Nicholas Revell has the honour of being our very first New Zealand-based Transformers collector to be interviewed, and what a collection it is. With a remarkably practical, intelligent, measured and calculated approach, Nicholas has built a phenomenally high-quality packaged collection of vintage Generation 1 Transformers ranging from 1984 to 1987. The way he presented his collection online recently caught everyone’s attention, and led directly to my request for an interview. Not only do you get the eye candy, but you also get some extremely sage advice about how to conduct a similar project, with essential considerations that any collector of Transformers toys should make.
1) Who are you and what do you collect?
Before I begin, much gratitude must be paid to Maz for the opportunity to be the first New Zealand-based collector featured in these articles with additional gratitude for those who nominated me forward. To the reader, thank you for viewing, I hope you enjoy!
My name is Nicholas Revell, aged 30, from Auckland, New Zealand. Outside of work, family life and Transformer collecting (which I have essentially been a part of for around 16 years, with an on and off dealing experience of 13 years), I was lucky to be involved in motorsport for a combined total of 6 years. For a long time I have been a modeller of a variety of subjects including movie and TV replicas, but have settled mostly upon building Grand Prix cars in 1/12 scale, in which I enjoy a small following via my Facebook page.
As a Transformer collector I only collect vintage Generation One Transformers, no other lines in the broad Transformer universe. My current collection is my third and final collection for good, and can be described as the following: The collection has a finite end, and was started in May 2015. It covers the Generation One Transformers from the years 1984 to 1987, following the years of the original western cartoon. It is a high quality Mint in Box/Mint on Card collection. The condition of each piece is based off how I would have purchased and realistically owned them had I have purchased them in the Eighties and kept them. In order to control the integrity of the collection’s quality, I have obtained several sealed items. However the aim is essentially to have “opened for inspection” packaged figures only, thus controlling a very high level of tidiness in the packaging, figures and sundries. That way, there is the close look of unopened super mint items but without quite such a nasty price tag. Additionally, the ability is there to take the contents out every blue moon, allowing the opportunity to inspect in glee.
Touching on the finer points, the collection is indiscriminate towards which figures do end up being fully sealed. It is also indiscriminate between 1984 pre-rub versions and 1985 rub sign version packages and figures, as well as whether or not packages came with mini-spies, iron on patches, decoys etc or whether the boxes were movie poster versions etc. The combining team members are to be found individually packaged and also in their respective giftset form. All of the collection features English language packaging. However, for the giftsets that were not available in English, the Combaticons, Terrorcons and Predacons, I sought out the Italian sets for the first two, which were closer to what English versions would have been, and the Japanese set for the latter to fill the gap. The logic here is to make the collection somewhat uniform across its span, meaning all the combiner teams get giftsets and with the addition of the foreign sets, they help to assist in bulking rarity pieces.
2) How has the collecting scene changed in the last 15 years?
I apologize to collectors of other series of Transformers of which I know little about. I can only give a rough description of the vintage Generation One scene. In the Early 2000s we certainly saw a renewing of interest thanks to the beginning of the Re-issuing of classic Generation One figures. Naturally as the 2000’s progressed, online trading and communication (forums, websites) rose or became more enhanced and popular as viable methods to use as collecting tools and so started catering to more of the population. The onset of the live action movies certainly contributed in hyping nostalgia and so they helped to consolidate the growing market of vintage Transformer collecting. As this decade progressed, the market did cool a little bit but now generally tends to feature more long term serious collectors, and great condition or rare items still tend to sell for good prices. The market places and communication resources have also continued to expand into a large array of diverse outlets, such as social media, and retro/vintage toy stores that may certainly disguise how busy the scene is.
3) How do you see, or hope to see the scene changing in 5 years’ time?
I see the scene remaining fairly constant as it is now, since 5 years is a fairly short period and the scene has settled to a stable constant now. It would be great to keep things at that constant.
4) What has been your single biggest success as a collector, or your greatest ever find?
My biggest success as a collector is simple. It is my entire collection I have now. Back in late 2014, having sold off everything a few years before, I began to feel very unfulfilled that a period of my life collecting, buying and selling Transformers, had ultimately left me with nothing to show for it. Times and circumstances for me were changing (basically I was getting older!), and the focus on a formal career was needed. So I spent a few months making a loose market and viability evaluation, and in May of 2015 I decided to do it once and for all. So I went for it. Shortly after starting collecting again, however, I started working and studying, both full time. This was a big drain on my resource of time, a crucial ingredient needed to really attack a collection like this. But, hard work and persistence has paid off. It has naturally not been without its minor troubles, but in the end, it has all worked out wonderfully.
