Description

Non-affiliated, Non-lengthy, Non-articles about Transformers

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Opening a MISB vintage G1 Transformer


Once upon a time I was a complete, uncompromising stickler for maintaining and preserving every single vintage Transformers and Diaclone specimen, making sure condition never deteriorated and status never changed. My MISB would never become MIB, my MIB unapplied would never become MIB applied and my boxed would never become loose. I enjoyed collecting that way and being a part of that culture of toy buying and maintenance, but things have changed for me a little. 



Two years ago, upon buying a wonderfully preserved G1 collection that was mostly boxed, stickers applied, complete and beautiful, I began to appreciate once more how Generation 1 Transformers were really made to shine with a full and undamaged complement of stickers - factory and applied. I had become so used to seeing stickers unapplied, completely fresh G1 Autobot cars as a symbol of a high-end collection and a mark of collecting achievement (in no small part thanks to Diaclone), that I'd forgotten the joys of a 'used' Transformer, or at least the appearance of such.


Now I won't claim to have discovered the wonder of well-played-with toys as a source of pretentious inspiration, enjoying and respecting the journey they've been on and the love that they have absorbed through a lifetime's play. No, that's a story for another time, there is a more superficial aspect to this latest mission of mine. The childhood collection of mostly post-Movie Headmasters, Targetmasters and Powermasters that I bought had some key figures missing. Figures like Darkwing, Slugslinger, Targetmaster Cyclonus, Weirdwolf, Apeface, Slapdash and Nightbeat to name but a few. I was spoilt by this collection because the toys had great boxes, all paperwork, and they were in mint, complete condition, barely played with. The stickers were applied and the toys were showcased the way they were always intended. Not bare and sticker-less, not stickered and worn...but, in most cases, perfectly decorated with stickers that actually enhanced the look of the figure.


Having to find the toys I needed to fill the gaps, I began to realise something. For some figures like Darkwing, Slugslinger, Apeface, Nightbeat and even Landfill, there were more MISB and MIB unused specimens around and available than loose (or boxed) specimens that had the stickers applied, showing absolutely no wear. That's right, in my opinion, a loose Apeface or Nightbeat with 100% perfectly-placed, 100% un-faded and 100% unworn stickers is rarer than an unused or sealed one. At least that is my experience. It got to the point where I actually bought a MIB unused Apeface and applied the stickers myself to achieve the display quality I wanted, the quality that was intended for these toys upon design. I wrote about it.

I even see worn stickers on G1 Transformers in online references and guidebooks, and I know that reproduction stickers can and will be used to augment some reference material in such resources, online and published. What I wanted was to be able to have a G1 collection which was boxed where possible, utterly pristine in condition and with stickers as fresh as the day they were applied in the 1980s. Sometimes this has meant using vintage stickersheets, but not often. 


I had been doing a series of G1 Transformers articles for TFSource Blog (now The Source Report) where I was showcasing a lot of post-1986 sub-groups like Targetmasters, Headmasters, Monsterbots and Powermasters. I received a lot of praise for the quality of the specimens used and I realised it was rare for people to see loose G1 with stickers and paint/chrome/parts in such excellent condition. A friend of mine was keen for me to continue this project, understanding how crazily difficult it was to source toys of that nature that weren't sealed or unused (and the associated expense). He generously and wonderfully gifted me a MISB G1 Powermaster Darkwing from 1988, on the sole condition that I open it, apply the stickers and write about it. I am also not allowed to sell it! It helped that he knew I had a perfect Dreadwind already.

The Darkwing specimen you see in this article was completely MISB, taped on both sides, in the first four pictures above. The fifth picture immediately preceding the above paragraph? Well, you can see for yourself where this is going.


Disclaimer time: this is not a guide on how to open vintage Generation 1 boxed Transformers. I did some reading and asked some learned folk their opinions, eventually settling on the method that I felt most comfortable with for my collecting purposes. I am also not in the business of taking sealed specimens off the market and reducing the number of perfectly preserved examples in the world. Diaclone collector Maz from a few years ago would disown his future self. Remember, this Darkwing was a gift, a gift with a condition which I was happy to fulfil, for a purpose I genuinely believe in.

So, see above. Upon unsealing the flap - cutting the tape not peeling it, I'm not a neanderthal - we see a baggie behind the backing card featuring a mailaway promotion, an instruction booklet, a product catalogue for 1988, a tech-spec decoder and a stickersheet. Very standard Hasbro US Transformers paperwork. The baggie was not taped, but impulse sealed (melted/perforated) at each end, meaning it had to be cut for access, not just un-taped. These baggies always add a slight bulge to the package when you view the MISB specimen from the side.



