YEAR IN REVIEW: Counting down the top 10 toys of 2019 (vintage edition) – part three!

We’re back for the third and final part of my review of the best vintage toys I picked up during last year, all handily summarised in the form of a top 10! If you missed them, be sure to check out part 1 and part 2 of this list first, before continuing below. All that remains is to count down my final 3 vintage toys from the last twelve months, with a couple of special mentions along the way. Here we go!

 

#3: Protectobots (1986)

Combiner teams are a staple part of the nostalgia many of us feel for the Transformers line from back in the day, as well as being one of the main sources of debate amongst the fandom. Which combiner is best is a regular hot topic, but personally I’ll always go to bat for unsung heroes, the Protectobots. They’re just wonderful in every mode, not to mention that exceptional gestalt package.

Woof. I’d be yearning to own a G1 Defensor again for some time, and had made it my mission to collect these guys in truly mint condition. It actually turned out to be way easier than I expected, particularly as I was happy to go for the European-exclusive gold carded Classics reissues from 1991 (as opposed to the 1986 originals which would’ve been another story). This meant I was able to pick up the whole squad MOSC and stickers unapplied, which made unpacking and assembling the team a joy indeed.

Hot Spot is just about as perfect a vintage Transformer as I think I ever did see. That powder blue is to die for, and the simplicity of the design belies the sheer presence and good looks that this guy is boasting.

I have very fond memories of this toy as a kid, so it’s a thrill to finally own him again in such tip top nick. Even as a standalone ‘bot, he’s a real dream come true.

First Aid is one of the more memorable combiner limbs from the supporting fiction for his depiction as a pacifist in the G1 cartoon, and his toy is no slouch either. Despite being the plastic chest version, it’s hard not to adore this little guy.

Applying the stickers on these lads, I paid particularly attention to lining everything up really nicely, being sure to maximise on the opportunity of getting a MOSC set. I’m very pleased with the results!

Streetwise may be rocking some slightly odd proportions but he’s still all hunk in my eyes. I particularly like that his head is a different shape and size to the other limbs in this set, on account of it not doubling as his combiner peg like with the rest.

Police car Transformers are always a treat, and Streetwise is no exception. What a perk it is to see this guy in such immaculate condition.

Blades is another one I have fond memories of from when I was a kid, but I certainly couldn’t claim that my old copy was as nice as this. It’s one of the rare childhood specimens that remained in my possession until relatively recently, but it was well-loved, let’s say that much!

The helicopter made is lovely and looks pretty menacing with those massive cannons mounted on either side, especially for a rescue vehicle!

Groove is often the subject of much ridicule in the fandom but I always kinda dug this goofy lad myself. Yes, he has a massive wheel between his legs and some bizarre proportions, but he’s a loveable little sort all the same.

His vehicle mode is pretty unique too, in that we didn’t really get much in the way of motorcycle ‘bots back in the ’80s. It does mean he’s woefully out of scale with the rest of the team, but hey – if you start caring about things like that then you’re never going to enjoy collecting Transformers!

As I’ve tended to do during my G1 collecting, I waited to find the whole team in the same condition before finally giving them all the once over at the same time. I’ve found it to be a great way to prolong the suspense and give myself some targets to work towards. The reward of unpacking a complete set of Protectobots spoke for itself in this case.

It’s funny but in a world where no-one (official or non) has yet made a Masterpiece-styled modern equivalent for this guy that suits my personal tastes, the G1 version of Defensor holds an even more special place in my heart. I love all of the G1 combiners in their way, but this guy remains the best for me.

I still have to pinch myself at owning these guys again and in such fantastic condition, and for me this remains a highlight of my vintage collecting for last year. In fact it took two very special entries to beat it…

 

#2: Cliffjumper (1984)

It’s a Minibot! Maybe you were expecting something a little bigger or more imposing to come in at the #2 slot? Well, don’t be too surprised, for this guy is nothing short of sheer perfection in my eyes.

I’ve never owned a G1 Cliffjumper before this. I’ve always wanted one, and can distinctly remember coveting the character in toy form even as a kid. Alas, it was never to be, as I kinda missed the boat on the 1984 release and then he was never reissued or even redesigned in another form like many of his contemporaries. Can you imagine an Action Master Cliffjumper?

And so the little red lad remained a mystery to me, one of those toys that I was excited to see more of when the internet became a thing and researching Transformers toys I knew little of was suddenly possible. But again, I never owned one.

Well, until now that is. When I decided to get back into G1 collecting a while ago he went straight near the top of my desirables list, but I made sure to set a high benchmark for the kind of quality I was willing to accept for him.

