I have already written articles on the importance of discipline, occasional sacrifice and priorities in Transformers collecting on this blog, but I feel things have changed enough recently to warrant a second look at how I collect. Before it was a case of maybe choosing the toy lines and styles I liked, collecting those and cutting back on impulse or peripheral, tangential toy purchases. Now, it is becoming hard to even collect all the moulds – never mind repaints – of the same line. So, it’s time to focus.
The kind of fund tightening I have experienced from Christmas to early March has made me really analyse how to manage my spending so as to remain active in the hobby, find new toys to write about and stay relevant, as well as enjoy the feeling of new Transformers. Like many collectors, whatever I was doing before, I have distilled my purchasing down to official Transformers Masterpiece figures and Masterpiece-style 3rd Party offerings. I personally also like to maintain a Generation 1 collection and a comprehensive IDW More Than Meets The eye cover collection too.
I am in the incredibly privileged position of receiving the odd 3rd party review sample for featuring on here, and that certainly allows me to keep some variety in my toy collection, but also saves me money on things I would have bought anyway. Even those samples have started to dry up as 3rd party companies feel the pinch and send one sample out to an entire region for mass reviewing instead of one sample to each reviewer.
The whole idea of sticking to one category or scale of collecting has become muddied by the fact that more and more 3rd Party companies are jumping onto the Masterpiece bandwagon and releasing the same figure as their competitors. Those with available funds or a particular affinity for a given character can buy all the various offerings in tribute to that character, but most of us will have to pick and choose whose interpretation suits us and our collection the best. What do you do? Stick to the same company when the repaint of that figure comes around? Buy Inferno and Grapple from different companies to experience both styles/moulds or stay uniform?
Just the thought of what it will cost to keep up with MP and 3PMP has forced me to liquidate my rapidly-assembled Transformers Animated collection, and my recently acquired Robots In Disguise figures, although I’ve hung onto the Transformers Adventure show characters. 3rd Party figures like Mech iDeas Bluster & Trench have also been judged as needing to go, as well as my collection of FOC data discs and test shots. I even had to choose what Generation 1 years I was going to keep, and 1986 has not done well in the cull, at least not the ones I had childhood versions of already.
Before Christmas, I was musing about how my pre-order list was coming to more than 4 figures, but I was comforted by the fact that the items were already paid for. I look back and wonder just how much I really needed both colours of Ocular Max Sphinx or MakeToys Gundog, and the answer is that I would have bought them again today. So even then, I’ve chosen a mild variation on exactly the same character/theme over a new mould – this in turn has meant I’ve skipped MakeToys Hellfire and Ironwill for the time being.
It is not all down to more companies putting out competing products, though, because the companies already in the game have ramped up their releases as well. In the same month MakeToys put out three figures around £100/$160 and TakaraTomy have definitely stepped up their Masterpiece release schedule to – allegedly – combat the popularity of 3rd Party MP-style toys and draw fans back to the official stuff, leaving them with little or no budget to support the infringement.
Back to the point, then, and every purchase is a proper consideration. It would be easy enough to cut back on repaints and multiple character representations, sell the 3rd party samples that don’t match my current collecting direction and focus on experiencing new moulds. If it were that simple for us all, there’d never be a need to have a discussion about it.
For example, as March has come and I have straightened out a few expenses that needed urgent attention, moved on a fair mix of Animated, FOC, 3rd Party and G1, I can now indulge in a single figure. Will it be MakeToys Hellfire or Ironwill? Will I finally get that boxed G1 Nightbeat, Darkwing or Slapdash I’ve been craving? How about a step back in time for a Masterpiece MP-9 Rodimus Convoy, since I’ve lusted after it for some time now? Maybe I’ll get that prototype Masterpiece with the different moulding and accessories? Should I finally take another chance on XTransbots products and grab Andras?
Should I buy a figure that is more current and relevant to be reviewed on this blog as outlined by my agreement with TFSource? Should I avoid getting a version of a toy that I am confident I will get as a review sample somewhere down the line by a different company? The thought of not buying anything at all has crossed my mind too, as I would love to avoid a similar tight financial situation at the end of the month and one does get used to not buying toys, especially when the steady trickle of fulfilled pre-orders can keep one ticking over.
It’s times like this that really help me crystallise what I truly want my collection to look like and what I really will gain the most enjoyment out of buying. At the same time, I see flashes of my old self come through where a repaint or minor variant on a toy I already own inexplicably takes precedence over a new mould and a new experience. I would love the chance to play with MakeToys Ironwill, Unite Warriors Devastator, X-Transbots Andras, anything Iron factory, Unique Toys Buzzing…and yet MP-10B Black Convoy, a Masterpiece prototype Tracks and Ironhide, LG-19 Transformers Legends Springer and a SECOND Mp-28 Hot Rodimus call to me loudly.
Here’s a snippet from a conversation I had with UK collector and blogger Liam Davey, who had his own take on how the scene was affecting his perception and purchasing:
“We’ve all got mortgages, kids, cars and all sorts of commitments which is why we are seeing so many of us refocusing our collecting but at the same time going for the higher value lines rather than just everything that is coming out. Our generation is slowly coming towards the end and is gradually being replaced by the Beast Wars fans as the youthful cash flush group, or at least that is what’s going to happen in the future. That’s before you even consider the relentless onslaught of 3rd party releases not only destroying people’s bank accounts but actually pushing some fans away from 3rd party altogether as they decide to just cut down and focus on the official releases“.
At a time when the options available to Transformers collectors seem to be at their greatest, I feel it is most difficult to diversify, expand and experience undiscovered parts of the toy spectrum. It isn’t even about keeping up with the Joneses, it’s about not being able to keep up with the things I like and actually collect in the way I would expect to be able to. I dread the revealing of Ocular Max G2 colours Sphinx, BadCube police version Sunsurge, FansToys Diaclone-coloured Insecticons or even obvious Masterpiece Diaclone repaints for Ironhide, Ultra Magnus and Tracks, because I know I’ll be picking between them, and not picking them all up any more.
It’s time to focus.
All the best