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Transformers G1: Jazz (MB)

Pssst… wanna hear a secret? When international collectors think of the MB Transformers line they usually think of the red Tracks variant, which is considered to be very, very rare to find inside its original packaging (and it is!). It might come as a surprise to some, but the red Tracks is not the rarest of all the MB releases. Going by my own collecting experience and that of fellow MB Transformers collectors I have found that there are several Transformers that are even harder to find inside their original packaging than the mythical red Tracks. One of these, without a doubt, is MB Jazz. It is one of the rarest Transformers to find inside its original packaging.

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Transformers – Jazz (MB) 1985

As you may have read in my previous post I recently finally tracked down a complete MB Jazz. I found this one in Belgium a couple of months ago, which is coincidentally the same country where the only other MB Jazz sighting I know of was located. This MB Jazz was childhood owned by the seller and is 100% complete as you can see, even down to the used sticker sheet. The seller recalls getting this MB Jazz and an MB Optimus Prime for Sinterklaas in December 1985 (Sinterklaas is -more or less- the Dutch/Belgian equivalent of Santa Claus), which fits nicely with the confirmed first appearance of Transformers in Europe.

“Porsche”

Jazz is a fan favourite and was certainly popular as a toy among all my buddies in the 1980′s. The funny thing about the packaging on this MB version of Jazz is that an alteration has been made to the name badge. Take a look, here’s what the packaging of the US version of Jazz looks like:

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Transformers – Jazz (Hasbro) 1984 – US name badge

And now take a look at the packaging of the European MB version of Jazz from 1985. Right behind his name we can see the addition of the name “Porsche”:

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Transformers – Jazz (MB) 1985 – name badge variation

I have to admit that I am quite baffled as to the meaning behind this packaging variation. Each and every of the 53 known Transformers that MB released in Europe have 100% identical name badges on their packaging compared to the US versions they are based on. Jazz is the only one that has this variation. If you look closely you will also observe that the change has been done rather crudely. The typeface normally used for the name badges on G1 Transformers looks like it’s part of the Eurostile typeface family. Yet, the altered part of Jazz’s name badge in the European release is obviously done in a different typeface, named Helvetica, which is coincidentally the same typeface that was used for the European age notice and the multi-lingual tech specs on the back of the box in the European releases. This means that this alteration was made specifically for the European market. You can even see that the width of the name badge has been increased to allow for the longer text.

It is also quite interesting to note that this is the only vintage G1 MB Autobot car that carries the trademarked name of the car that it is based on (Porsche) on its packaging. It looks like Hasbro was careful to avoid using the brand names of the Autobot cars they released in the early years (Lancia, Datsun, Corvette, Porsche, etc.), but somehow it was decided that the European release of Jazz could carry the name Porsche on the packaging. The reason as to why I am so intrigued by this is because I wonder whether this was a deliberate change to the European packaging that was OK’ed by Hasbro’s/MB’s legal department or whether it was simply a change done by the person who was responsible for localizing the US packaging of Jazz for the European market that slipped under the radar. Either way, quite an interesting packaging variation if you ask me.

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Transformers – Jazz (MB) 1985

“1986 re-release”

In 1986 Transformers in Europe started getting released under the Hasbro brand. A lot of the 1985 MB-branded releases were re-released in Europe in 1986, but now with Hasbro branded packaging. The funny thing about this is that the Hasbro branded European 1986 release of Jazz still carries this same name badge variation.

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Transformers – Jazz (Hasbro Europe) 1986 – name badge variation

 

“Joustra Diaclone”

As most hardcore followers of this blog will know (all three of you), there is an interesting history to some of the European 1985 MB Transformers releases. A lot of them were originally meant to be released as Diaclones by a French toy company called Ceji Joustra in Europe in 1984. Although I do not have hard proof (yet), it is my conviction that MB Jazz originally saw release as a Joustra Diaclone Porsche 935 in Europe under the Joustra Diaclone brand and was re-assigned in 1985 to MB’s Transformers brand. You can read the details about this theory here. One of the many things that supports this theory is that a lot of the Joustra Diaclone Porsche 935 releases and the MB Jazz carry the same copyright stamp, (which is coincidentally also the same copyright stamp for most of the 1984 pre-rub releases of US Jazz)

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Transformers – Jazz (MB) 1985 – copyright stamp

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Transformers – Jazz (MB) 1985

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Transformers – Jazz (MB) 1985

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Transformers – Jazz (MB) 1985


“Cajofe date code”

If we look at one of the inside flaps of MB Jazz’s packaging we see the familiar Cajofe logo of the French company that was responsible for printing the wave 2 MB Transformers packaging. We can also observe the date code that Cajofe used to print as part of their production process. It shows a date code of “08 85″, which of course translates to August 1985. This date code is the same for all the Autobot cars that MB released, which suggests that this toy was released in Europe shortly after that (I’d guess an October or November 1985 release).

