Take one quick look around the online Transformers collecting scene and you’ll see a number of extremely active and healthily-populated forums, thousands of vocal collectors and enthusiasts interacting online, at shows and meet-ups, through blogs and reviews. There are also no shortage of eBay members around the world chasing any decent valuable toy from the earlier vintage Transformers and pre-Transformers era. Despite a growing population, it still surprises me how much I run into the same people time and again, and more specifcally, the same toys. This week I’m going to tell a couple of stories about some of the more memorable items I’ve been lucky enough to own or toys whose illustrious (or tragic!) history I have been a part of somehow.
Yes, I have yet again dragged out that stunning photograph of Ben Munn’s Diaclone Car Robot collection circa 2002. For a start, you have to go a bloody long way to find a better Japanese Car Robot collection even 10 years later. Sadly, Ben decided to leave Diaclone collecting in late 2002 and that entire collection was broken up and sold to many grateful benefactors. I myself was one of those benefactors, finally able to get my hands on my all-time holy grail, the Diaclone ‘Yellow Sideswipe’ New Countach LP500S after years of missing out, searching high and low and being thrown off certain forums. Apparently I’ve been complaining about the price of toys for over a decade…
So finally I had it, the absolute and eternal centrepiece of my collection. This one meant so much to me that even Ben felt bad about owning it for the short time that he did, but he was such a wonderful guy that nobody could begrudge him such a fine collection (Ok, maybe a little…). Most of us had never seen so many of these rare cars together in one place.
Another such benefactor was my friend Rickie, a long-time UK collector who I had met at Transforce 2001. I was able to negotiate a deal for Rickie to purchase Ben’s Diaclone ‘Red Hoist’ Hilux Wrecker Type. As with most of the toys Rickie bought through me, I created an article about it which I published on a friend’s website, and then finally re-posted on TF-1.
Come 2003, this Red Hoist had found its way briefly into my own collection and I was astounded at just what a beauty it was. The Hilux moulds have never been my favourites and I had not owned them as a child, but this one left a real impression. As with everything I sold in my great clear-out of mid 2003, my first vanishing act from the hobby, the Yellow Sideswipe and Red Hoist were sacrificed on eBay. I truly believed that it was a good decision and that I had taken advantage of rising Diaclone prices, and that I would not regret selling them. Oops.
I returned to collecting in 2004 and became something of a Joustra Diaclone specialist. I found some of the rarest Joustra ever known but heard of a Dutch collector who had even more than me, evidenced by digital camera photographs shown to Paul Hitchens at a Dutch toy show in a mid 2000s toy show. Never found the guy or even learnt his name. Then I proceeded to vanish again in 2007. What followed was my longest break yet, 4 whole years where even more collectors flocked to the Diaclone banner. 4 years of sales, trades, emerging super-collectors and rising prices. In April 2011, this brought me back:
While harassing the owner mercilessly, he pointed out that just a month earlier on a European eBay site a German seller had listed a perfect Joustra Diaclone Powered Convoy and Corvette Stingray, even better than his. The auction ended privately, and it must have been a German winner because the seller had apparently refused all requests to ship abroad. Just another one of those unsolved mysteries and toys that ended up in a private collection I guess. If only I had returned to collecting just 3 weeks earlier! Here are the auction pictures:
Missed opportunities and unfortunate timing are nothing new to this hobby. Anyway, by this point I was once again fully immersed in collecting, and no longer just TF-related pre-TFs. I was after anything and everything Joustra Diaclone. I was first on a few good lots including the following:
The seller was from Germany and informed me that all of these were an attic find, her uncle had passed away and they were auctioning off a few bits and pieces. Incidentally, the seller’s last name was spelled remarkably similarly to a particular part of a woman’s anatomy. Wiring that money to her at my local bank branch was a source of some comedy, as was the bank clerk’s embarrassment at having to read the name out to me in public to confirm the details. I digress…
Among the lot were these relatively common Joustra Diaclone cars with strange handwriting and markings on the boxes. Now because of her broken English, I was not able to ascertain exactly if the lady’s late uncle worked in a toy shop or factory. Their proximity to an old Joustra Diaclone (Ceji Revell to be exact) factory in Germany also got me thinking…could these have been factory samples? She didn’t have any further details, and of course her uncle had passed away so I couldn’t dig any further. Another unsolved mystery. I also acquired from her a MOSC Pick-Up (Gears), Condor (Laserbeak) and Aragon (F1 Powerdasher. A couple of my friends also bought similar MOSC items from the German lady. This was a bit strange as a MOSC Aragon is not an easy toy to find, yet she had plenty. Even more mystery!
I should mention that I had also rejoined all the online forums I had stopped posting on, meeting new collectors who were now much more in touch with the scene than I was, and had far more impressive collections. I asked around and was put in touch with a Dutch collector who answered a few very interesting questions for me while politely beating me off his own Diaclone jewels. He had just been at a Dutch toy show where a certain well-known dealer was showing off a brand new Joustra Diaclone Powered Convoy and Corvette to fellow attendees. I had a name and a contact. I also had a picture of his stock at a Dutch show:
Aragons, Pick-Ups and Condors! Lights were starting to flicker upstairs. When this Dutch dealer, the owner of the Powered Convoy and Corvette, responded to me he told me a great story. He had messaged that German seller and said he would drive the 600km from Holland to Germany to pick up the Powered Convoy and Corvette. The German seller promptly ended the auction for him. He paid a handsome sum and handed over a Joustra Diaclone Porsche (Jazz), Ambulance (Ratchet), and 30 MOSC Joustra Diaclones including Condors, Aragons and Pick-Ups.
Putting all the pieces together, I realised that this Dutch collector had driven to Germany and traded all those Joustra Diaclones + cash for the Powered Convoy and Corvette. That German seller had died soon after and his niece sold all of the Dutch guy’s original stock (which she thought originally belonged to her uncle) on eBay where I bought most of it from her, as did my friends! I had actually ended up with all of the Dutch collector’s toys, so they weren’t samples at all, just childhood toys with graffitti! I also realised that this Dutch dealer/collector may well have been the guy who came up to Paul Hitchens at that show all those years ago. Here’s a more recent picture of the Joustra Powered Convoy:
Speaking of things coming full circle, early 2012 saw me reuinited with another old friend. I had been back on the boards for nearly a year again and was establishing my routine of checking all the usual spots and shops. A friend pointed me in the direction of a member on TFW2005 selling a stack of nice Diaclone Car Robots. Look who made it to market…
Ben’s, Rickie’s and then my old Red Hoist! The exact same one, 9 years later and sporting the very same tearing pattern on the right hand-side of the box front. Comparing it with Ben’s old collection picture and my article picture at the head of this article confirmed its identity 100%. I was supposed to be chasing Joustra Diaclones but this was an opportunity I could not resist, a wrong I could not resist righting. Red Hoists have become a little rarer these days and I was lucky to get it for just $150 more than what I had originally sold it for in 2003. In today’s market, that constitutes a bargain.
In addition to that, just a week ago pictures were posted of a very recent Japanese robot toy collectors’ gathering:
Lots of beauties there (not you, Malach!), but do you see someone familiar? A certain horizontal crease on the left side of a particular yellow Countach’s packaging? Of course, it’s my old centrepiece, my first MIB unused Diaclone ‘Yellow Sideswipe’. Since 2003 it had been in the collection of Ed who runs Robot Japan, and I’m glad to see he still treasures it to this day. I have mercifully been lucky enough to find another one since, but it’s always heartwarming to see an old friend.
My deepest thanks to Ben Munn, Bert, Malach Ra and JB Martin for their contributions to this article.
All the best