20th Century Toy Collector

Illusion is the Ultimate Weapon!

This Sunday: MB Transformers Part 6

To everyone who has been patiently awaiting the next installment of my article series on European MB Transformers, I’ve got some good news! The sixth chapter is now 99% complete. It’s currently being proof read by some people who are very knowledgable when it comes to the detailed and niche subject matter of this article. (That’s my safety net. It prevents me from staying stupid things in my articles). Then it’s just some last minute clearance I am expecting from several persons for the use of their photography or information and some finishing touches to the artwork and graphical design that I will be doing.

If everything goes according to plan the article will go live right here this Sunday afternoon at one o’clock in the afternoon (Central European Time). Have a great weekend everyone!


posted on January 25, 2013 by 20th Century Toy Collector in Site stuff,Transformers and has 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!

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.

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 (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 (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:

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.

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:

Transformers – Slag (1985) European catalog number


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.

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:

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.

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.


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!

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.


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?


  • 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 on September 2, 2012 by 20th Century Toy Collector in MB Transformers,Transformers and has 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!

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!!

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!!


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!! :-)

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!


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.

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.

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.




posted on July 3, 2012 by 20th Century Toy Collector in G.I. Joe,He-Man,M.A.S.K.,Majokit,MB Transformers,Transformers and has Comments (9)

Toy ads from the 1980′s (Part 4) – M.A.S.K.

Work has been a stressful and bloody mess this week, so last Friday night I decided to unwind a little bit. I opened up a bottle of Heineken beer (well, several bottles..), went up to my collection room and pulled up my collection of vintage toy store catalogs and advertisements from the 1980’s. Much better! Staring at all that 1980’s goodness really manages to relax me and puts a smile on my face. In the past couple of posts in this series I’ve already looked at Transformers and Masters of the Universe. Tonight I felt like looking at another legendary 1980’s toy line…. none other than Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, a.k.a. M.A.S.K.

“Illusion is the ultimate weapon!”

M.A.S.K. arrived in Dutch toy stores somewhere during the Spring of 1986 and it was distributed here by Kenner Parker Benelux B.V. I remember it well. I was in fifth grade back then and I had already completely fallen in love with the excellent M.A.S.K. cartoon by DIC, which had been showing since late 1985 or early 1986 on pan-European satellite channel Sky Channel, during its weekly Fun Factory kids programming block on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

From June 1986, the M.A.S.K. cartoon was also being broadcast on Dutch national television by public broadcaster TROS, this time dubbed in Dutch! The series was broadcast every Monday at 5 PM and the first episode was show on June 2nd, 1986. The episode broadcast that day in Dutch was episode 35 from season 1, which was originally titled “In Dutch”. Not really a surprise that TROS chose that episode as the first in their series, because it’s an episode that takes place in the Netherlands where VENOM tries to destroy the famous Dutch dikes.

M.A.S.K. cartoon – Veronica TV guide (2 June 1986)



After Mattel’s Masters of the Universe and MB/Hasbro’s Transformers, Kenner’s M.A.S.K. was yet another bullseye in my book. Awesome, awesome, awesome! Just check out the incredibly cool M.A.S.K. intro theme :

M.A.S.K. intro (1985) DIC Enterprises, Inc.

OMFG! Does that bring you back? Good! Now that you’re in the mood let’s have a look at some of the M.A.S.K. toy ads that I found!

M.A.S.K. – Vedes Sinterklaas catalog (1986)

Above is a page from the Dutch Vedes catalog that was released in late 1986. We can see Rhino, Vampire, Thunderhawk, Jackhammer and Gator here. All the vehicles are displayed in their alternate action mode. Damn, I so wanted to have Rhino when I was kid, but it was just way too expensive.


Next up is another Dutch M.A.S.K. ad. It’s from the Speelboom club magazine issue #5, also from December 1986. I remember this particular ad very well. Speelboom was a chain of toy stores in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s. In 1986 Speelboom launched the Speelboom Club. Kids could become members of this club and in return you would get a special club card, a freebie on your birthday and you’d get the Speelboom Club magazine in the mail every 2 or 3 months. I remember me and some of my friends and class mates becoming members in 1986.

