The Mapes twins, known throughout the global Transformers community, have built a Transformers museum. Not content with the regular 12 to 15 photos used in our collector interviews, David and Steve’s collection requires a full complement of 36 images for us to properly appreciate the scale of their Transformers and collectibles show home, including a world-beating selection of campaign/Lucky Draw Transformers. Beyond the amassing of toys, the twins have contributed hugely to the convention scene in the UK as well as other well known collectible brand communities and projects. Regular and friendly faces at Auto Assembly and online, please take a seat and enjoy a wonderful journey through (most of) their spectacular collection.
1) Who are you and what do you collect?
Dave: We’re The Mapes Brothers, webmasters of several Transformers websites, most notably Transformers at the Moon, Lucky Draw Transformers and TransformersAnimated.com. We’ve helped out at several UK Transformers conventions such as Auto Assembly and Roll Out Roll Call and worked with Paramount Pictures to give away 200 tickets to see the first live action Transformers movie.
We got our first Transformers in 1986 (Hubcap and Cosmos) and never stopped buying them. By the early 2000s we’d collected all the Western G1 toys and most Japanese. Collection wise, the main area we collect are unreleased Visionaries, oh we have to talk Transformers don’t we, lol. We buy pretty much any Transformers toy which we like, generally only official and not third party, though if there are third party figures which we like (such as Hexatron) then we’d get it. We are most known for our Lucky Draw collection, where we probably have the most complete collection of them in the world.
Steve: We are also fortunate enough to have had 5 letters published in the UK G1 comic as well as one in the UK Armada comic (under an assumed name).
2) How has the collecting scene changed in the last 15 years?
Dave: Massively, it’s so much easier to find something nowadays, which has taken a lot of the fun out of collecting. I love the hunt, even when we were kids finding a new toy for sale was almost fun as owning it. In the late 90’s we’d buy Transformers from a local collectors’ shop or online, through email, often without seeing the figure. For example we bought Deathsaurus without seeing a picture of him or knowing anything about who he was. Mike (Digital Toys) described him as a cool dragon with chrome, and that we’d love him. Boy was he right. When it arrived we were amazed by these unknown, to us, Japanese figures. Suddenly the hunt was back on for these harder to get items. Today you can find pretty much any figure on sale somewhere in the world, at any time. You may have to look across a few sites (probably less than 10) but it will be out there.
The other area which has changed a lot is the growth of specific collections, be they “all Optimus Primes”, Dinobots, Combiners, Jumpstarters or “Just Pre 1987”. These niche collections didn’t really exist back in 2000, mainly as there was just G1 /G2 and the Beast Series. I love seeing these niche collections, they look really nice, and appeal more to me than the regular “I’ve got 1000, 2000, 5000 figures” collections. I also feel that the more toys you have the less they mean to you, there is less emotional attachment, which is saddening. Ultimately I think that is one of the reasons a lot of collectors stop, and then pick it up again in a smaller, more focused way.
One massive positive for us is that the diversity, age and sex, has definitely increased. This can only be good for the brand.
Steve: It seems that over the last ten years that collecting has now changed to a “first reveal nature”. Fans focus on getting the toy first, normally pre-release, to get their video up on YouTube. Once the toy is released then interest has already faded.
3) How do you see, or hope to see the scene changing in 5 years’ time?
Steve: The diversity will continue to grow within the fandom in all areas (age, sex and nationality). China and South America are Hasbro’s focus areas, and it will be interesting to see what comes out of these regions (we’ve already seen Chinese only lines and series). The line will have more digital features to change the play, the experience, to be more immersive to children. The downside may well be simpler toys and transformations with play being moved more onto tablets and mobile devices.
On a collector’s side I can see the continued rise of Third Party collectors, though I think this will start to fall before the end of the five year period due to burn out.
Dave: In addition to what Steve says I think more G1 fans will drop out of the line, due to age and family. Children are playing with toys for fewer years now than ever before, so it will be interesting to see how Hasbro react to keep the brand alive. I think the Transformers films will hit a point where they become unattractive to the general public, probably around film 6, and so that area falls away. Hasbro will have to then find something else to fill the void in sales and increasing costs in Asia. I could see manufacturing moving to South America at some point.
4) What has been your single biggest success as a collector, or your greatest ever find?
