In my previous post I looked at a couple of vintage Transformers toy ads from Dutch store catalogs from the 1980′s. We left off at 1986 last time and that’s where we’re picking up today. A side note here first: As I mentioned in my previous post, these aren’t scans, but quick snapshots that I took with my iPhone. I might replace them in the future with proper scans, but for now it was the most time efficient method of getting this material into the digital domain. Right, with that out of the way, let’s see what we have here!
“More Than Meets the Eye!”
OK, let’s have a look first at this very nice page that I found inside a 1986 Vedes catalog, presumably from late 1986. It shows a photo of Optimus Prime, Snarl, Runamuck and Runabout. Check it out:
Transformers toys – Vedes 1986 toy catalog
Wow, I really like the attention to detail in this photo! Whoever made these photos obviously invested more than just 5 minutes. The scenery background looks great as does the addition of Bandai’s Robo Machines at the lower half of the page. A really nice combo. Some background info I managed to dig up: Vedes is a German toy purchasing organisation, that is seemingly still active in the Dutch toy market, although I never recall seeing the brand. Apparently some independent toy stores in the 1980′s cooperated under the Vedes umbrella, as was often the case in the Netherlands (Speelboom used to be a very similiar formula).
“Grey Roller and Metal Plates Prime”
The Transformers pictured above are all part of the European 1986 line up with Optimus Prime finally taking his rightful place as leader of the Autobots over from Jetfire. If you also look closely you will notice that this particular Optimus Prime is the one that came with a grey roller and with metal plates on the trailer. You can easily recognize a metal plate trailer Optimus Prime by looking at the sides of the trailer. If it has two rows of holes on each side of the trailer with metal shining through, you’ve got a metal plate trailer. Check it out:
Optimus Prime with metal plate trailer and grey roller
Why or what the funk is a metal plate trailer?? Well, as most Transformers collectors will know, most Transformers (including Optimus Prime) were actually available earlier as a different toy line called Diaclone from Japanese toy maker Takara. Part of this Diaclone line was that it came with tiny Diaclone drivers that would fit inside the toys. These Diaclone drivers had magnets in their feet so you could attach them to Optimus Prime’s trailer plates. When Hasbro released Transformers, the Diaclone driver concept was dropped. As it made no sense to include metal plates anymore, Hasbro and Takara replaced the metal plates with stickers, which was also much cheaper of course! Some of the early Optimus Primes still came with metal plates, a grey roller (instead of blue) and had ‘bloated’ accessories (i.e. his fists and blaster were much thicker than the more common, regular accessories that came later). It’s hard to gauge on this photo, but it looks like Prime’s blaster here is also of the bloated variety. Why is this so interesting? As an early variant, it is interesting to see this version of Prime pop up in a late 1986 catalog. I’m pretty convinced that all the Optimus Primes that were available at retail in Europe by then were all manufactured in France by a company called Ceji, under license from Takara. Ceji’s Primes never had metal plate trailers, bloated accessories, nor grey rollers.
“Gobots, Transform and Roll Out!”
It is not pure coincidence that Robo Machines (a.k.a. Gobots) are photographed here as well. This toy line did not see the massive and global publicity that the Transformers got, so it was often regarded as second rate or poor man’s Transformers (unjustly so, in my opinion). It is interesting to note that Bandai’s Robo Machines beat MB’s Transformers to the market in the Netherlands by a good margin. They were available here from at least early 1985, while Transformers were introduced here in the Fall of 1985.
Those “other” Transformers…
“Bikkelhard, Die Robots!”
Moving along, here we have a cool, robot themed two-page spread from a toy store called Casa dated October 1986. I’ve never heard of Casa and judging by the back of the catalog it wasn’t such a big chain of toy stores either, with just a total of five stores in the Netherlands in 1986 (in comparison with say Intertoys, which had 100 stores nation wide by that time).
Transformers toys – Casa October 1986 catalog
We can see a cool transformation sequence in the middle of the spread of Inferno. Also shown are Whirl, Topspin, Tracks, Hoist, Smokescreen, Soundwave, Optimus Prime and a couple of those bots inside their packaging. Wow, by this time this toy line was definitely on fire. How on earth could a kid choose between all this awesome stuff! And choose most of us had to. I remember Transformers were frighteningly expensive in the Netherlands in the 1980′s (as were most other American toy lines). The prices shown here are Dutch guilders. Compensating for inflation, you could easily substitute these prices for Euro’s today. I don’t believe this was purely a Dutch thing, because when I compare Dutch prices of Transformers in those days with those from other European countries like France and the UK, these were more or less identically priced.
