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The Original Transformers That Captured A Generation

Transformers: “Like No Toy Robots I Had Ever Seen”

Well this just happened…

It was nearing 4 pm and I was frantically clacking away at the keyboard because I knew there was not much time before…too late. “Daddy!” boomed a voice from across the room, splitting the air, and my focus…this has become the abrupt transition ritual from work time to playtime. Today’s game was Pokemon. As my eldest child staggered closer, elbows locked at his sides straining to hold onto his banker box full of cards, it dawned on me. He was now the age I was when my childhood obsession began. Before Pokemon, before Hatchimals, L.O.L. Dolls, and Minecraft there was the quintessential action figures for any youngster of the 1980s, The Transformers.


Vintage Transformers Generation 1 Perceptor, Function - Scientist, Circa 1985
Vintage Transformers Generation 1 Perceptor, Function – Scientist, Circa 1985 | Source

Playing With Robots

It began one morning before class in 2nd Grade. Several of my friends were huddled in the back corner of Mrs. Saglio’s classroom playing with robots. When it was time to take our seats it became clear these were like no toy robots I had ever seen. As the morning announcements blared over the loudspeaker, I watched in amazement as my classmate turned each robot into their respective alternate forms. There was one that turned into a yellow Lamborghini, who I later learned was called Sunstreaker. There was one that turned into a blue microcassette player, appropriately dubbed Soundwave, along with his buddy Buzzsaw that changed from a golden condor to a cassette tape. Megatron was my favorite, the leader of the Decepticons, which changed into a very realistic-looking gun.

From this point and for the following 3 years, not a week went by that I didn’t angle for a trip to the toy store to buy transformers. Weekly allowance was spent at the local five and dime and birthdays and Christmas were replete with Transformers toys and only Transformers toys.

Was there ever a Unicron Toy?

As I got older and adolescence set in, my interests shifted. The toys were relegated to the storage closet, where they sat for years, only coming out once for a move to Florida. The collection met its demise in 1995 while I was away at college when Hurricane Opal flooded the barrier island on which my mother lived with a 6-foot storm surge. The toys, which had been stored in the garage, ended up heaped in a sand dune outside.

I would later come to realize that my apathy toward my mother’s repeated attempts to have me move my stuff had cost me dearly. Within a few years, the internet had become mainstream. Groups of people from all over the world with common interests were able to connect with each other. Suddenly the answers to all those questions you had as a kid were at your fingertips. Was there ever a Unicron toy? Who was the guy that voiced those awesome commercials? Why are the colors of my toys different from the ones shown in the instructions and toy catalogs? The spark for collecting Transformers was rekindled and continues even today for this forty-something-year-old man.

Transformer Rhinoceros Beetle

Vintage Generation 1 Transformers Decepticon – Barrage, Function – Gunner, Alt Mode – Rhinoceros Beetle, Circa 1985 | Source: Joe Haupt via Flickr with CC License

Transformers Facts

Here are some interesting Transformer facts I picked up along the way you may not know:

Transformers toys are worth money
There are sites where you can sell Transformers. Old Transformers toys have become quite the hot commodity in recent years. If you think you might still have some of those childhood goodies, it’s worth the effort to clean out those attics and basements and dig up some old relics. Like most collectible toys, the value is dependent on several factors including: condition, accessories, and packaging.

Transformers are still being made

Since its inception in the 80s, not a year has gone by without an official Transformers toy release. While the first generation of Transformers officially ended in 1990 in North America, it continued on in other areas of the globe. In 1996, Hasbro took drastic action to reinvigorate the franchise in North America, when Beast Wars made its debut. Together with a new CGI-animated TV series, Beast Wars became wildly successful. This brought the Transformers all the way to the new millennium. The ensuing decades saw more new toy lines, a blockbuster movie series, and hordes of reissues of the 80s toys. Some of these can still be found at Walmart, branded as “Vintage G1” complete with retro-style artwork.

Most of the iconic transformers were copies of other toys

In 1980, Takara, a Japanese toy company, had been riding a wave of popularity from its Microman line. They made the decision to reduce the scale of their figures and instead focus on vehicles and robots. Thus, they gave them one-inch tall drivers. This concept eventually led to the formation of a fully separate universe of fiction called Diaclone. The popular figures Optimus Prime, the Dinobots, and Sunstreaker were taken from this. Later, Hasbro acquired the rights to many of Takara’s transforming toys, and the rest is history.

Megatron could shoot bullets in Japan, and had a sword!

At the tail end of 1978, tragedy struck when a projectile from a Battlestar Galactica Colonial Viper became lodged in the larynx of a four-year-old boy from Georgia, leading to his death. This model, and others that had firing missiles, were recalled. Many toy companies including Mattel and Hasbro altered or scrapped designs that used the gimmick. In 1984, Hasbro distributed the realistic Walther P38 pistol branded as Megatron, leader of the evil Decepticons. However, It lacked the sharp-tipped sword and firing bullets of its Takara predecessor. One year later, after seeing Hasbro’s success in the west, Takara introduced Japan to the Transformers. The Megatron that was available in the Japanese market retained the plastic bullets that Hasbro had omitted.

What are your Transformer memories?

Do you have any fond childhood memories of epic toy clashes between good (you) and evil (your friends or siblings)? Did you have a different toy indulgence from back in the day?

Vintage Generation 1 Transformers

Vintage Generation 1 Transformers Decepticon – Barrage (Transformed), Function – Gunner, Alt Mode – Rhinoceros Beetle, Circa 1985 | Source: Joe Haupt via Flickr with CC License

Matthew Camaratta is the owner and operator of transformerland, a PhD in materials engineering, and a doting father of three brilliant children. Transformerland is recommended by MensHealth Magazine and Tomart’s Action Figure Digest as the place to cash in on 80s toys. It was developed by Matthew as a way to reconnect grown-up kids with their childhood memories.

Photos by Joe Haupt via Flickr with CC License
Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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