Every collecting fandom and community has its unofficial rules. These might be focused on preserving vintage specimens of rare toys. common forms of display or rules of engagement when it comes to selling figures. I’ve been told that certain Star Wars communities will immediately ostracise members if they open a sealed vintage figure. While the Transformers fandom is not quite as strict as that, vintage Generation 1 Transformers collectors typically do not condone the opening of sealed specimens, instead advocating the collecting of loose toys or reissues. Furthermore, Transformers collectors can be quite funny about keeping the original packaging, even if the toys are modern, unofficial (3rd party) and have boxes/cards containing little of note or value.
Now, as it goes, I have recently partaken in both of those sacrilegious acts. I have been, for some time, trying to assemble a collection of post-movie Generation 1 Transformers in perfect loose condition with boxes, for purposes of documentation and photography. Certain figures are impossible to find loose with no damage, wear and with perfect sticker placement and condition. I have been patient, though, and when I’ve managed to assemble a team or sub-group, I’ve written an article on this blog about them. The articles have showcased boxes, paperwork and most importantly, how the toys were always intended to look when opened – perfect stickers and all. Anyway, I had a lovely Dreadwind but no Darkwing, as his stickers, nosecone and main connecting tab are often an issue.
A friend of mine donated a sealed Darkwing to me, stating that I could only have it if I opened it and documented the process. So I did, and you can read about it here in detail, as well as my motivation for doing so. Spoiler alert: It was not for the experience of opening a sealed vintage toy. I don’t seek out sealed toys for my project, though, and going forward I am still very much after MIB unused or perfect used specimens for the cause. The act of unsealing a vintage Transformer will always be seen as unnecessary and sacrilegious by certain collectors, regardless of the rights of the owner to do with their possessions as they please, regardless of the creation of a resource for everyone’s benefit or any sort of explanation. This is a fact and all collectors of vintage Transformers are aware of this, so to do otherwise and then document it naturally invites disapproval. At TFNation 2017, I received many many comments about the article and experience, I was genuinely surprised that 99.9% of people were in support of the documentation and understood the motivation. A few disagreed, but at least it was respectful!
The main thing I want to talk about, though, is the disposal of Transformers packaging. Having recently moved to another country with my whole collection, I was grateful for all the Masterpiece Transformers, 3rd party Transformers and Transformers Generations/Legends packaging that I had kept, as it aided the safe transport of many of my toys while in a shipping container or hand luggage. The problems created when packing them all up and then trying to house the packaging on the other side, however, I could have done without.
Masterpiece Transformers tend to be held in very high regard by those who collect them. They are regularly elevated above most other lines of Transformers in the collections of those who specialise in the series, and certainly I am extremely fond of them too. The boxes, though, are just unbearably large. When you look at how much space is wasted on the inside of MP-13 Soundwave or MP-11ND Dirge’s packaging, you begin to wonder how you’ll ever house the toys and the packaging. You could chuck away the plastic inserts, store the accessories and paperwork elsewhere, then flatten the boxes to save space.
The problem for me there was that I wanted the packages to maintain their contents and integrity. It is, after all, a collection. If vintage toy collecting has ingrained anything in the minds of collectors, it’s the impulse to keep and preserve every part of the original package. I didn’t want to throw away the inserts, for practical reasons and also for reasons of being a collector – and occasionally – a completist and archivist of certain Transformers releases/variations.
That only takes a person so far, though, and there are greater priorities in life than the maintenance of a collection of toys, however much the quality and completeness of that collection means to us. I had to ask myself very seriously whether or not I would ever display my Transformers Masterpiece boxes on a shelf. I have seen sealed Masterpiece collections and wondered what the point of them was, as the toys were not visible and one could still display the boxes as they are with the toys removed and enjoyed. This is, after all, not vintage toy collecting. Also, many of these figures are very far from being considered rare.
The other argument for keeping toy packaging is the preservation of resale value. Well, my argument there was that I did not plan to sell my Masterpiece collection, so there would be nothing to affect. However, things happen in life and decisions have to be made. I had a car accident this year that required me to raise around a thousand dollars pretty sharpish, so a lot of toys I did not expect to sell had to go. Some of those were Masterpiece and some were 3rd party, a few of which did not have boxes. I noticed that for the desirable ones, the box made very little difference to the amount I sold them for compared to average market price. Certainly, keeping Generations packaging seemed even less logical under circumstances where MP packaging was about to go.
So that’s what I’ve done. I’ve recycled the inserts from most of my larger Masterpiece toys, flattened and recycled the black outer boxes too and the same has been done for all Titans Return, 3rd party and Transformers Legends packaging. I do not believe I will ever display any toy packaging apart from vintage Transformers – or very special figures where I may have contributed to the packaging, special gifts etc. I also kept the flattened Titans Trypticon and Fort Max boxes, because the art is so gorgeous and I am not quite all the way there yet with my resolve. Sharing the above images caused a bit of outrage among my social media group, but it has been a revelation for me. There has been no discernible difference to my toy collection display as the boxes were all swallowing up valuable home storage space. There has been no difference to my appreciation of my collection because I was not suddenly missing a daily experience; I repeat – the boxes were stored away and out of sight already!
So what I have done is massively reduce the load of packaging that was plaguing my storage space and often creating more headaches for moving (something I’ll have to do within a few months) than benefits. In future when I buy Masterpiece or 3P toys in the UK and want to bring them home, I can dispense with the nightmare of packing my stuff for travel by just ditching the boxes straight away, as I am no longer committed to keeping a boxed MP, 3P or Generations collection. I feel like I’ve made life better for myself and my family. Those of you who collect Masterpiece and Titan-class figures know all too well how much space is required for their packaging. Sacrilegious my acts may have been to some, but they served a greater purpose in both cases and I have no regrets. But there’s still work to do…
All the best