Ed Pourtahmasbi experiences Transformers collecting very differently to many of the rest of us. He approached me recently, hoping that I would be interested in sharing his perspective on the Transformers toy hobby and I jumped at the opportunity. I’ll let Ed himself tell you about his journey and relationship with Transformers, but in this very special collector interview the focus is definitely more heavily on the collector as opposed to the collection itself. Ed suggested to me that I could use stills from his video reviews on YouTube for the beginning and end of the article, and use stock or community-provided photographs for the toys he discusses throughout, as he was unable to provide me with photos of his own collection. We came up with a set of customised questions together that we felt would give him the best platform upon which to share what he wanted us to know about his Transformers experience. I am also thrilled to be able to feature a Transformers collector of Iranian origin, something that Ed and I have in common! I hope you all find Ed’s account of his life as a Transformers collector as fascinating as I did.
1) Who are you and what do you collect?
My name is Ed Pourtahmasbi and I collect G1 reissues, official Masterpiece bots and very occasionally, the odd Generations figure that looks fun. The difference with me compared to your average collector is that I have no eyesight. I have no perception of shapes, colours, or light/dark. I interact with all of my Transformers through touch alone.
2) How do you think your experience was different from other collectors?
My experience compared to other collectors was based very much on my imagination and what I could conjure up in my head. Unlike everyone else, I couldn’t see box art. I couldn’t see the G1 cartoons, I couldn’t even tell if a toy was an Autobot or Decepticon based on their rub sign. Nearly all of my Transformers as a child came from car boot sales or were second hand. They were good value and apart from missing their weapons and accessories, they worked perfectly. That made it even more fun actually as often no one had a clue as to what they changed into. My grandmother, being the primary instigator of my Transformers passion, would rock up with a big plastic bag full of… stuff, from a car boot sale. It could be He-Man figures, it could have been G1 toys, it could have been a bunch of guns and accessories she’d seen in a box that she thought might work well with my toys. I made up all these stories in my head, had no clue who was who and loved it.
My only source of knowing anything about the characters came from the 1980s Ladybird audio books. They were full of some sweet but questionable acting, but concerned mostly the G1 character set and the Headmasters, so it was easy enough to work out who was supposed to be who from those cassette tapes. My first 2 Transformers toys were the core robots from the Pretenders Cloudburst and Skullgrin. They didn’t have weapons, no one knew what they were. I didn’t even know they were called Transformers and instead, I pretended they were 2 characters from a 1980s Centurions audio tape I’d heard on holiday. This was all completely wrong of course, but I didn’t care. These toys unlocked a huge potential in my tiny hands and fingers. Suddenly I had a toy that became at least 2 things. Later, I got Blitzwing. He was missing his weapons, his missiles and his turret. I could see he transformed into a plane and …is that supposed to be a robot? His arms were ridiculous, I couldn’t understand it. Maybe I’d transformed him wrong? I didn’t care, I loved them anyway.
I’m never able to see instructions for toys. I have a couple of friends who often write out the instructions for Masterpiece toys for me. I don’t want to go breaking them, although I did work out MP-10, Hot Rodimus, Ultra Magnus, Bumble and Grimlock on my own. When I want to work something out on my own, the only way I can do it if it’s not obvious, is to watch YouTube videos. When I say watch, I mean I have to listen to the reviewer transforming the figure and hope they might say what they’re doing. In 99% of cases, they do not. It took me 2 days to transform Unite Warriors Takara Devastator, during which time I must have gone through about 25 videos, each one giving me just one tiny tiny bit of the puzzle. By the end of it I was very hot and angry, but I had an amazing large CW Decepticon to play with.
I’ve often been asked, what makes a good TF for you? What do you look for? To a certain extent, my answer might be the same as other people’s but I’ll give it a go. The figure needs to have heft and mass. Something made of thin plastic just isn’t going to cut it for me. Generations Rhinox is a good example of how this doesn’t work. He’s a big bulky figure but very light. However Generations Springer and Sandstorm feel a bit smaller but are much denser and heavier. The figure needs to have tight joints. I cannot stand floppy arms or legs. I worry that the more hinges etc they put in a figure, the more floppy it will get over time. Since I have to pick my toys up to interact with them, bits that waggle about really annoy me. This also goes for holding their weapons properly, I’m glaring at you Masterpiece Smokescreen as your weapon judders in your completely still hand in an attempt to fall out. Strangely enough, I don’t care so much about die-cast or rubber tyres. It can be fun, but I think it worked more on the simplistic G1 toys and doesn’t really work in the same way on the MPs. Plus, we have ones with plastic and rubber tyres in the same collection and that is just weird.
