Some things appreciate, some things depreciate. It’s probably best to base your collecting and buying on what makes you happy instead of aiming to maximise long-term investment potential for vintage Transformers, pre-Transformers or newer products. Unless you are a toy dealer with acres of storage space, all the time in the world and infinite patience to hold onto things until they finally rise in value, or you are a collector who never needs to sell, you will have shifted a few bits and pieces from your collection now and then.
This week I’ll be looking back on a number of odds and sods I’ve sold in the last year or so, trying to make some sort of sense of their final auction values or direct selling prices in the grand scheme of things. In a climate where the brand new or the ancient seem to be of the greatest value, creating the most hype and competition, it was fascinating to see how the hot toys of yesteryear fared against their more illustrious and desirable ancestors or descendants.
So, inevitably, the time came where I had to accept that I would not own every Diaclone car variant from one country or another, and decided to liquidate the ones I had mould doubles of (or versions in other packaging) in order to maintain monthly financial balance and at the same time save for a property down-payment. Diaclones and pre-Transformers generally are super-hot right now with many previously affordable “dull” variants suddenly going stratospheric. I snapped this Italian GiG Fairlady Police (Prowl) up for $300 not too long ago, and for that price I thought it was a bargain. Diaclone Prowl is a tough piece, even moreso when not yellowed, not broken and in a totally displayable box.
That Prowl ended up being a very hard sell with a number of collectors interested but never really committing. In the end I auctioned it and it went for £127 ($202) – about half what I was expecting. In contrast, the far far far more common GiG Italian Diaclone Jazz I sold, with rather jarring yellowing of plastic in three prominent spots, sold for more at £134 ($213). The Prowl was bone white and rarer, Jazz is one of the easiest Diaclones to find…but if you look at the pictures you can see just how pristine the Jazz was even with the yellowing. The growing disparity between the prices of boxed and used Diaclones compared to the staggering cost of unused ones (91,000 yen for a standard Diaclone Wheeljack last month for example) was never more obvious than in this pair of auctions.
Speaking of Italian vintage Diaclone, I sold a pair of orange and black safety missiles, I thought a few collectors would need those to complete their loose or boxed Italian Diaclone cars, and yet they went for the opening bid of £0.99. I then proceeded to undercharge for shipping and ended up losing a few pounds on the whole deal, ridiculous. The set of Thundercracker wings you see above are also quite rare and special, but apparently nobody really cared. Despite the hand-sanded Diaclone-mould wings that belong to the first ever version of Transformers Thundercracker, available for a limited time at the birth of the Transformers line in North America, they just topped $2 on auction. Ouch, I paid $25 about 7 years ago.
Standing in further contrast to the perceived astronomical cost of collecting Diaclone of any description, these incomplete loose specimens of two fully displayable pre-TF rarities – the GiG Diaclone Smokescreen with Datsun decals and the Police Sideswipe – did not even fetch a combined sum of $200. It appears that if you don’t mind having something with a bit of wear – or ‘character’ – missing an accessory or two, or even in packaging but not unused with paperwork and not quite pristine, Diaclone (with the exception of the hyper-desirables like Blue Bluestreak, Black Skids and Yellow Sideswipe) is still very much within the budget of those who regularly buy boxed G1 Transformers, Japanese exclusives or even 3rd Party stuff and Masterpiece. Whether you can collect all at once is a different matter. I certainly couldn’t.
Loose G1 Transformers are fascinating to follow in the market as the years go by. I remember a time where complete G1 cars were absolute gold, a Bluestreak, Prowl or Smokescreen in the UK would sell for so much. Now, post re-issue, and with many collectors having long-since completed the 1984 to 1986 era of G1 Transformers, those values have plummeted. Counterfeits haven’t helped either, so where previously I would have expected around £40 for a complete G1 Slag, mine sold for a mere £26 ($41).
And even though the Headmasters, Powermasters and Pretenders are having their day in the Sun, those Targetmasters like Kup, Blurr and Hot Rod that once were 3-figure value toys now can be picked up for relative pennies. The TM Blurr above barely touched $50 whereas the Headmaster Horrorcon Apeface sold on Buy-It-Now within seconds for £50 ($80). These later era G1 toys are beginning to rise in price as more collectors are moving on to complete Headmaster, Targetmaster, Powermaster and Pretender Transformers which have not seen much in the way of reissues.
