I have returned to collecting vintage G1 Transformers after many forays into modern Transformers lines. This return coincided with a request from IDW Transformers More Than Meets The Eye writer James Roberts to photograph the Scavengers toys (G1 Misfire, Krok, Crankcase and Spinister) for one panel of issue #45. Having to acquire these toys forced me to see just how much I loved buying and owning G1 toys. A solid 1987 Headmasters and Targetmasters collection has sprouted from that realisation, all packaged with good stickers maintained well by the original childhood owner. Whatever the childhood owner whose toys I bought didn't have, I found elsewhere, but I insisted on maintaining the display and item quality that already existed in the collection I had purchased. G1 Headmaster Horrorcon Apeface has been the hardest regular-size Headmaster to find in excellent condition and packaged. The above is the second boxed one I bought, but of course the stickers were unapplied. What to do?
The problem with Apeface is that he comes with numerous spots of wear, not least of which are the stickers which need to be placed on every single significant gripping point used for transformation across the toy. If the ape arm stickers aren't wonky, the rectangle stickers on the feet are missing, lop-sided or just beat. My childhood example is no exception, and neither was the boxed Apeface above I bought off eBay. I decided to keep its box but the bot had discolouration on the purple plastic (like my childhood one) and a loose backpack. I immediately put it up for sale as I decided it simply didn't measure up to the others in the display.
Back to eBay, then, and I eventually cracked on an Apeface that had been sitting there for weeks with a tatty box, but perfect toy and unused sticker sheet. Now that I had a box I was happy with from the first purchase, only the bot needed to be good.
And good it was, remarkable in fact. Clearly untouched in decades and unused, the stickersheet called to me to put it into use. I even looked up a second unused Apeface sheet on eBay in case of error or regret. Annoyingly, this unused specimen had a floppier backpack than even my childhood Apeface, inconceivable! Incidentally, I only realised after getting the instructions that I have been mis-transforming him in robot mode for 3 decades. Folding back the beast legs to create friction with the backpack may leave a hollow-looking torso section, but it sure made me appreciate how good my childhood Apeface still was. Thanks to Brr-Icy and OptimalOmega, I am now a whiz at tightening Apeface backpacks and all 3 specimens mentioned are tip top again. Back to the dilemma, to apply or not to apply?
I have always been a maintainer of unused specimens, be it Transformers, Diaclone, Microman - vintage or modern. This I believe has come from my focusing on 1984/5 and prior throughout my collecting. Now that I have fallen in love with post-movie era toys that rely so desperately on stickers to give them a rounded look, I've come to deeply appreciate the worth of well applied and maintained original stickersheets. I have also been an advocate for accuracy and integrity when it comes to vintage Transformers collecting, meaning that I will not apply Reprolabels to vintage figures (preferring worn originals) and I will not mix and match parts from different stamping, moulding or release variants. I love Reprolabels and their service, I use them to this day, just not on my vintage stuff. I am also fully aware and conscious of the fact that using a vintage G1 stickersheet means one less in circulation, one less preserved example of the history of our beloved toy line. Surely I'd be one of the last people to go against that?
Life's too short.
In the absence of a scalpel/exacto knife, I used tweezers to place the stickers on Apeface. I wanted this to look immaculate, better than any vintage Apeface looks and better than any well-preserved ancient G1 figure could. Have the stickers kept hold of their original level of adhesion? We are talking about 30 years untouched, and finally fulfilling their destiny. I have slightly shaky hands, I've invested a reasonable amount of money in this specimen, and I'm effectively reducing the number of authentic G1 stickersheets and unused specimens around the globe, to say I was nervous was an understatement.
Care was taken to clean every surface where a sticker would be placed using the fabric cloth you see above from my glasses case, but straight off the bat there were issues. This particular stickersheet had a crease through one of the stickers that go on the side of Apeface's robot legs. Can't be helped. After that I didn't take enough care removing one of the foot stickers from the sheet and there's a permanent - yet microscopic - dink in the corner. I couldn't even capture it on camera.
The foot stickers are the ones I most wanted to get right, because they are always worn on Apeface. Another obstacle I was facing was an occasional lack of consistency between stock photos on the box, the box artwork and the sticker map in the instructions. Stock photos on G1 boxes are notoriously unreliable, often featuring hand-painted stickers on hand-painted resin prototypes, quite removed from the final production items. Box art is better but can often be inaccurate and also representative of the same early prototypes. The process was to find the sticker's location, decipher its orientation from the multiple sources, fold the sheet to raise the corner of the sticker (using tweezers to lift them would have caused more dinks), then peeling with the tweezers, placing them gently where I wanted them and straightening before pressing them down to hold.
The instructions disagreed with the stock photos and art when it came to orientation, I especially had difficulty deciding what to do with the bar sticker on the chest. Eventually I realised the head-on picture of the robot in the instructions was reflected horizontally, and I applied the sticker accordingly. It's not easy when the stickers are not signature designs made famous by high-profile characters, and just non-descript circuitry patterns. Do the green bars face upwards or does the white dot face upwards? I don't know! What did I do on my childhood one?! What does the box/instructions/artwork/other one I bought say?
Going between modes to apply stickers to unreachable spots (beast shins) was tricky because I was constantly aware of where I was putting my fingers and applying pressure. I caught myself pressing down on freshly applied stickers more than once and nearly dropped Apeface upon that realisation! Another unavoidable consequence was just how folded up and bent the used stickersheet was becoming using my method of getting the stickers to separate from the backing. The print quality and actual material quality are not as supremely high as I had always remembered them, but they stuck onto the figure well, it's been 24 hours and I cannot see any peeling or movement on them.
So what can I see? What have I done?
In my opinion I've taken a plain looking unused figure and made it look even better than it does on the packaging and better than 95% of vintage loose examples - even those with Reprolabels - because the base figure was so undeniably crystal mint. That's not down to any skill with application of labels, just a case of how ornate the toy now looks with all of its colourful stickers applied with some degree of accuracy and alignment.
With the backpack also fixed, this is now the nicest example of Apeface I could ever imagine owning. I didn't want a sealed specimen, I want these in robot mode in my display cabinet, I wanted to feature them in articles looking as they would in a reference book, as they were meant to look.
A part of me can't help but feel guilty about there being one less unused G1 Apeface stickersheet and toy out there, but I am collecting for me and following my heart in what makes me happy. I doubt the Diaclone collector in me would do this with a 1984/85 figure. I am thrilled with how this Apeface looks as a standalone and among the other Headmasters & Targetmasters, and the feeling I have gotten from handling this specimen - things like a completely undamaged and unspoilt clear green canopy, glossy surfaces and stickers - transports me back immediately to the day I got my childhood Apeface in 1987, exactly the same way smells can instantly trigger vivid memories. So instead of the legacy of my decision being this...
...I prefer to think of it as this:
All the best