Immo de Maar is a collector in the strictest sense of the word. Everything that is added to his display and falls into his ownership is for the purpose of the collection, the completion of a sub-section or the overall tapestry. His approach to toy buying is an exercise in strict focus and parameters, leading to huge satisfaction and enjoyment in the big picture. He does not understand the appeal of newer lines, or even reissues, and no doubt some of his opinions will jar with a lot of readers, but he already knows that. What he has created is what I imagine my collection would have looked like had I never branched out from vintage and had so many sell-offs. For myself, and many collectors, it will be a window into a world almost unimaginable for any collector starting out today.
1) Who are you and what do you collect?
My name is Immo, I collect vintage Transformers. For me it is important to add the word “vintage” because I do not collect any reissues, knock offs or Transformers released after 1989 (except some G1 recolors for the G2 line) . I am a vintage lover anyway; I use vintage furniture and like to buy vintage clothing. Mostly denim related stuff. More specifically, I started to collect G1 Transformers in loose condition in 1997. First only the European and North American releases which is obvious, since I live in Holland. Every now and then I found some boxed G1 Transformers, so slowly I added more of this stuff in my collection.
The majority here are US Hasbro boxes, but I also own some Milton Bradley, Canadian and Takara boxes. During my collecting somewhere in the late nineties I discovered that there were variations on the toys I knew. Like metal toe or metal chest releases, gold weapon versus silver weapon releases, with or without rub sign, different colours, and variations from different countries. Details like this made the hobby for me far more interesting. At one point I learned about the differences in stamps that every toy carried. I remember very well that I decided to stay away from these very small details. Funnily enough, now stamps and their variety are something I always look at. All this together made collecting a lot more interesting and a lot more fun. Even better; without all these variations I am pretty sure I would have left the hobby long time ago. For me seeing a presentation of all the boxed Prime variations, or, for example having all variations in cassettes makes me a very satisfied collector.
I remember that since my early days of collecting I always liked all the “other” stuff that is available. The Transformers gadget world is really a world apart. From records and radios, to erasers and even roller skates. In the eighties anything was available with an Autobot or Decepticon logo. Sadly I have no room to display all this stuff. It’s all in boxes in my storage. When you like the variation part of collecting there is almost no better continent to focus on than South America. Mainly the variety in Minibot releases is absolutely mind blowing. The last 2 to 3 years I am very much into this part of the world.
Somewhere around 2002/2003 I ran up my first MIB Diaclone, unfortunately I cannot remember where and how I bought it. I would have loved to know that since they are now such a big part of my collection. Immediately I am intrigued by these toys. The boxes (no flap), the styrofoam instead of the bubble, and the box art are very appealing to me. And of course the availability of new colours for well-known releases also attracted me. In those days I had many unanswered questions about these releases but instantly I decided that these boxes are way cooler than the G1 releases I know and I started to collect them. Since then I collect Takara Diaclone, GiG Diaclone, Joustra Diaclone, and Takara/GiG Micro Change. Finally I used to collect Victory and Masterforce but choices forced me to sell all those beauties in the past 2 years.
I am a completist, which for me means I really want to collect and own a full line or group of toys. So, after 16 years of collecting my loose G1 one line was completed in 2013. European Exclusive Action Master Windmill being the last I purchased. Complete means for me 100% complete with all parts, weapons and instruction booklets. Oh yeah, this also includes all 24 variations of Minispy. In MIB condition I only collect releases from 84/85/86, and this was also completed in 2013. Last addition was MIB Springer. All my boxes have original paperwork and bubble or styro. I would never use repro bubbles or that kind of stuff. Since I never collected the carded releases there is a big “gap” there. It will take time to complete the range here. Before I just never liked the way I could present these.
Then, in 2014 I completed my full run of GiG Diaclone car releases. (Ok, I need maybe 2 or 3 sticker variations, but all colour variations are there). So my main focus is now on Takara Diaclone Cars, G1 sealed carded releases and all the amazing South American Minibot releases. I told myself it would be possible to collect the full run of Japanese Diaclone cars all MIB in this life. It might take me 40 years more… I will complete it!
