Transformers: Warman’s Transformers Field Guide by Mark Bellomo

Here’s something a little different. I read a lot. History, literature, some modern fiction. Reading and collecting books are about the only pasttimes that give my love of figures and toys a run for its money. And while I love writing and discussing the books I read, I try to save that for other venues, because I try to keep this blog focused on toys, at least 95 percent of the time. Nonetheless, a friend of mine sent me this book for my birthday and I thought we’d take a quick look at it.

As the title suggests, this book is designed as an on-the-go guide. It’s pocket sized in terms of its page and cover dimensions, but weighing in at 510 pages, it’s thicker than your average (non Stephen King) novel. Nearly every page is covered with crisp, full color illustrations, a majority of the figures are shown in both of their modes, and in many cases they are confined to one figure per page. There are only occasional photos of boxed toys and not a lot of attention paid to accessories and parts, but obviously something had to be left out to keep the book managable in size.

But if the book sacrifices a bit in order to make it portable, it’s still remarkably extensive for what it is. It’s probably best to consider it a companion volume to Bellomo’s far more exhaustive Transformers Identification and Price Guide. Nonetheless, it has photos and descriptions of nearly all the American Transformers releases throughout the course of what we now call Generation One. It’s also laid out more or less chronologically by release, so you know exactly where each figure falls in the Transformers timeline.

I’ll admit that upon first flipping through the book, I was a bit skeptical that I could learn anything from it. Afterall I have been collecting Transformers since they first came out when I was a wee lad. Nonetheless, there’s more than a few rare and unusual pieces in here. Some of which I owned as a kid and forgot all about (like the Powerdashers or the Time Warrior digital watch) and others that held little interest for me at the time of their release (like the Action Masters). And yeah, there are a few items in here that I’m pretty sure I never even knew existed, like the STARS Autobot Command Center.

Unfortunately, I remain skeptical on how useful printed price guides on collectibles are these days. In fact, I was pretty surrpised to see that they are still being published. It seems archaic to depend on this system of snapshot pricing when you have sites like Ebay to show you a live concept of what an item is worth from day to day. Afterall, the value of any collectible is only what someone is willing to pay for it. And with the increasing number of people with full Internet access on their cellphones, even the portability of a printed guide is no longer a unique asset. I have no doubt this aspect of the book was well researched, but I think the space would have been better spent on something else. It may sound like sacrelidge for a book lover to denounce a printed book in favor of digital options (I don’t even own an e-reader), but in this case I have to calls it like I sees it.

Warman’s Transformers Field Guide is published by Krause and retails at $12.99. This edition is a few years old, and I’m not sure if it’s been updated since. Nonetheless, it’s a fun curiosity and I’ve had a great time flipping through it and enjoying the photography, but I can’t recommend it as a purchase for reference. Every bit of information in this book is available for free on that Interwebs contraption and you can get a far more accurate appraisal of a Transformers’ worth by trawling Ebay’s Completed Auction lists. However, if you are interested in this sort of thing, though, be sure to check out Bellomo’s other Transformers guide (as mentioned above) as well as his excellent Ultimate Guide to GI JOE 1982-1994. His research on these books is without a doubt impressive.