Good heavens, would you look at that? Untouched G1. I have seen sealed-on-card Generation 1 stuff before, but knowing that these contents had been untouched for approaching 30 years and that the unsealing was completely fresh adds a bittersweet flavour to it. Sweet, because it's something I have not experienced for almost three decades - and it's an experience we all deserve now that our appreciation of G1 has had time to mature and distil as adult collectors. Bitter, because I do realise that the opening of such a specimen represents one less perfectly preserved original vintage Generation 1 Transformer. I have seen a few sealed Darkwings since receiving this one, and I do feel comforted by the conditions under which I received it from the sender, so enough guilt, methinks.



Both the Powermaster Nebulan "Throttle" and Powermaster jet "Darkwing" are sealed to the backing card inside a bubble with adhesive. There is also a plastic riser beneath the Nebulan and the jet in order for them to be displayed prominently and visibly inside the outer box. The two guns that come with Darkwing are paired and are rattling around somewhat underneath the jet, but separated from scratching the jet by the riser itself.


It was now time to get to the toy itself. This was without a doubt the most stressful and time consuming section of the experience, because this was the main part of the process where I wanted to behave as a collector rather than a grateful (or not) child. This is also where my appreciation for styrofoam inserts increased. How would I get access to the toy and Nebulan, without being too invasive, and still allow the toy to be displayed MIB as if sealed later, should I desire?

There was a lot of advice available, from Heroic Decepticon's guide to unsealing to advice from dealer friends. Some advised partially separating the bubble from the backing card, others advised cutting directly into the bubble towards the top and not touching the adhesive or backing card. Eventually, what I felt most comfortable doing was taking Heroic Decepticon's advice and cutting into the backing card from the back with a sharp but manageable knife, creating a sort of cardboard trapdoor, allowing access to the toy. Of course, I had to be damn careful not to slice through any of the bubble, affect any of the adhesive or actually hit the toy inside. I didn't follow his advice completely because I did actually break the surface of the card with the knife, instead of cutting deeply and doing the rest with nails. The Nebulan was far harder to remove; I probably gave the Nebulan's bubble riser a lot more shit than I should have when trying to remove it. 



A long and painstaking amount of time later, the above was my reward. The most freshly mint and recently-liberated loose Generation 1 Darkwing in the world. Absolute magic, I can tell you. There may not be the smell of rubber tyres as you get with early G1 Autobot cars, but it was still a divine experience. The tightness of the joints and unblemished surfaces, the feel of vintage and undisturbed G1. But again, this experience was not the motivation behind this endeavour. I also did not want to cut out the Robot Points and order Megatron, Ratchet, Cosmos, Sunstreaker, Wheeljack or Mirage, as advertised by the mailaway promotion. I should also say how wonderful it was, after all these years, to look upon and touch a set of G1 instructions that had never been unfolded. So crisp, so perfect. Such nostalgic impact. The stickersheet was perfect as expected and the catalogue was also crisp, featuring some gorgeous well-known prototypes and mock-ups within.



So, here it is. The perfect Powermaster Darkwing. No snapped tabs, no creased wing stickers, no mis-placed fin, knee, forearm or waist stickers. No wear or discolouration, no deformation of the nosecone. This is the promised land, and something I had been unable to source until being gifted this perfect specimen. As was the case with virtually all of the post-movie collection I bought, and everything I added to it subsequently, seeing a G1 toy in this condition really made me appreciate its qualities. Loose, worn and heavily loved G1 toys doubtless have a charm all their own, but to see them as they were on the day of production, augmented with stickers and preserved so brilliantly, well that's a different thing entirely. It was only upon getting toys of such condition that I fell in love with G1 Kup and Getaway, Crosshairs and Chromedome. When I saw them as they were meant to be.


Now, I had mistakenly believed that G1 Darkwing was a toy with a glaring design flaw, much like 1988 Decepticon Headmaster Horri-Bull. You transform it - or combine it with Dreadwind - and it breaks. Immediately. The long tab that extends out of the front end of the jet is broken most of the time on used Darkwings. I just figured it happened when you folded it back or un-clipped it from jet mode upon the first transformation, just like Horri-Bull, or upon combination with Dreadwind. That was a misconception on my part, as the damage seems to be caused on all specimens by transforming Darkwing without properly attaching his Powermaster, Throttle. Finding that out made me so happy, as I thought I'd better get all the pics I need right now for the associated articles, I am destined to break it if I want to transform or combine Darkwing with Dreadwind. Either that, or I'd have to get a second loose, ready-broken one for combined pics. 

