After two weeks of depressing articles about giving up Transformers toy collecting or selling beloved figures for various purposes, how about an abrupt change of direction? This week we have a feel-good piece about the pleasures and continuing joy of being part of the Transformers community, why the cultivating of a collection personal and unique to us can bring such happiness and actually have a future in our lives.
Many of the same esteemed contributors who gave us quality soundbites about why giving up could be a wise decision and why it has crossed their mind so frequently, now share their thoughts on what keeps them in the hobby and why it endures among a sea of priorities and the odd – but profound – change of heart.
“What keeps me going? That’s a good question. I find that Transformers have become part of my personality. They’ve been with me ever since I was very young and have always been an important part of my life. So for the same reason I wouldn’t drop a good friend on a moment’s notice, it is the same with these small robotic plastic figures. What gets me excited is finding new and interesting ways to ‘curate’ my collection. It is ever-changing, adding and subtracting items here and there, working towards a perfect display. And by no means do I ever want to get there, I enjoy the journey. I always want to have some changes to make, some alterations, otherwise the journey is over and I’m done”.
Having targets, goals and a finish in sight can be hugely motivating to a collector, but as our first contributor wisely points out, once the journey’s over and there’s nothing else to achieve/collect/experience, one will inevitably look back at how far they’ve come and – like a good book – wish they could experience it all over again.
“In this day and age we all have a lot of responsibility heaped on us…work, family, financial obligations for the present and future. It all becomes rather daunting. Collecting, in our case TFs, offers some a bit of selfish sanctuary. I don’t collect for my family, friends, or corporate overlords. I do it because I enjoy it. I don’t want to give it up unless I absolutely must. I think that some guys try to convince themselves that they are doing for their kids but I don’t believe them”.
Admittedly, collecting Transformers, watching Transformers cartoons or reading Transformers comics provides an escape from the pressures of everyday life, and that holds great value for numerous collectors. As much as we may tell our friends and family that it’s a harmless hobby compared to drinking, drugs or other more common vices, it has its pitfalls which were described in detail by our contributors who had considered Giving Up.
“While it’s inevitable at some point in our lives that we will/must part with our collections (or part of them), this is a hobby that we all love or else that decision to let things go at times wouldn’t be so painful. I’m asked all the time why I collect. My wife, family, friends and even the local news station that did an interview January 2012. My response is usually the same. As an adult, married with kids, there are certain responsibilities thrust upon you that without some sort of escape, can really weigh you down. For me that escape is Transformers. It reminds me of a simpler time in my life when I didn’t have all this responsibilities. I could just be a kid…kinda like the old Toys ‘R’ Us song ‘where a kid can be a kid'”.
Escape. There it is again, along with that other formidable pillar of toy collecting; nostalgia. The link to a happier, simpler time, or that connection to a place or person can be both the spark and the perpetual fuel behind a collector’s drive and staying power in this hobby.
“Well… The thing that makes me collect is this taste of childhood.. This blessed time in our life where everything was just happiness and enjoyment.. Of course!”.
“A part of Transformers taking me back to my childhood are all the fond memories I have of my late father. Growing up, every summer after school let out my dad would take my brother or myself by ourselves on a trip he called ‘Father Son trip’. On that trip we could pick (within reason) where we wanted to go or travel to for an extended weekend and just hang out together. Of course being a kid the place I would choose usually resulted in a trip to Toys ‘R’ Us, Lionel Toy Warehouse or KB Toys along the way. This is how I obtained several of my vintage G1 toys, sadly only a few I still own are from my childhood”.
Nostalgia gets us only so far before a different kind of appreciation begins to blossom.
“I’m almost 40 years old so why should I still be deriving joy from toys that I played with as a kid? At one point or another I’ve owned collections both large and small from just about every action figure line imaginable. As I was growing up my big four were Masters of the Universe, GI Joe, Star Wars and Transformers. While I enjoyed playing with TFs they didn’t have as much “playability” as those other lines. For instance, I could take my MOTU figures outside without much care and have them falling off of rocks and rolling down hills. With TFs I had to worry a lot more about them breaking and losing pieces. I think it helps too that, for me at least, the More Than Meets The Eye cartoon still holds up rather well.