I think part of the cause of this high price point was that the US dollar was very expensive in the mid-80′s compared to most European currencies. Back then the US dollar was worth about the equivalent of 2 Euros and that’s not even compensating for inflation, because then it would be about 4 euros to the dollar! A stark contrast compared to the 75 eurocents the dollar is worth today. I remember being completely surprised when I learned how relatively cheap Transformers and G.I. Joe were in the U.S. compared to the cash we had to cough up in Europe.
“U.S. Box Art”
There’s a photo of a couple of Transformers inside their packaging at the bottom of the second page, which I have crudely zoomed in on below. As you can see these are Optimus Prime, Soundwave, Top Spin, Smokescreen and Inferno. Again something stands out and that is that both Smokescreen and Inferno are shown in U.S. packaging and not the standard European retail packaging.
Transformers in packaging
You can recognize the European packaging by the missing “Transforms from … to ….” text on the top left of the box, right above the window. So why are only Smokescreen and Inferno shown in U.S. packaging and the rest in European packaging? My guess, again, is that at the time that the Dutch distributor of Transformers (Milton Bradley) needed to supply their customers (i.e. toy store chains) with sample packaging for promotional purposes they did not yet have supplies of Smokescreen and Inferno in European retail packaging, because those two were new additions to the line in 1986. The remaining three (Prime, Soundwave and Top Spin) had all been released in 1985 in Europe, so MB probably did have European retail samples of those on hand. So instead MB “borrowed” a couple of Smokescreens and Inferno’s in U.S. packaging, because these had been available in the U.S. since 1985, and sent those off for promotional purposes like this catalog.
“Hello, Blue Tracks!”
Another point of interest is that a blue Tracks is pictured below. What’s so strange about that? Well, not much really, other than the fact that the first Tracks that was available in continental Europe was a red Tracks!
Blue Tracks, Hoist and Smokescreen
But just to confirm that we did get a blue Tracks here in Europe after all. The red Tracks came inside a box with an MB logo (1985), while the blue Tracks was released in Hasbro branded packaging (1986). Side note: I recently acquired a MISB (mint-in-sealed-box) blue Tracks in Euro packaging and am writing an in-depth article on the MB red Tracks that should replace the outdated article on red Tracks that I currently have on my site. Stay tuned for that! :-) Oh and I also like the photo above, because it shows one of my first Transformers I ever owned: Hoist!!!
The next page I found is from 1988. By this time my interest in Transformers had seriously waned, but so had the sales figures it seemed. Transformers were displayed less prominently in the toy stores I still checked out from time to time. This page is from a Bart Smit catalog from November 1988.
Transformers toys – Bart Smit November 1988 toy catalog
And I am afraid this is also where my lack of knowledge regarding the later G1 years rears its ugly head as I am having great difficulty identifying the “Sparkle minibots” and the Seacon on the left. The Seacon leader pictured on the right is obviously Snaptrap, but he seems to have Piranacon’s head on, which is probably wrong, because until now these catalogs have been filled with many mistakes! :-)
Also note the MB logo shown here. Although Transformers started appearing with Hasbro branding since 1986 in the Netherlands, they were still being distributed by MB. It looks like Bart Smit mistakenly placed an MB logo there, which is understandable, because they got these toys from MB.
Remember the “Deceptions” from the first part of this toy catalog series of posts? Well, they’re back! In the photo below, which is from a December 1988 catalog from Slot Huishoudmarkt (a small department store in Enschede, the Netherlands) , we can see that the Aerialbots are mistakenly referred to as “Deception Planes”. Not even did they get the faction of these bots wrong, they also managed to spell it wrong. Double whammy!
Transformers toys – Slot Huishoudmarkt December 1988 toy catalog
Oh, and while we’re on the subject of spelling mistakes, did you catch those “Trottlebots” there? LOL!!! But the fun don’t stop there. Please have a look at the totally funked up state that Ramjet is in here:
“I am in pain. Please kill me. - love, Ramjet”
Not only is Ramjet mistransformed, but you can also actually see through parts of his wings! I have no clue what the person who was compositing this photo was thinking, but he or she probably -for whatever reason- thought it would be a good idea to cut out the stickers on Ramjet’s wings… These catalog photos never fail to amuse me! Poor, poor Ramjet. :-)
“More to Come”
Thanks for joining me in this little trip down memory lane again! I still have lots of catalogs that need sifting through and I think I’ll focus on some non-Transformers stuff next time. Can’t make any predictions on when that will be, because work is a necessary evil that is taking up much of my time lately. I do plan to continue doing these catalog posts from time to time as long as there’s enough interesting stuff to post, so all 1980′s toy lines should get their fair share in the spotlight!
Oh, and if you were wondering what “Bikkelhard die Robots!” means…. It’s Dutch and loosely translated it means “These robots are really hardcore!” ;-)