When you collect Transformers, the beauty of it is that you decide how deep or varied your collection and interests can be. While this can sometimes depend on your circumstances, most of the time it’s probably down to collector preference and taste. Whether it’s devotion to a particular character, series, aesthetic or type of Transformer, there seems to be no limit to how much a collector can diversify. You can buy the supposed high-end prestige version in the Masterpiece line, the vintage version from your childhood or the modern updated mainline representation. Possibly even an unofficial tribute. One can even go beyond the toys and enter the world of merchandise and paperwork, or maybe original art and pre-production material.
If your favourite Transformers character is quite significant and popular in the mythos, be it cartoon, comic or just as a toy, there’s every chance modern versions of the character have been released across the various iterations of Transformers from G1 through G2, the Beast era, CR/RID, AEC, Animated, Classics/Generations, Masterpiece, Prime etc. Take Rodimus Prime, for example, we can see above that he has most recently received the TF Cloud treatment as a repaint of a highly popular mould as well as seeing release as 3rd Party figure “Carry” from DX9. For a characters like Rodimus, Bumblebee, Megatron, Starscream and Optimus Prime, there is almost no end to the different styles and releases one could turn to in order to further show devotion for the character.
In some instances like the cartoon-accurate pre-Transformers Diaclone version of Dinobot Swoop, the newer versions or even unofficial releases like MP-scaled 3rd Party or World’s Smallest can be the only opportunity for someone to have the character in a desired colour scheme – or at all in cases like Japanese exclusive Black Zarak. Just 2 years ago the options for a blue-chested Swoop were hugely limited, now there’s FansToys, Fansproject, Bullsfire, Toyworld etc. If one does not wish to embrace the unofficial side of Transformers collecting, updated Generations, show exclusives or reissue-like releases can be heaven sent.
If one likes a toy or toy line enough they can delve into the murky world of prototypes, test shots, suspiciously attractive limited edition versions found in Chinese factories or ‘Lunchtime Specials’ as they’ve become known down the years. Love for this area of collecting can stem from a desire to know what could have been, from how production items change over the course of their evolution or a wish to have a complete run of a particular toy, including unobtainable or low-run colour variants, official and otherwise.
There’s quite a bit of mileage to be had when shrine-building if one looks at differing size classes for certain toys, especially when those hilarious bootleggers from Asia insist on blowing up your favourite deluxe class toy into something leader class. The Chinese bootlegs of TFPrime Wheeljack in an array of colours represented a very enjoyable way of beefing out my tribute to this wonderful mould. Occasionally the quality can be passable and you can end up with an immensely fun item like the one above. Some of the dire TF Animated bootlegs need avoiding like the plague, though. Not the die cast Activators Bumblebee in Wasp colours, though, that’s terrific.
Store or convention exclusives can be another expensive way to expand your collection or add to its depth. This dangerous rabbit hole involves all types of rare and expensive repaints, re-tools and prize items that can leave gaps in collections for years, especially if the aforementioned show or store is overseas and inaccessible physically at time of release. Takara Tomy and Japan love their campaign prizes in gold chrome, or their crystal clear store exclusives and giveaways for customers who spend a certain amount on a promoted release. The recent Transformers Adventure TRU Japan exclusive ‘Giraffimus Prime’ EZ collection giveaway for those who spent 6000 Yen or more at TRU is my current favourite.
Beyond toys there is merchandise. Vintage wallets, custom made iPhone cases and T-shirts using commissioned artwork (thank you Kei Zama!), vintage Wheeljack doorbells, G1 wallpaper, a Jazz pedal bike or a Hot Rod go-kart, TF Animated stickers all fall under this category. I always felt that if someone was going to go the custom clothing/accessory route, it had to be classy, and black and white artwork on a white phone case or T-shirt really looked the part to me. How many different parts of your life do you want Transformers to permeate into? The stationery at work? Your accessories? The clothes you wear? The clothes your children wear?
One can even go so far as to track down packaging variants of toys they worship, variants such as foreign multi-lingual releases, boxes with exclusive artwork or styrofoam inserts for more attractive and durable storage. Combining pre-production and non-toy categories, much rarer and unique is the pursuit of historic pieces of art, such as original packaging artwork for a toy release, vintage or modern. This is often the domain of very few collectors, and should they specialise in artwork it regularly means nothing else gets a look in, not even toys, such is the expense associated with collecting pieces of original artwork.
If you’re anything like me, then you may have dabbled in all of these areas at some point in your collecting. That’s not as unfocused and potentially dangerous as it sounds because it really can help you decide and realise what really appeals to you and what you ultimately want your collection to look like. If that vision is no vision at all, more power to you. For me, after exploring a plethora of newer toy lines and moulds, I’ve settled back into the comfortable old shoe of vintage G1 collecting (for now), but with the benefit of some lovely souvenirs and lasting interest in my dalliances with other parts of the Transformers universe. I’m not sure I’ve been happier as a collector than I am now. The hobby has a great deal to offer, and more now than ever.
Many kind thanks to Vance McLennan for use of the original G1 Landfill box artwork
All the best