Dave: For me I would say Gold Big Convoy. We speculated that this figure existed when there had not even been any rumours of it. We randomly contacted people throughout Asia who often had Lucky Draw and rare figures before someone came back saying they had just picked up a giftset of Gold Big Convoy and Gold Magmatron. We already had Magmatron so we got him to split the set (what a mistake that was huh). At the time we didn’t care that the giftset was the Lucky Draw toy, we just wanted the figure. We paid a lot for it, our most expensive figure to date, but we also gained confirmation that the Magmatron in the giftset was a variant (it comes with gold chrome weapons).
Steve: As a collector, our biggest success as collectors is outside of Transformers and is connected to the Visionaries line, but we won’t talk about that here. As we have a pretty substantial collection we’ve had a few big successes over the years. One of the greater finds was picking up the paint samples for the European Brainmaster figures (Flame and Lightspeed). We were round the house of a former head of Hasbro Europe talking about his work and looking through some toys he had for sale. There were some items he had which we wanted and later got, such as a complete set of Aquaspeeder and Stormtrooper hardcopies, however they aren’t the greatest find. During the talk Dave picked up a set of Motorvators (the European Brainmasters). I wasn’t interested in them as they are just minor recolours of the Japanese figures and we already had them. Dave asked how much they were, I can’t remember the figure but it was under £40. I asked him “why do you want them? We have the Japanese versions” but he insisted “they are different and it would be nice for the collection“. After we left Dave asked me “did you not realise what they are?”. “They are Motorvators” I replied, “Look closer” he answered. On closer inspection the penny dropped, they were paint samples.
Back in the 90’s Hasbro Europe were offered the Japanese catalogue to choose from, yes including Star Saber. The figures which were chosen were the Motorvators, Overlord and Breastforce, as we all know. The figures were hand painted as mock-ups to present to Hasbro Europe for approval. Flame and Lightspeed were these paint samples, whilst Gripper wasn’t.
5) What is the most surprising or outrageous collecting story you have heard?
Dave: At our first website meet in 2001 someone claimed they had a G1 Arcee toy at home, as they were trying to impress. I can’t see why people bother to make up stories like this.
Steve: In the late 2000s a well-known rarity collector showed off the first Gold Optimus Primal Lucky Draw toy, which he sold later. Lucky Draw collectors were really excited about it, but when we spoke to the person to get him to check date stamps and other details it became clear that the item was fake. The growth of fake rare toys, Lucky Draw or otherwise, is one of the modern day negatives in collecting Transformers.
6) If you could pick one item from your collection to keep, what would it be?
Dave: It’s really hard to pick one, and although we have over 35 Lucky Draw toys I would probably go for the regular G2 Dreadwing / Smokescreen. To me this toy will always be Ace Evader, the European name. We bought it in 1996 from a local shop whilst at college and it was the only Transformers toy we purchased that year. It’s still my favourite mould.
Steve: It’s really difficult, possibly G1 Scorponok for sentimental value – I still remember the day we bought it in 1987 like it was yesterday.
7) If you could have one item out of someone else’s collection, what would that be?
Dave: The hardcopy of the G2 Dreadwing and Smokescreen toy, said to be in a Canadian fan’s possession. Of a finished product I’d say Gold Masterpiece Convoy, but we have agreed a price for that.
Steve: Beast Wars Neo Unicron, although the figure is probably in pieces now it looked incredible when it came out. Other than that the monochrome Scorponok from the Micromaster advert, the one missing its tail. I’ve always wanted that piece of history.
8 ) What advice would you give a new collector starting out today?
Steve: Never say never. Many fans have said I’ll never get an item, but it doesn’t matter how hard, or unlikely it may seem, it is possible. We’ve had several examples of figures which we thought we would never get, but with patience and determination we’ve managed to achieve it. Sometimes it takes money but most of the time it’s just a case of never giving up.
Dave: As previous people have said, find an area of the line which you like and focus on that. You won’t ever get a complete collection, so don’t try. One, it would bankrupt you. Two, you would never be able to display it nicely. That said basically get whatever it is that you like and brings you joy. If you want to collect McDonalds Transformers, then go for it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Many kind and gracious thanks to Dave and Steve Mapes for words and photographs.
All the best