You see, these little Minibot lads have all kinds of potential wear and tear to consider, and the Cliffjumper mould especially. Additionally, these are toys that often got quite the battering when being played with by children in the ’80s, as they’re so small they frequently ended up inside pockets, bags and just generally being dragged around everywhere!

I knew that I wanted to find a Cliffjumper with secure arms that didn’t flop around, for example, which is actually way harder than it sounds. Those arms being loose is so common that a lot of sellers just kinda assume that that’s the norm and don’t even bother with listing it as a potential problem, so I made sure to be very thorough.

I also decided that I wanted to try and find a “pre-rub” specimen, specifically meaning a very early 1984 release before the Transformers line adopted rubsigns to show each robots faction. I’m generally not all that fussed about pre-rub as a standard to achieve, but something about this mould (and Bumblebee) just works better for me with a proper decal instead of the rubsign.

The list didn’t end there, though, as I also wanted uncracked and decent condition tyres, no chrome wear or rust on the head section or wheels, and unblemished and uncracked paint on the back. I think more than one potential seller must have thought I was nuts for asking for so much detail.

But hey, that thorough approach (and a big dollop of patience) has more than paid off, as I genuinely couldn’t be happier with this little guy. He’s everything I could have wanted since I was little, and is in even better condition that I probably thought was achievable.

It’s definitely made me want to track down a better condition Bumblebee (both the red and yellow versions!) and made me think that I’ll likely go for the pre-rub version there too, but that’s a quest for another time.

Oh, and just like buses, you wait all those years for a Cliffjumper and then 3 pop along! Yep, I also now own this same mould in two other colour schemes – both the bright green Antex variant and the 2002 Botcon-exclusive keychain repaint of Tap-Out. I’m definitely in for the yellow and black keychain versions too.

I’d be remiss if during this gushing ode to the little red chap I didn’t at some point mention that his face sculpt is possibly one of my favourite in all of Transformers ever, right? I mean, just look at that noggin. Few robot toys can claim to be this handsome.

So yes, he might be a simple little Minibot, but Cliffjumper has totally won me over and remains one of my favourite pieces of collecting from the last 12 months. I still regularly pick him up for a little fiddle and find myself marvelling at just how charming he is.

Oh, and considering what a mishmash the Micro Change moulds are versus a lot of the Diaclone-inherited toys, it’s quite simply amazing to see that they work so well together. The sight of little Cliff’ next to the rest of Optimus’ team in G1 form is a dream come true.

So there you go. I almost could have given CJ the top spot, I’ve been so enamoured with him, but that honour was reserved for a truly special ‘bot this year…

 

SPECIAL MENTION: Action Master Tracks (1991)

Before we come to my #1 it’s time to look at a couple of special mentions – toys that were a collecting dream come true but were just edged out by the other entries on the list. First up is Tracks, who, as I’m typing this, I actually can’t believe I didn’t put on the list proper. But hey, I already included so many Action Masters that it could very well have been a bit of a monopoly this year, so choices had to be made! That doesn’t mean he’s not wonderful though, and he yet further proves my belief that Tracks always gets one of the best toys in any line.

 

SPECIAL MENTION: Action Master Elites (1991)

As with Tracks these chaps were a challenging omission for me, particularly as it’s been a real treat to finally experience these toys. I’ve long been fascinated by the Action Master Elites, ever since I first learned of their existence all those years ago, but haven’t been at all disappointed with them in hand.

Windmill and the bafflingly-named Omega Spreem are both absolute treasures, but I think it’s the Decepticons Turbo Master and Double Punch who really make the biggest impression for me. They’re just so wonderfully weird and of-their-time that I can’t help but adore them.

 

SPECIAL MENTION: Dinobots (1985)

OK, full disclosure – Slag and Sludge here really deserved a place in the top ten, and by all rights would have made it if my own internal logic allowed me to include them. You see, I assembled a wonderful set of MIB vintage Dinobots and promptly started a series of articles about the experience by writing the first part on these two… but I haven’t finished them yet! So I kinda want to complete the unboxing and documenting of the rest of the line-up before allowing them for consideration next year. I know, it doesn’t make much sense, but it’s how my brain works as it approaches vintage collecting. Anyway, you can read more about these chaps in the first part of that series here.

 

SPECIAL MENTION: G2 Aerialbots & Combaticons (1994)

I mentioned above that I like to collect things in teams, right? Well so it was with these two sets of wonderfully-garish ’90s combiner teams, neither of which I’d ever owned before despite being overly familiar with the moulds in other colours. Of the Combaticons, Onslaught in particular is a wonder to behold with his vibrant yellow finish.