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Transformers – Jazz (MB) 1985 – Cajofe date code

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Transformers – Jazz (MB) 1985

So there you have it! MB Jazz, one of the most sought after MB Transformers. If you ever find one inside its original packaging do not hesitate to obtain it. :-)

“Gallery”

 

Credits

  • Many thanks to ‘patobot’ for the use of the photo of the US Jazz packaging. Used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

 

posted by 20th Century Toy Collector in MB Transformers,Transformers and have Comments (6)

Complete MB Autobot Cars collection

UPDATE: This post has become somewhat obsolete, due to the find of the MB Sunswipe (Sunstreaker in Sideswipe packaging). Please see an update to this article in post number 106.

Milestone!! A couple of weeks ago I scored a very elusive item that I had been chasing for quite some time. The item I’m talking about here is the Milton Bradley (MB) Jazz and it was really tough to track down. But it’s not really Jazz himself that I want to focus on today, because I will do that in a future article. No, today I would just like to gloat and concentrate on the subgroup that Jazz belongs to inside the Autobot ranks. A little group known as the Autobot cars. A group that, for me, embodies everything that is so fucking amazing about early G1 Transformers. A group that I now finally have complete in my MB collection! “All hail Jazz, Sideswipe, Ratchet, Mirage, Hound, Tracks, Wheeljack, Prowl and Trailbreaker!!!”

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The result of blood, sweat, tears and spending boatloads of hard earned euros.

 

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But totally worth it…

“Milton Bradley”

As most regular visitors to this site will know, most of continental Europe was introduced to the Transformers not by Hasbro, but by MB. The packaging of these early European Transformers releases also carries an MB logo instead of the usual Hasbro logo. MB branded Transformers were released primarily in 1985 in France, West Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain and Switzerland, where they were distributed by the local European MB subsidiaries: MB France SA, Milton Bradley GmbH, MB International BV, SA MB Belgium NV, MB España and MB (Switzerland) AG. MB branded Transformers possibly also ended up in New Zealand (through M.B. New Zealand Ltd) and in Scandinavia (through BRIO AB, -thanks Martin!). There’s some evidence that even the UK might have ended up with some MB branded Transformers in the shops (most of the Transformers in the UK were Hasbro branded).

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Wonderul packaging

“The Joustra connection”

What’s so cool about these MB branded Transformers, other than the fact that they hold nostalgic value to me as a European collector, is that there’s a pretty exciting history behind them. You see, a large chunk of the Transformers that MB released in Europe in 1985 were originally meant to be released as Diaclones by a company called Ceji Joustra! It is my belief that, for whatever reason (most likely financial), Ceji struck some sort of deal with MB that gave MB control over Ceji’s stock of Diaclones, had them repackaged inside Transformers boxes and unleashed them onto a hungry European market in 1985. If you’re interested in the nitty gritty of this theory, then start reading here. This theory explains a lot of the peculiarities of this line, like why the MB Autobot cars all came inside styro foam packaging, why Tracks is red and why the 9 Autobots that MB released was limited to just these infamous 9!

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These were originally meant to be Joustra Diaclones…

“MB wave 2″

The nine Autobot cars that MB released were part of the second wave of MB Transformers that saw release in Europe in late 1985. According to date codes hidden on the inside of the packaging of these Autobot cars the packaging was printed in France, most likely in August 1985, presumably followed by a release shortly afterwards in most of continental Europe.

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Pieces.. of.. fucking.. art..

“Cosmic balance”

But enough with the facts… Don’t they just look friggin’ awesome together!?! I’ve had eight of these nine Milton Bradley Transformers in my possession for so long that it was becoming a pain to have Jazz missing from the bunch. Suffer I will no more! As soon as I had placed MB Jazz next to his brethren an uncanny calm came over me. The stars were aligning. The universe was in balance once more. I had done something right. I had restored a cosmic balance by reuniting these infamous nine and the rush of endorphines in my brain was my reward. These are the first photos ever of all nine Milton Bradley Autobot cars together as far as I know and I love to share them with you. What do you think?

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“Say cheese, boys…”


“Gallery”

Credits

My sincere thanks to James “Bo” Insogna for allowing me to use his amazing sunset photograph as a background in the first photo of this article! Check out his amazing site here.

