I’d like to take you on a journey.
A little over two years ago I had the privilege of being interviewed for this very blog, where I gave an overview of my collection. If you never saw it, here you go. Looking back, the timing of the article was somewhat ironic as I was already beginning to evolve my collecting parameters behind the scenes, although perhaps I didn’t even know it yet. Whilst the person in that interview had a clear focus on assembling a modern Masterpiece collection, the one who’s writing for you today has since been on a voyage of vintage discovery. And let me tell you, it’s been fun indeed.
I’ll admit it was always somewhat inevitable I’d rekindle my love for the original Transformers line, despite protestations to the contrary over the years. This is not my first foray into vintage Transformers collecting, but it’s certainly my deepest and most considered, having achieved things my younger self would have never thought possible.
Like many collecting stories, mine begins almost by accident, having been tempted by the idea of “one or two reissues” to add as oddities to my overall line-up. e-HOBBY exclusive toys like Fire Guts God Ginrai or Shining Magnus had caught my eye for their sheer weirdness and seemed like harmful examples to pick up for fun and leave it at that. How little did I know, for they turned out to be the gateway drug required to push me deeper, and, whilst expanding my collection has also meant having to hone and make necessary sacrificial choices elsewhere, they’ve remained a core and treasured part of my ranks since.
So where am I now? Well, significantly further along than I probably expected to be, but definitely with a few stories to tell from the experience. Hence, I suppose, the entire purpose of this article, which I intend to become the first in a series exploring what it takes to try and assemble a vintage Transformers collection these days. My plan is to explore different sublines of Generation 1 (and 2!) Transformers as we go, whilst also examining some of the aspects which make collecting like this so much fun (and such a challenge at times). I found focusing on sublines was a good (and achievable) way to approach putting a collection of this nature together, so it makes sense to treat the articles in a similar fashion.
I should definitely start by saying I don’t profess to be an expert; I am just another fan with a camera and a bucket of enthusiasm waffling on about toys that they’ve picked up from over 30 years ago. Oh, and if you were wondering what the ultimate purpose of this is then make no mistake – it’s entirely selfish. For me, a huge chunk of the enjoyment from collecting (and perhaps even a little catharsis) comes from sharing stories and photographs as I go, so I can’t pretend the road we’re about to tread together isn’t a personal one, first-and-foremost. However, since I started down that road I’ve also spoken to so many people on a similar journey, so I hope there’s some resonance to be had.
Anyway, I thought a good place to start this series is to establish some of the key lessons I’ve learnt over the past two years. I wouldn’t necessarily call them “rules” (collecting doesn’t need the fun sucking out of it, after all!), but perhaps guidelines I know I also need to remind myself of every now and then (again, this is entirely personal!).
First – set clear standards. What condition do you want your collection to be in? Is “mint” or flawless important to you, or are you happy with somewhat rough-and-ready? Do you care about having boxes (and what condition do they need to be in), or are loose toys more your thing? Are you looking for perfect toys to begin with, or do you like the idea of finding knackered older specimens which need a bit of restoration and care? I can’t answer these questions for you, but it’s important to figure out what you want for your vintage collection in the very early stages. I know I’ve made a few missteps in this regard, such as picking a couple of loose European Motorvators with significant sticker and play-wear before quickly realising they didn’t fit the bill for me. They’ve since been re-sold and replaced but it’s still one of a couple of examples of how I came to figure out what standards were right for me. Know what you’re looking for and don’t settle for less.
Second – be thorough. In some ways this goes hand-in-hand with the first point, but it’s crucial to leave no question unanswered in vintage toy collecting. The name of the game is buying stuff second-hand, so it’s up to you to make sure you know what you’re getting. If the description is a bit light or the photos don’t tell you much, ask for more information. If something looks too good to be true then what’s the catch? I know all-too-well how a sense of excitement at a potentially great find can influence a buying decision, only to turn to disappointment later on. Study all the evidence available and make sure you’re definitely happy before you commit to buy.
