The original line-up of Transformers toys set the template for the franchise in ways that continue to exist even today, enduring in the hearts and minds of collectors after almost four decades.
Yet there are still many misunderstandings and misconceptions regarding the classic toy line that continue to endure. Here are five examples to help set the record straight.
#5: All the early toys hailed from Diaclone
Yes, I’m sure most people, no matter how casually they collect Transformers, know that the original toys have multiple origins and don’t universally hail from the same Japanese line before Hasbro licensed them. Yet still, many of them are frequently misidentified, to the point where anything pre-TF is often homogeneously referred to as ‘Diaclone’ when the truth is more complex. Roughly only 55% or so of the 1984 range was Diaclone in origin, with the rest hailing from Takara’s alternate Micro Change range of transformable robot designs, all of which represented 1:1 takes on household items. I’ve even seen it suggested that Diaclone and Micro Change were related in some way, to the point of them essentially being the same toy line, but this isn’t true either. That designs such as G1 Optimus Prime stack up so well opposite Megatron is truly coincidental considering their origins and different design philosophies, even if they hail from the same company.
Furthermore, once you move into 1985 territory, things only become much more complicated, with products originating from companies such as Toybox, ToyCo and Takatoku (via Bandai) all thrown into the mix.
#4: GPS is solely related to gold plastic
Ah, gold plastic syndrome; one of the great fears of vintage Transformers collecting! In truth, it affects a lot fewer toys than you might imagine, given its nefarious reputation amongst the fandom, but that doesn’t make it any less horrendous or nerve-wracking when you do finally get your hands on one of the afflicted specimens. However, considering its widely-touted rep, there are countless misconceptions about GPS, a lot of which stem from the misnomer of a name. Firstly, gold plastic syndrome isn’t exclusive to gold plastic. True, that is the most likely to be a problem, but there have been many reported cases of GPS present in other colours, too, most notably green and blue, from time to time. Seriously, if you’ve ever had a G1 Vortex crumble on you, you know what I’m talking about.
Secondly but also importantly, just because a toy is gold in colour doesn’t mean it has GPS. You’ll regularly see collectors worried about more modern specimens having the problem when in reality, it’s fairly localised to a specific era, broadly the late 1980s to the early 2000s (bar a few outliers). Again, you’ll know it if you come across it! For more on GPS, have a read here.
#3: Action Masters killed the line in 1990
Transformers that don’t transform? Puttup! They killed the franchise back in the day, right? Well, no, not quite. At least, it’s not that simple. Yes, the 1990 Action Masters were the final range of toys for the original Transformers line in its native North America, after which it went on hiatus for a good few years before its Generation 2 comeback. However, conflating those two facts is a case of 1+1 making 5, as they aren’t necessarily as directly related as many would have you believe; if anything, it’s a bit chicken and egg. Crucially, Transformers was already on the wane before 1990, having experienced a steady and noticeable sales drop since its 1986 heyday. Six years on shelves was a phenomenal saga for any toy range in the 1980s, and the robots in disguise were not immune to the notion of a lifespan, even if they managed to outlast most of the competition at the time. The reality is that by the time Action Masters rolled out to retail, the line’s fate was all but sealed anyway, and the non-transformable designs were simply one final attempt to reinvigorate sales in whatever way possible. A last hurrah, if you will! Sadly, it wasn’t to be.
Also, consider that Transformers did continue everywhere else in the world, with most territories even being granted a second year of Action Masters before the ongoing range shifted back to transformable toys and beyond. They may not be for everyone, but they don’t deserve the harsh rep they still receive at times.
#2: All G1 toys are always worth big money nowadays
OK, this one is occasionally true, but only sometimes so. There’s a tendency to believe that G1 collecting is tantamount to splashing the cash, requiring an astronomical budget to make any headway towards assembling a decent line-up. Indeed, some examples stray into that territory, especially the likes of many of the scarcer Japanese exclusive toys, more than a few of which even command up to four figures!
Yet, a surprising amount of G1 remains relatively accessible and reasonably priced, considering it’s nearly four decades old. Furthermore, there is a sizeable pocket of toys that could be said to be cheap as chips, regularly popping up in the £5-15 range on the second-hand market, even in reasonably decent nick. Stuff like the Throttlebots, Micromasters, Sparkabots, Firecons, Junior Targetmasters, Jumpstarters, and much more regularly sell for peanuts. A lot of it depends on the kind of condition you’re after, true, and no doubt there are specific parts of G1 that can require a significant budget, but having stacks of disposable cash isn’t necessarily a barrier to entering this world of toys.
#1: The European toys from 1991 onwards are known as G1.5
Finally, we have one of those situations where even though it is accurate that the point in question is technically a misconception, it has become so prolific over the years that there’s undoubtedly an argument to say it’s almost evolved into being the de facto truth somehow. You’ll frequently hear talk about “G1.5” in reference to the European Transformers range that existed from 1991 onwards (after the brand came to a halt in 1990 in North America). It’s a term all too often used to explain what many see as a halfway house between the original line-up of toys (latterly known as G1) and Generation 2. Personally, such an application has never sat all that well with me, if only because it implies the non-American territories throughout the rest of the world carrying the Transformers torch for several years wasn’t quite the real deal, but hey, that’s just me.
Really though, “G1.5” is incorrectly applied if used as an umbrella term for all the toys from 1991 onwards because it was initially coined to only refer to the 1993 range. You see, whilst G1 continued through to ’93 in Europe (and some other bits of the world), Generation 2 had already begun in North America, meaning you had a strange situation where different branding was running concurrently in the same year (although a lot of the European “G1” releases had the G2 Autobot and Decepticon symbols, further compounding the confusion). Furthermore, many of the G1 toys from 1993 were then re-released in 1994 in new packaging and complete with G2 branding, making the whole era feel like one big jumble absent of a clear divide between the two lines. Thus, the term “G1.5” was coined amongst collectors of the time, and it was only later that it was erroneously expanded to include 1991-2.
So that’s our list! What other misconceptions can you think of?