I recently bought and uploaded to social media images of Perfect Effect Warden, a very successful 3rd party figure from 3 years ago that I had missed out on for some time but finally found for a great price. While there is still a fair amount of affection for this toy about the place, I received a comment about the image and its content that got me thinking. The collector involved, quite innocently, asked “Is that figure still relevant?”. While I admit my first reaction was to defend this fine specimen of a IDW-based comic homage and its well put together features, it did lead to a more significant question. Is there such a thing as a relevant collection?
In the case of Warden, at least, the ongoing appearances of Fortress Maximus in IDW’s More Than Meets The Eye comic (as recently as last issue) have him sporting the same aesthetic as Warden was originally intended to reference, and there is no other better version currently of IDW Max so its ‘relevance’ remains firmly intact for comic or MTMTE based collections. I suspect the arrival of Titans Return Fortress Maximus was what motivated the question of Warden’s relevance initially, and the possibility of replacing one iteration of a character with the newest one.
Not everyone will agree with the concept of a relevant collection, they would argue that the enjoyment of a Transformers toy should be based on things other than current appeal, newness, connection to recent media or concepts – which is about the only agreeable definition you could have for a collection to be considered ‘generally relevant’ as opposed to personally relevant. The opposing argument could be that newer iterations of a character or a concept that represent improvements visually, physically or in terms of accuracy would supercede prior releases. The feeling of relevance is arguably an entirely personal thing, based on things like nostalgic connections, individual influences and preferences. Occasionally, though, personal preference can be dictated by perceived relevance of a toy, based on criteria such as a brand new ‘accepted’ scale or prevalent aesthetic, or as mentioned above, the latest media.
“I would consider relevant to be an aspect of the Transformers universe which is in some way current, as in Lost Light/Wreckers/Titans Return or even current movie collections. Tricky to answer though. I guess ‘relevant’ is in the eye of the beholder more than anything.” – Lee Cheney
I must admit, my personal feelings are that it would be a little shallow to look upon two different Transformers collections which have been crafted by two different individuals and be able to label one as “relevant” and the other as “irrelevant”. What could I base that on? There is no currently accepted definition for relevance in a TF collection, it’s too easy a thing to confuse with the concept of a current collection based on the latest shows, comics and releases.
“I think the pursuit of what most would consider a ‘relevant’ collection is the pursuit of fools. It’s trying to keep up with the latest and most visible releases, which in this age is not only a complete lottery on quality but also a financial sinkhole. Amazing how the most ‘relevant’ releases are often passé by the time they reach consumers’ hands after reviews and the next, unreleased item is the hot thing. If you want to be relevant, collect something that means something to you, that represents something you can talk about passionately. That may cover the latest toys, it may not, but it will provide a constant source of joy for yourself and reduce the hollow buyer’s remorse so many feel when the latest reveal makes their brand new toy yesterday’s news.” – Dan Ghile
We’ve already touched on the fact that new may sometimes be mistaken for relevant. The issue is muddied for some by the fact that some brand new iterations of a character may be fundamentally better toys, but that starts to once again encroach on the domain of personal relevance unique to the collector in question, as opposed to a general relevance identifiable by the fandom as a whole.
“I’d say yes there is such a thing as relevancy, but not for Perfect Effect Warden and TR Fort Max since they are basically 2 different characters (One’s IDW Fort Max who’s not a city bot, and the other is G1) but things like BW Waspinator and Generations Waspinator. There’s no point buying the original so the original becomes irrelevant to my collection… I would still think the lesser version is irrelevant because I don’t think about it at all when wondering what should I buy.” – Sgt Lemon
Even if a newer version of a toy improves upon the original, not every collector will see the original as irrelevant. What if the focus of that collection is to re-live childhood joys or pay tribute to the first incarnation of a character or a concept like Beast Wars, Generation 1 or Armada?
“Is MP-1 still relevant now we have MP-10 in the new MP scale? Well to me – yes, because MP-1 is still my favourite in the Masterpiece line. But to some others who are big on scale, perhaps not. Does relevance simply mean the ‘best’ (subjective) version of the character? Does this make Feral Rex more ‘relevant’ than G1 Predaking?
“Is the now-often (and lamentably) forgotten Binaltech/Alternators range relevant anymore? They were tremendous when they were released at around the same time as MP-1 was released, and I don’t think that their alt modes have been surpassed. Given the prolific release of MP cars recently though – perhaps these really aren’t relevant any more – reflected by the fall in aftermarket prices?