The transformation needs to be complex, although I struggle with this one because if it’s too complex, it takes about 10 minutes to do, maybe an hour if we’re talking about MP36! And by then, all the enemy robots have gone off for a cup of tea. I appreciate complexity, but there is something adorable about the G1 robots that just sort of stood up from car mode, skidded along on their foot wheels and fired missile launchers. One thing I have absolutely no concept of however is how accurate a character looks compared to the cartoon. When people tell me Sunstreaker looks different from Sideswipe and that he looks more like the cartoon? Not a clue, means nothing. They are just different figures to me which is a good thing. Same with faces, they are too small for me to get my fingers into and I have no idea what they look like, with the exception of God Ginrai and Fort Max, maybe Overlord as well.
I thought I’d also write a few anecdotes here about my collecting experience as they are quite unique to someone who can’t see. My mother was never really into the Transformers scene like my Grandmother was. She knew I liked them but she wasn’t the one who bought them for me. So, Christmas in the early 90s came, I got the Transformers movie from my aunty and, a large box from my mother. Keep in mind that at this time I had Powermaster Prime, but no Decepticon leader. The big box was opened and it was Megatron. I was breathless with excitement, I couldn’t believe it. Mum had done the impossible, she’d found me Megs himself. Now I had no idea what Megatron looked like, what he transformed into, I just knew in my mind he must have to be as big as Powermaster Prime. Never mind the 2 never met, that’s just the way it had to be. I opened him up and wow, yes, he was big. He felt like some sort of.. tank? And he had these weird long bits that came out of the bag like heavy mechanical legs. Couldn’t see a head, but he had some short stumpy arms? At least that’s what they felt like. So weird, and there was this tiny little articulated figure that came with him. This was so cool, what was it? The only thing that really puzzled me, was that he didn’t come with a big gun, just a bunch of weird plastic cylindrical missile things. Over the next 2 hours, I tried to make this thing into a robot, with no success. Maybe I was doing it wrong? I asked my uncle to help. No no he said, you have to put it together like this to be a tank and this little dude sits in the tank. It doesn’t become a robot, but you can make it into this.. this.. what even is that? Jet throne?
If you’ve not guessed by now, what I had was Actionmaster Megatron. It was the 2nd biggest disappointment of my collecting experience, bested only by my purchase of Actionmaster Soundwave who of course was one of the most useless non transforming Transformers ever to grace our toy aisles and carried none of Soundwave’s iconic action features.
There were also some characters that I wanted but never had, so I abused the rest of the transformers that I did have in order to make them fit. I had Sinnertwin for some weird reason, so he became my mutated ravage. I had a spare Powermaster Prime body, which I discovered you could shove a cassette case into when you’d taken out his cab section. He became my Soundwave. Remember Skullgrin’s little hand cannons? He became my Rumble substitute and those cannons were his pile drivers. We won’t mention the fact that there was no way he could touch the ground with them. Basically, if a character existed and I wanted it, I’d usually find a way to persuade one of my other robots to become them.
Another time, I ripped off the stickers on 4 of my transformers because I thought someone had stuck sellotape on them, I had no idea why they were there. It wasn’t until my sister explained that they were pictures that I felt very bad. In fact, most of mine never had stickers on because I couldn’t apply them myself.
3) What has been your single biggest success as a collector, or your greatest ever find?
When I was 10, I went to Germany with my dad. We went ostensibly to meet an old work colleague of his. I was bored senseless, but said work colleague had Sky. Sky were showing such cartoons as Ulysses 31 and of course, Transformers. I had seen some G1 episodes by now, but this story told of the Autobots becoming Headmasters, the merging of Daniel with a certain female car that we know and love and of course, the creation of the immense Scorponok and Fort Max. I am of course referring to the fantastic Rebirth story. I had Scorponok, in fact I had 2 of them, both for about £2 each, both missing absolutely everything other than the helmet section, but I had no idea of Fort Max. What did it look like? A Headmaster within a Headmaster? It sounded utterly insane. Fast forward many years after I’d gotten a job and I began looking for him on Ebay. This hunk of plastic was going for upwards of £800, more if it was complete. I resolved that if I ever got promoted, I would buy him. Then, along comes Encore. Now, I could get him brand new, complete, for half the price. I got him and loved him. It was very odd, as I had no connection to him as child, but he went proudly on my display shelf, where I discovered that if he bent his elbow and pointed his sword straight up, it would be too long and need to go through the ceiling. He’s a big boy.
4) If you could pick one item from your collection to keep, what would it be?
2005 reissue Galvatron. I loved the g1 version as a kid, including all the annoying noises. He was everything I wanted in a Transformer and my dad even fixed him when his pistol trigger broke. I had no Megatron at the time, so he was the Decepticon that led all the other ones that I thought were Decepticons. I got another one many years later but it was a bit battered, the sounds didn’t work etc so I treated myself to the 2005 reissue. It’s perfect, has a metal matrix and screams in Japanese. What more could you ask for?
