20th Century Toy Collector

By The Power Of Greyskull!

Archive for the 'MB Transformers' Category

MB Transformers: Part 6 is here!

Finally! I can almost not believe it has almost been a friggin’ year and a half since I published the last chapter in my series of articles on vintage European MB Transformers. After months of hard work, especially the last few weeks, I can now finally chill out knowing the article is done. This particular chapter focuses on another interesting corner of the MB Transformers line: packaging mix ups! Of course, everyone knows about the Red Tracks packaging variation, but did you know there were two more? One of these was relatively known and one was almost completely unknown until now and it’s a doozy of a variation!! Some crazy stuff as you will see.

mb-transformers-part-6-poster

Why did it take almost a year and a half for me to come up with the next chapter in this saga? Well, there are several reasons. First and foremost was the fact that I suffered a serious writer’s block after I had published the fifth chapter. I had spent so much time on it and just couldn’t bring myself to picking up my digital pen again for a while and when I finally did I had no idea whatsoever how to combine the stuff I was researching into the sixth chapter. I made several attempts that went nowhere. Lots of time spent with nothing to show for it kinda gets my morale down, but I guess that’s just normal. What also did not help is that one of the very subject matters I was researching had not fallen into place quite as much as I had liked to.

Late last year I made a concentrated effort to finish the article by rewriting it from the ground up (again). But this time things were falling into place and the stars were aligning! This doesn’t mean it was smooth sailing from that moment on. It was a lot of work. I still marvel at the incredible number of manhours this article has cost me (and the two before it). I don’t have an accurate estimate of how much time it has cost me, but I think I prefer it that way, because if I did I would probably fall off my chair!

One of the reasons why it takes so much time to create these articles is that I like to embellish them with as many photos and infographics as I can (–the poster above shows some examples of the graphical design that has gone into this chapter). This takes shitloads of time. Setting up my photo studio, photographing the items, breaking down the photo studio, importing the photos into Aperture and cleaning them up, then doing the Photoshop magic to sow everything together in a visually attractive way. I’d hazard a guess that more than 60% of the time spent on these articles goes into photography and graphical design. The stuff that I actually end up using is just a fraction of what I have been slaving away at. But in the end it’s worth it, because these articles would be so hard to digest and booooooooring without the visuals to hit things home.

mb-ratchet-styro-2

Of the five senses humans have, the largest part of the brain is reserved to process visual information. One photo or drawing can communicate in a split second the same amount of information that would fit into one or more paragraphs of text, which can take a minute to read and re-read (and sometimes still fail to bring the message across to the reader). Visual information rules!

But I’m talking too much again. Please enjoy the sixth chapter in this 10-part series by clicking or tapping on the link below. It took a long time to write and it was a bumpy ride, but I think it turned out alright in the end. Enjoy!!!!

Link to : MB Transformers: Part 6

 

 

posted by 20th Century Toy Collector in MB Transformers,Transformers and have Comment (1)

Transformers – Slag (MB)

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by a visitor of this website who had a lead on an MB (Milton Bradley) Transformer that was still missing from my collection. I’m an avid collector of vintage Transformers inside their original European packaging and my collection of 1985 MB Transformers is nearing completion, which makes it very hard to find the items I do not have yet. Because these Transformers toys that came with MB branding were the earliest releases, they are quite hard to find. So every time I manage to add one to my collection there’s a small party going on in my obsessive compulsive brain! Check out the newest addition to my MB Transformers collection: Slag the Dinobot!!! And he’s still MISB, i.e. factory sealed!

mb-slag-slanted-copy

Transformers – Slag (1985) MB

“Three horned face”

Before I go into detail on the toy itself, let’s have a quick look at the dinosaur that Slag is based on! Slag is what is called a Triceratops, which is one of the most recognizable dinosaurs. The name “Triceratops” is originally Greek and can literally be translated into “three horned face” and that’s quite an apt name, because the triceratops has three horns on his head. Two right above his eyes and one on his nose.

5969898397_f9072a0cdf_o-copy

The mighty Triceratops!

