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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 by 20th Century Toy Collector in M.A.S.K.,Toy Store Catalogs and have Comments (6)

Dutch 1980’s Toy Industry Trade Magazines

I’m a total sucker for everything that has to do with the fantastic toy lines that were available in my youth in the 1980’s. I’m especially interested in everything that went on “behind the scenes” and by that I mean is when did these toy lines exactly hit toy stores here in Holland, where did these toy stores get these toys, who distributed them, what types of assortments were available, etc.

Transformers dealer catalog (1985) – MB

“Dealer Catalogs”

That’s why dealer/trade catalogs are so interesting. They contain extra information about a toy line that is not available in the consumer catalogs. Sometimes these dealer catalogs will also contain photos of prototypes, because these catalogs are often made at a very early stage, before the toys are available at retail. Sometimes they can also hold information about things that “might have been”, but did not occur, because of legal issues or other complications. I absolutely love that type of stuff.

Toy store catalogs from the 1980’s

“Toy Store Catalogs”

Another great source of information are toy store catalogs. As you might have noticed I’ve acquired a great deal of Dutch toy store catalogs from the 1980’s recently and I’ve posted some photos of those in the past couple of weeks.

“Trade Magazines”

There is a third source of information that I stumbled upon a couple of months ago and that is trade magazines! A trade magazine is, as the name implies, a magazine that is published for a specific industry. A trade magazine is made not for consumers, but specifically for the industry or type of trade it targets.

Article from a Dutch toy industry trade magazine

My first exposure to trade magazines came from my good buddy Maz from TF-1.com, who had acquired a few Dutch toy trade magazines from the 1980’s. The good guy that he is, he gave them away to me for free! These magazines contained tons of cool information about the toy industry in Holland and featured articles about Transformers, Masters of the Universe, M.A.S.K. and too much more cool stuff than I can recollect right now. It goes into detail about retail release dates of toy lines, broadcast dates of commercials for these toy lines and everything a toy store retailer needs to know to make a decision on which products to carry. I was in nerd nirvana!

Mattel trade advert announcing the launch of Mattel Netherlands BV (1985)

“The Hunt is On!”

As soon as I had read the two issues that Maz had sent me cover to cover, I was hungry for more! Maz had acquired these from the son of a purchasing manager for a large Dutch high street department store, who had acquired them at Dutch toy fairs in 1985 and 1986. Because these publications are trade only, they were never available to consumers, so it was virtually impossible to find these anywhere. Through a bout of luck I found out the original publisher of this trade magazine and contacted them to see if they had any back issues from the 1980’s.

Article on newest pre-Mattel MOTU line up in Holland (1984)


Not expecting to get any response, and if at all a negative one, I was contacted by a very friendly employee of said publisher. She said she would dig into their archives to see if they had anything left. The result was more than I had could ever have hoped for. I casually asked if they had anything from 1984 to 1987, because those are the years I remember buying and seeing the coolest toys when I was growing up. She came back to me a few days later and could offer me the complete runs of all four years, bound inside hard covers! Mega nerdgasm!!!

Bandai Dutch trade advert for their Robo Machine line (1985)

“The Start of a Good Weekend”

Last Friday the package with four volumes of Speelgoed+Hobby arrived and since then I have frantically been reading and reading. There’s tons of cool inside information on the toy industry in the Netherlands during those years, with lots of cool photos of toys, never seen before trade oriented advertisements and photos of toy stores from the 1980’s!

Interior of an Intertoys toy store (1985)

My mind is currently reeling from an information overload. I plan on taking all the interesting info and photos apart and publishing the most interesting info here as soon as I get a grip on all the info I have absorbed.

Article on introduction of Blackstar toy line in Holland (1985)

“Heavy Load”

These four volumes weigh in at a total of 10 kilos (approx 20 pounds), so the poor mail man almost broke his back when he delivered these at my door. :-) I paid a pretty penny for these publications, but they are so totally worth it, because they paint such an accurate picture of the time they were originally published and contain so much nerdy info that will keep me going for a long time to come. I am very excited at the prospect of sharing the many cool photos and info inside these magazines here on my blog so stay tuned!

Speelgoed+Hobby magazines volumes 1984-1987

posted by 20th Century Toy Collector in Toy Store Catalogs and have Comments (5)

Toy ads from the 1980’s (Part 3) – He-Man

Hi and welcome back for another post where I will delve into the wondrous world of Dutch 1980’s toy store catalogs. In the past two posts I have concentrated mainly on Transformers, because (obviously) they rock. However, the 1980’s were a veritable gold mine of cool (and less cool) toy lines, which you could probably spend life times exploring and collecting. The one toy line that immediately springs to my mind right behind Transformers is none other than Masters of the Universe! Let’s have a look.

