Everywhere you look now in vintage Transformers collecting, every niche and sub-category, the bitter end items that are required to polish off a section of the hobby are running into the very high hundreds or even low thousands of dollars. The purposeful march of certain toys and rarities towards four figures has left many a collector grateful for their early interest in things such as Japanese Transformers, pre-Transformers, minibots or even Mexican Transformers and premium North American items before the waves crested.
We may have featured a whole lotta Jetfire recently, but if we’re going to talk about premium Generation 1 Transformers, Jetfire is right up there visually with sealed Optimus Primes, Megatrons and Shockwaves. It will come as no surprise to anybody here that sealed G1 Transformers can run into the four figure bracket. Those that get graded via AFA exchange hands between collectors interested in that degree of preservation for thousands on a regular basis, especially AFA 85 and higher, and especially items like Megatron ($3000+). One can only imagine what an AFA 85+ Matsushiro Jetfire would fetch on open auction.
Those who collect giftsets will come across the odd 4-figure set that eludes logic and capture now and then, too. Liokaiser or Dinoking giftsets, US Defensor giftsets, Japanese VSX Convoy vs Megatron sets , and – if one is ever found to exist – a Milton Bradley Devastator giftset would run over the $1000 mark most days of the week. Like most areas of the collecting sphere, completing the collection becomes exponentially more costly as one approaches the finish line. This doesn’t mean that they will always cost this much, deals can always be found (just ask the guy who won a boxed Diaclone Blue Bluestreak for $70) but through regular auction or collector channels, that’s the current state of play.
Mundane foreign variant Transformers tend to usually interest local collectors via nostalgia, accessibility or some kind of pride in their region’s own history of Transformers, but occasionally special items rise above the packaging differences and strike out at the fandom’s imagination and desire. The Milton Bradley Red Tracks and Mexican Iga Black Prowl are famous variants, and unused boxed examples would today easily cross the 4-figure threshold, even MIB used samples would too if nice enough.
Dig a little deeper and you come across rarer, lesser-known variants that would only appeal to the most hardcore collector, that person who is aiming to finish a whole region of variants or moulds off with a flourish. These kinds of item include the half-Bluestreak, half-Smokescreen Mexican hybrid Fairlady toys seen above, or the Milton Bradley “Sunswipe” – the Sunstreaker in Sideswipe packaging – where competition would be massively intense between a handful of collectors, but enough to drive the price into the thousands. Why? Because those who are looking for these toys know they may get one opportunity per decade to obtain them.
It doesn’t have to be obscure or long-buried unknown variants that command massive prices, even tremendously well-known and relatively easy to find Japanese Transformers can climb into the 4-figure category. When I say easy, I mean you are guaranteed to a see a few per year. Masterforce figures like Black Zarak, Grand Maximus and occasionally Overlord are good examples. These are not oddities that can be glossed over, collectors really do go after these pieces as necessities for completion.
Toys like Black Zarak and Artfire have commanded thousands for a long time, and there’s no sign of that changing any time soon. Numerous reissue Infernos, and even Steppers did not lead to a reissue C-108 Artfire and so it still remains a signficiant gap in Japanese TF collections. Black Zarak remains costly due to the inevitable disintegration of his gold accessories, size and genuine impressive appearance.
If you like prototypes and pre-production material, be prepared to pay 4 figures from the get-go, especially for Generation 1 or 2 prototypes, and especially if they are in colour schemes not used for production. This is less of a surprise than many of the other categories seeing as how items of this nature are massively historic, often breathtakingly different and possibly unique. Even a packaging sample Diaclone – not really different to full production – but in a box labelled “Sample” can fetch multiple thousands simply due to its historical significance.
These days those kinds of sums will not be restricted to vintage pre production items, certain re-issue mock-ups or hardcopy prototypes of particularly popular new Transformers (think Masterpiece, Alternators, Binaltech, Classics, Movie) could make your eyes water. It’s not just the toys either; certain paperwork, artwork or maybe just hardcopy accessories for big ticket items could go equally high. What is popular at the time makes a big difference too.
