I received Bumblebee for my 8th birthday in September 1985. That particular birthday was remarkable for several reasons: it was the first birthday I had since my parents had separated and thus it was the first birthday I had since moving to a new country, a new home, and a new school. In fact, my 8th birthday fell on the day after the first day of the new school year.
Transformers always seemed to have a reputation for being the most “expensive” of all the transforming robot toy ranges that appeared in the mid- to late-1980s and I had a hard time convincing my parents that they were worth it.
Budgets were very tight at home when I was a kid. Phrases like “single parent family” and “free school meals” haunted me throughout term time and, coupled with the odd spell of bullying, school was generally hell. But Hasbro provided the silver lining to that particular dark cloud with their pocket money sub-range: Mini-Autobots!
While it often felt like school-mates were getting Optimus Primes and Megatrons just for behaving themselves at the dentist, I was actually just happy and so, so grateful to receive a Mini-Autobot for my birthday or Christmas or while on holiday.
I got Bumblebee for my birthday in 1985, Powerglide that Christmas and after that, in the summer of 1986, Seaspray at Hunstanton beach. (He was the only Transformer you could find at the seaside!)
Up until the end of 1986 (when I got Pipes, along with Menasor for Christmas) I amassed a staggering 8 Mini-Autobots (before turning my attention to the rest of the Special Teams). And, boy, did I love them! They were small, easy to transform, and a lot more durable than their more expensive counterparts.
(You’ll notice only 7 Mini-Autobots in the photo. I did get Wheelie one Saturday and took him to school the following Monday. He was stolen out of my cubby hole during lunch. No one owned up. That was a bad day.)
The brilliant thing about the Mini-Autobots was that they sported a decent range of vehicle modes, not just cars like the larger Autobots. Seaspray, one of my favourites to this day, was a fun little hovercraft.
And it wasn’t just the range of alternate modes, but the range of personalities, too.
Beachcomber was another favourite: a little beach buggy who suffered mental stress and was a loner who liked to escape? That bio alone–on the back of a toy–was worth more to me than any value an adult could perceive or appreciate.
It was always disappointing that the Decepticons didn’t have an equivalent to the Mini-Autobots. Sure there were the Spy Cassettes but they were packaged in pairs and were thus priced out of range. (Not to mention they were a lot harder to find.)
Having access to only the Mini-Autobots taught me some valuable lessons early on. I realised that my own imagination (and that of the people who created the Transformers characters) gave me just as rich an experience with the likes of Bumblebee and Tailgate as I got with any of the more expensive Transformers. My parents may have known the price of Transformers, but they never knew their value.
Since last summer, having rebooted my Transformers collection, I’ve tracked down four Mini-Autobots: Bumblebee, Seaspray, Beachcomber, and Warpath. Of those, Warpath was the first I’d never owned before (reissue aside).
Finding MOSC versions of these wonderful little robots made all those fond memories come rushing back.
As is inevitable with a collecting hobby, a wish list forms, a desire to collect the others.
Over the first three years of their Transformers range, Hasbro released 18 Mini-Autobots. So wouldn’t it make for an excellent “sub-group quest” to track down them all. Ideally in MOSC condition… but that may well be impossible!
I’m four down, with a MOSC Powerglide on its way as I speak. So I’m 28% of the way there already. Of course, there are the versions that came with Mini-Spy pack-ins. Oh! And the variants with iron on patches, and the first year ones packaged in vehicle mode, and the variant colours of Bumblebee and Cliffjumper, and the variant versions from around the world like Huffer in Pipes’ colours and–
You know what, let’s just take it one little robot at a time. After all, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single Mini-Autobot!
May your luster never dull, and your wires never cross.
July was off to a fantastic start with three new Transformers toys arriving from eBay on the same day. Oh, and a Greek Overload satchel (more on that another time).
Transformers Generation 2 Gobot Double Clutch
Long story short: I had my eye on an Overlord satchel for the last few months from a Greek seller on eBay. It looked so gaudy that I thought it would be fun to take along to next month’s TFNation convention. The same seller had Double Clutch (and Skram, see below) so when I hit the Buy It Now button on the bag, I added the two Transformers toys too!
Double Clutch was originally released back in 1995 as part of Hasbro’s final year of its Generation 2 line. Oddly, in the US the “Generation 2” subtitle was dropped but here in Europe it remained. (Remained.) ((In Europe.))
Back in the spring of ’95 I bought all 6 Gobots from Argos, one every Saturday. That year, I was determined to get all of the 1995 range as I had not long started my own printed fanzine and figured that a “Christmas Special” edition with the entire lot would make for a fun project. This was about the time I started on the path of being a “completist” collector by the time Beast Wars and Beast Machines were on toy shop shelves.
Double Clutch, like the rest of the G2 Gobots, is a neat little realistic looking race car with single axle wheels. I loved the Gobots back then and I love them now. They’re highly collectible too and don’t really cost too much these days so finding them still sealed isn’t too tricky. Unless you want Megatron or Optimus Prime. Or any of the unreleased moulds.
Transformers Axelerator Skram
Skram is another wonderful little Autobot that I had back in the 1990s. Skram and the rest of the Axelerators* were released in 1993 as part of the second year of Hasbro Europe’s “Turbomaster/Predator” line. They were also released in North American as part of Hasbro’s Generation 2 line (with dark grey clear plastic instead of the far superior pink and not called “Axelerators” but, imaginatively, “Small Cars”). They were then re-released in Europe in 1994 as Generation 2. Confusing, right?
