Do We Want Our Children To Collect?

A number of weeks ago we discussed what would happen to our Transformers collections when we were no longer around, and some of our contributors said that their toys would go to their children. This week we asked more Transformers collectors how they felt about the prospect of their children (hypothetical or otherwise) collecting Transformers when they become adults. We asked male and female collectors, with and without children. While I expected a fair number of them to say they would be happy to share the hobby with their kids for years to come, I also thought we would have some opposing opinions. That’s not quite how it worked out.  

First off, here’s how the question was worded: “how do you feel about your children collecting Transformers in adulthood as we collect them now, taking into account everything that goes with the territory?“. I think it’s natural for any collector to picture their children – or future children – experiencing the hobby and conducting themselves within it the same way they do when considering the question. Depending on their experiences, perceived pitfalls and particular sources of interest, they’d want the same or different for their kids. Would they see it mostly from a personal/selfish point of view or consider what it would mean for their children only? These are certainly the questions I asked myself, and I couldn’t help but feel my daughter’s life would be less complicated without having to worry about mounds of plastic and metal she’d be obligated to cart around with her for years to come, that was my reflex thought. I seem to be of a quite pessimistic disposition when asked this question, though, as our contributors were generally positive about it.

Let’s start with Vanessa who is a regular on the UK Toy Discussion thread on TFW2005, she said “I think that basically I would not have a problem with it at all. Now I’m not your average woman when it comes to Transformers, as most women I know (other than those I’ve met on the boards) are not interested in Transformers at all. In fact I’ve never met another female Transformers fan, so I can’t speak for women in general, only for me. Our 13yr old is not interested in Transformers at all, he was briefly interested when he was a lot younger, but lost interest very quickly. If he was into them, I would not have a problem with it. If he took that interest through to adulthood, either continuously, or after a break, I would not see it as a problem. If it made him happy then that’s fine. I guess with everything, as long as his basic priorities were sound, and he didn’t let Transformers take over his life, or spend all his money on them without leaving enough to pay his bills.

“Actually as a fan myself, it would be something we could share and both enjoy. Although maybe that’s because I’m a fan myself. As it happens he’s massively into Pokémon, and I can’t stand that and think it’s a waste of time and wish he’d grow out of it. So I guess if I wasn’t a transformers fan myself, I’d probably have the same reaction to it as I do to his Pokémon interests. So where Transformers are concerned, I’m biased. But as long as he didn’t go overboard with it, and it made him happy, I couldn’t really complain, after all there’s a LOT worse things he could get into as an adult than Transformers!“. Interesting that there is an understandable acceptance of Transformers over the lack of understanding regarding an interest in Pokémon. Should we be concerned that people outside such hobbies would have the latter opinion of our children?

Do we want our children to collect?

Being happy for their children to engage in the hobby, and by association further engage with them over a shared interest was a common theme among our contributors. Kit Tang’s feelings echo that of Vanessa’s: “I would want my children to have wide and varied hobbies and be passionate about them, and if one of those hobbies happened to be Transformers I would be ecstatic. To me it would be something we could bond over and enjoy together and as long as they enjoyed collecting healthily (ie, within their means, collect stuff they like not what other people buy yadda yadda yadda) I wouldn’t have any kind of problem with it.

“However, I would subtly suggest that if they were going to collect, to perhaps get the stuff I don’t have, because when I am inevitably ‘given away to a rabbit sanctuary in the country’ they’ll inherit all my toys anyway“. So there’s the bit about shared interest again, but significantly, Kit and Vanessa have both stated how important it would be for their children to remain in control of their priorities and collect with moderation. This surely comes from experience and knowledge of how easily something like this hobby can become an obsession.

Jon Strong and his daughter

Jon Strong and his daughter

Allen Greenwood says “Personally, I’m fine with my daughter (or any other children we may have in the future) collecting Transformers – or whatever interest develops. The last part of that statement really speaks volumes on my sentiment, as whatever interest that develops for Transformers is something that I want to be of her choosing, instead of something I’ve ‘made’ her be into. She’ll grow up around me, and I’m a collector, of course. However, I see numerous instances where someone’s children are seemingly forced into liking a collector’s hobby. That’s something I don’t want for my daughter.

Honestly, just to speculate some, I really don’t see a lot of our own children actually growing into collectors. This is mainly due to many other things that capture their interest now. Video games and tablets are much more popular with today’s children than toys are at the same age when I was into Transformers and other toys. I may be the one who ends up having a more ambivalent stance on this, but if she ends up having an interest for herself or not, I’m fine either way. I do want my family to be knowledgeable enough to manage my collection once I’m gone. If they keep it or sell it, I really don’t care. I also have some things already lined up to help them with that aspect. However, to some capacity on this end, I want them to value my collection in a similar fashion that I do“. I think all of our contributors would agree with Allen that it’s important for them to find their own way to a hobby like Transformers, maybe somewhat naturally considering they would be growing up around them, but we can still limit our influence. I have noticed my own daughter gently drifting away from the robots she has and played with, despite being surrounded by them.

Matt Dennett and his son

Matt Dennett and his son

So we have heard from collectors with children, how about Brandon Yap from Hong Kong who does not plan to have kids? How does he view the question from the outside?

