One feel-good article does not a balance make, therefore we are taking one more week of contributions from even more esteemed collecting colleagues about the continuing pleasure and ever-lasting appeal of Transformers toy collecting. If we can fill two weeks’ worth of column inches about why giving up toy collecting should be taken seriously and how much you can expect to benefit financially, or spiritually, then surely we can put forth an equal amount of positivity to explain our ongoing love affair with the amassing of plastic crack?
Despite knowing that the article on Not Giving Up was already published, a number of prominent and long-time Transformers collectors felt the need to share their thoughts on the subject with me, so let us pick up where we left off last week and hand it over to one of our contributors.
“I think what keeps me going is that there’s always something new to experience. Whether it’s a G1 mould I’ve never handled, or a new Masterpiece or Classics mold. Seeing how they worked out some parts of the transformations, and especially with Masterpieces, how they got the figures to look like their animation models. Also, I have made a lot of friends online and through Cons that have become a big part of my life. Rearranging a display is a nice way to let the cares of the day fall off my shoulders, and it’s always fun to see the reactions on people’s faces when they see the collection for the first time. It’s a great time to be a collector, and I wouldn’t want to miss it”.
Seeing a collection of toys and its maintenance as a release from the pressures of everyday life and responsibility is not uncommon in the community. It stands in stark contrast to those who make toy sacrifices at the altar of responsibility.
“Why do I keep collecting? That’s actually a pivotal question I needed to ask myself recently. Escape from life’s responsibilities and stress relief are obvious reasons for me. Another is the daily conversations I have with the great friends I’ve made in this hobby. However, I think the main driving force for me comes from the image I have in my mind of the collection properly displayed in its own room. It’s a bit ironic, as 90% of my collection is currently in storage. This duality has been the cause of serious questioning, but for now, the mental representation of my hypothetical display is strong enough to sustain my motivation”.
Sometimes people stay in a job they don’t particularly enjoy because of the quality of their colleagues, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Transformers enthusiasts can remain in the hobby as a result of the friends they’ve made at conventions, online or locally, even if their enthusiasm for physical toy ownership is on the wane. It’s also interesting how the promise of our dream display can spur some of us onwards, while the reality of how long one may have to wait to realise that dream can expedite the exit of others.
“Some say that collectors are people who look back, but hardly look forward. It’s difficult to argue with the veracity of that statement – collectors do look back at ‘what they used to have’ and ‘what they used to want’ in order to formulate their intent for what they want to buy. It’s not very different for me – I am a collector and I look back all the time. I never got pieces like G1 Bluestreak, G1 Ravage, G1 Pointblank or G1 Snapdragon when I was young. So now, these are my high priority pieces to acquire and acquire again and again, because, hey, what’s worth doing is worth overdoing”.
“Still, saying that I continue to collect, 30 years after the event, because I like to look back at the past is hardly a robust explanation. What’s perhaps more essential is why I continue to look into the past. Quoting Randal Graves from Clerks II ‘they [ie: Transformers] remind me of a better time in my life… like when we were young and the world was still in front of us’. Don’t get me wrong. Life is by no measure ‘bad’ now, but adult life just comes with many responsibilities unlike back in childhood days. For me, Transformers are the very definition of ‘the simpler days’. That is why I’m still chasing back that slice of childhood 30 years after 1984″.
The connection to childhood is an almost universal one among fans, and that feeling – along with the general affinity for the hobby – is not exclusive to those who are still completely active.
“I think one of the things that keeps me attached to the hobby even though I don’t really ‘collect’ anymore is that it was such a big part of my life growing up. Collecting was and is always more than just owning toys. For me, it was about being knowledgeable in something, the thrill of the hunt, and of getting good deals. There was also a bit of showing off involved, since the part of the hunt was about letting others know about the find, but it was always appreciated by people and that made for a bit of a community. It’s one of those things people outside of the collecting community don’t get. The aesthetic appeal of seeing a well-made Transformer (like current Masterpiece releases) conjures up all the nostalgia that came with the memories of that toy. As a former rarity collector, holding something that is rare comes with its own joy in knowing that the item is one of a few that still exist in the big world. These days, I have to settle for the nostalgia, but what a well-made nostalgia it is”.
A good deal of honesty there, and maybe something a number of us can personally relate to. Once a collection is built with care, affection, focus and purpose, it becomes more than the sum of its parts and the recognition that can occasionally come with the particular flavour of that achievement is as hard to say goodbye to as the toys.
