What could be better than owning a wonderful Transformers toy? That’s right, multiples of that toy! Of course not everybody subscribes to that philosophy, in fact a majority are probably happy to own one version of each toy. A great deal of collectors won’t even bother with variants of a mould, let alone precise duplicates. There are even those who will not touch repaints/retools of a mould, one specimen satisfying their desire to experience a given toy sculpt. But what of those who do find pleasure in buying multiples of the same figure, when the reason is not a particular variation in moulding, appearance, packaging or accessories?
For me personally, I have seen how in some cases I will use my budget to purchase multiples of figures – straight up duplicates in some cases – for a particular reason. This is quite apart from occasions where I have collected every minor moulding variant of a Diaclone Mirage or a TFPrime Wheeljack. These are instances where the variations have been incidental and not the reason for purchase, that being the physical ownership of multiple specimens. Above you can see that I now have three regular colours TakaraTomy Diaclone Dia-Battles V2 (I also have two of the Moonbase version). I have done this because Diaclone mecha are not individually characterised robots, they are an army of machines (arguably gaining a degree of sentience in certain literature) and so troop building multiples allows me to set up great dioramas, come up with further mad combinations of parts and vehicles and actually display something akin to the Diaclone defence force as described in the story. Having many Dianauts truly adds to the Diaclone experience and play pattern, giving a highly populated feel to a diorama.
In the case of my Takara Car Robots Team Shinkansen “JRX” and Hasbro equivalent Robots In Disguise Team Bullet Train “Rail Racer” duplicates, the reasons are varied. The main motivation was to be able to display the trains with a front and a rear, making them appear more realistic than just a locomotive carriage. What I would give for a 3rd party company to make generic passenger carriages for the above. Beyond that, the price on both sets was amazing and my love for these figures is huge, so owning 2 sets is a never-ending pleasure. But that’s just my own take on some examples, we asked a few collectors to contribute their reasons for collecting multiples too.
Allen Greenwood starts us off with two excellent examples of why he buys more than one of the same figure: “Strangely enough, there are a lot of good reasons to obtain multiples of figures. The most obvious is troop building. I’ve always thought having armies is cool, and multiple figures certainly do the trick. Sharkticons, Sweeps, Vehicons, and Autoroopers are really good examples of troop building. It really makes for a nice, unified display as well having a troop of a certain figure. Many fellow collectors know that I love emergency figures, so having a squad of police cars is very characteristic of my collection. I think it’s really cool for the Decepticons to have armies of mindless/sparkless drones.
“Another, more obvious reason, is for the collector who loves sealed items to have another copy of the same figure to interact with. Many figures look fantastic in their sealed packages, but much fewer allow for the package to be reused for storage. Also, sometimes figures are packaged a certain way that even removing them from the box loses the original packaged look, like a figure pre-posed. Many collectors, including myself, have collections where having a sealed specimen is just as important as a loose one. In short, ‘one to keep sealed; one to open’ is the mantra for that type of collector’“.
Tyler (@QuickToyReviews) also gave in to the troop building urge: “I don’t often fall for the whole troop building ploy that the evil (but genius) goblins at Hasbro thought up with their scores of generic transformer designs, intended to be bought en masse for just such a purpose. However when Hasbro saw that there was money yet in my wallet that was rightfully theirs, they designed a hideous amalgamation of pointy bits and jet parts specifically to relieve me of those meager earnings. While others looked upon the Decepticon known as Dreadwing (from the 2007 movie toyline) with disdain, I look at it as a bit of a shiny stone (I hasten to say ‘jewel’) in a sea of poor design choices (Starscream). At first glance, Dreadwing doesn’t seem to have much going for him at all. He has a very generic design that could get lost in the background while the more impressive action figures can draw all the attention. This is, in fact, the entire purpose of his very being. The entire toy is meant to be simple by design, with a huge, clear light-piped, cycloptic eye dominating the face with little else of note other than a black chin and perpendicular fins along the sides.
“When faced with this gangly, yet paradoxically bulky eyesore, there was only one thing I could do! Soon after I stopped vomiting, I purchased him! Then I purchased another! Then another! I thought I had overcome this malady of troop building for good, thanks to sparse distribution in Canada by Hasbro, but then, in true Hasbro fashion, the repaints once again reared their ugly multi-coloured heads, like a plastic Tiamat!“
Joe Purse again highlights troop building as a reason for multiples, but touches on how it needs to have a backstory, and also makes reference to the financial aspect. Although Joe also states that it is not his normal way of collecting, he cites one of my own reasons for multiple purchases too; photography: “While I don’t normally buy duplicates for several reasons – funds, space, priorities, etc – the simple fact is that I neither want nor need to. The only case might be where I see a particular toy very cheap and know that I could sell it on for a profit on Ebay, but that doesn’t always sit comfortably with me from a moral standpoint anyway.
“However, the one Transformer I have bought multiples of is the Prime RID Vehicon. Apart from being a wonderful deluxe figure in itself (arguably one of the best transformations too), it’s a genuine ‘troop builder’ – something we see more of with Stormtroopers in Star Wars. In that sense, it feels right to own the three I have, especially for taking pictures of Autobots in combat with them. I would happily buy more as well – at the cheap price I’ve been able to acquire the others – because the potential for fun photo opportunities and the idea of having an army of them is irresistible. For me, it’s the one instance where multiple purchases of the same figure makes sense“.
