Thursday, April 23rd 2009 3:10pm CDT
Categories: Toy News
, Site Articles
, Collector's Club News
Posted by: Mkall
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Well, it's nearing the end of April and already several collectors are looking to stretch their funds out as long as they can. The Universe line has ended with the release of Darkwind and Countdown and the Animated line is teetering between ending, delayed, or strung out depending on who you listen to. The ROTF Movie airs in just over 2 months and that line will be in full swing in one month.
But who cares about that stuff eh? Sure there are lovers and haters of those lines, but that ain't the thread topic is it? No my friends, this my friends isn't the year of the movie figs, not even the year of the 25th anniversary; this is the year of the collector.
What is a collector? By definition a collector is someone who gathers and hordes related items; in this case Transformers. It doesn't matter if you have 5, 50 or 500 Transformers; you my friend are a collector. Of course those with 500 might be more interested in reading this article than those with 5, but why not read it anyways to see how addicted some of us are? Then you can look at you wallet and be thankful.
A few days into the year; info started coming out about the bread and butter exclusives to a collector; a set that is always creative and well thought out, even though the theme or individual figures might not appeal: and that would be the Botcon set of 2009. "For one young Autobot..."
is said and rumors and theories started flying. Not one Seibertronian theorized Kup and the Autobot Elite Guard, although as time went on the Wreckers were mentioned thanks to a lovely red herring by FunPub. Now the Wings of Honor set is public knowledge, and some of the secret attendee figures are known. On top of Landshark, Flak and G1-homages Kup, Thunderclash and Scourge
, we'll be seeing Banzai-Tron
, Skyquake and Leozack
as well as a figure referenced in a previous year: Razorclaw
. There are still more to see of course. Elita-1
was featured in a previous year as well and is rumored to appear this year. To receive a set of figures, the collector must preorder them from Fun Publications, at a cost of no less than $360, $295 if you belong to the Transformers Collector’s Club. You can expect the price of the attendee-only souvenir figures to run about $230. Of course if you can’t make this price, then expect to pay twice the price on secondary markets, even more for individual figures. Definitely not meant for your 5 year old kid is it? Oh the costs of being a collector.
Soaring on the wings of exclusivity
The next staple exclusives appear at the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), happening this year July 22-26. Two years ago we saw Alternators Nemesis Prime and Rodimus and last year gave us Universe Nemesis Prime, all wonderfully done. These figures are certainly not as rare as Botcon, nor as pricey. On the secondary market SDCC Universe Nemesis Prime goes for about $50 if you can find a good deal. This year Hasbro appears to be taking a different tactic towards their exclusives. They’ll be offering up G1 Soundwave with Ravage, Laserbeak, Buzzsaw and Ratbat.
This’ll be the first time that Ratbat and Buzzsaw have been re-released in the US since the 80s (KO’s not included), of course most have been released in Japan in one form or another. Ratbat will be appearing there as part of one of the Encore sets alongside other not-seen-in-a-long-time cassette figures. The other SDCC exclusive will be Mighty Muggs Optimus Prime
, this time in a metallic finish, giving it a die-cast sheen. Whether or not these exclusives get snatched up or not is yet to be seen, as many diehard collectors already have at least one Soundwave and the reception to the Mighty Muggs line is luke-warm. It seems odd that Hasbro isn’t offering something to collectors that would fit in with one of the modern lines, but perhaps that just hasn’t been announced yet.
"Buy me, I'm shiny."
I mentioned the Collector's Club
already, so what is it? Boiled down to the bare bones they the Country Club of the Transformers fandom. Members pay a fee in exchange for a free yearly figure (Heatwave this year
), 6 issues of the Collector's club magazine full of sneak peaks and interviews and membership discounts on several exclusive figures. In 2007 it was Astrotrain and Airazor
, 2008 saw Nightbeat
and the Seacons
. Expect to hear about the 2009 exclusives at Botcon in May. What will they be? Several people are guessing tie-ins to Shattered Glass or other previous Botcon sets, or they could be something new all together. One thing's for sure when dealing with The Club; expect the unexpected.