Japanese exclusives are still very strong in the market – boxed, loose, unused, used – they still command respectable prices and can be considered to have appreciated for the most part – those that haven’t been reissued of course. The above Black Zarak was not mine, but I helped put a seller in touch with a buyer and they agreed a fee of £1200 ($2000 approx) for an unbroken and complete Black Zarak with paperwork but imperfect packaging. With the imminent KO G1 Scorponok, one wonders if a counterfeit Black Zarak is on the cards and what that will mean for vintage values. Wretched counterfeits.
Getting a bit more modern, Car Robots/Robots in Disguise was a very popular line that brought a lot of collectors and fans back to Transformers. Some of the toys are worth more now than they were at the height of its popularity, but the gorgeous JRX giftset – especially with the minor broken piece shown above – meant that a virtually unused and totally complete giftset in a superb box fetched no more than £17.51 ($28). This was one of those occasions where I would have been happier to keep the set forever than sacrifice one of my favourite pieces of the modern era for such a paltry return. I do wonder if it was all down to the broken part (which did not at all hinder transformation or combination), the fact that RiD and Korean versions exist or whether my auction rules are just too stringent.
Whether it’s because they were so widely purchased, or whether it’s because they are annoyingly considered the first iteration of Masterpiece Autobot cars and therefore now outdated, Binaltech Transformers do not seem to have appreciated much in value either. They are also massively plentiful in the community. That said, I was pleasantly surprised to see my sealed BT-01 #7 sell almost straight away for £50 ($80). I do still have a MIB opened #7 and a sealed #8 of my own, so it was a great idea to test this one at auction. I have no doubt, though, that opened ones would fetch considerably less, probably only half seeing as how my asking price could clearly have been bumped up a few notches.
Now I wasn’t expecting Movie toys to hold their value particularly well, but I also couldn’t see a point in the future where I would have the space to display all of my vintage toys, Binaltechs, Masterpiece, Transformers GT, newly-bought IDW comics and the many Transformers 2007 Movie store displays I’ve picked up over the years. This one was a favourite, though, and I never thought I’d sell it. A beautiful point of sale piece, the Radio Shack exclusive I/R Bumblebee, Barricade and Optimus Prime Micros were about $14.99 each, and the display was free. I sold all three with the stunning display for £35 ($55), and I must admit at the time I picked it up I thought it would appreciate much more than that. Maybe folks just drowned under the weight of so much movie product, or they all had the same idea and begged every other shop owner for Movie store displays in 2007 and 2008! Or maybe non-vintage store displays just aren’t worth that much after all, you can probably name all the collectors who specialise in them on one hand.
Proving that anything related to “Masterpiece” right now will sell, even funnier than my friend Morg shipping me some toys in an empty Masterpiece Lambor box with address and stamps stuck on was the fact that paired with an empty MP-16 box and paperwork, it sold for nearly $40! Of course, a few people placed bids and then retracted them because they actually thought I had such a low value on a properly complete MP-12 and MP-16. Speaking of Masterpiece, it was interesting to see that even with so many versions of MP-1 and the recent arrival of the MP-10 on the market, my opened original MP-1 Masterpiece Convoy still fetched a respectable £82 ($130) on auction.
I’ve been very lucky over the years to have been able to sell a lot of my collection for more than what I paid. Having to buy most of it on a student budget, or just generally alongside budgeting for other major things and being resourceful, has aided that massively. Selling has always been a part of my collecting landscape, and I suspect it will be for the foreseeable future as my focuses shift, streamlining occurs and I try to do grown up expensive things a father should. Of everything pictured above though, there is only one piece I regret selling – and funnily enough I don’t think my feelings would change no matter what it had sold for, £17 or £170. I dream of a day where I own a respectable property, watching my kids play in the garden, and I have a spacious mancave that can slowly be filled with those items I once let go.
All the best