Some collector interviews I have been waiting for patiently for a long time, knowing the content and imagery would be worth it. When I returned to the hobby in 2011 I noticed a few vintage enthusiasts who had managed to assemble exquisite collections and get themselves quite well known for it in the community, as well as becoming an inspiration for others in their quest for perfection. Hyperoptic is one of those collectors, and in addition to his G1 collection, he has a lovely story or two to tell from his time working on Transformers videogames. It also goes to show that differing opinions on the merits of various Transformers eras need not cause a lack of kinship, as my own friendship with Hyperoptic has proven. While it is a shame that my return to increased involvement in the hobby coincides with his ‘retirement’ from active collecting, it is my pleasure to bring you his interview…
1) Who are you and what do you collect?
Hi, I’m known on message boards as either Hyperoptic or G1-Junkie. I’m a 3D animation director living in Los Angeles, California.
My collection in the past has consisted of multiple lines, spanning from vintage G1 to newer releases such as Masterpiece, Classics, and unofficial “3rd party” products. My focus was on G1 characters, either original toys or updated versions. At the time, I used to find enjoyment in photographing newly acquired items. I even had a bit of fun compositing custom backgrounds in some cases. You will find that a good portion of the pictures in this article are from that period.
These days, I have pretty much taken my retirement from active Transformers collecting, due to a shift in life priorities. I’m currently in the process of liquidating 99% of my modern figures, as I have come to realize that I’m more of a vintage toy enthusiast than an overall transformers fan. My collection will ultimately be culled down to the following:
-Complete set of U.S. G1-G2 releases.
-Complete set of Japanese G1 exclusives.
-Complete set of European G1-G2 exclusives.
-Collection of various Omega Supremes. (Favorite Character)
Here’s an old video from 2008 that features part of my U.S. G1 collection:
Overall, Transformers were and still are more than just toys and collectibles to me. They have been a valuable resource of creative reference throughout my career. So, even though I’m parting with a good portion of them these days, I still have a great deal of gratitude for every piece that came into my possession. Photographing and manipulating these figures has brought me priceless inspiration over the years.
2) How has the collecting scene changed in the last 10 years?
The main window where I was actively collecting Transformers was from 2007 to 2013, so I can only really speak for those 6 years. I still touch base with a few collectors here and there though, and lurk in the G1 thread on TFW2005 regularly, but I’ve been mostly staying away from news and other discussions. I always had a nostalgic inclination towards the brand and bought numerous G1 figures at flea markets over the years leading to my full comeback. But what really set it off for me was when I was introduced to eBay. The first few months were exhilarating; I found it incredible to be able to search through hundreds upon hundreds of available vintage G1 items. I didn’t witness the eBay boom from the start, but it’s obvious that it was a huge factor in the progression of the hobby.
The hype of an upcoming live action movie in 2007 also weighed in on my return to collecting. It’s undeniable that these movies brought Transformers back to the forefront of mainstream conversations. But personally, I have to express that I was very disappointed with them. I guess I could get past the numerous plot holes by saying they were just mindless action flicks. Even the incredibly poor character development that was actually quite inferior to the simplistic 80s cartoons could be overlooked to an extent. But the actual robot designs were and still are atrocious in my eyes. From my point of view, Transformers should look like chunky robots with identifiable alternate mode parts on them in key spots, not like some overly busy mess that could be compared to a shriveled aluminum foil sculpted body with an alien bug faced head slapped onto it. My animosity towards the movie designs was compounded by the fact that I was exposed to them on a daily basis back then. As an animator on one of the Transformers movie games at the time, I had to manipulate and stare at their 3D models, day after day, for about a year and a half. I’m not going to give grief to anyone that appreciates these designs, but in my opinion, it was a very bad aesthetic turn for the brand, and was one of the many factors that drove me away from the franchise.
Another big change in the hobby during those years was the expansion of online communities. After two years of collecting solo, in 2009, I finally registered on a few of these Transformers message boards. Till this day, I’m glad I joined, due to some key people that became great friends over time. But, unfortunately, I quickly got my fill of overly-opinionated self-entitled individuals and posturing internet tough guys that had something to prove. I’m aware that this plagues the internet as a whole, but for me, it was yet another factor that drove me away from the hobby.
The evolution of the actual figures has also been a big part of the change in recent years. It’s worth mentioning the arrival of Classics, Masterpiece, and unlicensed “3rd Party” collectibles. It changed the game for people that had more attachment to the G1 on-screen characters than for the actual vintage toys. Fully articulated figures infused with the latest engineering was also a big draw for many. I initially hopped on board with these, thinking I could eventually assemble a complete cast of Classics styled G1 characters. But I eventually pulled away as I realized that, for me, most of them turned out to be simple fads that would eventually be replaced by the next best thing down the road. I’m a completionist at heart, so the lack of defined limits on modern releases compared to the finite nature of a vintage line weighed in considerably in my decision to abandon modern figures altogether. But the main reason remained that vintage toys had that timeless magic and charm that truly held my passion.
3) How do you see, or hope to see the scene changing in 5 years’ time?