Contrary to all of that, he transformed as smooth as you like, not a single frightening moment. What an utterly magnificent figure, what stunning and complimentary colours and a totally distinct headsculpt. Also, what a mighty backpack. How amazing is that torso rotation to reveal the head? Of course, this isn't my first Darkwing. No, I actually found a junker in a vintage shop in Iceland of all places last summer! Already broken, devoid of stickers and all accessories, of course.


Back to the new boy, I set about applying the stickers with as much care as I could possibly employ. Surfaces were wiped down with a gentle cloth (even though they had previously not had any opportunity to gather dust as he was sealed) and stickers were removed and applied using tweezers. Some needed removing and re-application if my alignment was not good enough. To do this, you have to make sure that you never ever allow all of the sticker to attach to the surface unless you are certain it's in the right place. 


Now, one of the challenges I have faced with every vintage G1 stickersheet I've applied (Apeface, Fangry, Slapdash and now Darkwing) is that the paperwork and stock photography on the box were produced - most of the time - before the final version of the toy had seen release. As a result, the sticker application map, the stock photography and box artwork rarely match up 100%. I always have to look online and try to establish an overwhelming body of evidence for some stickers whose position or orientation is ambiguous from the sources provided with the toy. With Darkwing, that was the rectangular set of stickers that go along the forearms. I am happy with what I've decided. I also had to check a few times to make sure the polygonal knee stickers didn't actually sit on the moulded polygonal bit just below where they've ended up.

Is it any wonder that so many vintage G1 toys have misapplied stickers?


Here is the end result. An utterly spectacular-looking vintage Powermaster Decepticon Darkwing and Throttle, 100% stickered accurately without a jot of wear on him. I see it as a justification of this endeavour - the time, sacrifice and cost involved - when people ask "is that reprolabeled?"


To have a full run of 1987 or 1988 toys in this condition, looking precisely as the designers intended them to, is my goal. I toyed with the idea of creating a 100% perfect vintage photographic reference or publication, but the time and effort involved makes it a very long term project. At the same time, it's something I really am enjoying adding to my collection. I am actually changing the face of my vintage collection - and collecting - by employing these conditions. I strongly maintain that vintage G1, loose and stickers applied in this perfect condition, are a major rarity because of the nature of opened toys and inevitable wear. 


Sure, someone could go ahead and bust open an entire year's worth of sealed G1 to accomplish this overnight, but nobody is going to do that. The challenge is finding them already like that, perfectly preserved. Where possible I avoid consuming a vintage stickersheet, let alone unsealing a vintage specimen. For figures like Apeface and Darkwing, it simply wasn't happening and I took action for the former and was gifted an opportunity with the latter. Again, the challenge is not the motivation, it's the long term end result: a comprehensive and - hopefully - high quality visual resource of G1 Transformers looking precisely as they were intended to and at their very best.

For now, I'm just delighted and inspired to have such a perfect Darkwing. The experience of unsealing and stickering it was a wonderful bonus to the overall goal.


An enormous thank you to my friend for the wonderful gift of Darkwing - you know who you are.

All the best
Maz










6 comments:

  1. Nice. I've done the same with Combaticons and Protectobots, though that was probably 10 years ago. Was very nice to have that feeling of opening them for the first time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the kind words, Nigel! I expect to be met with a healthy mix of appreciation, confusion and outrage for this one. I will just keep saying that the only reason I was given it was for this purpose, and that it was for a greater purpose :)

      Love that you have done the same and enjoyed it!

      All the best
      Maz

      Delete
  2. Toys are meant to be opened not trapped in prison for all eternity. If people express negativity, to hell with them. You did a wonderful thing, Maz. You shared opening a brand new toy, and because of it, made me feel some Mostalgia Feels. Thank you, friend. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely my pleasure, and thank you so much my friend :)

      All the best
      Maz

      Delete
  3. Amazing. Great to experience it along with you. Not had the chance to do anything like this in years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Nic. I'm not sure it's something I could repeat unless it was for the same purpose and a similarly impossible to find perfect used specimen.

      All the best
      Maz

      Delete