M.A.S.K. – Speelboom Club Journaal #5 (1986)

Again an action scene with Thunderhawk and Rhino taking center stage. But this time we can also see Miles Mayhem’s Switchblade! The helicopter that changes into an airplane and back! Also pictured are Condor and Piranha. If I could pick just two M.A.S.K. vehicles they would definitely be Rhino and Switchblade.

“Le M.A.S.K.”

From around the same time here’s a photo of Switchblade, Rhino and Jackhammer from a French Christmas toy catalog from 1986. This is from a 2-page spread that also features Robo Machines, Transformers and loads of other transforming stuff (I’ll feature the page in its entirety in a future post).

M.A.S.K. – Noël 1986 catalog

The cool thing about these pages is that they show transformable toys in both of their modes, with a little orange arrow pointing from one mode to the other. You can also see Rhino here in vehicle mode. What an absolutely stunning toy! Another thing I also liked about M.A.S.K. is the scale of the toys. They were big!

“M.A.S.K. Costume”

So check this thing out. Yeah, it’s a bona fide M.A.S.K. costume!! I found it in the same French X-Mas catalog from 1986.

M.A.S.K. Costume – Noël 1986 catalog

I just love stumbling upon shit like this while I’m browsing these 80’s toy catalogs! What you have here is a custome, a laser gun and a Matt Trakker’s Ultra Flash mask! But that’s not all. While I was browsing another French toy catalog a couple of minutes later, I found this:

M.A.S.K. Costume – Printemps catalog (1986)

Yeah boy! It’s a kid wearing the actual custome! LOL. What a blast. This photo is from the 1986 Printemps toy catalog. Printemps is a French department store and this particular catalog is different in the way that it shows only one item per page. There’s another cool page in there with a photo of Thunderhawk taken from the side.

M.A.S.K. Thunderhawk – Printemps catalog (1986)

“Bart Smit”

The next M.A.S.K. advert I found was from the Dutch 1988 Bart Smit catalog that was released late 1988. It showcases the action figures that were being sold in two-packs on blister cards. It also shows Raven (series 2), Manta and Meteor (series 3) and T-Bob and Scott! Contrary to the American release, where T-Bob and Scott were released on a blister card, in Europe they came inside a box!

M.A.S.K. – Bart Smit catalog (Nov 1988)

“Split Seconds”

The last ad I was able to find is from late 1989. It’s another Bart Smit catalog and this one shows a couple of toys from the last series of the M.A.S.K. line. In the US, the 4th and last series was marketed under the name M.A.S.K. Split Seconds. It was called that way, because the vehicle would split into two different vehicles. In Europe, the Split Seconds series was simply marketed under the name M.A.S.K. and released in the same style packaging as the first three series.

M.A.S.K. – Bart Smit catalog (Nov 1989)

What we find on this page is Jackal (called Barracuda in the U.S.), Fireforce and what is my personal favourite of the Split Seconds line: Stiletto! Also, as you can see M.A.S.K. action figures were still available on blister cards, with two figures on the card. Shown here are Matt Trakker and Jacques LeFleur. These were European exclusive releases.

“More to Come”

With 1989 we’ve reached the end of the 1980s and also the end of this toy store catalog post. But not to fear, more toy store catalog posts to come in the future so stay tuned! :-)



posted on June 17, 2012 by 20th Century Toy Collector in M.A.S.K.,Toy Store Catalogs and has Comments (6)

Transformers G1 – Runabout (1986)

I guess every vintage toy collector has a soft spot for at least one or two items, which are generally deemed as “uncool” by most fellow collectors. Yes, I’m talking about the shelf warmers here. The unpopular. The shunned… The shameful. The toys that remained on toy store shelves for a long long time, because nobody wanted them. Looking back at the early G1 (Generation 1) Transformers toy line there are certainly several items that are considered, erm, less desirable to put it euphemistically. The Jumpstarters immediately spring to mind …

The shame… the shame…

“Guilty Pleasure”

My specific guilty pleasure is what could be considered the reincarnation of the Jumpstarters. Yes, I am talking about the Battlechargers Runabout and Runamuck (*hangs head in shame*). The reason for this anomaly is pretty simple. When I was a kid I remember buying Runabout in my local toy store somewhere in late 1986 or early 1987.