The Triceratops walked the Earth in what is now known as North America during the Late Cretaceous period, which is 68 to 65 million years ago. To put things a little into perspective, the first beings considered to be Homo Sapiens (that’s us humans) first walked the Earth only about 200,000 years ago! That’s right. Slag, Grimlock, Snarl, Sludge and Swoop’s original alt modes were chilling out on planet Earth millions of years before our most distant ancestors saw the light of day. Damn…

An adult Triceratops could grow to a length of 8 to 9 meters (that’s 26 to 30 feet to our metrically challenged readers ;-). It would grow to a height of 3 meters (9.5 feet) and could weigh anything between 6 to 12 tons (13,000 to 26,000 lbs).

“1984: Dinosaur Robo’s”

So let’s place this European MB Slag I have in context if we can. As was the case with most of the early vintage Transformers toys, the Dinobots were originally based on a series of transforming toys called “Diaclone” from Japanese toy maker Takara. The Transformers we now know as Dinobots were released first in Japan in 1984 by Takara as a sub group called Dinosaur Robo:

diaclone-dinosaur-robo-copy

Diaclone – Dinosaur Robo (1984) – from a Takara catalog

Above you can see some of the Dinosaur Robo artwork from a Diaclone catalog. A total of five Dinosaur Robos were released by Takara in Japan. The Dinobot we now know as Slag was released in Japan as Dinosaur Robo #2. Below is what appears to be an early prototype (or drawing) of Slag or rather the Diaclone triceratops. As you can see it looks a lot like Slag, but has blue highlights instead of red.

diaclone-dinosaur-robo-2-slag-2-copy

Diaclone – Dinosaur Robo #2 (1984) Takara

“1985: Dinobots”

A year later (in 1985) Hasbro released these Dinosaur Robo’s in the western world as “Dinobots” under their Transformers brand. They are nearly identical to the Diaclones, but have a different color scheme. While the Diaclone Dinosaur Robo’s were primarily grey, gold and blue, the Transformers Dinobots saw the blue replaced with red. In most of Europe, Hasbro used their freshly acquired MB brand to introduce their Transformers and that’s where my Slag fits in:

mb-slag-front-copy

Early European MB version of Slag (1985) MB

“MB Slag”

This particular version of Slag was released by MB in 1985 and was part of the very first wave of Transformers toys to be released in continental Europe. Local MB subsidiaries distributed these toys in West-Germany, France, the Benelux, Spain and Switzerland (it may also have been available in parts of Scandinavia through Swedish importer BRIO A.B., although it’s possible this may have occurred a year later). Here’s a scan of the Dinobots assortment from a European 1985 MB dealer catalog.

EPSON MFP image

Transformers – Dinobots assortment 9108

The Dinobots were sold by MB as a single assortment. This means that European toy stores could order the Dinobots assortment and they would get a box full of Dinobots, which were Grimlock, Slag, Sludge and Snarl (Swoop was never officially available in most of Europe). The Dinobots assortment number was 9108. Within each assortment number MB assigned a 2-digit sub code to an individual item within that assortment. Slag’s individual sub code is 21, so that makes his catalog number 9108 21. Here’s a close up of Slag’s catalog number on the packaging:

slag-mb-asst-number-copy

Transformers – Slag (1985) European catalog number

“Flamethrower”

Slag’s function within the ranks of the Dinobots was that of flamethrower. This is reflected in the European quad-lingual tech specs on the back of the box, where Slag’s function of flamethrower is translated into German, French, Dutch and Spanish. His motto is translated as “I have no need for friends, even less for enemies.” If there was any doubt to begin with, this just unequivocally proves it: Slag was hardcore.

mb-slag-tech-spec-motto-copy

Slag, the quad-lingual flamethrower

“Copyright notice”

Let’s have a closer look at the copyright notice on the packaging. Here’s a close up photograph of the copyright blurb:

mb-slag-tech-spec-motto-closeup-copy

Transformers – Slag (1985) copyright notice

As you can see the copyright is credited to Milton Bradley International, Inc. (MB) ,  which used to be the international subisdiary of the U.S. Milton Bradley company. Hasbro acquired MB in September of 1984 and a couple of years later Milton Bradley International, Inc. was renamed to Hasbro International, Inc. Don’t be fooled by the 1984 copyright notice. Slag was definitely not available in continental Europe in 1984. The earliest confirmed mention of MB Transformers toys in continental Europe I have is in a Dutch toy industry trade press publication and that’s from March 1985, which ran a preview on MB International’s 1985 toy line up for that very year. Although I do not have an exact date when this first wave of Transformers hit continental Europe, my best guess at the moment is August or September of 1985.