“What I’ve always enjoyed about TFs and especially now as an adult is the ‘art’ behind them, and not just the toys themselves but the packages that they came in. Personally I don’t feel that there has ever been another toy line that has packaging as nice as the US G1 toy line”.
And what keeps us going once nostalgia has burnt itself out? There must be other avenues of interest and involvement with the Transformers hobby that keep our toys relevant, justifiable and help us enjoy them for longer.
“My personal drive lies in the discovery. Be it the discovery of a small nugget of information that connects some old dots in the grander scheme of things historically, the discovery of a hither-to unknown variation, the discovery of that single part that has been eluding you for 10-odd years or even the discovery of a new engineering masterpiece of a toy – it all gives me that excitement that makes me want to discover even more”.
“A big part of why I started my own toy blog a few years ago was to have another way to enjoy my Transformers and other toys. I often sell toys I no longer desire to keep in order to buy something else that I want. This makes the wife happy (since the bank account isn’t touched) and it helps me from getting overwhelmed. At any time I can go back to my own account and read and view the pictures of items no longer in my collection. It’s just another way of enjoying what I’m so blessed to have”.
Sometimes the key to longevity within the hobby is focus, knowing when to abandon one line of toys and focus on another – one that has the greatest hold on your imagination and affection.
“This toy line is so special, that there is still some items that have never surfaced, so this hobby is now like hunting for a treasure…the sensation of my beating heart at a flea market, the passionate searches on the ‘net, the never-ending hope of finding a never-before seen toy, and the pleasure of sharing it! This feeling is very strong and powerful to me and keeps me on the lookout every single day, and I should say more than twice a day. This IS passion to me! I have been collecting since the 90’s and never thought about giving up. And like any of us, I can spend hours looking at my cabinet, always thinking about upgrading what I already have. Pure addiction to this passion, this is like love…”.
Having spoken so much about giving up and packing in, while some do surrender to the temptation of liquidation, extra space, liberation or simply have to stop, how do the others keep going straight at the crossroads?
“I think of giving up on collecting in a similar way to committing suicide – it may feel like the right thing at that moment, but the very next day you could miss out on the thing your heart most desired so it’s better to tough it out because the good times will outweigh the bad. When I sold my collection in 2005 I kept my Masterpieces and still collected that line despite there being very little in the way of new molds. Since then there’s been a few times where I’ve contemplated stopping entirely but if I had, I’d have never have even known about the upcoming Bluestreak Masterpiece, which to me is the very top of my wants list.
“If you told me in 2008 that my dream piece would get made I wouldn’t have believed it. Sure today you may feel burned out but tomorrow is a new day and who knows what amazing thing is just round the corner? With the amazing Masterpieces, Alternity, IDW inspired Generations and third party releases, I honestly don’t think there’s been a better time to be a Transformers collector. That’s not even touching on some of the great people I’ve gotten to know along the way! As Stan Bush said in a slightly lesser well known song than ‘The Touch’ and ‘Dare’, ‘Never surrender, never say die’ “.
While the advice of fellow collectors can help keep you on track and avoid the aforementioned pitfalls, you have to remain true to your own nature and know yourself well. There’s no shortage of conflicting opinions about how to go about Transformers collecting.
“Why do I do it? Because I think being a collector transfan is a task that – paraphrasing Furman – ‘NEVER ENDS!’. Transformers is an eternal story of good versus evil and of an enormous quantity of characters that after ‘knowing them’, you ‘have’ to get them (for instance the recent IDW MTMTE G1 character toys). What draws to me to a figure is the story behind the character it represents or the place the figure has in the whole mythos. And for a completist like me there is always a variant or TF that escaped and has to be located. There are a lot of interesting figures and reimaginations of old ones coming in the following months. For me every day is just like the first day I started collecting, there is always some TF that Ill incorporate into my army”.
That stands in stark contrast to our next quote:
“If you can afford to collect it all and more importantly are happy doing it then go for it but for me it just doesn’t seem to work. I think that trying to be a completist, especially with a line as huge as TFs, can also be a bad idea. You end up with a giant unwieldy hoard that is difficult to display and ultimately you don’t really care about a lot of the figures anyhow. You only bought them because you felt like you had to. In my case I think that moderation is key”.
