What is Mint?

Baby don’t hurt me. The definition of mint can be obtained, in a toy collecting context, from many sources such as grading companies, toy sellers and the like. However, if you care about condition enough to seek out mint toys, the only real assessment of the word that matters is that of the seller. The seller who may or may not have a figure you are interested in. A brief sweep of any Transformers toy search on eBay will present you with many differing assessments of what constitutes a toy described as mint. Let’s not worry too much about ‘near’ mint, since one could say Iceland is ‘near’ Australia when viewed from Jupiter.

Transformers G1 Jetfire

Over the last few years I’ve been trying to put together a collection of Generation 1 Transformers that would be perfect enough condition-wise to feature in a publication as a perfect photographic resource. Not to say I definitely want to create such a publication, I just want to have the toys in that condition, as they were meant to look when they left the factory. This absolutely includes the application of vintage stickers in the right location, correct alignment and orientation, perfect condition. That’s what mint means to me; completely and utterly without visual or structural flaw.

Transformers G1 Needlenose

It is possible to find Generation 1 Transformers in this condition, with the stickers pre-applied, and utterly perfect. I managed to find Horri-Bull, Dreadwind, Rotorstorm, Needlenose, Cliffjumper and Quake in this condition. I found a whole load more in very close condition but with some misalignment of stickers. I applied vintage labels to a few toys as well in order to achieve this look, toys such as Slapdash, Apeface, Punch-Counterpunch, Fangry and all members of Abominus. On one occasion, I opened a sealed toy (Darkwing) to also accomplish this, but it’s not my intention to do that often – or ever if I can avoid it. Darkwing was a special case.

Transformers G1 Cliffjumper

This is a very difficult mission, quite aside from the fact that there is high resistance from collectors who want to see unused toys remain unused. My justification has been that I can create beautiful images and resources, bringing glory to figures when they are augmented with their stickers in 100% the intended and perfect way, making them shine as never before. There are plenty of pictures of unused G1 toys out there, and used, worn G1 as well. Not enough photos of perfectly maintained, stickered specimens. This is especially true if one refuses to go down the route of using reproduction labels. I am also learning a great deal about errors and historic issues with G1 literature/paperwork when I get knee deep in the application of vintage labels, especially when it is hard to find a definitive source for a sticker’s orientation or location with some toys. Often the box artwork, sticker application map in the instructions and stock photography do not match up!

Transformers G1 Slapdash

Anyway, my point is that finding a toy that truly meets my definition and requirement of ‘mint’ has been exceptionally difficult. This is especially true when it comes to Transformers toys that have had their stickers applied and may have been transformed, displayed or played with by previous owners. I’m also not talking about random sellers who may have found old Transformers toys at an estate sale or charity shop, I have this exact difficulty with renowned and experienced toy dealers too. A number of the sellers I buy from these days are starting to understand what I am after and quite often will say to me “Not quite up to your standard, but beautiful nonetheless and good enough for most others”. That’s not to say I am choosing to be elitist about this, just that when a mission has a brief, if one should start deviating from it, then really the soul and purpose of it get a bit lost in the compromises. I love used toys with wear, I have a lot that I probably won’t replace with perfect specimens, but certainly going forward and buying new G1 figures, this is what I strive to find. It’s also helpful because the cost and rarity of such things means that I do not buy a lot in a short space of time. Additions to my collection can be quite far apart under these circumstances.

Transformers G1 Hun-Gurrr

Transformers G1 Hun-Gurrr

Stickers are often a major point of contention. G1 pre-rub minibots such as Bumblebee, Cliffjumper and Bumblejumper had all manner of issues with the placement of their Autobot stickers. It’s very hard to find one with a perfect, shiny and undamaged chest sticker, free of peeling, fading or wild misalignment. I was just recently told that there could be a pristine Bumblejumper on the table, but the Autobot sticker on the chest had a tiny fold in the corner and the headplate sticker also was slightly misaligned and worn. Astrotrain is another one, with the transparent stickers either side of the tailfin almost always exhibiting peeled corners, no matter how unused the toy is. If the wear is on a factory sticker, no stickersheet can ever fix the issue.