“This focus on hard to find items holds the most sentimental value for me (‘this is how they were sold in my local toy store in 1985’), has been a lot of fun, challenging and exciting! Also I have never had to rely on networking this much before in order to find what I needed, which definitely adds to the fun and the thrill of the hunt. In summary, I tend to keep to these ground rules nowadays which has resulted in the most focused, hardcore collection of rare items I have ever owned, despite being a much smaller collection that I used to have:
– Do not attempt to be a completionist; only bad things can come of it
– Focus on a limited number of items that have sentimental value and the wow factor
– Do not expand focus just for completeness sake
– Do not buy for investment purposes
– Share the collecting experience with friends and fellow collectors who can relate”.
Knowing yourself, what brings you the most happiness and satisfaction, and avoiding trying to keep up with this collector or that fad can really add longevity and sustainability to the hobby. Easy in theory, but with the sheer scale of exciting product coming out these days bearing a passing resemblance to Transformers, accepting that purchases can be few and far between after a certain point is passed in your ‘focused’ collecting can be difficult, and that’s when eyes and funds can wander. Some, though, are happy to pursue new directions in their collecting. After all, variety can bring fresh vigour.
“I really like the direction of Animated and Prime because they seem to realise that the key to success of a TF series is an overall story arc broken down into episodes that tell an individualised story but moves the overall arc along. I really like the fact that the design of both characters and toys are being done in concert yielding a much better play experience. In the Prime line, we are starting to see that instead of just recoloring a toy, they have started to revise it with different heads, accessories, and textures. I really hated Armada and Energon for the straight recolors over and over again. I think that Hasbro has finally realised that poseability is key to transformer toy design. A brickformer just isn’t acceptable anymore. A lot of this has to do with plastic ball and socket design rather than screws and rivets holding parts together but still, it’s so much better than before”.
“I derive the most enjoyment from the CHUGR and Masterpiece toys. The CHUGR toys that are reinventions of G1 toys are often quite nice. Collecting these excellent designs makes me want to stay in the game. However, some of the most enjoyable toys coming out are actually third party. Frankly, I spend more on third party stuff these days than on Hasbro or TakaraTomy.
“The only deterrent is just cost and the fact that it is never-ending. I’d kill for a fallow period like between G2 and Beast Wars where I could catch my breath. Problem is that people like me just keep buying. At some point the market will reach a total glut. I think we are in the beginning of this right now. One last note, I still have many hard/rare pieces I would like to get to ‘complete’ sub-collections within my collection. They hunt goes on and I’m not giving up yet”.
So although the enthusiasm is still there, and the future holds challenges aplenty for even the most seasoned individual who continues to find their imagination being sparked, it comes with a warning that excess is never far from a collector’s habits. Even when things do get out of hand, it’s always possible to go back to the founding principles of our love for this hobby to help us re-focus and re-evaluate what is important to us, in order to help us once more find that place where Transformers fit into our lives.
“Transformers remind me of the times when things were simpler, a time where I got to lavishly spend lots of time with my brother concocting galactic sagas of Autobots vs Decepticons as we played; a time where every ‘new’ episode or new issue (Marvel and Marvel UK) of Transformers was truly exciting and provided new fuel for my imagination. It was a time when I had a lot of time, to explore every facet of a toy and its molding, its engineering, the stickers and the paint apps; a time where I could talk with my brother for hours on end about cartoons, comics, Stunticons, Dinobots, the Insecticons; a time when we were not shackled with the demands of a modern world.
“I mean, seriously, who wants to look ‘forward’ to things like bill payments, car loans, home mortgages (or rental bills), medical issues, insurances, how to invest one’s money, a child’s upbringing demands and competition regarding their education (where applicable) and all these other things ‘grown people’ need to do, as a minimum, just to make it through another day. Isn’t it much prettier to look back at the simpler days?”.
And if none of the above is reason enough, there’s always Quakewave.
Even more endless thanks to our contributors this week: Brandon Yap from Heroic Decepticon, ThemDukeBoys, Sebastien Harton, Chuck Liu and Bryce Rutledge.
Thanks also to Bryce Rutledge for another collection picture I now dream of having thanks to James Roberts, Alex Milne, Nick Roche and Josh Burcham, as well as stunning collection photography by Brandon Yap.
All the best