Transformers – Runamuck and Runabout – from a Dutch toy store catalog (1986)

So who is this Runabout then? Well, Runabout is a Decepticon Battlecharger that was released in both North America and in Europe in 1986. Yeah, it’s one of those pull-back motor thingies. If Runabout is in car mode he will automatically transform into robot mode if you pull back and release. Check the dazzlingly awesome transformation illustration on the packaging below.

Transformers –  Runabout (1986)

Cool, right? Well, a little bit… To tell you the truth I was never really fond of these G1 Transformers with pull back motors. In order to be able to transform automatically their transformations were usually relatively simple. Also there was no way to really play with the toy the way I wanted to, because pulling the car back would always inevitably trigger the motor mechanism whether I wanted to or not. This limited the way you could play with the toy, especially in car mode.

“Cash = Transformers”

Still, I have a soft spot for Runabout, because it was a Transformer that I owned when I was a kid. Like I said I still remember buying Runabout in late 1986 or early 1987 at my local toy store. One good day somewhere in the second half of the 1980s’s I found 25 guilders just lying on the pavement  (the guilder was the awesome Dutch currency we used to have in the Netherlands, before we got the Euro ;-) and I just couldn’t believe my luck. So, of course I did what I always did when I came across some serious cash in those days, which was usually only around birthdays or the festive season, and that was to speed off to my local toy store to buy Transformers!! Really, that’s how my brain worked when I was a kid. Cash equals Transformers. (My girlfriend would argue that my brain still works like this today, even though I am a grown man now.)

Transformers – Runabout (1986)

“Real life vehicle”

Anyway, I remember staring at the Transformers available at my local toy store that day and I ultimately went with Runabout, because he most resembled a cool car in his alternate mode. It was around this time that most of the new Transformers coming out changed into futuristic space vehicles and such, which did not really tickle my fancy. I preferred the early Transformers that turned into real life vehicles or real life objects and Runabout was one of the very few Transformers on offer at that moment that still fit that category. I remember both Runabout and Runamuck were available and it was tough to decide which one to buy, but I ultimately went with Runabout, because he was black and looked just a tad cooler than the all white Runamuck.

Transformers – Runabout (1986) back of card

“European release”

As I mentioned above, Runabout was released in 1986 and is also one of the first Transformers that was not originally meant for the Diaclone line, but made specifically for Hasbro’s Transformers line (most of the early G1 Transformers were actually released earlier under the name Diaclone or Microchange by Japanese toy maker Takara).

As with most of the other toy lines from my youth, I try to collect the locally released (European) versions of the toys, because that’s how the toys came here in the Netherlands and that’s also how I remember them. It took me quite a while to find a MOSC (mint on sealed card) Runabout on a European cardback, but I finally stumbled upon a very nice specimen in excellent condition late last year in Germany and scored it for a ridiculously low sum. Good times!

Transformers – Runabout (1986) tech specs


I guess what was also part of Runabout’s appeal to me was the awesome colour scheme of red and black, which makes him look pretty menacing. And he looks just fantastic inside the early G1 style blister packaging :

Transformers – Runabout (1986)

It’s funny what nostalgia can do to you. Even though Runabout is not exactly what you would call an immensely popular G1 bot, it holds a special place in my heart and I enjoy having this item in my collection immensely. (Now if only I could find a MOSC Runamuck on a European cardback that would really make my month!)

Runabout (1986)

Transformers - Runabout (1986)

posted on June 10, 2012 by 20th Century Toy Collector in Transformers and has Comments (5)