5) What is the most surprising or outrageous collecting story you have heard?
As far as outrageous collecting stories go, the year was 2011…..I was selling a fair bit locally. A man came over and purchased a complete set of boxed metal version Predacons, a boxed Trypticon and something else. He was interested in another boxed figure that was not cheap, I am fairly sure it was a mint Snapdragon, and so he put off buying it. I got on well with him in our initial encounters, and in the course of our conversations told him where I worked as he did likewise etc. Anyway a week or so later, I am at work where unannounced the same man actually turns up and demands I stop work (go on a break) and get the figure he wanted to buy immediately. Naturally I was not to pleased at his pushy unannounced presence. When I pressed him as to why he was making a hasty demand, I was not prepared for the answer. He wanted the deal done now as his wife was at the hospital terminally in labour, giving birth and she would not be capable of keeping an eye on his cash spending for the rest of the week. I said something along the lines of “But its the birth of your child, you should be there” but the person did not really care much.
Not wishing to end the question on that note however, I do like reading about case finds of vintage figures, and great hauls/ great luck that others have had collecting.
6) If you could pick one item from your collection to keep, what would it be?
Cheekily, I do sincerely apologize to the interviewer for having to correct their sentence structure. This question should read: If you could pick one organ to keep- brain, heart or lungs, what would it be? Need I say more. I need them all; they all blend into one cohesive unit that forms a collective synergy. Simple!
7) If you could have one item out of someone else’s collection, what would that be?
Obtaining a very excellent level of condition packaged figures from 1984 to 1987 does present some challenges, and there is a lot of very hard work hunting and negotiating involved. However, with the application of that hard work it is somewhat achievable. That means I do not feel overly hard done by in that somebody has something that I really want. Although an excellent Defensor giftset may be quite fun to try and obtain…
That said, there is the exception. I have always viewed the 1988 Piranacon giftset as beautiful and would love to add a mint one to my collection one day. So if you are reading this and have a beautiful example of the Piranacon giftset, very well done.
8 ) What advice would you give a new collector starting out today?
Before I start, please note again I am really only familiar with vintage Generation 1 collecting.
My advice is as such: Firstly, a decent collection of vintage G1 Transformers to any level of condition where you are not getting anything for free requires some degree of a financial commitment. Regardless of your financial status, you need to make some sort of plan of your expectations regarding what you expect out of what you intend on acquiring. With this plan, you need to be somewhat realistic. Factor in, of course, your situation, your future situation, what is achievable, and what is important or essential to you. It is better to be a content collector than a collector who arrives at a point where you view what you have as unfulfilling, and you end up making a drastic purge. Not only can that situation waste time but also maybe your money. A plan helps mitigates those issues. Making a plan also helps set a quality expectation, wherever that expectation may personally be with you. Remember – some collectors have perfectly good rhyme and reason to collect well used examples of figures, not just cost saving reasons. An example to that is restoring old figures to nice examples. There is much enjoyment to be had in following that path.
Additional advice would be to consider close family or friends in your quest – especially if you intend on collecting rarities. Depending on the figure, its rarity and condition in question, they can be time consuming and very expensive to obtain. Other people should not suffer in your quest. Also, try to adjust your thinking from enjoying less the hunt to enjoying more the ownership. Why? Because if the thrill of the hunt is what gives you the bigger rush, once things settle down, what you have is more likely to be compromised and purged. If you enjoy the ownership more, then your purchase will not be in vain. Finally, be polite in your dealings with people. Be firm, but fair when you need to be, but remember that often what you need may just rely on effective relationship building and maintenance.
I wish to be very sneaky with this interview and have a slight addendum, a very special and crucial thank you to particular people who have shown willing help and true support, my collective group of rocks that are helping me as a team to win the collection I planned. Apart from the loose structure of family- then collector friends, these are in no order whatsoever: Catherine (my wife), Mum, Dad, Melissa, Dave, Dean, Kallie, Sienna, Peter, Karla, Skylah, Blake, Mary, Peter, Aaron, Paul.
A very prestigious thanks to www.Transformerland.com. Their willing assistance throughout the duration of this collection and going forward has been very humbling and certainly a large portion of the collection would not have been possible without their efforts in contribution. It has been the most wonderful pleasure in dealing with them.
Thank you to Maz at TFSource for the wonderful organisation and presentation of this interview.
Many kind and gracious thanks to Nicholas Revell for words and photographs.
All the best