I have been collecting Transformers toys for nearly 35 years. The adventure started on Christmas Day in 1984 when I received Optimus Prime, my first Transformers toy.
As of the beginning of June, 2018–after countless trips to toy shops around the world, many visits to various conventions, and receiving numerous gifts from friends and loved ones for over 3 decades–I had a grand total of about 10 vintage Transformers toys.
Wait. That doesn’t really make much sense. I’d better explain.
And by explaining, I mean I’ll give a very brief history of my Transformers collecting adventure so far!
Over the years, it’s occurred to me that I have tended to collected Transformers toys in (discrete but slightly overlapping) phases.
The Transformers I had between 1984 and 1988 were what I would class as Phase 1, my childhood phase. These toys were mainly birthday and Christmas gifts given to me by my parents, extended family, and close family friends. The others, I bought for myself (along with the weekly Marvel UK Transformers comic) with limited pocket money funds.
This is perhaps my most cherished phase; I didn’t choose very many of these toys myself, and so the selection of characters I had on my shelves were random and unplanned. But they were the ones that captured my childhood imagination in a way that no Transformers toys have ever done since!
In the early 1990s I was a teenager and, with the help of a few part time jobs (such as washing cars and working in a supermarket), had a lot more money for Transformers. Hasbro released its “Classics” line of reissues of earlier Transformers and this led me to see these toys less as characters from the Marvel comics to be played with and more as collectibles to be kept in good condition and neatly displayed. The Classics range turned me into a Transformers collector.
During this second phase, I laid my hands on as many Classics as I could and scoured car boot sales to supplement what I couldn’t find on toy shelves. I used the contents page of the Transformers Universe book as a sort of checklist of all the 1984-1986 characters.
In 1995 I discovered the “Transmasters UK (TMUK)” fan club and it took my hobby to a new level. I was making my own fanzines, and making and meeting up with new friends who shared my passions. It also put me in touch with fellow collectors and made tracking down all the Transformers that were never officially released in the UK a lot easier!
The introduction of Beast Wars in 1996 led me to evolve from a regular Transformers collector into a “completist” collector. I’d describe this as the third phase!
I was at university at the time and, thanks to a friend in Canada, bought up all of the Transformers/Beast Wars related product that, thanks to being introduced to the Internet, I knew existed. I bought everything… even toys and characters (and even Takara repaints of Hasbro toys) I had no genuine interest in, just so I could have a complete range or sub-line.
By the time of Hasbro’s Robots in Disguise line in 2002, something clicked and I stopped being a completist. (I was in Forbidden Planet on New Oxford Street about to buy the RiD repaint of Beast Machines Obsidian when I stopped dead in my tracks and quietly put it back.)
About this time, Takara (and eventually Hasbro) started reissuing the original Transformers. With the timely proliferation of eBay and online toy stores, it was so easy to pre-order everything that was announced and then wait for it to arrive. This was Phase 4.
By this point, I had very few “genuine” original Transformers as I was replacing the older, poor condition ones from my collection with pristine new reissues. Along with acquiring new “legacy character” lines such as Binaltech and Masterpiece online, my collecting adventure went onto auto-pilot as announcement became pre-order, which became arrival and eventually a cloud of apathy descended upon me and my collection.
There were a few highlights during the fourth phase: I still referred to my Transformers Universe checklist and I made efforts to track down those that hadn’t been reissued at that point and who I had wanted to own since childhood, such as Trypticon, Jetfire, and Metroplex.
At the beginning of 2014, this last phase came to an end. Collecting Transformers had stopped being a hobby and was now a habit. I stopped buying Transformers almost completely. I had amassed a pile of unopened toys and there was no enthusiasm to do anything more with them than to simply open them to look at then put them away again.
In late 2015 I decided to sell off my collection and it took the first six months of 2016 to complete the task.
During that time, I took an interest in Hasbro’s Generations Titans Return line and had a lot of fun of going back into (offline!) toy shops and buying (but not collecting!) Transformers again. This would have been the fifth phase, as short lived as it was. I moved those toys on to new homes very quickly. As fun as modern Transformers are, I don’t feel very much attachment towards them and there’s certainly no desire to keep them.
I also started writing “Collecting Stories” articles on my blog. I wrote about how much joy and excitement Transformers had given me during my childhood and it resonated with me and a lot of fellow collectors.
After all, it was because of those initial memories of my toys and comics from 1984-1988 (my childhood phase) that I became a collector in the 1990s and why I continued to buy reissue after reissue (and related “legacy” lines) well into my adult years.
I reached 40 years old last year and I took some time out to do some introspective thinking. Part of that process reminded me of the immense amount of gratitude I felt towards my hobby and how important it is to have a healthy one.
I owe Transformers as a whole hobby, and the friends I’ve made because of it, a great deal.
This summer, a chance visit to a vintage toy shop unexpectedly re-ignited my love of Transformers once more (tellingly, it was seeing that 1990s Classics packaging that had a lot to do with it). On that particular trip, and on a subsequent separate trip to a similar shop, and during the very recent TFNation 2018 convention, I very excitedly picked up more vintage Transformers.
By serendipity I’ve now found myself entering an entirely new phase of Transformers collecting. I can honestly say that I haven’t felt this passionate about my hobby for many, many years.
I’ve had pretty much a clean slate for the last few years and by actually walking into a shop (or visiting a dealer at a convention) and seeing what they have to offer by pure chance, instead of pre-planning purchases and pre-ordering new releases, has recreated a lot of the nostalgia associated with my cherished childhood phase (It’s Phase 1 all over again!) of my hobby.
Instead of knowing what to expect from a procession of pre-orders, it’s been like discovering treasure and I am once again enjoying a random and unplanned selection of characters on my shelves, very similar to how I experienced Transformers as a child.
The adventure continues, very much renewed this time, and I hope to document it as best I can here on the Collecting Stories blog. I sincerely hope that you’ll share this new phase of my adventure with me!
May your luster never dull, and your wires never cross!