April 21, 2011

If I’m so great, why can’t I rocket punch my friends?

Filed under: Collectible of the Day, Shogun Warriors — fairplaythings @ 12:53 am

Blame Steveover at the Roboplastic Apocalypso for ruining the surprise “the best was yet to come.” Or blame me for being overly explicit with respect to the subject of today’s post. But blame someone! Because today truly was a find…

For Ponyville.

Jack and the Ponies

Yes, one of the big reasons for attending the flea market was to pick up a couple of rare G1 My Little Ponies for Julie (aside, I wonder what the hardcore, nothing-beats-GeeOne-ers in the Trans community think of the fact that MLPs are renowned for their G1, G2, and G3 lines…) Unfortunately, the Ponies were mysteriously gone from the table, even though they had been explicitly put aside for her. The story was that the table’s owner had sold a massive lot of G1s to another collector during the Friday set-up (the dark story of all toy and antique shows is that the people who are there first, the other sellers, often get the choice bits), and they must have been a part of the sale.

Interestingly, Julie knew the buyers in question - stationed in another part of the building. When we spoke to them (I’d like to say interrogated because I was bound and determined to discover what kept my friend from her ponies), they denied getting the two specific ponies in question, that the sales woman had in fact held onto them explicitly for Julie. Had in fact told these two they were for Julie. So where did they go? Two more separate inspections of her sales table on both Saturday and Sunday turned up nothing. It’s possible they walked away at some point (as I’ve heard from at least three tables I have spoken to of thefts), or were sold by one of her helpers by mistake (also a possibility).

Spenser runs with the Ponies

Spenser runs with the Ponies

In any event, the missed opportunity did take a bit of the zip out of Julie’s step, although I believe the M.A.S.K. collection may have helped perk her back up. In the meantime, Julie found a G1 Apple Jack, which I opted to pick up for my girl Kirilaw, because it matches the G1-style Neca bobblehead (circa 2003) that I picked her up many years ago. Which led to picking up a baby MLP because it was a unicorn and cute, as well as a G3-style MLP, mainly for fun. While Kirilaw assures me she does not collect Ponies, and doesn’t want to, I try and break her resolve every chance I get.

I also grabbed her the first three Jack of Fables trades for $5 each. Unfortunately she had them all, so they are fresh paper for the local library to do as they will.

And that was that… except for one other possibly important bit…

Tranzor Z!

If Great Mazinga is so great, why is his red chest plate not big enough to balance his new friend, 4" Munny Rodimus?

Bigger than the children to whom he was marketed (and able to crush in-progress TFA Rodimus with little effort)

Yes, the microtable also had one box 23.5″ Shogun Warrior named Great Mazinga (or Tranzor Z as he was known in his cartoon). I was very excited about Great Maz! I’ve long wanted a great Shogun for my collection and have longed for one since I was a little boy forced to put all my Shogunian hopes and dreams into the form of a 3″ tall Dragon whom I inexplicably smashed with a rock in retaliation for accidentally breaking another kid’s 5″ Shogun Warrior. (What can I say? Kids have strange logic!) But there was a problem. Even though he was in terrific shape, in his unfaded bilingual box (minus his knives and rockets of course), he was priced according to his position in the toy pantheon: $120.

Now that’s a fair and honest price for the toy in the condition he was in, particularly since similar toys on ebay go for more than that and require shipping and handling charges that, combined, can as much as double the cost of the figure. But it was more that I expected to spend on a single item at the show. In fact, I had expected I’d overestimated the amount required when I took out that $200 the day before, but just being proactive in case it was a good day. And, now that it was a good day, I was without enough money for the Shogun without returning to the cash machine.

So with all the toys (Transformers train set, the various Micronauts figures, accessories, and playsets, and GIJoe figures), we returned to Kellie’s car to empty our arms and continue our sweep of the building. And to contemplate the mystery of Tranzor Z, and whether he would in fact come home. By the time I got to the car, very thankful indeed that Kellie had opted to drive Julie and I to the event and shop with us so that we were not laden down with toys and prevented from easily continuing our hunt or getting homeworld bound, I was certain I needed to own Great Mazinga. But at what cost? I decided to try and bring the price down to $100, and, armed with renewed cash, I returned to my prize (dreading a bit he may have sold in the meantime.)

