Meet Godert Walter, a Dutch Transformers fan who has accomplished more than most during his time in the hobby. He’s built Autobot City in a farmhouse, he’s helped create the infamous Trypticon Races, he’s walked into Hasbro’s offices and secured endorsement for the Dutch Transformers conventions he’s helped to conceive and organise. Having walked away from the hobby once and returned, Godert is now extremely particular about how he curates his beautiful Transformers collection, one we can all appreciate for its imagination and ambition, much like the man himself.
1) Who are you and what do you collect?
My name is Godert Walter, 36 years old, and since Transformers hit the Dutch toystores, an immense and dedicated fan. When I look back, I can divide my history with the Transformers in four chapters:
Part 1: Transformers as a kid
It all began when I visited a toy store with my grandfather to choose something for my upcoming birthday. I saw a box with beautiful colors and an awesome blue robot printed on it. It appeared to be Soundwave. Until then, I didn’t know what Transformers were. So I chose him purely because I liked the box so much. Later, I realised what Transformers were when I saw the cartoon on Fun Factory, a legendary kids show that was broadcaste by the Sky Channel on Saturday and Sunday. From that moment on, I was hooked. Transformers became the must have toy for boys in the mid-eighties. Unfortunately, my parents thought it was too violent and expensive, so they weren’t happy about it. In the years that followed I built up a small collection of 12 Transformers: Sky Lynx, Cosmos, Menasor, Overload, Soundwave and the three Optimus Primes that were released; the original, Powermaster and Actionmaster. Optimus was, like many many fans out there, my hero in the eighties. I’ve drawn him endlessly, made my own Transformers comics where he was the main character. I never understood what happened to him when I was watching season 3 until a summer day in 1988 when ‘Transformers The Movie’ was broadcast on the Dutch television. It was very gripping. As time went by I hit puberty and put the toys away. But unlike a lot of my friends and class mates, I never sold them.
Part 2: Autobot City and Charr dioramas
In the mid-nineties I lived on a farmhouse which had a huge attic. In the summer of 1995 I came across a second hand toy store. There stood Trypticon, the Transformer I always wanted as a kid, but never had. The bot had no parts of course, except for Full Tilt, the little car. It only cost $15, so it was not a difficult choice to make and I took him home with me. This was for me the start as a Transformers collector. I gathered my old collection and after a couple of days I contacted an old friend and asked him if he still owned Metroplex, Trypticon’s nemesis. Fortunately for me, he did. So I bought him too. In the weeks after that I contacted old friends and classmates and I bought all their Transformers as well. Now, where to put them?
My dad and I came up with the idea to build a model of Autobot City in the attic. We built it from wooden blocks, chicken wire and papier-mâché. I also bought a small pond, so there was real water as well. It was a magical time. After school I sat for hours at Autobot City. Just watching, playing and optimizing the landscape. It was a world of its own. I also built Charr (or Chaar), the world of the Decepticons, from ash and ruins. It was very dark, dead bodies of Autobots (junkers) were hanging everywhere.
Meanwhile, I discovered a small store ‘Walk In’ in The Hague where they sold second hand Transformers. It was the time I met other Transformers fans, like Marco van Leeuwen and later Immo de Maar and Rein den Hengst. It was great to find other collectors who shared my enthusiasm. Some of my best friends today are (ex) Transformers collectors. I also made friends overseas via the newsgroup Alt Toys Transformers and learned to buy, sell and trade. In 1999 I had to tear Autobot City and Charr down, because we moved to another village. A shame, but I cherish the time and memories I spent in the attic.
Part 2: Toys, toys, toys
When I left my parents’ house in 2002 and moved to my own place, my Transformers collection grew enormously. ‘Robots in Disguise‘ was running at its end and ‘Armada’ had just been introduced. I wanted to have it all. Alongside the new toylines (like ‘Energon’ and ‘Cybertron’) I wanted to have the older and rare Japanese Transformers as well. Grand Maximus came in, Star Convoy, Grandus and Big Powered. And later bots like Black Zarak, Deathsaurus, Metrotitan, Metalhawk and Minelba. My cabinet was humungous, it went up to 3.5 meters high and was packed with toys.
In 2007 I had one of the biggest collections in the BeNeLux, perhaps maybe even Europe. By then, Transformers had grown more and more popular, due to the release of the Transformers Movie by Michael Bay. I still wanted to have everything, but because of that, the thrill of collecting Transformers decreased. I remember I literally left a Toys ‘R’ Us with a shopping cart filled with Transformers Movie figures (they were released that day). At home, I unpacked them, put them on the shelves and that was it. It was really unsatisfying and the beginning of the end as a collector in 2008. It was also the time I felt I accomplished everything I always wanted: one of the biggest collections and to organise the largest Transformers convention in Dutch history (see question 4 for that chapter). I was done. So, I sold my collection, except for the 12 Transformers I started with plus some other bots like Metroplex and Trypticon. I never regretted it. It made it possible for me to visit the United States, to buy a car, a computer etc.
