Legendary Diaclone Black Tracks from Finland or a regular and used Transformers G1 Thundercracker from the UK? Which would you choose? I’d choose Thundercracker, every time, now and forever. Not just any Thundercracker though, just this one, from my childhood collection of Transformers toys. It is nigh-on impossible to find any collector who does not have extremely fond memories and connections to their childhood toys, and any collector who is lucky enough to still have their Transformers in any sort of decent condition almost certainly considers them holy.
The idea for this series of articles comes from a discussion thread started by TFW2005 member “brr-icy” about childhood Transformers toys that had survived the ravages of time and fickleness of a child’s heart to remain in one’s possession to this day, and invariably those that had made it to the present day were bringing a unique poignancy to their owners’ collections as a whole. Over the next two weeks I will be looking at my own ‘Survivors’ from my childhood G1 Transformers collection with the added experiences of a few collectors I respect deeply.
“My childhood Transformers are important and special because they each bring back fond memories of childhood and cannot be directly replaced due to sentimental value. Those that remain to this day are treasured despite being worn and well played with and for each one, I generally remember when, where and by whom they were purchased.” – Gordinium Yip – Archaeologist – 2013 A.D.
It’s absolutely true, whenever I look at one of my childhood Transformers I can recount the precise series of events leading up to its receipt or purchase, be they birthdays, random gifts, purchases pushed through by persistence or holidays. Each and every Transformers toy I received was well played with, loved and enjoyed a special place in the worlds created by my imagination and fuelled by the original G1 cartoon. To this day none have been given to charity, sold or thrown away knowingly. Those that have survived from the earliest days are now typically discoloured and yellowed, chrome and sticker-worn and some are broken beyond repair with evidence of multiple repair and superglue attempts.
As a child I had my preferences mostly based on the characters from either More Than Meets The Eye (Arrival From Cybertron), The Movie, Megatron’s Master Plan or Desertion Of The Dinobots (the only VHS episodes/features I had growing up). Autobot cars and Decepticon jets were my primary source of inspiration and objects of desire, so I had very few leaders in my collection. Presents and gifts, on the other hand, could be anything.
“Childhood Transformers are special because my brother and I had to cook up schemes to trick them ‘out of’ my parents, and I remember every scheme attached to every childhood Transformer I had – these toys unified brothers! Right now, I could at any time buy any Transformer I want regardless of its price tag (as long as someone is willing to sell it), but no amount of money in the world will be able to buy me back my childhood Transformers and all the memories that I (and my brother) had with them.” – Brandus Yap – Explorer – 2013 A.D.
The Powermaster Prime in the pictures above was a birthday present from my brother and the first Optimus Prime I had ever owned. Apart from some discolouration, it is still totally undamaged, complete and functional, such was my affection for it and its giver. The Ultra Magnus was a toy bought by my parents on our way to visit friends as we stopped in a high street store. There was an Optimus Prime right next to it but as my best friend had one already, I chose Magnus (and apparently got the better rubber wheel and painted version). This is something I did a great deal because as much as I loved other people’s toys, it felt like I was expanding our universe of available play characters. Galvatron was a movie-inspired Toys ‘R’ Us purchase to complete the crew we’ll see next week, and it feels as though his trigger button stopped working 5 minutes after I got him home. Didn’t you just love turning the 3-sound effect switch into a 5-sound effect switch using the ‘halfway’ sounds?
“Certain toys will always have memories attached to them; Twin Twist is always linked with the first time I ever went to a Toys R Us and Skywarp the first large Decepticon I owned. PM Prime has the dubious distinction of reminding me that he was purchased with money that I had raised for charity, which I felt bad about at the time but it was the only way I could afford such a large toy. Bluestreak, Skywarp and Brawn always hold a special place in my heart and 29 years later it still seems like yesterday. I still have 2 of those as G1 toys, 1 as a Masterpiece and that charity has had significantly more than the £24.99 owed to them.” – Morgus Evans III – Archivist/Thief – 2013 A.D.
The Autobot cars, very little could be closer to my heart. Every single one evokes deep nostalgia. I’ve always loved cars, and there were so many spellbinding car robots in MTMTE. This appetite for vehicles (especially buses, Ferraris and Lamborghinis) was not lost on my parents. As these G1 Autobot cars are from the very earliest part of my collection (and life), my memories of playing with them are not as fresh as the later Transformers I had, but my recollection of where they came from is completely untouched. As a result of when they were bought and their inherent fragility, the Autobot cars have probably suffered the most wear and damage than any other section of my childhood Transformers – Sideswipe is completely ruined, Red Alert and Mirage are discoloured but remarkably unbroken, Grapple is missing a (famous) wheel and Sunstreaker’s spolier has undergone multiple surgeries.
