Vintage Vault: Transformers Collectors’ Case by Hasbro

Hey look! It’s another Collector Case! Yeah, I picked up two of these at the Toy Show. One was for Playmates’ Star Trek line, but this one holds a lot more sentimental value for me, because as a kid, I used a case exactly like this one to cart around my Transformers. A lot of these vintage Collector Cases were more about form over function, as they didn’t tend to hold a lot of figures, and the Transformers case we’re looking at today was one of the least efficient in terms of carrying capacity. I bought this one to repurpose as a modern Transformers case, so let’s see how that worked out.

There were a couple different “official” Transformers collector cases on the market back in the day, but since this was the one that I had as a kid, it was the one that I was really gunning for. What’s here is pretty simple, as it’s just a vinyl briefcase style case with a handle that slips through a slot in the flap to hold it together. A lot of these things had snapping lock, but this one just made due by pushing the handle through a slot in the top. It’s not quite as secure as the ones with the lock, but so long as you were carrying it by the handle, it couldn’t spill open.

The artwork consists of the glorious panoramic battle scene that graced the back of the earliest G1 packages. I absolutely adore this piece of art, because it shows us that very rare peak into the franchise in its purest form, before it got so heavily influenced by the Sunbow cartoon. I got my first Transformers toys before ever seeing the cartoon, so this character art never looked odd or different to me. In fact, it took me a little while to get used to the cartoon versions of some of these characters.

Originally, the case came with a fragile, molded plastic tray that was segmented to hold certain figures If memory serves there were four slots for Minibot Cars, there were a few more slots for the regular Autobot cars, a couple for accessories, and two big ones, which would fit fit Soundwave. For my purposes, the tray was way too limiting, and I was able to get one without the tray for less. That’s a win-win.

The case worked out really well for my modern Deluxes. I was able to fit sixteen of them in there along with their accessories, and a couple of the Legends style Minibots. It’s a cool way to store the figures, and easier for me to get at the ones I want than if they were just piled in a small tote.

My case also had a sad little G1 Bumblebee rattling around inside of it. The dealer pretended he didn’t know it was in there, and tried to get a couple more bucks out of me for it, but when I told him he could keep it, he tossed it in anyway. He’s actually in ok shape, although he does have some chrome wear to the area around his head and some cracks to one of his tires. Damn, I completely forgot these little guys had real rubber tires!

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.


Transformers: Autobot Blaster (SDCC Exclusive) by Hasbro

Last year Hasbro gave us the very cool Soundwave gift set as their Transformers SDCC Exclusive. This year, it seemed only natural they compliment that release with Soundwave’s Autobot counterpart, Blaster. They also seemed to up the production numbers on this one, possibly as a response to how quickly Soundwave sold out last year. So is this set as impressive and desireable as last year’s offering? Yes and no.

Hasbro pulled out the stops on the presentation of this set, making it look even more impressive than the formidable Soundwave release. The set comes packaged in a reflective cardboard sleeve with a huge Autobot symbol and Blaster’s name written in a cool, funky retro 80’s style that certainly suits the figure’s character.

Slide off the sleeve and you have a pleasingly large box decorated in a G1 fashion very similar to Soundwave’s release. The key difference, besides it being bigger, is that Blaster’s box has a front flap that covers the window display. Open the flap and you can see photos of the toys on the reverse side and the window revealing Blaster and three of his cassette minions, Steeljaw, Ramhorn and Eject, all in their robot forms. On presentation alone, this set gets full marks.

Slide out the inner tray and you can get to the goods. Blaster is a satisfyingly large figure, much bigger than Soundwave. He’s colorful, boxy and the epitome of glorious G1 Transformer design. His stickers come already applied, and mine were applied pretty well. The only real disappointing thing about Blaster is the complete lack of detail on his back. Granted, it is authentic to the original toy, but it looks lacking, especially compared to Soundwave’s belt clip and opening “battery” compartment-slash-weapon storage. Oh yeah, his head always looked way too small to me.

Blaster has pretty limited articulation, which is to be expected for a G1 Transformer and most of his existing articulation is a by-product of his transformation process. He can turn his head, his arms rotate at the shoulders, his hands can swivel, and his legs can move laterally to change his stance. That’s pretty much it. His tape door is spring loaded and ejects with the press of his eject button. Its a first for me, since the eject button on the original G1 Blaster I owned as a kid was broken right out of the box.

Transforming him into his boom box mode is only slightlly more involved than Soundwave. Its a very simple conversion, although there are a few neat tricks, like the way the arms fold in or the way the grab bar comes out of each of the legs and joins together. The final result is more toyish looking and less convincing than Soundwave’s walkman form, but it gets the job done.