Join us, you'll love it here
So what’s next on our exclusive hunt? How about looking somewhere not typically known for exclusives? Let’s look north of the border into Canada and TFCon
. It was last year that FansProject and their City Commander upgrade kit took the Transformers world by storm, and showed everyone that 3rd party groups can contribute quality additions to any collector’s shelf. Needless to say it sold out quickly, as did the Shadow Commander set released for the aforementioned SDCC Nemesis Prime. But now a third commander joins the team: Powered Commander
. A trailer for Classics Optimus Prime, this set will transform him into a gargantuan warrior clad in his original Diaclone colors. Also included with this set will be custom made energon cube carrying case and shoulder rockets, something missing from both previous sets. Sound cool? You bet it is, and to get it you must be attending TFCon and pay $150 CDN per trailer! That’s about $121 USD for those of you south of the border. On ebay, there are already preorders up for this guy if you’re willing to shell out $250 in US dollars. That’s one heck of a mark-up. Also one must act fast and hold on tightly, because there are only 500 of these guys and they’re over 50% sold out.
"Blink and you'll miss me"
Speaking about City Commander, this seems to be a good time to bring up the second theme of the year: third party kits. As I mentioned before, FansProject proved there was a market here, first with their Cliffjumper kit, then with their City/Shadow Commander set. So, what’s now available? Let’s take a look:
is releasing a set of weapons and accessories to attach to Universe figures. These include shoulder missiles, an “invisibility box” for Mirage, a ladder for Inferno and the first ever Autoscout mini-cassette. $45 for the set
has just released their trailer sets, one for Classics Optimus Prime and one for Universe Nemesis Prime. These trailers include a Roller drone and a couple hand-held weapons for those Transformers not fortunate enough to have one. $60 each.
has stormed the market with not one, but FOUR different sets all in various stages of production. Their flagship project is their own Autoscoute cassette tape
. Also in the works is an accessory kit for MP Grimlock
and a fully functional trailer for Masterpiece Prime
that appears to be similar to the one released with MP-04. Not happy with your City Commander set? Want missiles or a new head? iGear’s coming out with that too
, with a sword, greathammer and Wreckers flag to boot. $15 for the Grimlock set and $20 for Autoscout
has also just released their upgrade kit for Universe Roadbuster
, which includes an assault rifle, shoulder cannon and a new head (some assembly required). There have been mold issues on this set, which has delayed its release to many collectors, however expect that to be fixed shortly. $31 for the full set or $15 for the head and rifle or $18 for the cannon. Also featured is an axe for Animated Optimus Prime
, which is in the early stages of production.
has produced a set for the Animated enthusiasts
, containing stasis cuffs, an Allspark, Ratchet's magnetic weapons and a replica of Sari's allspark key. That set goes for $20 on BBTS.
is taking things one step further with making their own figure based off IDW's Hearts of Steel Optimus Prime
And let’s not forget about FansProject
. The pioneer in this field isn’t backing down from all the new-found competition. Their next project is a G1-style trailer for Optimus Prime
, which includes several anime-accurate weapons for Universe characters and a roller drone. A preorder has shown up for $80. Also they have hinted at a Rodimus Prime upgrade for Classics Rodimus
, dubbed the Protector Armor, many going to TFCon expect to see more on this piece while there. What ever happened to the other Universe accessories such as Classics Matrix
and hand-held Megatron gun
? Can’t say for sure but don’t expect them to drop those ideas.
eeenie meenie miney moe...
With North America covered, and all of the extra kits that have collectors researching 2nd or 3rd mortgages, let’s take a look at the country where everything cute, awesome and perverted comes from: Japan.