I think I’ll be even further away from the scene at that point, but something tells me that the gap between “children’s toys” and “adult collectibles” will widen even more, and the distinction between the two will be unmistakably clear-cut. Kids these days lose interest in toys younger and younger due to the evolution and popularity of electronic devices. In turn, the toys will keep getting simpler and simpler, while adult collectibles will continue to evolve. Furthermore, I believe that a videogame/action figure merge is an almost certainty in the future of Transformers. In the same fashion as Skylanders and Disney Infinity, where a physical action figure can be purchased, and through custom peripherals, be integrated in a digital world built around a videogame. This will help retain some of the older kids, but it is still a mystery to how this will affect the engineering and complexity of the figures.
4) What has been your single biggest success as a collector, or your greatest ever find?
On the toy collecting side: In 2010, I had just completed my U.S. G1 collection, and was slowly starting to acquire a few Japanese exclusives. Next thing I know, one of the most prominent collectors on the scene at the time (“ams” from TFW2005) informs me that he would be liquidating his entire collection, including all of his Japanese G1’s. He let me and a few others take a crack at them before making them available to the general public. He was a great guy and made me a deal on 2 huge lots. I remember having a bit of buyer’s remorse right after those significant payments were made, but it quickly dissipated when the crazy price spike started happening on these items shortly after. I had always admired his Japanese collection and day-dreamed about assembling a similar set at some point. But I never thought I’d actually own a good percentage of those exact figures I was marveling at.
On the personal side: One of the greatest successes was the friendships I’ve made in this hobby. I’m not a very social individual in general and can be a bit of a grumpy ass at times. But somehow I was still able to make a few friends along the way. Here’s a quick shout-out to these individuals that made collecting more enjoyable for me on various levels: Allen Greenwood, Bryce Rutledge, Brandon Yap, Alistair Curamen, and last but not least, Maz.
On the purely fan-boy side: Earlier in my career, while working on the previously mentioned Transformers videogame, I had the chance to meet Peter Cullen and Frank Welker. They were brought in to voice our Optimus Prime and Megatron. For those who don’t know, Peter Cullen was the voice of Optimus Prime and Frank Welker was the voice of Megatron in the original G1 series. They also voiced other random characters in the show. They hung around with us, signing autographs, and we even had our own personal Q&A session. They played along with all our quirky requests, and we got to hear live and up-close renditions of Optimus Prime, Megatron, and other iconic characters. Peter’s Ironhide and Frank’s Soundwave will be forever imprinted in my memory. The power and presence behind those brief performances were truly unforgettable. But beyond their established reputations as great voice actors, what stood out the most in the end was the level of humanity and humility that radiated from these two. Truthfully first class top notch individuals.
5) What is the most surprising or outrageous collecting story you have heard?
A few years ago, someone put up a large list of items for trade on one of the message boards. It attracted a lot of interest. A friend was involved in one of the transactions. After a few weeks, he let me know that he had been scammed by the guy, and pointed me to the thread that was full of people complaining and inquiring about their deals. My friend was taken for around $800, and it is estimated that the scammer made off with at least $30,000 in total merchandise. I think the police were contacted but I’m not sure what became of it. Some were actually considering traveling to the shipping address and taking care of business on their own terms. It’s sad however, as he somehow ended up getting away with it. Although unfortunately negative, till this day, it is still one of the most outrageous collecting stories I have to share.
6) If you could pick one item from your collection to keep, what would it be?
It would have to be G1 Omega Supreme for me. I have vivid memories of getting this figure for Christmas as a child. These are not only fond memories of Transformers, they are some of the best memories of my childhood in general. I loved everything about him, from the way he cleverly transformed or “partsformed”, to the way he walked and rolled. It was a true joy watching him go around the tracks in space station mode or waddle down the hall as a hefty robot. He was one of the few toys I actually hung on to from my childhood.
7) If you could have one item out of someone else’s collection, what would that be?
I want that freaking MOSC Bumblejumper that sold for $200 seconds before I was able to click the “Buy it now” button. Yeah, I want that from the winner’s collection… Can you tell I’m still bitter about it?
8 ) What advice would you give a new collector starting out today?
Take your time. Don’t jump in and purchase everything you see. Don’t buy into the hype of the next big thing. Form your own opinion and be true to your taste and preferences. Do some research, for the most part, there are enough pictures on the web to help you decide if you like a piece or not. Be honest with yourself.
If you are planning on joining a message board, make sure to focus on like-minded individuals and nurture those relationships. Ignore whoever confronts you or rubs you the wrong way, they are not worth your time and energy.
Don’t judge or criticize other people’s collecting habits. I was guilty of doing this myself for a while, but I eventually realized that it’s not really healthy for anyone involved. What works for you does not necessarily apply to everyone else. If someone is happy in their ways of collecting, that’s all that counts, anything beyond that is none of your business. If you don’t agree with this, and you absolutely feel the need to state your opinion, at least have the courtesy of being considerate and constructive about your criticism.
Lastly, hobbies are meant to be enjoyed. Don’t ever allow it to become a burden. Have fun! Otherwise, it’s not worth the bother.
Many kind thanks to Hyperoptic for words and images.
All the best