It doesn’t seem to matter how much we discover, how much gets photographed and revealed or how much we expand our horizons through international communication with global collectors and knowledgeable enthusiasts, every year in vintage Transformers seems to bring its own surprises and shocks. Surely there are a finite number of these discoveries to be made and eventually we will have seen it all, but that moment appears to still be in the future as evidenced by this week’s featured items.
Now I should say that these are not necessarily brand new discoveries for the whole fandom, just things that for the most part I have been introduced to in the last year or so having taken a significant break from the scene. One or two of them might still come as a surprise to you, and that’s certainly what I’m hoping.
Probably the biggest surprise of the last year for me and most of the Diaclone collecting community was the appearance of this Japanese red-cabbed Powered Convoy with the white/chrome trailer. This incredible specimen showed up on Yahoo Japan Auctions and sold for an eye-watering 300,000 yen and more. First of all, it is tremendously rare to find a Diaclone Powered Convoy in such unused condition, for a start the plastic styrofoam cover was still over the cab. I have seen one other Powered Convoy like that in the last decade and that was my case fresh GiG red-cab.
The regular chrome-trailer Powered Convoy was one of the absolute last Diaclone Car Robot toys to be produced by Takara in 1984/5, and was even included in the legendary Powered Convoy DX set. The thing is though, it has always been shown and found with a blue cab. In addition to that, it was previously assumed that the red-cabbed variety of Powered Convoy was an Italian exclusive due to the late release and simultaneous production of red Optimus Prime cabs by Takara for Hasbro. When you think about the chronology and condition of the thing, the combination of 1985’s chrome-trailered edition Diaclone Powered Convoy, the presence of the red cab on this toy and the subsequent death of the Diaclone line, it does all fit together quite well. The fact that the item is unused and in such rare condition with precisely the correct paperwork helps its claim to authenticity. You would have to be a criminal genius to actually take a toy worth $2000+ and replace the exclusive and desirable blue cab with a more mundane red cab to fool the community into believing this was an even rarer variant. Stranger things have happened…
This one may not shatter the Earth beneath your feet, but as it coincides with one of my favourite areas of G1 research, and I was completely floored by its eventual appearance. We have known for a while that some of Hasbro’s very first release G1 Transformers came in what has become known as a “no-grey border” box, where there is no solid grey-coloured cardboard between a toy’s box art and the cellophane window. Instead these early G1 releases have the same grid pattern visible in that space as the rest of the box. Starscream, Thundercracker, Bluestreak, Prowl, Sunstreaker, Mirage, Ironhide and Trailbreaker have been found with this type of box, and now Skywarp too.
What made the no-grey Thundercracker interesting was that it was a Diaclone mould toy with absolutely no copyright stamping (like the Diaclone F15), the wings had to be manually sanded down because the sharp Diaclone-mould wings were not yet recast and ready for mass production in Hasbro’s world. While this Skywarp shares the same mould and has no copyright either, the wings appear not to be hand-sanded. It’s still a real treat to see a boxed version of the very first ever Skywarp release, even if we all secretly wanted it to have a purple nosecone and mostly purple accessories like the catalogue mock-ups!
We’ve mentioned the Venezuelan minibots from Rubiplas just recently thanks to the contribution of Martin Lund, but it bears repeating as I was truly surprised to see how significantly this obscure corner of the minibot universe had been revealed. I had been involved previously in helping to bring certain Mexican and Peruvian minibots to light, so I feel connected to this area of Transformers collecting even though I have never had a minibot collection of my own.
What makes these Venezuelan offerings so interesting is that their cards are similar to Mexican and Peruvian cards which display an altered Hasbro-style look, but the toys themselves seem to be somewhere in-between the IGA and Lynsa released minis. The selection appears to consist of chrome-less Bumblebee and Cliffjumper minus metallic paint, chrome-less Huffer and yet the Brawn and Windcharger do have metallic paint and chromed parts. So, having no knowledge of these relatively recently-discovered variants, I very much look forward to spending some time absorbing what minibot collectors have learned about their distribution and nature.
One of my favourite discoveries of the year has been the variant European post-Milton Bradley Transformers manufactured by Ceji in France. I knew of some of these Ceji-made Transformers like red-footed Optimus Prime, Megatron and ‘Puffer’, but I didn’t know about the hard-nosed jets with black plastic wheels. I also hadn’t made the connection that Ceji were responsible for the yellow G1 Devastator either, but a number of European collectors enlightened me and I became hooked on this small area of variant G1.
The link above will take you to the TFsource Blog article on Ceji Transformers where all the aforementioned toys are discussed and photographed in depth, but I’m going to focus on Dirge since he is always denied the limelight and I didn’t photograph him in the main article. Just like the Ramjet and Starscream, Dirge has a hard plastic nosecone instead of rubber, and his wheels are black plastic instead of silver die cast. I had previously believed that only Mexican IGA jets had these characteristics. It appears that the Ceji Dirge also has a moulding issue where the bombs do not stay connected to the underside of the wings (verified by another collector). You can see the multilingual tech specs and instructions that accompany this release too. The copyright will have a visible block moulded over where it should say “JAPAN”.
Finally, another minibot revelation. Mexico has always been a hotbed for variant Transformers with the minibots almost being deserving of their own category within the IGA range. We had previously seen Mexican blue Bumblebee and Cliffjumper, white and blue or yellow and blue Windcharger (“Tailgate”), maroon and white Gears (“Swerve”), tan and maroon Brawn (“Outback”), blue and white Huffer (“Pipes”), then we even saw white Bumblebees with red faces and silver Cliffjumpers also with red faces. Red faces were nothing new among Mexican Transformers, the Jumpstarters had them and many safety-corrected IGA TFs had badly painted red eyes to conform to paint content laws.
Some had suggested that the silver Cliffjumper with the red face was a Mexican Hub Cap repaint, but what was the white Bumblebee with the red face supposed to be? Then we saw a silver Bumblebee with red face, and finally this white Cliffjumper with a red face that to date is the only one I have heard of. This is not to be confused with the Argentinian white Cliffjumper made by Antex. This toy would actually have come on IGA Transformers cards, it has a Hasbro/Takara copyright with a block over the “Japan” and a Mexican-style Autobot sticker on his chest.
In addition to the toys featured in this article, there have been a few more surprises that I encountered on my return to the scene which I have documented in previous articles such as the Italian red and white Triceratops Dinosaur Robo released by GiG, remarkably similar to the Canadian red Transformers Slag, and also the orange-chested Ceji Insecticons from mainland Europe.
Probably the most pleasant surprise of all has been the evidence that no matter how wide our knowledge-base becomes and how many variant collectors there are digging deeper into their respective areas of interest, nearly 30 years on from original release we are still uncovering exciting new things to collect that will tax our resourcefulness and desires for years to come. The only problem is, if it has taken these variants 30 years to finally surface, there can’t be that many of them to go around.
Many kind thanks to our contributors Jon Krause, Jason Holliday, Francesco Ristori and Martin Lund for making this article possible and for bringing these fantastic toys to our attention originally.
All the best