My first Autobot car was Smokescreen, but he was tragically lost in one of our many moves in the 1980s. Before that, my brother – on our first trip to Toys ‘R’ Us in Brent Cross, North London – bought Tracks while my cousin and I bought Decepticon jets as our first ever Transformers. It took years to get that Tracks off my brother, although technically I found it in the loft as an adult collector. My brother is 11 years older and that would explain how Tracks’s techspec, instructions and box art have survived to this day. Mirage, Sideswipe and Grapple are profoundly special to me, those are Transformers my father bought for me of his own volition on the way home from work to surprise me. A case of “Please mum, thanks dad”! Mirage was of course the hero of MTMTE as well, and his unsnapped waist is a testament to how much care and adoration he received.
“I was incredibly excited when Transformers came out although my parents were dead set against them as they were more expensive than other toys on the market. After a month or two of gazing longingly at the huge display in Tesco my dad relented when I had Chickenpox and said he’d buy me a Transformer which was incredibly anticlimactic when he came home with the Robo Machine Dive Dive. Eventually I got my first Transformer in the form of Brawn and the cleverness of the design won my parents over. I had to wait 9 months though til I got my first larger Transformers where on my birthday I got Snarl and Bluestreak. Bluestreak is still one of my favourite Transformers and even when I sold my collection in 2005 I kept a pre rub G1 Bluestreak which still sits in my display cabinet.” – Morgus Evans III – Archivist/Thief – 2013 A.D.
Those childhood favourites undoubtedly have a significant influence on how adult collectors perceive, arrange and augment their collections. I still value Autobot cars and their Diaclone predecessors higher than any other faction or category of Transformers or pre-Transformers. My collection is currently more than 75% based on Autobot car descendants or ancestors. Since I never found or saw Sunstreaker in my first period of Transformers collecting as a child, a chance encounter with a gold-boxed Classic Heroes Sunstreaker on a family holiday in Cyprus in 1990 was pure heaven. As with a lot of the others, his parts and pieces were discovered in various archaeological childhood toy box digs when I started collecting again in 1998. How many of you also cut up shiny parts of the stickersheet to use as headlights? I even used the “TRANS FORMERS” part of the stickersheet to decorate him further.
“Collecting G1 Transformers is – for me, at least – as much about the actual collecting as it is about nostalgia: Getting those toys that you marveled at in the stores and catalogs to supplement your own army at home. Although a lot of my childhood collection has been traded away and upgraded to better condition over the years, a select few have remained with me since the 80s with no intent of ever being traded/sold off. One thing is I am still regretting trading off some of those toys to this day, another is that those few remaining toys have a special affection for me that not even the mintiest of new toys could ever replace: Cause they wouldn’t be those I played hours on end with growing up.” – Martinius Lund – Engineer – 2013 A.D.
A great deal of the toys I asked my parents to buy for me were based on what my friends or I already owned. The Red Alert I asked for because I had Sideswipe, I wanted the set, the exact same reason I owned 4 Decepticon jets. My parents, if they had paid any real attention to the Transformers I was choosing, might have wondered why I had basically 4 of the same toy in different colours! To this day I still buy sets (variants/runs) of things, it’s an obsession and a genuine preference with roots in my youth.
By the time Headmasters and Targetmasters had hit the stores, I had long since lost touch with the developing G1 story in any cartoon or comic (the latter I never collected). The Movie had come and gone, as had most of the toys from the cartoons I remembered and cherished. It was a completely new process to choose a Transformer from a store, based purely on what looked interesting on the day. Yes the toys had completely changed style and I didn’t recognise any of the characters, but they were still jets…and I still loved sets. I also loved gimmicks. Apeface was bought first from a UK department store by my mother, and on the way home in the car I read a Transformers comic featuring him and Snapdragon, and every page I turned I was desperate to see a character I recognised, but never did see one. I think one of the two Horrorcons was shot down in that comic issue, I’d love to know which issue it was.
“I was extremely fortunate and had the best childhood, yet Transformers meant/mean to me as much as any person. Looking back at childhood pics of my TFs brings back so many memories, which I think is why we all collect to day, to relive some good in our childhood.” – Rassimus – Actor/Historian – 2013 A.D.
Nostalgia is of course a massive part of adult Transformers collecting, and it is deeply connected to the memories and childhood love we had for our toys. Toys that have extremely varying significance and meaning in the lives of different people. To some they signify happier or simpler care-free days, to others they were a source of joy at an otherwise difficult time. In my case, it’s not simply my own enjoyment of the toys as a young boy and the affection that has soaked into them that prevents me from even considering parting with them, it is the reminder of just how much love my parents had for me when I hold each toy in my hand and can feel its precise history.
The Snapdragon above is a great example; my mother took me back to the exact same department store not long after Apeface’s purchase because she knew how much I wanted the other Horrorcon to complete my set. To know I have kept them in such a good state all these years, the happiness I felt as an older collector when I found all the parts for the Horrorcons in various boxes and bags to complete them, is for me a tribute to my feelings for my folks. And that’s why an “expensive” and “rare” adult collection of Diaclones or variants could never compete with a chrome-worn, wheel-missing and incomplete dime-a-dozen Grapple.
All the best