In April 2005, I took a month long backpacking trip across western Europe. And though the adventure was not explicitly or implicitly toy-related, somehow toys became a factor even despite the necessity of light packing and travel across many borders. I was quite good though and managed to limit myself to just three Transformers, knock-offs all: a two-up of Protectobot Groove, a two-up of Protectobot First Aid, and a deep blue high calibre repaint of Energon Hot Shot. All the toys were from Italy, which is funny when you think about it. Who knew that Italy would be the home of such wonderful knock-offs?
But I digress. The point of this tale starts and ends, interestingly enough, with He-Man. Landing in Schiphol airport, outside Amsterdam, and left with a few hours to kill before travelling along to our first destination of Rome, Italy, I stumbled upon one of those toy stores that you find in most airports these days. Clean, bright, old stock and overpriced are words that describe such beasts. And yet, sometimes, there is a gem among the glass and this trip followed this rule.
I found He-Man.
Not just any old He-Man mind you. I found a 30 cm (12 inch) tall He-Man in Snake Armour, taken from the 2002 line. He was unique and wonderful and so different. What I would only discover for certain when I returned home is that this particular He-Man figure was a tailender, dumped in the European market at the end of the line to avoid overwhelming domestic North American retailers with slow-moving products that would ultimately make them think twice about ordering future product from the manufacturer.
He came in at 19.95 euros (or about CDN$30). In Canada, he would have come home in an instant. But it was not even day one of a 30 day adventure across five countries with nothing but a backpack and a series of hostels ahead of us. And he was big. And not thinking about the shipping option, I could not fathom a way to transport him around with me for an entire month without him becoming completely destroyed (a problem that later came into play with the two-up Groove, who, without packaging, still managed to come home with broken handlebars).
So I put him back and went away.
I reasoned at the time that, surely, he’d still be at the airport upon my return in a month and so I’d be able to see him again, rescue him, and bring him home. Right?
A month goes by and we are in Amsterdam, returning to Schiphol airport once more to return to Canada. Here is my chance I think to pick up that figure. But I have made a spectacularly bad calculation. Whereas before I was going from Schiphol to Rome (and thus travelling within Europe), I am now travelling internationally. Schiphol being a major hub, this means I’m in a completely different part of the airport. In fact the toy store in question is behind a different security queue and thus lost to me forever.
I am quite disappointed about this until a strange bit of luck happens. I find another store.
While the He-Man figure was done up in his Snake Armour duds, and quite simply not available at this particular store, here was Skeletor in his traditional uniform. Now I am not a He-Man person but this figure was exceptional and I used my 19.95 Euro purchase to console me over the loss of He-Man. But while Skeletor was a much better find, one who has sat in my room menacingly for the last five years, I have been unable to stop thinking of the He-Man that got away.
Since then, I’ve chased him on eBay, only to find him at a cost too high for what I am prepared to pay to obtain him (usually $60+ after shipping). That is until last month when I chanced upon a loose one in the UK for 10 pounds. After shipping, he came out to just under CDN$28 and so, despite his loss of weapons, he had to come home with me. He arrived this week.
Curious though how he arrived. Unlike 99% of eBay toy deliveries, he came wrapped (and poorly wrapped I might add) in bubblewrap, packaged in a thin plastic envelop. Would a small box have killed anyone? I fear that some of the paint scratch are the result of the paint job and I am non-plussed about the situation. But he is finally here which means I can set about to reproduce a proper sword and position him opposite Skeletor. At last. That is if Isis will stop loving him up.
(I’ll have a proper discussion of the unique European Transformers in a future post. Today’s post is simply a taste to wet your appetite. In the meantime, a few more pictures of the He-Man gang…)