Japan holds an interesting spot in the Transformer Collecting game, because to us North Americans and Europeans; everything they make is collectable. Henkei has more detailed paint apps, Transformers Alternity, a sequel to the Binaltech/Alternators line is many collectors wet dream and Masterpiece Grimlock won’t see US release in its current form due to toy laws. Not to mention there are several lines that Hasbro won’t even consider bringing in, such as Disney Label, Music Label and the recently-announced Device Label. I’m going to only focus on the true exclusives though, but best of luck getting everything else!
The year stated off with images of a Lucky Draw Henkei Galvatron figure
, all shiny and golden. For many collectors the lucky draw figures represent the pinnacle of a collection, even more so than prototype figures. Alas, even for many collectors who consider themselves diehard, Lucky Draws are out of reach unless one really wants to spend anywhere between $1,000 and $6,000, yikes!
"Hello, you'll never own me."
The fist exclusives of the year were released just this month. Henkei (Or Gentei if you prefer) Thrust and Dirge
found their way on to the shelves of many collectors, re-igniting the old fashioned Botcon exclusivity debate. However these figures have custom wings and different paint schemes than their ’07 counterparts, thus keeping the debate on a low simmer. Still if one wants these figures expect to pay upward of $90-150 each, up to and over $200 if you want both.
Making Botcon obsolete since 2008, or did we???
Transformer Generations volume 1 and 2 have been announced, with volume 1 already on the market. While only available in Japan (and hence only in Japanese) these books outline the detailed history of TFs from their Diaclone era all the way up to their Alternity incarnations. While the books may be a good read, it’s the figures that interest most collectors. Fill out the card at the back of the book, add about $45 USD-worth of yen and in about 4 months you’ll receive your very own Classics Mirage, in transparent plastic. When volume 2 is released you can do the same and receive a transparent Classics Starscream. Sounds cool! Oh, yeah did I mention you must be a Japanese resident to qualify? Sucks doesn’t it? Not to worry though, BigBadToyStore and certain other retailers have come through, and for $90 USD each you’ll have Mirage and Starscream on your shelves once they’re released. If you want the books too, that’ll be about $30 extra.
Who knew clear plastic was so expensive?
A recent stunt (or marketing technique) by the Ganbo store allowed interested parties to apply for a special credit card. Along with that credit card, comes along a free Minicon
. Naturally there are two Minicons, and thus one would need to order both credit cards to get both Minicons. Also once again, this is only available to Japanese citizens. No one ever said it’d be easy collecting overseas merchandise. Once again though BigBadToyStore has come through on this, and you can preorder both minicons for $50 per pair. Many minicon collectors actually call that a good deal.
Yeah, we're THAT good
And the final exclusive known to see a 2009 release is based off of Universe Cyclonus; which has been recognized as the best mold coming out of the Universe line, this time in the styling of Technobot Strafe
. In order to get this figure through normal means, one must buy it using the special credit card obtained with the Minicons mentioned previously (meaning that you must live in Japan, don’t you love how everything ties together?) BigBadToyStore and Robotkingdom both have this guy up for preorder ($110 and $90 respectively). Needless to say it’s a pricey figure, but what can you do if you’re not a Japanese citizen?
"Go on, try and deny my awesomeness!"
So I’ve listed every exclusive figure that’s been released or announced for release in 2009. Do you want to know how much you’ll spend if you purchase one of every figure here, excluding the Lucky Draw and some fan kits?
Ok, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
$1492 is a lot of money, and that’s not including shipping fees and the prices for some of the third party upgrades and add-ons because they aren’t priced out yet. Also not included are the thousands that many collectors spend on Japanese mass released figures, such as the Masterpice, Alternity and Label lines, or for that matter ROTF, Animated, and Universe lines. Each figure may not seem like a lot, but MP Grimlock, Henkei Hound, Cyclonus and Red Alert, and Alternity Prime(s) and Megatron(s), there goes at least $400!
Let’s also remember that this is April, the year isn’t even half over yet. Who knows what else we’ll see with the onslaught of Revenge of The Fallen line? Who knows what 2010 will bring? I don’t know, but after this year many collectors will need a second job to break even.