Part 3: Back in the game and telling the tale of the Transformers cartoon
For 5 years it was quiet. Sure, I watched the cartoons, talked with my Transformers buddies, but I never bought a toy. Until that day in 2013 when the news came out Generations Metroplex would be released. And he would be bigger than Fort Max (finally justice)! Because of his history with Trypticon, I have a soft spot for Metroplex. So when the Takara version was released, which I consider the best of all versions, I bought him. I also bought a showcase to house my Trypticon and Metroplex collection. A nice dedication to my two favorite Transformers. But Transformers is like a virus. Once you’re infected you always carry it around with you. I decided to have a ‘best of’ collection. Kup and Hot Rod came in, the Amazon version of the Unicron 2010 toy, Ultra Magnus, Cyclonus and Omega Supreme. Before I knew it I was hooked again. I wanted to have all the show characters of the original cartoon. Unlike last time, when I chose quantity over quality, I decided to only buy the best of the best. Dead mint, no scratches, discoloring etc. To find that one Transformer who could live up to my standard made my hunt fun and exciting. For example, I’ve waited for two years until I found the perfect Mindwipe. You know how hard it is to find one without a scratch on him? Or Triggerhappy, I just couldn’t find him in mint condition. So I bought a sealed one and I opened him. A lot of fellow Transformer collectors call me crazy for doing that haha.
The toys also must be show accurate. Although I prefer genuine toys (original as well as reissue), I do have some KO G1 Transformers in my collection. Like Slag and Swoop for instance, because these toys resemble the cartoon versions better. If a toy has (factory) stickers on it and they aren’t visible in the cartoon, I remove them. Best example is Sandstorm. I removed 95% of his stickers (even his window stickers in car mode) and put some Autobot symbols, made by Reprolabels, on him.
With all these toys coming in, my current showcase became too small, so when I moved to a new and bigger home this year, I bought a huge new showcase. I’m always looking to do something different than most of the collectors out there. Inspired by the great and very funny reviews of Transformers episodes by Ron ‘Aalgar’ Watt (look them up on YouTube!), I came up with the idea to tell the story of the Transformers cartoon. I linked each Transformer to a specific episode and put them in my showcase. Divided over 4 levels, it tells the story from the first US episode ‘More than meets the eye’ till the last one ‘Rebirth’. I also use a lot of various display stands to create levels in levels. The most awesome setup would be ‘The Key to Vector Sigma’, where the Aerialbots chase the driving Stunticons through the air. I also love Metroplex carrying the Eiffel Tower like in the episode ‘Thief in the Night’. Or the WST Dinobots engaging Devastator in ‘Heavy Metal War’ and the Allicons attacking Kup and Hot Rod in ‘Transformers the Movie’. This kind of storytelling adds value to my collection. As I recall, nobody has ever done this before.
At this moment, I have all the show characters. Still waiting for Raoul (that comes with MP Tracks), a third Gnaw and a Sweep army. I’m always looking to make my collecion more complete. A couple of weeks ago, Positum came in, a 3rd party Skullcruncher in Optimus Prime colors. Therefore I could create the episode ‘City of Steel’ with the Aligatorcon.
Ever since I saw him on TV and in various catalogues, I have been a huge Trypticon fan. As a kid I watched the cartoon and was very impressed by him. And a bit scared as well. Trypticon was just enormous. There was nothing that was bigger than him. Well except for Unicron, but I wasn’t aware of his existence until I saw the movie. When I was older, I always resented that the creators made him a big, stupid and easy to defeat Transformer. He had so much potential.
Like I wrote above, in 1995 I found him in a second hand toy store and he was my obsession from that moment on. I collect everything that’s got to do with him. I almost have every toy that’s been released, I have posters, animation cels, games etc.
2) How has the collecting scene changed in the last 15 years?
In the last 15 years the number of Transformer fans has grown exceptionally. When I started collecting Transformers in ‘95, I was one of the first collectors in the Dutch field. Second hand toys were still cheap, it was really a small niche-market. But as time passed the fanbase grew. More guys of my age rediscovered Transformers. And prices rose higher and higher to sometimes crazy heights. Dreamwave launched their comics and it became a huge success. Toylines like ‘RiD/CarRobots’, ‘Armada/Micron Legend’, ‘Energon/Superlink’ and ‘Cybertron/Galaxy Force’ put Transformers back on track. But the real comeback was in 2007 with the movie. I always thought it was the biggest compliment the Transformers could have. With the movies, series and toys that followed, Transformers made it clear they were back and here to stay.
3) How do you see, or hope to see the scene changing in 5 years’ time?
I hope Hasbro will bring back the quality plastic. Last week I was in a Toys XL (formerly Toys ‘R’ Us) and I felt ashamed when I saw the ‘Robots in Disguise’ line or toys from the fourth movie. Ever since ‘Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters’ they’re releasing a lot of cheap looking toys, they are lacking care. Which I don’t get, because the first Transformers Prime toys were awesome!
I do love the homages to the old days with the Combiner Wars line. It’s great to see Warpath, Powerglide, Hot Spot and Cyclonus back on the shelves again. I believe Transformers will never die, like Lego or Barbie. These brands are here to stay. Kids always will be intrigued by transforming robots, cars and planes. And Transformers is the brand in that area. Nothing will ever change that.