In fact both line-ups and their wacky colour schemes are great, although it’s perhaps the Aerialbots that get even more cred, both for being otherwise under-utilised toys and for how risky a complete set is once you factor in the GPS-riddled Slingshot. It’s for this reason that I will sadly not even attempt to combine them into G2 Superion without subbing in G1 Slingshot for arm duty. Still, it’s nice to (very carefully) admire him in robot mode!

 

SPECIAL MENTION: Micromaster Landcross (2003)

And for my final special mention I humbly submit this wonderful lad as one of the more unusual but truly fun and underrated designs from the whole of G1. Seriously, if you want to have yourself an enjoyable afternoon, grab yourself a copy of this set and crank through all of the various modes and combinations that can be made of the individual figures on offer here, before finally assembling Landcross himself and marvelling at what a stunner he really is. I picked up the 2003 reissue over the Victory original, but either way he’s a top ‘bot.

 

And now we come to my favourite vintage toy from 2019 and hoo boy…

#1: Victory Deszaras (1989)

So, look… it was always gonna have to be something super special to claim the gold spot over some of the other stuff I’ve collected in 2019, right? I mean, there has been some truly spectacular stuff going on, so what could top all that? Three words – ROBOT DEATH CHICKEN.

Yes, I went and got myself a Deszaras (or Deathsaurus to you and me). I’d had my eye on this lovely lad for a long time and especially so after picking up Victory Saber, who comfortably earned my top spot for last year. But as usual with me there were several key factors to consider, not least of which was finding one in tip-top nick but also at an acceptable price tag.

You see, ol’ Deathy here can be a pricey bugger, so it took me a bit of time to find a seller who was firstly willing to indulge my list of requirements for information and additional pictures to confirm the condition of the toy, but was also open to haggle and take an offer. Mission finally accomplished, and I could not be happier with him.

That weird kaiju dragon mode is equal parts completely ridiculous and undeniably awesome, and looks eye-catching to the max with it’s blinging silver noggin and gold beak. Of all the quality conditions I had to consider, the chrome was paramount.

If the alt’ mode is bizarre then the robot mode is just as ludicrously-proportioned and also kinda silly in its way, but still there’s a charm to this thing that I just can’t deny. He’s big and chunky and loveable and represents everything I adore about G1 Transformers.

For starters, that face sculpt oozes menace, and catches the light so wonderfully despite the weird poker visor he’s sporting. I love the additional eyes on his forehead and the quirky half-smirk he has going on.

Then there’s the gimmicks. As the leader of the rather unfortunately named Breastforce, he features a duo of robotic animal partners contained within his chest, which can either be used to give him his default buff and horny look or deployed for additional antics.

The partners themselves are classic G1 stuff, both goofy and loveable and yet still somehow kinda cool. They have a sort of upscaled Laserbeak and Ravage quality to them, somehow.

Tigerbreast looks approximately nothing like a tiger that I’ve ever seen but is still a wonderful little thing to behold.

Eaglebreast is rocking a wicked bird headsculpt and a striking red colour scheme. Both of these lads can form weapons for Deathsaurus also.

Alternatively they can be used to give him different breastplates in robot mode. He has so many looks!

Somehow he almost seems a little naked without them in place, although I still don’t think I’d tell him that to his face!

So yes, there’s a lot of fun to be had here, which is only slightly hampered by the ever-present knowledge that this is a toy that requires a bit of care and attention if not only for how sought-after it can be. It certainly feels like a huge honour to add him to the collection, after considering him to be a big grail for a long time now.

In the first part of this article I mentioned how there was an increasingly rare thrill that came from experiencing previously-unknown G1 toys for the first time, and Deathsaurus is most definitely a great example of this. He’s a figure I’ve coveted for years but still can’t quite believe I actually own now.

As I’ve also said, I’m increasingly aware that the list of remaining toys I’ve yet to experience from the original line is quickly diminishing, so it makes moments like this all the more special somehow as I seek to savour every last bit of joy from holding such a specimen in hand.

Perhaps for that reason above all others it seemed like the right thing to award the top spot to Deathsaurus, in much the same way that it did with Victory Saber last year. The experience of exploring a toy like this cannot be underestimated, after all.

However it helps that he’s such a total joy to handle from start to finish, and so quirky and strange that I just find myself enamoured with him in every way. He’s a true joy and represents the single biggest highlight of my collecting in 2019.

So there you go, that’s my list complete. If you’ve stuck with me this far then thank you for reading, and I hope you’ve enjoyed the pictures along the way! Here’s to the year ahead and hoping that it’s a prosperous one for us all.

TTFN

About Sixo

Transformers photographer & blogger from the UK with quite a well-known carpet. Collects both vintage G1/G2 and Masterpiece/3P.

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