mb-slag-back-slanted-copy

Transformers – Slag (1985) back of the box

The rest of the copyright notice (which is more clearly visible in the photo above if you click to see the closeup) says “Made and printed in Japan. Manufactured by Takara Co. Ltd., Tokyo, Japan.”, which confirms the origin of the toy itself. It was made by Takara in Japan.

“1986: Hasbro re-release”

Slag was re-released in continental Europe in 1986. The difference between the 1985 Slag and the 1986 Slag is that the 1985 Slag came in MB branded packaging and was manufactured in Japan, while the 1986 Slag came in Hasbro branded packaging and was manufactured in Macau. Takara had obviously outsourced some of their production to Macau by that time, most likely due to cost saving considerations.

“Collection”

Up until recently the only Dinobots in MB packaging that I had were a decent looking Grimlock and a Snarl in a very, very fucked up MB box. How things can change! Not only did I score this MISB Slag inside MB packaging, but a few days later a very nice Dutch fellow MB collector friend of mine offered me an MB Sludge and an upgrade for my tatty MB Snarl (- Thanks, Ferdy!!) I now finally have all four MB Dinobots complete in my collection. Woohoo!

img_5819-copy

Transformers – Dinobots (MB) assortment

With these latest additions the number of MB Transformers still missing from my collection has shrunk to just four! For a complete list including photos of all the MB Transformers in my collection and a list of all the assortment numbers just click here.

If you have happen to have any of the four MB Transformers I am still looking for contact me and we’ll work out a deal. Good money paid! If you have a lead on any of these four that’s fine too and I am prepared to pay a finder’s fee if I manage to acquire the item. The four MB Transformers I’m still looking for are Warpath, Ravage, Powerglide and Brawn.

“Trivia”

In the UK, the word “slag” has a negative meaning. It is used to refer to…. how should I put this…. promiscuous women. :-) It is said that because of this Slag was renamed to “Slug” in the “Transformers: Fall of Cybertron” video game. Sigh… Where would the word be without moralists, eh?

Acknowledgements

  • Thanks to Jason for locating Slag for me!!!
  • Thanks to Ferdy (bobafer73) for Sludge and the Snarl upgrade!
  • Thanks to James “Bo” Insigna for allowing me to use his spectacular sunset photo as a backdrop.
  • Triceratops museum photo by Ryan Somma, used under CC-BY-2.0 license. Thank you!
  • Diaclone Dinosaur Robo catalog scans by mechnine, used under CC-BY-2.0 license. Thank you! Original copyright by Takara.
Transformers - Slag (1985)

Transformers - Slag (1985)

 

posted by 20th Century Toy Collector in MB Transformers,Transformers and have Comments (3)

The 1980s had the Best Toys!

Every generation will look back with fondness at their childhood. For me -and I will wager for the majority of the male audience visiting this website- the decade called the 1980s was the decennium where most of our childhood years were spent…. and that was an awesome time to be alive and growing up! I was born in 1975, so for me the 1980s started when I was almost 5 and they ended when I was almost 15. Those are very important and formative years for a boy growing up. The 1980s had some of the coolest toys and cartoons ever!

80s-toys-11-copy

Orko says hi!

“1980s rule!”

Yeah, I know that’s a bold claim and some will say that every generation will say the same about their childhood decade(s). But there really is something different about the 1980s and I think I can back that up with facts. The 1980s were the decade where some of the most classic toy lines were launched. Some of these have seen numerous reissues and relaunches since then and some of them still exist to this day!!! The 1980s were also the first decade where toy based cartoon series exploded onto our television screens!!

80s-toys-01-copy

Your childhood says hi!

