A lot of Transformers toy collectors like their toys to be mint and flawless, but this is not always possible due to the age and use of some specimens, especially vintage ones. Other collectors are happy to own used Transformers toys and see the wear on the figures as charming, part of the journey that the toy has been on, or simply part and parcel of collecting older toys. I have recently tried to buy toys that are as mint as possible, even down to the packaging where newer items are concerned. However, I have not been afraid to invest time in figures needing some cleaning, some re-stickering or even a bit of disassembly and limb transplanting. Beyond that, after photographing some of my worn figures that I was sure I wanted to sell, it struck me that I might find it a harder thing to do than I first realised.
I’ve mentioned it so many times recently, but just for context, here it is again. I have been for approximately 3 years now, aiming to get as many post-movie G1 Transformers as possible in absolutely brilliant (if not perfect) condition but with applied vintage stickers. I wished to create the look of the toys as they would have been upon being released from their packaging in the 80s, and as intended by the designers. This has often led to me going on wild goose chases to determine the original sticker placement intentions where the paperwork has been incorrect.
There are two sets of occurrences that led me to reconsider only buying perfect toys for my collection outright. The first was a simple obstacle; some G1 Transformers simply cannot be found in perfect used condition. As a result, I have either had to buy them with stickers unapplied and source vintage sticker sheets to achieve the desired effect, or I have been extremely lucky and chanced upon exceptionally nice stickers applied specimens that have just been extremely well-kept. I have done everything possible to avoid unsealing vintage figures to achieve the effect I am after, and thus far have only done it once – a gift that stipulated I HAD to open it!
The other was more unexpected, and I have to give the honour of opening my eye to the above G1 Red Alert. I photograph toys that I am selling under very basic room lighting conditions and without the gloss of my usual light tent photography. I don’t want anyone to think the pictures have been touched up or post-produced in a way to deceive them about the condition. I don’t even do that with my own toys for blog or gallery photography, but some folks will never understand that there is no such thing as a metallic filter, and when it comes to toy sales, you have to take perception seriously. Even moreso when the toys are vintage.
However, just for the sake of it, I decided to do some fancy pics of the Red Alert I was selling (a good friend I know in real life was interested, so he would have seen it in person anyway). The result was such that I had to take a moment or ten to appreciate how wonderful the wear and age of the toy looked on him. There was discolouration, sticker wear and minor chrome wear, but the toy somehow wore it as a badge of experience, as a visual reminder of the life it had led. While it was very far from being a junker, some might even describe it as “good condition” on eBay, the effect was there thanks to its charisma.
So, while I still do try to get the figures that match the criteria I have set for myself (which also helps slow down my buying considerably – something I am a big advocate of these days!), there’s a place in my heart for these worn specimens too. Often the fact that they are worn allows me to more easily pick them up and enjoy transforming them without fear of adding wear or affecting that pristine look of perfect stickers and paint.
So, if one cannot get mint originals, there are still things you can do to restore worn specimens without resorting to reproduction stickers or parts. Some of the restoration I have done has included two interesting products. The first has been “Stickerfixer” from Toyhax. This pen allows one to apply adhesive to stickers (even on vintage figures) that have peeling corners in order to secure them fully once more. I have used it on old peeling stickers, on stickers from G1 reissues that I have just applied but won’t stick and the same for freshly applied vintage decals. Very rarely have I not gotten the result I wanted from it, with only very small stickers which had to bend around a surface at 90 degrees or more that offered the greatest resistance.
The other product has been the UK equivalent of “Goo Gone”, something US collectors have used for years. Sticky Stuff Remover is a product that helps remove papery sticker residue left behind when a sticker is peeled off a surface. It has a ton of other uses too, but it is essentially a solvent that I’ve just started to use for removing vintage sticker residue off G1 toys. This has allowed me to buy Transformers I am looking for with good factory stickers, but badly applied, or worn, sticker sheet labels. I’ve started to remove the applied stickers, use Sticky Stuff Remover on the residue and then apply a vintage set of replacement stickers. The process can take days (depending on available time and number of stickers), or even months if I have to source a new sticker sheet. I think you’ll agree that the effort is worth it…
So while I do not plan to expand my collecting criteria to involve more worn and ‘loved’ toys, at least through recent adventures I can at least widen the group of toys I can pick from to add, because to some degree I can correct the sticker issues that plague so many good vintage Transformers that I may otherwise have ignored. It also means I can have some serious love and appreciation for worn G1 Transformers that may not end up in my cabinet, but can have their moment to shine.
All the best