“By the Power of Grayskull!”

I don’t know exactly when Masters of the Universe came into my life, but I know it was there right before Transformers. I remember that the cartoon started airing on Sky Channel somewhere during 1985. Sky Channel was a pan-European satellite channel that used to broadcast over large parts of Europe in the 1980’s. Mattel, the maker of the Masters of the Universe toy line, was believed to have been frustrated with the lack of Saturday morning cartoons in Europe and subsequent possibilities of airing commercials for their product. In the mid-1980’s the concept of  Saturday morning kids TV was still alien to most European countries, where the status quo was still mostly controlled by government owned broadcasters.

Sky Channel logo (1984-1989)

This changed in July of 1985 when Sky Channel launched a 4-hour kids programming block called Fun Factory. Mattel is regarded as one of the catalysts behind this new concept as it immediately signed a contract with Sky Channel for a whole year’s worth of commercials during the Fun Factory program. The Masters of the Universe cartoon could be seen as part of Fun Factory every weekend and the commercial breaks were filled with many commercials from Mattel pimping the eponymous toy line. Good times! I still fondly remember buying my first MOTU action figure in 1985 in my local toy store. I convinced my mom to pay 18.95 Guilders for Skeletor. Later on I would also get He-Man and I also had a Dragon Blaster Skeletor a few years later.

Masters of the Universe – V&D (November 1985)

Above you see the oldest Masters of the Universe ad I was available to find, which is from Vendorama #13 from November 1985. Vendorama was a monthly publication from Dutch department store Vroom & Dreesmann. Back in the 1980’s department stores in the Netherlands often had very respectable toy sections. In this ad we can see Castle Grayskull and a couple of action figures including He-Man, Orko, Evil-Lyn and Fisto. I love the creativity that goes into these scenes. I’m not sure if this is stock photography that was supplied by Mattel Europe or whether this was work done specifically for this V&D catalog, but it looks great. What kid could resist?

“I Have the Power!!”

I’m still not sure when the Masters of the Universe toy line actually hit the Netherlands. I think it was 1984, but it was definitely not before the cartoon started airing on Sky Channel that the popularity of the line started to mushroom. The only thing that managed to trump the Masters of the Universe toy line popularity wise was the Transformers, which started to gain traction after its premiere on Sky Channel in November 1985. But let’s get back on track! Here’s another late 1985 catalog, which might seem familiar, because part of it was featured in an earlier post.

Masters of the Universe – Bart Smit (November 1985)

The Transformers shown on this catalog page were discussed in this post, but today it’s the Masters of the Universe stuff we’re interested in! At the top of the page we see a nice diorama, with both Castle Grayskull and Snake Mountain, Panthor and Battle Cat and a host of action figures. Let’s have a closer look at that.

Masters of the Universe – Bart Smit (November 1985)

The thing that strikes me the most is that Snake Mountain is so much more expensive as Castle Grayskull. Now, I know that Snake Mountain has the added bonus of electronics inside in the form of a microphone that you could talk into, which would alter your voice to create a “scary” effect. But still, it’s almost twice as expensive as Castle Grayskull! I don’t know how the price of both castles compared in the U.S., but I do know that Castle Grayskull was released in 1982 as part of the toy line’s introduction and that Snake Mountain did not see a release until the third wave in 1984. Maybe Castle Grayskull was available in the Netherlands earlier than Snake Mountain as well, which could also account for the big price difference.

Masters of the Universe – Bart Smit (November 1985)

The lower half of the page is shown above. You can see He-Man on top of Stridor and a basic price list beneath. Action figures seemed to cost 17.95 Guilders a piece at V&D, while I remember they were 18,95 at Intertoys in my home town.

“By the Power of the Discount!”

Below is a photo of the Masters of the Universe page from the November 1986 Bart Smit catalog. As you can see some of the stuff from the year(s) before was being discounted. Castle Grayskull has dropped in price from 89.50 to 79 Guilders. Also, the He-Man and Battle Cat combo was dropped from 49.95 to 37.95! Boy, if only I could find a mint-in-box specimen for that price today!

Masters of the Universe – Bart Smit (November 1986)

But the action figures still remained the same at 17.95 and even worse, the new 1986 “Horde” action figures are priced at 19.95!! Damn. For your reference, that would be about 20 euros today in 2012. I also cannot believe how friggin’ expensive Spydor was! 89.50 Guilders! On the other hand, there was some ancillary stuff available as well on the cheap, like this Masters of the Universe “Flashlite”:

Masters of the Universe Flashlite – Bart Smit (November 1986)

And how about the awesone Weapons Pak shown in the photo below for just 7.95 Guilders? LOL. I happen to have this Weapon Pak, but the photo below is one of the U.S. version. The European version has two logos on the card (an English and French logo). The funny thing is that I think I paid more than double for this Weapon Pak in 2011 compared to the price shown below. That’s vintage toy collecting for ya… ;-)

Masters of the Universe – Bart Smit (November 1986)

“By the Power of the Recommended Retail Price!”