While pessimists might claim that these cartoons were nothing more than 30 minute advertisements for the toy lines they were based on, the kids of the 1980s will tell you a whole different story!!

“Soapbox”

Allow me the priviledge to step on my soap box and to be so bold as to represent a whole generation of kids worldwide, who grew up in the 1980s, whether they grew up in Europe, the Americas or Asia….. These cartoons and toys were a fucking blast! They have stimulated our imaginations like nothing else and for some of us they still resonate profoundly in our adult lives and still fill our lives with pleasure! Hands up all of you who consider Optimus Prime a personal hero. Hands up all of you who got all choked up inside when Optimus Prime died in the 1986 Transformers Movie. Hands up all of you who still get goose bumps every now and then when He-Man holds up his magic sword and says “By the Power of Grayskull!”. Hands up all of you who think the intro theme to the M.A.S.K. cartoon is one of the coolest pieces of music written evah!! :-)

80s-toys-18-copy

Yo Joe!!

“The 1980s are still rockin’!”

I guess some sceptics might still claim that the 1980s are nothing different from the decades before and the decades after. Well, I beg to differ. Let’s have an objective look at some of the 1980s properties that are still alive today, shall we? The Transformers exploded onto an unsuspecting planet in 1984 and have remained with us ever since! The toy line just never stopped and kept being reinvented and has recently reached new levels of awesomeness in the 21st century with three major motion pictures and no end in sight yet!!! Next up: G.I. Joe! In the 1980s Hasbro relaunched their G.I. Joe line and it became a major, major hit worldwide. Again, today we still have G.I. Joe toys being released and two succesful blockbuster motion pictures!

80s-toys-21-copy

Memories….

But those are not the only 1980s properties that saw re-releases or re-issues. How about the numerous Masters of the Universe re-issues and relaunches over the years and the MOTU Classics line still going strong? How about the Inspector Gadget movies? How about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles revival around the corner? How about the Battle Beasts trademark being brought back by Diamond Select Toys and Takara gearing up to release the true successor to the Battle Beasts line: Beast Saga! There’s probably loads more examples you could come up with.

80s-toys-08-copy

Kick ass packaging design

“Wonder, magic and adventure”

That’s one of the many reasons I like to collect vintage toys from the 1980s. They’re so frickin’ cool! Another reason is that it recaptures some of the enthousiasm and joy that I felt when I was a kid. I would certainly not want to give you the impression that I don’t feel joy and enthousiasm in my adult life, far from it. But there’s just something about that sense of wonder, magic and adventure that you would feel as a kid that rarely happens anymore in your adult life. Coming home and opening a package that arrived from the US, the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands or any other place on this planet makes my heart beat faster and I feel like I’m 10 years old and it’s my birthday when I’m tearing the package open! And that’s a good thing if you ask me.

80s-toys-09-copy

My childhood friends!

Thank you for allowing me to get all emotional on you and to indulge in a little personal nostalgia here. I’ll step off my soapbox now. Normal blogging will resume shortly. ;-) I’ve added a lot of goodies to my collection in the past few weeks that I hope to feature here as soon as I can get them photographed.

 

“Gallery”

 

posted by 20th Century Toy Collector in G.I. Joe,He-Man,M.A.S.K.,Majokit,MB Transformers,Transformers and have Comments (9)

Transformers Time Warrior Watch (MB)

Holy crap! Every now and again you stumble upon an item that’s so frickin’ rare that you almost can’t believe your eyes you’re looking at it. This is one of those: The Transformers Time Warrior Watch! And one inside the original and rare Dutch mail-away packaging from MB as well!

transformers-time-warrior-watch-mb-custom-20111121b-added-shadows-copy

Transformers Time Warrior Watch mail-away  - MB (1985) Dutch packaging variant

“Mail Away”

As was common with a lot of toy lines in the 1980′s kids were able to acquire special mail-away items by collecting and cutting out special points from the toy packaging. It was a brilliant incentive to get kids to buy more toys in order to acquire that special mail-away exclusive toy that was not available in the shops! Hasbro dug that and made heavy use of this tactic with their Transformers and G.I. Joe lines.

tf1point-copy

You needed 4 of these (and extra cash!) to get a Time Warrior Watch in Europe in 1985

One of the very first, and as such rarest, mail-away exclusives of Hasbro’s Transformers toy line was the exclusive Transformers Time Warrior watch! It was a funky 1980′s LCD wrist watch in the form of an Autobot symbol. By pressing a button on the Autobot symbol it would magically split in two and reveal the time! How awesome is that!!

