For as long as I can remember personally, there has been some element of collecting Transformers-related product that included not knowing what you’d be getting. In 2001, Takara released the Super Collection Figure (SCF) Transformers G1 PVC figures which I thought were my first experience of this phenomenon, but actually on reflection, they were not. This week I have a little look at my experiences with the benefits and drawbacks of blind-packed product in the Transformers universe.
My first experience of blind-packed Transformers product was the Panini sticker album in what must have been 1986. I started collecting the sticker packets as a child and like many other kids my age, very quickly ended up with spares of many stickers. I thoroughly enjoyed those stickers and filling up that album, but I do remember being frustrated at a few stickers that would repeatedly surface. The foil stickers (think Inferno, Snarl, Thrust, Optimus etc) were always very sought-after, and doing swaps in the school playground with my friends only got me so far with that album.
Seeing as how many G1 episodes did not get released on VHS in the UK, and how inconsistently the show aired on TV originally, the album and stickers were an excellent way for me to see more of my heroes. The need for me to complete the sticker album eventually drove me to write to Panini and order the missing stickers, something anyone could do as per the instructions at the end of the album. In the case of these stickers, sure it was fun to do swaps, but in the end the drive to have them all was such that I didn’t fancy picking up more and more in WHSmith or any newsagent where my parents would cave, so it’s a real benefit that one could just order the outstanding stickers direct from Panini!
As mentioned at the start of the article, the Takara SCF series of PVC figurines were something I started to collect – like many other collectors – in 2001. These were hugely popular at the time, being some of the only new G1-based (let alone show accurate) product we had apart from the odd early reissue. I believe this was the first series of releases that ever officially used the phrase “Generation 1”, too. Now, most sellers would open these anyway so you often knew what you were getting, meaning that the clear figures and later the pewter figures would almost always sell last, after the coloured ones. Chase figures were nice and rare, so it was a case of buying whole boxes of PVCs in order to try and get them cheaper, or at all. I never did find or purchase the Act 2 translucent Rodimus with Matrix chase figure.
To quote TFWiki, “Chase figures were found randomly dispersed in each wave, typically one chase per every 10 cases. Some were repaints of existing figures, but many were new or retooled molds. Act Three through Act Eight added pieces to construct larger-scale characters to the mix. Yes, pieces: each of these large figures were split up into six sets of parts, packed in with half the figures in the case, one per character (whether they were packed with the color or clear/pewter versions varied from Act to Act). Assembling an entire large figure took luck, and as all of these chase pieces could come in both full-color and clear/pewter versions.”
The main drawback of these for me was that I’d always end up with undesirable clear and pewter versions of characters that nobody wanted to buy, especially if I bought entire cases to find the chase figures. This got even more annoying when the chase figures ended up being larger characters split up among the boxes. Metroplex was one of this kind, and in order to avoid that situation I went ahead and plonked down a silly amount on eBay for the first complete one that a seller had assembled. This will always be the case with blind-packed figures, some are more desirable than others, and will hang around long after the sought-after ones are sold and you’ve got what you want.
Between 2002 and 2004, Takara released reissues of the Operation Combination G1 Micromaster Sixcombiners; they were Sixliner, Sixtrain, Sixturbo, Sixwing and Sixbuilder. The reissues were not exactly the same as the originals, and they included brand new exclusive chase figures. While the individual Micromasters themselves were not blind packed, the chase versions were. So you could see through the little aperture on the box front of each Micromaster which figure it was, numbered 1 to 6. However, in each case of 12, two of the regular coloured Micromaster figures replaced with chase exclusive coloured versions.
As with the PVCs, many sellers opened the boxes in order to sell people exactly what they wanted, as well as making sure they were able to construct and sell full chase-coloured combiners to collectors who didn’t fancy going through case after case of blind-packed exclusives in order to assemble white Sixwing, black Sixturbo, green/purple Sixbuilder or red Sixtrain. While these were very widely bought and more available back on release, nowadays it is proving very hard to track down individual chase parts. Having chosen to collect them one by one and wherever I find them – not that there are complete ones for sale floating about anyway – I am definitely finding it a challenge to complete these sets today. Just last month I bought a set of three sealed Sixturbo Micromasters in the hope that the No.1 figure from the set is the black chase version, despite the very difficult odds!
This set of 12 UK exclusive Universe Mini-cons were blind-packed with fizzy jelly sweets. I had to buy quite a few sets to assemble a complete run of 12, and as a result had a number of spare sets too which I sold to overseas collectors. I also ended up eating copious amounts of those fizzy sweets! What made this set tricky to complete was that each display box contained 10 blind-packed Mini-cons, but there was even a likelihood of duplicates within each box. There were many extras.
From my old Forgotten Corners article: “The Autobots in the set are red tank ‘Heavytread’, orange construction vehicle ‘Backstop’, police car ‘Flatfoot’, red 4×4 ‘Bodyblock’, blue muscle car ‘Makeshift’ and purple dump truck ‘Knockdown’. Bodyblock’s orange suspension parts were exclusive to the UK release. The Decepticons were green motorcycle ‘Blight’, green dragon ‘Brimstone’, grey jet ‘Boltflash’, yellow hazard vehicle ‘Suppressor’, green helicopter ‘Cloudraker’ and blue jet ‘Skyhammer’. The UK set had an exclusive green Brimstone, Blight had a different stamping tampographed on, Cloudraker had a remoulded two-piece rotor blade system and Skyhammer often had the engines assembled wrongly.”
Other blind-packed figures I recall buying included the World’s Smallest Transformers, but they were very much after the fact and I found enough opened ones to be able to nab what I wanted without ever ending up with spares. It’s not all drawbacks, though, as my memories of swapping stickers from childhood are fond ones. Also, with the Universe Mini-cons, their good availability and cheap price meant that it was never any real hassle to complete a set. The sweets were welcome too! Typically, all blind-packed figures should be cheap in order to lessen the feeling of frustration when one ends up with duplicates that are not desirable. Ultimately, a collector like myself will always strive to complete sets such as those featured above, so while the attraction is undeniable, often the desire to have them all means I’ll fork out eventually for what I’m missing. My own personal leaning is towards no blind-packed figures in future, and while it means I am not attracted to the newer Decoy-style Keshi Surprise blind-packed Transformers figures or the Transformers Card Game, the hilarious Bot Bots will absolutely swallow me whole despite my dislike of the blind packed format.
Many kind thanks to Brandon Yap, Kit Tang and James Wilson for picture contributions.
All the best