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

Transformers – Blaster (MB)

A couple of weeks ago I added the 46th MB Transformer to my collection. A total of 53 Transformers were released by MB in Europe in 1985, so that means I am now only missing 7 Transformers in order to complete my collection! This 46th addition is none other than Blaster! Blaster is one of the harder to find Transformers in MB packaging. Imagine my surprise when a good collector friend of mine located a MISB (mint-in-sealed-box) specimen in sunny Corsica of all places! Thanks, Christophe!

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Transformers – Blaster (MB) 1985

“MISB”

Contrary to the US releases, the European MB releases are extremely hard to find still factory sealed inside their packaging. To illustrate the point, the AFA population report lists just four registered and rated MB Transformers in boxes (2 Dirges, 1 Ramjet and 1 Grimlock) and 2 carded items (Laserbeak and Scrapper). Of course there are several known non-AFA’ed MB Transformers out there that are still MISB (not counting the MOSC items), but the ones I know about can be counted on two hands.

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Transformers – Blaster (MB) 1985

Needless to say I am extremely happy with this factory sealed MB Blaster! I plan on submitting it to the AFA for a rating in the near future. Not because I want to sell it for a premium, but because I want this unique piece registered, cased and preserved. Submitting items to be rated by the AFA from Europe is an extremely costly exercise, due to the shipping costs and potential customs fees involved. I still have to figure out how to get an item to the US and back without getting stuffed with customs fees twice!

“MB Collection”

I also redid all the photography of my MB Transformers collection this week in my brand new photo studio. A couple of those photos can be seen below. I’m still experimenting with what looks best, but I’m sure you’ll agree the photos look a lot nicer now with that cool 1980′s style blue gradient background. All the new photos of my MB Transformers collection can be found here. Enjoy!

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Several MB Transformers from my personal collection

 

posted by 20th Century Toy Collector in MB Transformers,Transformers and have Comments (2)

Transformers – Starscream (MB)

They say the last mile is the hardest. That is certainly true for many things in life. Not in the least when you happen to find yourself collecting a rare subsection of a certain vintage toy line from the 1980′s that features transforming robots and your collection is nearing completion. Of course I am talking about my unhealthy obsession about collecting vintage European Transformers in Milton Bradley (MB) packaging.

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Transformers – Starscream (MB) 1985

I started out collecting this toy line somewhere in mid-2009 and was initially discouraged by how hard it was to track these MB Transformers down in their original packaging. But, as with a lot of things, when I set my mind on doing something I try to persevere even though the odds are against me. My nostalgic passion for this toy line and the kick I got whenever I scored a new item kept me chugging along happily. Along the way I have had the pleasure of getting to know some of the coolest collector friends ever (and the odd dickhead too) and I’m still quite surprised at the number of people visiting this website on a daily basis. All in all, it has been a very fulfilling journey for me until now on so many levels and I have no doubts this will continue to be the case for a long time to come. Erm, right. What was I planning to write about before this post derailed into fluffy talk… Ah yes. Starscream!

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“Starscream” – Check!

“45 of 53″

Starscream is the 45th addition to my MB Transformers collection and I now only have eight more Transformers to go before I reach my goal of utter world domination completing my MB Transformers collection! Starscream was released by MB as part of their second wave in late 1985 and was really one of the most important items (popularity wise) still missing from my MB collection. I scored this one a couple of weeks ago when I spotted it in an online classifieds ad between a shitload of other G1 Transformers. The original bubble insert is missing (it came with a reproduction insert), but the toy and the paperwork are original and the packaging is in great shape!

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Transformers – Starscream (MB) 1985 (tech specs)

That means only eight more Transformers to go. Well, seven actually. I scored yet another MB Transformer last week and this one is even MISB (mint in sealed box), but I’m saving that for a future post. Until then check out photos of my current MB Transformers collection here and check out my want list here!

“Weekend”

Right, I’m visiting my parents for the weekend to pick up said item (I have my packages delivered to my parents house) and will be making a small detour to a childhood buddy of mine (and fellow vintage toy collector) so my weekend can’t go wrong. Hope you have a good one too!

posted by 20th Century Toy Collector in MB Transformers,Transformers and have Comments (2)

European Soundwaves (G1) – Part 1 of 2

For a while now I’ve been meaning to write a short post on the various European releases of Soundwave from Hasbro’s 1980′s vintage Transformers G1 (Generation 1) toy line. Except, after I made all the photographs and I started typing away at my computer, the article became a little longer than I had anticipated. So that’s why I decided to split this post in two parts. The first part is below and the second part will be published right here in about a week. Enjoy!