“Are any of the G1 toys relevant now we have updated – and in many cases, better (or at least more nicely articulated) versions of almost all the characters? Well for some of us who grew up with it – yes it’s relevant as that’s where it started. For others – perhaps not so much.” – Jhs8swd
Binaltech is a fine example of toys which are rightly or wrongly no longer seen as relevant – or at least desirable – by a significant portion of the collecting community. I wonder if that sentiment has something to do with what Binaltech’s original purpose was perceived to be? If someone felt that the aim of Binaltech was to represent the most modern, technologically updated and real world accurate depiction of a G1 Transformers character (although not all BT characters were from G1 roots) – sometimes described as the core of the Masterpiece toys – then have the new Masterpiece toys rendered much of Binaltech’s best features redundant in those collectors’ eyes? I can’t deny the drop in value and appeal of BT figures to a majority of collectors, just trying to sell my own collection of them has highlighted that clearly. What’s interesting is that this sentiment is not restricted to the toys. Even the value of the breathtaking original box artwork for Alternators toys that I’ve been selling has been affected by the downturn in BT/Alt toy value.
“I’ve recently had a bit of a purge, but only because I can’t justify keeping multiple figures of many characters when I only have room to display one, and less room nowadays to store spares. It wasn’t because I felt figures had been superceded by others, and there are ones I’ll rotate out with the seasons in my display, like various Primes, Megatrons, and RTS Perceptor vs KFC Mugen Scope. My main display space is for ‘CHUG’, but despite owning most of the Combiner Wars line, I’ve definitely not felt that the newest toys of many characters are the ones I want to keep on display. I’m not sure why any collection needs to be ‘relevant’ to anyone other than yourself. If you like a toy, buy it if you can and keep it. If you don’t like a toy, don’t buy it, or get rid of it if you’ve just gone off of it. You are the sole curator and arbiter of your collection, no matter what current trends on forums etc may be. With that said, the number of 3P Infernos at bargain prices for sale at TFNation last weekend suggests that there’s definitely a zeitgeist among the community… 3P toys in particular being ditched for official Has/Tak product is unlikely to stop anytime soon.” – Tuxedo Mike
The ditching of certain 3rd party figures is something I have noticed myself, and it has helped me find my way into Fansproject’s Function X Headmasters line at incredibly affordable prices. Heck, three of them were free gifts! With Titans Return and MakeToys Re:Master figures proving very current and popular right now, one cannot say that anything Headmasters related is either irrelevant or not current. In the last month I have been able to place FP Smartrobin into collectors’ hands and watch them melt at its appeal and brilliance. This is alongside the already excellent Titans Return (and still recent Generations) Brainstorm toys. Can excellent figures like FX Code and Smartrobin every truly be considered irrelevant? The whole idea makes me sad, almost in a fashion similar to how older toys in Toy Story were neglected and forgotten.
“To echo what others have said, ‘relevance’ is entirely subjective, and, hilariously, irrelevant… ‘relevance’ really isn’t a factor to me personally. It seems like a redundant concept unless you’re someone who’s really keen on applying hard and fast rules based on current fiction or the latest toy, which I’m not convinced many people are.” – Joe Purse
From the responses I’ve seen online on forums and social media, it does seem that there are many fewer people who truly believe general or universal relevance to be a thing when it comes to a Transformers collection. The overall feeling is that the whole experience and idea of relevance is entirely beholden to a person’s own individual influences, preferences and personality. What is relevant to my collection may not resonate with the majority of others. That doesn’t mean there isn’t something to think about here.
“On the face of it the statement is absurd, really. Collections are at the behest of no-one other than the collector. Therefore you may opt for any particular figure or an older or less favoured version of any character based on any number of possible reasons. But certainly collectors by their nature are likely to spend time reading up on the current collecting scene and involving themselves in the community, and I think that’s where ‘relevance’ comes into play. We’ve all done it, right? By that I mean we have a figure in our collection who we love and have absolutely no intention of replacing. But then a new model comes out and despite our best efforts to stick with what we have and love, the hype eats away – the chat, the excitement, Sixo’s sodding carpet. Then before we know it we have the new figure. And maybe the old one’s even gone. I guess that’s ‘relevance’. What ‘relevance’ is worth, however, is completely objective. But it arguably is at least ‘a thing’.” – Ben Parfitt
Many kind thanks to Lee Cheney, Sgt Lemon, Dan Ghile, jhs8swd, Ben Parfitt, Tuxedo Mike and Joe Purse for contributions this week.
All the best