The first few Transformers I ever owned were birthday and Christmas gifts from family. Thus, my early Transformers collection was picked out for me in a combination of what other people thought I would like, coupled with my own subtle and not-so-subtle hints.
It wasn’t until early 1987 that I bought my first Transformers toy myself. But on the whole, the burgeoning collection I had was unique to me and a reflection of my tastes, circumstances, and personality at the time.
Yes, my schoolmates had bigger Transformers toys (like Jetfire and Metroplex) and characters from the comics (like Cyclonus, Hot Rod, and Soundwave) which I naturally envied and wished I had myself. But what they had was unique to them, not me.
I took these photos of my collection as it was, sometime in 1987. I love to look back at these pictures and reflect on what I had. Optimus Prime was a main Christmas present. The Aerialbots/Superion and the Stunticons/Menasor were big gifts. Galvatron was a lucky, one-off sale item. Snarl was a gift from my grandparents (due to my love of dinosaurs). Runamuck was a gift from my mum’s best friend; actually my first Decepticon. Wheeljack was a trade with a neighbour for some Matchbox cars. The rest–Mini-Autobots and Special Teams limbs–were a combination of gifts and what I could afford with my own pocket money.
It was a collection wholly unique to me.
I look back on it with immense gratitude and appreciation. It wasn’t as large as some of my schoolmates’ collections and it wasn’t necessarily filled with all the great characters I loved reading about in the comics. But it was my collection. It was a unique, partly random, partly planned, pick and mix of toys. It was mine.
During the years that I was a completist collector (1995-2002) I came to realise that my collection somehow lost that uniqueness. I went from adding very specific characters to adding entire toy ranges and sub-lines wholesale with very little consideration or thought except for some nebulous “goal” of eventually having them all at some point.
As I was selling off the bulk of my collection in 2016, it became apparent very quickly that there were a few Transformers toys that I couldn’t part with. I kept a handful; ones that held the most sentimental value. They were either the toys/characters I desperately wanted as a kid, or spontaneous ‘bots that I’d picked up, or new surprises that had been given as gifts along the way.
Again, partly planned, partly random, but wholly unique.
Today, I have around 50 Transformers in my (permanent?) vintage collection. Some represent very strong links to my childhood collection (even as far as replacing the ones I’d broken as a kid), others represent my love of the Marvel comic (and one particular one of my fondness of the Japanese Masterforce series), and the rest are gifts from loved ones and random finds in vintage toy shops from my travels abroad and around the UK.
Over the last 12 months my passion for collecting vintage Transformers toys has been revitalised in earnest. And yet, my personal tastes have guided my choices and helped me seek out the characters and sub-groups and designs that genuinely appeal to me. The desire for completist completion is long gone and in its place, an emotional and sentimental draw towards what matters to me personally.
My collection today is as unique to me now as my childhood collection was back then. It’s something I take great joy and gratitude in.
And this joy and appreciation spreads to my friends’ collections as well.
Over the last decade or so, the Transformers toy ranges have spread far and wide and offer so much in the way of diversity. We are all free to choose whichever lines, groups, and characters we like, from the original “G1” toys to those based on the live action movies, to homage lines such as Masterpiece and Generations and more besides!
Through the window of social media and other collectors’ blogs I can view, as a tourist almost, everyone add to, remove from, and otherwise adjust, their own Transformers collection. It’s a genuine joy to watch.
Unless you really are a completist collector (and even then I’ve witnessed bulk sell-offs and collection re-evaulations and re-focusing), your collection will grow and change and be fluid just as you grow and change. It will be as unique as you are. Your collection, as mine does, will reflect your tastes, circumstances, and personality. Your collection is like your fingerprint or your DNA. Whether you consciously realise it or not, your collection is you.
I believe it to be extremely important to take stock of your collection every once in a while. Take a step back from it, remind yourself of how each Transformers toy found its way into your collection, the shape of your collection as a whole, and appreciate it for what it is and how much it means to you.
The joy of a collection that’s as unique as you are is one of the greatest aspects of Transformers collecting and something to be acknowledged and celebrated.
May your luster never dull, and your wires never cross.
Which pieces in your Transformers collection are unique to your tastes? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!