So here’s another toy catalog from late 1986, this time from Vedes. What strikes me is that the prices shown here for Snake Mountain and Spydor are identical to those at Bart Smit. I guess Mattel was good at convincing the retailers not to compete too much in price in late 1986.

Masters of the Universe – Vedes (Sinterklaas 1986)

Another cool looking diorama from Vedes though, who were also repsonsible for a cool looking Transformers diorama that I showed in my previous posting here.

“Princess of Power”

Although it probably had been available earlier in the U.S., in September of 1986 a Masters of the Universe spin-off toy line was launched in the Netherlands by Mattel, called She-ra: The Princess of Power. She-ra was meant to be an action-fantasy toy line that would appeal to girls. It was supported by a cartoon series made by Filmation, just like He-Man.

She-Ra: Princess of Power – Bart Smit (November 1986)

Although I did not dig the toy line, I do admit to watching the cartoon on Sky Channel’s Fun Factory and even enjoying it (though not as much as He-man of course).

“One More Thing….”

Before I leave you today I would like to draw your attention to an obscure little toy line that I found inside the Bart Smit November 1985 catalog on the page right next to the Masters of the Universe page. It is called “Defenders of the Planets” and it does not seem to make an effort to pretend not to be a straight Masters of the Universe rip off. I mean… have a look at this:

Defenders of the Planets – Bart Smit (November 1985)

Not convinced? Have a look at this dude right here on the three-wheeler, called Orion:

Defenders of the Planets – Bart Smit (November 1985)

If this is not a straight He-Man rip-off I don’t know what is. They even ripped of He-Man’s awful medieval hair cut and managed to make it worse by throwing in a 1970’s vibe to his coiffure! But I have to admit, I’m a real sucker for obscure toy lines like these. If I ever come across some Defenders of the Planets stuff inside its original packaging, I will be sure to pick it up! :-)

“To Be Continued”

Loads more of 1980’s toy ads to come in the next couple of weeks whenever I have an afternoon to myself, so stay tuned!

posted by 20th Century Toy Collector in He-Man,Toy Store Catalogs and have Comments (4)

Transformers toy ads from the 1980′s – Part 2

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 Decline”

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.

“More Deceptions…”

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!” ;-)


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

Transformers toy ads from the 1980’s

I love browsing old toy catalogs and especially toy store catalogs and advertisements. I fondly remember getting these in the mail in the 1980’s and literally tearing them apart by constantly reading and re-reading them. Well… “reading” is perhaps not the best way to describe it. It was primarily a case of looking at all the pretty pictures of toys and games that I would love to have. The only reading involved was looking at the price tags and trying to convince my parents to fork over their hard earned money to purchase said items for me!

A stack of Dutch toy store catalogs from the mid-1980’s

“What Would You Like from Santa This Year?”

Whenever December started looming near, the amount of printed matter finding its way to our mailbox would steadily increase. You’d find stuff from well known Dutch toy store chains like Intertoys, Speelboom and Bart Smit, but the department store catalogs from the likes of Vroom & Dreesmann, Blokker and Hema would usually also contain at least a couple of pages dedicated to toys. I’ve been searching for these catalogs for quite a while and they’ve not been easy to find. Not really surprising, because most people will probably have just thrown these away after the holiday season, so very few of these still exist.

Luckily, I found a collector last February who was selling off most of his collection of catalogs and I managed to work out a deal to buy most of his 1984 through 1988 Dutch toy and department store catalogs and ads. I also seperately acquired a host of French toy store catalogs from roughly the same period, so I am now sitting on a pretty big stack of vintage toy catalogs from what I consider to be the golden age of kids toys! (Hey, it’s when I grew up, so yeah I’m a little biased…)  I was in heaven. I felt like a kid again and spent the whole evening immersing myself in Transformers, He-Man, M.A.S.K., model kits, train sets, puzzles, board games, 8-bit Commodore and MSX home computers, VHS tapes and everything else that made this decade so hellacool!

“I Want Transformers!”

Of course the first thing that I did that night was to frantically scan all these catalogs for pictures of Transformers! Toy store catalogs can be great sources of never-seen-before and cool toy photos, so I was looking forward to discovering some hidden Transformers gems. The vintage G1 line of Transformers was introduced in the Netherlands somewhere during the Fall of 1985 by MB so I started my search in catalogs from that very year. I took some quick snapshots with my phone of the stuff I found so far. Let’s have a look!