4) What has been your single biggest success as a collector?
Without a doubt my initiative to organise Transformers conventions in The Netherlands. I always had the drive to bring fans together. So, inspired by BotCon, I organised in 1999 the first Dutch Transformers convention: NederBotCon. It was held at my farmhouse, in the attic at the Autobot City and Charr dioramas. We were with 8 people, never aware it was the start of a convention that would be the biggest in Europe one day.
In 2000 I moved the convention to a Chinese restaurant in Nieuwegein, a city located in the centre of the Netherlands. This time 33 Transformer fans were present. It was this convention which meant the birth of the famous Trypticon Race, Table of fame (a table with holy grail Transformers) and several contests (drawing and kitbashes). Most of the activities are still being held today. In 2001 another fan took over the organisation of Nederbotcon, but I was still involved behind the scenes. That year more than 80 people showed up and it would grow larger with every year. In the years that followed other fans organised the convention which now was called DBCTF.
In 2007 I returned as organiser, but I wanted to professionalise the convention. So one day I walked into the office of Hasbro and asked them if they could sponsor us. And they did. Hasbro handed us toys to give away, the new toyline that was released that year to display, DVDs and we also could use the corporate style of Transformers for the posters, flyers or the website. The new convention ‘Transformations’ was a big success and was held in a convention center in Ijsselstein, my hometown. The center appeared to be too small, so in 2008 we moved back to Nieuwegein, but this time to a sports hall. Again, Hasbro provided us with toys and we could use the corporate style again (which was Transformers Animated). But this time we were on the radar of Hasbro USA. So they called to the Dutch department of Hasbro and told we could not use the name ‘Transformations’. It just had too many close points with the name ‘Transformers’ and logo of Transformers Animated. We took our website offline and had come up with a new name. We approached the fans on the Dutch boards and asked them if they could come up with a new name. We received a lot of suggestions, but one fan came up with the name ‘B.O.T.S.‘
Hasbro USA gave us the green light and the biggest Transformers convention ever in the BeNeLux was born. With over 400 visitors it was a huge success. It was the crowning achievement of my work as Transformers fan. It was also my last convention as manager. Today, B.O.T.S. is a well known and established name. Due to the efforts of the current team it has grown even larger and more professional. With the end of Auto Assembly this year, B.O.T.S. is now the biggest Transformers convention in Europe. I’m really proud of that!
5) What is your greatest ever find?
My greatest ever find is a MIB unapplied Grand Maximus. Because of his color scheme, I think he is far more better looking than Fort of Brave Max. I bought him at ‘A Space Oddity’, a legendary store in Amsterdam, specialising in TV and movie toys where I bought a lot of Transformers. The owner of the store visits Japan each year. In 2003 he returned with this Grand Max. He cost me a lot of money, but he was totally worth it. I remember the day I picked him up. It was the same day a friend handed me a MIB Grandus and a MIB original Star Convoy that I had bought from him. So I went home with three holy grails.
6) What is the most surprising or outrageous collecting story you have heard?
I never understood AFA, it’s just not my cup of tea. What’s fun about putting them in a acrylic cage/case where you can only look at them and not be able to touch them. A MIB or a MISB collector, I can understand, it’s like you’re having your own toystore. I personally want to hold and transform my Transformers, position and observe them. In that way, I connect with them. Therefore, I could never be an AFA collector. And don’t get me even started about the prices of AFA Transformers. It’s all very subjective. Then there is that Countdown thing…
7) If you could pick one item from your collection to keep, what would it be?
That’s an easy question. My MIB (was MISB) Dinosaurer, the Japanese version of Trypticon. This bot is the treasure of my collection and just perfect. I love all his modes, especially his dino and city mode.
8) If you could have one item out of someone else’s collection, what would that be?
My holy grail would be the version of Trypticon (yes, him again) they used in the commercial, and pictures for the catalogues. This version has different feet, arms, towers and colors. I spoke with Paul Hitchens at B.O.T.S. about this version and he told me there are only a few of them out there. So if you read this, owner of this version, please contact me via Maz haha!
9) What advice would you give a new collector starting out today?
Stay open, talk to a lot of fellow collectors, learn from them and choose your own path. Enjoy the ride! Don’t buy everything at once, but if you can, one bot at a time. It is the hunt that’s the most exciting part of collecting. Also, study the lore of the Transformers story. There is so much (rich) history. A lot of tales and myths. It makes collecting much more interesting because it creates depth. Read, watch and listen about the backstory of Transformers, there is a lot of material out there to absorb. For instance, on YouTube there are a lot of interviews with writers, producers, voice actors who are telling their stories. But also, ask questions of fellow collectors. They will enjoy talking about it. A good friend of mine (who has one of the best collections I’ve ever seen) is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to Transformers. He knows everything and I’ve learned a lot from him. Listening to his stories enriches my knowledge too.
Many kind and gracious thanks to Godert Walter for pictures and words.
All the best