2) How has the collecting scene changed in the last 15 years?
For me honestly, it did not get more fun. But let me first tell you what I did like so much in the past. In the late nineties I advertised in a local paper called “Via-Via” every month asking for Transformer toys for sale. Every now and then I got a call from a boy or a parent. Often they were clearing out kids’ rooms and wanted to sell the toys. I bought everything Transformer related. I often biked away with 1 or 2 plastic bags with toys for anything between 25 and 150 guilders. My very first lot I bought in ’97 contained 230 Transformers including loads of weapons, instruction booklets, box parts and so on. I still remember I paid 650 guilders (less then 300 euros). Maybe this was my best buy ever! As a result of all these hunting trips I became the owner of at least 15 Optimus Primes, dozens of Constructicons and many, many Jumpstarters. Sometimes stuff was in good, often in bad condition.
If I remember well the first collector events were organized here in Holland around 99/2000 and since I had so many bots multiple times I attended as a dealer. The Internet played no role yet and bringing a toy like Swoop, Skids or Hot Rod to a show here in Holland brought crazy scenes in front of my table. I also remember there was a collectors fan magazine (more some copied A4 papers full of written TF information) that was sent to your home a few times a year. This is how I got my first contacts in the scene. People who could help me get my hands on toys I did not own yet, and vice versa. The scene was small but fun. And there was a lot to discover!
Of course the Internet changed it all. Often for the good, but also, sometimes for the bad.
Thanks to the Internet the scene has grown massively. We are welcoming new generations of collectors, and these younger people often collect newer lines. The Internet gave us many new contacts all over the world. This is something I appreciate very much. It is really great to be in contact with fellow collectors from all 6 continents. My main contacts and sources for the next purchase are in the US, Canada and Italy. The US is where I found most of my Diaclone pieces. I think this is also due to the fact that many American families lived in Japan in the 80’s (military/navy bases), and parents brought these toys home for their kids.
So what is not fun? Since the demand for vintage was huge in the early 2000’s (I remember selling a loose Hot Rod for 400 guilders/180 euro’s), at one point obviously we got the first Reissues. This was a sign a lot would change. With reissues came new lines and along the way came the KO’s. China is famous of course for producing fake products, so of course they also jump on the Transformer world since big money can be earned. KO stands for Knock Off, it is a fake, why are collectors buying fake product? You don’t wanna wear fake Nikes do you? What I really can’t stand are the people offering Chinese Knock Off and selling these as an official reissue.
Also I cannot follow, and will not follow all the new releases and Transformer lines. It is just toooo much. Some lines I can appreciate, but at events I see guys with toys in boxes with ugly artwork that I don’t know. All these new toys are often easy to obtain on pre-order. Collecting and pre-order… for me these two do not match. Collecting for me is all about searching for these missing weapons, trying to find that release with a small moulding difference or waiting for years before the badly wanted box variant is finally purchased. I would never be happy adding repro guns, repro stickers, repro bubbles, or any other made-to-make-it-easy stuff! Don’t get me wrong; of course everyone should decide for themselves what they collect and how or where they buy it. But all these newer lines and Internet toy stores absolutely don’t do it for me.
3) How do you see, or hope to see the scene change in 5 years time?
The scene will not change a lot I think because 5 years pass in no time. But I am pretty sure more new Transformer enthusiasts will show up cause more movies and toy lines will be released on the market. The Transformer world is massive as we speak and will only grow bigger. More toys released will bring in more money for the producers. More young people will join the scene, and those who collect lines from the early 2000’s will in 5 years time also collect vintage. What I do hope is that we will never see toys like Black Zarak or Grand Maximus re-issued and that people will stop buying fake product from China. But this is an illusion. I know this is not “scene” related, but that is what I would hope to see change collecting related.
4) What has been your single biggest success as a collector, or your greatest find ever?
