In a competitive market place, vintage toy collectors have to have their eyes and ears open the whole time in order to nail rare items. But we can’t always be everywhere, all the time. Sometimes real life and circumstance mean that we miss key auctions, deals, emails and opportunities. Other times a lack of experience, funds or better judgement dictate that we let an opportunity go begging instead of grabbing it with both hands. By the time we’ve learned our lesson, the moment is gone. We can only hope that fate gifts us a second chance…
Last week we looked at leaps of faith that either worked out gloriously or ended up being staggering failures. To add further to that spectrum of vintage Transformers and pre-Transformers collecting, there is that painful and unforgettable event; the missed opportunity. This week I am covering a number of memorable occasions where I let something amazing slip through my fingers for a variety of reasons, occasions that still inspire pangs of regret to this day, while discussing a few very classy and obscure variants at the same time.
First on the list we have the European 1985 Milton Bradley “Starscream”. The toy inside is clearly not a Starscream, but in fact a Thundercracker with Starscream stickersheet labels applied. For reasons undoubtedly related to the kind of stock Milton Bradley were sent by Takara at the time of release, some MB Starscream boxes housed Thundercrackers instead of the grey F15. Since the packaging for MB TFs was created by Cajofe in France, there are a few differences to regular Hasbro packaging. Those intimately familiar with G1 jet inserts may notice that the accessory bubble is positioned perfectly vertically (a la Dirge, Thrust & Ramjet) instead of the usual angled orientation of series 1 jet inserts.
When I first saw this toy on eBay US in November 2001, I was willing to believe it was more than just an error on the seller’s behalf, especially as he confirmed it was bought in his childhood in Amsterdam. The stickers on the Thundercracker were from a Starscream stickersheet, and it wouldn’t have been the first MB TF to house a different colour variant of the intended mould. I urged my Starscream-obsessed friend at the time to bid, but he missed it, so that went. Then another Thundercracker with Starscream stickers in MB Starscream box was listed in France in December 2001 (2 in the space of 4 weeks!), and I was outbid by a friend after I shared it with an online group. Since it was a time of much discovery in the hobby, I thought there’d be more. 11 years later, I have never found another.
This one is much harder to verify, but nonetheless I curse myself for not taking the chance when it was there to be had. We all remember those beautiful early 1984 Hasbro Transformers catalogues with the blue Bluestreak and purple-nosed, purple winged Skywarp. Now, Mexican company Plasticos IGA released their Skywarp with a purple nosecone, but the rest was as standard colour-wise (weird IGA shades of plastic and paint aside). Many have searched for years for a G1 Skywarp with the above colour scheme, even though the one pictured is a Diaclone mould jet (pointy wingtips) and a mock-up.
Somewhere back in 1999 I saw an auction on eBay UK for a Skywarp with purple launchers and missiles, not advertised as anything other than an original Decepticon Skywarp with box. There was nothing odd about the box (from memory) and it didn’t even have a purple nosecone if I recall correctly, so it wasn’t Mexican. I meant to bid, but forgot about it and of course, didn’t save the pictures. It’s not something I try to convince others of due to the difficulty proving such an ancient memory without evidence, but because *I* know what I saw, it’s a constant source of regret.
How valuable could a used backing card be? When it’s a Lynsa Peruvian Transformers minibot card, the answer is very! Peruvian minibots are considered the pinnacle of obscurity, rarity and exotica when it comes to the littlest of Transformers. The few that had made it into collectors’ hands at the time were very interesting indeed, lacking chrome and stickers for the most part, they featured such beauties as red & yellow Huffer, grey & blue Windcharger, blue & yellow Gears and peach Bumblebee with Cliffjumper head! All were loose though.
In 2007, as I was leaving the hobby again, I was offered the above Lynsa backing cards by a Peruvian collector. I had published a couple of articles on Peruvian Transformers thanks to excellent info provided to me by other Peruvian fans, and this area of collecting was just budding. Unfortunately, waning enthusiasm in the hobby meant that I never completed the deal, and I cannot even remember why. Even though there have been more Peruvian minibot finds recently, including MOSC ones, back in 2007 this was a major discovery and competition was far less. Securing such things today will prove infinitely more difficult and expensive.
If my Transformers regrets are big, the pre-Transformers ones are astronomical. The above item, the Finnish Diaclone Truck Crane, an R-Kioski store (or kiosk) exclusive, appeared on Yahoo Japan auctions and was bought for relatively very little indeed. Nobody outside Finland knew about Finnish Diaclones and it was quite a bizarre novelty. More Finnish Diaclones have since appeared, like the infamous Black Tracks, but there has never been another Truck Crane.
On top of that, the item exhibited the same slick features of the Japanese version; “FUSO” and Mitsubishi details moulded into the cab and a chrome neck arm. It was the toy that made the wider collecting community aware of Finnish Diaclones, and held the key to the eventual unlocking of the Black Tracks’s real heritage. The significance of the piece, its MIB unused condition and its lack of appearance since make the price it sold for one of the bargains of the last 10 years.
We all know what this is. Most of us are still looking for one. They’re not terribly rare, but they command ridiculous amounts nowadays. The Diaclone Marlboor (sic) liveried Lancia Stratos Turbo is a Diaclone poster-boy, the Car Robot that demands a higher price than almost all the other mass-release versions. The reason I say it isn’t rare is because of a number of case finds, the last one being in 2002. A Japanese seller was listing them on Yahoo Japan consecutively, and the prices were ranging between $300 – $400. A couple of my friends got one, and I went for one as well. I should have bid just a shade more, but finished as second-highest bidder. It just so happened the one I tried to get was the last one he listed. $500 in 2002 compared to $5000 today makes this one incredibly sore episode.
A slightly more understandable missed opportunity arose in late 2002 when an American collector sold his trophies shown above, including a PCDX, Marlboor Wheeljack, Blue Bluestreak, Red Hoist, Red Tracks and Yellow Trailbreaker. I pretty much had first choice of whatever I wanted in that lot, and I chose a Diaclone Yellow Sideswipe as I had been lusting after one for a few years. It was understandable because $550 was all I could spare at the time (and that WAS a lot in 2002), but seeing the prices and competition nowadays, it may have served me better in the long run to sell a few other things and buy more from my friend.
That ties in quite well with what my overall feelings are on this whole issue of missing out on rare vintage things. We can quite often console ourselves with clichéd phrases like “Everything comes around again” or “There’s always more”, and with every item above I am confident that this is true. The problem is that every time we miss out on something that scarce, its next appearance heralds another hike in market value thanks to more enthusiasts, better informed collectors in the wider community and more folks deciding that they’ve waited long enough. However, with some items, hackneyed old phrases and patience may never make up for missing out on what could have been a once-in-a-lifetime score…
Many kind thanks to Heroic Decepticon, Ben Munn, Tomas, Charles Liu and Matteo Pigliucci for use of their pictures.
All the best