Blaster’s cassettes are a bit of a mixed bag. Steeljaw and Ramhorn are pretty cool, although they suffer from the same two-dimensional design as Ravage and rely on their added parts to give them depth. Both figures are pretty well designed, though, considering what they transform into, and Steeljaw in particular has a ridiculous number of shifting plates to help along his transformation. Eject has never been one of my favorites, probably because of his weird looking arms. He’s certainly not awful, but compare him to the Rumble and Frenzy design and he comes up severely lacking. As with the Soundwave reissue, all of Blaster’s cassettes come with clear plastic cases.

Blaster retails at the same price as last year’s Soundwave set, $49.99, and I’d say that’s quite a deal. While original G1 Blasters can still be commonly found for sale at the usual places, his tape door is often an early casualty of play wear and tear, and his cassettes can be a lot tougher to find in good shape. Either way, you’re getting quite a lot here for your money.

As previously noted, the production on this set seemed to be a lot higher than Soundwave, as Blaster was still available for almost a week after going up for sale at Hasbro Toyshop. The only sticking point is that I don’t think Blaster has ever reached the insane levels of popularity as his Decepticon counterpart Soundwave. I know that I never much cared for his character in the series, but I always liked the figure. That lesser demand plus the increased production likely led to him sticking around a lot more. Still, any diehard G1 fan would do well to pick this set up. The presentation is wonderful, the figures are solid, and its certainly priced right.

Transformers: 25th Anniversary Soundwave (SDCC 2009) by Hasbro

What with the SDCC going full guns as we speak, I thought it would be cool to take at my favorite SDCC Exclusive from last year’s Con: Hasbro’s 25th Anniversary Soundwave. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that Soundwave was one of my all time favorite G1 characters. He was cold, calculating, had a cool voice, and he was the only Transformer that carried his own menagerie of pets around wherever he went. Sadly, Soundwave hasn’t gotten all that much love in the post G1 years. He got turned into a missile truck for G2, a jet in Energon, and the closest he’s come to appearing in his G1 likeness was as a goofy little guitar playing robot in Transformers: Animated. Yep, poor Soundwave.

The packaging on this set is absolutely stellar. The deco is definitely G1 inspired, and the silver Anniversary tab makes the package really stand out. The back shows great photos of the toys as well as a complete biography. The figures are all packaged in their robot forms, which makes for a striking presentation, with Soundwave centered and his cassette minions: Buzzsaw, Laserbeak, Rat Bat and Ravage flanking him on all sides. What’s more, the packaging is completely collector friendly, which is awesome because in the past year, I’ve had this set in and out of the box more times than I can count.

Soundwave is exactly as I remember him, albeit just a tad looser than I would have expected a new toy to be. His stickers come already applied, which is fine because they were applied pretty well. He’s simple enough to transform and while his alt mode may be hopelessly outdated, his robot mode always did a fine job resembling his animated counterpart, which was more than a lot of the original Transformers could say. Soundwave comes with a gun that has three chromed rockets and a shoulder cannon, both of which convert into “batteries” for his cassette player mode. And of course, any of the cassettes can be stored in his spring loaded chest compartment.

Buzzsaw and Laser Beak are of course repaints of the same figure. Buzzsaw was the tape that came with the original issue Soundwave, although Laser Beak was the one that got most of the screen time in the cartoon. I’ve always been impressed with their robot bird modes, as they look great and even offer a fair amount of articulation. Each figure comes with the two chromed thruster-gun assemblies that mount on their backs.

Ravage is still a cool little figure, but unlike the birds, he’s just as two-dimensional in his jaguar mode as he is in his cassette mode. His two chromed side pieces do help to add a little depth, but as a figure, he’s always come up a little short, especially when compared to the newer version that came with Classics Hound.

Rat Bat is a really nice treat in the set, since this is the first time he’s been available in the US market. Needless to say, this is the only tape in the set that I never owned as a kid. He has a really solid robot mode, with gold plated attachments that make him stand out from his fellow cassettes.

Each of the cassettes also come with a little plastic storage case too!

This Soundwave set was a real bitch to get for those of us not attending the Con. Hasbro put it up on their site at $49.99 and it sold out almost immediately. Since they have a habit of letting their exclusives out a little at a time, I just happened to check the next day and hit the very small window when more were put up for sale and I was able to get one. Considering all the set includes, I thougth fifty bucks was a steal. In fact, the only thing I would have done differently was include Rumble instead of Buzzsaw. Apart from that, this set was a great pick up for my collection, especially since Soundwave is pretty much in scale with Classics Megatron and the Decepticons.