“Behold: The Time Warrior!!!”

This Time Warrior watch promotion was run in both the U.S. as well as parts of Europe and was only available for a very limited amount of time. I’m still not 100% sure which European countries exactly, but it is confirmed that the Time Warrior mail away was available in the UK and in the Netherlands. There’s an advert for the Time Warrior shown inside an issue of the Transformers comic book series from Marvel UK and it was also run on the back cover of the 1985 Dutch Transformers promotional mini-comic/store catalog by MB, which you can see below (the UK advert is almost identical)

mb-time-warrior

Transformers Time Warrior Watch offer (1985) MB International B.V.

I remember seeing that advert and thinking I would never own a Time Warrior Watch, because by the time I bought my first Transformer, the promotion had already ended! The cut off date was December 31, 1985, while Transformers only started appearing in stores in Holland around September or October 1985.

“Buyer beware!”

If it is your intention to score one of these for your own collection, here’s a little friendly collecting advice. It’s pretty hard to find a 100% working specimen of the Time Warrior Watch. Most of them come without the original packaging and have some sort of defect. The most common flaws are dead batteries or, even worse, corroded dead batteries that have irreparably damaged the watch. Another common flaw is that the spring mechanism that makes the watch flip open is busted. Many of the watches still remaining will either have one or both of the sides of the Autobot symbol not reacting when you push the transformation button, requiring you to manually move the parts aside. Also, look out for paint wear on the Autobot symbol, especially on the chrome parts.

time-warrior-mb-closeup-2

Flip-open action (if you’re lucky)

Loose watches with one or more of the defects described above can sell for anything between 100 and 150 U.S. dollars, with boxed specimens going for 250 or more. As time goes by and the number of working, boxed watches ever decreases, this price is sure to increase, so grab one while you can!

“Packaging variants”

The watch itself is probably identical for all the territories where it was available. The packaging is slightly different though. As with most mail aways the packaging is not much to look at with the watch coming in a plain white box with just some text on it. Over the years I have been able to identify four different texts on the Time Warrior packaging. These are, in what I believe to be chronological order, the following:

  1. HASBRO INDUSTRIES, INC. – NO. 12520 – TRANSFORMERS TIME WARRIOR WATCH
  2. HASBRO INDUSTRIES (UK) LTD.- NO. 12520 – TRANSFORMERS TIME WARRIOR WATCH
  3. HASBRO BRADLEY, INC. – TRANSFORMERS WATCH. – NO 12520
  4. MILTON BRADLEY INTERNATION B.V. – TRANSFORMERS WATCH – NO 12520

 

time-warrior-mb-closeup-1

Transformers Time Warrior (1985) MB International B.V.

There might be more packaging variants, but I have not seen them yet. By looking at the company names we can deduce that numbers 1 and 3 are American, number 2 is the UK version and number 4 is the Dutch version (“Inc” is typically a US legal entity, “Ltd” typically a UK legal entity and B.V. is a Dutch legal entity). Also, “Hasbro Industries” is what Hasbro was called in the US before it bought MB in September of 1984, after which it renamed itself to “Hasbro Bradley” for a while, before just settling on “Hasbro, Inc.” shortly thereafter. So these watches were probably made and/or packaged in 1984 (1 and 2) and 1985 (3 and 4).

The afforementioned Dutch promotional mini-comic was also released in French, German and Spanish. I have the Spanish version of this mini-comic as well as the Dutch version and what I have noticed is that the Spanish version does not have the Time Warrior promotion on the back cover, as the Dutch version has. This would indicate that the Time Warrior promotion was not available in Spain, but it could also be that the promotion was run elsewhere in Spain. I do not have access to the German and French version of MB’s Transformers mini-comic, so I cannot say anything about the supposed availability of the Time Warrior Watch promotion in these countries. If these did exist I would expect them to come in the same packaging as the Dutch version or otherwise with Milton Bradley GmbH or MB France SA on the packaging, respectively.

