Category Archives: Vintage Robots

COLLECTORS SPOTLIGHT: Transformers Generation 1 to Masterpiece and Everything in Between with Michael Vella from Sydney

 

M Vella optimus prime.jpg

Q. Who are you, where are you from and what do you collect?

My name is Michael Vella, I’m from Sydney and I collect pre-TF, G1,
Masterpiece, Generations, RID 2001 and Beast era figures.

m vella collection 1

Q. Do you collect anything other than Transformers?

Not particularly. I have a bit of Powers Rangers stuff, bit of Lego, few
Digimon tamagotchis, but really my passion is Transformers.

Q. How does collecting fit with your lifestyle, family, friends etc?

My family and friends have all accepted my obsession with collecting.

 

m vella collection 8 modern tf

Q. Do you ever go to conventions, are you involved in any social groups or collector clubs etc?

I don’t go to conventions, but I have been to plenty of Transformer meetups which is something I really enjoy. Having a conversation in real life is so much nicer than behind a computer. I am a member of TCCA and former NSW rep. I also admin a group called
Transformers BST Down Under which is going really well so far.

m vella collection 9 combiners

Q. When did you start collecting, and do you remember your first ever Transformer toys? Was it something you bought yourself, or a gift from family etc?

I had a few Transforming toys beforehand, but I want to say I started really collecting around Beast Machines, and my older brother was showing me episodes of G1 around that time as well which is why I love the older series despite those toys not being on shelves when I was a kid. The Commemorative reissues that came out a couple years later were great for me though. I have very vague recollections of G2 toys, but the first Transformers I remember ever buying were Beast Wars Scarem and Air Hammer.

m vella collection 5 diaclone convoy

Q. Do you have any specific collection goals in your lifetime, or any specific “exit strategy” eg a point where you can see yourself stopping?

I’d love to own a Diaclone PC DX set one day, but I can’t see that happening without winning the lotto. Ha! My biggest goal for right now is getting a Milton Bradley red Tracks. I keep saying after this or that I’ll stop collecting or take a break, but I don’t think it will happen for a long time realistically.

m vella collection 2 starscream

Q. Do you have an all time favourite line of Transformers toys, what makes this line so special for you? And what line do you like the least out of everything we have had so far?

My favourite line is easily G1. I find the aesthetic of those vintage toys so wonderful to look at even though they have the articulation of a brick, but there is just a certain charm about them. It’s hard for me to say what I like the least out of all the different lines as I tend to not buy stuff that doesn’t look appealing. I can say that the Titanium line is the worst I’ve actually gotten into, thankfully I no longer own anything from that line.

m vella collection 10 astro train g1 omega supreme

Q. Favourite Transformer characters and favourite Transformers toys? 

Favourite characters are G1 Bumblebee, G1 Starscream and Beast Wars Blackarachnia. One of my favourite toys is the G1 Bumblebee mold of which I have a few variations, I think it’s well designed for it’s era and fun. My most favourite toy above all is my Diaclone Powered Convoy as that is something I have wanted for a very long time.

m vella collection 3 minibots and prime

Q. Of all the Transformers fiction out there, what is your favourite?

In terms of fiction I have to say Beast Wars is incredibly well written and put together for its time. I do love the G1 toys more than BW toys, but the BW show beats G1 show quite easily.

m vella collection 6 mechabot 1 mp valkyrie

Q. What would you like to see for the foreseeable future of the brand eg more toys, comics, cartoons, films, games, media etc? And what would you like NOT to see for the brand?

This answer may be odd as I feel we aren’t getting enough G1 Masterpeices quick enough, but in terms of Generations I am starting to want something a bit different than the same G1 characters over and over. After POTP finishes I would like to give Generations collecting a break unless they heavily focus on other eras like BW or RID 2001.

m vella collection 7 RID 2001

Q. Any unique, rare or special items in your collection?

Yeah I have a few rarities. At the moment I’m focusing on Prime variants
and I collect pre-TF as mentioned previously. I’d say my rarest figures
are Diaclone blue Fairlady and G2 Breakdown.

m vella collection 4 max g2 stunticon

THANKS FOR TAKING THE TIME TO ANSWER SOME QUESTIONS MICHAEL, MUCH APPRECIATED. I HOPE FOLKS HAVE ENJOYED HEARING ABOUT YOU AND YOUR COLLECTION AS MUCH AS I HAVE.

rid ruination

 

 

 

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TANGENT COLLECTIONS: 1980’s Retro Robots by TOMY

crackbot tomy1 r.jpg

When I was a kid I had a toy robot called “Crackbot”.

Seriously.

This toy was released by TOMY in the 80’s as part of a line of toy robots that had electronics, and each had some type of gimmick.

crackbot sale tomy.jpg

Crackbot had an antennae tail with a sound sensor on the top. Any short sharp loud sound would make him stop rolling around, and nod his head up and down a few times, then continue on his merry way. He had a pudgy round body, oblong-ish head and his arms would swing back and forth as he moved.

It was a cool toy, and I liked it.