TFW member Mixmaster has a different explanation for his past multiple purchases, that of ensuring the durability of a figure in one’s collection: “I have occasionally bought duplicates. This started during the Alternators era, where I bought duplicates of my favourites (Meister, Nemesis Prime, Ravage, Mirage, Hot Rodimus off the top of my head), just so I’d have a spare, either as a replacement or parts donor, when the first one broke. I did this during RotF too, especially with the Human Alliance sub-line. When things got more austere for me, i.e. when I settled down and started a family, I decided to trim down my collection, the first to go were the duplicates as they seemed like a waste of space, and were easy money as they were mostly MISB. I have been tempted to get duplicates again, I bought a second Exhaust at a discount, again as a spare, and I might do it again for Loudpedal, if I see him going for a discount at some point in the future“.
Another TFW2005 user Motorthing mentions Combiner Wars, and his reasons go beyond just enjoying a limb figure both as an integral combiner part and individually excellent toys: “Multiples (15 Springers, 12 Prowls, 11 Streetwise – doesn’t include the TT UW sets – 5 City Commanders etc etc etc World Expert). Some of the reason for doing so is pure love of/for a mould. With Transformers it probably began with RTS Jazz when that first arrived in this country and went on discount in Sainsburys. Every time I went shopping I bought a £4.99 RTS Jazz. It was such an implausibly good representation of the character I wanted more than one for myself, plus one to keep in the packet forever perfect.
“And I started getting them to ‘evangelise’ the hobby, giving them to friends that had ditched collecting and every niece and nephew got RTS Jazz as a present that year. With Generations Springer it was the desire to have every type of release, foreign and domestic plus any variants. All for love of that particular figure. Same for CW Dead End/Streetwise/Prowl. The ones I have should now last me my lifetime. A lifetime of transforming them and play. Afterall I’m going to need a Prowl when I’m 85. Diabattles: I’m at five too. If I can track down a not-horrendously priced Moonbase next month that will be six. It’s pretty much a toy designed to be army-built“.
It’s also possible to use multiple purchases of the same figure for creative purposes. I’ve lost track of how many ROTF Lockdowns I have bought where the heads have been repainted and repurposed (ROTF Axor, TFCC Circuit). Let’s go back to Allen Greenwood for his creative use of duplicates: “I have made several custom figures myself, and one of my first rules of making customs is to typically have another copy of the figure I’m working with. Since I disassemble my figures, it’s always good to have a copy in hand to ensure reassembly goes back like it needs to. Also, I like to see customs have comparison photos, with the original beside the custom, so that necessitates an extra. I usually collect stock figures, too, so just making a custom is going to warrant another copy of the figure“.
Let’s not forget the appeal of the multi-mode display. Neal Rochman’s collection is renowned for its epic pursuit of every G1 and G2 Transformers figure displayed in every official mode, as well as a packaged specimen. The man has seven Sixshots. Those early G1 catalogues with Transformers shown in all modes in one space have inspired many people, and Neal’s achievements have further inspired other collectors to realign their priorities. The above image of MP Road Rage shows that for Diaclone-inspired Masterpieces, I like to display one in Diaclone toy configuration, and one in modern Masterpiece Transformers configuration. I did the same thing with MP-25L Loudpedal. Those duplicates have since been sold as they ended up being a financial luxury I couldn’t afford in the long term. I had also bought multiples to ensure I got a perfect one, such has been my luck with quality control recently.
You might feel that the term luxury well describes some of the above reasons for buying multiples, and the term ‘first world problems’ has been bandied about in relation to this type of collecting as well. However, I would like to close this article with a more poignant and personal perspective on buying multiples from UK collector Adam James, just to demonstrate that we should never assume collector behaviour that seems strange stems from the trivial.
“Over the past few years I’ve found myself more than a few times buying multiples of the same toy. Unlike some I expect, this isn’t for the purpose of having one to keep, and one to sell – or for displaying in multiple modes etc, it’s for a reason that I think may sound daft but I think some others may understand.
“I’ve bought multiples of toys for one reason alone, so that when or if I have kids, and they get a bit older I will have a whole host of unopened Transformers to bestow upon them. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have multiples of expensive masterpieces, or rarities, I have multiples of figures like RTS Jazz and Tracks, some Prime stuff and some multiples of loose G1 figures – it isn’t about keeping them boxed so they’re worth money. The niggle in the back of my mind is that I would love to see my own children have the same excitement about Transformers as I did, opening up these fantastic figures when I was that young – who knows if they will still be on sale in 10 years time? It may be all rosy on the Transformers front at the moment, but I remember the 90’s where in the UK they disappeared for almost a decade.
“As I’ve alluded to in the TFW2005 UK Toy Discussion thread a couple of times, I didn’t have the greatest dad, and as a 4/5 year old I would save up months of pocket money from my grandparents to afford a Transformer that I would buy in the holidays, only for my Dad to either break them or give them away to jumble sales only weeks after owning them – he didn’t like me having stuff because he didn’t have stuff as a kid, and I could not do the same to any future children of mine. I want them to enjoy toys as it expands their imagination, I want them to have toys no one else has around them, I want them to see that we can share an interest and enjoy toys that made me so happy“.
The more the merrier.
Many kind and gracious thanks to Adam James, Allen Greenwood, Joe Purse, Mixmaster, Motorthing and Tyler (@QuickToyReviews on Twitter) for excellent contributions this week.
All the best