“Soundwave”

Soundwave is a fan favourite Transformers character. He was part of the very first wave of Transformers toys that were released and often featured in episodes of Sunbow’s and Marvel’s Transformers cartoon. The fact that he had a total of five cassettes that could jump out of his chest and transform themselves was just mind blowing. Not to mention his excellent and mega cool vocoder voice! “Soundwave superior. Constructicons inferior.”

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As a European myself I like to collect the European versions of vintage G1 (Generation 1) Transformers. Easier said than done. Finding boxed European Transformers is much harder than finding vintage boxed American G1 Transformers, even if you live in Europe! All the more difficult if you consider that, for some Transformers, several packaging and mould variations exist. Early European mainland Transformers history is quite colourful. (If you’re interested in the details I can recommend further reading in the form of my series of articles on MB Transformers, starting here). Being an early and very popular Transformers character, it is not very surprising that there are several variations of Soundwave that were released in Europe. I have managed to identify three different versions so far! Let’s have a look!

“Variation 1: MB Soundwave (1985)”

The oldest known variant that was released in Europe is the Milton Bradley (MB) Soundwave. In mainland Europe Transformers were introduced in 1985. Not under the Hasbro brand, but under the MB brand. My “guestimate” is that this version of Soundwave was first available somewhere around late summer/early fall of 1985.

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European MB version of Soundwave (1985)

Don’t be misled by the 1984 copyright notice on the box. This toy was released in 1985 in Europe. The most likely explanation for the 1984 copyright notice is because the European packaging is based on the original American packaging (where Soundwave was released in 1984). For the European market the American artwork was reused with the necessary alterations for localization purposes. This is supported by the fact that the original US Hasbro assortment number is still visible on the inside flap of this Soundwave box (MB had their own distribution network and used different catalog/assortment numbers for European Transformers, visible on the lower right front of the packaging).

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European MB version of Soundwave – copyright notice

As you can see from the copyright notice above, the toy itself was made by Takara in Japan, just like the US version. The MB version of Soundwave is easily recognized by the MB logo on the box, instead of the Hasbro logo.

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European MB version of Soundwave – logo on the box

 

“Variation 2: Hasbro Soundwave (1986)”

In 1986, a decision was made to stop branding Transformers packaging with the MB logo in Europe. Instead, Transformers would come branded with the Hasbro logo. Most of the Transformers that were released in 1985 under the MB brand were re-released in 1986, but now with a Hasbro logo on the packaging. Soundwave was no exception. Based on promotional material, anectodal evidence and my own personal recollection this rebranding started occurring around April or May 1986, which is when the first Hasbro branded Transformers started appearing in European stores.

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European Hasbro version of Soundwave (1986)

Aside from the Hasbro logo, nothing was changed on Soundwave’s packaging compared to the MB version. Even the copyright notice on the box still says © 1984, Milton Bradley International, Inc. The toy was also still being manufactured by Takara.

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European Hasbro version of Soundwave – copyright notice

 

“Variation 3: Hasbro Soundwave (1986) Ceji variant”

A third European variation of Soundwave exists. It comes branded with a Hasbro logo as well, but what sets this variant apart is that it was not manufactured by Takara! It was manufactured by a toy company called Ceji. Ceji was a French toy manufacturer that went bust somewhere in late 1986 (I am still not sure of the exact date as I currently have conflicting information regarding the exact time of their demise). Up until then it was arguably Europe’s biggest toy manufacturer. In 1985 and 1986, Takara outsourced some of the production of Transformers toys for the European market to Ceji. Soundwave was one of the many Transformers that got the Ceji treatment. The build quality of the toy is equal to that of Takara’s.

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European Hasbro/Ceji version of Soundwave (1986)

This specific European variant was released around July 1986. This is based on the fact that the company that was responsible for the printing of the packaging (Cajofe) employed a practice of printing a date code on one of the inside flaps of the box.

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Cajofe date code on Ceji Soundwave’s packaging: July 1986

The Ceji variant has an updated copyright notice on the packaging, that is different from the MB variant and the Hasbro/Takara variant. The copyright notice is now “© 1986 Hasbro Bradley, Inc.” Also, it states that the product was “made and printed in France by Ceji under license from Takara.”

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That’s it for this week. Join in me in about a week and we’ll have a look at the actual moulding differences between these three Soundwaves!

UPDATE: Read part two here.

 

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