Third – be creative. I’ve lost count of the number of times people have asked me where I find vintage stuff and the initial answer is very simple – anywhere and everywhere! Whilst eBay will always be the largest treasure trove of old toys, that is definitely not the only way to go. There are plenty of places online which specialise in vintage toy collecting, even those which stock just one or two Transformers. So if you have time, and you’re happy to hunt, then who knows what you might find? I think the extremely-cheap MISB Pointblank I picked up online after I found it using a random Google Images search is perhaps the best example to illustrate my point, but there are many more. I’ve also found it works really well to strike up a rapport with sellers and establish yourself as a reliable buyer, such that they come back to you the next time they have something they want to offload. I have a few key contacts who I can thank for at least a decent share of what is now my vintage collection, even though that didn’t happen all at once.
Fourth – budget carefully. Perhaps this goes without saying, but it’s so important maybe it should have been number one! Simple fact – vintage collecting can be a pricey affair, particularly if not done with due care and attention, so know what you’re willing to pay for stuff and stick to it. I mentioned eBay before and whilst there is an abundance of vintage toys to be found there, it’s also fair to say it’s not all reasonably priced. Have a look to see what stuff actually sold for (not just what it’s being listed at), and don’t be afraid to make offers you think are reasonable. Equally, if something is just too much money then be prepared to walk away. Of course there will always be the once-in-a-blue-moon, couldn’t-say-no-type purchases that simply can’t be missed, in which case it’s not a bad plan to have a bit of cash tucked to one side. If that means “liquidating” toys from elsewhere in your collection in order to free up funds, then why not consider that option? I found moving on a few bits and bobs I no longer focused on was a great way to give my vintage collecting a boost, but also to clear some space for when the new stuff arrived!
And finally, fifth – take your time and enjoy it! Again, this might sound obvious but toy collecting is supposed to be a fun hobby! If ever it feels like you’re doing it out of obligation or – perhaps, worse – FOMO (that’s “fear of missing out” to you and me) then have yourself a cup of tea, go for a long walk and take in real life for a moment. The toys will still be there when you’re ready to enjoy the whole thing again. Equally, try to think of how best to interact with, and appreciate, your purchases. I already mentioned that I take as much enjoyment from photographing and writing about my collection as I do from the toys themselves, and having a social aspect where you can share and celebrate personal successes is definitely fun too! Ultimately though, it’s whatever works for you as long as you find it fulfilling.
So there you go – some important life lessons from he-who-is-so-wise. I mean, it’s not like I ever break any of those guidelines myself now, is it? Ah well, they say to err is human, and at least I can honestly say I’m having fun whilst I’m doing it, eh? Speaking of, perhaps it’s time for me to cut the waffle and showcase what I plan on using as the subject for the next few articles in this series, as there’s definitely a lot of enjoyment to be had here. I mentioned above that it’s been some time since I started collecting by subline, and it was only very recently I completed one particular journey which began some time ago… behold!
Yes, a complete MIB set of vintage Dinobots! They’re all in stellar condition and with stickers unapplied. This whole endeavour started with a desire to fulfil a childhood ambition and own a G1 Swoop toy for the first time ever, as the toy was never released in the UK when I was little and I’d never seen fit to acquire one since. Since he arrived I decided I wanted to keep him for kind of a special occasion to open him (as bizarre as that sounds), and over time that kind of morphed into the notion of picking up all five Dinos before unboxing them together in one majestic blaze of glory. Having only recently completed the gang with Snarl, it seemed like perfect fodder to get these articles started, and in an almost serendipitous discovery I happened to note it was exactly a year since the Swoop purchase was made. Perhaps it was always meant to be. Or perhaps robot dinosaurs are just so cool my brain really wanted it to happen, eh?
Either way, I hope you’ve enjoyed this first in the series of articles, and you’ll be back next time to kick off our Dinobot discovery and beyond.