All of these exclusives are well and good, but one must ask the question: how will we pay for all of these? If you've just emerged from your Fortress of Solitude, then allow me to fill you in on one critical bulletin: We're in a global recession!
The cost of oil is going up, which directly affects the two main aspects of our hobby, and thus the bottom line: figure creation and shipping. Petroleum products are used to make the plastics we hold in our hands, and power the engines that get these figures from the factories in Asia to our hands in North America and Europe. Not only that, but the spending power of many collectors has decreased, shoving many of these figures just beyond our reach. So how are companies still earning a profit off of these if we can't buy them?
Simple; collectors, diehard collectors have a tendency to pay far more money than they should for a piece of nicely painted plastic. If 50% of the collectors would pay $60 for a figure, then 40% will pay $80. That's a 20% decrease in collectors for sure, but that's a 25% price increase per figure. If the company scales back manufacturing slightly, they save a fortune and make a fortune. They win, while making it seem that we collectors win.
Sneaky, ain't it?
Wednesday, April 22nd 2009 6:43pm CDT
Categories: Toy News
, Site Articles
Posted by: Skowl
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After a temporary hiatus, the Buried Treasure feature on Seibertron.com has now returned!
The year 2009 marks the 25th anniversary of the Transformers franchise. To celebrate this incredible milestone, Seibertron.com will look back at a quarter-century of great Transformers toys, bringing back into the limelight some brilliant figures that have fallen through the cracks over the years. Once a week, a fan (be it a member of the staff or a user on the site) will have the opportunity to write about one of their favourite "hidden gems" of the Transformers Universe, and have their review posted on the site's front page.
We hope this feature will be a great success, and that many of you will be encouraged to look back at the last 25 years of Transformers and perhaps take a worthwhile second-look at some real unsung classics of the Transformers universe.
Buried Treasure - Tow-Line (Energon series - 2004)
Before the notion of cyber keys was even imagined, and sometime after minicons had become accepted into the Transformers continuity, there existed a series called Transformers: Energon, or if you are a Japanese purist: Transformers Superlink. Now that the novelty of the “gotta catch ‘em all” minicons had worn off, Hasbro decided it needed some new gimmicks and after much debate it was announced: the Spark of Combination and Powerlinx.
For those who are new to the fandom, or re-emerging from their pit of solitude, Powerlinking is the term that means Autobots of the same size class may combine with eachother to form a myriad of upgraded Autobot warriors. One Autobot decided to take that idea one step further, and that is Energon Tow-Line
Even in package, Tow-Line
is an unassuming character. While the rest of his size class were race cars, fire trucks, and futuristic trucks, Tow-Line
putters along as a harmless, block-like communications vehicle; much like the FBI has parked two blocks away from your house listening to your phone calls, more on the alt-mode later however.
was released precisely in the middle of the Energon packaging change, so it was not uncommon to find him either in the black with the yellow grid background style of the original packaging, or in the red with lightning bolts design that was the Powerlinx Battles style. With the original style of packaging, you could see the full artist-rendered version of Tow-Line’s battle mode charging forward as if daring you to pick up the packaging and never let go. With the Powerlinx Battles style, they enlarged the same art piece, but cut off the lower half, so you could only see half his gun, and everything below the torso is up for imagination. As a matter of personal choice, I always preferred the black packaging as it made both the artwork and the figure stand out better.
I’ve never been a fan of keeping figures in packages, so within seconds of acquiring Tow-Line
, he was free of his prison. His van mode is still unassuming and possibly even more brick-link than it looked in the box. His windows are the same dark transparent red as his scanner/gun and it is a nice contrast to the two tones of blue that make up this figure. A rich royal blue takes control of his sides, rear and grill in this mode, with a teal-coloured roof. The front of the van is all white, and is a shade of white that makes Universe Ratchet very jealous. The only things that distract from this mold is the protruding circle that is meant for an omnicon’s Energon star, and on his rear side panels there is a hole on either side. I would suppose that it’s for holding his scanner/gun, but there’s a nicer place on the roof to hold that. Oh well, it’s easy to overlook them because Hasbro did a nice job of encorperating them into the paint scheme.