He hadn’t. And with some haggling he was mine for $110.

He was the find of the day. Great Mazingaand I finished the show together. He was admired by others who love their toy plastic, and he is a toy to be proudly displayed. Ironically, I would learn on my return to the sale on Sunday, mainly on the promise that there would be a 23.5″ Dragonfor sale too (which turned out not to be the case because the legendary red robot could not be found in time), that Great Mazinga had a brother there. But there is really only space in one house for one Great Mazinga at a time (particularly when I later learned that Great Mazinga’s red chest plate was smaller, his fist non-firing, and his rocket head non-removable, compared to the might of the earlier Shogunian reiteration, Mazinga - because if you are going to have two Mazingas, they should at least be variants…)

But alas, now I am hooked again on this greatest of the giant robots line, left to see what kind of hassle and expense it will be to track down Dragon, as well as Raydeen and the never-released-in-North-America-but-similar-scale Combatra. And a decent-size sword for Great Mazinga (because the original swords are really little more than red knifes for him). But let me assure you this is the greatest toy a kid in the 1970s could ever have. So good that I am tempted to try and find one for my eldest nephew to enjoy (cringing a bit at the thought of a 35 year old toy being played with, but still). Really, you just need to watch this video to appreciate these figures.

April 20, 2011

Surely two hundred dollars should afford me a micro house in the sand…

Filed under: Collectible of the Day, micronauts — fairplaythings @ 2:53 am

Before I begin, I feel I need to confess something. Unless like many of my peers, I was not really into Star Wars toys. Oh I had some favourites that I would have loved to have had in my collection - the AT-AT, a Slave-One, a Snowspeeder, and an Imperial Tie-Fighter come to mind. But I didn’t have the collect-them-all mentality with Star Wars. I suspect it was a combination of what my friends were playing with (GIJoe) and a love of detailing (those early Joe vehicles had awesome plastic work!), but more than a little bit of it was the lack of articulation of Han, Luke, Leia, and crew. Simply put, I wanted my figures to have a waist and elbows and knees. GIJoe had this in spades, and Hasbro was smart enough to include a figure with most vehicles over the $10 price range (something, interestingly enough, it now does more and more with Star Wars vehicles now that it has the license).

But before GIJoe was, there had to be something else that held my attention, something that sealed the deal for a love of the Joes. And that thing was the Micronauts (not exactly as shown)! I loved the detail of this line, just as I loved that I could pick up a vehicle and it would come with its pilot (a big deal when you had only an allowance) and the figures had articulation. The only thing missing was friends to play Micronauts with, but I made due with the pieces I had - Repto, the Battle Cruiser (broken the first Christmas morning it was opened), and the Warp Racer and Photon Sled I purchased for myself. These Micros were loved hard and, though I still have many of their parts, they have seen better days.

Decades later, having rescued the remains of my Micronauts from my parents’ basement, I’ve set out acquiring pieces here and there. In the 1990s, a large find at the Great Glebe Garage Sale led to my possession of most of the Mobile Exploration Lab. A few years ago, at one of the many toy shows organized around Toronto, I was able to return to my nostalgia for all things innerspace, and pick up a fresh Battle Cruiser (in original package), a Giant Acroyear set, and a Hornetroid for $20 each. Along with a number of Palisades reissues acquired in the middle of the last decade, including the likes of Baron Karza and Red Falcon. So I’m always looking for a chance to add to the collection, chances that don’t come up as much as I would like owing to the vintage of this particular 35 year old toy line from a defunct toy company.

So you can imagine my reaction when, looking up from the now-manhandled Tyco Transformers train set, I looked to my left and saw boxed Micronauts…

Caution: This box rockets!

Caution: This box rockets!

And not just any Micronauts either…

Rocket Tubes!

