Trimming the Fat: A Toy Story

84aAs most people reading this blog know, I am a huge Transformers fan. I’ve loved the Robots in Disguise since I first laid my eyes on them way back in 1984. Due to the Great Optimus Prime Incident (see my first book for details), I have taken my love for Transformers on into adulthood. One of the most enjoyable aspects of my fandom is reading Transformers toy reviews and viewing galleries. One of my favorite reviewers/photographers/writers is Maz over at the TF Source Blog. He recently wrote about the need for focus as a collector, that there are now simply too many toys to keep up with in a reasonable sized budget.

The article really spoke to me. My collecting urges have changed often through the years. I still have many Transformers toys from when I was a kid, and added many more from the Transformers series that were on the air when my kids were growing up (RiD and the Unicron Trilogy, mainly). There was a phase when I felt compelled to purchase every single Optimus Prime toy that came out. Sporadically, I filled in gaps in my G1 collection as best I could. When I could afford them, I grabbed the more expensive, adult oriented Masterpiece toys. There are always cool new Transformers on the local shelves, and I generally pick up those that interest me, even slightly. I ended up with a very scattered collection, with some great individual pieces, but no coherence or harmony in sum total.

84dI decided to look at my collection with a critical eye, and get rid of what I didn’t need in order to truly focus on what I wanted. First of all, my priority was Generation One toys. My collection would include the toys that I had as a kid, and also those I didn’t have but really wanted. As a fan from the very start, Transformers characters from the first two years of the toyline and cartoon are the most important to me. Optimus Prime, Prowl, and the rest are, in my view, the most desirable Transformers ever made. Due to budget constraints, I have reached a compromise, mixing cheaper reissue toys in with originals as needed. There’s no reason to pay a premium for a minty original when a reissues can be obtained at a more reasonable price.

One of my original goals as a collector was getting all the Transformers released in 1984, but I never quite finished it. About five years ago, I obtained a Huffer, and that completed my ’84 Autobots. For the Decepticons, I lacked only Frenzy and Rumble, the two humanoid cassettes. These two aren’t particularly expensive, but it seemed there was always something else taking up my toy money each month. And so, though I was very close, I never did pick them up. With my newfound emphasis on focus, I made it my #1 mission to obtain these two toys. The complete ’84 toyline would be the foundation upon which my new, streamlined collection would be built.

Photo May 15, 9 38 39 PMWhat next, then? For years, I’d considered completing the 1985 toyline to be out of my budget. Many more toys were released in 1985, for one thing. Additionally, several of them never got reissued, including the Dinobots and Shockwave. On the other hand, I had lucked into a few decent pieces, notably a lot containing two Dinobots and Jetfire as well as dozens of other lesser finds for $100. It turned out that of the forty toys on the list, I needed less than ten. Completing the ’85 toyline would be my secondary priority.

What about 1986, and beyond? At this point in my childhood, I had moved on from Transformers. I had moved on to G.I. Joe heavily in ’85 and ’86. After that, I was in junior high and more interested in computers and Dungeons & Dragons than toys. Still, due to the original movie, 1986 was a high point for the Transformers, and some great toys were released that year. I decided to obtain G1 originals of only the characters from the movie. I also added in Metroplex and Trypticon, since I already owned the former and always loved the Mechagodzilla look of the latter. These would be the only G1 original toys that I would actively seek out to add to my complete ’84 and ’85 collection.

For the remainder of the ’86 line, and all the toys that were released thereafter, I would be content with newer releases of the characters. Nearly all the major characters from G1 have shown up, often repeatedly, in the Transformers releases of the past decade. A good example would be the ’86 combiners, which have now been wonderfully remade in the Combiner Wars series. With the beautiful new versions of Defensor and Bruticus on my shelves, I feel no need for hunting down all the pieces for the G1 originals. Honestly, those original toys weren’t great in the first place. Generally speaking, I find the Diaclone and Microman based toys from the early years superior to the Transformers-specific releases of later years. It doesn’t make much sense for me to spend time and money tracking down old toys I have no affinity for, simply to check a box off on a spreadsheet. (Yes, I track my toys on a spreadsheet, and yes, I know that is nerdy.) I am totally fine with new toys that are improved versions of these classic characters.

Photo May 15, 9 38 58 PMOnly one decision was left to be made: what about the Masterpiece line? I already owned nearly all the ’84 Decepticons, lacking only Megatron, as MP Megs wasn’t really a Masterpiece in my estimation. Optimus and Prowl were my favorite two G1 toys, so I had them as MPs, as well as the beautiful blue Bluestreak. After mulling it over, I decided to limit myself to Masterpiece versions of only the ’84 toys. I might possibly expand this to the Season 1 cast, depending on what the official releases turn out to be. Shockwave looks really nice, for instance, and I already own Grimlock, but there’s no telling whether they’ll finish the Dinobots or Insecticons as Masterpieces. Only time will tell.

A brief note about third party toys: I don’t own any right now, and don’t see that changing anytime soon. The only exception might be addon kits and that sort of thing. I would love to pick up alternate feet for all my CW Combiners, for instance. For a budget oriented collector like myself, third party toys are too expensive relative to the official releases. I’d rather put my funds toward the legitimate toys instead.

Here’s the TL;DR of what I decided to focus on from this point forward, in handy bullet point form.

  • G1: All ’84, All ’85, Movie only ’86
  • “Classics”: pretty much anything I like
  • Masterpiece: All ’84

thumb (1)Once my focus had been decided, I took a long, hard look at my collection for toys that didn’t fit. It didn’t take long to find some candidates for removal. Several years ago, a coworker gave me a box of G1 Transformers, including several Headmasters. These were in really nice shape, good toys, but I have little appreciation for them. I didn’t consider their worth, but when I looked them up on sold Ebay listings, I was amazed. Taking some pictures, I offered these toys on a trading group on Facebook. Within a few days, I had arranged a large trade that would fill in many holes in my collection. Frenzy, Rumble, Shockwave, Ramjet, and Micro-X (a good enough Reflector for me) arrived in a huge box of die cast and plastic goodness. In one fell swoop, my ’84 and ’85 G1 Decepticon collections were complete. I literally ran around the house with Shockwave in gun form, zapping everything with his gloriously loud sound effects. It was one of the greatest feelings I’ve had as a collector since I finally got a G1 Optimus Prime toy as an adult (a story I wrote about in my first book).

Did I miss seeing those Headmasters on my shelf? Not really. It’s more than enough to have the pride of having owned them at one point in my life. t turns out this was an excellent decision. All but one of the toys I traded away will be released in the Titans Return toyline later this year. This will allow me to pick versions of these characters up with better engineering and a much more reasonable price tag. I will be more than content with the modern versions of Mindwipe, Chromedome, and the rest sitting on my display shelves.

My new focus on exactly what I’d like my collection to be like has renewed my vigor for Transformers. I feel like my collection is in a very good state, and with a few more strategic additions in the next year or two, will be “complete”, or at least, as complete as it will ever be. I’m sure there will be new toys that come along that I will want to pick up, but the bulk of my collection will remain focused on exactly what really matters to me: the toys that bring back the strongest, fondest memories of playtimes in my past.

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