Besides the first of 230 Transformers I bought? Wow, I am happy to say that I enjoyed many successes in my 17 years of collecting. I remember long ago, while buying a lot again, Scorponok coming out of a drawer under a bed, and buying it for 30 guilders. At that moment that was for sure a huge success for me. Somewhere in the late nineties I walked into my local comic book store and behind the counter I saw a MIB Megatron and a MIB Optimus Prime. This store never sold toys, just comic and strip books. I asked the owner and he told me the day before he swapped them for some comic books. I immediately bought them. Wow, finally I owned a MIB Megatron (Milton Bradley; made in France!).
I remember many Diaclones I bought years ago for very friendly prices (At first they were as cheap as a boxed Hasbro release).
In 2012 I bought a whole Diaclone collection of more then 70 MIB pieces from a collector that had been in storage since 2007. I bought them all for 2007 market prices. It took me a full year to complete the deal, and everything was shipped to me in 6 or 7 shipments. Every shipment was uninsured and the custom papers claimed these boxes contained toys with a total value of $40.00. You can imagine we took quite a risk there, but it was a huge success collecting wise.
In another Diaclone purchase the seller promised me a minty Powered Convoy. This seller made short movies of his collection and posted them on YouTube. When I watched the movie I immediately saw it was not the regular Powered Convoy but the “Mekki” (chrome version) complete and unbroken in a beautiful condition box! I went totally nuts. It’s still one of the highlights of my collection. Recently I discovered a dead mint MIB US Hasbro blue Roof Wheeljack on Ebay. I knew this variant was available in the GiG Diaclone line but I had never seen it in a G1 box. The seller did not know why this was special and I bought it for a very decent price.
But, my biggest find ever might be the MOSC Bumblejumper which was listed as a regular MOSC Cliffjumper in an Ebay B.I.N. auction. I just scrolled through the auctions having breakfast on a Sunday morning and my heart stopped for a moment. I still had to pay a couple of hundreds of dollars but it was a super bargain I think.
5) What is the most surprising or outrageous collecting story you have heard?
That is easily for me the find of the Diaclone Black New Countach LP500S. I remember I was hardly able to work that day, my mind was constantly on that insanely beautiful toy and on the whole idea that a unknown colour of Diaclone car could still be found in 2013! I’ve been to Japan once, visited all of Tokyo’s vintage toy stores, but sadly I did not find something so insanely rare and beautiful. I’d like to mention that only a few months back an Ebay seller listed 2 BIN auctions for $249.95 each. One was a dead mint Diaclone Swoop and the other one was an equally mint Marlboor Wheeljack. Both MIB unused.
6) If you could pick one item from your collection to keep, what would it be?
Pffffff, close to impossible. But I have to say my MIB EU Hasbro Optimus Prime. Not the one I mentioned finding earlier. It’s actually not very rare or special, but this one is the first Transformer I bought myself back in 97. That is where it all started.
7) If you could have one item out of someone else’s collection, what would that be?
There are a few options here. A MIB Artfire is extremely high on my wish list, mainly also because it has not been reissued. Otherwise I am sure I would not want it so badly. Look what happened with Stepper. In my opinion the reissue took away a lot of the beauty of the original specimen. Powered Convoy DX Gift set maybe? Or that Black Countach of course. Best chance is that I would pick one of the 10 remaining Takara Diaclone Cars that
I need. Don’t care which one. Don’t care from whose collection!
8 ) What advice would you give a new collector starting out today?
FOCUS! Concentrate on one line or one group of toys and try to complete that line. That is what collecting is all about. In that way collecting itself, and the result is very enjoyable. Otherwise you will have a collection which is all over the place. My own collection was quite “all over the place” 5 years ago. By selling newer lines and subgroups, and by buying more and more stuff from the early lines my collection got far more appealing. I want to give credits to collectors like Maz, his collection can’t be called very big, but look what is in there!! He went so deep into the Joustra Diaclone line that he has by far the biggest collection of that line there is today. What an extreme joy to look at! That dedication inspired me for sure.
Furthermore I would say, take your time, patience is needed if you desire something rare. Save some money so that if the desired toy pops up you are able to buy it. And lastly, have fun on the way!!
Many kind thanks to Immo de Maar for pictures and words.
All the best