I loved the Turbomaster cars in 1992 and this new sub-group, reminding me more of the original Mini-Autobots because of their smaller size, were a big hit with my younger self too. Skram was the first one I picked up and the combination of his smart vehicle mode, colour scheme and mini-Turbomaster gimmick of the engine becoming the gun made him an instant favourite.
The 1992/1993 Transformers are trickier to find these days, especially sealed, but if you search through sellers based in continental Europe you can often strike gold. And often gold plastic, as I have done with both Thunder Clash (found in France) and Skyquake (found in Spain) recently.
Transformers Generation 2 Trakkon Calcar
Like Skram, Calcar is one of the very few Transformers to be both “Generation 1” and Generation 2. Calcar was first released in Europe in a box in the “Turbomaster/Predator” branding in 1993 and then in 1994 he was re-released on card in Generation 2 branding.
I think the “G1” version is a little bit more sought after but I was happy enough to find the G2 version in sealed condition. In fact, I’d had one on my watchlist for a while and then it was apparently sold. An eBay notification came through with news of it being relisted so I snapped it up.
Calcar, in his cerise, cyan and translucent bright green colour scheme, is one of the most beautiful Decepticon vehicles I’ve ever seen.
His weapon too, as hilariously massive as it is, is one of the best action features ever: a combination of light piping and, I dunno, gears or something that work together to give the illusion of laser fire streaking towards Calcar’s target. No batteries, no LEDs, just magic.
For me, the Trakkons and Lightformers are the highlight of the 1993 range of Transformers so I’ll definitely continue to look out for the other three in sealed condition. Ironfist will be expensive though, what with his starring role in IDW’s Last Stand of the Wreckers comic book series.
I already have more Transformers toys on their way from eBay so there will definitely be another “New arrivals” post next week. Oh, and there’s that Overlord satchel to talk about too!
May your luster never dull, and your wires never cross.
I’m a tourist in my own past. At least, I am when it comes to my Transformers collection.
During the last twelve months, I’ve been focusing my attention on collecting (as best I can) sealed, vintage Transformers. It’s genuinely been the most fun I’ve had with my hobby for the last twenty years!
Prior to that, the most fun I’d had with Transformers was from 1984 (when I got Optimus Prime for Christmas) to 1988 (when I got Powermaster Optimus Prime for my birthday). Those four years, and I remember them well, contain some of my fondest and most cherished childhood memories.
Each new Transformers toy that I acquire from that period is a nostalgic trip back to my childhood, to those stories I read (and heard) in the Marvel UK comics and Ladybird books/tapes, and to those adventures my toys and my imagination took me on.
Of course, finding sealed versions of those childhood toys is no easy task! It’s a past that’s hard to find. But finding each one again is a wonderful and fulfilling experience.
These photos, taken in the spring of 1987 show the Transformers I had when I was 9 years old. They were my first Transformers and became the heart of my collection in the following years.
Sadly, those toys are long gone. But life can sometimes proffer second chances and when it does I wholeheartedly believe you should take them! The likes of online auction sites, conventions and toy fairs, and a network of friends often provide those second chances.
In the last year I’ve happened upon a few of those original Transformers, purely by chance. Sometimes they’ve been the genuine vintage version and sometimes they’ve been the “Generation 2” version. Maybe that’s cheating a little bit, but the way I see it, G2 is just as valid as G1!
Even back in the 1990s, Hasbro gave G1 collectors a second chance with their G2 range.
Such is the inescapable nature of collecting something, I find myself looking again and again at these pictures and I’ve been drawn to the thought of tracking the rest down. They call to me. Their grainy forms whisper to me, beckoning and goading like a devil on my shoulder.
Suddenly a plan forms: to see if I can track down the rest of my original Transformers, to get the heart of my 35 year old hobby beating as it did once more.
It won’t be easy. Or cheap. Have you seen what sort of prices a sealed G1 Optimus Prime goes for these days? Please don’t look. A sealed Wheeljack, one of the few of the early Transformers that has never been reissued since 1990, is a little bit on the expensive side too*.
Saying that, I found a boxed, mint, complete Superion gift set in April of this year for a reasonable price and being able to revisit my 9th birthday all over again was worth every penny (even the shipping charge!).
Here’s a checklist of what I’ve found so far:
Swindle (G2 version, Phats Collectibles Anaheim, January 2014)
Bumblebee (G1 Chinese reissue, vintage toy shop Leicester, June 2018)
Seaspray (G1 original, eBay, July 2018)
Beachcomber (G1 original, eBay, July 2018)
Breakdown (G2 version, TFN convention, August 2018)
In fact, this task may even be impossible! Do all of these toys still exist in sealed condition? I’ll be happy to wait, to see what’s out there and what can be uncovered like long lost treasure, just as I’ll be happy to not find them at all and let my imagination assure me that they are out there in an attic or a warehouse yet to be located.
Like any hobby based on nostalgia, I have a past that’s hard to find and that’s for a very good reason: it makes those wonderful childhood memories all the more cherished!
May your luster never dull, and your wires never cross.