Transformers G1 Defensor

Paint wear is another problem area for me when I’m investigating how mint a toy is. A figure like G1 Wheeljack has a lot of white paint on die-cast metal surfaces, and even with specimens that are sealed to the bubble, you can see the odd fleck of white paint missing from the hood/feet and even the roof scoop. I tend to ask myself “Will this be visible in a hi-res digital SLR photograph and will it need photo-editing software to mask it?”, and if the answer to both of those questions is yes, I tend to pass. Don’t get me wrong, though, on eBay right now there are a couple of 100% perfect Wheeljacks, but I’m not going to fork out what the sellers are asking – so it’s as much a case of mint toy as it is affordable toy.

Transformers G1 Rippersnapper

Discolouration on an otherwise perfect specimen is quite the heartbreaker. Sure, some collectors treat toys with hydrogen peroxide and ultraviolet light, but it does make me wonder if a toy that has changed colour can truly be called ‘mint’. Should that definition be used if a figure has perfect attributes such as plastic colour and stickers, but has a paint chip on the hood from the factory? Is that really perfect? If it is for 99.9% of collectors, then maybe the term ‘mint’ is justified under those circumstances.

Transformers G1 Cliffjumper

I have quite a lot of toys which I’d call near mint. They have no structural issues at all, they have excellent joint tightness and plastic colour is completely unchanged from release, perfect paint etc, but a few stickers are wonky and others have some slight corner peeling. I would not be able to call that mint without some qualification. Maybe some sellers and collectors utilise the term ‘dead mint’ as a slightly higher tier of condition for a figure that is truly and utterly flawless. However, I have seen that definition bandied about by sellers only to discover toys described as ‘dead mint’ having the odd paint chip, nobbled sticker or loose joint.

Transformers G1 Sinnertwin

I completely understand that with three decades of life, one absolutely must accept that a vast majority of vintage Transformers that are no longer sealed will exhibit one or more of these symptoms that stop them being 100% perfect. My issue is not with the reality of the situation, but rather how we assess a toy truthfully. Maybe very few collectors actually expect to have perfect vintage figures in any significant number (certainly not loose) and so the definition of ‘mint’ is a flexible and relative one that suits a loose or used collection’s context under certain circumstances. This has certainly had an effect on how I sell toys, even modern Transformers like Masterpiece. If there are minor flaws like sticker or paint wear, I highlight them as best I can even though the generally accepted view is that most MP toys come with some blemish or another straight from the factory. It’s just a fact of modern toy collecting and manufacture.

Transformers G1 Blot

You could even ask what the scale upon which ‘mint’ sits is meant to measure. Is it how perfect something is? Is it how well it has been preserved since release? Compared to original state? Picture a sealed G1 Wheeljack, still untouched and living in the small pocket of air between the bubble and backing card. It has a paint chip on the hood which it came with from the factory. As long as it’s sealed and untouched, it’s ‘mint’ according to most. It is, after all, perfectly preserved since inception. That same Wheeljack off the backing card and in the palm of your hand is now ‘near mint’ with a defect, or ‘wear’. Since the term ‘mint’ comes from coin collecting, referring to a coin being in the same condition as it was when it left the mint, would that Wheeljack not still count as mint since it left the factory in that state? Was it a toy that was born ‘near mint’?

Transformers G1 Joyride

I guess what really matters is what has always mattered when buying toys for your collection; understand how the seller assesses a figure, be absolutely sure you know what you’re after and what to look for, ask plenty of questions and get photographs if unsure of condition.

Anyway, who wants mint toys that can’t be played with?

“Who cares, as long as it flies.”

Transformers G1 Dreadwing

All the best


About Maz

Diaclone and TF collector & writer from the UK. I also write for & own TF-1.com and TFSquareone.


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