk about out of nowhere, this one was a bit of a shock. It turns out that in 1988/1989, safety tested Mexican Optimus Primes manufactured by Plasticos Iga were imported into the former Yugoslavia and distributed/sold in Mexican G1 boxes, with the slightest of differences. The boxes carried the orange “M” logo of Yugoslavian toy manufacturer “Marčanka”. The rest of the box is the same as a Mexican G1 Prime, Spanish writing and box flat template, just the logo was replaced.
It seems that a little bit later, many other Mexican G1 boxed Transformers were imported and sold in Yugoslavia, but without the Marčanka logo, just in standard Plasticos Iga boxes. Toys such as Hound, Sideswipe, Jumpstarters, Smokescreen and even Constructicons to name but a few were available in Yugoslavia in the very late 80s and early 90s, and the toys were also safety-tested Mexican variants as you would expect, meaning lead paint had been stripped off and liberal use of replacement red paint could be found splattered over the incriminating areas. We knew Mexican exports had gotten around Europe extensively, so it was not a massive surprise to see them turn up in Yugoslavia, but the packaging was what caught the attention of variant collectors. Just one more G1 Prime for the completists, I will be publishing more on this Prime very soon with brilliant contributions from the Serbian collecting community.
Now we have already discussed these vintage era bootleg minibots from Spain in The Lost Tribe, but as I said earlier they’re part of a batch of recent G1 discoveries so they make it into our round-up post. In the late 1980s and into the 1990s, Spanish toy maker Gisima sold a number of KO G1 minibot variants in various types of retail outlets across Spain and its islands. The toys were all plastic, remoulded and extremely cheap to buy. Windcharger, Seaspray and Beachcomber were the character used, and they were released in a veritable rainbow of colours, often inverse pairs but also everything inbetween.
The most interesting of the lot is Seaspray because he was heavily re-tooled from having two small fans at the rear into having one massive circular central fan behind his head. Windcharger and Beachcomber also sported moulding modifications too (BC now has a proper roof) but nothing remotely as spectacular as Seaspray. The toys were sold mostly in the die cast miniature car cases you see above, but later also carded. The minis have exclusive factory stickers applied. Welcome to the latest minibot completist’s nightmare.
We’re no stranger to the rarity or beauty of the Diaclone “Black Skids” here at Source Blog, I’ve dragged my pictures of this item out for articles numerous times over the last 3 years. It can be difficult to accept new information about long-established Diaclone toys because like us, they seem to have been around for a long time with many of the mysteries solved and accepted. The good thing about having newer Diaclone collectors enter the field is that they don’t come with the same set of ‘accepted’ beliefs or assumptions about Diaclone toys and variants.
For as long as I can remember, it’s been believed that the Diaclone Black Honda City Turbo was the first release of the No.9 mould that became the Transformers Skids. As a result, all black versions of the toy had the Diaclone exclusive complex wheel hubs, and only the later red and blue variants (and foreign variants of the latter) have the simple pin-wheel hub design seen on TFs. In the last 2 years though, I’ve been approached about 3 times with pictures of Black Turbos with the simpler wheel hubs. With a toy this rare, one must never simply hold on to pre-held beliefs and be closed to variations, because there just have not been that many sightings either way. So, until I see a MIB unused one with the simple hubs to confirm, I am willing to accept that the ‘Black Skids’ can also be found with the simpler wheel hubs, more than likely a result of later production runs just as is the case with the red and blue versions. They can’t all be Frankensteins, right?
The Matsushiro variant G1 Jetfires have also been the subject of focus on this blog in the recent past, and as I delved deeper into the ridiculously large number of Jetfire variants released in the world in the 1980s, it became very clear through the research of people like Morgan Evans, Rich Schulze etc that Jetfire was offered for sale in North America in 1984. There are magazine articles and catalogues clearly showing it as sold in 1984. On top of that we established that the Matsushiro versions were 1984 releases, hence no rubsign. What I found out recently was that there are non-Matsushiro pre-rub Jetfires too, Bandai stamped and also containing the same stripe across the canopy that Macross Valkyries have and the above Matsushiro Jetfire has. No notched antennae or missiles though. I’ll be needing one of those.
With many of these variants, local collectors and enthusiasts may well have known about them for years and either not felt the need to share with the wider community, or not really noticed any difference that would have appealed to those interested in variants. With the Yugoslavian Prime, immediately after the first one was bought on auction, a second one popped up and was bought (ahem). The situation with the Spanish minis wasn’t too different either. With all of these things, as foreign collectors take an interest and find ways of accessing local markets, over a period of time these pieces go up in value and become harder to track down, no matter how much effort or money one invests. The law of diminishing returns.
Many kind thanks to Nik Todorovic and Benny Vilela for photographic contributions.
All the best