If I say unofficial Transformers items are costly and run some collectors thousands of dollars, you may think I’m referring to the current trend of expensive 3rd Party offerings from all and sundry. However, there are vintage-inspired bootlegs such as the Korean Overlord with the Star Saber head “Alpha Base Robot” and the G1-coloured oversized Bruticus set that can fetch staggering amounts of money on auction and privately. These are some of the very best and most desirable vintage bootlegs in existence, and the chrome-free Bruticus (closest to G1 colours) is truly brilliant as well as mega rare.
Diaclone prices are well-documented and continue to spiral into the stratosphere. Red Hoist? Four figures. Yellow Trailbreaker? Four figures. Black Skids? Four figures. Powered Convoy? Four figures. Blackhood Fairlady? Four figures. All boxed and Japanese, sold by me in the last 12 months, and not all of them were complete or unused either. Marlboor Wheeljack, Yellow Sideswipe, Grapple? Forget about it, not worth even thinking about currently. And nobody even blinks twice these days.
It’s not just Japanese Diaclone either. Finnish Diaclones have been horrendously expensive since the first ones surfaced, GiG Italian pre-Transformers if minty enough will go for 4 figures too, especially the Blue Bluestreak, Police Sideswipe, Powered Convoy, Yellow Sideswipe and possibly even the Red Tracks. Believe it or not, the GiG Inferno would approach that level of value too, many Italian collectors are missing a MIB unused GiG Fire Truck and would pay handsomely to fill that gap. A Joustra “Diaclone” Micro Change Cassette Moto was taken to near enough $2000 by 3 collectors in 2012, I should know, I was second high bidder on that one. Same with a Finnish Diaclone Inferno, I was 3rd highest bidder at $1600, and the winning bid was a full $1000 more than mine.
Minibots. Synonymous with madness. Tiny little toys in more colours than anyone could fathom trying to own – yet some of you crazy buggers do sincerely try, bless you – and increasing in prices annually. I sold the above Peruvian red and yellow Huffer for $1000 about a year and a half ago and the buyer was very skeptical about paying that much, despite the fact that it was the first one of its kind to show up carded. About 3 more have appeared since then, and yet they are going for more now, $1300 the most recent one.
Loose minis from Brazil can approach 4 figures, loose Mexican minibots can top 4 figures (just a few of the Bumblebee/Cliffjumper variants). Blue Micro Change Series minis – like pre-Bumblebee, Cliffjumper and Bumblejumper are liable to hit $1000+ these days too as they are missing from many notable minibot collections. Then all of a sudden something never before-seen comes along, like a green/purple Brazilian Optimus vs Malignus “Pick Up” Gears with the backing card and redefines “rare”…
…and yet it sold for $150. Minibot collectors know full well it could have had an extra zero on the end and still sold. That’s genuinely where we are with some of these South American minibots in 2014. But then again, the prices these things are realising are certainly helping more come out of the woodwork, and it isn’t just eBay attracting such high numbers, these things are exchanging hands in their countries of origin for close to eBay prices – people desperate to get them out to these collectors at a significant profit.
Comics can be just as bad, depending on just how deeply you want to get into the appreciation of the fine work being done by IDW’s More Than Meets The Eye and Robots In Disguise creators right now. Original comic artwork can easily top 4 figures, and just collecting all the covers for MTMTE single issues since August has pushed me beyond $1000 easily.
So pretty much everywhere you look, you can find items in the Transformers universe that bloat into the thousands; be it sealed Generation 1, foreign variants, pre-Transformers, minibots, Japanese Transformers, giftsets, prototypes, comic artwork, even bootlegs! Depending on how far you want to take the hobby, it’s pretty easy to find yourself spending this kind of money. Does that mean the whole Transformers collecting scene is for folks who have thousands of disposable dollars a month?
Of course not, many of us get by just fine in the hundreds or even less, because there’s still so much choice out there. You also can’t blame so many for focusing purely on Masterpiece, Generations or 3rd Party Transformers – the bang for buck there is indisputable – but any sort of comprehensive collection of MP or 3P TFs can again stretch into 4 figure spending per year. So what do we say to so many areas of vintage Transformers collecting now shamefully boasting four figure toys? Well, any four letter word will do.
Many thanks to Daniel Oliva, HighPrime, Paul Hitchens, Alessandro Musconi, Brandon Yap, Jason Holliday, Jon Krause, Marco Salerno, Morgan Evans and Walter Mueller for pictures this week.
All the best