Transformers toys – SPUN Fall 1985 toy catalog

The photo above shows a part of the 1985 Fall catalog of a Dutch toy partnership called SPUN.  It’s one of the earliest occurrences of Transformers ads in the Netherlands that I have managed to find so far. We can see Ramjet, Grimlock and Kickback photographed here. There are a few observations that we can make from looking at the photo. First of all, the few robots on display here are, quite logically, all part of MB’s first wave of Transformers to hit Europe. Secondly, the packaging pictured here is not the packaging that was available at retail. Early European Transformers were released with an MB logo on the packaging. The packaging shown here is obviously U.S. packaging, with Hasbro branding on the box. Now why would that be?

Well, my guess is that at the time the photography for this catalog was being done, MB did not have access yet to the European retail packaging and instead sent these U.S. specimens to SPUN for purposes of promotion. These are definitely not stock photographs made by MB. I have been looking carefully at the rest of this catalog and it seems that (nearly) all of the toy photography was done by the same studio, which seems to indicate that SPUN was indeed in posession of all the toys inside the catalog. (SPUN was a so called GPO, a group purchasing organisation, which means they had more than average purchasing power).

Packaging mistake – Thrust inside Ramjet box

And third, if you look closely at Ramjet’s box you will see that someone made a rather embarrassing mistake. It seem someone has inadvertedly put a Thrust inside! (see close up photo above)

“Bigger than He-man?”

Moving on, the next Transformers related pic I could find was again from late 1985. This one is from toy store chain Bart Smit and again only shows bots from MB’s wave 1. Say hello to our little friends Sludge, Twin Twist, Thrust and Communicator! Erm, I mean Soundwave of course…

Transformers toys – Bart Smit November 1985 toy catalog

What’s interesting to note here is that this photo of the Transformers takes up approximately one quarter of the page. The remaining three quarters of this page are all dedicated to Mattel’s Masters of the Universe line. Although Transformers ultimately became more popular than He-man in the Netherlands, at this point in time the Transformers toy line was the new kid on the block. Masters of the Universe had been on the market for at least a year longer and was already being supported by Saturday morning cartoon broadcasts on Sky Channel since July of 1985. Transformers cartoons did not start airing in the Netherlands until November 1985, also on Sky Channel’s Fun Factory. So it was quite logical that Transformers did not get alloted as much space as He-man did. That would change in 1986….

“Evil Deceptions!”

Fast forward our time machine one year and here’s a photo of Bart Smit’s November 1986 toy catalog. Transformers almost take up one whole page now with the likes of Soundwave, Optimus Prime, Jetfire, Metroplex, Battlespringers Runabout and Runamuck, Sludge, Grimlock and Megatron and the rest is filled with some of Bandai’s Robo Machines (a.k.a.Gobots).

Transformers toys – Bart Smit November 1986 toy catalog

Now, again there are some interesting and weird things going on here that merit a closer look. The first thing that gave me a good chuckle was when I looked closely at the names that accompanied the photos. Click on the photo above for a closeup and you can see that Soundwave, the Battlechargers and Megatron are not Decepticons. No, my friend. They are Deceptions! What we have here are the Deception Communicator, the Deception Battlechargers and the Deception Leader! So there. I think the Autobots must be shaking in their boots. Or should that be Autoboots…. Hmmm.

The next thing that had me laughing out loud was when I looked at our fearless Autobot leader Optimus Prime. Here’s a close up. It’s a little blurry, but if you look closely you can probably spot the oddity too:

Mistransformed Optimus Prime

Don’t see it? Look at his head. It’s not there! That’s because the person who transformed Optimus Prime obviously forgot to flip Prime’s head up, evidenced by the fact that the rub sign is still visible. I mean, sheesh, I understand that some Transformers have really complex transformations, but Prime’s is really as easy as they come and forgetting to transform the head seems so….. stupid. Look at the robot! He has no friggin’ head! How can you not see that? LOL! On to the next peculiarity…..

A green Sludge variant?? Say it ain’t so!!

When I first saw the photo of Sludge in the closeup above I nearly had a heart attack. He’s green!! Was this some uber rare super prototype or variant of Sludge that has not been discovered until now??? Then, after more carefully studying the photograph I came to the conclusion that the printer probably screwed up, removing all reds from the photo. You can see that even the blue background has turned green in the photo. So, nothing more than a printing error, but a quite cool looking one at that!

“To Be Continued”

Hope you enjoyed this small first look at some of the vintage toy store catalogs I have lying around. There’s more vintage Transformers ads to come though! Join in me in a couple of days and we’ll look at even more Dutch Transformers catalog craziness!!


posted by 20th Century Toy Collector in Toy Store Catalogs,Transformers and have Comments (14)