What a beautiful find. And it is impossible for me not to get swept up by the sheer size and condition of the box. Expecting a huge price point, I inquired on the cost, and was shocked to be told the Rocket Tubes could be mine for $20. $20. That’s apparently $30 less than they retailed for almost 35 years ago (or $250 less than their after-inflation cost.)

The modern day leaning tower.

The modern day leaning tower.

Now the set has its drawbacks. It does not include instructions, making it hard for me to reassemble the piece (though I did quite well I think based solely on box art). The plastic does not hold together as well as it could (but this could be simply my unwillingness to force 35 year old plastic). And obviously the stickers are fraying badly. And although the engine works, and can actually send its empty cars forward through the inner tubes, the engine is weak and the cars do not go very far when piloted by a GIJoe stand-in.

But it’s white, it’s complete and it’s mine!

Preconstruction Microhomes

So Rocket Tubes. And right under the Rocket Tubes? Oh yes, it’s the Interplanetary Headquarters. I’m just chomping at the bits to try my hand at putting this one together, to see how the honeycomb-style panels actually work, but I’m waiting for a chance to do so as part of a more permanent arrangement of my Microverse. And the price once again? $20.

Now I should mention before I get too far ahead of myself, that you will notice these boxes are bilingual. As such, it means they are examples of Micronauts, as marketed in Canada by Grand Toy, a toy distributor of some renown. And somehow quite appropriate to add to my collection.

...and the rest!

And there was still more! The gentleman also had a Betatron for $15, the oddly-shaped, Fisher-Price looking Star Searcher for $12, and a vintage Biotron in box (missing cover flap) for $25. Now Biotron I have, having picked up the 2000 Takara reissue, but I was too far gone at this point, and so Biotron also came home.

And I was over the moon. But the best was yet to come…

April 18, 2011

Bigger than the soul train, more timely than the O-train…

Filed under: Collectible of the Day, Collectible of the Day - Transformers — fairplaythings @ 12:31 pm

Seen better days

Seen better days

The day began with planning days in the making. Toy amigos Julie and Kellie arrived at 8:30 to pick me up and take us first for Bridgehead coffee and then to the show. The plan was to grab My Little Ponies and other toys for Julie (she has a fondness for Starriors and TMNT!), mini donuts for Kellie, and general interesting plastic for me. Having arrived right on time at 9:00 a.m. (for the first time ever), we turned right from the entrance and headed to a regular at the end of the second row who usually has a few transformers. Alas there was nothing to be found, always a possibility, but I noticed that Julie was nowhere to be found. Turning to Kellie to inquire what happened to her, she pointed to the table directly behind me where Julie was digging with joy through a pile of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Which happened to be right beside the original 1985 Transformers train set.

I almost leapt the table to get over there.

The trainset, one of Tyco’s many licensed train sets from back in the day, had seen better days box wise. It was tattered and damaged, but it was intact. And inside appeared to be all the parts included originally in the set. The price was $30. With a bag of figures in my hand that I will talk about tomorrow, I figured why not grab the set. I mean, after all, what is the likelihood that I’m going to find other items of significant note. Oh how little did I know…

Now, the tfwiki does a better job talking about this find than I do. All I can really say is that the set was certainly loved. The cardboard cut outs that form the electrical station and towers are all intact, albeit clearly showing signs of being folded in the same manner for a quarter century. The mat itself though is in near perfect condition which is really the important thing. And all the paperwork is intact.

The train...

The train...



In terms of the train itself, the train tracks are showing the results of wear and tear, with some of the “wooden” sections snapped off over the years. The train itself is almost completely intact, save a radar dish for the command centre car, and, most distressing of all, the side panels (wings) and one set of wheels for the caboose. Here’s hoping another caboose can be found one day to substitute into the set.

Finally, we come to the robots, which you would think would be the highlight of the piece, given that most of the train itself has been recycled across Tyco’s licensed train sets. In fact, the “transformers” are completely non-descript, generic robots that someone thought would do the job. They could pass for many a cannon fodder robot introduced throughout the comic or the cartoon over the year, but there is no sign of Optimus, Megatron, or the others.