Enough babbling about the vehicle mode and let’s take a look at the robot mode. Remember when I said that Tow-Line took the idea of Powerlinking one step further? Yes folks; he Powerlinks with himself. You fold the rear side panels down and with a little tug that requires more strength than the average 7 year old can muster, the cab and roof section separate from the bottom chassis. Tow-Line
is the first figure since G1 Ironhide and Ratchet to do something like this, and there was so much clamour for an updated Ironhide and Ratchet that FunPub did just that. Botcon Ratchet
now goes for well over $400 on ebay, Ironhide
. can fetch upwards of 150. Thanks FunPub.
Let’s focus on the top portion for now. Tow-Line
is a fully-formed robot now with only half a vehicle. His doors fold up, his arms swing forward and twist out, his legs fold out, separate and then fold into his torso in a move that would make any contortionist cry. Finally in a move of German-precise engineering, the section above the cab slides up, forward and back all at the same time to reveal the head. At first glance, you may think that there isn’t any paint apps on his face other than the sheet of matte gold, however under the right light you can see his optics are a brighter shade of gold. It’s a shame that the helmet mold shadows them.
’s robot mode has 9 points of articulation, 11 if you want to throw his shoulders back. They are his shoulders, elbows, legs, knees, feet and finally his head, which can turn 90 degrees in each direction. If they could do it with this figure, why not Cybertron Downshift eh? Oh well. He can hold his scanner/gun single-handedly but it looks out of scale for him to be honest. Then again Energon/Superlink figures almost always had oversized weapons, so I guess it’s the norm.
’s scanner/gun is a large, mostly square thing which has a fold out arm with a little scanner attachment connected to its end with a ball and socket joint. A word of caution to those still wanting the figure: examine this part closely!
I say this because the type of plastic used doesn’t seem to wear well and even as I examine it for this review, I fear it will further disintegrate into nothing, as it barely holds the scanner attachment and is all cracked and frayed. And I got mine MISB!
That said, this scanner/gun looks much better on Tow-Line
’s lower half, which folds out into a mini gun emplacement, with holes for the scanner/gun to nestle into perfectly. There’s not much to say about this part, except that it’s wonderfully detailed and Tow-Line looks awesome standing beside it with his hand resting on the barrel.
Powerlinked with other deluxe figures, Tow-Line
’s legs wrap up and around and his feet further fold out to reveal guns. He makes any figure look more intimidating this way, however due to his unique mold, Towline is unable to form the lower half of a Powerlinx Autobot, however if one wishes to attempt to make a Stephen Hawking Autobot, other deluxe fugures mayu Powerlink with his weapon emplacement. I’ve yet to see a combo that actually can make that look threatening.
Bottom line is that Tow-Line
is an awesome figure. He’s the only deluxe figure to have a mini base, and not only that; he’s still a very poseable figure. Just be careful with his gun/scanner should it fall to pieces. It’s a real shame that there haven’t been more widely available repaints of him.
Visit the Energon Tow-Line gallery by clicking here
Visit the Botcon Exclusive Ratchet gallery by clicking here
Visit the Botcon Exclusive Ironhide gallery by clicking here
...Or find your own buried treasures by visiting all the toy galleries here
* If you would like to write a review for our "Buried Treasures" feature, please send a private message to Skowl
on the Seibertron.com forums!
Previous Buried Treasure Reviews:
Cannonball by Skowl
Snapdragon by Jeep
Cybertron Downshift by Chuckdawg1999
Frostbite by Duke of Luns
Octopunch by Jeep
Emergency Mini-Con Team by Nekoman
Cybertron Dirt Boss by Skowl