This year Hasbro’s line of Transformers toys is celebrating its 35th anniversary. This means that I have been collecting Transformers toys for 35 years so far.
35 years. That’s… that’s a lifetime. For a toy line (buoyed of course by numerous comic book series, television shows, blockbuster movies, and jigsaw puzzles) to last this long is a breathtaking achievement. And that’s an understatement.
Just consider all the hundreds of thousands (or likely millions by now!) of people of all ages, all across the world whose imagination has been sparked by the Transformers toys, characters, and stories.
My adventure started on Christmas Day in 1984 when I received Optimus Prime, my first Transformers toy. I was seven years old at the time.
I never saw the Transformers cartoon at the time, but I was introduced to the Marvel UK comics by a friend in late 1985 and, along with the Ladybird books/cassettes, got a general idea of the main characters and their history.
The Transformers toys I had between 1984 and 1988 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 comic) with limited pocket money funds.
Those first four years contain my most cherished memories of the Transformers; I didn’t choose very many of the 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 done since!
For those four years I was in a world of my own: a dreamy after-school mix of the stories I read in the Transformers comic and Ladybird books, the toys themselves, and my own imagination.
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 more money for Transformers. By this point I was deemed by others as too old for toys like 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.
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 1993 I was reinvigorated again with the arrival of the Transformers: Generation 2 toys and (short-lived) comic book.
In 1995 I discovered the “Transmasters UK (TMUK)” fan club and it took my hobby to a new level. I was creating my own printed fanzines, and making and meeting up with new friends who shared my passions. It also put me in touch with fellow collectors worldwide 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 was at university at the time and 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.
Starting in the year 2000, Takara (and eventually Hasbro) started reissuing the original Transformers. With the timely proliferation of eBay and online toy stores, it became very, very easy to pre-order everything that was announced and then wait for it to arrive.
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 eventually went onto autopilot as announcement became pre-order, which became arrival. Soon, a cloud of apathy descended upon me and my collection.
I still referred to my Transformers Universe checklist and I made efforts to track down those toys that hadn’t been reissued at that point and that I’d wanted to own since childhood, such as Trypticon, Jetfire, and Metroplex.
At the beginning of 2014, 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 out of curiosity and then put 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.
But that wasn’t the end of my adventure.
I started writing “Collecting Stories” articles to go with the comic book reviews on my blog. I wrote about how much joy and excitement Transformers had given me during my childhood and it resonated with a lot of fellow collectors.
After all, it was because of those initial memories of my toys and comics from 1984-1988 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 was drawn to 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.
I went to the first TFNation convention and the enthusiasm and passion for all things Transformers from the organisers and attendees was infectious. Transformers was in their blood. I came to realise it was, and always would be, in mine too.
I reached 40 years old in 2017 and I took some time out to do some deeply 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 especially the friends I’ve made because of it, a great deal.
Last year, a chance visit to a vintage toy shop unexpectedly re-ignited my love of collecting Transformers toys once more. On that particular trip, and on a subsequent separate trip to a similar shop, and during the TFNation 2018 convention, I very excitedly picked up more vintage Transformers.
I can honestly say now that I haven’t felt this passionate about my hobby for many, many years.
The adventure continues, very much renewed this time. Here’s to the next 35 years!
May your luster never dull, and your wires never cross.