All You Need To Know About Starting A Transformers Collection
In honor of Transformers: The Last Knight releasing this week, I wanted to do something with that theme. I was heading down a main isle of the store the other week and saw the Transformers movie toys end-cap display. It was the Grimlock (big Tyrannosaurus Rex) that caught my eye. The Dinobots look pretty iconic, and as they play a big role in this movie, they seem like the perfect medium to use. I’ve collected stuff since I was kid, from Transformers to baseball cards, so maybe collecting Dinobots will be like second nature. Since I don’t know anyone that collects anything, I went to the Transformers subreddit for a little help. I got lots of good advice!
Which Transformers to Start Collecting
The best place to start collecting is whatever you like. If money is a big concern, start with whatever is currently in production. Those will cost the least, and be the easiest to find. Don’t feel the need to pick up a whole line, stick to whatever you’re the most nostalgic for. It’s likely to keep you the happiest, the longest. For example, I’m just focusing on the Dinobots. During the lead up to the previous movie (Age of Extinction), I picked up a full set of the original G1 Dinobots, as well as a special set of the Dinobots from Age of Extinction. Look for Transformers fan groups near you, on Facebook, or local events. It’ll give you a place to see what’s out there, what to expect for prices, and answers to any questions you might have.
Starting With Today’s Transformer Line
The Transformers toy lines are separated by series. Each movie for example, has its own series. G1, or First Generation transformers was the very first series. For purposes of this article, I’m going to use the Transformers: The Last Knight movie series as an example. The Premier Edition figures are marketed towards collectors. The Premier Edition breaks down into 3 classes. Deluxe, Voyager, and Leader. These classes signify size and price point. Deluxe being the smallest and cheapest, Voyager slightly larger and costs slightly more, and finally Leader class for the largest and most expensive. Premier Edition figures are going to be the backbone, so to speak, of the toy lines. These are the most plentiful in your big box stores like Target and Wal-Mart, and are a good place to start for that reason. Other recommendations were the Titans Return series and Masterpiece, though Masterpiece are aimed directly at collectors. They are larger and pricier, but much more detailed.
- A new line of Power of the Primes dinobots has launched in 2017. This line features all of the original dinobots in their original retro names and forms. They will also combine into a large transformer.
Where To Get Out Of Production Transformers
If you want to start back at the beginning, or maybe you didn’t grow up during the early age of Transformers, there are plenty of places to grab the toys you remember loving the most.
- eBay is the most obvious, familiar place to everyone. You do need to be wary of knockoffs and mis-labeled stuff, but I have some tips to help with that down further.
- Facebook groups were actually the most recommended place.
- Conventions of all kinds (Toy, comics, games, etc)
- TFW2005.com’s Buy Sell Trade forums.
- Redditors can use /r/transformerstrading.
- Garage sales / flea markets
Avoid Knockoffs and Scams
There is actually a factory in China devoted to producing knockoffs, though luckily they sell them as such. There are also jerks in the world, which I’m sure you’ve learned by now. Luckily there are awesome people in the world too to help you avoid wasting your money. I used one of the resources below and was able to save myself from buying several mis-labeled toys during my search for a G1 Dinobots set.
- If you are buying G1 Transformers, HighendTFS.com is an entire website devoted to identifying counterfeits. Just click the Transformer guide you need on the right side of the page.
- Again, TFW2005.com comes through with its forums. This thread in particular has a lot of information.
- Get pictures, lots of pictures. Post them somewhere like imgur, and ask for help on TFW2005, Reddit, or wherever you find Transformer collectors. Don’t be afraid, people like to help.
Storage and Display
The space you have available, and the size of your collection, will largely determine how you store your collection. The first question you’ll want to answer is whether you want to keep them in their sealed packages, or free them from their plastic prison! Obviously mint-in-sealed-box (MISB) gives the most value in the long run, and you can still display them in the original packaging. Unfortunately though, that only allows you to see the robot form in the package. In the case of the dinobots, that isn’t exactly what I want to see. Carefully removing them from the package to pose and/or transform them does lower the value, but there are a couple of things you can do to help mitigate that. Keep the package and all the accessories and inserts in tip top shape. This is a huge plus if you decide to sell or trade in the future.
Across the internet, one case stands out among Transformers collectors: The Ikea detolf case. It’s a four story display tower for pretty much anything. The Ikea detolf costs $69.99 and there is also a model that comes with lighting. The catch is that unless you have an Ikea near you, shipping is going to cost you more than the case. Amazon offers a few solutions, one of them is a monster display case. It’s significantly larger and is just $125 delivered. You can buy through this link and help the site out with a small commission. There are other cases as well, just be very careful with the dimensions. Measure twice, buy once. Lots of display cases online are overly expensive due to the shipping, so another option would be to find something local. Display cases from stores going out of business can be worth checking out.
If you have the room, and you really want to show off, you can set up an action scene. Like Frank Underwood’s civil war battle table in House of Cards, you can set up a battle or scene of some kind. This is a whole other hobby in itself, and can be as cheap or expensive as you need. It will give you more of an artistic outlet than just shoving something in a box or tacking it to the wall.
I want to give a quick shout out to The Lost Light website. Not only did they offer lots of advice, but their website is actually a resource you might find helpful with your collecting hobby. It offers help for keeping track of your collection as well as your spending. You can also browse other collections to get an idea of what you might want in the future.
Collecting for Investing
A brief mention about collecting for investing because there’s an obvious connection there. Trying to make money off your collection has a few obstacles. First off you’ll have to be willing to part with your Transformers at some point. Second, you’ll have to hold onto newer toys for a long, long time. Nobody thought about collecting much in the 80s. Today, everyone is thinking about it and it’s not lost on Hasbro either. The old Transformers are collectible because they’re rare. So until today’s Transformers are more scarce, they won’t have much value. Third, if you want to maximize your return, MISB is the way to go. Older stuff MISB is very expensive, and new stuff just isn’t valuable (and may never be). Finally, buying older toys, specifically the G1 series, is probably the ‘safest’ way to invest. They aren’t making these anymore. That said, buying low and selling high can be hard to do with toys that already sell for more.
Never spend any money you can’t afford to lose, there is a fair amount of risk involved. One Redditor said it best, “If you wanna invest, invest in your 401k or like a CD or something.”
Personal Notes and Experience
I want to give a huge thanks to the /r/transformers subreddit. They were exceedingly helpful and friendly. I’ve almost finished collecting a set of the movie dinobots from Transformers: The Last Knight. Previously I collected a full set of G1 dinobots and a full set of dinobots from the Age of Extinction Transformers movie. They’re all in boxes at the moment, but I’d eventually like to put them in a display a case in their dinosaur forms. Maybe a diorama if I can find the space, money, and time. Probably the biggest obstacle, at least for most people, is justifying this hobby to someone else. While it’s your time and money in the end, having a skeptical spouse or significant other (See Claire above) does complicate the issue. There are a lot worse hobbies to have than collecting, and aside from overspending, it’s a pretty harmless. Not to mention that it’s really no different than displaying art like a painting or sculpture, or creating art if you’re working on the diorama all the time like Frank Underwood. Let’s face it after all, worse (and worse smelling) things have been used to make art.