If you change your mind, I’m the first in line. Honey I’m still free, take a chance on me. But what if you don’t have time to make up your mind? A split second decision can be the difference between a phenomenal victory after a leap of faith, or an unmitigated and expensive disaster of bad judgement. If you’re into rare toys and once-in-a-lifetime vintage Transformers and pre-Transformers finds, the competition can be suffocating and intense. But occasionally an unexpected opportunity presents itself, and we are the first in line, but should we take the chance?
If you’ve read our News To Me series of articles (Part 1 + Part 2), you will know that brand new discoveries are still being made in the field of vintage Transformers and pre-Transformers collecting. In an age where many around the world are more clued up on the subtleties of known rarities and detailed toy information is available on many different websites about foreign minibots, exotic Diaclones and Micro Change Series items, prototypes and paperwork, cynicism and competition can be major obstacles to unearthing something fresh and previously unseen.
It’s easy to believe that when it comes to ‘achievements’, today’s equivalent to unveiling a never-before seen vintage toy is simply getting there before other collectors and nabbing something special (but known) at a great price. A good example of that is the Diaclone ‘Black Skids’ above, bought for less than $100 on a Chinese website using a special buying service I’d never heard of before. I took a risk with my money and it paid of beautifully with a bargain the kind of which is virtually unheard of these days.
However, to say that we are limited to labelling our opportunistic bargain purchases as our most daring endeavours is simply not true, as there are still discoveries to be made. Signficant, vintage discoveries. The problem is, with the money and competition involved in this hobby now, we are sometimes placed in a position where our impulses take over and one has to pull the trigger before the necessary due diligence has been observed.
Sometimes this works out beautifully, as it did for popular collector-blogger Heroic Decepticon and his Japanese Diaclone Black Countach purchase. He put his faith in the owner of the Japanese vintage toy shop Hero Gangu when he was offered a pre-Sideswipe in colours that had never been documented. This item has since been proven (to most) to be an authentic – and so far unique – Japanese Diaclone variant, even if its precise purpose remains cloudy. A major find, and in hindsight, an inspired decision made in seconds as our hero was heading to the airport and was literally on his way out the store.
Sometimes, it doesn’t work out so well…
As documented in our $3k Black Tracks Fraud of 2012 article, opportunism does not always pay off, especially where there’s malice involved. Italian pre-TF collector Francesco Ristori was conned out of nearly $3000 after a collector from North America contacted him from BotCon with information about a Finnish Diaclone Black Tracks that was supposedly being sold at the show. Francesco sent the money after a few emails were exchanged, understandably keen to get there ahead of a host of other Diaclone collectors. Unfortunately for him, in the subsequent days and weeks the item was proven to be a custom that was eventually used for fraudulent purposes.
Those that are interested in prototypes and prize toys and Lucky Draw figures have not always fared better, the Reissue “Lucky Draw” Black God Ginrai debacle being a prime example:
On that occasion, as with the Black Tracks, patience and further research would have proven a more prudent course of action. That’s very easy to say in hindsight and as an observer who may not have as much vested interest in such pieces as the injured parties involved, but it can happen to those who are always looking for the next great discovery, or even those of us who are conducting research into the past. It’s not always necessarily a case of fraud either.
My friends and I are regularly looking for proof to back up theories regarding Diaclone and early European Transformers releases, distribution and variations. This often involves the purchasing of catalogues, random bits of paperwork and occasionally taking a leap into the unknown with auctions. Not every seller takes the time to detail every nuance of a catalogue, and language barriers can play havoc with detailed questioning. The above Christmas 1984 catalogue from French toy store chain Joué Club was listed as containing “Diaclone” toys. Because of the inclusion of all sorts of other popular toys like He-Man, A-Team, Star Wars, Lego and Inspector Gadget, there was competition from all sorts of collectors for this book. I won it for 110 Euros.
I should have asked more questions before taking the plunge, because all I got for that small fortune was a couple of tiny pictures of loose Joustra Diaclone toys at the top of a page, including prices and a brief description of the items in question. No boxed images, no packaging samples, no clues about assortments. The pre-Optimus pictured was a Japanese Diaclone, so this was undoubtedly recycled old stock photography. It’s nice, but not 110 Euros nice.
My recent risk-taking and impulsive buying is not restricted to toy-related items either.
I spent nearly $130 on a series of Transformers pencil drawings which were advertised by the seller as being authentic artwork from the Transformers US cartoon pilot More Than Meets The Eye, thanks to a tip-off by a helpful collector. I was sure they were real, I recognised many of the drawings from iconic moments in that cartoon, moments ingrained on my psyche. I hoovered up anything Mirage-related I could find and a couple other tasty drawings. I guess I should have started asking questions when I won each for about $20 without any competition after they had been sitting on eBay for weeks and months. They were totally worth the risk, right?
Just a little bit of research from a friend showed these drawings to have been the controversial topic of discussion on a few collector message boards including Jem and Transformers. Apparently, the artist who had signed them had no history of working on Transformers cartoons, and the paper they were drawn on did not seem anywhere near 30 years old. Credit to the seller though, as much as they defended the integrity of their goods (and promised to provide proof soon), they offered full and immediate refunds. I so desperately wanted these to be real.
It’s not all bad news though, the more risks we take, the more likely we are to avoid such mistakes in the future. Having already purchased a Ceji 1984 catalogue and binder earlier in the year which had provided some valuable dates regarding Joustra Diaclone releases, I wasted no time dropping more cash on a slightly different Ceji 1984 relic that appeared on auction in the very recent past. Again, I had no idea what was inside.
Proving that rewards can occasionally outweigh risks, this excellent catalogue from January 1984 contained original triplicate dealer order sheets for most of Joustra Diaclone’s first wave of toys and a gorgeous black and white teaser poster featuring one of my favourite vintage toys of all time, a Joustra Diaclone Ligier (Mirage) which I will undoubtedly frame and display in the future. The information on those dealer sheets will ultimately help collectors to pinpoint release dates, case assortments and distribution information. This treasure could have been lost to us for another decade had the item ended up in the hands of a different group of enthusiasts, who of course would have been just as deserving.
Thanks to the aforementioned spreading of knowledge throughout the fandom and community, most of these chances are not as blind as some of the examples I have given, they are usually based on some circumstantial evidence, on the provenance of the source and on the recommendation of those in the know. When something new appears on the scene there is enough information available at the end of a forum post or email that allows us to make risky purchases with some degree of faith in their authenticity. This is not a bad thing, this is not the result of fading magic and mystery as unknowns become known. Trust me when I say that there is little romance in finding out you’ve spent a few hundred dollars on a dud.
Despite all of that, in my experience, the biggest risks often yield the biggest rewards. And when it comes to the biggest risks, you are often on your own. Take a chance…
Thanks to Heroic Decepticon for the picture of Diaclone Black New Countach.
All the best