Frankly, given Hasbro’s penchance to reuse molds in the early years, the entire force could be rounded out by seekers, mini-spy volkswagons, lamborghinis and datsons. That said, it does appear the robots are all present and accounted for.

And that’s not bad for $30.

February 20, 2011

Finding value the fairplaythings way

Filed under: Collectible of the Day — fairplaythings @ 1:53 am

As promised just a few short hours ago, I’m taking this moment to unveil fairplaythings.com own toy rating system.

Basically a five star system, I thought I’d try something slightly different by describing toys in terms of how we find them on toy shelves. Of course, the description is based on how well a toy sells itself to me, rather than how it sells in reality, but it’s a simple distinction.

But it is so easy to simply say a toy is a sell out versus a lingering toy (the name used for this rating is actually a homage to a choice book called, Linger Awhile, by Russell Hoban - it’s a tale of ageless love, dead stars, celluloid, and vampires recommended). What we want to do as well as give a bit of context to the ratings. Not just a toy is one thing and not another, but how and why this is the case.

Forgive the overlap that may ensue…

Five Criteria for Critiques

  • Completist - Is this a character that I feel I need to complete a line? - I figure if you are on the Collectible list as a toy, you are there with one point. That lowly point is probably based on something as rudimentary as my completist, gotta catch ‘em all mentality. So here’s to the underachieving toy.
  • Original - Is it a character I want? - Of course there is going to be a Batman or an Optimus Prime on the shelf. The question is whether it sings, or an example of a toy design team asleep at the switch. This is where cool rendering or a never produced figure will have an advantage.
  • Design - Is it a cool rendering of the character or toy? - Design is intended to be serve as an overarching concepts. How is the toy conceptualized? Is it fresh or does it feel like a lot of other toys on the shelf? Is it a flawless execution or are there glitches? Does it get you excited to see how far along toys have advanced or is the same old same old? This is where a toy will lose points if it is a simple repaint without any extras and gain points for innovation.
  • Value - Is the toy worth the price? - Tired of toys that are statues and not toys? Toys that fall apart when you look at them? Articulation. Accessories. But also the feeling that this is a toy worth having. This is where factors like these will come into play.
  • Zing! - It don’t mean a think if it doesn’t make me sing! - Some toys have good design, are original, and represent good play value. And they sit on the toy shelf in my mind. But to move to the front of the shopping cart, the best of the best have a special X-factor. Something meaningful to me. It could be giving more weight to the use of an obscure character or a clever design, but it’s something. And it’s here.

Now I don’t intend to do a checklist for each toy coming up, saying how it ranks on design, originality, play value, and the x-factor. I have neither the time nor the inclination. I plan to continue to talk about the collectibles I have as they are - all the strange and wonderful tales that I’ve bound up about each one. Sometimes the toys speak to me; sometimes they simply satisfy the completist in me. The ratings will hopefully help me express how I feel about them.

But I still love them, because they’re mine.

February 19, 2011

Collecting on the weekend

Filed under: Collectible of the Day — fairplaythings @ 11:46 pm

You may be surprised to learn that, among many toy grievances for the Canadian collector (multilingual packaging, amateur packaging to accommodate multiple languages, pricing, variety, absence of U.S. exclusives among them), a big one is the simple delay in time between the release of a toy in the United States and its subsequent release in Canada.

Or maybe that is just Ottawa. Sometimes it is hard to tell if shipping to Toronto is better or more consistent.

Suffice to say, it can take a long time for those unwilling to import everything from bigbadtoystore to get the latest goods. I cannot imagine how bad it would be if there weren’t comic book stores like the Silver Snail that is really good about getting in some of my favourite toy lines, like DCUC (on U.S. cards to boot), on a regular basis.

Because they certainly haven’t been showing up at TRU in any regularity.

Anyway, back to my rolling beef about toy shelves. Because of the situation, it becomes impossible to review toys in any timely fashion. My god, poeghostal did a run through of DCUC Wave 16 back on December 4th; Siebertron.com similarly was posting sightings of the Turbo Tracks wave of Transformers: Reveal the Shield in late November.