However it’s not much of a play pattern. You turn it on, watch it roll around the kitchen floor for five, ten minutes tops. Then you put it away and find something else to play with.

It was not a hands-on type of toy. Picking it up meant it was not rolling around on the floor. I guess I got bored of it after a few months, then it faded into the background of my other childhood toys.

Fast forward a few decades, and I find myself browsing various vintage 80’s robot toys on my tablet in bed at night. Thanks to some of the fan made websites such as the excellent The Old Robots  we have a nice reference for anyone looking for information and pictures of the toy lines.

TOMY robot family ad jg

Top stuff, I should really contact whoever runs that site for a Q&A. The Old Robots is a great reference on all types of vintage robots from around the world. The best site possible for any kind of collector to stumble over.

Hundreds of photographs, technical specifications, tips on mods and restorations, and loads of great images of box art, old advertorials – just a fantastic resource and clearly a passion project.

the old robots main page.jpg

Anyway, so I started feeling nostalgic particularly for the TOMY line of toy robots, and could not quite put my finger on it.

It’s not the electronics and gimmicks which appeal, though they are cool. It’s not that I want to play with them – as there is not a lot you can do with them. Well you can mod the fancy ones to do all sorts of things, making it closer to the Robo-Butler it was advertised as being for badly dressed lazy 80’s kids too busy playing video games to get their own damn snacks.

TOMY Robots Omnibot Butler.jpg
OMNIBOT – Pretends to be your Butler until the inevitable overthrow of humanity

It’s really the aesthetics of the toys that I love.

Those cute faces and pudgy proportions are just adorable.

Which are beautifully highlighted in some fine digital art by Rocky Bergen.

Tomy Robots rocky bergen art
Art and Fine Fashion Sense by Rocky Bergen http://rockybergen.com/work/

These smaller TOMY robots look like they want to help out, or could just be cool Robo-Pets for kids.

They are quite beautiful to my eye and then the nostalgia comes in as they have the look of a certain era. The TOMY robots are unmistakably 80’s Japanese toy robots, but they also look like they take their design cues from Futurism, with a little Star Wars and 2001 mixed in.

Their bone white non-color [HOUSE RULE: The Future – Bone White, Space Age] is a staple of science fiction design, the clean white look associated often with advanced technology and Star Ships. Both Star Wars and Star Trek used bold iconic bone white and off white star ships in their various fiction. The TOMY robots unique look also has some of its roots and influence in the architecture and interior decoration elements of Modernism.

So Modernism, Futurism, Japanese Robots and Science Fiction – all those influences are there for the appreciative eye to see in these cute toy robots from TOMY.

The build quality of TOMY toys is typically quite high – they have made a diverse range of quality toys for several decades. TOMY robots are quite fun, and most of them if you pick them up today are broken, but fixable.

I’m useless at fixing things.

So mainly I’m starting a small mini-collection of  a select few 80’s robots. It’s like “I’m putting a team together, we’re looking for a few good robots”

Some of the Bots I am looking for are by TOMY, and some by other companies such as the “Talkabot” by AXLON I picked up recently from an ebay auction.

The criteria for me to include such a robot is really it’s aesthetics, more than any features or gimmicks. And I dig robots that vow not to join the Robo-Revolution when it arises. Ever notice how a lot of Japanese robots are quite helpful, or even full on Heroic if you count Super-Robot Mecha like Voltron or Combattler V -while american Robots tend to want to kill us all.

talkabot 1 box theoldrobots

So… Talkabot is an exceptionally cute little fellow.

I’m using stock photos from the wonderful The Old Robots site again here, as I can’t find my photos of the one I own just now, and he’s wedged in between some various Transformers toys, with no dedicated space of his own just yet.

I do have the box, but it’s flat with no foam and a bit tattered.

DIGITAL CAMERA

The Talkabot I bought on ebay still works partly. The motor spins, but the wheel is not moving. I think it’s fixable.

His walkie talkie speaks through his chest, and you control him with the same radio control to drive him around. Except the wheel is not catching properly – a common problem with these old robots. Talkabots little crab hands have  a pinch gimmick. A spring keeps them tight, you can open them and put a piece of paper or something small in there for him to carry around while you drive him with the remote.

My next robot I’m hunting will be a Crackbot to replace the one I had when I was a kid.

I don’t have that one anymore, no idea what happened to it.

Seen a few on ebay here and there, but after one that is in good condition and not with faded / yellowed plastic – that yellow fading really ruins the look of these cool robots. If you want good condition ones you have to pay a fair amount for them.

MISB and boxed ones are much higher again, and really out of my price range. I go for loose or unboxed Robo’s, in good clean condition with no major damage to the body shell – but I’m not worried about the interior electronics and such. Often it’s worth paying just a *little* more for a working or fixable robot than a total junker. I’ll take some proper photos of TalkaBot when he has a better area to be displayed in.

I look forward to picking up a number of TOMY 80’s retro robots over the the next year or two, starting with my childhood Crackbot, who took no part in the 80’s drugs wars.

talkabot john1 cropped.JPG