Regular reflection and self-analysis is important in making sure toy collecting does not become a chore, an obligation or something equally destructive. While being selfish is an unavoidable part of the hobby, helping others collect can be equally rewarding…
“That’s a motivating factor for me – finding stuff nobody has seen in almost 30 years…or discovering a piece so incredibly mint that has never been found in that shape since the 80s. The hunt for perfection, or as close as you can get. That’s my drive. And now that I have a collection that I truly appreciate and enjoy, it’s fun helping my friends get to where they want to be in their respective collections, working off of want lists people have that have near impossible items on and finding them”.
Knowing how you got to where you are in your collecting today can be equally as important as knowing where you are going, how you will keep things interesting and being able to tell if upcoming product or your remaining targets will provide the necessary motivation and drive to remain a part of the hobby.
“The main reason I continue collecting is because these toys bring me enjoyment and new purchases or trades offer me something to look forward to. I highly recommend the IDW: ‘More than Meets the Eye’ ongoing comic series to any transformer (or non-transformer) fan. Compared to other Transformers comics I have read, the writing in particular (art is good too) is awesome and in a league of its own and these new stories with familiar characters have been wonderful and the writing and character development has been so spectacular that it has even renewed my interest in less mainstream characters and enhanced my overall interest in the hobby”.
The combination of outstanding new and current Transformers media and exciting new collector-focused product has resulted in some calling this a golden age of Transformers collecting, a fact that even the most leathery-old collectors find hard to dispute.
“With Hasbro, Takara and the Third Party companies releasing more product than ever before, I am excited about what new innovations they’ll come up with and adding those (or not!) to my collection. I also enjoy going back and re-discovering things I may have missed in the past. For example I have begun getting back into the e-Hobby and SCF releases of the early 2000’s. Moreover, what keeps me interested is that this hobby is forever changing, appropriate being that change is an integral part of the subject matter. Other toy-lines just don’t seem to have the dynamic nature that makes Transformers unique”.
“In all my years of collecting I have to say that this is undeniably the best year ever to be a collector. Masterpieces knocking it out of the park with multiple new moulds a year, the most amazing 3rd party items ever and Hasbro is doing fantastic on their Generations figures and other lines. Go back 3 years and compare, one new MP every 18 months, and usually a recolour, one new solid 3rd party item a year, you actually have choices as a collector and you have to pick and choose what you want. This has been an amazing year for TF collecting”.
Despite all of the above about how the old toys bring back fond memories, how new toys fulfil our wildest dreams and how cartoons and comics can fire the imagination, leading to a fresh appreciation of said toys, what would any of this be without the people we spend time on our hobby with? How many of us would continue to do what we do in this hobby if we could not share it with our friends? Whether it’s an article on giving up or not giving up, the message at the end is the same…
“At some point I may stop collecting. I don’t see that in my near future, but whenever that day comes I will still be able to take a step back and take it all in and have some wonderful memories”.
“By far, the one thing that keeps me interested in continuing my hobby, is the community itself. I have made many dear friends in the 15+ years I’ve been online that I am still in regular contact with, and there is nothing like meeting those people in the flesh – either privately or at one of the many conventions around the world – to ‘talk shop’, share stories and generally have a good time. People like this, whom you may have seen through both good and bad times, are at the very core of what makes the Transformers community one of the best in the whole world”.
Truer words may never have been spoken on the subject of why we continue to collect Transformers toys and refuse to abandon this community, this world.
Also, Quakewave really helps.
Another huge thank you to those that heeded the last-minute call this week yet again and provided further wisdom and experience on tap: Morgan Evans from Masterforce, Martin Lund of NTFA, Colbey Hopper of Randomtoyreviews, Gordon Yip, Justin Shannon, Curt from TFSource, RpChristophe, Eric Warren, Jon Krause and David Buenaño Hochman of TransformersPeru.
Thanks also to Bryce Rutledge for the collection picture I now dream of having thanks to James Roberts, Alex Milne, Nick Roche and Josh Burcham.
All the best