My timing was not good. Just as the hysteria and popularity surrounding the Takara Tomy Masterpiece Transformers line was reaching record heights and the most popular items were selling out at all online stores, I finally cracked and decided to pursue a new Masterpiece collection. With the only options being the second-hand market or eBay, prices are escalating to the point where a week of further hesitation has a tangible cost.
MP-12 Lambor (Sideswipe) is now regularly selling for almost twice the standard pre-order prices originally charged by well-known online retailers, and MP-14 Alert (Red Alert) is heading in the same direction. Are we really surprised at this turn of events? The toys are arguably some of the best-looking things to have left the Takara factories in years, they are a beautiful mix of G1 nostalgia and modern action figure technology, and collectors ate them up in record time. Throw in some rumours of licensing issues between Takara Tomy and Lamborghini, a bunch of sold out online stores and you have a recipe for feverish demand and soaring value.
While the Lamborghinis are not the only Masterpiece Transformers to be rocketing in value (check out online prices for MP-8 Grimlock, MP-11 coronation Starscream and MP-13 Soundwave), some are not heading in that direction. The original MP-1 Convoy, the first true Masterpiece we received with its array of excellent gimmicks (arm comm screens, moving mouthplate, light-up matrix, opening shin vents, working suspension), hulking die-cast heft and considerable size, has not really appreciated in value. This is due to the sheer number of releases the mould received from Takara and later Hasbro, and also because of the introduction of the MP-10 Convoy mould from Takara Tomy, which was engineered to be almost a reboot in terms of scale for the Masterpiece line.
MP-10 Convoy came with a trailer, small Spike Witwicky figure and Roller as standard, with the Hasbro version showing colour variations but no shorter smokestacks or any other such off-putting alterations. Being devoid of die cast and all the aforementioned MP-1 gimmicks, and noticeably smaller, I just didn’t understand what the fuss was about. Then I had one in-hand, and having never believed that MP-1 could be improved upon by any Transformers toy release ever, I felt it had been immediately replaced. Not necessary replaced as the best Transformers toy ever, but as the definitive Masterpiece Transformers Convoy figure.
A much better-proportioned robot mode, an almost 100% show-accurate head-sculpt and vehicle mode cemented this toy’s greatness in my opinion. I do still appreciate MP-1 as a marvellous achievement in toy engineering, presentation and execution, but I have to admit how immediately less show-accurate it looks compared to this newer Optimus/Convoy mould. And show accuracy is a massive part of Masterpiece appeal. Needless to say, MP-10 continues to be popular and the Hasbro TRU exclusive version continues to rise in price as more and more people realise that this is the time to be getting on the Masterpiece train.
Timing is everything, those that saw the promotional images for toys such as Lambor, Alert and Soundwave and knew they’d fall in love with them, did the right thing and pre-ordered the toys as soon as they could. These items sold out, and then Takara Tomy announced Prowl, Bluestreak and Smokescreen, promotional images surfaced, more folks realised they couldn’t ignore the revolution occurring in the Masterpiece line and had to backtrack to pick up the ones they had missed. Unfortunately, those had already vanished from online stores, and collectors/retailers were selling them for massively inflated prices on eBay or privately. The problem was, they were (and are) selling.
I am of course personally a part of this problem. I have very little excuse for not pre-ordering other than that Masterpiece Transformers were no longer a priority for me, but I was basing that on my old Masterpiece collection. The release of Masterpiece Autobot cars that look and are THIS good, a healthy mix of show accuracy and licensed vehicular accuracy, should have made me reconsider earlier. Priority turned to self-deprivation turned to denial. Those of us who knew we’d love the toys, and had an inkling that we would eventually cave and pursue the whole line, have absolutely no reason to feel aggrieved by the current prices. We should have known better and pre-ordered to avoid paying almost twice the original asking price.
It’s not all about looks and Lamborghinis though, MP-12 Lambor is not a great toy because it is more closely and faithfully representing the 80’s Countach pin-up than G1 Sideswipe or any Sideswipe since, it has a strong robot mode, a nice and intuitive transformation with enough complexity to keep you going back, and again that serious element of show accuracy that gives a collector the feeling of “Wow, how did they actually make a proper Lamborghini Countach look like the cartoon model of Sideswipe?”
There are downsides. Some of the panelling looks uneven, there are complaints about paint application, the wheels are plastic etc. A recent interview with the designer revealed that compromises had to be made in order to make the price point feasible, and in that context you just have to marvel at what has been achieved with the size and budget. I refuse to be in any way shape or form disappointed with this mould, quite the opposite, I haven’t stopped photographing or messing with it since it arrived. Even at the inflated price I would argue that it’s worth it. Moreso today than tomorrow as it continues to rise in price.
There’s that issue of timing again, some collectors are stuck between pulling the trigger now before it gets worse, or banking on Hasbro versions of the moulds. If Hasbro should announce a much cheaper US/UK release of Lambor/Alert through TRU or some other avenue, some may rejoice and laugh at those of us who have paid what we had to in order to get a Lambor or Alert now. If after that we feel zero regret at our purchases and enjoy the figures as we have so far (as I know I will), then it further cements the quality of the figures and the privilege we ought to feel for having the luxury dilemma of just what to spend our toy-collecting money on at this moment in time.
My sincerest and heartfelt thanks to Gordon Yip and Curt from TFsource, they know why.
All the best