So here we are in the middle of February. And finally some availability of product and the necessary funds to go forward. So rather than continue with the many Universe 2.0 stories planned for over the weekend, I’ve decided to try something different. Tomorrow (February 20) is going to be a massive review of all the toys picked up on Thursday from TRU and the Silver Snail, essentially DCUC Wave 16 and a number of Movie and Generations Transformers.

More importantly, I’m going to unveil my own rating system. That’s right, I’m going to make a system that tells you what I think of my toys! Does it mean a poor ranking will force the toy to live elsewhere? Probably not, so it makes sense for my personal rating system to reflect this reality. With no disrespect to our American cousins, I’m going to base my rating system on a reversed security threat assessment, in which even the green (or now red) means something.

Consider it an early warning system for your pocket book. Watch for it. Soon!

February 13, 2011

Collectible (02-13-2011): Combattra

Filed under: Collectible of the Day — fairplaythings @ 2:54 pm

Banpresto-Toru Toru Item

February 13, 2011: 14th in a series
Toy Line: “Shogun Warrior”
Region, Year: Asia, 2000
Essential Weblink: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%C5%8Ddenji_Robo_Combattler_V

The Rundown: Combattra was one of the anime giant robot warriors from the early to mid-1970s that were introduced to many North American collectors as Shogun Warriors by Mattel. Combattra was particularly cool because he broke apart into five different units that could fight individually.

I don’t know a lot about this version of Combattra, made by Banpresso, because of my inability to read Japanese. Combattra basically folds his arms and legs into his torso to resemble the separated head shuttle that was one of the five units of the original toy. He was advertised with a Gundan figure that appears to do the same. He was just one of those toys I picked up in Akihibara, Tokyo, in November, happy to bring home to adorn my toy shelves.

Additional Pictures:

February 7, 2011

Collectible (02-07-2011) - Batman

Filed under: Collectible of the Day — fairplaythings @ 2:55 am

Collectible of the Day for February 7, 2011
(Eighth in a series)

Hong Kong Handover Edition

Toy Line: Batman (Kenner)
Region, Year: Asia, 1997
Essential Weblink: n/a

The Rundown: Despite a predilection to talk about Transformers all the time, it remains true that I collect other lines and certainly other oddities. And though it wasn’t my first choice for the first month of Collectibles, Kenner’s Batman figure commemorating the handover of Hong Kong from Great Britain to the People’s Republic of China certain qualifies as one such oddity.

I barely know where to begin with this one. First, the what. Handover Batman is a gold repaint of what was the special Batman figure produced by Kenner to commemorate the 100 edition of the classic comic character for the company, starting with the 1984 Super Powers collection and running through the Dark Knight’s live action and animated appearances of the 1990s. In the background are the two flags of the city pre- and post-handover. The figure itself was released only in Asia.

With respect to the why it was produced, I have no idea. Kenner ties the production of the figure to a celebration of Hong Kong, a city that “echoes the dynamism of Gotham City,” allowing for the use of Batman as a celebratory figure. But isn’t that a bit of a backhanded comment, equating a real city in one of its moments of history with a crime-ridden American city terrorized by maniacal clowns and riddled truths? My theory is that they had the figure, Batman was popular, and they wanted to put something out in the marketplace. Usually these things are as simple as that. And yet…

How the figure came into my possession is mostly a mystery to me. I know I came aware of its existence, likely through Lee’s Action Figure magazine. I know I acquired it from Asia, but I cannot recall if it was through trade or sale, if it was through eBay or through the old alt.toy.trade message boards that we relied on so heavily in the 1990s. Somehow it arrived and survived, resting comfortably in one of the many action figure boxes in my basement for the last eight years.

Why it made it out to display so early was simple: my girlfriend simply didn’t believe it existed. I happened to mention it in casual conversation, and she accused me of fabricating the whole thing. Nothing this absurd could exist. Not only does it exist, I say, I have one in the basement. And now here it is, for all to see. Clearly, something to display when I bring the toys out of storage next time.

Now if only I had the commemorative Star Wars three packs to go with it…

Additional Pictures:

Back of Package

Back of Package & 100th Anniversary Batman for Comparison

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