Some countries and locations are well associated with the finding, purchasing and collecting of Transformers or 3rd party products. North America, parts of mainland Europe, UK, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Australia are examples that come to mind. This could be down to large online retailers, local communities and large chain stores. Having just left the UK and moved to Iceland at the height of my Titans Return collecting, just before the release of four big Masterpiece items, wave 3 of Titans Return and a slew of significant 3rd party releases and product samples, I summarise the challenges involved in transporting my hobby to what is, by TF standards, an isolated location.
An initial concern for me was how to move so many toys from the UK to Iceland. My new employer was paying for a significant amount of sea and air freight, but with freight containers spending weeks on docks or in transit, susceptible to considerable temperature change, I was not willing to let much of my vintage G1 go by sea freight. Knowing how long we may have to survive without our sea freight, I also didn’t wish to swallow up all of the air freight allowance with my toys either. I sent a majority of my MPs, Hasbro Titans Return, 3rd Party, comics etc by sea freight. I sent my reissue G1, pre-movie G1 and TakaraTomy Legends by air freight, leaving as much of my post-movie G1 to come loose by hand luggage as I could manage and leaving many of the boxes behind.
Bubble-wrapping and fitting every toy you own into boxes for shipping is a sobering experience. We all know how much we own, but sometimes an activity like this can lead to a fair amount of self-disgust and re-evaluation. But this was not the time for that, and although all of my Ceji Joustra Diaclone has stayed behind in the UK for future transport here, I did package up a select few candidates and post them to my future self in Iceland as an experiment. Surely customs would leave them alone because they were my own possessions, old purchases and not deserving of duty.
All six boxes from the UK came through without any charges, but I did have to explain what one of them contained and make a case for why it did not deserve duty. Customs in Iceland also opened my G1 Doublecross and Repugnus empty box package, inspected them, then repacked them in a way that flattened the flap on my Repugnus box. Clearly, this was not a safe way to transport the remaining empty vintage G1 boxes from the UK. They will have to come in hand luggage on successive trips. The shipping cost for sending my boxed G1 Powermaster Prime was not insignificant either. I dread the upcoming cost of my pre-addressed and packed G1 Scorponok in box that my folks will be sending on its way any day now.
I should not whine too much, though, as I was saved the cost of sea and air freight. It could have been so much worse, financially. Back in the UK, I sold my two collector favourite IKEA Detolf cabinets as I knew they’d be a pain to send by freight. These are around £38 new in the UK and I sold them for £25 each. In Iceland, a new Detolf costs kr12,000 which at the current exchange rate equates to £85 each. No thanks! I’ve been keeping an eye on second hand websites and while I have found a couple, sorting out transport of them has proved difficult. As a result, for my display I have adopted the cabinets left by the previous tenants of our current apartment.
With more toys on display than I have ever managed before, the true scale of my collection (not even thinking about the packaging or what I left behind) terrifies me. I like it. However, it does remind me that many of us may never own a home large enough to be able to adequately display all of the Transformers we will have amassed by that stage. Speaking of amassing, I asked myself how I was going to continue collecting Masterpiece, G1, Titans Return, Legends and 3rd party figures all the way out here in Iceland. It’s not been easy watching all my friends back home open their Masterpiece Primals, Thrusts, and Infernos, or their Takara Legends Chromedomes, Highbrows and Mindwipes, or Titans Return Gnaw, Triggerhappy, Hot Rod, Twinferno and pals. It’s also been difficult to see others get their hands on FansToys Lupus, Sovereign and Grinder, figures I would have been reviewing as we speak had I been in the UK. I shall not even speak of the pain of missing out on the regular London collector pub meets.
Supermarkets and Toys ‘R’ Us in Reykjavik are notorious for being expensive (Robots In Disguise at least twice the price of the UK for each size class currently) or just plain months/years behind. Importing new figures is a minefield as customs are very active, and there is a 24% tax on toys. This pretty much rules out mail order from the UK or Amazon from the US, if they will even deliver here. There is, however, the excellent Nexus collectible store in downtown Reykjavik and their brand new branch in the Kringlan shopping mall, and I get a discount there because of where I work. There were no Transformers in stock this week but I’ve been assured that Titans Return wave 3, and some assorted older wave figures will be in stock next week. This is huge, and could be a very important lifeline for my collecting.
Before I made it to Nexus and found out the good news, a caring friend in the UK decided to help sort me out with early Christmas presents and nabbed all four wave 3 Titans Return deluxes in the UK. In addition to this, my first UK Transformers care package, I also decided to take a punt and buy a selection of used wave 3 Titans Return and TF Legends figures, freshly opened and technically used to see if second-hand buying is still an option here. For Generation 1 stuff, I’m just going to have to get it shipped to a UK address and bring it back to Iceland when I visit, because I can’t risk damage to box flaps and the like through the curiosity of customs and their obvious disbelief that someone would ship “empty used toy boxes”. Nexus could potentially be a source for Masterpiece TFs too should my discount bring it in line with what I can afford or justify. This is not a cheap country to live in.
I do also wonder how easily I will be able to sell Transformers from Iceland when I need to drum up funds or make space. I know there are at least two serious collectors here, one of which makes it to TFNation. On the whole, though, I suspect I will still offer my stuff to my friends in the UK and just accept that I will lose more in shipping than before in order to keep the items attractively priced, or hand-deliver them every few months when I visit. It’s either that or go over to TFNation next summer and get a dealer table!
That leaves the issue of 3rd party figures, specifically, the review samples I have been receiving from the likes of FansToys, BadCube, MMC, Ocular Max etc. ACE Collectibles managed to get me their Tumbler, so I guess it’s possible for the rest too. MMC/Ocular Max had sent them to my UK address before I left (but after my freight had left) so Anubis and Girder came in hand luggage. Carnifex and Jaegertron arrived after I had departed for the airport, so I still don’t have those in hand. MMC/Ocular Max will continue to supply me here in Iceland as far as I know, so credit to them. But seeing as how some 3rd Party companies want to send one specimen to each UK retailer and have them passed around reviewers, this has removed me from that circus and left me high and dry as far as some companies’ products are concerned.
I have never felt entitled to review samples, I have always treated it as a privilege that could end at any time, such is the fickle nature of that particular industry. So I have a choice whether to accept things as they are, or try and remind the companies of what they get from me for a slightly higher-than-normal investment by either shipping me an extra sample out of their budget or getting the UK review circus to send the item out to Iceland. No one wants to be the last reviewer to get and feature an item, though. It will be fascinating and significant for me to see how all this will affect my writing, my usefulness and relevance to the community, my access to new product and ability to afford to collect the way I have been. I’ll be finding out soon enough.
All the best