“European MB version”

The earliest waves of Transformers toys released in Europe were released by MB and carried an MB logo on the packaging. I’m an avid collector of said line and I never really thought I’d ever see the European version of this mail away watch from MB. Imagine my surprise when my good buddy Maz tipped me about one being on the market! (Yes, I know, I keep mentioning Maz, but credit where credit is due! This guy has been such a help!!) It came inside a box labeled as “Milton Bradley Internation B.V.”,  which is “short” for Milton Bradley International B.V., the Dutch subsidiary of MB that was responsible for the distribution of G1 Transformers in the Netherlands.

transformers-time-warrior-watch-closeup-copy

Transformers Time Warrior (1985) MB International B.V.

“Mint In Box!”

Not even does this watch come inside its original European mail away packaging, it is also a perfectly working watch, with no wear and a perfectly working spring mechanism! The original owner had thoughtfully removed the original battery to prevent damage from battery leaks. He also included a brand new CR2032 battery which worked just fine. The only thing that is missing is the instruction booklet. The original owner cannot remember if one was included at all, which makes me wonder: did MB simply include a copy of the English instructions or did they create a specific European quad-lingual version of the instructions booklet?

time-warrior-mb-closeup-3

Transformers Time Warrior (1985) MB International B.V.

If you’re a completist, mail aways cannot be missing from your collection. The Time Warrior Watch is one of the earliest and hardest to find G1 Transformers mail aways, so if you see one don’t hesitate to jump on the opportunity! :-)

posted by 20th Century Toy Collector in MB Transformers,Transformers and have Comments (8)

MB/Hasbro and Ceji theory confirmed

I’m so glad to be able to post this information. It’s probably going to evoke a “meh, so what..” reaction from 99.9% of everyone reading this (and probably rightly so), but for me personally and the handful of nerds who are as obsessive about info like this as I am (my hat goes off to you!)  it’s wonderful info that has only recently been unearthed. It has to do with the distribution and rights to selling early vintage Transformers in the 1980′s in Europe.

mb-and-ceji

“The MB & Ceji Joustra connection”

I have been researching the early years of Transformers releases in Europe and I’ve put some stuff on paper that you can read starting here in my, as of yet, unfinished series of articles on MB Transformers. In these articles I have made a big point about there being a connection between MB and Ceji, the latter being the company that held the original license to exclusively sell the toys that Transformers were based on in Europe. There was seemingly a lot of evidence that pointed in the direction of MB having taken over Ceji’s Diaclone stock. The evidence was very strong, but until today it was all circumstantial. Not anymore:

Mention of Ceji deal in document between Hasbro and Takara

Letter from Hasbro to Takara regarding MB-Ceji deal – 6 May 1986

What you see above is a copy of a letter dated May 6th, 1986 sent by Hasbro to Takara (edited very slightly by me for clarity) in which they refer to the acquisition of all DIACLONE stock from Ceji at cost. It goes on about Hasbro (the owner of MB) getting a break from Takara regarding the royalties for Transformers sold in Europe, maybe because some of these were already factored into the price that Ceji originally paid to Takara.

It is also interesting to note that Hasbro/MB got Ceji’s Diaclone stock at cost price. This seems to further support the idea that Ceji might have been in financial difficulties for them to give away their rights to sell and distribute Diaclones/Transformers in Europe and sell off their Diaclone stock at cost price!

mbautobotcarwall19-copy

“Hello, former Ceji Diaclone stock!”

Some great “new” info there that confirms theories about what happened in Europe in the 1980s. I will make an effort to update the MB articles with this new info as soon as I can (probably within the next week), including a long overdue overhaul of the articles themselves, but I just couldn’t refrain from publishing this info here already. A big, big thank you to my good friend Maz for pointing me to this info and for RC85747 at the AllSpark forums for publishing the link to the SEC filings containing this info. Dig through them here if you’re interested!!

posted by 20th Century Toy Collector in Joustra Diaclone,MB Transformers,Transformers and have No Comments