Being a Transformers fan in the 1980s was relatively easy. Hasbro produced new toys on a semi-regular basis and these would usually appear in the comics or television show to announce their impending arrival. While there was a healthy amount of merchandise to go with it, collecting the toys was manageable. Third party toys didn’t exist and we only had a single toy line to worry about. It was G1 or nothing else.
Some of us did collect other franchises at the same time. For me growing up it wasn’t about Transformers but video games and Star Wars so I was picking up both 8-bit games for several systems and the Palitoy/Kenner toys regularly. Even back then though it wasn’t easy for those of us wanting to collect more than one range. Pocket money only went so far as a child and we quickly realised that pester power with our parents had its limitations too – not all of them were rich from us online casinos!
Today, things are different. We’re spoiled for choice. But is that really such a good thing? While toys based on television shows are limited to the Rescue Bots line and don’t appeal to all collectors, there are a lot more that do. We had a selection based on the recent Bumblebee movie and no doubt more will follow for future films. Linking in with these we’ve had the Studio Series providing some great quality toys, and while on the subject of quality we can’t forget the Masterpiece line which is still going strong following its recent expansion into the Beast Wars universe.
Still keeping G1 fans happy, Hasbro continue with occasional re-releases of classic toys from the 80s. While the serious collectors among us opt for the Masterpiece line not all of us can afford them. We’re too old to try pester power this time, so at least these reissues provide an affordable alternative. For fans looking for toys inspired by G1 but with a modern twist we have Generations and Generations Select bringing classic toys up-to-date. And for the gamer out there, the old console titles are still getting the toy treatment with War For Cybertron: Siege.
Probably the most curious are the current crossover toys. Most notably the blending of Transformers and Ghostbusters, this is certainly interesting for collectors and hints at what has a lot of potential. Combining two successful pop culture franchises isn’t a new idea and it’s not the first time that Transformers has done this. In theory the toys, when done properly, can appeal to fans of both product ranges either individually or combined. While the licenses involved can make them expensive, they open up a world of possibilities and could be lucrative lines for Hasbro and if done in moderation easy to collect.
Finally, for toys that Takara and Hasbro aren’t producing, there are a plethora of third party companies ready to fill in the void, offering plenty of choice for the discerning collectors. It has to be said that third party toys are controversial. Some collectors embrace them, seeing them as an essential part of Transformers fandom doing what Hasbro can’t or won’t do. For others, they firmly believe that the toys are in breach of Hasbro’s intellectual property and simply shouldn’t exist. They hold the firm belief that those toys should be left to Hasbro and Takara and if we want to see toys based on particular characters then we should petition them to do so. However, there’s no guarantee that this will happen and it’s like placing a sport bet as to what they will and won’t release.
One thing that is clear though is that there is an astonishing amount being produced. It’s probably the most prolific franchise when it comes to toys and figures. And that’s what causes problems for all of us. For the majority of fans we’re left with some very difficult decisions. Do we focus our collecting on one or two ranges, or do we concentrate on a few favourite characters? Even that can be prohibitively expensive as I found years ago when I focused on collecting Cheetor and Cheetor variants. As soon as convention exclusives appeared on the scene I knew that I’d never achieve a complete set, even after acquiring the “holy grail” for the convention – the Lucky Draw toy.
For the dedicated collection, there are really are too many toys being released for us to aim at buying everything. Over the years its lead to a swathe of shelf-fillers and shops with toys on clearance because they can’t sell the stock they buy in. Maybe it’s time for Hasbro and Takara to cut back on the quantity and focus on quality so we can all buy more of what we want and not have to be more selective in what we buy.