Our collecting mentality is unique to us, and it’s hard not to apply the same approach to all areas of toy buying. One could argue that the collecting strategy of a vintage G1 Transformers variant collector is not the same as that of a fan who collects mainline Transformers exclusively. The common perception is that vintage collecting is a more costly exercise than mainline collecting, and for the most part I think we can agree on that. However, when a traditionally vintage and variant collector like myself moves onto more modern toy lines, the condition – if I may call it that – can ‘jump species’. It happened when I collected MTMTE comic cover variants, it happened to some degree with my Robots In Disguise collecting and only limited funds allied to low availability of certain exclusives managed to curtail the same behaviour in my Masterpiece buying.
I never considered myself an overall completist, because even back in the early 2000s the concept of owning, paying for and somehow tracking down every Generation 1 Transformers and Diaclone variant was a ridiculous prospect. I was involved in the pursuit of unearthing new foreign Minibots, never before seen Diaclone packaging variants and cataloging rare versions of domestic releases. Even at that time, at that small scale compared to today, the idea of having everything struck me as unrealistic, especially as “everything” was a moving target anyway.
I must admit that over the years, with the niche areas I specialised in collecting and researching, it irked me that I was never able to complete a sub-line or a category. Completion of a collecting aim was a feeling I had yet to experience. The associated time and cost of being a Ceji Joustra Diaclone, Finnish Diaclone, Mexican G1, early European G1 or Minibot variant collector meant that often new mainline Transformers toys had to be sacrificed or ignored to maintain funds for my key interests. To this day, I never managed to have all 6 or 7 Finnish pre-Transformers releases at the same time, I am still 9 Ceji Joustra Diaclone toys short of the whole collection and I have never had all the Mexican G1 variants at the same time, nor the entire range of Milton Bradley or Ceji G1 packaging/toy variants. Those being the areas of collecting that I had been best known for in the past meant that I still had a feeling of unfinished business in my collecting, added to the same unfinished feeling from childhood that drove me to buy Transformers as an adult in the first place.
The first time I experienced that feeling of completion came with Transformers GT, but that was a very small line of 5 toys. Collecting post-MP-10 Masterpiece allowed me the opportunity to finish the Autobot cars, with all exclusives and variants including Diaclone ‘pre-paints’ and that is an ongoing affair, augmented by 3rd party companies. However, with the plethora of MP-10 variants out there like EVA, BAPE and now Shattered Glass, I can see this will forever remain an unfinished task.
Enter Titans Return. At the same time that this line was being announced, I was knee deep in 1987 and 1988 G1 collecting, documenting and photography. Re-discovering the love of G1 collecting, especially late era stuff like that, has been a revelation and a significant pleasure. Knowing that I could have modern day figures from Hasbro to go with those classic Headmasters, Targetmasters and Powermasters – especially with the replicated aesthetic – was quite the appealing prospect.
I tried Hasbro Titans Return and did not initially think much of the figures as standalone Transformers toys at that increased deluxe price point. It wasn’t until I invested in the play pattern and took it to ridiculous levels that I understood the core appeal of these toys beyond replicating G1 characters from three decades past. Connecting the whole of Skullsmasher upside down to Hardhead and attaching every single wave 1 Titan Master vehicle and Headmaster to the abomination made me laugh and sparked creativity.
When you consider that all of this was happening at around the same time as the TakaraTomy Diaclone V2 launch, and the core play pattern there centering around the tiny articulated Dia-nauts, well it’s certainly the hot thing right now. Suddenly all toys had the capacity for fan modes, base modes and bizarre undocumented combinations. You must understand how weird this is for someone who has had his nose so buried in established Transformers history for years, to make use of unofficial modes and just go mad with combining Autobots, Decepticons, cross-era and cross-scale toys etc.
So, I reached the conclusion that I needed as many Dia-nauts for my Dia-Battles toys as possible, and bought three of each figure variant to create awesome base configurations and dioramas. Titans Return – and now TakaraTomy Transformers Legends – represent the same thing for me too. It wasn’t enough to just own Hasbro versions of the moulds, because not only were the TakaraTomy releases typically put together better, but there were variant Titan masters and accessories. More accessories and more Titan Masters meant more configurations, fan modes, dioramas and opportunities to be creative. To play.
At that point I still wasn’t seeing it as a line to complete, I was picking up the odd attractive Takara version. Maybe the head sculpt was nicer (Hardhead), maybe the build was better (Skullcruncher), maybe the paint scheme appealed to me more (Blurr and Galvatron). UK retailers putting the Hasbro and SDCC versions of Fortress Maximus on sale didn’t help my cause, I decided I needed the SDCC deco Fort Max body with the retail Hasbro Rebirth cartoon accurate Cerebros/Emissary head. So I bought both with the intention of selling the extras. I even got as far as posting the extra Fort Max and Cerebros combo for sale on Twitter and TFW2005, then we found out that the TakaraTomy Legends Fortress Maximus had an amazing sound chip that played the Japanese Headmasters theme tune. Sigh. Inevitable result and consequences followed.
I am now looking at my spending recently, and realise that what I have paid out for Hasbro Titans Return figures (which may I say are coming out at quite a rate) and TakaraTomy Legends figures surpasses what I was spending on Masterpiece, 3rd party, vintage G1 and other collector-based stuff. This surprised me because of my perception that mainline Transformers collecting and specialisation would ultimately lead to more moderation in spending – even though I knew the quantity of figures I received would increase. I have seemingly become a CHUG collector overnight, even adding Combiner Wars moulds to the Titans Return/Legends stuff because they are compatible in the dioramas and have the magical 5mm pegs.
How could I resist the stunning TakaraTomy Transformers Legends Headmasters Go-Shooter (with Wheelie), Cancer (with Shockwave) Nightbeat (with Rewind), Twincast (with Blaster) that TakaraTomy have painted up so beautifully? They are new Titan Masters/Headmasters that I can populate my cities with. All those pegs across Powermaster Optimus Prime, Blaster, Fortress Maximus etc, and now I have the bots to utilise them. Think of all the fan mode bases and double-up configurations that will be possible eventually if one has access to all of Hasbro and TakaraTomy’s many bits and bobs that come with these toys.
Of course this will not apply to others and of course mainline Transformers collecting at its core is a cheaper exercise than buying high end collector-aimed Transformers. The issue is that with my collecting background, approach and interests, bringing that mentality to Titans Return/Legends, and more specifically and fundamentally, becoming so enamoured with the play pattern, has resulted in a high spend and high quantity of figures bought. It is a product of the timing of my vintage G1 ‘Masters collecting, a product of the timing of Diaclone V2 releases and that perception of cheaper figures providing more bang for buck at a time when Masterpiece toys have almost drifted out of budget. I am yet to pre-order Thrust, Inferno, Primal, Cheetor, Grapple etc. Masterpiece MP-14+ Alert was an impulse buy and made possible by the sale of something else.
What I’m trying to say is, wow, this is costing me a lot. But wow, I am having so much fun.
All the best