A good question this. Often I try to have groups of them together, i.e. all the Masterpiece cars, stood in robot mode in a long line from left to right on shelves. I have their arms bent up at the elbow and holding their weapons. If they have a free hand it might go on their hip etc. I don’t really understand how to put them in dynamic poses, in fact I don’t really understand how to put myself in a dynamic pose other than striding forward maybe with a hand extended, so my figures are quite static and robotic I suppose. One of the things that was difficult for girlfriends was the absolute riot of clashing colours all over my shelves. Some of those bots, particularly the Decepticons, are not subtle. Violent purples etc were quite commonplace for a long time, but of course I saw none of that.
I don’t tend to keep things in vehicle mode as I figure, if you want a load of toy cars, you could just buy those instead! That being said, a fully kitted out MP Magnus with weaponised Autobot cars is a marvel to behold. PS, I hate hate hate ankle articulation. I understand why it exists, but the amount of times I’ve had figures fall over due to floppy ankles such as MP-10, I cannot count. Yes, I know you can unscrew them an put polish in to tighten them up, but for over £100, should I really need to do that?
6) How has the collecting scene changed for you personally over the past 10 years and how has this affected your collecting habits?
Well obviously the introduction of Masterpiece has been a huge success and I love them all. These are the transformers I dreamed about for so many years. Then we have the introduction of bots for a much younger audience such as Rescue Bots, those I don’t really get involved with. I think the biggest difference I’ve personally noticed is with the Generations characters. Now we have nearly every bot we ever wanted, but with a different alt mode, we have combiners, Headmasters, it just goes on and on. A friend of mine recently said it’s the golden age of Transformers toy collecting and he’s probably right. Then there’s the third party scene and honestly the fact that so many of them sprung up and turned out really good – albeit expensive – toys is truly staggering. For me though, that abundance of toys has come at a price. I refuse to go down the third party route, despite how much I admire the creations. They are expensive, you can get anything between 2 and 4 companies making the same character and then of course there’s the worry that an official product will come along and trump them. Quite apart from this, I don’t physically have the space.
The Generations line is interesting. I admire what they are trying to do with it, but the price points, particularly in the UK are quite frankly absurd. £40 for Blaster? What kid could afford that? Clearly some do but it stil seems ridiculous to me. One of my pet hates is mould reuse and repaints. I can’t see repaints and I can’t feel a different head sculpt, so what we have here is…exactly the same figure. I sent Takara CW Bruticus back since he was essentially Defensor with slightly different limbs. The Hot Spot/Onslaught mould reuse was just incredibly disappointing to me and since they felt so much alike, they could never be a different character to me. Thank goodness I got the Takara one or I’d have had an Aerialbot posing as Blast Off. Soundwave should not look like Blaster. Astrotrain should not look like Sentinel Prime. I watched a video of Arcee a week ago and once I heard it was a redeco of Blurr, I turned it off. Not the same character at all and I’m not paying for it. It genuinely makes me very sad and I consider it lazy. I’d rather they released less, but better quality product or at least unique product.
I think for me, Masterpiece is the sweet spot. They are well priced, they only release a few a year and every experience takes me back to my childhood. The only thing I dislike is all the stickers and face options, but I just put the faces in a box and many of them don’t come with or need stickers so it’s all good.
7) What advice would you give other collectors like yourself starting out in the hobby today?
Interesting question. To my knowledge, there are no blind collectors other than myself. I’ve looked on forums, on Twitter etc but never found any that really care for them. Certainly a few have seen the cartoon or are aware of some names, but none who make a habit of collecting the toys. If I did find one however, I’d probably tell them to start with the G1 cartoon and the audio tape Ladybird books. I’d suggest politely that in terms of voice acting, these 2 things, along with transformers Prime are probably the best they’d get in terms of story arcs, considering we can’t read comics. I’d probably suggest they get the Masterpiece series like me as they’re easier to keep track of. For non blind collectors or collectors in general, I’d say, collect whatever makes you happy.
Transformers have such an emotional connection to us as collectors, it doesn’t matter what you like compared to someone else. Be happy with who you are and be happy with your collection. I’d also say it’s healthy to check your collection once a year and ask yourself, do I still like/need x y z? There are so so many robots to get and only a certain amount of space in the world. I’ve personally loved selling my bots to other people who maybe couldn’t afford them new and seeing how much pleasure it gave them.
Many kind and gracious thanks to Ed Pourtahmasbi for words and photographs, for approaching me about this feature and helping to construct the custom format of the interview, giving me a great lead as to what would be interesting for him to discuss.
All the best