I will restate the question here: “how would you feel about your (hypothetical) children collecting Transformers in adulthood as we collect them now, taking into account everything that goes with the territory?”. To me, the key words seem to be ‘collecting’ and ‘in adulthood as I collect them’. Presently, I do not have children (yay, I can retire 20 years earlier!). Generally, I am open to children collecting anything they like – as long as the reason is that they are collecting because they genuinely have passion for it and not because of peer pressure or for show-boating. It could very well be a passing phase, and that’d still be fine with me, as long as during the phase they have genuine passion for the collecting (of anything, not just TFs). Obviously, I would have no issue with them specifically collecting TFs into adulthood and even into old age, in principle.

“Whether I would actively encourage them to collect TFs is however another question entirely. I would expose them to TFs and show them my passion, but would be extremely cautious to not impose collecting or liking TFs onto the children. I would certainly buy them as many TFs as they want when they are young (as I have been doing for my nephew), but I would most certainly not buy them TFs once they are (more or less) older than 16 – if they still have the desire to collect by then, they would have to find their own ways and means and be smart about it (like I was!)”. A very similar message to those with children, it seems that my personal overprotective nature shines through when thinking about this question as I am happy to have zero influence on my daughter’s interest in Transformers, allowing it to fade if she’s not keen to pursue it of her own accord. I cannot help but think of the other things she could spend her money and time doing, but again that comes from my own compulsive and obsessive nature manifesting itself in my collecting and hobby generally.

Do we want our children to collect?

Brandon goes on to say “Whether they can subsequently collect ‘the way I collect’ TFs would be entirely dependent on their resourcefulness and earning power – whether they can regularly drop $50, $500, $5000 on toys would be entirely up to their ability. If they can afford it, I’m all encouragement; but if they cannot or they sacrifice necessities in life (subjective as these are) for TFs, I would not be pleased. Finally, if they do collect into adulthood like me, I do hope they will have a life partner (if they are inclined to such things) that is supportive of their hobby – having an other half who is as awesome and supportive as my wife E is to my own collecting is one of the greatest joys in life”. An incredibly important point there, it isn’t just down to our children and us as collectors, there is more often than not another parent in the equation who may not share any affinity for the collecting or Transformers at all. There is a stern and sobering reality behind the playful ‘Big Kid and Little Kid versus Boring Parent’ scenario.

So, on the whole it seems our contributors, be they parents or not, male or female, would not have any issue with their children having an adult Transformers collecting hobby like their own. That shows a good deal of comfort in oneself and open-mindedness, which is very comforting to witness considering the image of an adult toy collector that some sections of society still have. No shame in it here, and by all accounts it may even be a smoother ride for our children.

Do we want our children to collect?

I must say my own initial reservations about my daughter wanting to collect toys as an adult have been somewhat alleviated by hearing what such a wide range of contributors have had to say on the topic, although if I am completely honest, I still think the potential pitfalls and complications of collecting as an adult in light of the challenges our kids will face in tomorrow’s world are probably best avoided. Then again, why should she be denied the escape and release that it has afforded me? I’ll leave it to Becca to close out the discussion, with her very positive and practically considered words on the subject from the perspective of someone who is not planning on having children:

For me, there are very few downsides to being a Transformers collector, especially at a younger age. Transformers figures are great for kids – working as both a puzzle as well as a toy, giving them something to play with as well as something to learn from. In fact, I’ve donated a lot of my unwanted Transformers (mainly from the ’07 film and TFA) to my godparents’ grandchildren and they simply adore them. There’s something compulsive about Transformers, I think. You have an urge to play with them in vehicle mode, and to transform them, and then to play with them in robot mode! It goes with the territory of being a curious kid exploring the world. Would I be concerned about my children collecting them? No. Not at all. Finding Transformers is one of the best things that has ever happened to me and, given Hasbro’s recent strides in diversifying their toys and fiction for all age ranges, I hope a lot more people (young and old) find their way here. Collecting Transformers doesn’t just have to be about buying the toys; you can also find yourself in a larger community full of creative and welcoming people. I am someone who grew up with burgeoning fandom via the internet, and being able to find friends with similar hobbies was the best feeling.

The toys themselves can also act as a springboard onto other things: kids can start out with Transformers, but also through them discover other robot-centric fandoms like Super Sentai or Gundam. Heck, even Gobots, why not? There’s always something new discover – and there’s nothing better than a child who is fully engaged with something, finding their passion and sharing it with others. The Transformers, alongside other brands such as LEGO, are the perfect toy-line to do this with; there’s something for everyone, the toys are growing more diverse each year, and the fans are great too.

“Yesterday’s children will be tomorrow’s creators. Who knows what a childhood Optimus Prime toy could inspire someone to grow up into? (Not a giant robot, obviously. That’s silly)”.

You can have them all, my love.

You can have them all, my love.

Enormous and kind thanks to our contributors for sharing their thoughts, pictures and wisdom this week; Vanessa, Kit Tang, Becca (@Guttersnipero), Allen Greenwood, Brandon Yap, Paul Hitchens, Ben Harpold, Jon Strong and Matt Dennett.

All the best

About Maz

Diaclone and TF collector & writer from the UK. I also write for & own and TFSquareone.


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